Musical McCool - Week 43 (October 22, 2021 - Easy On Me, Starlight, Your Power cover)
Hi guys, welcome back to The Social Tune! My name is Fionn, and welcome back to a brand new edition of Musical McCool!
... Called it!
The Top 10
Yep, to the surprise of nobody, Adele's return to the chart was easily the biggest upset to the charts this week:
And as I said, Easy On Me went straight to number 1, gaining massive streaming numbers, sales, and even the YouTube video getting record-breaking amounts of views! More on the quality of the song a bit later, but for now, I'm just so happy to have her back, it's been too long!
What I didn't see coming was our number 2, as Cold Heart (PNAU Remix) by Elton John & Dua Lipa actually managed to hold its spot! Heck, it might have actually taken the top spot if not for Adele.
All of this means that Shivers by Ed Sheeran was forced back to number 3, and while there's some hope of recovery from it, I wouldn't hold my breath. Dua Lipa is a force of nature over here and Sir Elton is held in very high regard, plus Shivers is Ed's weakest song in a while.
However, the upset doesn't stop there: in the wake of 2 HUGE songs moving to ACR, THAT'S WHAT I WANT by Lil Nas X was finally able to make a big push back up to number 4. I honestly don't see this lasting as long as his last 2 hits, but it's still really solid as the album keeps doing numbers.
What's a lot less stable is Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah) by CKay at number 5. Yes, it's currently still decent on streaming, but the sales just aren't there, and the only reason it held its spot this week was due to the weakness of other songs around it.
On that note, I'm not remotely surprised to see Better Days by Dermot Kennedy gain another spot to number 6. It's huge, he's huge, the radio can't get enough of him, and his fans are absolutely rabid, I expect this to stick around through November, probably beyond.
What will probably outlast them all though is Heat Waves by Glass Animals, which is currently set to be the biggest hit song of 2021 by a landslide thanks to the comeback of the century! See, after being moved down to ACR earlier this year, it suddenly gained a second wind on TikTok last month, which caused it to get taken off ACR and surge back into the top 10 yet again. This is unprecedented in the history of the charts outside of holiday songs, it's mental!
What makes a lot more sense is My Heart Goes (La Di Da) by Topic & Becky Hill at number 8, entering the top 10 just like clockwork. I knew the second I heard this it would either plummet or absolutely soar, and sadly we got the latter of the 2. If you thought Remember was bland and forgettable... it was, but this is another beast entirely!
Next is Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish trailing at number 9. It's on its last big legs, but I'm still so proud of it for lasting this long!
And last but not least, thanks to a boost from the album, My Universe by Coldplay & BTS is in the top 10! Honestly, no problem with that; it's a good song that works way better than it should!
Top 50: The Punished and the New
So this week actually was a lot more standard. Sure, there was the surge of Adele songs returning to the streaming charts in the wake of Easy On Me, as well as a few stragglers working their way up the charts, but most of the songs here are just in freefall. And in keeping with that, we actually have a few ACR-stricken ones to start with:
INDUSTRY BABY by Lil Nas X (Ft. Jack Harlow) - number 3 to 17
OUT OUT by Joel Corry & Jax Jones (Ft. Charli XCX & Saweetie) - number 4 to 18
Kiss My (Uh Oh) by Anne-Marie (Ft. Little Mix) - number 21 to GONE
Take My Breath by The Weeknd - number 25 to GONE
2055 by Sleepy Hallow - number 35 to GONE
Outnumbered by Dermot Kennedy - 39 to GONE
Fun fact, this is actually the third time Outnumbered has been moved back to ACR after rebounding and coming off it twice before! Also, the joy I feel at seeing OUT OUT drop is strong enough for me to accept the Lil Nas loss, especially with THAT'S WHAT I WANT still in the top 10. As for The Weeknd and Sleepy Hallow, I forgot their songs were even here.
And that's just the first of our losers. For one, not a great week for Drake: Girls Want Girls with Lil Baby fell to 21, Fair Trade with Travis Scott went down to 27, and Way 2 Sexy with Future & Young Thug THANKFULLY collapsed to 42. The first has a pretty secure hold on its year-end spot, the second is tenuous, and the third is mercifully all but guaranteed to miss the cut! What's less good is good 4 u by Olivia Rodrigo falling to 31 after a very impressive run, but it's gonna end up as one of the biggest hits of the year anyway, so who's complaining? Along with that, Boyz by Jesy Nelson & Nicki Minaj fell back to 32 off its debut last week, Hurricane by Kanye West, The Weeknd & Lil Baby lost all its surprising traction to 34 (once again, its year-end spot is guaranteed, never fear, Kanye fans), I Guess I'm In Love by Clinton Kane peters out at 38, Visiting Hours by Ed Sheeran sadly continues its descent to 39, Talk About by DJ Craig Gorman & Rain Radio fell to 40 after a FAR more impressive run than anyone could have predicted, Wildest Dreams (Taylor's Version) is still kicking and screaming down to 43, and FINALLY, Get into It (Yuh) by Doja Cat shorted out at 49. Quite a mixed bag overall, but nothing that wasn't going to happen regardless, with the possible exception of Boyz.
As for gains this week, we still got a respectable few: I mean who wouldn't be delighted that one of Central Cee's worst songs in Obsessed With You is rising to 16?! Thankfully that's balanced out by the excellent Where Are You Now by Lost Frequencies & Calum Scott rising to number 23. And continuing the balance is Ghost by Justin Bieber rising to 33, a perfectly mediocre song to split the quality right down the middle, followed closely by Drive by Topic, Clean Bandit & Wes Nelson up to 36. Finally, and to my genuine confusion, it's If You Really Love Me (How Will I Know) by David Guetta, Mistajam & John Newman reaching a new peak this late in its run at 37... I mean I don't hate it, but why?!
Finally, while we don't have any songs MARKED as returning entries, you have to remember this version of the Irish charts has only been around since 2016, meaning that certain returning songs are sometimes mislabeled as "new". Therefore, since it peaked on the Irish charts at number 12 back in 2015, I am counting When We Were Young by Adele as a returning entry at number 19, as we all know and love it, and I've covered it at length before.
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for:
Title: Easy On Me by Adele
And here it is, the one we've all been waiting for! You know, it might surprise some of you, but when Adele dropped her first song in about 6 years, my first reaction was not to immediately listen to it. In fact, I was actually quite wary about it. After all, Adele has had an amazing track record with leadoff singles, but at the same time, that record has to break at some point, right? And even though I knew that there was going to be a ton of hype and acclaim for this right out the gate just because, well, she's Adele, I've also been let down before by people coming back after big reunions. So yeah, I was skeptical... but I really didn't need to be. Because Easy On Me is the kind of incredibly genuine and confessional ballad that not only meets all of my expectations, but surpasses them!
Because this might just be one of the most tricky songs that Adele has ever written a song about: her own divorce and separation from her husband and child, as she addresses them in the song, begging them to please go easy on her. After all, she was just a child when she had to make a huge decision, like getting married and having a kid. Obviously she didn't know any better, not realizing that down the road, it might not last, and might all fall apart. And the great part is that she doesn't really cast the blame on either side. In fact, she even says that both of them have worked really hard at this, but that it just isn't working out, sometimes that's just the way it is. And it sucks, and there's no one's really blame. But hey, if the 2 of them have to blame someone, they can blame her, as long as they go easy on her.
It's such a tough position to play somebody who knows that they're not really in the wrong and yet still feels guilty, and knows that there's going to be resentment and anger directed her way. And yet, she also knows that she did this for her own good, and that in the end, that's what's best for everybody... no point staying in a loveless marriage where nobody's truly happy. It tows such a delicate balance of being in her own self-interest, while also not coming across as selfish or catty. It just feels so fucking human and organic.
Again, I don't know how she strikes the balance of wording everything so perfectly while not sounding phony or rehearsed. The fact that she found the words to describe her situation so perfectly - "I had no time to choose what I chose to do" - it's such a perfect line that encapsulates the naivete of young love, seen from the perspective of a woman who has outgrown that love and is ready to move on and be okay with herself. It reminds me quite a bit of Thank you, next by Ariana Grande, if a lot more poised and showing more patience for other people. And while I'm on the fence whether or not I think it's as good of a song - as I am probably one of that song's biggest fans - the fact that I'm comparing this to it really does show how special this is.
Paired with the gorgeous production with a spare piano with just the right organic texture to it to really make it pop, and Adele's vocals sounding ever so slightly huskier in her lower range while still being perfectly controlled, sliding up and down the scales and vocalizing so fucking effortlessly... again, I've gushed about it this much for a reason. The song is really just that special. If you haven't listened to it yet, you'll be hearing it soon, so do yourselves a favor: really listen.
Title: Love in The Dark by Adele
So while I was unwilling to count When We Were Young as a new song, I did make an exception for this one. Specifically because, as far as I can tell, it never actually hit the charts here in Ireland before.
So yeah, as a slightly lesser-known song off of 25, Love In The Dark is a song that I've always liked. The melody is very grandiose, with the pianos and the strings, and of course the multitracking on Adele's voice when she hits that chorus is gorgeous, especially when the violin starts getting plucked in the middle of the second verse in the build-up to the next hook.
Then of course, you have the lyrics, which are all about not being able to really know somebody who's keeping you in the dark. Now, that's the mature side of my brain, but I will also admit that there is a very immature and immediate part of me that chooses to take the song very literally. Or in other words, it could also be a song where she'd prefer to have sex with the lights on, and singing it very melodramatically. Yes, yes I know it's silly, but it makes me chuckle! And Hell, it definitely makes it a lot funnier. But okay, when the incredible strings come back towards the end, I am usually dragged back to reality... or does it just make it funnier because it's getting more dramatic? I dunno, depends on my mood of the day. Either way, this is a really good song, and it deserves to cross over here.
Title: Let Somebody Go by Coldplay & Selena Gomez
Okay, definitely feels like a bit of a comedown in quality after Adele. But then again, I did like My Universe with BTS & Coldplay way more than I expected, so sure, I was open to a new song from them... even if it is with Selena Gomez, who rarely interests me anymore. But at worst, it can only be boring, right? And... yeah, that is pretty much what I expected, but I will say that it is also much better than I initially thought.
I appreciate the more low-key production at the start of this, as well as the choice to opt for more light percussion and pianos, rather than the more pop approaching I assumed they'd attempt. There's a really nice balance between the two of them, and one that's needed for this type of ballad between 2 people of opposite sexes, a formula that has always been a favourite of mine.
And yeah, upon repeated listens, I really do think that this is beautiful. Sure, they're just talking about a relationship that fell apart, where they then have to muse on letting somebody go, someone you loved deeply before the pain of losing them hits just as deep. It's a very tender, sweet song where both parties feel sad, but that just means they both appreciated the relationship, knowing that they now need to do the mature thing and let the other one go.
Initially, I did think it was kind of muted and dull for what it is, but then the bridge hits and the blast of instrumentation is really potent, before doing the drivers license move of quieting back down for the final hook. And even while the writing is a bit simplistic, the two performers more than make up for it, at least in my opinion. Not exactly an amazing song, but certainly better than it has any right to be.
Title: Starlight by Westlife
Well, I have to say I wasn't expecting this. For those of you who aren't aware, Westlife is an Irish "boy band" - I suppose, I mean half of these men were in their early 30s even when the band was big - which was formed in 2000, which was of course signed to Simon Cowell. They then disbanded in 2012, and then came back together in 2018 under a different label. So for all of you Directioners was out there, there is still hope.
Now that I've cruelly dangled that possibility in front of you, this is their new song Starlight, which they debuted last week on Dancing with the Stars. And once again, I can't believe I'm saying this is as someone who has never been a big fan of this band at all, but this is actually quite a bit better than I was expecting. The entire song has this punchy, late 90s power ballad feel to it, with a pulsing beat and soaring piano chords, and yet not feeling too much like a blatant throwback like those 80s synths that are slathered all over everything nowadays. Plus, the harmonies are really solid, and while the lyrics are kind of generic, basically telling you we can all be starlight, shining bright with our endless passion, finding each other in our darkest time, it actually manages to build to a pretty great and anthemic chorus! Not to mention the fact that there's a fucking a key change towards the end.
I don't know, I was kind of expecting something cheesy and somewhat uplifting, but I wasn't expecting to like it quite as much as this. I'm reminded of listening to My Universe for the first time a couple of weeks ago; it's not amazing by any means but it's far more than I was expecting from this group at this stage of their careers. So yeah, good job Westlife. I guess I'm glad to have you back.
Title: MONEY by LISA
I haven't discussed BLACKPINK since ROSÉ came through with her breakout single On The Ground back in March. And to be honest, I wasn't that impressed by that song. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't exactly memorable either, even only months later I barely remembered that I even covered it, let alone how it goes. So when I saw that another one of the members (and still not the lead singer, by the way) from BLACKPINK had a new single crossing over... I mean, I was curious, I will say that.
And this is VERY different; more of a hip-hop song than anything else, as you might expect from that title, with a sound that was destined to do well on TikTok. In fact, even the rhythm, the very repetitive instrumental, the on-the-nose, simplistic hook, it feels like this was specifically manufactured to go viral. And surprisingly enough, I don't hate it.
Despite the fact that I don't think this instrumental really flatters LISA's voice, I can't deny that she's got some good charisma, and she sells this type of song pretty well. Yeah, it's mindless luxury rap, but for what it is, especially with the fact that it feels very much cribbed from an act like Cardi B, I can't say that I disliked this. Not exactly great, or even all that good to be honest, but like with the last couple of songs this week, better than I expected.
Now we turn our attention to the homefront, where things were fairly busy this week. Not only were there a bunch of new arrivals, but Westlife's Starlight actually debuted at number 2, forcing a break in what has been a pretty solid top 5 in recent weeks.
Not only that, but change is on the horizon! Dermot Kennedy's Better Days is still at number 1, sure, but it's on its 13th week, meaning it'll be gone and likely replaced by a different Dermot Kennedy song next week. On that note, Orla Gartland is back again at number 20 with You're Not Special Babe, reminding all of us that true talent never really goes away. Finally, as it's the only noticeable mover this week, Are We Free? by Mick Flannery & Susan O'Neill fell back to number 11 off of its debut last week. Hoping this one sticks around a little longer, it's only grown on me this past week. So without wasting any more time, let's dive into our new arrivals, skipping past Starlight, to begin with:
Title: Greatest Hits by Gavin James
Gavin James has had a fairly consistent year with me. He hasn't released any incredible songs but his collaboration with Koleidescopes last week was pretty good, and I still am one of those people who think Sober is a fairly good song. So when I saw that he had a new song out called Greatest Hits.... well, first I thought it was a new album that he had dropped, but no, the song is called Greatest Hits, not confusing at all.
After hearing it a bunch of times though, it's actually a topic that we've covered several times on this series this year. It's a song about your ex leaving you and being left alone with nothing but the songs that the two of you listened to together while you were still a couple. And look, there have been multiple songs in this vein in 2021: a couple of weeks ago there was that Lost Frequencies song Where Are You Now, and Our Song by Anne-Marie and Niall Horan was a huge hit this year. So I wasn't exactly crying out for this, but as it's a topic I do really enjoy in music, I was open to it. And for what is it, I actually like this a lot!
I was kind of hoping this was one of those songs that snuck in a bunch of Gavin James' other song titles into the lyrics, that would have been a really neat songwriting trick, but he didn't do that. Instead, the lyrics take more of a symbolic perspective: the greatest hits aren't just the songs he's listening to, but the highlights of their relationship, lost in all the good times, and probably unable to focus on all the bad ones, the reasons they broke up. It took me a few listens to pick up on, but behind the huge piano chords and the 80s synth that's fucking everywhere, Gavin's breaking voice and dogged stubbornness to focus on the good songs, the dreamlike moments now that he's on his own, and that she's found someone new, with all the good memories slowly souring and turning bad as he tries to hold on. It's wistful, it's longing, and yeah, it is very much a throwback, but the chorus really does punch, and the lyrics have really grown on me with repeated listens.
So yeah, on my first draft of this I was a lot more lukewarm on it, but now I can comfortably call it Gavin James' best hit so far this year. Check this out, and to you sir, my congratulations and thanks for this!
Title: Sad Fuck by Ryan Mack
Ryan Mack has been an artist that I've been rooting for since the beginning of the year. Between his singles Broke and She Wins, I Lose, he was an artist that I was definitely looking forward to hearing more from. But ever since the latter of those singles, he's never impressed me as much as I wanted him to. His last single in particular Overwhelmed was a cover that... well UNDERwhelmed me, and which unfortunately was also his biggest single of the year, sticking around for a full 13 weeks in the top 10 of the Homegrown chart. Which is why we now finally have this new song called Sad Fuck.
As you might expect, this is the kind of song where he's mostly moaning about being a sad fuck, sabotaging himself, messing things up, and always getting too caught up in his own head, something many of us can relate to. It's an emotional topic he's tackling here, where he definitely seems to want to break out of this rut that he finds himself in so often... and yet I really wish that I liked it more. Unfortunately, it suffers from the same issues I had with Overwhelmed, that being that it sounds like a lot of his other songs. He has a very specific sound that he tends to favour, and while it works well the first couple of times, I'm getting a little sick of it now, I'm looking for more. To me, it makes him come across as a very limited performer, especially on a song like this where he could have afforded to actually match the emotion of the lyrics. On top of that, I'm sorry, I just don't think the writing here is very good. For all his whining about what a sad fuck he is and his claims that he doesn't always want to be like this, he doesn't really convince me that he wants to change all that much. After all, if he did want to change, why would he constantly write music about the exact same topic, basically being sad or being rejected or being a loser? I don't know, I really wish that the song did more to convince me he wants to change at all. On top of that, I just don't like the vocal production, where unlike some of his other songs, this one really does pile on the filters on his voice and it doesn't sound good.
I don't know, this song is probably going to stick around because Ryan Mack has a big enough fanbase to sustain him, and this is exactly the type of music that they enjoy, but unfortunately it's probably my least favorite thing he's done all year. Also that Billie Eilish line felt incredibly forced, I'm sorry... speaking of which:
Title: Your Power (Billie Eilish Cover) by Inhaler
Yay transitions! Also yes, this is real.
Inhaler is a band that I have covered even more times than Ryan Mack on this show, having released a hugely successful album earlier this year, with multiple songs crossing over to the Homegrown Top 20. And for the most part, I've had nothing but praise for them. Despite some clear throwback tendencies, they really are a great young rock band and that album is definitely worth checking out. But I have to say this cover didn't really make sense to me.
For me at least, Your Power is a song that works as well as it does because it's being sung by Billie, a young woman who has likely been in a position where power could be used against her. She feels like she's speaking from a place of real empathy, where she can fully appreciate what other women in these positions have been put in, and calling out the assholes that have abused them, telling them "how dare you?", such a simple but powerful statement. So how can Inhaler possibly have the same impact from their (let's face it) decidedly male perspective on the matter? I'm not saying that guys can't write songs about this, they absolutely should, but I just don't think covering such a new song is the way to go about it. But turns out Inhaler had an answer for that: they just made it sound better. If I had 1 gripe with the original, it was that the production made it very tame compared to the more explosive moments on the album. the message and performance are great, but the song could definitely use some more teeth in my opinion. Elijah Hewson's voice doesn't carry the same authority as Billie's, sure, but he's still earnest and sincere as he calls out the assholes in these cases, and the fact he doesn't change the pronouns paints a much more colourful picture subtextually, and I would bet money that was done on. purpose.
But look, whatever about the lyrics and the vocals, those were always great. What makes this unique and an improvement is the rock influences here, managing to be grandiose and varied, while not clashing with the tone of the original. It feels wistful, it's very organic, and it is plain beautiful in a lot of places. Sure, part of me wishes there were a few more stronger guitars thrown in on the first 2 hooks, but I understand the subtle anger of the track is still important. And it more than makes up for all that on the bridge, where the instrumentation ramps up into strong guitar snares, the percussion kicks it up a notch, and then the solo rings out across the mix, all while keeping the low-fi filter that coats the entire thing. Overall, a cover that works way better than I thought it would. It didn't make sense to me before, and I could see many people disliking this on principle, but I highly recommend you give it a chance. Not saying it's better than the original, but it's different, and in a similar realm of quality, at least to me. So yeah, give it a listen to give it a chance, and then check out the rest of this band's output, they deserve the attention!
Title: Break the Silence by Robert Grace
To complete the foursome of acts that I've talked about before, it's Robert Grace. Out of the 4, Robert might be the least known, and yet is also controversially my favorite. After his pandemic song Fake Fine went viral last year, he gained a fair bit of attention with his follow-up single The Hurt You Gave Me at the start of this year, followed by Self later on. And having liked both of those songs, I was definitely curious about this new song. Sadly though, I can't help feeling a little bit let down.
Now don't get me wrong, this is not a bad song. I definitely think that, much like Ryan Mack, this guy has enough talent in terms of his songwriting to really be able to sell the misery associated with this type of topic, and unlike Ryan, he does mix things up here instrumentally here, as the production feels quite cavernous with a lot of minor tones and darker synths. But I will also admit that I think that the subject matter is a bit middle-ground, a song where he doesn't ever want to text this girl, but when he gets drunk, he's gonna break his silence and call or text her.
And look, we've all been there. Look at Drunk Texting by Chris Brown and Jhene Aiko, easily my favorite song by him for how pathetic it is. Robert Grace plays that role really well here, of the guy who knows better but is going to fuck up when he gets fucked up. I just think that, compared to the other songs that he's released this year, there's less sympathy that I feel for him here. He doesn't make enough of a case to really make you feel for him here, which may be the point, but which doesn't quite take it far in the other direction either. Plus, the hook really isn't great; it feels a bit awkward in terms of the pacing, and the "break the silence" line in particular really doesn't feel earned. I don't know, with a title like that, it feels a tiny bit clickbaitey for it to end up being just another bitter song about an ex, it just doesn't really work for me as well as I wanted it to.
I do really like the bridge, which builds some nice ominous tension, and I actually think the final hook where all the multitracking and the cacophonous synths build up to a grand final chorus, it feels really majestic and it makes me wish the entire song was more like that. The majority of it is just pretty good though. Definitely not a bad song, still good in many ways, and you should definitely check it out, but just know that he's done better. That's all.
And that's it for our week, honestly a pretty great one. Overall, there was nothing that I absolutely hated or really disliked much... and yet, in terms of the Best and Worst, it falls out pretty damn easily! For the best, that's definitely going to Adele's Easy On Me for being so damn complex and layered and gorgeous in so many ways. This song is gonna stick around for a while, mark my words, and I am so happy about that! As for the worst... look, I'm not gonna say that it's a terrible song, but of the ones here, the one that disappointed me the most was definitely Sad Fuck by Ryan Mack. He has done so much better and I really don't understand why the production on the vocals was the way it was!
And that's all for this week, thanks for reading as always. 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! Probably going to drop something special before the year-end lists, so stay tuned for that! And until the next time, I'm Fionn and this is The Social Tune signing off!