Musical McCool - Week 5 (Jan 29, 2021)
Hi guys, welcome back to The Social Tune! My name is Fionn, and welcome back to a brand new edition of Musical McCool!
Wow, this was a big week... Oh, not for our Top 50. If anything, the real story comes on the Homegrown front, so lets' get the Top 50 out of the way quickly... Okay fine, that's not quite fair either.
The Top 10
After all, we did have a few things to talk about, starting with some much more solid changes to our Top 10.
At the top, driver's license by Olivia Rodrigo continues to dominate at number 1, as it spent the week growing in all categories and now rules over all of them! This is probably going to be around for a while, and I'm completely okay with that.
Now, I was quite surprised to see The Business by Tiësto actually rise up to number 2, considering it does seem to be losing steam...
But that may be because Paradise by MEDUZA & Dermott Kennedy may have finally run out of momentum, sliding down to number 3. It's still bigger than The Business in both streaming and radio, but sales did take a hit this week... kind of a shame, it's arguably the better song.
Here's hoping it maintains enough steam to block out Kid Laroi's Without You from the top 3, as it holds down its spot at number 4 for yet another week. Unlike the 2 above it, it's pretty solid in all categories, the sort of song that isn't the biggest anywhere, but may just outlast the competition until they drop past it.
Now, you'd think I'd be delighted that Afterglow by Ed Sheeran rebounded up to number 5... and you'd be right, but I don't see it lasting.
Because, off of massive streaming and steadily growing traction worldwide, GOOSEBUMPS by HVME has officially cracked the top 10 at number 6. And yeah, I saw this coming as early as 3 weeks ago. Same thing happened with Roses last year, this is exactly the sort of song that could be absolutely massive over here, it could even potentially take the number 1! And look, I don't dislike the song nearly as much as some of you seem to think, I just think it adds absolutely nothing to the original. If it wants to be huge and take over the country, more power to HVME, just don't expect me to care all that much.
Now in better news, and to my great surprise, Get Out My Head by Shane Codd actually rose up to number 7. I honestly didn't expect this to still be in the top 10, guess I underrated the Irish pride in their own acts from home.
And the surprises continue with Good Days by SZA, which also saw a boost up to number 8, a song which has admittedly grown on me since its debut.
Now, in fairness, the main reason why those songs rose up is because Anyone by Justin Bieber just doesn't seem to be doing nearly as well as expected, falling back to number 9 after the expected rebound just did not happen! And weirdly, it's actually the radio that's the problem, where it hasn't caught on nearly as well as predicted. Kind of a shame, I still like the song.
Lastly, 34+35 by Ariana Grande falls back to number 10 after an initial boost from its remix last week. Turns out nobody really cares about said remix at all, which is why this may be on its way out soon.
Top 50: The Punished and the New
Looking at the rest of the Top 50, there were some unexpected shifts there too. Not a whole lot of them, but more individual rises and drops than were unexpected. For instance, look at our debuts from last week: Don't Play by KSI, Anne-Marie and Digital Farm Animals dropped out of the top 10, but only to number 14, which is better than I expected, certainly! Meanwhile Streets by Doja Cat gained massively, jumping all the way up to number 13! The real shame came from the rest of our entries though, which either dropped out of the Top 50 altogether, or in the case of Bad Boy by Juice WRLD and Young Thug, plummeted down to 46! Great, one of the posthumous hits I actually like from this guy completely stalls out and tanks, fucking fantastic!
As for the rest of the shifts... well, no huge moves this week, but still a few noteworthy ones. Whoopty by CJ continued its decline to number 15, despite being another song that was predicted to re-enter the Top 10. And despite still being MASSIVE in both streaming and radio, Giants by Dermot Kennedy still proceeded to drop to 18! Seriously, if this were charting using US rules, it would still be in the top 10, no question! The only other drop worth talking about was Olivia Rodrigo's All I Want dropping off last week's momentum to number 25, as initial interest fades; wouldn't be surprised if this came back when that full EP eventually drops though.
As for returning entries... Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi is back AGAIN at number 47! Seriously, I don't hate this the way everyone else seems to, but I just don't want to hear this anymore!
All of which brings us to our new arrivals, starting with one I knew was coming:
Title: Skin by Sabrina Carpenter
Oh, this song! Remember when Joshua Bassett's Lie Lie Lie came and went last week? You know, that song which was kinda marketed as a response to Olivia Rodrigo's drivers license, played from the perspective of a very bitter and taunting ex? Well, if that didn't feel high school enough for ya, here's the new girlfriend's take on the matter! So yes, this is officially a musical love triangle now, just fucking great! And while I was slightly hesitant to label Lie Lie Lie as an official response to Rodrigo... yeah, it's a pattern at this point, and the fact that Skin contains lines directly referencing lyrics from drivers license... yeah, I don't care what Sabrina says about this not actually being a response to an individual song, I'm calling bullshit!
SO, in terms of responses, Skins is the complete opposite of Lie Lie Lie. While that song was a snarky, guitar-driven kiss-off, this is a piano ballad, framed more as hurt at being pulled into a clash she never wanted to be a part of. Also, Lie Lie Lie, for as pissy as it was, was a well-written and well-produced song, whereas this... Well okay look, that line about telling Olivia not to drive herself insane, that was legitimately really good! The rest is just over-the-top melodrama, going on about betrayal, how you clearly hate her happiness, and grand declarations that you can't get under her skin! Well, that's clearly not true, otherwise she wouldn't have made a song about it.
It also tries a lot harder to paint Olivia as the villain, and while it sort of tries to give her the benefit of the doubt and bring some nuance into it, the writing undercuts itself at every point! There's something that feels very snide about her tone here, even if it is just down to Sabrina's piercing vocals and the ROUGH vocal mixing which makes her blend into this minimal, cavernous instrumental. It's just a really simpering, sour song, which tries to paint Sabrina as the strong victim who won't let Olivia spread her mean rumours... even though, again, she barely mentioned you in divers license. Bottom line, that song (and Lie Lie Lie, for that matter) still brings something to the conversation and works outside of the real-world context, both in production and writing, whereas this falls flat in both cases!
Title: Lo Vas A Olvidar by Billie Eilish & ROSALÍA
I'll be honest, my initial reaction to this was abject confusion. Unlike everybody else, I actually had not heard the rumours about this collab until it actually dropped, even though the song had been teased as early as 2019! Well, apparently they decided to pair its release with the newest episode of the HBO show Euphoria, which is part of the reason this song debuted as high as it did.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking: this is a collab between 2 of the biggest artists in music at the moment, how could this NOT be huge?! In fact, why isn't it even higher??? Well, the simple answer is: this is not built to be a hit. The sparse instrumental, the multitracked vocals from both our singers, the less-than-solid hook, this was clearly meant more as an admittedly pretty and well-produced soundtrack song. Even if that's not how it was originally intended, that's how it sounds, it's just not very catchy or punchy.
Now, that's not to say I don't like it! These 2 still sound terrific, both impressing me with the amount of emotion they bring to the track. I do think ROSALÍA shines stronger though, and not because of the Spanish. In fact, Billie sings in both Spanish and English, and she sounds pretty credible in both. It's more that the vocal production and filters enhance the former's performance, and yet kind of reduce the impact of the latter's. Maybe it's just down to delivery, as Billie plays more into her mid-range, and it just doesn't work quite as well as ROSALÍA's delicate, quivering upper one. Again though, they both sound really great, and I like the lyrics a fair amount too, detailing their feelings surrounding an ex who's cursing them for breaking his heart, and marveling at how he can't seem to let them go, instead content to spew poison and refuse to move on.
Again, the production could afford to be a bit more dynamic, and I do think the song kind of stops abruptly, it could have afforded to get 1 more chorus in there. Still though, this is nice, I'll definitely take it.
Title: N17 by Tolu Makay & the RTÉ Concert Orchestra
Now, if you wanted a big story from this week, it starts here! This song reached number 1 of the iTunes charts, and saw such a nationwide success that it actually debuted in the top 40 on the Singles chart, as well as in the top 3 on the Homegrown one! The reason: Afro-Irish singer Tolu Makay, who appeared on RTÉ News (aka one of the biggest news organizations in Ireland, though probably better known for their radio station), to perform her version of this classic song by The Saw Doctors. And much like New Day by Lyra a few weeks back, this apparently got to a lot of people, as it filled the nation with a sense of quiet optimism in the face of a world that never stops beating them down.
Now, it's not as good as New Day, or the original N17 for that matter. There's something so wonderfully uniquely 90s about the original that can't be replicated 30 years later, There's such a great contrast between the wary optimism in the lyrics and the upbeat sing-along chorus. However, I'd be lying if I said this wasn't still very special. The lyrics are still great, and the idea to make it a much more refined, beautifully arranged song... well, it does kinda take away from the individualistic feel of it, but thankfully Tolu grounds it all beautifully! She sounds terrific, and she injects the song with the rich passion and feeling it needs when going for this vibe. The song has long been an immigration anthem, and while 30 years ago, singing through a smile and gritted teeth was just the way the Irish expressed themselves in the face of hardship, in 2021 this sort of elegant cover makes sense, and Tolu gives it the dignity it needs to pull this off. So yeah, not the original, and not a take on the song I would have personally recommended, but it does actually work. Really well. Great little cover, take notes HVME.
Title: Wellerman (Remix) by Nathan Evans, 220 KID & Billen Ted
... Am I high? I must be, because why the Hell is there a sea shanty on the Irish charts, in the Top 50?! Well, the answer is pretty simple and kinda predictable: Tik Tok! Yes, Nathan Evans may be a humble postman from Scotland, but he saw absolutely massive success after posting this sea shanty on his account a few weeks back! Originally from New Zealand and written sometime in the 19th century, this sea shanty is fairly well-known if you run in the right circles. And while I don't, I actually have friends who do, and they were both delighted and perplexed when I told them this was a hit!
Now, I may have to dampen their spirits slightly by specifying that this is not Nathan Evans' original post, which was actually quite straightforward and beautiful. No, instead this is the remix which adds a dance beat, a short accordion-based drop, and more cowbell to the mix. And while it doesn't precisely sound bad, it does sounds incredibly artificial! Especially when compared to Nathan Evans' original rendition, this remix certainly feels way too crowded and frankly a little garish. There's no sense that any of the added instrumentation is real, and there's way too much added reverb.
The only reason it works at all is because... well, it's a sea shanty. There's a proud tradition of speeding those up and getting up and dancing to them, it's not uncommon. I just kinda wish the original had taken off instead, or that the dance remix had at least contained more organic elements. Still not bad though, I don' t mind this, even if I don't expect it to stick around.
Title: Back To Basics by Fredo
Now that's a name I haven't heard in a loooong time. Star Wars references aside, this is London-based rapper, Fredo. The last time I even thought about him was back in 2018 when he had that big hit Funky Friday with Dave... no relation to the Lil Dicky song by the way. And I'll be honest, of the 2, I've been much more invested and interested in Dave. He created some very impressive and impactful songs about insecurity, his identity as a black man and his personal relationships with those around him. Fredo has always been more of a surface-level rapper, mildly more skilled and clever than your average MC, but not redefining the wheel by any stretch.
All of that comes through on this new song, a reflection on his fame and the pros and cons that have comes with it; where he talks about former friends wishing for his downfall, his struggles with treating woman well without being taken advantage of, and his relationship with haters. And it's fine. The bass-touched trap beat with the echoing backing track is fine, his bars are fine, he has 1 or 2 decent punchlines... but yeah, this doesn't really stand out. If the song was supposed to live up to its title, it succeeded, because this all feels pretty basic for Fredo. I don't even think he really comes to a solid conclusion by the end, he just references sleeping with your girl and crying over his money... cool. An okay rap song from an okay rapper, which will likely be gone and forgotten by next week.
Finally we get to the biggest story of this week: 4 songs debuted in the top 10 of the Homegrown charts! Which is pretty crazy, considering how limited the public's attention is, usually only relegated to 1 or 2 artists from our lovely country!
Now, the top spot is still secured by Paradise, and I don't really expect that to change anytime soon. However, Plugged In Freestyle was actually knocked off its number 2 spot by N17, which yes, debuted at number 2 on the Homegrown chart!. Not only that, but our new debuts knocked Lyra's New Day down to number 6 (though I expect that to rebound), as well as both Champagne Butterflies by Wild Youth and More Like You by Orla Gartland to number 8 and 13 respective... please no, I REALLY love both those songs! This also meant Niall Horan's Still was forced down another spot to number 10, because I can't have nice things!
Ok ok, before I get all defensive, let's actually hear the new stuff. We already talked about N17 in the Top 50 segment, so up next:
Title: Too Many Nights by 220 KID & JC Stewart
Well... guess we're back to 220 KID. I didn't mention him much when discussing the Wellerman remix earlier, but he's a producer/DJ from the UK who has been doing a lot of remix work for the past 2-3 years. He and JC Stewart actually worked together before on the remix of Stewart's I Need You To Hate Me. Meanwhile Stewart is a singer from Northern Ireland, best-known for appearing as a songwriter on Lewis Capaldi's last album, as well as releasing a cover of the Friends theme which went viral last year. Suffice to say, I wasn't really expecting much from this collab, especially when I didn't really care for 220's treatment of that sea shanty.
Well, for the most part, this is actually okay. The song hits you with the hook right out the gate, and it's actually pretty upbeat and punchy. The issue comes when the initial drop hits, because those compressed vocals used as the foundation of the beat sound BAAAAAAAD! Seriously, thank God JC Stewart is singing over that initial part, because otherwise that would be completely intolerable! It also helps that they pitch down the vocals for the main drop, meaning the full drop doesn't sound quite so pubescent and cracking.
Otherwise though, it's an EDM song with a good vocalist, some decent bass, and lyrics lamenting the one lady our protagonist will never get despite his many hook-ups during nights out on the town. With a decent groove, it is actually pretty easy to dance to, and the chorus is also catchy enough that I could see this sticking with me. So, while it doesn't come close to Get Out Ly Head, I actually like this a fair bit outside of that one production gripe, I wouldn't mind seeing it cross over to the Singles chart, which judging by its momentum, that may happen in the next week or 2, so stay tuned.
Title: APRICOTS by Bicep
I had heard some buzz about this new Bicep album, as the long-awaited follow-up to their self-titled debut LP in 2017. For those not in the know, this is an electronic duo from Belfast, who made a big splash when they first burst onto the scene 4 years ago. And apparently this album was meant to be a bit of a departure from their sound into more ambient passages. Okay, not really my genre, except in very isolated circumstances, but I was still willing to give this a chance. And... I gotta be honest, I'm not really hearing what's all that ambient about this.
The groove is a bit too solid to be ambient, the melodies are too catchy and defined to really vibe out to, and the songs are each to distinct from each other to really flow together all that smoothly. In other words, fuck that album for being too interesting and kinda great! And this song in particular is pretty gorgeous. The clipped vocal sample, the layered, melodic synths, the percussion line that comes in around the 2 minute mark, it just has a ton of momentum right from the get-go and maintains a really good groove throughout. It also fades out really elegantly, stripping back 1 element at a time until finally just the synths remain for one final echoing strum. In other words, it's really good, check this out and the album it's from!
Title: Heart & Bones by Róisín O
We close off today with our lowest-charting new arrival... and it's at number 7, what a week! And it's fitting that we finish with Róisín O, a traditional folk singer, daughter of Mary Black, sister of Danny O'Reilly of The Coronas, pretty much as fucking Dublin as you can get. And that's not to discredit her of her own accolades, as her debut album The Secret Life of Blue in 2012 gained her a lot of acclaim, she's released a lot of well-received covers, and her collaboration group Thanks Brother with John Broe has a very respectable following of its own! And while I'm sure some were skeptical that she would ever release original solo material again, apparently the lockdown was just the push she needed, as she has promised an EP of 4 new songs due for release later this year.
This brings us to her new song, Heart & Bones, a strident ballad which just fucking SOARS! Yeah, no mincing words here, this is the kind of song which only works because of its sheer commitment, as Róisín gives one Hell of a performance, proving that her pipes are as clear and beautiful as ever! Her voice contains a rich warmth to it that just hits me right where I live, and if it weren't for her, the song wouldn't work nearly as well as it does. The instrumental is atmospheric and builds alongside her really well, and the lyrics paint a fairly simple picture of love lost and wrestling to come to terms with it after so much time spent contemplating how best to put it into words, but it really is Róisín who pushes it over the edge and makes it great. Without her, the writing may feel too cyclical, and the production may be considered too busy, but as a whole, it just results in a complete and beautiful experience, and easily one of the best songs of this week.
So yeah, that was busy. 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!