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Musical McCool - Week 42 (October 15, 2021 - Boyz, MAMMAMIA, Are We Free?)

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

This was not supposed to happen... At first glance, this looks like exactly the type of week I was hoping for: a nice quiet one to ease me back into what I hope will be my regular schedule. Yes, I'm aware that the year-end is coming up as well and I'm starting to work on that, which might upset the balance of a few things, but still, I'm gonna do my best because as I said before, this is a series that I do really enjoy doing. So I was very grateful that only five new songs debuted... and then I realised that somebody somewhere fucked up.

See, somehow, 3 weeks of the Homegrown charts just got skipped, and records of them are very hard to come by. If you search for the top 20 after the 17th of September, you get 1 single chart that covers the period between "17 September 2021 - 07 October 2021". Again, not sure what went wrong, but it makes my job a fair bit harder. What this means is that as of last week, a bunch of songs just appear out of nowhere, one their 2nd or 3rd week, which fair, I didn't actually notice when I was doing my Musical McCool Maelstrom (turns out I didn't come up with a better name). But enough complaining, it just means I'll be covering the 7 Irish songs that I missed along with the new arrivals this week. Let's dive in, shall we?

The Top 10

Considering we haven't actually talked about the top 10 in a while, I'm gonna go into a bit more detail than I normally do as to how I feel about the position of each song here, even though I have discussed them all before.

For starters, you have Shivers by Ed Sheeran at number 1, a song that really does leave me cold. Definitely not his best single this year, but it's still not a terrible song. I expect Adele to thoroughly destroy it next week anyhow.

And Heck, I still prefer it to number 2, which is Cold Heart by Elton John & Dua Lipa, a remix that I am really starting to despise. It's terribly produced, it makes no sense to turn Sacrifice into a dance song and Dua Lipa's contribution just makes no sense to me.

Things do thankfully pick up as we look at our number 3, INDUSTRY BABY by Lil Nas X & Jack Harlow. No surprises there, Lil Nas X has had an absolute banner year and this song absolutely bangs! What more is there to say?

Then the quality and my enthusiasm both take a dive as we reach number 4, OUT OUT by Charli XCX, Joel Corry, Jax Jones & Saweetie. I am still so mad that this became a hit! I understand that for a lot of people, this song is just okay, but this really does feel like a personal slap in the face to my childhood and it's not something that I'm quite over just yet.

What's a less surprising hit is our number 5, Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah) by CKay. Yes, it's only really this big because of TikTok, but I've been hearing it on the radio over here so clearly it's doing something right. Plus it's streaming numbers are only going up.

And after that brief stint into what the club-goers are listening to, we circle back to Lil Nas X with THAT'S WHAT I WANT at number 6. The only reason this song isn't bigger is that INDUSTRY BABY is currently still in rotation, and it's still got a pretty solid hold on its position here.

That being said, I'm kind of expecting to see Better Days by Dermot Kennedy overtake it next week, if only because, while he's only at number seven currently, this guy's longevity is his not-so-secret weapon. He may have debuted lower than Billie Eilish's Happier Than Ever, but he's stuck around the top 10 longer than her, that's very telling.

That being said, Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish is just one spot below it at number 8, having rebounded into the top 10 this week. It's also a song that has seriously grown on me since it first dropped, and considering how long it's been since we've had a long-running Billie Eilish hit in the top 10, I'm really grateful to have it here.

Next is number 9, which may surprise some of you, because it's Heat Waves by Glass Animals, a song that absolutely rocketed back into rotation once the summer came around. What's weird is that its sales redoubled as well. it really got a huge second wind! I don't hate it like some people do, I'm just surprised that it came back the way it did.

Finally, we close off our top 10 with Bad Habits by Ed Sheeran. Yeah, he's bookending the top 10 at the moment, and I don't really have a problem with that. In my opinion, Bad Habits is a better single than Shivers anyway.

Top 50: The Punished and the New

And now we come to our top 50, where thankfully, nothing too crazy happened. No movers to ACR this week, and only a few interesting drops and rises along the charts.

Starting with our losers, the first notable one is probably Hurricane by Kanye West, The Weeknd & Lil Baby dropping down to 28. But to be fair, that song has been steadily dropping the last few weeks, I'm not that surprised by that Similar feeling towards Way 2 Sexy by Drake, Young Thug & Future, which has also been consistently dropping and is also a far worse song, so I don't feel remotely bad about it. What hurts a little more but is still predictable is Wildest Dreams (Taylor's Version) by Taylor Swift, dropping down to 33. Yes, yes, I know that it's basically a re-release, but of the re-releases this year it's by far the best one I've heard, I really do fucking adore this rendition of the song! And I get a similar sinking feeling when I see Visiting Hours by Ed Sheeran dropping to 35. It may not be as typical of a single and Shivers is definitely more radio-friendly, but it's just so much better, it's not even close. And while this next one may not be as disappointing for me as it is for a lot of people, it also does kind of suck to see Love Again by Dua Lipa dropping back to 41 again. I would have said the same for Levitating by Dua Lipa & Lil Baby at 47, but I've never liked the remix as much as the original, and it's also been overplayed to death at this point, I just do not want to hear it anymore.

But anyway, moving on to our gains! Well outside of Happier Than Ever, we don't really have that many. Okay, you had one big one with Tell Me Something Good by Ewan McVicar vaulting up to 22, Jesus Christ! And I suppose I will also mention 24/5 by Mimi Webb went up to 29, only because I'm really mad that 24/5 by Mimi Webb went up to 29 when it's barely even a song, let alone a good choice of single. Thankfully that's slightly balanced out by Where Are You Now by Lost Frequencies & Calum Scott also rising up to 31. Unlike the other 2, this is actually a really good song, so I actually hope this one sticks around. Finally, you have Drive by Clean Bandit, Topic & Wes Nelson - again, surprisingly good - rising up to 44 again. I wouldn't actually mind if this reality TV star stuck around on the charts. Boy, that is not a sentence I ever expected to ever say... I also want to point out the Giants by Dermot Kennedy is still in the top 50, somehow, at number 50. And in terms of our returning entries... oh my GOD, it's Doja Cat's Need To Know yet again, returning at 49! Look, I get that we're struggling to find a third Doja single to fill out the roster, but again, WHY this one?! And that's everything, so let's now dive into our new entries before we drench ourselves in the local stuff, starting with:

Title: Boyz by Jesy Nelson (Ft. Nicki Minaj)

Position: #16

I'm not gonna lie, I was expecting the worst with this one. The thing is, as much as Little Mix has had a fair bit of success this year, I have noticed that the quality of their songs hasn't been quite as high ever since Jesy left. Yeah, there are 1 or 2 decent to good ones, but I still think that Sweet Melody is the best single that they've had in rotation all year, back when Jesy was still with them. But then again, when I heard that Jesy was setting out to have a solo career, I was definitely skeptical. After all, not everyone can be a Harry Styles or a Justin Timberlake. And when I saw the big debut single featured Nicki Minaj, I was all but ready for this to absolutely suck. And yet... it kind of slaps?

Look, I'm not going to say that this is anything amazing, and I will admit that the Bad Boy for Life sample is doing a lot of the heavy lifting. But I don't know, it's got a nice bounce to it, I think the hook is really catchy, the performers certainly have enough charisma to pull this off, and Nicki Minaj's verse is actually kind of good! It actually even made me chuckle with that one line about lucky charms. Plus, when she switches back from the rapping style to the singing, Jessie does actually sound pretty convincing in both roles. I realize that she's not a great rapper by any stretch, but her voice doesn't sound bad in that vein. And of course, her singing is pretty fucking great.

So yeah, I actually don't mind this at all... in fact, I kind of like it. I mean I wouldn't fall on my sword for it, but I don't think it deserves some of the hate that it's been getting. Also, Diddy being in the music video is just really funny to me.

Title: MAMMAMIA by Måneskin

Position: #38

So what can I really say about this song? I kind of feel bad that Måneskin started out being that amazing band that went all the way and won Eurovision, and in that particular sense I was more than happy to praise them and talk about them... and then the public ruined them. The main problem is that the new audience for the band seems to be trying to get into them through their English-speaking songs, which - I'm sorry - just aren't as good most of the time.

But okay, this new song... Like I said, part of me does feel bad that the band seems to feel like they have to release more songs English, but I also get it because they've made a lot of new fans who do not speak Italian, to the point where, on this song, Damiano even says that he's so hot because he's Italian, that's the appeal. But in terms of the content, this is very similar to I Wanna Be Your Slave, except the lyrics are admittedly less ridiculous. A filthy sex song about wanting to be spit on and just reveling in the debauchery of the whole act. And you know what, I will say that it works slightly better here, but I also think that the instrumentation owes too much of a favour to I Wanna Be Your Slave as well. The guitars and percussion are really static and abrupt, you have the exact same tempo with the weird build-up to the very stilted chorus, which isn't exactly flattering in the first place.

I don't know, I definitely find this better than that song, but it also doesn't feel like the big first single to a brand new project that these guys are clearly trying to make it. If this is their big follow-up, I don't really see these guys lasting beyond 2021. Sorry.

Title: Ghost by Justin Bieber

Position: #42

Oh joy, another Justin Bieber single. Actually no, I take it back, this year has been a fairly good one for Justin (certainly compared to last year), with his run of Anyone, Hold On, and Peaches actually being pretty damn good. But on the other hand, you also have a song like Stay with The Kid LAROI, not to mention a VERY mediocre album, so it's definitely been a year of balance.

Thankfully, Ghost is actually one of the better songs off of Justice. Now don't get me wrong, it's not as good as any of the singles we've had so far; it's a pretty limp retread of Anyone production-wise, and lyrically it's about as interesting, basically that he'll settle for the ghost of her haunting him if he can't be with her in reality. Which... yeah, it's a bittersweet sentiment, but I do wish that it was phrased in a way that sounded slightly less murder-y.

But again, the production is fine, the chorus is decent, everything about the song is just as safe as possible, which once again makes it one of the better songs off of Justice. I'm probably not even going to remember this exists in a few days, I certainly don't expect it to take off in the way his other singles did, but at the very least, it's not As I Am with Khalid. So I'm grateful for that.

National Treasures

Now for the Homegrown front, where we're not going to waste any time.

Fine, quick highlight reel! Dermot Kennedy's Better Days is still at number 1, and both Overwhelmed by Ryan Mack & Not Your Summer by The Academic are on their 13th weeks, meaning they'll be out next week. Very weird to me that 2 acts I really like both had their most mediocre singles this year also be their biggest.

And now, we'll start by covering the 2 new arrivals for this week, then discussing the other ones from past weeks that were skipped. Let's go!

Title: Are We Free? by Mick Flannery & Susan O'Neill

Position: #6

Okay, this is an interesting one: a collaboration between very successful multi-award-winning and double platinum artist Mick Flannery and relative newcomer Susan O'Neill, collaborating together for an upcoming album called In The Game. Now, they've released a few singles for this particular album (we'll get to it) and this fourth one actually came out about a month ago and only started to gain a bit more traction recently. And it is intense.

They play two sides of a couple fighting, with some of the most polarizing and viciously sarcastic lyrics that I've heard this year, sniping and jibing at each other mercilessly. And yet the delivery definitely doesn't make a tongue-in-cheek, the sarcasm is tinged with real hurt emotion, as the 2 confront each other, each finding the other to be far too sure of themselves and not wanting to admit when they're the one in the wrong.

Not only that, but it sounds really good too, building to a really great chorus where the two of them harmonize together, lamenting how truly free they are in this toxic, take-all battle that they both continue to wage against each other, also known as their relationship. The song was produced by Australian producer Tony Butchen, who's worked in the past with acts like Courtney Barnett and the Smashing Pumpkins, who really did do a great job here, building up the swell of luscious instrumentation, then peeling back to a bare piano once the hook finally hits, really underlining the barren state of this relationship, or what's left of it.

Yeah, this song is absolutely great and an easy critical darling... but it did have some competition this week:

Title: just a phase by Aimée

Position: #14

I'm surprised I haven't talked about Aimée on this series before, I could have sworn that I covered Bulletproof earlier this year...

Anyway, and this is Aimée, a Dublin singer-songwriter who has been fairly quiet until very recently, when she started recording and releasing music once again. And personally, I'm very glad about that. She's always had a great knack for hooks, with a really good feel for 90s pop music especially. Now I will say that her music has a bit of a throwback feel, to the point where some critics could be forgiven for thinking that she's just a copycat of older of old acts, but personally, I think that she does do it with a fair bit of charisma and genuine songwriting talent.

As for this new song, it's just such a bop! It's catchy, it's tight, and has lyrics all about being in love with someone, almost challenging this person that she's singing to to tell her that it's just a phase. I don't know, there's a swagger and a command to this that I really do appreciate. And while I will definitely say that it's not going to hit some of her fans quite as hard, as even she'll admit that it's supposed to be from a different person's perspective, not necessarily something that she feels with all her heart and soul, it is still something that I can connect with. Really good little pop tune. Nice job!

And yet even with that, I still don't think it's getting Best to the week, becauseAre We Free? by Mick Flannery and Susan O'Neill really is great! I hope that more people will give it the time of day because it definitely deserves it. As for the Worst though... you know, there was nothing incredibly bad this week, but on the whole, I'm going to give it to MAMMAMIA by Måneskin. I feel bad because it's not a bad song, but it's not particularly good either. And overall, I think I like it a little bit less than I do Ghost by Justin Bieber.

And now, the ones that got away... until now:

Title: Noel's Creamy Pints by The 2 Johnnies

Debut Position: #4 Current Position: #12

Huh... this feels weird. For those who don't know, The 2 Johnnies are a well-known comedy duo from Tipperary, known for touring and for making a very successful; podcast. As with a lot of Irish comedians and artists in general, they started out working in "real jobs" (pretty sure one of them was a butcher in Supervalu), then created their comedy duo when they met at a fundraiser in Cahir in 2016. 6 months later they had quit their day jobs and were doing comedy full-time.

Now, this isn't their first time making a splash on the Irish music charts. Heck, in 2019 they cracked the Official Top 50 with their song Sinéad. As for this new song... okay, I could see this being a bit cringe or obnoxious to some non-Irish listeners. The flow sounds incredibly forced and stilted, the beat is a mix of 90s west coast hip-hop, a banjo, and all the curse words are replaced with chicken noises, and the voices they're putting on are extremely goofy. Plus, the parody is very easy, a very clear caricature of old Irish men complaining about the youths, saying their sons could beat any townie at football, and telling exaggerated stories about headbutting Prince Charles. It's ridiculous, it's silly, and that's exactly the point!

Aesthetically speaking, there's not much here for me. The banjo playing is surprisingly technical, but the flow and beat are far too awkward to be genuinely enjoyable. But as someone who has met these types of people in real life, and is related to a few of them, I can't not appreciate this. It's not supposed to be avant-guard or mindblowing, it's just easy jabs at easy targets, in a very good-humoured fashion. There's not an ounce of malice to any of this, the type of song that's meant to entertain its core audience and nothing else. And for what it is... yeah, I don't mind this. Give it a listen, if only for the novelty.

Title: Planes In the Sky by James Vincent McMorrow

Debut Position: #5 Current Position: #9

Another week, another James McMorrow song... and it's yet another 180! This time James decided to spiral into a bass-driven pop song that's in a similar vein of indie rock to a song like Foster The People's Pumped Up Kicks. Well, instrumentally, lyrically it's a lot tamer, a song where he appears to be playing 2 people, 1 of whom is desperately in love and trying to get over his obsession, the other has been leading him on for ages, and doesn't want to lose the attention... at least I think that's the point. Honestly, my main takeaway from this song is the production. That bassline is SO catchy, and the real drums back it up very nicely, it creates a great groove. And the pre-chorus is brilliant, peeling the instrumentation back to their barest components, right before the chorus hit with its swell of backing vocals, it sounds beautiful! This is also the most charismatic and secure I've heard James be all year, he sounds terrific here, which is ironic considering he's playing 2 characters clearly riddled with insecurity.

Guys, between the instrumentation, the hook, the great use of multitracking, the performance, and even the lyrics to some degree... I'll say it, this is the best song James Vincent McMorrow has released all year. Not a revolutionary, certainly not his most experimental hit, but OF the many experiments he's attempted this year, this is the one that works best, at least in my opinion. Great job man, this is the one I've been waiting for.

Title: All For You by Koleidescopes & Gavin James

Debut Position: #10 Current Position: #11

I was kind of looking forward to this. Koleidescopes may not seem familiar to most of you, but they're written and produced for quite a few big names in recent years, including Charli XCX, Marina and the Diamonds, and even co-writing Head & Heart by Joel Corry & MNEK. As for Gavin James, I've talked about him. before,I think he's a really good singer, albeit with some sub-par writing from time to time. But Sober grew on me a little and he's rarely released music I hate, so I was definitely open to this collab.

And the song is pretty good. It's a little distracting that it's written in the same key as Small Talk by Niall Horan, but the blend of tropical house with Gavin James's guitar is a pretty potent one instrumentally. It's got a nice chill vibe to it, with a chorus that is very simple, mostly comprised of "wooo-oooh's", but it sounds very nice, and I like the... well, the kaleidoscope of vocals and bright synths that the instrumental switches into towards the end of the song. Sure, the lyrics are nothing to write home about, a simple song about doing it all for you, the person he's finally found, but the lyrics are never really the point of these types of songs anyway.

Even Gavin James went above and beyond here, with a surprisingly good falsetto, and (I'm assuming) providing the majority of the "wooo-oooh's" on that hook. He's as emotive as ever, and he fits really well within the production. So yeah, not an amazing song, but considering we always have to have at least one of these in the top 20 at any one time, you could do FAR worse than this. Really solid song, nice job gentlemen.

Title: The Way I Love You by RuthAnne

Debut Position: #13 Current Position: #17

As with the last entry, many of you may not immediately recognise RuthAnne, a singer-songwriter from Donaghmede. Then I tell you she's been writing pop hits behind the scenes for years, including Niall's Slow Hands, Britney's Work Bitch, Jojo's Too Little Too Late, and NOW I have your attention. Honestly, with so many songwriting credits and very few singing ones (and even fewer as the lead singer), you'd be forgiven for assuming she doesn't really sing much. But no, she even participated in the Irish Women in Harmony's cover of Dreams last year.

And as you can hear on this song, she's no slouch behind the mic either. This song is actually part of an EP of the same name, and while the first few seconds had me worried as the warping synths and clicks reminded me vividly of Selena Gomez' Come and Get It, the song thankfully sounds a LOT better! A song where she calls out her lover, taking back all the time, all the words she spent on him, because he clearly doesn't feel the same way about her. It's triumphant, it's in your face, and the way the beat hits on the hook alongside her raw vocals is really potent.

Sure, it's a bit less emotive than it could be, and I would have liked a slightly more organic groove if she wanted to double down on the anthemic feeling, but it's still a potent sentiment. I've heard better songs in this vein this year, but this is still a good attempt. Plus I really do like her voice, she should show it off more often!

Title: GOT TO GIVE by Hermitage Green

Debut Position: #10 Current Position: #20

Wow, how long has it been since I talked about this band? It must have been Enough, the song that stuck around for 1 week and which nobody seemed to enjoy as much as I did. In fairness, the song was only performed live, I don't think they even put out a studio version until the album dropped last month. Meanwhile this new single got the full treatment, even a music video. And I do like it. A bit less organic this time around, but they make up for it with a great hook and some very smart production choices. The way the drums are produced are especially fun, creating this weird oscillating effect at the back of the mix on the hook so that it almost sounds like bubbles escaping, it's really weird and pleasant. Combined with the guitar and what I could swear are maracas, the instrumental ends up being really fun, and the great hook about giving all you have till you have nothing left, wondering if it'll even be enough, it really does hit you.

That's the other part I like about this, it's actually pretty biting. Sure, you could take it as just another relationship song like Enough, giving everything to a one-sided relationship, but the band has said this is a song they directed at the government. A larger entity demanding the sweat off your back, raising the cost of living till it's all you can do to get by, and then asking you to give more. And at the end of the day, even if you do give them all they ask for, are they going to have your best interest in mind? Will they still be standing by your side?

As far as I know, Hermitage Green are not one of those bands criticising the government for still mandating masks or anything, so until I'm told otherwise, I actually really like this song. Maybe not as emotionally complex as Enough, but this was still a really good choice of single. Glad it's here.

Title: Chain Reaction by Mick Flannery & Susan O'Neill

Debut Position: #12 Current Position: N/A

Yup, Are We free is actually this duo's second single to crack the top 20, and this one's a LOT happier. Apparently In The Game is going to be about the start and death of a relationship, so it doesn't surprise me that this is so different. Now, their chemistry is still intact, both sounding great opposite each other as they serenade each other lovingly, now with blues backing singers. Then the hook hits and they pair up to harmonise once again, thanking each other for meeting the other and bringing them together. It's a bit cheesy on paper, but it sounds so good, and these 2 pair so well together, that I find it hard to complain.

Now, I don't like it as much as Are We Free?, mainly for having a LOT of repetition (seriously, all of Susan's lines are just echoes of his), and I just love the drama of the other song. But still, there's a place for a more docile song like this, all about enjoying each other's company in that moment at the very start of the morning as you're just waking up together. So this is still great; I'm going to make sure to hear this album, and I think you should too.

Title: Rambling Rover by Nathan Carter

Debut Position: #15 Current Position: #18

You know, I just realised I've never talked about Nathan Carter at length. I've mentioned him a fair few times because of Sarah jane dipping in and out of the top 20 for most of the year, but that song debuted in 2020 so I never counted it as a 2021 hit and have therefore never discussed him.

Well, here goes: although he was born in Liverpool, Nathan Carter has always associated himself more with Ireland. His parents were from Newry, and he moved back here around the age of 18. Heck, even before that, his 2007 debut was straight-up Irish country. Since then, he's only delved deeper into his Irish music nook, releasing multiple covers of folk songs, original Irish jigs, and don't forget the guy can play the accordion. In other words, some may argue against it, but I think he belongs on this chart.

But today we have this song, a cover of The Dubliners' Rambling Rover, not one of their best songs by any means, but still a classic Irish pub song by any metric. You would have to be a real sourpuss not to at least grin like an idiot as a bunch of old Irish guys break into drunken singing whenever this plays in a local bar. However, that also makes it a bold choice of single, especially because Nathan Carter has a bit of a... cookie-cutter image that many of those older Irish men may scorn. And I hate to say it, but I kinda agree in this case.

Look, I like Sarah Jane, but this new song isn't the type where his charming smile really works. It feels like when Michael Bublé covers any Christmas song, it's far too clean and sanitised, to the point where it gets kind of aggravating. I've never been one to call a guy "preppy", but there is something that really irks me about this handsome, well-educated young man with his perfect smile singing a song that initially sounded like this. So while the production may be pretty and his singing is objectively not bad... I can't say I like this at all. It's played far too safe and low-key, just a bad choice of cover. There's just nothing here that's better than the original, I'm sorry.

Aaaaaand DONE! 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! Year-end lists are on the way, so stay tuned! And until the next time, I'm Fionn and this is The Social Tune signing off!

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