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Musical McCool - Week 50 (December 10, 2021 - Merry Christmas (Ed Sheeran), I Hate U, Madison)

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

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

Well, this week certainly gives us a little bit more to talk about. I was afraid that after last week that we were just going to get nothing but returning entries for the last few weeks of the year, but thankfully there were one or two people who decided that, since nobody else was dropping, they might as well release some new material, even if the motivation behind some of it is questionable at best.

The Top 10

But first, we turn to our top 10, where the Christmas Invasion has breached the front lines.

Okay, not quite yet at the very top: Easy On Me by Adele is still the number 1, but it's only a matter of time before a certain song a little further down moves to take the top spot. We'll get to it.

But before that, abcdefu by GAYLE continues to rise up to number 2. This is kind of shocking to me because I didn't think the song would do that well at all, let alone THIS well at THIS time of year specifically! Intriguing move on the general public's part, maybe there's a touch of resentment heading into the holidays this year.

Then at number 3, we have our first new entry into the top 50: Merry Christmas by Ed Sheeran & Elton John. I know that this is supposed to be the big single that everybody's talking about, but I'm just really peeved that it knocked Overpass Graffiti out of the top 50 due to the 3-song-per-artist rule, it was only one week away from actually making the year-end! But hey, that's the downside of the Irish chart rules, there always has to be a give and take in these situations.

Those 2 songs forced All Too Well (Taylor's Version) by Taylor Swift down to number 4. At this rate it might barely make the year-end for 2021, we've only got a couple of more weeks to see!

From there we get a bit of a run of Christmas songs, with All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey blasting into the top 5...

... Last Christmas by Wham! shooting up to number 6...

... and Fairytale of New York by The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl rising up to number 7. No surprise there, these 3 songs have been the most dominant each Christmas for the past couple of years. I'm just hoping that more of my personal favourites will get some serious airplay soon.

This brings us to number 8, where Cold Heart (PNAU Remix) by Elton John & Dua Lipa is at number 8. I was kind of wondering if the fact that this had "cold" in the title would mean it would see a resurgence in streaming numbers but I guess it's not quite Christmassy enough.

For a similar crime of not being in the spirit of the holiday, Where Are You Now by Lost Frequencies & Calum Scott got pushed back to number 9. I fully expect this to rebound in the new year, but until then, I wouldn't be surprised if this went into freefall for a bit.

And finally, due to multiple retrospective articles, Music Awards nominations across the globe, and what I suspect to be Spotify Wrapped, good 4 u by Olivia Rodrigo returned at number 10, thanks to a huge resurgence in sales and streaming. I honestly thought its time in the spotlight was over, but this final boost might have just guaranteed it a spot in the top 5 biggest hits of the year, it's only a couple of spots below last time I checked.

Top 50: The Punished and the New

When it comes to our top 50 this week, it might be a little hard to tell what was relegated to ACR and what fell off semi-naturally. Because here's the thing about Olivia Rodrigo resurfacing into the top 10: it's part of a twin effect on the charts right now. For one, a load of songs from the past year got a boost, which meant that those same streaming and sales numbers fell off quite significantly for a lot of other songs around them. So let me start with the ACR ones:

Meet Me At Our Spot by THE ANXIETY (WILLOW & Tyler Cole) - number 7 to 48

Tell Me Something Good by Ewan McVicar - number 14 to GONE

Neither of these songs should be too surprising, I really should have predicted the drop for the former last week. So much for being a winter staple.

I'm also going to take some time to highlight a few other songs that are just gone, forced out of the top 50, not because of ACR, but because of the huge boost to the older hits of 2021, as well as the onslaught of Christmas music. So here they are:

Tell It To My Heart by MEDUZA (Ft. Hozier)

Smoking Out The Window by Silk Sonic

One Right Now by Post Malone & The Weeknd

Moth to a Flame by Swedish House Mafia & The Weeknd

Better Days by NEIKED, Mae Muller & Polo G

Overseas by D-Block Europe (Ft. Central Cee) The Motto by Tiësto & Ava Max

SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY by Amaarae (Ft. Molly & Kali Uchis)

All of the songs are technically still big and could have gone a lot further at a different time of year, but with the push for older and holiday hits, they just got obliterated! I doubt most of them will be coming back, to be honest.

Now in terms of drops in general, there were definitely a few. For one, aside from the big lead single, Adele lost all her traction this week, as Oh My God went down to number 13 and I Drink Wine dropped to 18. But the Christmas Invasion also meant that Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender was forced back down to number 16 and that Shivers by Ed Sheeran dropped to down to 17, taking Bad Habits along with it to 21. For very similar reasons, Ghost by Justin Bieber suddenly lost momentum down to 29 - although it might still barely make the year-end list by some miracle - Stay by The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber dropped to 31, I Wish by Joel Corry & Mabel suddenly collapsed down to number 32 - kind of surprised by that one - as did Coming For You by SwitchOTR featuring A1 & J1, going down to 36. This is one of the ones I expect may rebound in the new year, but I don't know for sure, this kind of song doesn't exactly stick in the general public's consciousness for very long. And it continues from there, with Flowers (Say My Name) by ArrDee going down to 39 for not quite being festive enough, Better Days by Dermot Kennedy dropping to 44, INDUSTRY BABY by Lil Nas X & Jack Harlow stumbling to 49, and FINALLY, Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah) by CKay going down to 50. I mean most of these songs were on their way out anyway, but some of them were really kneecapped by this, good God!

And where there are victims, there are also perpetrators: Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee went up to number 11, Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin' Stevens rose to 14, It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas by Michael Bublé shot up to number 15, Do They Know It's Christmas by Band Aid condescended its way up to 20, Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms vaulted up to number 22, dragging It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year by Andy Williams right behind it up to number 23. Then to my childish delight, Santa Tell Me by Ariana Grande went up to number 25, along with the excellent Driving Home For Christmas by Chris Rea to number 26. And you know what, I'm also delighted to see Underneath The Tree by Kelly Clarkson go to number 28, I really love that song!

So yeah, all of our gains were Christmas songs - no surprise there - as are most of our returning entries. Before that though, we've already covered good 4 u, but Olivia Rodrigo was THE breakout star of 2021, so drivers license came back as well at number 19, as did traitor at 24! In fact, the only non-Olivia Rodrigo song to reenter the top 30 wasn't by any of the big American artists, but Little Bit Of Love by Tom Grennan at number 30! Kind of a surprise, but then I remember what a huge hit this was with the adult alternative crowd. And finally, MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) by Lil Nas X is also back at 42. Again, all of these songs were huge this year, I'm just shocked there weren't more of them.

Then again, most of the slots here are taken up by Christmas music. So *deep breath* in order: Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes came back at number 34, Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney returned to number 35 - Fun fact: this is my least favorite Christmas song of all time - I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday by Wizzard is back at 38 (a goddamn classic, fight me), Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano came back to 40 (hate this one too), Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by John Lennon & Yoko Ono came back to number 41 (come on, pick things back up!), Step Into Christmas by Elton John surged back up to 43 (Hell yeah!), Mistletoe by Justin Bieber came back to 46 (HELL YEAH!!!), Holly Jolly Christmas by Michael Bublé comes crawling back to 47- okay seriously, not the Burl Ives version, fuck this noise!

Aaaaaand that's it. Quite a bit to get through there, I know, but believe it or not, we also had a handful of new songs as well. Not a huge amount, only 6 total, but it still gives us something to talk about. So might as well start off with the big one:

Title: Merry Christmas by Ed Sheeran & Elton John

Position: #3

You know, I suppose this does make sense. After all, Ed Sheeran and Elton John have both had huge years in terms of their individual careers, and it was kind of inevitable that the 2 of them should collaborate together considering just how good they both seem to be at networking. Seriously, the number of connections these 2 seem to have in the music industry is kind of staggering, even taking into account the fact that they're both huge stars. And hey, I've been one of the bigger defenders of Ed's material in 2021, and Elton John... I mean he's got a legacy that's very hard to tarnish, try as he might. So how does this work out?

Honestly, pretty badly. The problem with Merry Christmas is right there in the title: it's just so painfully generic, there's nothing special about it. I'm not saying that all Christmas songs are revolutionary or anything, but the best ones usually have some form of conflict or storytelling to them, a human element we can connect to. And for the ones that don't have a ton of ambition, usually the much older ones, they tend to keep it very stripped back and organic. That's why we always go back to the older versions of the classic songs from Andy Williams or Bobby Helms. Here though, it's just too overproduced; the bells and strings absolutely suffocate the piano, and on top of that, I don't actually think either singer sounds all that good.

Ed Sheeran is clearly out of his comfort zone, sounding really nasal, and while Elton is pretty good technically, this song doesn't play to his core strengths. The tempo as a whole is way too fast, it just doesn't feel like it was written for or by these 2. It's such a bargain bin of ideas, with none of their individual songwriting quirks or unique performative flares. It just ends up feeling like an empty shell, basically justifying all the naysayers who've been accusing either of these two of selling out in 2021. I didn't buy it before, but now... I still don't but I do get it a bit more. The song just leaves me feeling really cold (pun intended), especially towards the end where all of the choral voices join in. It just sounds like the opening number to a bad musical. That's right, I wouldn't even compare this to the closing number!

Overall, pretty lousy, and for as expensive as the production on those instruments must have been, they should have saved some of it for their own vocals. So yeah, I don't like this, and the only reason I could see it lasting beyond this year - or even this week - is because of the 2 names involved. And that's not good enough.

Title: I Hate U by SZA

Position: #27

See, this is the exact opposite of what I was just talking about. I've been slowly coming around on SZA throughout this year; Good Days grew on me a fair bit, and Kiss Me More with Doja Cat was just a fucking gem from the word go. So I wasn't opposed to getting a new song from her on the charts, even if I found the timing of it a little odd.

And you know what? This actually turns out pretty well. I would normally say it's weird to release a song called "I Hate You" in early December, but abcdefu is currently the second-biggest song in the country, so clearly this is just what we're in the mood for at the moment, happy holidays! And there are a lot of things that this song does well. For one, SZA sounds great; the multitracking on the pre-chorus and hook is a really nice touch, allowing her to show off her upper- and mid-range simultaneously. And I really like the lyrics too, where she's in a relationship that has grown stale and stagnant. The line about missionary getting boring got me to chuckle and comparing the way he "wears" her to corduroy gave me very welcome flashbacks to Cardigan by Taylor Swift, still my favourite song by her! It shows her wishing that this guy would just come home more to work on their problems together, rather than just letting her wallow away, missing him to the point where she's kind of growing to hate him. It sounds hyperbolic, but the way she delivers it genuinely sounds like somebody getting frustrated with an unfulfilling relationship. After all, sometimes you find yourselves in a romantic rut and it's not obvious how to improve it, especially when your partner isn't even there to communicate.

But I did say this was the opposite of Merry Christmas because sadly, I just don't think the production is there. The bass is very watery, the synth keyboard sounds incredibly cheap, and while I will say it doesn't take the attention away from the lyrics at all, they could have afforded to compliment them! Maybe make it a bit lusher, more extravagant, possibly by adding some jazz horns or something like that, I dunno, anything to spruce things up a bit. Plus it also ends really abruptly, which always throws me off when I'm listening to it on a playlist.

Ultimately though, I do like this. Not everything she makes is going to sound as beautiful as Good Days, and I think I'd give this one the edge in terms of content. So yeah, check this out, it's worth a listen.

Title: Wandered To LA by Juice WRLD & Justin Bieber

Position: #45

Fine I guess this is just something I'm gonna have to deal with!

I talked about Juice WRLD's newest posthumous album being on the way just a couple of weeks ago, when I discussed the revoltingly manipulative Already Dead, so at least the shock value wasn't there this time round. Of course, it's a collab with Justin Bieber, who has proved time and time he'll do whatever it takes to get a huge hit (I haven't forgotten the bullshit push behind Yummy and Intentions last year). But in fairness, this song was previewed by Juice about three years ago with a completely different instrumental. On the other hand, I kinda doubt that Justin Bieber was originally THIS involved, considering the new instrumental was entirely produced by his own production team. Putting all that aside for a second though, how does the collab turn out?

Well, this puts me in a bit of a quandary, because as much as I don't want to support posthumous singles, this song isn't bad at all. Say what you will about Bieber's producers, but they know how to make a very catchy tune. The chorus on this immediately got stuck in my head after listening to it once and it also features a subject that I always enjoy hearing in music: Los Angeles! From St Vincent to Father John Misty to Panic! At The Disco, it's the one thing that every musician has to write about at some point, and which I never really get tired of.

And there is something about the song that just draws me in. Maybe it's Juice's wide-eyed tone as he wanders to LA hoping to explore the city and ending up finding a little more than he bargained for; there's something inherently whimsical about that. Now on the surface, the song is just about him and his girlfriend losing themselves in drug-addled ecstasy in the middle of the city. But for as much as I complained about Already Dead, those foreshadowing lines about his ghost standing at her front door, or how they both explored their fantasies but only one of them had their dreams come true, that haunted me a bit. At the very least it's a bit more ambiguous than "I'd been dead for years".

Hell, I'd say the problem is that Bieber's verse is nowhere near as interesting by comparison. Sure, he sounds fine enough and the songwriting isn't bad, but all he's really singing about is pillow talk with his wife as they lie in a hotel, musing on how their relationship is slowly growing to be something deeper and more mature. Though I do appreciate that sentiment, especially the lines about how they both need their space but the time they spend apart only makes them appreciate each other's company more. That part's kind of nice, but again, the conflict just isn't there in the same way.

Still though, overall, I think the song is actually pretty good as far as posthumous singles go. By its very nature, I'm never going to be able to fully endorse it, but for what it is... yeah, this isn't bad.

National Treasures

Switching over to the homegrown charts for a bit, the first thing I noticed was that Starlight by Westlife already took back the number 1 spot from Everywhere, forcing it down to number 2. I thought Niall Horan and Anne-Marie might have a bit more star power (see what I did there?), but I guess nobody gives half a shit about charity singles. I'm also genuinely peeved that Driving Home for Christmas by Dermot Kennedy rose up a spot to number 5.

But most of the movements came because we got some new songs entering the top 10. All of this activity forced Johnny Boy by Christy Moore further down to number 12, Tonight Belongs To You by Bissett to number 13, No More Virgos by CMAT down to 17, and Sex & Drugs by Kojaque & Celia Tiab to number 18! No fair, why can't we make that last one a holiday staple???

So, with no gains and the only returning entry being Close To You by Chasing Abbey at 11, which is barely worth mentioning. this was a fairly quiet week in terms of movers. So let's get straight to the newbies!

Title: Demon time freestyle by AV9's Chuks

Position: #7

Remember when I talked about Tiger Woods last week? You know, that diss track by Chuks and Rose9 against A92 which actually turned out to be pretty fucking good? Well, imagine if you took the exact same premise, widened the scope a little bit, and yet somehow removed half the quality in the process. Well then you would get this new song, another diss released by Chuks, this time targeting 4 members of the A92 crew! I have to admire that he's widening his scope include not just Dbo but also Nikz, Ksav and Offica himself, but unfortunately, Chuck's isn't quite as good of a rapper as Rose is, at least in my opinion. And so what you end up with is a slightly meandering 2 and a half minute song where he takes the time to diss each of them individually.

That may sound like a smart approach, but the issue is that none of it really lands any body blows. The most he says that he doesn't believe that any of them are really as tough as they pretend to be, or that they've never actually sold drugs in their lives, it just feels kind of weak. I don't know, maybe they'll hear this and really take it personally but if I were them, I really wouldn't. Especially because the instrumental isn't even that good this time around. At least on the one last week, it felt slightly more dynamic, a clear homage to a typical A92 instrumental, as I said. This one tries to replicate it, but it's a lot slower and less detailed as a whole.

And look, I do get this is just a freestyle, so I will judge it as such. And by those standards, it's really not THAT bad. But I don't know, I just feel like if you're going to diss someone, doing it a freestyle isn't really the best move. Duppy Freestyle by Drake is the exception, not the rule, and this just ends up feeling devoid of new ideas. So yeah, this isn't terrible, but it's not all that good either, and definitely a far cry from Tiger Woods.

Title: Hate Me by Robert Grace

Position: #9

You know, the more I think about it, the more I realise Robert Grace has really left a strong impression on me this year. Of the artists I've discovered this year, he's definitely one of the ones I'm most grateful for. Sure, he's only released 4 singles over the course of the year, but all of them up until now have been really good, even that last one that took its time growing on me. And with this new song, I would honestly say he's four for four.

I will admit that this sort of music isn't for everyone. It's a very bitter song where he's telling you that you may hate him, but he hates you more, and he's gonna leave you because he's not gonna let you ruin his life. Yeah, it's a very candid song, to put it nicely, but Robert Grace has such a knack for great hooks that I find myself getting swept up in the feel of it yet again. He never comes across as an unsympathetic character, just as someone who's genuinely been wronged, that's a hard balance to pull off multiple times. And this is no exception, as the person that he's talking to has clearly scarred him a fair bit. We all have toxic people in our lives and sometimes it's just best to cut them out and move on.

Look, in a year where we've had phenomenal breakup songs from the likes of Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish, this is definitely not quite up to that standard, but it's also not trying to. There's a place for music like this, and when it's this catchy, I'm not about to turn it down. Certainly not the best he's put out this year, but I'll still take this, it's already grown on me immensely in just a couple of days. Funny that we should get a song called "Hate Me" the same week that we get a song called "I Hate You", but I suppose it's kind of poetic. Again, people just seem to be in that kind of mood this year.

Title: Madison by Orla Gartland

Position: #20

You know, every week is made just a little bit better whenever Orla Gartland shows up. I've talked about her many times this year, and if Robert Grace is one of my favorite artists to have discovered in 2021, she might just be the pinnacle of them. A fantastically nuanced and intelligent songwriter, a phenomenally expressive voice, and a great sense for instrumentals, hooks and atmosphere. Her album Woman on the Internet is one of the best of this year, and while I will say it's definitely one which works better in pieces than as a whole, there's still no denying just how relevant her music feels these days, locked away indoors with our own dark thoughts and insecurities.

Now with all that being said, Madison has never been one of my absolute favorites on the album. It's a much more stripped-back acoustic affair, where the guitar occasionally feels a little too loud in the mix. I know it's supposed to give it a raw feel, but compared to some of the other compositions on the album, it just doesn't work quite as well for me. Still great, just not incredible. Now this song actually got as bit of a boost this week thanks to this version which she recorded with her friends, who mainly act as backup singers and add some nice harmonies, and I will say that it's an improvement over the original sonically, even if the lonesome feeling of the original is somewhat lost. But it balances out very nicely, and the subject matter is as on point as ever.

This song is supposedly directed at a former therapist. whom she now no longer sees but does definitely miss at times, especially when she's not having the best of days. I love the little details here, like how it's specifically her mother who's telling her she should be happier, something that sounds wholesome but could also definitely be a point of frustration. And I like the simple admission that she supposes she could be less of a dick, or the moment where her therapist finds just the right words to make her realise that she's worthy of love and capable of being a more joyful person. Sometimes it just takes that second perspective.

SO yes, as a whole it's a little bit more straightforward, not quite as nuanced or metaphorical as some of the best songs on the album, but it's still great! Orla Gartland at her most basic is still WELL above the average after all.

So yeah, in terms of who's getting the Best of the week, it's a bit of a struggle. I mean, the Worst is easy. I'm giving it to Merry Christmas by Ed Sheeran and Elton John for being badly produced, generically written, and projecting a sense of coasting that doesn't feel entirely earned. Again, I don't see this becoming a yearly staple anytime soon. But for the best... you know what, I was considering giving it to Madison or SZA's I Hate U, but I think the production on Hate Me by Robert Grace is slightly more palatable to me on the whole. What can I say, I think Robert Grace is a pop genius, the man knows how to write a catchy song.

But as always, thank you so much for reading. 2 more weeks and we're done with Musical McCool for the year, and in the meantime, I have a new Top 10 dropping THIS WEEK! So please make sure you and your friends subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter to keep up with these releases. And until the next time, I'm Fionn and this is The Social Tune signing off!

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