Musical McCool - Week 25 (June 18, 2021)
Hi guys, welcome back to The Social Tune! My name is Fionn, and welcome back to a brand new edition of Musical McCool!
Wow, so a number of things happened this week... several hugely popular artists dropped singles, we had a mini album bomb from one of the biggest names in music at the moment, and that's before you even get to the flood of local artists releasing new music all at once.
The Top 10
Yep, the charts this week were in quite a turmoil... not that you'd know that looking at the very top:
For yet another week, good 4 u by Olivia Rodrigo held onto its number 1 spot, although those margins do seem to be gradually shrinking.
Speaking of which, Kiss Me More by Doja Cat and SZA rose up another spot to number 2 this week. Of course there's every chance that new Doja single will replace this one, but... well, more on that in a bit.
And yes, this did mean that deja vu by Olivia Rodrigo fell back to number 3 as it slowly begins to exit, but as one of the least radio-friendly songs on the album, it has frankly done incredibly well as a single.
This brings us to traitor, which held on tenuously to number 4 this week.
Only reason it didn't drop is because Friday by Riton, Nightcrawlers & Mufasa just can't seem to gain any more ground beyond number 5 at this point. In fairness, it's still in the top 5 on its 20th week, so I don't know if it has much room to complain.
Frankly I'm a little shocked that Little Bit Of Love by Tom Grennan hasn't been able to push forward beyond number 6, but while the radio and streaming are more than on board, the sales are still trailing, at least for now.
And now for our first big surprise of the week, I Wanna Be Your Slave by Måneskin got a big boost up to number 7! Okay, I'm still not thrilled that we're giving this the attention Zitti e Buoni deserves, but if it means getting some Italian hard rock into the top 10, I'm not about to complain... especially if the alternative is a subpar BTS single.
And on the topic of new blood, Heartbreak Anthem by Galantis, David Guetta & Little Mix continued its momentum this week up to number 8. This is exactly the sort of radio darling that kills over here during the Summer, I only expect this to get higher.
Then in slightly sadder news, we did see a drop-off in streaming and sales for Our Song by Anne-Marie & Niall Horan, which dropped back down to number 9. Still, the radio does love it, especially on the adult alternative stations, and with Therapy only a month away... I dunno, this could still have some legs.
Lastly, after a VERY long climb to the top, Good Without by Mimi Webb finally cracked the top 10! Considering how hard the radio has been trying to make this one a hit, I'm just shocked it took this long to make it here.
Top 50: The Punished and the New
Okay... here we go.
So first of all, we only had 1 mover to ACR this week. And ironically enough, it actually syncs up with the arrival of his new album:
RAPSTAR by Polo G - number 14 to 37
Honestly, this song barely gave me anything to say about it the first time around. Much like Calling My Phone by Lil Tjay before it, it's only barely above-average trap rap that held everyone's attention for a week and then stuck around because it's just light and catchy enough to play in the background. Not bad, but Polo G has done so much better.
And it wasn't our only loser this week: for what feels like the 10th time, The Business by Tiësto dropped back down a smidge to number 12, although at this point I am far too skeptical to believe this means its time is up. Next, in stark contrast to the US, Butter by BTS continued its drop to number 23, while Body by Russ Millions & Tion Wayne maintained its downward momentum to 24. We also saw the sad but expected loss of Zitti e Buoni by Måneskin to 32, and even Silk Sonic's Leave The Door Open fell back to 34. In slightly better news for me, this week also marked the continued drops to number 48 and 49 of Without You by Kid Laroi and What A Time by Julia Michaels & Niall Horan. Finally, this also wasn't a very positive week for Billie Eilish, as both Your Power and Lost Cause dropped to 46 and 27 respectively... not such a good sign for Happier Than Ever, just saying...
Unlike last week though, we had a healthy amount of winners as well! For one, in the wake of Galantis and Little Mix's new top 10 hit, Confetti by Little Mix & Saweetie rose up to 17, to the joy of Little Mix fans everywhere. We also saw some of our new arrivals from last week gain some traction, with Oliver Twist by ArrDee rising to 19, and in a surprising twist, t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l by Willow Smith & Travis Barker gained big to 26! Otherwise, 1 or 2 smaller gains like Nathan Dawe, MoStack & Anne-Marie's Way Too Long rising to 42, but that's about it.
And now, with no returning entries and 6 new ones, I am delighted to welcome back a very familiar face to many of you:
Title: Solar Power by Lorde
Oh, I have missed this! Melodrama is one of the most adored pop albums of the last few years, fusing Lorde's maturity and force of personality with Jack Antonoff's ear for pop melodies, which can admittedly be hit or miss, but is just unstoppable when he gets it right! And here, the 2 are back with Lorde's brand new single for her brand new album...
And look, this isn't Green Light, the kind of instant pop classic that caught the world by storm and which should have been a way bigger international hit than it was! No, this is something more reserved, more elegant, a side of Lorde that we haven't seen before: one that has gone through all the pain and suffering of young adulthood portrayed on her last couple of albums, and who has come out the other side a new woman. And this is going to be interesting to see, because it's definitely a risk! After all, we do sadly find artists more interesting when they're suffering, or in bad places in life. To quote one of the best poets of our time: "When you write about seclusion and some buyers finally tune in, you get frightened finding happiness can drive away the movement in a jiffy."
But anyway, how did it turn out for Lorde here? Well, between the acoustic guitar, the light percussion and the multitracked backing vocals, it certainly is a more reserved approach for Jack, as the mix is quite minimalist on the verses, which really allows the hook to soar when it does hit. I'll admit the wailing backing vocals threw me off a little bit, as they did remind me a bit of Lana Del Rey, but not only are they beautiful, but Lorde is also a far sharper songwriter, maintaining a really tight energy across the verses and selling the hook with a lot of fervour. And I am impressed by her swagger here, as she even manages to make a Tribe Called Quest reference and pull it off, not even mentioning the Jesus comparison she draws!
Apparently this song was inspired by a trip she took to the arctic back in 2019, combined with an almost complete disconnect from the internet. The trip gave her hope in the future, and the break from any online interactions did wonders for her mental health. Heck, she revels in the fact that you can't reach her, and I have to admit, it's really good to see as a fan of hers! The entire song is so positive and uplifting, and the only slight nitpick I have is that it's not as bombastic or as melodramatic as you might have expected... but that's also kind of the point. Lorde has grown up, she's moved past those anxieties, which is exactly why this is so laid-back and languid.
Now admittedly, this does strike me as an odd choice of single, as it doesn't really have the immediacy of a lot of her past singles. And I also don't know how the album is going to turn out if all the stakes are gone... but still, this does give me hope. A talent like Lorde's is too good to waste, and the fact that she made a song about languid, relative happiness sounds this poised and refined is a testament to that. So yeah, bring on the album, because this is a great first taste, but I do want more!
Title: Dumb Love by Mimi Webb
So yeah, great start with Lorde there, but now let's turn to someone newer, fresher. A young woman who's been tearing up local charts with her new big single and become the new face of pop music in the UK! ... Okay, obvious exaggeration aside, I was a little curious about this as the follow-up to Good Without, especially with how big that song has got these past few months. And... oh dear...
I'll be honest, Good Without has really shrunk on me since it first arrived on the Irish charts, and a lot of that is unfortunately down to Mimi Webb herself. She has a similar delivery to Tom Grennan, where it feels like she's purposely slurring all her words and putting on a weird fake accent on certain syllables. But what makes Mimi worse for me is her throat singing, as she tends to gargle about half of what she says, which at best makes her feel like she's oversinging in the vain of an early Sam Smith, and at worst reminds me of Camila Cabello. But say what you will about Good Without, it's better than this!
Dumb Love is just flat-out terrible! For one, the instrumental is utterly barren, with a limp piano shoved all the way to the back of the mix, handclaps and fingersnap toward the middle, and a horribly fake and dull drum machine coming in to attempt to inject something, ANYTHING into the hook to give it more punch! But it fails because Mimi Webb is just doing a terrible job selling any of it! I know I said before that her vocals are not my cup of tea, but at the very least, she sang Good Without in a way that was melodically pleasing! Here, the verses all follow the same slow, bargain bin structure that makes me feel like I'm listening to the world's longest and dullest lecture! And that's before she gets to the hook, where she inexplicably drops into a staccato flow, before trying to hit a note that is FAR out of her vocal range!
And all this for a song that basically recycles her last hit! Actually no, Good Without was at least trying to convey being done with love because she was tired of getting hurt. It didn't do it well, but it tried something! This doesn't have that level of effort, just equating young love to dumb love in the blandest, most boring way possible! Hell, the "bridge", if you can call it that, is nothing more than her repeating "we had that young love, we had that dumb love." There's no build-up, no pay-off, not even a shift in the instrumental or the tempo, just a complete waste of 3 minutes that feels like 30!
So uhhh, no, I didn't like this... in fact I kinda hate it. A lot. And sadly, on that note:
Title: Need To Know by Doja Cat
Okay... look, I like Doja Cat. It started with Say So last year, and since then I've enjoyed everything she's released. Even the concerns I brought up about her during that best list entry last year were mostly debunked, and now that she's stopped working with Dr. Luke... oh wait, he's the primary producer for Need To Know. Well, that's a relief, now I feel absolutely no qualms in saying that this is utter garbage!
I don't even know where to start here. The ugly boom-bap production that doesn't remotely suit Doja's singing? The vocals effects and reverb piled onto her voice which make her sound oddly wispy and really removes the bite out of her delivery? The awful hook that feels like a complete flop? Actually, the worst part is easy: it's those terrifying whispering backing vocals, echoing behind her on the hook and making me feel like I'm on a bad trip! And that's especially bad when the song is supposed to sound sexy and ends up being the furthest thing from it!
Part of me does feel bad here, because Doja is still trying as hard as ever, but even she's below average here. There's hardly any distinction between the verses and the hook, and she chose to rap almost exclusively, which is a complete waste of about half her talent. Even when she does sing though, the production does her no favours, because Dr. Luke apparently doesn't take kindly to his singers finding success without him and paid her back with this nightmare! It's just so unpleasant and ugly, the exact opposite of the dreamy beauty of Kiss Me More. And if you think that THIS can compete with THAT... yeah, keep dreaming, because this is trash!
Title: No Return by Polo G (Ft. The Kid LAROI & Lil Durk)
So Hall Of Fame finally dropped; my mini-review is that it benefits from a higher budget in the production, but it does feel bloated and overloaded with features. Overall pretty good, but a slightly weaker album than The Goat was. That being said, this is one of the collabs I thought worked fairly well, almost reminding me of his team-up with KSI and YUNGBLUD earlier this year on Patience.
The strings and piano blend very well with the trap beat, and Polo G brings some great energy to his opening verse. Like on many of the best songs off the album, it's one where he reflects on how far he's come from his life on the streets, and the pictures he paints are vivid, of kids on drugs, dying and having to really work hard to achieve success which he can now enjoy. Heck, Kid Laroi's hook hits because it feels so desperate, swearing he'll never go back to the way things were before the fame, growing up poor with a mother who was addicted to drugs. And yeah, Lil Durk pulled through here too, with a fast flow and a similar commitment to detail as the other 2.
So yeah, good stuff here, one of the best songs on the album to me. It's the type of song where the flexing feels earned, and going for a more fearful vibe instead of a celebratory one only adds to that. Nice job you 3, this is a collab I didn't expect to work at all, but actually turned out well in the end.
Title: Black Hearted by Polo G
Now, this one gained some traction because clips of it were being used in album promos, which people apparently found more appealing than that Lil Wayne collab. And after hearing it for myself... I do kinda see why.
The guitars are from a subsection of trap that reminds me a fair bit of Juice WRLD, and it balances out with the trap beat and bass surprisingly well. Very similar to RAPSTAR, but with a bit more detail in the lyrics, and there's more reverb on the guitars, giving the song a much more wistful feeling. It's a song where he's struggling with reconciling his personal relationships with his success and fame, especially because of his many trust issues due to his rough upbringing. And again, the details really sell this, whether it be his commitment to be as supportive a dad as his own one, or the many ways he alludes to still feeling like a helpless child in this confusing world.
So yeah, I do like this, probably more than Gang Gang or even RAPSTAR. Sure it's very similar to that song and I don't know how memorable it'll be, but for what it is, I appreciate it.
Title: Welcome To The Internet by Bo Burnham
Oh, I know for a fact that several of you were looking forward to me discussing it. The new Bo Burnham special where he tears into the internet, social media, and the impact on his own mental health. Now, the entire special is worth a watch in my opinion, where even if you don't agree with everything he's saying, you can still appreciate the creativity in it, especially considering it was all filmed and orchestrated in one room.
Now, this song in particular gained some traction as almost being like a classic Disney villain song, with the villain in question being "The Internet!!!" And if that sounds vaudevillian and camp... well, it is, but it's also really excellently done. Bo Burnham has always been a top-notch performer, and his slips into the kitsch villain role effortlessly, highlighting all the benefits and horrors of the internet, and how both can be very appealing to the right viewer. We're all addicted to something there, nobody can say there's nothing on there for them, and all you, the consumer, has to do is nod or shake your head, and let your new overlord to the rest!
I love how frenetic and energised this feels, and going steadily more off the rails and dark as it goes on punctuated by funhouse sound effects to underscore just how kooky it is. Then after the first hook, the entire song shifts to a laid-back lounge song, where he slips on his best 70s sleaze mask about how much better things were before... and yet doesn't let that older generation off the hook, since this was always their plan from the very beginning... they just didn't realise quite what it entailed till it was far too late. And punctuated by a manic laugh that would make the Joker blush, the chorus comes roaring back one last time before the end! It's theatrical, it cuts very deep, and while it's certainly less humorous than some of his past work, it's still no less fun. So yeah, thumbs up from me, and if you haven't checked out the whole special yet, I recommend it, just for the experience.
So if you thought we were done... nope, we're just beginning. Because the Homegrown charts were just as, if not busier. Much like our Top 50, the very top didn't shift much, as our top 4 stayed exactly where they were, with Our Song spending yet another week at the very top.
Otherwise, this also marked the final week for IDK Why by Lea Heart at number 6. Its entire 13 weeks were spent near the top, and it certainly earned it, great little pop song! Next to that, we also saw the continued losses for Terminal 1 by Versatile to number 12 (Seriously, we kept Babyproof around and not this?!), as well as Obito by Offica to 18. And the bad news continues, as our only big gain was for Paradise by James Vincent McMorrow, despite being handily his worst single released this year.
And now, with no returning entries here either, let's dive into 6 more local entries! I know, busy week. But hey, at least we're starting with:
Title: Sober by Gavin James
So a few of you might actually recognise the name of Gavin James. He broke through with an EP in 2014 For You, which blew open enough doors for him to open for acts like Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith! Since then he's released a number of relatively well-received albums, particularly his 2016 debut album The Bitter Pill, but while his international star has somewhat faded in the past few years since then, his Irish popularity has stayed pretty consistent, with his 2020 EP Boxes actually being his first to go to number 1.
This brings us to his new single Sober, and... well, it's no Lorde or Childish Gambino, not even close, but this is pretty good in my opinion. If this is your first time hearing him, he's yet another willowy-voiced Irish crooner over a piano, with sweeping fake percussion and a decent penchant for songwriting. Now personally, I'd place him securely in the mid-tier. His voice isn't explosive as Hozier's or Dermot Kennedy's, but he does know how to inject some passion and emotion into his vocals. Hell, I'll even say that his cooing falsetto on the bridge actually works surprisingly well, he can still inject a fair bit of passion into it. And I like the subject matter too, as it frames the romance between these 2 as a sham, where she no longer loves him when they're sober. It's a bit dramatic, sure, but also pretty tragic, and Gavin James does sell it pretty well.
That said, the production is pretty stale. Gavin James reminds me a fair bit of Coldplay at their laziest, only with admittedly better writing chops to compensate. It's all sweeping, blurry synths and that looping piano is never fully allowed to breathe in order to lead the melody. I dunno, this may have been a case where some restraint would have been a smart choice. Otherwise, this is fairly decent, but I could honestly take it or leave it.
Title: Cabra Freestyle by RS
So fun fact, I used to live in Cabra, and while I never got involved in the hip hop scene, I can tell you the attitude displayed here is one I'm familiar with. See, for years, this area has been described as rough and dodgy, until the past few years where it's been upgraded to up-and-coming... and if that sounds condescending, it's because it very much is. Anyway, elitism in Dublin aside, I was casually curious about this, even if I was very skeptical how much of a "freestyle" it would really be. And as expected, this is more of a modern interpretation of a freestyle, with a hook, thought-out verses and wordplay... but I can't lie, it kinda slaps.
One thing I've noticed about Irish drill is that it tends to be quite aggressive and in-your-face, which can have mixed results depending on the content. But here, where RS is just looking to rap his ass off - and I should emphasise here that his fast, consistent flow is VERY impressive - it really does work, especially when the hook is SO catchy! It also helps that it's not just mindless flexing, as he acknowledges that he's hungry, almost obsessive, and the posers and fake rappers he sees around him who are just doing it for the fame disgust him, even though he also admits that he's no better when it comes to obsessing over material wealth.
So yeah, this isn't bad at all. I dare say it's one of the better Irish drill songs I've heard this year, which rises above some of the easy traps (pun not intended) and pitfalls that can plague a lot of its contemporaries. And speaking of said contemporaries:
Title: Intro by AV9 - Y.Rose, Swift9, YP, Rose9 & Chuks
I haven't talked about the hip-hop collective AV9 since... wow, since the very first edition of Musical McCool! Specifically, the song Facts with Chuks and Rose9, where I was so lost and new to the scene that I spent a good half hour wondering how to spell their names. Well now, the up-and-coming group is coming out in full force, all hopping on a single together. And altogether... well, it's certainly an AV9 song, I'll say that.
The skittering trap beat, the echoing reverberating backing vocals and the warping bass are pleasant enough to listen to, even if it is fairly standard territory for this group, and each rapper gets his own verse to display their various skills. And... I mean, they're all unique enough vocally, but Swift9 is the easy stand-out, bending the beat to his own unique voice and flow. Though YP has a fair bit of energy I did like too. Honestly, the main issue is that most of them just have the same delivery, which can make an already short song feel incredibly inconsequential. I must have listened to this song a good 10 times by now, and I still have no clue what it's about... not that I expect much in the way of content.
So yeah, this is okay, I just wish it were a bit more distinctive or interesting. Because as is, it very quickly becomes background noise to me. I can see hardcore fans liking this, but even they're bound to quickly lose interest with this... sorry.
Title: Opera On The Top Floor by Jack O'Rourke
So this is Cork singer-songwriter Jack O'Rourke. Many locals will know him for his breakthrough single Silence, which immediately painted him into the poet laureate corner of the songwriting niche. Now, he has bucked that label somewhat since then (just look at singles like Ivory Tower or New Day with DJ Kormac), but even on those songs, you could tell he's an above-average songwriter. And in my opinion, Jack shines the most on these kinds of songs, where he takes organic instrumentation and lets his great vocals lead you through a vivid tapestry. And boy, is this IT!
Let's start with the instrumentation, because unlike Gavin James, Jack here knows to let his instrumental swell and breathe, not to mention his choice to go for real instruments, with strings and piano ebbing in and out and combining absolutely beautifully! And that elegance is matched in the vocals, where the multitracking is used very tastefully, coming in at just the right moments to compliment his voice. On a purely aesthetic level, this song has SO much to offer... but who am I kidding, the songwriting is still the star here. As Jack paints pictures of a man living above a bar, who listens to opera to escape the mundane reality of his life downstairs, escaping to Valhalla in his dorm. During the day he observes his patrons in the bar milling about, empty and miserable, whom he feels very detached from as they sing along to Elvis and Status Quo, even as the regulars try to connect with him, while he refuses and continues to dream of returning to his sanctuary.
It's poetic, it's vivid, and it's both beautiful and tragic, the story of a man out of his own time who'd rather turn to fantasy than his own reality. This was a song written in the solitude of lockdown and it feels like it. Apparently, Jack O'Rourke briefly considered going for a more poppy approach to this song, and I'm so glad he didn't. because this will likely be gone in a week or 2 at most, but I for one definitely see myself going back to it continuously. Great job, Jack O'Rourke, this is gorgeous!
Title: Guess That's Love by Ryan Mack
Well, this is a mood swing. Then again, this is Ryan Mack we're talking about, the pop prince who has made a solid career for himself after his boyband HomeTown split. And that's not the only reason I have compared him to Niall Horan in the past, as he has an ear for hooks and surprisingly detailed songwriting that feels very underappreciated, especially when it comes to relationships. And with singles like Broke and She Wins, I Lose, you'd better believe I was excited for more, especially if this song was going to be his take on Bend The Rules meets Arms Of A Stranger.
And as expected, this is yet another winner for me. It's a song about being in a toxic relationship where he can't stop himself going back to her time and time again. And he doesn't pull any punches either: he doesn't need her shit, all his friends say he can do better, and he even flat-out says that he hates her guts and that his parents hate her too! She broke him down, fucked him up, and yet at the end of the day he still comes crawling back in her bed. It's very petty, and I did initially feel like it might not work fully... but it's still sympathetic and REALLY damn catchy! Ryan has always had an Ed Sheeran way of stringing phrases together in a way that flows really smoothly, and his elastic delivery from the verses to the prechorus to the hook over the same bouncy acoustic guitar is damn impressive to witness. Even the way he ends his chorus with "I guess that's love when it fucks you up" works, because it's the only explanation for why he's still putting up with this, even if it is deeply toxic.
Now I will say this isn't as good as his last couple of singles, only because I don't love the fuzzy vocal filters on the "da-da-da-da-da" parts, but that is a minor nitpick. At this point, I can safely say I am a fan and am looking forward to hearing more... and on that note:
Title: Do You Mind by Orla Gartland
I can't remember the last time I was so immediately charmed by hearing a new artist than when I heard Orla Gartland's More Like You at the start of this year. It was the kind of love at first listen that I rarely experience, and to date it is still a strong contender for my song of the year! Now that being said, I also took the time to check out the rest of her output and was shocked to learn that she's never actually released a full debut album. She is basically the Irish equivalent of Neko Case and I am HERE for it!
Ahem, anyway, gushing aside, this time round we got Do You Mind?, a more straightforward post-breakup song where she's calling out an ex who drove her nuts with their lack of communication, while also draining her dry. It's a classic scenario where one person was clearly more invested in the relationship, but at a point where the person has moved on and no longer cries... but there's still some understandable anger there. She's no longer sad, but she's still pissed that her ex didn't fight for them, instead letting the relationship crumble and now seems to want to just be friends. But no, she doesn't wasn't to be friends, or come over to visit; she doesn't need that constant reminder in her life. It honestly should come across as really bitter, but unlike Ryan Mack, Orla plays it with a sense of tired resignation that makes her completely relatable. We've all been at a point with someone where they refuse to see our point of view and pretend that nothing's wrong, and at a certain point, you gotta just walk away.
Pair all that with the jerky piano, handclaps, and the off-kilter tempo and delivery with touches of guitar fading in and out, and you get a slightly more standard folk song than More Like You, sure, but no less atmospheric or tensely emotional. So yeah, another great entry from Orla Gartland, and yet another reason why I can't wait for that debut album. So mark your calendars, Woman On The Internet drops on August 20th of this year and I am SO hyped!
And that's our week, hope you all enjoyed! Somewhat mad, with a lot of real highs and lows, but at least we started and ended well! Please feel free to like the post and share any feedback in the comments, let me know what you thought. Make sure you and your friends subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter to keep up with these releases! Take care everyone, and until the next time, I'm Fionn and this is The Social Tune, signing off!