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Musical McCool - Week 4 (Jan 22, 2021)

Hi guys, welcome back to The Social Tune! My name is Fionn, and welcome back to a brand new edition of Musical McCool!

In a weird way, this almost feels like the first proper edition of this series. The first week that's busy enough, but where at least every part of the Top 50 isn't dominated by returning entries from last year, or Christmas music, or an unexpected smash like we got last week. Sure, we still got a bunch of new entries to discuss, one actually in the top 10, but at the very least this looks to be a sign of some calmer seas ahead.

The Top 10

Because, looking at our top 10, it feels like we're mostly settled in for the long haul here.

To the surprise of nobody, driver's license by Olivia Rodrigo maintains the number 1 as a force of nature, dominating sales, streaming, and even finally gaining some radio play over here. This looks to be sticking around for the long run, and I am perfectly fine with that.

The same can be said for Paradise by MEDUZA & Dermott Kennedy at number 2, which despite everything is still putting up a valiant effort in all categories, even though its sales do seem to be levelling off a bit.

Then holding on to its number 3, we have The Business by Tiësto. However, I predict that may change in the next week or 2...

Because, well, Kid Laroi's Without You actually passed it in streaming this week, and as the radio picks up too... yes, this is likely only going to get bigger.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Ariana Grande is back up to number 5 with 34+35! Yes, I know she released a remix with Doja and Megan, but even aside from that, the original saw a real boost in airplay! I don't expect it will last, and I'm not complaining of course, but just... a little baffled.

And that song's momentum forced Afterglow by Ed Sheeran down another spot to number 6. I guess I should be happy it didn't drop lower, as its streaming and sales aren't very solid, and that may mean it'll be out quite soon. Then again, its radio is strong enough, so I guess I could still hope.

Another radio boost also came for Anyone by Justin Bieber, so despite it dropping down to number 7, the weakness of the song above may allow it to climb up a bit in the coming weeks.

It's not like Get Out My Head by Shane Codd is likely to be a strong rival to it, because while the streaming and radio are picking up, its sales just can't compete with Anyone's, hence why it dropped down to number 8.

All of which brings us to our band new Top 10 entry, at number 9: Don't Play by Anne-Marie, KSI and Digital Farms... yeah, that weird collaboration is here. More on the song itself in a bit, but look, it probably won't stick around, it mostly seems to be here on initial YouTube momentum and the radio seems hesitant to pick up on this.

Lastly, Good Days by SZA rounds out our top 10, because somehow, this song is still getting a lot of streaming numbers and even the radio has given it a bit of love this week.

Top 50: The Punished and the New

Now, those shifts do mean that both Sweet Melody by Little Mix and Whoopty by CJ exited the top 10, as streaming abandons one and radio never really liked the other. And despite both being massive for Giants by Dermot Kennedy, that song still dropped down to 15, because ACR is a cruel mistress!

Now in fairness, most of the drops this week were for songs that have already run their course, with the biggest ones being:

positions by Ariana Grande from 23 to 32

Holiday by Lil Nas X from 22 to 29

Midnight Sky by Miley Cyrus from 35 to 49

Those all make sense, especially Holiday, but I am still sad to see them go. Most of our other drops were for non-starter new arrivals last week... with the astonishing exception of Olivia Rodrigo's other song All I Want, which jumped from 40 to 16! I mean, I guess it makes sense that people would want to hear more of her music with her rise to the top being such a huge story, but still didn't expect the boost to be THIS huge!

The only other new entry to gain some momentum was Save Your Tears by The Weeknd, as that song's success was practically a given, but still, nice to see it enter the top 20 at number 18. And hey, if the general public wants to give No Time For Tears by Nathan Dawe and Little Mix another chance, even if it is just based off the music video dropping, more power to them, happy to see it back up to number 41.

And now, with no re-entries and the stale stuff getting filtered out, let's see what our newcomers can bring, starting with:

Title: Don't Play by Anne-Marie, KSI & Digital Farm Animals

Position: #9

My immediate takeaway from this song was as follows: wow, hi Drake!

Yeah, for some reason KSI drops into a sing-song flow and monotone that instantly casts my mind to our dear friend from Canada, and I can't deny it is a tad distracting. Now, in fairness, he does actually sound pretty good here, and Heck, it matches the content. He plays the downtrodden, hopeless lover who's crazy about a girl who's playing him, and if he tried delivering all that in his regular voice... it would not work. At all. This at least makes his performance much more believable, and I actually quite like his flow on this, even if he does rhyme words with themselves more than I'd like.

More surprisingly still, I can actually tolerate Anne-Marie on this, as she handles the hook and a verse where she basically says she's already played all the games, so don't you dare try to play her, she can see right through you. Ok, I don't love how she repeats the same words at the end of her lines, but that's more of a personal gripe. And on that note, I'm also not a huge fan of how the song ends with Anne-Marie's vocal loops and skips either, but otherwise the production here is pretty decent. So yeah, it's a fine song, maybe a bit better than I expected coming from these 2, but nothing to really write home about.

Title: Streets by Doja Cat

Position: #22

Alright, here I finally get to talk about a Doja Cat song NOT produced by Dr Luke, happy days! Instead we have Blaq Tuxedo flipping a B2K sample, and while I was initially thrown off by the heavy bass, it actually works really well and only enhances Doja's more sensual cooing. I've never really seen her as much of a traditional R&B singer in the vain of SZA, but she actually sounds really good over this style of production. Now, unlike on Say So, I always found that the switch-up to her sudden quirkier delivery isn't quite as smooth here, as it sort of breaks up the atmosphere. As much as I do like her weirder side, it doesn't really work with this beat, and with how great she sounds on the first verse and that chorus, it just feels like an odd juxtaposition here, especially as the quirkier delivery isn't really accompanied by the lyrics to match. She tries to keep it sincerely romantic rather than, say, mentioning her paranoia about bad breath.

Either way, she still sounds pretty good on that part, but it just doesn't really match, especially when the rest of the song sounds so damn good. No, I'm not trying to stifle her unique personality, it just might have been a good moment to underplay it, that's all.

Title: Bad Boy by Juice WRLD Ft. Young Thug

Position: #25

So, a couple of weeks ago, I had to talk about Kid Laroi baiting the public with his collaboration with his mentor Juice WRLD, which despite being titled Reminds Me Of You, turned out to just be another break-up song, essentially a far inferior version of Scotty McCreery's Feel Good Summer Song. Well, seems like we're still not done with mining this young man for all he's worth beyond the grave, so here we have another new song with frequent collaborator Young Thug.

And... well, I have to admit, this was a little bittersweet. For one, this song and music video were apparently actually filmed and recorded a month before his death, and supposedly the last time Jared and director Cole Bennett worked together while he was alive. More than that though, the hook itself is built off a scuzzy guitar and a blaring muted synth at the back of the mix, both of which just howl out the same 4 notes repeatedly. And yeah, it actually works really well, especially when both Juice WRLD and Thugger match that energy with some braggadocious lines where their delivery is pretty on-point! Their flows are really good, they play off each other pretty well, and it actually feels like they recorded this together.

I dunno, there's just a real spark of life to this song, which surprisingly enough, got to me more emotionally than most of the sadder songs that have been released posthumously from Jared. This displays a side of him I didn't hear much, and it emphasises yet again just what a tragic loss he was to the world. And hearing him here, passionate and energetic opposite someone who seems to get him and puts in the same amount of effort as well... yeah, that's how I think he'd want to be remembered.

I'm still disgusted at how the label is leaking out his music to profit off it as much as possible, but this, it feels different because it feels genuine. And it's also a good song, give it a listen.

Title: Vibez by ZAYN

Position: #31

Well, if KSI is ripping off Drake, and I can recognise it so immediately, did ZAYN really think he could slip this Chris Brown impression past me? Ok, at least his voice isn't lathered in quite as much autotune, and ZAYN does appear to be sticking to his lower range, but it's still pretty blatant. Whatever, how's the song itself? Well... honestly it's pretty damn good. As someone who is emphatically NOT a ZAYN fan, I went into this with rock-bottom expectations, and this was certainly better than I had anticipated. As I said, he steers clear of his falsetto, and while he doesn't have the presence of Harry or Niall, he still manages to sound pretty damn good over this R&B production, especially with the subtle multitracking, the twinkling piano touches and the surprisingly groovy dance beat. Honestly, that lack of presence is the only real issue I have as ZAYN still tends to mumble a bit in a way that tends to make him sound more awkward and shy than he probably intended.

Still, he does sound nice, as does this entire song for that matter. So yeah, shockingly, yet another song I wasn't expecting to like, but which turned out to be pretty damn good. I actually hope this gets bigger, we'll see. I may actually be anticipating a ZAYN album, wow!

Title: Lie Lie Lie by Joshua Bassett

Position: #44

Oh no... Look, the last thing I want to do is get involved in celebrity relationship drama, especially when it's between 2 Disney kids! I was more than content to leave it at "he's 20, she's 17, I don't like that" last week and move on! But no... of course not...

So, yeah, in case you hadn't guessed it yet, Joshua Bassett is another star on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, and was supposedly the person Olivia Rodrigo wrote drivers license about. And look, on the one hand, I want to feel for this guy; after all, it can't be fun to hear a song become the biggest thing in the world and have it essentially be directed against you. And in fairness, I don't know all the details, maybe there was some sort of drama or hurtful exchange that went down between the 2 of them privately. Also, the song has been in the works since at least November of 2019, so there is a chance it's completely unrelated. However, considering the timing, it still seems to be marketed as a response to drivers license. And on the basis of that, I'll admit my initial reaction was pretty negative.

For one, the tone is very different, going for a more snarky, upbeat tone that immediately comes off as kinda pissy. And yeah, that's what Joshua was going for, as this song is framed as a kiss-off where he calls her out for lying, running his name through the mud, and acting all innocent about her part in it. Now again, in theory, sure, there's 2 sides to every story. But again, the problem comes up if it really is a response to drivers license, which far from calling you out or dragging you through the mud, focuses a lot more on Olivia's own sadness at the break-up. Sure, it's directed at you, and she lets you know how bad she feels because of you, but the worst thing she says to you is that it makes her doubt what you once said in a song to her! Hell, considering that bridge where she even admits that she still fucking loves you despite all of it, I'd say that even she clearly realises how irrational her feelings are, whereas you just sound like an arrogant prick here!

Now, with all that being said, I have found it hard to stay angry at this song. Quite simply, I think this REEKS of executives trying to stir up drama by releasing a song this taunting and provocative, it's almost cartoonishly evil. And here's the thing: the song itself is actually pretty decent. Josh is a fairly charismatic performer, he pulls no punches with the content, the hook is VERY catchy, and those guitars will probably work for you if you're an Ed Sheeran fan. I suppose it all depends on whether or not you believe this to be a sincere response to drivers license, and personally, I prefer to believe he's not this stupid. So yeah, placing my bets on label manipulation for now, the timing is just too suspiciously convenient. However, if I'm proven wrong... my God will this sour on me quickly!

National Treasures

Whew, ok, did not expect to get that invested, certainly not about that entry anyway! Let's tone things down a bit by once again turning to the home front. And much like last week, things are buzzing outside of our top 2, as Paradise and Plugged In Freestyle stubbornly refuse to budge! It's nice to see Lyra get New Day back up to number 3 though, even if I am a bit sad to see Whatcha Gonna Do When You Leave School plummet down to 17. Guess that's the just way with charity singles, Lullaby For The World went away altogether.

And yes, Still dropping to 9 is a bummer, but at least Facts picked back up to number 15, and I Don't Belong by Fontaines D.C. returning to the Top 20 at number 18 was surprising, but very welcome. And we also have a small new batch of songs to welcome, so let's dive in!

Title: Champagne Butterflies by Wild Youth

Position: #5

So before you ask, no, there is no relation to Taylor's Champagne Problems here... or Oasis' Champagne Supernova for that matter. No, instead, this is the latest single from pop rock/synth pop group Wild Youth, a Dublin-based group who blew up a couple of years ago after being taken under the wing of The Script. Because yes, over here they are known for more than just Hall Of Fame, they're absolute megastars!

And look, this is a clear throwback which probably owes a fair bit to a band like The 1975... but then again, that doesn't change that this is kinda terrific. It's a dynamic love song with a pretty explosive chorus, which builds off some really pretty synth keyboards, a great, subtle bassline, some nice bouncy guitars, and lyrics inviting you to chill and have it still be dynamite, a line that should NOT be as charming as it is!

Really, there's not much I can say about a song like this, its appeal is pretty immediate, and David Whelan fucking sells it! It's a song that promises a giddy good time, and it absolutely delivers. Best song I've discussed so far this week, do yourself a favour and check this out! And yet, it faces some very stiff competition from:

Title: More Like You by Orla Gartland

Position: #8

Oh my, I think I may be in love... For those not in the know, Orla Gartland is a singer-songwriter who started out making covers on YouTube, before she started dropping EPs in 2013. She's been consistently releasing music since then, as well as getting involved in a bunch of music-related charity projects, and despite getting bombarded to check her out for years by a friend of mine, I'm ashamed to say this is the first original song I've heard from her... but it certainly isn't going to be the last!

She's stated before that her main influences include Regina Spektor and Imogen Heap, and I can definitely hear it, especially the latter. Her voice reminds me a bit of Sigrid's, except Orla has a bit more poise and clarity to her delivery, which only makes her vocal inflections more charming. Over layered, overlapping synth and multitracked vocal lines, she directs this song at a lover whom she wants to be more like. And if that sounds a bit insecure... yeah, she knows it and acknowledges just how obsessive she's being here. And yet, in spite of that, she still wants to try, because she isn't sure how else to love herself or deal with these insecurities she has. The chipper delivery really shouldn't work for a song this sad, and yet it does because of just how much it feels like her coping mechanism.

Pair all that with one HELL of a hook, extremely colourful, vivid and self-aware songwriting, and the absolute buckets of charm that Orla brings to this, and you have another easy stand-out this week! This is a terrific little song, and considering it's a single for her first official album, I can hardly wait for more! So far, the Irish are running away with this week, so let's see if we can go 3 for 3:

Title: Hold On by Josh Gray

Position: #20

Oh wow... ok, while I had no idea who Orla Gartland was, I had at least vaguely heard of Josh Gray. See, back in 2013, a couple of years after the boy band craze had died down, a new one called Hometown sprang onto the scene, having been put together carefully and meticulously by famed Irish music manager Louis Walsh (ie, Westlife, Boyzone,...). And as was the cool thing to do in 2013, I was pretty scornful of them, especially considering it was the music my younger cousins were listening to and nobody else (as far as I was concerned).

Now, that's not entirely fair, as the band did stay together for about 3 years, but they only released one studio album in 2015, and after touring with that material for a couple of years, they "went on a break" in late 2016 to pursue different projects. Now and again they do pop up here and there on various shows... Brendan Murray even represented Ireland at Eurovision in 2017, somehow! Final thing is that Josh is the youngest of the group and wasn't technically part of the original band, as he was brought in along with Dean Gibbons to replace Gareth Borrow, meaning he technically didn't qualify in the initial rigorous audition process.

Whew, so fine, with all that out of the way, Josh Gray started releasing solo cuts in 2018, and I honestly had a surprisingly hard time finding examples of his older music. His first single We Should Run has a video on Facebook and Vimeo, but the YouTube one didn't show up under regular search results, AND it doesn't appear on his Spotify page when I searched for him... maybe it's an issue on my end, let me know. Anyway, this one turned up pretty easily: Hold On, a modern reimagining of girl group Wilson Philips' 1990 debut hit, which went to number 1 in the US, and even managed to unseat Madonna's Vogue in the process!

Personally... never been a huge fan. Sure, the soaring production is indicative of the 80s trying to die, and the harmonies are nice, but I always found the tempo of the hook clashed with the instrumentals, and the song both feels and sounds... and IS, to be honest, a very disposable empowerment anthem. Fine for what it is, just no Vogue. So I have to say, wasn't really expecting much from this cover... but after a few listens, I've actually found I like this a lot, certainly more than the original!

See, Josh plays is more low-key and personal, so the song feels more intimate as a result, with the muted bass, the trap snare, the twinkling keyboard flourishes. In fact, while I did initially worry that this might be seen as a slightly creepy, manipulative love song preying on someone's insecurities (Treat You Better still lingers), Josh doesn't change the lyrics in a way that would reflect that. Instead, this comes across as more of a quiet booster you would give to a friend, encouraging them to take some chances and improve themselves, trusting luck will come their way someday. And especially with the tone of the instrumentation, this fits remarkably well with the tone of the past year, and even helped somewhat ease the dread and panic I've been experiencing for the past few weeks. So yeah, we did it guys, another great song, so make sure you find these 3 and support them, they're homegrown talent I am proud to promote!

Thank you all for joining me on this week's Musical McCool, I hope you enjoyed it. If you can, please leave a like, as well as some feedback in the comments, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these songs, especially anything new to you. Also, make sure you 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!

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1 Comment

Ranking top 10 in my opinion

0/5- none


10 Without You- im kinda considering putting this in the shit tier, "You cut out a piece of me and then i bleed internaly" is the most emo line in the 2020's, even Simple Plan will cringe... A little.

9 34+35 original


9/8 Don't Play- If KSI is ripping off Drake, Anne-Marie is ripping off SZA, seriously comapre this and Good Days, still this isnt as bad as expected.

8/7 Afterglow

7 34+35 remix- Finally other remix that is better than the original, Megan did really good, Doja not so much even if the line "69 without tekashi" is marvelous, but that is one thing holding the song back, WHY…

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