Musical McCool - Week 32 (August 6, 2021 - Happier Than Ever, Better Days, Skate)
Hi guys, welcome back to The Social Tune! My name is Fionn, and welcome back to a brand new edition of Musical McCool!
Well, this has been a long time coming, the album bomb that I've really been anticipating since the start of the year: it's the new Billie Eilish album we've all been waiting for. And while up until now, the run of singles has been decidedly less pop-friendly, she's still been landing hits in the top 50 like clockwork all year, with a sound that feels a lot more poised and refined compared to the stripped-back and bass-heavy production of her breakout project from 2019.
And yes, I will also absolutely blame the fact that this is so late partly on her as well. Sure, I was hosting on the weekend and sick this week, but I also had a full edition written out on Tuesday and then scrapped it cause it wasn't any good. But while Billie certainly is the biggest story of this week, it wasn't the only item of interest, even if, like me, you saw it coming a mile off.
The Top 10
But before that, things have stayed very much the same at the very top.
For yet another week, Bad Habits by Ed Sheeran held the top spot at number 1, even as its sales have started to level off.
In fact I'd say there's a decent chance that Stay by The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber could unseat it in a week or 2, even as it's currently held at bay at number 2. Well, barring one other contender which we'll get to in just a second.
But first, this brings us to the highest debut from Billie's new album, as Happier Than Ever is at number 3. I'd be very surprised if it actually stuck around, considering it's arguably one of the least pop-friendly songs on the album in terms of its production and structure, but I'm still not about to complain for it being here.
And that leads us to our second big story, and one I called last week, as Better Days by Dermot Kennedy hit the top 50 singles chart right in the top 5 at number 4. Unlike the songs above it, this one has the sales and the vested interest of the public to make a really huge splash, I could even see it going to number 1 next week with the rate this one is growing.
All of this sadly forced good 4 u by Olivia Rodrigo back to number 5, as Billie Eilish is the only person with enough star power to currently stand a chance of stealing Sour's spotlight.
Now it also meant that Black Magic by Jonasu got edged out to number 6, which I couldn't care less about...
... along with Heartbreak Anthem by Galantis, David Guetta & Little Mix down to number 7. This one is better I suppose, but the more I listen to this the more hollow it sounds to me... ironic considering the hook.
Continuing the line of droppers, INDUSTRY BABY by Lil Nas X & Jack Harlow fell back to number 8, but I'm hoping this is just a minor setback. This song is too anthemic to ignore, so don't even try it!
Last of our victims is Beggin' by Måneskin, which got forced back to number 9. Honestly, as a cover of a song that's over 50 years old by an Italian hard rock band who got famous off of a song contest that's only slightly less cheesy than average, it's had a bloody good run!
Finally, Remember by David Guetta & Becky Hill returned to close out our top 10. I've been hearing this song fairly consistently for close to 2 months now and I still barely remember how it goes; for a song with that title, that's a really bad sign.
Top 50: The Punished and the New
Continuing the trend from last week, this week saw a lot of downward motion, with several drop-outs and losers. Ulike last week though, we also saw the rise of some new music coming in to fill in the gaps... and man is it a mixed bag...
Let's start with the fact that both Butter and Permission To Dance exited this week, meaning the Irish top 50 is officially BTS-free! Not only that, but they took Head & Heart by Joel Corry and MNEK with it after more than a whole year in the top 50! Not tpo mention we had a mover to ACR for the first time in weeks:
traitor by Olivia Rodrigo - number 14 to 27
Honestly, as one of my least favourite songs off of Sour, I have no issue with this one. Not bad by any stretch, but just too melodramatic and twee for my taste.
As for our other losers, let's start with Dave, as after his initial success last week, Clash with Stormzy fell to 12, Verdansk dropped to 16 and In the Fire dropped to 29. Honestly, those all held on better than expected.
We then saw Save Your Tears by The Weeknd reach its all-time lowest point of the year at number 25 (although I expect we'll have a new Weeknd single to replace it next week), along with the sad twin loss of Ain't Shit and Kiss Me More by Doja Cat to 28 and 30 respectively. Then you had the more abrupt losses like Levitating by Dua Lipa & DaBaby at 31 (gee, wonder why), as well as Don't Go Yet by Camila Cabello not causing a huge stir from its debut down to 32. And the downward trends continue from there: Lil Nas' MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) falls to 33, Didn't Know by Tom Zanetti justifiably collapses to 36, BED by Joel Corry, David Guetta & RAYE flounders at 37, Heat Waves by Glass Animals stalls out at 39 (ironic considering the Summer we've been having), Confetti by Little Mix & Saweetie stalls out on 43, Summer 91 (Looking Back) by Noizu continuing to be the underdog at 44, No Time by KSI & Lil Durk continuing to underwhelm at 45, Friday by RITON, Nightcrawlers & Mufasa FINALLY seeming to be on its way out for good at 47, and last but not least, Oliver Twist by ArrDee dropped down to 50... what, it grew on me.
Now, we also had some gains this week, including some interesting ones... no, I'm not talking about Fly Away by Tones & I, which rose back up to 14 this week for SOME ungodly reason! Nor am I referring to the horrendous Need To Know by Doja Cat somehow gaining even more ground to 20. No, I actually mean Talk About by DJ Craig Gorman & Rain Radio rising to 21! I know it's catchy, but I never would have guessed the general public would have any interest in making this a hit. Nor can I understand the huge boost for 2055 by Sleepy hallow off of its debut last week up to 34! Things do start to make more sense from there though: Leave Before You Love Me by Marshmello & The Jonas Brothers may be a mixed bag lyrically, but it's too pleasant sonically to write off entirely, hence its rise back up to 38. And nobody is happier than me that Let Them Know by Mabel is getting its rightful dues up to 40!
As for our returning entries, they're both huge hits returning in the wake of Dermot Kennedy's comeback: Outnumbered at 42 and Giants at 46. That's the power of this man, one of those was on the charts for more than 70 weeks last time!
And with THAT all out of the way, let's finally start off with our new arrivals:
Title: Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish
So Billie's new album dropped about a week ago, and to be honest, having only just started listening to it a few days ago - I've been really busy, give me a break here - I have not yet formed a full opinion on it just yet. I will say that it is definitely very sonically ambitious compared to her last album, and while there are definitely one or two spots that do remind me a fair bit of when we all fall asleep, where do we go, it is a lot more ambitious as a whole in terms of expanding her sound and particularly in bringing in other modern production elements, as well as some more classical ones. And speaking of which, you have the title track, which really is a fascinating case.
True, when it starts out, it's almost like an early 60s ballad, where Billie is lamenting this person who treated her badly and who is clearly talking shit about her. So she decides to be candid with him and to say, honestly, she is happier. She's happier than ever now that he's no longer in her life. And at first, it's so frank and honest and yet with that wonderful fragility that she can bring to her more emotionally downplayed performances, that it really does win me over immediately. And then comes the beat switch, and BOY is this a new look on Finneas! We seem to jump forward a couple of decades in an instant musically, as Billie starts to scream at him through fuzzy distortion and thundering percussion, about how much she has over him and how she doesn't talk about it on the internet because she's not that petty. But here, she's just finally reached her limits and this is her breaking point. Sure, there are one or two moments where her voice gets drowned out in the percussion, but it just feels so visceral and primal, probably her heaviest song to date from a production standpoint,
Now I do have some minor nitpicks. I do kind of wish the writing was a little bit more developed, especially when the first half reminds me so much of i love you, one of the best songs off of her last album. But that being said, it is still so impressive production-wise, it actually is one of the moments on the album where Finneas might shine even more than Billie. It's a song that has a lot of Titanic heft to it, whether you like it or not, which is actually one of the reasons why I don't know how long it will actually stay this high on the chart, though it certainly deserves to! But hey, on the complete opposite side of that spectrum:
Title: Better Days by Dermot Kennedy
Look, I said it last week and I'll say it again: there really isn't a huge amount to say about this song. In my opinion, even though it's Dermot Kennedy's big comeback single that everybody has been waiting for, it's also not really much to write home about. It's essentially Things Are Different by Picture This, minus the weight and scale that that song carried by cranking its production up to 11 and having a chorus that really did feel anthemic. This, to me, just feels like, well, a lot of his songs. Very average in terms of the songwriting, could very easily be translated into a love song, and yeah, while the production isn't bad, it just feels very tepid and gray and colorless, at least to me.
Plus, unlike Giants, which I do actually admit grew me a bit, this doesn't really have that replay value in my opinion, specifically because, for whatever reason, Dermot Kennedy chooses to stay in a range that's a bit more reserved for him. I mean don't get me wrong, the guy doesn't have much in the way of restraint generally, but here his howling does feel rather neutered and is instead replaced by those soaring backing vocals, which are smothered in a watery filter that robs them of their grandeur.
I don't know, to me this is fine, but like I said last week, this is not one of those songs that's going to stick in my mind much, certainly not compared to Billie's rock experiments from this week. Not bad, but not exactly good either.
Title: Getting Older by Billie Eilish
Now, this was the first of the songs on the album that really caught my eye based purely on the title, and was genuinely one that I was very intrigued to listen to. And you know what, I do actually think that this works very well. The sort of low-key, hushed delivery, matched with this particular types of instrumental does wonders to convey the sober, sombre musings Billie brings to the table here.
While I will say that the song can feel a bit cyclical, maybe goes on a little too long, I'm really just nitpicking here because of the caliber of artist that I'm dealing with here, because Billie's songwriting on this is fucking next-level. The way that she breaks down the fact that we can long for so many things when we're young, but which now just feel habitual or boring, particularly that line about how, in a week, she'll get bored with something that she currently longs for.
It really is a heartbreaking song, and one that is sadly all too real coming from someone like Billie Eilish, who has had to grow up far too fast. Rather reminiscent of Lorde's Liability in that she's far too young to be thinking like this. Yet another stellar song in the album that really does highlight just how fantastic and introspective of a songwriter she is... but you know what, it's not quite this.
Title: Oxytocin by Billie Eilish
So cards on the table: this might just be one of the scariest songs that Billie Eilish has ever made. Not just because the production is a nightmarish blend of bass and percussion, and that's before you get to the hook, where the filters on Billie's vocals really do highlight the terror of what's going on here, but also in the content, where she essentially takes on the role of a possessive and abusive asshole. One who will control you keep you in the relationship for as long as possible, and is also sure that you'll never actually want to leave, or run away or see anybody else.
It's similar to bury a friend in that she's taking on a persona that is terrifying and monstrous, except this one is also all too real. It takes the horrorcore elements of that first album, and then brings it starkly into the reality, making it something so primal and terrifying that you really do start to believe that it's coming from a genuine place. And for me at least, it reframes the way I think of a lot of the songs on that album, including the title track. That, paired with the elements of dancehall that really do drive the groove behind that chorus, and yeah, you have one of my easy favorites on the album, and one of the best songs that Billie has made in a very long time.
If you want an example of Billie Eilish at the height of her powers, where the lyrics don't matter as much as the atmosphere, the production and her command of the mix, this is Exhibit fucking A. Fantastic song!
Title: Skate by Silk Sonic
Hey, they're back! I was completely charmed by Leave The Door Open when it dropped, and the fusion of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak just makes way too much sense. They're both dripping with retro cool and easy charisma, but while one has arguably been overplayed this past decade (I would argue against), the other one is only just starting to get the attention he has so richly deserved for years. I mean, anybody who has listened to his last albums will be able to tell you this, but Anderson .Paak one of the best singers and producers and really songwriters currently working in R&B today!
And you know what, this might be even better than their last single! While Leave The Door Open is absolutely gorgeous from start to finish, it can also feel a little slow in spots, more showing off just how well their 2 voices work together. In other words, the perfect introductory attracted the duo, but it could definitely be a little more up-tempo And that's part of the soul-infused genre they were going for there, fair... but my personal tastes veer a little more funky. Which is where Skate comes in, which is just pure joy, fusing their strengths together even more tightly!
For one, this one really does rely on the charisma of the two performers, where they're just flirting with you incessantly, all while bringing it back to a fucking skating metaphor on the hook. It's so cheesy and yet so effortlessly charming, that you can help buy into it, they sell it that well! Plus, the production is just fucking amazing. Quite apart from the fact that the strings are as gorgeous as ever, the percussion is what really sends it over the top, especially with the fusion of the regular drums with the bongo ones. It's a slight touch, but you can feel the organic warmth of those instruments bleeding through the mix and it really is stunning.
One of the best things that I've heard Bruno put out in a long time, and honestly possibly one of Anderson's too. So yeah, this is amazing for all the same reasons as Leave The Door Open, and then some! Check this out, it's awesome.
Title: Love Tonight by Shouse
And right on schedule, it's our TikTok song of the week! This time one from back in 2017, by an Australian electronica duo called Shouse. When the track first dropped, it received a lukewarm reception, although it did get some attention for featuring a slew of Australian guest singers to deliver the hook. And lately, with a bunch of international DJs picking it up to remix it, it's been resurfacing and gaining a bit more of a following. And look, it's fine for what it is. I do think the way the vocals are layered is mildly haunting, and I appreciate that the bass doesn't sound too generic in the vein of NAVOS or David Guetta, though the latter did release his own remix of it. Instead the snapping beat and the vague wood instruments that fade in and out, while slightly inconsistently mixed, give the track a nice ominous opening before the synth leads kick in on the verses. It's a decidedly 80s take on the genre, with enough organic elements to stand out to me, even if you can feel the electronic clipping around the edges.
So yeah, this is decent. Not the best electronic music I've heard this year, or as catchy as a song like Talk About, but I wouldn't mind if this stuck around. It's serviceable, I'll take it.
At the very least, this was a somewhat calm week for the Homegrown charts. Or rather, most of the things that happened were fairly predictable.
For one, as you'd expect, Better Days by Dermot Kennedy rocketed up to number 1, unseating Our Song by Niall Horan & Anne-Marie, which in turn is dangerously close to getting overtaken by Talk About by DJ Craig Gorman & Rain Radio at number 3.
Outside of the very top though, there were a couple of odd shifts. Sure, anyone could have predicted the fall of Only A Woman by Irish Women In Harmony down to number 18, but why exactly is Ryan Mack's Overwhelmed rising to number 9? Of all his songs from this year, why that one?! Same question applies to Not Your Summer by The Academic rising up to 16, though I don't mind that one quite as much.
Finally, we saw the (probably brief) return of Don't Let Me Stand On My Own by Imelda May with Niall McNamee to number 20. No complaints here. And now on to our last 3 songs of the day:
Title: Róisín by Pa Sheehy
Oh boy... Remember a couple of weeks ago, when I talked about that song by Pa Sheehy Saw You at the Funeral? It was a song that I was initially very put off by because I wasn't a huge fan of his voice, and the production was kind of meh, but then it was redeemed by the lyrics which were actually really poignant and well-written. Well, imagine if you took out all the good parts of that song and you were just left with, well, Pa Sheehy himself.
And here's the thing: I don't think this guy has a "bad" voice, it's just REALLY not one that appeals to me personally. It's just a little bit too throaty, a little bit too whiny in certain spots, and, well, exactly the type of sound that I dread to hear in my breakup songs because it can really sound like a wounded dog. And right on cue, we have Róisín, his latest song which is all about a girl who he used to have this deep connection with, but which he then pissed away when he cheated on her. Already, we have a guilt-tripping, "take me back it didn't mean anything" anthem that is a really hard sell for me... but honestly I soured on this song long before I deciphered the lyrics.
When the sound of your song reminds me of Niall Horan's San Francisco off of Heartbreak Weather, you would think that would be a good thing, right? Except San Francisco was always a song that really irked me because I couldn't get into it more, and I think a lot of that did have to do with the production. It just isn't organic enough and feels like it sweeps and wallows in its own effects far too much for my taste. In other words, it's just too much of sterile pop song for me to really get into, and at least that song had the benefit of having the charisma of Niall behind it. Meanwhile, Róisín really doesn't have it, nor the same sweep either, the instrumental itself is actually pretty limp and rote.
And again, Pa Sheehy just does not have a voice that I can remotely get into! Sure, I guess he sells his incessant plea for forgiveness well enough, but it also sounds way too much like a lot of his other songs, whereas here it just feels like he fell into his pocket accidentally. And when even then, I'm not really a big fan of you, that's not a good sign.
Title: Fine Wine by Ryan Sheridan
Now, this is a little bit more my speed. Ryan Sheridan is a Monaghan-born lad, who was discovered in 2010 playing Little Lion Man on Grafton Street, and who has since carved out a pretty good career for himself making pop and rock music in Ireland. Now since 2015, he's been a little quieter, with only a handful of singles and EPs, but his fans have generally stuck close to him throughout it, even as his sound started to shift further away from the rock music that made him famous.
And on this latest single, it seems like he's incorporating more and more elements of alt-rock, and even some country elements, in order to create Fine Wine, which is very much what you would expect based on the title of a song; it's a love song about how they just get better with time. And look, this is the kind of song that has been done to death, and I will say that not everybody can do it as well as Emily Scott Robinson did on that incredible album of hers a couple of years ago. But I will also say that I'm a sucker for this type of song about growing old together. It will almost always get me, and if it's delivered with a really good hook, that doesn't hurt either, especially when Ryan's voice, while not necessarily the best in terms of range, does fit this style of stripped back acoustic production really damn well, it's a great fit!
Honestly I do think the lyrics lend a good hand in making this credible, with some solid detail which you can actually picture him singing to somebody he loves. So yeah, in terms of Irish alt rock/country. I really don't mind this, it's actually pretty damn good. Check it out if you're curious.
Title: WDGAF by Chris Haze
Okay, this is a bit of a weird note to end on. For those not in the know, which I'm guessing is most of you, Chris Haze is a Galway-born artist who is the definition of an indie Irish artist, who as far as I can tell has only ever put out EPs and singles under his own name without the help of a label. That's damn impressive, and I'm not taking that away from him... I just really wish I liked his music more.
Look, I don't want to be mean. The guy's willowy voice, it's not really my thing, but I do at least acknowledge that he's trying to write something a bit more relevant here, a song about how life will just beat you down, and none of us know where or when the horizon is finally going to show us the sunlight, to finally give us a break from all the darkness, but it all comes back to the mantra of "we don't give a fuck, and we're not gonna give it up"... that's the song in a nutshell.
I don't know, maybe it's the fact that he called it #WDGAF, while being a man in his 30s, but there's something about this that definitely puts me off from listening to it repeatedly. Especially when the theme of "we don't give a fuck, because we're the nowhere generation" is something that several bands including Rise Against have done better this year! Hell, on a week like this with Billie Eilish overshadowing him, it really does bring into stark contrast just how mature she is her age compared to guys like Chris Haze who are trying so desperately to capture the voice of a generation, while coming off kind of condescending by accident. Not that I think the Chris Haze is necessarily trying to talk down, I think his intentions are good, but it just really doesn't hit for me, it falls pretty flat. Sorry.
And yet even with that, I don't think it's going to get the Worst of the week, because honestly, I don't think I can sit through another course of Pa Sheehy's Róisín, that song really soured on me fast. For the Best though... there is a part of me that is tempted to give it to Skate just to piss off everybody, and also because it's a legitimately great song. But you know what, I can't deny Oxytocin by Billy Eilish, which is easily running away with it this week. A song with so much atmosphere and raw talent behind it cannot be denied, and if you're not going to check out the entire album for some reason, you should at least check out that song just for the experience!
So as always, please feel free to like the post and share any feedback in the comments. 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!