Musical McCool - Week 8 (Feb 19, 2021)
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
Hi guys, welcome back to The Social Tune! My name is Fionn, and welcome back to a brand new edition of Musical McCool!
... Huh... I didn't see this coming. I mean, I knew it would debut high, especially with the numbers it was doing, but I didn't expect it to smash through THIS hard, almost debuting at number 1.
The Top 10
Well ok, it didn't get THAT crazy.
drivers license by Olivia Rodrigo held onto the number 1 spot, and I don't really see that changing...
... but still, the success of Calling My Phone by Lil Tjay and 6LACK was unexpected, as it debuted at number 2 after a massive week of streaming! If it weren't for drivers license' stranglehold on the number 1, it might have actually debuted at the very top... Kinda nuts considering its marginal sales and complete lack of radio, but more on the song itself in a bit.
Now, this forced The Business by Tiësto down to number 3, which means it's currently unlikely this will ever reach number 1. Kinda funny, considering that based on chart numbers, this is currently the biggest song of the year so far...
Still, better it than Without You by Kid Laroi, which fell back to its comfortable spot at number 4, though again, expect that to change soon.
This brings us to one of our few gainers in the top 10 this week, Save Your Tears by The Weeknd at number 5, with a massive radio push aided by impressive sales and streaming numbers.
Next, at number 6 is GOOSEBUMPS by HVME, foiled again for its push to dominate the charts. And with streaming fading faster than expected, I think it may have missed its window.
Then comes our second big entry to the top 10: the modernly re-recorded version of Love Story by Taylor Swift. And look, I know it's technically a "new" entry, but I'm just going to run through it here briefly because it's already a well-established song: it's a really good update. There's more flair and organic elements to the country production, and despite being over 10 years older, Taylor actually still manages to show off some impressive range, so the song sounds phenomenal, especially with those strings on the bridge. Sure, you could argue that her more youthful vocals made the Romeo and Juliet references feel a bit more believable on the original, but a) she still sounds believable, and b) legal battles are a bitch, and this is a solution I am not about to judge her for. Plus, the key change on this one is built up to much more effectively. Basically, it's a well-established pop country classic, and while not quite one of my personal favourites from her, more than welcome to have back here.
Next we have Get Out My Head by Shane Codd falling back to number 8 as it gracefully exits.
And honestly, with all the losers and shifts in the top 10, it's a little funny to see Don't Play by Anne-Marie, KSI & Digital Farm Animals as such a stable force, as it calmly maintains its place at number 9.
Lastly is Jerusalema by Master KG & Nomcebo Zikode at number 10, as the TikTok hype dies down and nobody else has any particular interest in propping this up.
Top 50: The Punished and the New
Looks like I'm not about to get a break anytime soon... On top of the new entries, we also had a lot of shifts to the songs across the Top 50.
Let's start with our gains: Up by Cardi B is our only new entry for last week to really gain traction, up (haha) to number 15, as well as the returning entry Martin & Gina by Polo G rising to 37, but the bigger stories for me are our 2 house songs from a few weeks back gaining in a big way: Friday by Riton up to number 19, and Your Love (9PM) by ATB, Topic & A7S at 22. Both are doing surprisingly well considering my initial disinterest in the first one and the overall odd structure of the latter, and I'm honestly fine with either of them getting bigger.
When it comes to our losers though... well, there were quite a few of them. Let's start with the songs moved to ACR, where I'm making an exception and including a song that exited the top 50 altogether:
34+35 by Ariana Grande: number 14 to 31
Willow by Taylor Swift: number 29 to 46
Golden by Harry Styles: GONE
I know that I don't normally include songs that have left the top 50 in this category, but I was seriously pissed at this! Golden grew on me immensely, and now it'll probably miss the year-end... guess we'll see! Of course, I'm also not too thrilled about the other 2 songs here, but at least they had their time to shine!
Eh whatever, the only other loser worth mentioning was Days Like This by Dermot Kennedy, losing traction to number 25... I sure hope for his sake that the Irish public aren't sick of him just yet, it's kind of his main playing field. And with no re-entries this week, that just leaves us with our new arrivals (minus Love Story), so let's get started with the giant elephant in the room:
Title: Calling My Phone by Lil Tjay (Ft. 6LACK)
Well, here it is, the giant new entry that gained so much momentum across the world! I was somewhat familiar with Lil Tjay by name, from a couple of entries on the Billboard Hot 100 since 2017, but I certainly didn't see him blowing up like this, and I initially wondered if he just had a huge fanbase I didn't know about. But no... it's TikTok... again...
So apparently Lil Tjay meant this as a Valentine's Day gift to his fans, and upon release it blew up on TikTok and received a fair bit of sales and absolutely MONSTROUS streaming. And... am I the only one who feels it's a bit of a weird Valentine's Day gift? I mean, it's essentially a down-tempo piano and bass track where Lil Tjay and 6LACK muse about a failed relationship where their ex won't stop calling them. And while it's pretty decent, I can't exactly say it's really my thing. I like the melody and it certainly cultivates the correct atmosphere for a song about an ex who won't leave you alone when all you want to do is forget her. However, Lil Tjay in particular just reminds me a LOT of YoungBoy Never Broke Again with way more slurring, so when I found out the song actually contains a sample from YoungBoy, that made all sorts of sense.
Also, while the performers and production are mostly fine, the writing leaves a bit to be desired... Sure, the self-reflective content is kinda welcome, I like that he's not really pining after her, as is usually typical of this sound, but lines like "I explore, no Dora" kinda take me out of the sombre atmosphere. Overall, I like 6LACK's verse a fair bit better, and he kinda steals the song for me, especially with his more elastic flow. More of that would have made this song great, but as it is, it's just okay.
Title: We're Good by Dua Lipa
This is not a hit... I know that sounds like a criticism, but it's really not, just an observation. The fact is, Dua Lipa is coming off the biggest year of her career, and off an album that was damn close to making my Top 20 Albums of 2020! So when this single was announced for the re-issue of Future Nostalgia, expectations were high, and I was joining everyone else in wondering what she would do next... and it's not at all what I expected.
Every song off that last album felt like it was pulling from a very specific era of disco-infused pop, re-imagined and re-interpreted for a new era. Meanwhile, the first thing this reminded me of was White Mercedes by Charli XCX, which is NOT a bad thing! It's a weird blend of pop and more tropical soft rock, if that's even a thing anymore. The guitars are there and they're light and subtle, while still driving the main melody. Honestly, it's kind of unlike anything I've heard on the charts in a while, and frankly, I'm not quite sure if I like it yet. It's certainly not as catchy as the majority of that last album, which prioritized hooks and groove over everything else, and was honestly great for that exact reason.
What I do know is that the timing of this is very odd to me. I mean with Levitating doing very well internationally, why not give Hallucinate another push? Maybe it's just my inherent dislike of re-issues the year after an album drops, but this just feels off-putting, especially as We're Good sounds absolutely nothing like the rest of Future Nostalgia. Still, I guess it's fine for what it is, let's just see if it grows on me. It's not going to be a hit though, I'm calling that right now!
Title: Commitment Issues by Central Cee
Hey, the Loading guy got a second hit after all! I wasn't particularly optimistic considering that song has been hovering in the 40s for weeks now, but it turns out his hype is such that he actually managed to land his new single in the top 50. Ok, I was a bit nervous considering that title, but hey, Loading was okay, maybe this would be too? Well... unfortunately no, but it could have been worse.
The main issues with this song are the production and the hook. The instrumentation is nowhere near as good this time round, trading in the horns for a bass and acoustic guitar interplay which feels really jerky and imbalanced, with no real tangible groove to grasp onto. And the hook is very weak, where he seems to have the Without You problem of being kind of a dick, who still wants you to sympathise with him.
Now, it's not quite as bad as that song, as you do feel more conflict and effort from Central Cee. Even he acknowledges his issues, and outlines that he's trying to fix them for this girl. However, even if you're on the fence about whether him stealing a bag for her is romantic or not, or his apologies for calling her names, he still immediately follows it up by pointing out that she got mad at him when he called her a bitch (... duh), that he really should have deleted his texts so she didn't find out about his cheating (which seems like the bigger issue), and then calls her out again by calling her spoiled and that she doesn't really care about his feelings! But again, it's ok, because he acknowledges he has commitment issues? ... No, this doesn't balance out for me! Points for trying, but it still feels like a feeble excuse for bad behaviour, and while there are 1 or 2 promising and somewhat introspective lines, they don't save a song which is just way too sour and negative. Don't make me regret rooting for you Central Cee... no more of this, please.
Title: Astronaut In The Ocean by Masked Wolf
So first off, I'm sorry to say this is NOT a Doctor Who reference... as far as I can tell. No, instead this is another song that came out over a year ago, but which is only getting traction now after its re-release because TikTok!
And... can we get more TikTok songs like this?! A song from Australian MC Masked Wolf, with an ominous beat built off a stalking guitar twang, a really catchy hook, and bars all about his struggles with mental illness. Not to mention the flows, which have a sharp, staccato, over-annunciated delivery in spots that reminds me more than a little of Eminem, only with the lyrics to actually back it up. Ok, it never gets crazy fast, but it certainly gives the song a lot more energy and diversity throughout its runtime.
Now let me pull back a bit and say that this isn't groundbreaking or amazing by the standards of underground hip-hop, it's more the novelty of a song like this charting in the first place that caught me off-guard. While the flows are on point, Masked Wolf does have a few bars that don't really rhyme, and I do wish there was some more detail about his struggles outlined here, rather than simply talking about overcoming them. There's no real story or breakthrough, so much as a refusal to be held back, and I do also wish the song were a bit longer.
Still, this is not a style of rap music I ever see on the charts anymore, and it's good to see it get traction. Masked Wolf seems like a pretty decent MC, so if you're curious, go listen to his stuff and judge for yourselves.
Title: My Head & My Heart by Ava Max
Well, cat's out of the bag: I'm not really on board with Ava Max. She falls into a really weird spot for me, a better singer than someone like Halsey, but without that "it" factor that really makes a star. I listen to her, and I'm reminded of Bebe Rexha, someone who is technically a good singer, but who just projects absolutely nothing as a performer.
Now granted, she's better than Rexha, mainly because her production is a lot more polished. Yes, it's backward-looking to early 2010s pop, but some would argue that was a wonderful time for pop music... sure, in spots. Look, I get that she has an audience, but to me she just feels like an imitation, and this falls into similar territory for me as Sweet But Psycho.
Obvious Around The World sample aside, the hook is pretty enough, and Ava's allowed to belt pretty effectively, but once again it just feels a bit derivative. The lyrics are a pretty good breakdown of a past relationship where she got way too in her own head about everything... even if the "my-my-mind" schtick is getting pretty old... did I mention this was another single accompanying an album re-issue?
In other words, this isn't bad, and I'm sure her fans will like it, but in terms of "head and heart" songs, Joel Corry and MNEK have nothing to worry about. You want to hear a truly great pop song, check that out instead of this.
We return to local news with Days Like This by Dermot Kennedy re-taking the number 1, while Things Are Different by Picture This slipped down to number 2. They essentially just swapped places, and I'd be curious to see if it stays that way moving forward... especially if people are actually getting sick of Dermot here.
Other than that, there really isn't much to report here. the Homegrown charts are pretty static at the moment. Good thing too, because this first new entry is... quite something:
Title: Birthday/The Pain by For Those I love
Quite honestly, I had no idea what to expect from this. Apparently For Those I Love is the solo project from David Balfe, a Dublin-based musician who used to be in punk band Burnt Out. Sadly, his bandmate and best friend Paul Curran committed suicide in 2018, leaving the now 29-year-old grieving and deeply hurt, which prompted him to create this project in memory of his lost friend. And considering this is an act that has prompted comparisons to Jamie XX, which dived into police abuse in Ireland, depression and the existential dread of living in a large city where nobody would care if you died tomorrow... yeah, I was curious. And this... no joke, this is one of the best songs I've heard thus far in 2021.
The euphoric soul sample with its gorgeous horns, twinkling pianos and real drums make for an absolutely ecstatic chorus that is juxtaposed beautifully by the devastating lyrics, delivered in bitter spoken-word! The imagery is detailed and vivid, of bloody bodies and the profound effects seeing them can have on children like David, as he details the ways it has caused him to grow up scarred, making him long for simpler times, before the reality of adulthood reared its ugly, bloodstained head. Those traumatic childhood experiences made him grow up far too fast, putting him in a constant state of escapism, through drink, drugs, dance... which always falls through when he wakes up the next day.
The lyrics are told in the first person, and surprisingly don't feel over-dramatic, you believe every word he says here. And what I love most of all is that, while his pain is real, he knows he has to fight through it, encouraging everyone to defiantly be brave and believe in love, all while not feeling forced or clichéd! It's a richly written, gorgeous, deeply sad song, with a ray of defiant optimism to it that only makes it more endearing, not to mention some of the best and most dynamic production I have heard thus far this year! In other words, this guy's debut album is dropping in March, and I for one cannot fucking wait!
Title: Loving You by Sarah McTernan & HalfTraxx
Okay, after that, you may expect me to be quite harsh on whatever follows it up... but for what it is, this is actually pretty great too. Sarah McTernan is a singer from Clare, who is actually best-known for representing Ireland in Eurovision 2019 with her song 22. This is actually her first official single in about 2 years, which has obviously garnered a fair bit of attention for avid fans.
And the first thing to note is... this sounds like a Robin Schulz song. Now, that's not a bad thing at all, but it is a tad distracting. Producer HalfTraxx appears to be extremely minor, with a small SoundCloud page and an even more miniscule Twitter following, so God knows how he ended up connecting with Sarah here. Still, I have to say that based on this, I'm quite impressed. Unlike a lot of house songs, this is more of a groove-heavy deep/tropical brand of it, with a great groove, some nice guitar loops and horns driving the main drop. And much like a Robin Schulz, HalfTraxx is the type of producer who knows not to get in his performer's way, instead letting Sarah dominate the mix, which she honestly does pretty effectively.
It's a pretty straightforward hookup jam that you might have heard in clubs circa 2014, and as those go, it's a pretty good rendition of it, with a solid hook and straightforward, but alluring lyrics backed up by a charismatic singer and good beat. In other words, what's not to like? Nice job all round, check this out.
Title: Long Nights by Aby Coulibaly
Well, this is rare find: a 21-year-old R&B singer who seems to be inspired more by the nineties era instead of SZA or H.E.R.! Specifically she has stated Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu as inspirations, more hip-hop-inspired R&B which alternates between sing-rap flows and sung choruses. And based off her first single Taurus back in October of last year, she was already making waves as a terrific new arrival on the scene, mature beyond her years with a sound that already felt fully realised. And yeah, I agree with all of that, Taurus is a really beautiful song!
So how's the follow up, Long Nights? Well once again, the production is amazing, adding more of a smooth groove to the piano-touched beat, with a lot more percussive elements. The overall vibe is a lot more laid back, as she frames it as a chill kiss-off to a girl who's been all up in her face that night, and patiently asking her to take a deep breath and leave her alone. And yeah, I can't deny that the bass and drum really work together SO well, with a fantastic hook and vocal effects that feel a tad out of place, but not distracting from the overall vibe of the song.
The track seems to be about a girl she doesn't know accusing her of something, but while she does ask to be left alone, she does still show empathy, even acknowledging this girl's pain and not blaming her for essentially ruining her night, it's firm but fair. Plus, she just sounds phenomenal here, I can't get over how GOOD this sounds! It's a fantastic example of R&B done right, and as someone who is usually not a big fan of this genre, this absolutely works for me, great stuff!
And that's our week, hope you all enjoyed! The home front of Ireland kinda dominated this week, not gonna lie, but still interesting to see the movements in the top 50 too, especially near to top. Anyway, 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!