REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 31/07/2021 (Dave, Lil Nas X/Jack Harlow, Anne-Marie/Little Mix)
Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits” is at #1 for a fifth week, somehow, and this week is a big one so I’d best just get started. Welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS!
We have 10 new arrivals this week, and would have more if not for some silly UK Singles Chart rules as British rapper Dave makes a massive impact in the top 10. Before we get to that, however, it’s best to discuss what was sacrificed for Dave’s grand entrance, including notable drop-outs, songs exiting the Top 75 – which I cover – after five weeks on the chart or a peak in the top 40. This week, these include some big smashes like “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles, “Your Love (9PM)” by ATB, Topic and A7S and “Confetti” by Little Mix, as well as some not-so-successful tracks like “You” by Regard, Troye Sivan and Tate McRae, “Build a Bitch” by Bella Poarch, “Wow” by Tion Wayne, “You Right” by Doja Cat and The Weeknd, “Wandsworth to Bullingdon” by Fredo featuring Headie One and finally, “Gang Gang” by KSI featuring Deno and JAY1 off of the debut last week.
Next, we have our notable losses – songs dropping at least five places in this week’s chart. Naturally, as a big week, this is a plentiful amount, starting with “Holiday” by KSI at #12, “Oliver Twist” by ArrDee at #21, “Didn’t Know” by Tom Zanetti at #23, “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat featuring SZA at #27, “Higher Power” by Coldplay at #28, “Levitating” by Dua Lipa at #32, “No Time” by KSI featuring Lil Durk off of the debut to #34, “Summer 91 (Looking Back)” by Noizu at #38, “Motley Crew” by Post Malone at #41, “Body” by Russ Millions and Tion Wayne at #43, “Little Bit of This” by Central Cee off of the debut to #46, “Little Bit of Love” by Tom Grennan at #51, “Butter” by BTS at #52, “Transparent Soul” by WILLOW featuring Travis Barker at #58, “Let’s Go Home Together” by Ella Henderson and Tom Grennan at #59, “Head & Heart” by Joel Corry and MNEK at #60, “NDA” by Billie Eilish at #61, “Friday” by Nightcrawlers and dopamine re-edited by RIton and Musafa & Hypeman at #62, “Demeanor” by the late Pop Smoke featuring Dua Lipa thankfully dropping off of the debut to #63 (although this may be a sign of worse news to come – more on that later), “All Eyes on Me” by Bo Burnham at #64, “Wild Side” by Normani featuring Cardi B at #65 off of the debut, “Peaches” by Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon at #67, “Learning Curve” by Aitch at #68, “Seventeen Going Under” by Sam Fender at #70, “The Business” by Tiesto at #72 and finally, Majestic’s remix of Boney M’s “Rasputin” at #73.
What’s always more interesting is what comes to replace this... but given that most that batch are new arrivals this time around, we do have very few gains or even re-entries, although there are two of them this week, as “Freaks” by Surf Curse returns to #75 and “Need to Know” replaces “You Right” as the UK’s chosen second hit for Doja Cat at #29. In terms of notable gains, they are few and far between, but we do have “Bezos I” by Bo Burnham getting a fittingly bizarre gain at #44... and that’s pretty much it, other than Dave getting a boost within the top 10 but just getting cut short as “Clash” featuring Stormzy rebounds to #2 off of the album release. We’ll talk more about that later, but it does mean that Dave now has a total of nine top 10 hits (it’s Stormzy’s 13th) alongside his second #1 album, even if I think “Clash” is kind of lousy and the song he’s trying to push as a single didn’t debut this week. Again, we’ll go over all of that when we get to it but for now, there’s other music to cover, starting with...
#66 – “If You Really Love Me (How Will I Know)” – David Guetta, MistaJam and John Newman
Produced by Timofey Reznikov, MistaJam, John Newman and David Guetta
So, we start with a bit of a bizarre one. John Newman, still on supposed hiatus for solo work due to mental health concerns, is not just the singer but co-producer on this track with the ever-present French DJ David Guetta and British radio presenter MistaJam, known best for his stints on BBC Radio 1 and 1extra, but not as commonly for his history as a hip-hop DJ for underground Nottingham groups that went below the radar. MistaJam is back producing for this one, sadly not stepping behind the mic for a radio broadcast interlude or anything, as I wonder which one of these four guys is responsible for that really cheap and forced Whitney Houston interpolation. To be fair, “How Will I Know” is not exactly butchered, rather only used for the chorus, but sort of misunderstanding the purpose of the song in the verses, not that Guetta cribbing once again from the current piano house revival is doing John Newman’s oddly strained voice here any favours. The song is completely serviceable through all its manufactured cacophony but that’s probably the issue for me. There’s just nothing to grab here that wasn’t already grabbed back in 1985 with someone who served this chorus a lot more justice. Now can EDM stop taking their chance at Houston’s material any time soon?
#55 – “2055” – Sleepy Hallow
Produced by UV Killin Em and Great John
Don’t you love it when the song or artist name lines up almost perfectly with its charting placement? I hope this peaks at #20 for that one reason. Sleepy Hallow is a New York rapper known mostly for his – in my opinion, pretty garbage – “Deep End Freestyle”, a drill track that gained traction last year. Of course, he references his one other hit in the follow-up, which is less of a drill track and more of a take on trap-rap... yet it’s actually a bit more unique than you’d assume. The instrumental has the slick acoustic guitar loop you’d expect of any trap beat in 2021, but with some booming 808s and a real groove I’d say is still reminiscent of drill but with the energy repurposed for a pretty sincere warning about the lifestyle he lives. Admittedly, the chorus is pretty much unrelated, but Sleepy Hallow’s conversational tone really accentuates the lyrics, shining a light on some of the rougher, uglier consequences of the street violence trap-rap of his kind will glamorise, with some genuine concern for how he and his loved ones live as a result. He hopes for his children to never try drugs like he did and in the first verse confesses to not trusting anyone and questioning if he can trade love for his gun. The second verse seems to stray mostly off-topic but his punchlines do have this reluctant sense to them, playing it off as semi-comical but never truly landing. I’m not sure what effect this really has yet, but it makes the verse not nearly as distracting as it could have been. Of course, this melancholy cut has no reason to have Coi Leray on the remix, but I digress. This is a pretty surprisingly good track and I hope to see more of this from Mr. Sleepy.
#54 – “Woo Baby” – Pop Smoke featuring Chris Brown
Produced by 2300 and BoogzDaBeast
I’m not going to comment on a dead man’s moral compass here, but Steven Victor and Republic, if you’re going to very lazily sample Ne-Yo’s “So Sick” under a trap beat, you could have left it to just Pop Smoke’s stitched-together and lazy verses instead of adding another big-name feature that led to a lot less success than I bet anyone in those label meetings were expecting. Tory Lanez was originally going to be on this song, but was apparently removed because of him shooting Megan Thee Stallion last year, instead replacing him with a second verse from Chris Brown. Let that sink in. Whilst you do, I’ll move on from this ugly but all too normal album and hope nothing from it charts again. I’d say RIP, but the suits in charge of his work seem not to want peace for Pop Smoke, or whatever’s left of him. This is trash, not worth my time reviewing and it’s best just to move on.
#53 – “Pain” – PinkPantheress
Produced by PinkPantheress
PinkPantheress is a singer from London recently gaining traction with some singles influenced primarily by UK garage and drum and bass, genres I’d love to see have some sort of resurgence, especially in the 90s-esque style she seems to be taking them. Whilst I prefer “Break it Off”, even if it rips wholesale from “Circles” by Adam F, “Pain” is the song gaining the most TikTok and streaming traction and... wait, why is this only a minute and a half? To be fair, her whole discography seems to cut itself short before she gets bored, and bringing bedroom pop songwriting to breakbeats wouldn’t exactly make for that intriguing of a four-minute pop-song experience. Apparently, she would have made it longer if she hadn’t had writer’s block whilst making “Pain” and the track was shoved onto SoundCloud with la-la’s intact as a result. The hit song produced here is mostly just a break-up song in her charming very British delivery over a UK garage beat about as derivative as possible with its keys and typical drum pattern, leading to comparisons with the iconic “Flowers” by Sweet Female Attitude. “Pain”, however, follows the typical zoomer-pop motif of repeating part of the song with a “slowed + reverb” filter over it – it’s a SoundCloud scene trick – and I’ve got to say, this song is the least song-sounding song I’ve heard sung on this list of songs so far. It’s not bad – far from it – but there really could have been more to this that just isn’t here.
#42 – “NOT SOBER” – The Kid LAROI featuring Polo G and Stunna Gambino
Produced by 8th Diamond, Khaled Rohaim and Haan
In 2020, The Kid LAROI released his debut mixtape, met with a deluxe edition later in the year and another deluxe edition this year, which was met with an additional deluxe edition for the sake of grabbing the #1 album on Billboard. Nothing from that deluxe edition so far has made a bigger splash than lead single “STAY”, but since Polo G’s on this one, we have a song debuting from the album, which peaked at #6 this week on the albums chart here in Britain. The Australian crooner whines over a melodramatic piano instrumental employing synth-strings and a predictable trap beat as he laments his alcoholism – as he still can’t legally drink in the country he currently resides in – but he soon goes off-track in his first verse as that Juice WRLD impression starts to wane on I imagine even Juice’s biggest fans. His friends change colours like tie-dye, and Polo G flows about as you’d expect about his rags to riches story. Stunna Gambino has a really nasal, high-pitched Lil Tjay-esque voice and honestly his melodic flow might be what saves the song from being a total dud, even if the final chorus totally drowns him out. I think “STAY” might have been a fluke.
#37 – “Don’t Go Yet” – Camila Cabello
Produced by Ricky Reed and Mike Sabath
“Don’t Go Yet” is the lead single from former Fifth Harmony singer Camila Cabello’s upcoming third album, conveniently enough releasing the week after Normani, and whilst I’ve struggled to get over her squeaky mess of a voice in prior singles, even her best like “Havana”, again, if I can like a Kid LAROI song, I don’t think vocals get in the way as much as I expect them to. This new album is supposed to indulge in her Latin roots – even if this single ends up doing so only through bilingual backing vocals on the bridge – and it is immediately obvious, since the Latin guitars shrivel through the intro before some percussion inspired by Latin American music, that I admit to know very little of, except not in a reggaeton style, rather going for a traditional salsa rhythm that could be interesting. Sadly, it just ends up sounding kind of messy as her voice isn’t multi-tracked or Auto-Tuned in a way that makes it sound passable, rather displaying some pretty embarrassing vocal performances in those verses and pre-choruses. With all that said, I actually like those verses as the partially goofy seduction works in an environment like salsa, as the instrumental attempts to capture a street in Cuba playing a night’s worth of music, and the vocalist won’t have all that studio tuning out there. The chorus feels somewhat anticlimactic, given that it’s just a repetition of the song’s title, drowning Cabello in over-produced Latin horns that don’t really work for me. I can see this either growing or souring on me both immensely and in record time, but for now, this is okay and definitely a bit more of a unique turn for Cabello at this point in her career.
#17 – “Kiss My (Uh Oh)” – Anne-Marie and Little Mix
Produced by Pete Nappi and Mojam
Sitting at #2 on the albums chart behind Dave is pop singer Anne-Marie, who released her second studio album, Therapy, last week alongside a music video for this single featuring the trio of Little Mix, using a Lumidee sample to as much embarrassing effect as Chip did not long ago. The song is a kiss-off relying on reverb-drenched Afrobeats-tinged percussion that almost sounds military-esque in the pre-chorus before exploding into this awkward horn-heavy chorus, before all of that revenge and power is curbed by the fact that grown adult woman Anne-Marie is not allowed to say the word “ass”... this is a family show, and I even allow myself to say words stronger than that on occasion. Due to the lack of a third verse, Little Mix seem to be here purely for decoration on the girl-group bridge, almost reminding me of Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” but with even less likeability. I’ve never been a fan of either artist, but this is pretty rough.
#13 – “INDUSTRY BABY” – Lil Nas X featuring Jack Harlow
Produced by Take a Daytrip and Kanye West
This is going to be a massive hit in the United States, much unlike “SUN GOES DOWN” which I was able to gush over when it debuted a few months or so ago, so I’ll decline to comment that much further on this song until the time comes as I think it will end up pretty high on a certain list by, say, December. For now, I’ll say that this triumphant trap banger is one of the catchiest songs of the year and both Lil Nas and ESPECIALLY Jack Harlow deliver career-best performances with some badass flows and production relying on epic horns provided by a trio of producers that remind me how much Lil Nas reminds me of Kid Cudi at times, although that comparison is to be proven once MONTERO releases proper. This type of bombastic pop-rap is one of those musical niches that I love, and the two pull it off perfectly, but again, I’ll discuss the song more in depth near Christmastime. For now, this is excellent and I hope it sticks around.
#6 – “In the Fire” – Dave
Produced by Dominic Maker, James Blake, Dave and Kyle Evans
I have not listened to Dave’s We’re All Alone in This Together yet, purely because sometimes Mx. Cactus gets busy or ends up pushing past listening to new releases altogether. Therefore, I can’t speak on how this song works within the album context or how it pushes the theme and narrative forward. I don’t even know if the album has a theme or narrative, to be clear – I’ve only heard the free charting tracks so far out of 12 in total on the track listing. For this song, Dave samples the Florida Mass Choir in a seven-minute posse cut with uncredited verses from Giggs, Ghetts, Meekz Manny and Fredo, which is awfully Kanye of him, although this oddly-mixed trap beat reminds me more of Kanye West with an overly loud choir sample battling for space in the mix against each gangsta-rap verse. Meekz rides the beat very excellently in his shorter verse in comparison to Fredo sounding bored, with detailed lyrics about their rags-to-riches story but nothing that really grabs or intrigues me. Nearly two minutes in, we get a Ghetts verse as he adapts to the beat switch in a particularly menacing delivery that convinces me he has the best verse here, full of biblical references and pretty unique punchlines standing out amongst the crowd, especially with how villainous he sounds on the beat. Giggs sounds as focused as Giggs possibly could, as his quiet delivery combined with bored cadences still has never clicked with me, especially when put against such a soulful beat. At least his lyrical content does mean you hear Giggs compare himself to Sideshow Bob whilst making comments about racism that don’t really go far enough to be interesting. Dave is on the final verse here, and whilst his delivery isn’t anything to mention as he has always sounded bored and tired, which is the point of much of his work yet sounds a bit forced on here, with those bursts of rage and energy present in his albums so far feeling like it lands on the wrong bars. Dave does have some of the most lyrically in depth bars, rapping confidently about growing up with his mother in Streatham leading him to gang violence and the consequence that has on his psyche going forward, and it runs throughout the verse very smoothly, with some wordplay about Polish immigrants and footballers that is pretty impressive, or at least in comparison to his “that’s the definition” bars that start off the verse. I know that was a lot but really, there’s no other way to review a posse cut other than by taking them one at a time, especially without a chorus. The song, if it even qualifies as one, is pretty good but could have done with chopping off the weaker verses in exchange for Fredo providing a hook instead. He’s got that kind of punchy voice that would have worked for at least a short refrain in between verses. As it is, it reminds me why I’m always weary to listen to hour-long rap albums.
#4 – “Verdansk” – Dave
Produced by Kyle Evans
Finally, we have “Verdansk”, not the first track off of the album but the first song with a chorus and a drill-adjacent beat so naturally, it debuts high. I’ll keep this short since Dave puts as little effort as possible on drill beats anyway, as he handles a chorus and a single verse discussing gunplay, flexing, gang violence, drug trafficking and of course, treating women like objects. He sounds more competent than most, relying on less repetition, but when the beat is this weak, with squirmy pianos under a really oddly-mixed set of springing hi-hats alongside rote 808s that make for a really bland trap beat, is Dave’s wordplay really worth the attention? I think the most notable thing he says is when he, in an attempt to say he’s not a misogynist, ends up accidentally comparing his penis to a mahogany table. Keepin’ it classy.
It’s kind of cheating since I barely reviewed the song, but “INDUSTRY BABY” by Lil Nas X featuring Jack Harlow grabs Best of the Week, with an Honourable Mention going to “2055” by Sleepy Hallow, to my surprise. Given there was a lot of rap this week, and the pop we were given wasn’t exactly very good, Worst of the Week could be a toss-up but I think I’ll give it to the obnoxious “Kiss My (Uh Oh)” by Anne-Marie and Little Mix, with David Guetta, John Newman and MistaJam’s generic grave-robbery taking Dishonourable Mention with “If You Really Love Me (How Will I Know)”. Here’s this week’s top 10:
I’m fully expecting more Dave songs to debut or the ones we have to stick around, given they’re pushing a Wizkid collaboration as a single and I can’t really see that much competition on the horizon other than Billie Eilish and singles from the likes of Skepta, Dermot Kennedy and ArrDee. Whatever may happen next week, thanks for reading and I’ll see you then!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 24/07/2021 (Pop Smoke, KSI, Central Cee)
Whilst I underestimated last week, I think I may have set my expectations too high for a busy week as really, apart from two albums that came to impact the chart, I have it pretty easy. Somehow, “Bad Habits” by Ed Sheeran spends a fourth week at #1 that I can’t really see being his last, and welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS!
So as always we start with the notable drop-outs, songs exiting the top 75 – which I cover – of the UK Singles Chart after five weeks in the chart or a peak in the top 40. Of course, this includes our football anthems after the close call with Italy, which just seems to be winning at... culture recently. These consist of “3 Lions” by David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and the Lightning Seeds dropping out from #4 as well as the less catastrophic losses for “Southgate You’re the One (Football’s Coming Home Again)” by Atomic Kitten off of the debut, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, “Vindaloo” by Fat Les, “World in Motion” by New Order and “Olé (We are England)” by Krept & Konan, S1lva and M1llionz featuring Morrisson. Of course, our other notable exits include “Kevin McCallister” by D-Block Europe and Lil Pino having no legs or a chorus, “Welcome to the Internet” by Bo Burnham, “Late at Night” by Roddy Ricch, “ZITTI E BUONI” by Maneskin as we here in the UK decided the worse a Maneskin song is, the higher it charts, as well as finally, “RAPSTAR” by Polo G.
A somewhat unlikely occurrence happens in our returning entries, as we have a lot of them this week, and not just returning as bottom-feeders. These returns include “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers back once again at #72, “Your Love (9PM)” by ATB, Topic and A7S at #71, “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles clinging on again at #67, “Life Goes On” by PS1 featuring Alex Hosking getting a sudden boost to #42 and finally, “Summer 91 (Looking Back)” by Noizu returning to #32. A lot of these are house songs so I wonder if that has anything to do with it, maybe a new Ministry of Sound compilation pushed these singles up. Given how that didn’t happen and the Official Charts Company is quiet on the issue, I’m honestly kind of wondering how these boosts could have possibly happened otherwise. At least they are somewhat legitimate in that they don’t break existing chart rules. I have complained about the rule on the UK Singles Chart in which an artist is only allowed three singles wherein they are the credited lead artist of to appear in the Top 100 of any given week. This leads to situations like Olivia Rodrigo replacing her singles with album cuts within the top 5, but those singles drop out of the chart entirely, which is ridiculously inaccurate. There are many flaws within the chart, but this seems to be the most misguided, clear-to-see and easily fixed issue, that was birthed out of Drake and Ed Sheeran album bombs in 2017. Whilst it may make the chart less interesting to see the same artist over and over again, it would be a hell of a lot more accurate, and if we combine it with Billboard’s recurrent rules and getting rid of ACR, maybe the UK Singles Chart will actually make sense for once. You can tell it is in effect this week as the late Pop Smoke only debuts three songs from his posthumous album (reaching #3 in the albums chart), and KSI debuts two because he has an active single in “Holiday” charting at #7. For the record, KSI’s album debuted at #1, giving him his first ever chart-topping album in the UK. The issue here is that the Official Charts Company does not understand the concept of following its own rules, either that or they have added some kind of BS exception for “Don’t Play” by Anne-Marie, KSI and Digital Farm Animals as it returns to #33 off of the album boost. Not only does this prove that there should be a whole lot more KSI in the top 40, but it also violates the rule as KSI is credited as a co-lead artist alongside the other two acts, with the song appearing on the same album which made its impact this week. Yeah, this does not look good for the UK Singles Chart, yet I hope it is at least a step towards getting rid of some of these utterly stupid rules in the future.
Now, back to the rundown, a bit more briefly to make up for lost time: Our notable losses this week – songs dropping more than five spots within the chart – include “Clash” by Dave featuring Stormzy at #8 (expect it to maybe hit #1 with the album coming), “good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo getting ACR’d to #12, “favorite crime” by Olivia Rodrigo at #30, “Permission to Dance” by BTS at #35 off of the debut, “NDA” by Billie Eilish at #41 off of the debut, “Butter” also by BTS at #45, “Learning Curve” by Aitch at #54, “All Eyes on Me” by Bo Burnham at #57, “Build a Bitch” by Bella Poarch at #61, “Seventeen Going Under” by Sam Fender at #62 off of the debut (I’m surprised it even got a second week), Majestic’s remix of Boney M’s “Rasputin” at #63, “September” by James Arthur at #65, “Call on Me” by RAYE at #70, “Confetti” by Little Mix at #73, “Wow” by Tion Wayne at #74 and finally, harshly off of the debut, “Wandsworth to Bullingdon” by Fredo featuring Headie One at #75.
What’s always more interesting are our notable gains and they seem to come in spades this week, with a lot more of these than usual, including “Bezos I” by Bo Burnham at #60, “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals at #59, “Essence” by Wizkid featuring Tems at #53, “Mirror” by Sigrid at #52, “Head & Heart” by Joel Corry and MNEK at #50, “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd just not going away at #47, “Little Bit of Love” by Tom Grennan at #43, “Let Them Know” by Mabel at #39, “You for Me” by Sigala and Rita Ora at #37, “Ain’t It” by Doja Cat at #29, “Levitating” by Dua Lipa at #27, “Leave Before You Love Me” by Marshmello and the Jonas Brothers at #26, “Higher Power” by Coldplay at #23, “Talk About” by Rain Radio and DJ Craig Gorman at #21, “Fly Away” by Tones and I at #16 and finally our two new top 10 entries: “Remember” by David Guetta and Becky Hill entering at #10, as well as JONASU getting his first ever top 10 hit as the German producer’s song “Black Magic” – a pretty decent track at that – surges up to #4. Now after all that nonsense, it’s time to start discussing our new arrivals, which seem to be a bit scattered at best, especially since only three of them aren’t connected to some kind of album release.
#68 – “Excuses” – MENTIS featuring Kate Wild
Produced by MENTIS
MENTIS is a Liverpool-based producer, with this new collaboration with British singer Kate Wild becoming his first breakout hit. The single may have gained at least some boost of popularity from the fact that Kate Wild is a CEO of 91Vocals, a label selling vocal samples and loops under the general sampling company, Splice... which probably made this song particularly cheap to make. Maybe he got a free subscription. Regardless, the song isn’t anything special; we get the 90s garage house synth melody which is sounding increasingly basic, some awfully and awkwardly mixed vocals for a supposed professional and a drop that I’m not sure even happened. It’s got the typical house groove and does little more to remind you that you should probably be listening to “Show Me Love” by Robin S instead. Not even the content has a focus, as its chorus seems to be unrelated to the verses and pre-chorus about confronting a woman trying to flirt with her boyfriend. At least it’s a topic more interesting than what you typically get in these non-descript dance hits, but I can’t say Wild really sells it. I like my house music with a lot more punch than “Excuses” delivers, so, yeah, this isn’t for me.
#64 – “Bout a Million” – Pop Smoke featuring 42 Dugg and 21 Savage
Produced by AXL Beats
I’ll keep the entries for this album simple as, frankly, this album deserves less attention than even what I’m giving it right now. Faith, an album released on the behalf of a dead man with very little say in the record by his label compiling demos and ideas over beats that have been changed for no reason, with big-name features added for the sake of streaming numbers, is an hour of repetitive pop-rap somehow created from tiny fragments of whatever remains of Pop Smoke’s material in 2021. Not only is it one of the most soulless albums I’ve ever heard, but probably one of the most outright offensive in how it swaps out Pop Smoke’s close friends and collaborators in the New York drill scene for people like Chris Brown, as well as replacing hard 808Melo beats with disgusting tropical house nonsense by The Neptunes. I do not mind beats being changed and features being added as long as some remnant of Pop Smoke’s original vision is kept or, ideally, the beats and features are from people who knew and cared about Pop Smoke, not Pusha T promoting his new album on one of his worst ever guest verses... he has two of them. Give the vocal tracks and leaks to 808Melo, release what comes with that and you’ll get a better-received album as regardless of its content, the record was going to move a lot of units. The audacity Steven Victor had to add an outro to the album on “Merci Beaucoup” featuring Pop Smoke speaking about how important it is for the artist’s vision to be raw and untouched, is unparalleled and frankly, I can’t wait for this trend of plugging recycled material from deceased artists as new music to die off... although given that they’re releasing the original versions of these tracks as REMIXES on the deluxe edition in a week or two, I have very little hope for that happening any time soon. Now that I’ve ranted about the album as a whole, you can expect these Pop Smoke entries to be short and really, “Bout a Million” wouldn’t be worth discussing if he were alive as the song relies on a dull guitar loop being attacked by New York drill production, hitting particularly weakly in this beat for whatever reason despite the typical booming 808 slides and rickety percussion. Pop Smoke’s chorus is catchy but unmemorable, as is every verse as it runs through gunplay as well as flexing. I like 42 Dugg quite a bit but here, he just mumbles through even lazier verses as I’m pretty sure he rapes a woman. 21 Savage impresses flow-wise but his verse is otherwise not exactly unique for 21, except the line “Savage spend money ridiculously” being pretty funny. Also, 21, you know what album you’re on, right? You could have, hypothetically, changed the somewhat bizarrely insensitive “rest in piss to all my opps” to “rest in peace to Pop”, or something to that effect.
#55 – “Tell the Vision” – Pop Smoke featuring Kanye West and Pusha T
Produced by BoogzDaBeast, Jahlil Beats, FnZ, SethInTheKitchen, Kanye West and Rico Beats
“Tell the Vision” was originally a demo track recorded for Kanye West’s upcoming “technically kind of released but not on streaming except for an unauthorised recording of an officially livestreamed Apple Music listening party” album – if you can call it that – DONDA. He could be releasing it as I’m writing this for all I know. It doesn’t really matter anyway, as Kanye says less words than a sample of Angie Martinez’ radio show reporting on Pop Smoke’s death does in this song, although apparently a version of this under a different name is on DONDA as well. After some indecipherable yelling from Kanye, we get an admittedly nice chipmunk soul-esque choir sample typical of Kanye, before it devolves into a drill beat very clearly not made by drill producers as it pathetically recreates trends of the production they just heard in other Pop Smoke beats like “Dior”. The main man’s verse is just as finished as Kanye’s is, and whilst the only complete verse here is from Pusha T, it’s one of his first misses, as his short verse ends up sounding absolutely awkward. He promotes his new album, disses Tyler, The Creator and/or 6ix9ine and of course, drops the cocaine bars, in possibly his least inventive way ever. This is complete garbage. Next.
#49 – “Wild Side” – Normani featuring Cardi B
Produced by Normani, Starrah, June Nawakii, Taylor Ross, Dave Cappa, Tyler Rohn and Jonah Christian
Normani, former member of Fifth Harmony, has finally released their years-late follow-up to debut single, “Motivation”, going in a pretty clearly different lane for a lot less uptempo pop hooks co-written by Ariana Grande, and a more subtle, seductive R&B vibe that fits her voice pretty perfectly. If this show was about reviewing music videos, I have no doubt this’d get Best of the Week but as a song... I mean, it works just as well separately, as it coats how it may or may not be sampling Aaliyah’s classic “One in a Million” with bassy, stunted percussion that may have sounded better if it was less 808 and more organic, but regardless sets a pretty good foundation for Normani, who does not disappoint with some of the catchiest melodies I’ve heard in modern R&B, especially in that pre-chorus, accentuated by just the right amount of Auto-Tune on the ad-libs. Once the strings and keys come in during the chorus, however, I start to notice a separation between Normani and her production, as whilst this beat is immensely layered in all its subtlety, Normani is decidedly not subtle in the sexy lyrics yet still layered in all this multi-tracking which sounds good but fails to really coat how disinterested Normani sounds here. This may work in the context of it being straightforward, blunt sexual lyricism, even in the chorus where she makes sure to tell her partner that they’ve got to just do it and stop cautiously thinking about it, but it does take me out of re-listens as she shows less personality than she probably could, especially since the content is incredibly well-written. Oh, and Cardi B’s here, moaning in the ad-libs and taking possession of Offset’s penis in an awkward flow that ultimately delivers in energy and over-the-top charisma, especially once she starts harmonising with Normani on a final chorus and outro that sounds pretty excellent. It’s no surprise that this is the only good song I’ve encountered this week so far given my taste, but yeah, I absolutely hope this sticks around.
#40 – “Gang Gang” – KSI featuring JAY1 and Deno
Produced by Jacob Manson and AJ Productions
I haven’t sat down and listened to the new KSI album All Over the Place but from what I’ve heard, it seems to be just that. There’s no point in joking about KSI’s YouTube or boxing career at this point as by your second studio album, you’re basically a full-time musician... yet he’s still not pulling his own weight in these tracks. KSI has a single verse on this song, with Deno on the chorus and JAY1 on the second verse. This isn’t a KSI song, really, and neither is it a Deno or JAY1 song. I’d argue it’s nobody’s song because there’s not really much personality showing here. Hell, I think a complete and utter lack of personality oozes from his attempt at an Afroswing single, with the same dancehall groove you’d expect, an oddly-mixed female vocal loop and Deno’s Auto-Tuned crooning. At least Deno sounds awake on his chorus, as KSI seems to put as little effort as possible, with his voice sounding just more comical than it should be. He knows that he doesn’t need to put on a joke voice anymore, right? The content doesn’t exist, giving that it’s just about women and gunplay – at least Deno and JAY1 have some harmonies and chemistry in that second verse, but that’s just about all you can get from this. After years of reviewing this type of music on this series, I’ve yet to find anything from this genre as good as NSG’s “Options” and that might be saying something.
#34 – “Little Bit of This” – Central Cee
Produced by Young Chencs
I guess we couldn’t get enough of this bore as Central Cee is here to recycle flows over a drill beat that isn’t even really hard, given that despite the 808s, the percussion is less scattered and instead really cluttered, badly-mixed and distracting, especially since whatever melody there is here is in the form of some strings and an aggravating chipmunk sample. The content is mostly about a woman’s posterior and not much else, whilst also saying that most women are “the deceiving type”. Grow up, Cee.
#24 – “No Time” – KSI featuring Lil Durk
Produced by Chambers, Mally Mall, S-X and Diego Ave
For our second and final KSI track, we have his attempt at American trap as KSI does a Future impression in more ways than one over an admittedly pretty great guitar-laden trap beat produced by many of Durk’s producers, until it drops and... KSI does the squeaky-voice thing and Goddamn it, it works. That hook is so incessantly catchy, it’s almost frustrating. The content is less interesting than the delivery, which JJ claims is influenced by 645AR – who I kind of wish was on here – as most of it is just flexing and saying that KSI is focused on earning the money that gets him to enjoy the luxury, which is less common of a topic, I suppose. Lil Durk does what he does with his typical, basic flow but I like some of his references here, and he stays vaguely on topic so, yeah, as much as I hate to admit it, this is a pretty good pop-trap banger. You know what isn’t?
#14 – “Demeanor” – Pop Smoke featuring Dua Lipa
Produced by Dru DeCaro, Corey “Cutz” Nutile, Jess Jackson, Michael Gomes and Mantra
At some point, Pop Smoke filmed himself listening to “One Kiss” by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa. Therefore, his label got him on a track with Dua Lipa. It works about as well as you’d expect. Originally, Pop Smoke wanted Bruno Mars on here but of course, it didn’t happen, so we have one of the worst songs of the year. Pop Smoke croakily sings in the chorus on this gross nu-disco beat about being on drugs and liking promiscuous women, before continuing to wail over a Future Nostalgia leftover because this was clearly not his best take, but the label couldn’t care less. Then for the verse, it switches into this mysterious, eerie drum-less atmosphere, providing a more fitting instrumental for Pop Smoke to say whatever comes to him, whether that be gunplay, flexing, political bars about Obama and police brutality, none of which actually connects. Of course, none of this off-beat verse fits content-wise when it awkwardly returns to this awful nu-disco beat, before of course it disappears and we return to the second “beat” before the chorus. If you’re wondering why this verse, which doesn’t even sound like it’s the same BPM as the beat or chorus, sounds as it does, is because it’s not originally from this song, instead being from a DMX song “Money Money Money”, which was released after DMX’s death without that Pop Smoke verse, replacing him with Moneybagg Yo. Surely, they know this ends up just robbing a dead man, his family and I guess, Swizz Beatz of material originally meant for that dead man’s work, just to put it on another dead man’s album for a cheap nu-disco hit that sounds like utter garbage? This doesn’t work for either label or either artist’s estate. It makes everyone look bad, and ends up just showing how heartless Pop Smoke’s label is. They took his verse off of DMX’s album, the final album from a legendary New York rapper who of course Pop Smoke looked up to. Pop Smoke had the “Money Money Money” beat literally made FOR him when he asked for a beat that sounded like DMX, or at least according to its producer and DMX’s close friend, Swizz Beatz. They did this to put the unfitting verse on a song featuring someone whose song he listened to once or twice. Ignoring Dua Lipa phoning it in with her quite cringeworthy bridge, this song is offensive almost purely on principle, before you even listen to it. Dua couldn’t even be bothered to back Pop Smoke up on the final chorus when the take clearly requires it. This is disgusting and if it ends up sticking around, you’ll be putting money in the hands of the people who orchestrated this cynical farce of an “album” from the skeleton of a legacy Pop Smoke left, because what good is morality, friendship and credibility when dollar signs are heading your way and the general public don’t know any better?
Sorry to end on a sour note, but I’m pretty sure nearly everything here was sour, given that this was a rough week. I guess Best of the Week is going to “Wild Side” by Normani featuring Cardi B, with KSI of all people bagging Honourable Mention for “No Time” featuring Lil Durk. Worst of the Week absolutely goes to Steven Victor, Republic Records and Dua Lipa for massacring “Demeanor” by the late Pop Smoke, with a Dishonourable Mention also going to Victor and Republic, this time for their self-indulgent and tone-deaf grave-rob “Tell the Vision” featuring Pusha T and Kanye West. Here’s our top 10 for this week:
Hopefully, next week will be better but given that DONDA isn’t coming any time soon, we’ll only have two new songs by Dave to put up with, as well as maybe some from Anne-Marie’s new record, but we’ll see. Rest in peace to Pop Smoke, thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 17/07/2021 (Dave/Stormzy, The Kid LAROI/Justin Bieber, BTS)
I think I underestimated this week and the impact certain artists would have with big singles but regardless, nothing could dethrone “Bad Habits” by Ed Sheeran and its third week on top of the chart – I really thought this one would flop harder. I don’t put any trust in my own predictions, anyway. Welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
We have 10 new arrivals this week in the UK Top 75 – which I cover – so with that does come some chart movement, including some notable drop-outs (songs exiting the top 75 after more than five weeks on the chart or peaking in the top 40). These consist of some heavy-hitters, like “Wasting Time” by Brent Faiyaz featuring Drake off of the top 40 debut last week, “WUSYANAME” by Tyler, The Creator featuring YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Ty Dolla $ign, “Way Too Long” by Nathan Dawe, Anne-Marie and MoStack, “Summer 91 (Looking Back)” by Noizu dropping out of the top 40, just like “Believe Me” by NAVOS (both likely getting ACR’d – look it up), as well as natural drop-offs for “Astronaut in the Ocean” by Masked Wolf, “Your Love (9PM)” by ATB, Topic and A7S, “Wellerman” by Nathan Evans and remixed by 220 KID and Billen Ted, and finally, “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles, all after lengthy chart runs.
Of course, we also have the notable losses, songs dropping at least five spots from last week’s chart, and since most of the new arrivals are at the top, we do have a few to mention, like “Oliver Twist” by ArrDee at #17, “Good Without” by Mimi Webb at #19, “favorite crime” by Olivia Rodrigo at #24, “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat featuring SZA at #25 – as well as “You Right” with The Weeknd at #27, “Higher Power” by Coldplay at #29, “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)” by Lil Nas X at #30, Majestic’s remix of Boney M’s “Rasputin” at #31, “Body” by Russ Millions and Tion Wayne at #35, “Levitating” by Dua Lipa at #37, “BED” by Joel Corry, RAYE and David Guetta at #39, “Learning Curve” by Aitch at #41, “Transparent Soul” by WILLOW featuring Travis Barker at #43 (expect a boost next week given the album), “Let’s Go Home Together” by Ella Henderson and Tom Grennan at #45, “Let Them Know” by Mabel at #46, “Little Bit of Love” by Tom Grennan at #48, “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd at #52, “Build a Bitch” by Bella Poarch at #54, “Kevin McCallister” by D-Block Europe and Lil Pino at #56 off of the debut, “Confetti” by Little Mix at #57, “Wow” by Tion Wayne at #59, “Peaches” by Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon at #61, “You” by Regard, Troye Sivan and Tate McRae at #66, “The Business” by Tiesto at #67, “Dinero” by Trinidad Cardona at #71, “Big Shark” by Russ Millions off of the debut at #72, “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals at #73 and finally, “RAPSTAR” by Polo G at #75. Most of these are continued falls so I wouldn’t be surprised if these songs are all gone by next week.
In case of the opposite, we do have some gains as well as a sole returning entry for “Call on Me” by RAYE just getting an out-of-nowhere boost back at #64. For notable climbers, the list includes residual gains for “Welcome to the Internet” by Bo Burnham at #68 (more on him later), as well as the bizarre gain for “Rollin’” by MIST featuring Burna Boy at #60 and, naturally, the football anthems getting some boosts, ironically enough. The final was within this tracking week, therefore we get some gains for “Olé (We are England)” by Krept & Konan, S1lva and M1llionz featuring Morrisson at #51, “World in Motion” by New Order at #42, “Vindaloo” by Fat Les at #28 and especially “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond up to #20. “Three Lions” is still at #4, for the record, with gains outside of football including “Talk About” by Rain Radio and DJ Craig Gorman making their first top 40 entry at #40, “Ain’t It” by Doja Cat rebounding at #38 and that’s pretty much it, so it’s time to discuss our crop of... semi-interesting new arrivals, starting with...
#74 – “Essence” – Wizkid featuring Tems
Produced by P2J and Legendury Beatz
Whilst Wizkid may have had a #1 collaboration with Drake on “One Dance”, the Nigerian singer has yet to really break out with a song of his own until this collaboration from his 2020 project, Made in Lagos, mostly in English and partly in Yoruba, that has even charted on the US Billboard Hot 100, mostly thanks to the chorus from Tems, who runs most of the song with her buttery hook as well as verse and bridge. Really, this might launch Tems’ career more than it will Wizkid’s, and I can’t really blame it if it does, as the Afrobeat production is pretty tropical and smooth here as it complements the R&B-tinged percussion, especially the clicking hats that may be too loud in the mix. The content is pretty generic as both croon about love, mostly physical, although Wizkid has a subtly clever reference to Tems in Yoruba, which I thought was a pretty nice line, even if I don’t really enjoy his Auto-Tuned presence here. The horns in the outro have a nice swell but other than that, I don’t think this is that great a showcase of what Nigerian Afrobeats may have to offer. Any recommendations given, I’d be all ears for.
#70 – “Bezos I” – Bo Burnham
Produced by Bo Burnham
With the continued success of his musical comedy special Inside, we see a third song from Bo Burnham charting, this one being “Bezos I”. Now, I haven’t seen the special but I can agree with the message of this particular song, mocking Jeff Bezos’ lies and public image, stripping down his faux-rags-to-riches story by writing a flex song from the perspective of Mr. Bezos, with barely a chorus and a single verse before crashing into a synth solo followed by screaming... all in 58 seconds, making it one of the shortest songs ever to chart. Is it good? Well, if you like what’s just been described to you, you’ll enjoy it, given that that’s all it is outside of the context of the special. Everything is sang in Burnham’s typical tone over an 1980s synthpop pastiche, sounding pretty cheap but ultimately adding greatly to the comedy of the song, especially with that synth solo that does sound great even with its ugly synth tone, mostly because what is being described in the song comes from a very ugly place to begin with.
#44 – “Seventeen Going Under” – Sam Fender
Produced by Bramwell Bronte
Yeah, all the way down to #44 – I did say the new arrivals were front-loaded, or I guess in the format of this series, back-heavy. Sam Fender is an indie rock singer-songwriter from the North of England, who started his career off with a #1 debut album back in 2019, with this being the lead single for a follow-up as well as the sophomore effort’s title track. Whilst I can’t say I’ve heard much from Fender before, I will say I like the content of this one as he reminisces to what life was like when he was 17, which if you do the math turns out to be 2011, with some great detail such as when he recalls fist-fights on the beach, a true phenomenon within North Shields, where he grew up. It’s not just a nostalgia trip though as if anything, Fender portrays this time of his life as something constantly lingering in his mind, especially with the story about someone kicking his friend’s head in that still bugs him because of what he could have done in that situation that he simply didn’t, but would have now. There’s a lot of Northern English specifics here, especially in its slang, as he questions his position within his probably toxic friend groups and how he considered becoming a drug-dealer to provide for his family, as whilst he sees his mother, the Department for Work and Pensions see her as another number. All that songwriting doesn’t mean much when you haven’t got anything all that great sonically backing it, however... and thankfully, this instrumental has some great drive to it, as whilst it starts with an introductory and tense acoustic build-up, the drop into post-punk-esque drums – much like a lot of the British indie scene nowadays – feels earned after all of the discussion about lingering feelings, and that chorus feels especially cathartic, if you can even call it a chorus, given the slow horns and quieter, twinkling keys. With that said, it does feel like the song’s kind of run out of tricks by the four-minute mark, although even that fits the content as eventually that youthful recklessness just dries out and you’re left with little but the bed you’ve laid yourself, whatever that may be, and the squealing guitar noise in that outro might just be one of the best ways I’ve heard represent that in pop music. This is pretty fantastic, I’m honestly surprised it’s charting, and whilst I know it won’t stick around, I’m glad to see it here anyway.
#36 – “Wandsworth to Bullingdon” – Fredo featuring Headie One
Produced by Chucks and HONEYWOODSIX
Fredo’s third album, and second this year, is set to be released on the 22nd of June, with this serving as a final single and... honestly, I’m surprised it didn’t debut higher, given its big-budget music video and being the first collaboration between two British rap heavyweights. For a collaboration like this, it’s also pretty focused, as both Fredo and Headie trade bars about their gang lifestyles they may have left behind but still linger as a lot of their friends are locked up in Her Majesty’s Prisons, with the title name-dropping two of the most infamous in London and Oxfordshire. Fredo handles the chorus, in which he unintentionally says his friends are full of prisons instead of the other way around. That’s pretty emblematic of the rest of the faults this song falls under, as both rappers end up switching topics to just flexing and sex-raps over a drill-adjacent trap beat that is honestly just boring with oddly-mixed hi-hats skittering past booming 808s and a pretty cheap-sounding loop. I also wish they went into actual detail about the consequences of prison and gang violence on them mentally, which is something Fredo is typically pretty good at, so whilst the rappers are competent flow-wise here, there’s a lot to be desired with both the instrumental and any of the content here, which just ends up sounding lazy and basic. Sorry, lads, but this is a dud.
#33 – “Motley Crew” – Post Malone
Produced by Louis Bell and d.a. got that dope
On his comeback single debuting depressingly low for Post Malone, he misspells – or in this case, corrects the spelling of – 80s hard rock band Motley Crue – umlauts excluded – for the sake of what I imagine is a rap-rock fusion... except it’s just an unrelated title for a mostly brag-centric trap banger coming from a Post clearly trying to switch up the poppier sounds from the last two records, especially Hollywood’s Bleeding. The simplistic synth melody doesn’t really deliver an effective foundation for a banger, though, so of course, the instrumental is layered in pointless layers of “atmospheric” reverb before the 808s crash in alongside clattering percussion and Post Malone sounding worse than ever. He must know the first quarter of that chorus doesn’t even try to rhyme, right? The nasal delivery from Post is more irritating than anything, with flows far from his most unique or interesting, especially when he decides to croon in a momentum-killing pre-chorus. Structurally, the song is just kind of awkward, as whilst it goes for conventional pop structure, it feels like it’s missing a guest verse to actually shake things up, with that first verse sounding particularly indecipherable in his pathetic Playboi Carti impression. By the time he actually sounds like Post Malone on the second verse, you’ve already had to sit through some of his most repetitive work ever. It’s not like I’m opposed to trap bangers from Post; “Wow.” is one of my favourite songs from him, and “Saint-Tropez” – or even the unreleased “No Reason” with Kanye and Justin Bieber – are playing into this exact same vein of club-ready, hard trap singles. Yet for “Motley Crue”, not much sticks out, especially in the content and its delivery, for me to really care. I’m concerned for Post’s next album as a result but we’ll see if this direction actually goes anywhere. “I see your whip, hilarious” is such a dumb and simplistic line that it ends up pretty funny, though, so I’ll give it that.
#23 – “NDA” – Billie Eilish
Produced by FINNEAS
Continuing with our trend of lower debuts than expected, we have the latest single from that confusing and clueless second album rollout for Billie Eilish, Eilish, naturally with her success, can find it difficult to date, especially in a climate where social media is more important and useful than ever. Naturally, she wrote a song about it, revelling once again in her fame, perhaps misguidedly like in “Lost Cause”, whilst also writing quite mockingly on of an incident with a stalker, in which she was able to file a restraining order. Since the song directly mentions the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, weaving it into her story about being able to buy a house at 17, a certain amount of sympathy – or whatever empathy there was from a young, working-class audience – is gone, leaving the song needing to stand on his own without context and, well, given her almost comical tone, the bitterness can’t be taken as seriously and whilst her bragging may feel somewhat misplaced, it’s no different from any flex-rap single – really, this time around, there’s more detail and tact. The song is sonically reminiscent of the more minimal cuts from the debut album, with ticking percussion, eerie pianos and a lot of bass that does detract from the content, especially if Eilish is going to mumble through the majority of it, Auto-Tuning everything to the point of it sounding just awkward and pretty disappointing. I do enjoy the type of UK bass that is being vaguely imitated here, but I can’t say I dig this lazy execution, as it seems to not know if it wants to be a lyric-heavy song focusing on the detailed lyrics or lackadaisically flow through processed whining that leaves no room for a build-up, making that attempt at a climactic chorus pretty pathetic. For such a wonky industrial-tinged track, it doesn’t have much bite, and that could be telling going forward.
#16 – “Permission to Dance” – BTS
Produced by Steve Mac, Stephen Kirk and Jenna Andrews
With the combination of mass-buying and an Ed Sheeran writing credit, I really thought this new single had a chance to debut on top but to my surprise, it ends up at #16. Maybe efforts are split between this and “Butter” on both the fan and label’s sides? You can tell it was written by Ed Sheeran, as well, with the overly-specific detail that honestly was also present in “Butter” so feels a bit safe even for ol’ Ed. The song, of course, is completely in English as the boys are coated in unflattering Auto-Tune, with half of them sounding bored as they sing some of the most contrived lyrics I’ve heard from the band. I don’t hate the guitar pluck in the back of the mix or all of the synth backing, especially those strings and horns in the pre-chorus that attempt to make the song sound organic, but nothing can really make a song so blocky rhythm-wise sound all that genuine. It doesn’t need to be, of course, but this may be one of BTS’ least catchy songs, which is really what saved their English material for me. I do think this is better than “Butter” and for the sake of my safety and privacy, I have nothing against the boys, but I’m really not enjoying this single roll-out so far. Maybe the Korean deep-cuts will be better?
#14 – “Southgate You’re the One (Football’s Coming Home)” – Atomic Kitten
Produced by Goldcrush and Bill Padley
Well, now, this one’s just funny. Atomic Kitten are a girl group formed by then-flailing band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark as an outlet for the frontman’s songs which were left in the dust as the band dissolved. “Whole Again” was far from their first single but was their first #1, becoming an international hit in 2001. Naturally, the song becomes a well-remembered hit and eventually became a football anthem as a result of the 2018 World Cup, in which some of the lyrics are replaced to honour the English team’s manager, Gareth Southgate. During the 2021 Euros, the song became popular again and therefore, Atomic Kitten, sans founding member Kerry Katona who sang on the original, re-recorded “Whole Again”, re-contextualising the original love song by making it about decreasing hope for the English football team, whilst also saying that Gareth Southgate turns them on. Of course, this new version has sales and streams but sadly, due to the final landing in the middle of the tracking week, we have a top 20-debuting song from the losers. To be fair, it was close and went to penalties but I’ve never cared about sport so why start being pedantic now? The reality is England lost to Italy and Atomic Kitten now look like idiots as the song debuts at #14. Yes, I know, that’s insulting, but it’s also the truth. I was never a big fan of the original song, but it does have some Y2K charm with its downtempo drums and the iconic underwater-sounding organs, as well as that chorus which is clearly memorable for a reason. Hell, on re-listening to the original, I found myself pretty fond of the strings, especially in the anthemic chorus. This new version does little to add to that initial production, adding some crowd cheering, making the percussion hit a lot less hard and of course, updating the vocals to be re-recorded and more mature takes... yet not updating the crappy mixing, it seems, and making strings from a 2000s pop song somehow sound even more synthetic. Yeah, this is garbage, but it’ll also serve as little more as a time capsule starting from, let’s say next week. That spoken-word interlude never worked, by the way.
#5 – “Stay” – The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber
Produced by Cashmere Cat, Blake Slatkin, Omar Fedi and Charlie Puth
A song by The Kid LAROI featuring Justin Bieber produced by Charlie Puth should be the worst hit song of the year. Turns out it’s insanely good. It starts with a pretty quick synth melody that is an immediately memorable ear-worm until The Kid LAROI comes in and... doesn’t ruin it. In fact, his typical nasal delivery works really excellently here, especially when he goes into that whispery, exasperated falsetto in the chorus. Better than that even is the drop into more pop rock territory as LAROI gets a bit raspier alongside the hard-hitting drums. It’s a bit hard to dislike something this catchy, even if the pre-chorus devolves into “oh-oh-oh” pretty quickly. Sure, some of Bieber’s falsetto can come off as comical, but I do like how the Auto-Tune and layers of vocal processing fail to pick up on faults in their takes. It makes such a desperate song about searching for their lovers’ forgiveness sound even more convincing... oh, yeah, and it’s essentially a hyperpop song a lot of the time, which may explain my fondness for this one, although it may just be the shared origins in neon pop-punk, as I can’t say Bieber’s delivery especially in that powerful pre-chorus, combined with the pure amount of synths and how fast-paced and whiny the song ends up as, doesn’t remind me of, say, Alex Gaskarth? Oh, and the first half of that final chorus where the instrumental pounds in with buzzing synths as a rhythmic counterpart to LAROI’s belting, whilst maybe contrived, sounds excellent, especially with the additional drum fill crashing the listener back into the chorus. What a wonderful song! I’m genuinely kind of taken aback by this and I think this will stick around for a long time.
#3 – “Clash” – Dave featuring Stormzy
Produced by Kyle Evans
There’s a drill beat with twinkling synths and booming 808s as Dave delivers his lead single from the upcoming album with all the charisma and power of a cactus on Nyquil. Disappointedly, Dave goes for one of his laziest and awkward flows he’s ever tried to hop on, flubbing rhymes quite pathetically in that first verse. I would try and say it adds to the content but there’s not enough thought put into anything here. There’s so much empty space in this song because the beat is an unstoppable force and Stormzy and Dave act as immovable objects, yet instead of how interesting that would have sounded if Stormzy and Dave sounded like they cared, and how much of a hype-filled boastful trap banger that could have been, we just have them droning on about materialism and gunplay for four dreadful minutes. Dave tries with some kind of vague political commentary or jibe but ends up saying random buzz words that mean nothing, whilst buying his vegan girlfriend a bag made out of crocodiles he himself supposedly slaughtered. Stormzy disses Chip with the same mockery at his lack of hits even though I know for a fact they would both get defensive if this single had flopped. To be honest, I expected it to debut at #1 and as a result, I am required by law to say that “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor is my favourite song of all time. Don’t gamble, kids.
To my surprise, The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber take Best of the Week for what is essentially pop perfection in “Stay”, with a very close Honourable Mention for Sam Fender’s “Seventeen Going Under”. For Worst of the Week, it’s a toss-up as whilst this week was a mixed bag, an awful lot of it wasn’t very good. I think the Worst title will have to go to Dave’s “Clash” featuring Stormzy for just being painfully snoozeworthy in direct contrast to how it’s a lead single for a drill album, whilst Dishonourable Mention can go to Post Malone for “Motley Crew”. I felt nice to Atomic Kitten, it’s not their fault that their song is hilarious within little more than a week’s hindsight. This is the week’s top 10:
And thank you for reading, I’ll see you next week!
BANNED BY THE BBC: Records Too Risqué for Radio
Unlike the United States Billboard Hot 100, where the date of its establishment is pretty static and we all know that it’s been documenting popular music in the country since 1958, it gets a bit more confusing in the UK, where the formalisation of the popular music industry and charts didn’t really finalise until a decade after. Due to the amount of competing charts, the Official Charts Company historically lays boundaries for what charts counted for certain eras. From 1952 to 1960, NME’s data is used and from 1960 to 1969, the Record Retailer chart was used until finally in 1969, the UK Singles Chart in pretty much its current format was first compiled. Similarly, whilst the British Broadcasting Corporation – the BBC – had obviously been broadcasting music and radio programmes for decades prior, its flagship pop station BBC Radio 1 only launched in 1967. Of course, as if to signify the nonsense to come, the first song broadcasted in full was actually the #2 that week, because they thought the #1 was inappropriate for the radio station’s planned sound. Sorry about that, Humperdinck. Regardless, this means it would just be convoluted to talk about anything pre-1969 on this list so whilst that means we miss the Beatles and Eartha Kitt, we also miss such gems as Billie Holiday’s “Gloomy Sunday (The Famous Hungarian Suicide Song)” and a record released by Max Romeo the year prior with an A-side called “Wet Dream” and B-side entitled “She’s but a Little Girl”. In this little extra REVIEWING THE CHARTS special, we’re taking a look at songs banned on BBC Radio when radio actually mattered – so, the 1970s to the 1990s, give or take. Welcome to...
BANNED BY THE BEEB: Records Too Risqué for Radio
I guess I should put out a fair warning or disclaimer that of course, due to the content here, it may be a bit more uncomfortable of a read than the average REVIEWING THE CHARTS, and fitting in with that description, let’s start with a taboo that gradually became a lot less taboo – and if you look at half the lyrics on this week’s chart, like KSI saying he’s “hella horny like a rhino watching porn”, you could argue that it’s no longer going to offend anyone – but of course...
No Sex Please, We’re British!
Prior to BBC Radio 1 and the UK Singles Chart, the BBC had even more ridiculous reasons for banning songs, such as them being too sentimental or religious, but we can see the start of the Beeb’s attitude to sex in those 1960s singles. Eartha Kitt’s “Love for Sale” didn’t get airplay because it’s about prostitution, The Beatles couldn’t get away with pornographic priestesses on “I Am the Walrus” and of course, you can’t get any heavy breathing on the radio. There are at least a handful of songs banned for exactly that reason: see French singer Jane Birkin becoming a one-hit wonder as a result of her #1 hit “Je t’aime moi non plus” with Serge Gainsbourg, who would later direct Birkin in an erotic film of the same title six years after it topped the charts in 1970. The song was originally written and recorded for Gainsbourg’s then-girlfriend Brigitte Bardot, but, quite simply, Birkin’s version was hotter, although the moaning lead to some speculation Gainsbourg had actually recorded live sex with Birkin or Bardot for the song. He responded by saying that he was glad it wasn’t, as otherwise it would have been an LP. Nice one.
It’s pretty fitting that Donna Summer recorded a cover of “Je t’aime...” given that she would also have her song “Love to Love You Baby” banned in 1975 for exactly the same reason: too much erotic breathing. Censoring records wasn’t as easy and digitally accessible as it is now, and more often than not, singers would re-record or remix a song for the sake of getting a lot of radio play rather than just put a clean version out, although the trend of re-recording is still done to this day. 2021’s break-out star Olivia Rodrigo made new lyrics for even the album cuts on her album SOUR to remove any profanity for the radio edits.
Of course, between Birkin and Summer, there were more songs banned for sexual references. Whilst the BBC construed Paul McCartney’s band Wings and their song “Hi, Hi, Hi” to be a drug reference, in reality, the song’s very clearly about sex, although it didn’t stop the 1972 single from peaking at #5. Methinks Paul wanted it to get higher, though, as whilst defending the song and saying how its ban increased its success and reception at live shows, he also slipped in how he thought the BBC got some of the lyrics wrong, just in case they at any point wanted to unban it... because “Get you ready for my polygon” is apparently a more believable lyric. Sure, Paul. The first song we’ll cover in full here, however, is by one of the most infamous acts to ever be banned by the BBC...
“Big Six” – Judge Dread
Peaked at #11 in 1972
Alexander Hughes, more commonly known as Judge Dread, was one of the first white reggae acts, who attributes his fascination with the reggae genre from his experience lodging in Caribbean households in Brixton as well as meeting famous reggae artists acting as a bouncer in London nightclubs. One of those artists was the late Prince Buster, who had released his underground hit “Big 5” in 1969. The original song is incredibly explicit and vulgar, especially disgusting for the time but I’m honestly not sure it would even pass in the days of “WAP”. Although like “WAP”, “Big 5” is a comedy sex song, with the lo-fi but honestly pretty great production accompanying Buster’s trying-not-to-laugh croon about “spunky spunky nights”. The song was an underground hit in Jamaica although for obvious reasons couldn’t really make it outside of that region before Judge Dread put his own nursery-rhyme spin on it over a sped-up version of the “Big 5” rhythm in “Big Six”, which whilst catchier, doesn’t have the same lo-fi charm and honestly, Judge Dread was kind of a comical vocalist that you couldn’t take seriously in any context, especially when he’s singing mostly nonsense lyrics and a lot of scat singing... it’s just not something that can be listened to outside of the context of a jokingly explicit song from 1972. I’m convinced the “uh-huh” refrain is what let it chart so high as I don’t think it’s even as interesting or vulgar as “Big 5”. Regardless, it was a smash hit and even meant he was one of the first white artists to perform in Jamaica, not that many of the Jamaicans even knew he was white until he came on stage. The novelty of these hits was not lost on Hughes who would constantly make innuendo in follow-ups such as “Big Seven” and “Big Eight”, and that led to having 11 chart hits as well as 11 songs by the BBC. Judge Dread was so infamous that his squeaky-clean tribute song to Elvis Presley couldn’t even get airplay. Tragically, Hughes died whilst performing in Canterbury in 1998, and whilst most of the audience assumed it was part of the act, only an off-duty paramedic in the audience realised it was not and he was soon rushed off to hospital. Unfortunately, it was far too late, but whilst even Prince Buster may have out-lived the man he influenced so heavily, Judge Dread seems to be a well-respected musician across the United Kingdom and Jamaica. Whilst I can’t say the music speaks to me, personally, his multicultural appeal at one point rivalling that of Bob Marley cannot be denied, even if his records don’t stand as well in the test of time as other reggae classics of the 1970s.
“Big Six” was far from the last song to be chastised by the BBC for its sexual references. After all, Cliff Richard didn’t realise his cover of Conway Twitty’s “Honky Tonk Angel” was about a prostitute until it hit stores in 1975. Sir Cliff instead thought, because it’s the 1970s, that it was just a racially insensitive song about a girl from Hong Kong instead and that was completely fine... but prostitution? Oh, goodness, why would good ol’ Christian boy Cliff sing about ladies of the night on record? Naturally, he himself caught on before the BBC could and withdrew the record from stores, making a television announcement promoting the fact that he refuses to promote the single. It wasn’t the first song about a prostitute to come under the ire of the BBC, although earlier, it had been for an entirely different reason.
“Lola” – The Kinks
Peaked at #2 in 1970
According to drummer Mick Avory, the lead singer and songwriter of legendary rock band The Kinks, Ray Davies, was inspired to write “Lola” by a character called Michael McGrath, who because of The Kinks’ fame, ended up almost hounding the group and becoming semi-friendly with the members, leading to him inviting the group to many gay bars in London, in which Davies would meet drag queens and more importantly, transvestites, of which “Lola” may or may not be about. The entire song revolves around Davies’ infatuation with the titular character that he met in Soho, who “walks like a woman but talks like a man”. Hell, the song may even be about a black transgender woman according to Davies’ recount so it may be even more mould-breaking for its time than some considered. It holds up particularly well in 2021, especially given the context that the narrator is drunk and honestly rather confused in the first verses, before he comes to just appreciate Lola for who she is. Sure, some of the language may sound a bit iffy or had faded out of use by modern standards, but this song shows what I see as a genuine appreciation for the woman because and not despite of her transness (if that’s a word). “Girls will be boys and boys will be girls; it’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world except for Lola”. We should all know by now also that “Lola” is just an excellent song with immediately recognisable melodies in both the folksy guitar and Davies’ loveably British voice as he sings about “Lo-lo-Lola”. The moment when the heavier electric guitars come in for the first chorus has never not kicked ass, and that bridge where it picks up the pace is one of the best moments in classic rock, especially when it crashes back into the softer, acoustic tones of the second verse. The song gathered some controversy for its content given that it was 1970 but I guess the song was good enough to breeze past that as it was only banned by the BBC because it’s illegal for them to promote Coca-Cola given that they are a public service broadcaster. Yes, the BBC banned a transgender love song from 1970 because of soft-drink product placement. Ray Davies was on tour in New York at the time so had to go back to London to re-record the line as “cherry cola” for the single release, although we all now know and love the original lyric, before making the trip back, which is one of the most infamous examples of the BBC’s executive meddling. I’m surprised there weren’t any follow-ups to “Lola”, in all honesty – “rock songs by straight dudes saying transgender people are very cool and nice” is a genre I’d hoped there’d be more of. I mean, the only other songs I can think of in this lane are by Lou Reed and freaking Weezer.
Commercialism would ban Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” in 1973, and if we go back to sexual content for a second, we can see that it never failed to face the BBC’s wrath; they swung the ban-hammer on “Peaches” by The Stranglers in 1977 (make your guesses why) and “Too Drunk” by the Dead Kennedys in 1981, although why the BBC was even considering playing hardcore punk anthems that end with real-life vomiting on the radio is beyond me. Of course, the most famous ban is the first #1 for Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1983’s “Relax” (“Two Tribes” is a hell of a lot better, just saying). On Top of the Pops, instead of playing the song, they would anti-climactically cut to a still image of the band, and Mike Read interrupted it mid-song on Radio 1 to denounce its obscenity. I wonder if he’s heard “Thot Shit”. Read would continue to make his own obscene songs, however, as he would produce a faux-Jamaican-accented calypso hit named after UKIP, peaking at only #44 in 2014 after Nigel Farage urged supporters of the far-right in Britain to download the song. After that came bans for George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” in 1987 and Lil Louis’ house classic “French Kiss” in 1989 for, yes, once again, too much erotic breathing. And now for something completely different.
War and Peace
Music can never be seen in a vacuum, especially not popular music as it is both affected by real-world events and having an effect for the people going through them and listening to the music of their day. It’s why he had anti-Vietnam singles in the 1960s and 70s and it’s why we have so many quarantine references in rap songs circa 2020. I think companies have come to realise that people don’t want to have their mind put off current events when they’re so clearly in the forefront of politics and every-day life; “The Bigger Picture” by Lil Baby was performed at the GRAMMYs alongside literal activists in Tamika Mallory and Killer Mike. Hell, by 2005, MTV would play System of a Down as long as the four-letter words were muted. Speaking of, why DON’T Presidents fight the war?
That’s not to say this was always the case, however, as the BBC has been infamous in the past for attempting not to step on any toes during current political events, mostly because of the fact that they’re a public service broadcaster constantly under the scrutiny of the government. BBC News, for a long time, could not cross over with the pop music played. As early as 1943, they were banning songs considered too sickly and nauseating for a country in its fourth year of war... because, sure, calming and soothing music has no use in times of chaos, violence and uncertainty. It’s not just overseas conflicts that affected what music BBC played though, as some of the violence was a lot closer to home.
“Urban Guerrilla” – Hawkwind
Peaked at #39 in 1973
By all measures, “Urban Guerrilla” wasn’t really a hit for Hawkwind, a British rock band praised for their influence not just in punk music but also space rock, a genre they pretty much created in the early 1970s. This single just happened to gain notoriety for its timing, as it was released not long before the IRA made its bombing campaign in London known to the public. For context, The Troubles were mostly domestic terrorist incidents by the Irish Republican Army against British law enforcement, military and government during the Cold War, in order to provoke the British government to give Northern Ireland back to the Irish. We all know how that turned out, but it didn’t prevent Wings from releasing a politically-motivated single called, pretty bluntly, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” in 1972. Promptly, it was banned, but as was “Urban Guerrilla”, which wasn’t even about the IRA. Lemmy of Motorhead, then a member of Hawkwind, knew that whilst it was their most commercial record, that it would start controversy as soon as the IRA bombed Harrods, as during the early 1970s, most of the bombings were car bombs near shops and businesses. Robert Calvert, who wrote and sung the track, was really fascinated by terrorism and guerrilla warfare, with this song in particular being based around the Angry Brigade, a British far-left militant group that targeted embassies, British MPs and ironically enough, the BBC. Whilst this group was indeed making bombs in basements as the song describes, they ended up not being a “people’s debt collector” as there are no recorded deaths from this low-stakes militant group, all of which ended up in jail for property damage. With that said, it’s still pretty morbid material to make this happy a song about, with some bright electric guitar riffs powered by a cheesy vocal performance from Calvert that ultimately just makes the song seem dated and awkward, especially in the mixing department, but the riffs and groove are still there and to be fair, “Let’s not talk of love and flowers and things that don’t explode” is a pretty great lyric. Hawkwind are still going today with just one of the original members and their legacy is far beyond this promptly-withdrawn cut that the band suspects was banned mostly because their record label, United Artists, didn’t want to become a victim of an IRA bombing themselves.
Politics didn’t get in the way only during the Troubles – everyone’s heard the story about the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” and how it was robbed of its #1 spot during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, but I’m not going to die on any hill defending John Lydon especially nowadays. “Anarchy in the UK” is easily the best of their hits anyways, and at this point both the BBC and the NME fully admit that that it was #1 that week. “God Save the Queen” was far from the last song to be cut from airplay due to British politics; in 1981, how dare Heaven 17 sing about a “Fascist Groove Thang”, as if they didn’t make up two-thirds of Parliament? “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” was banned during the Falklands War, of course, but during the Gulf War, just like Clear Channel following 9/11, the BBC decided to pull the plug on many a timely hit. These included some obvious bans like Blondie’s “Atomic”, Cher’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”, Edwin Starr’s anti-war anthem “War” and perhaps the most blindingly obvious song to ban, The Cure’s “Killing an Arab”, which is actually based on a novel and not any kind of war, but considering Western soldiers were taking the instructions of the song’s title tenfold, it seemed insensitive. It also led to some bizarre bans like Massive Attack changing their name to Massive or ending airplay for The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian”, The Cranberries’ “Zombie” or The Beatles’ “Back in the USSR”, its namesake crumbling at the time. That time was also a time of... raves.
Big Beats at the Beeb
“Ebeneezer Goode” – The Shamen
Peaked at #1 in 1992
This is actually the first and only #1 hit I’ll be discussing in-depth, and it represents a whole lot of fascinating trends in British youth culture arising from the Second Summer of Love onwards, specifically the rise of early 1990s rave culture. The rise of acid house correlated with the availability of ecstasy and other psychedelic drugs amongst youth in Britain and led to many a spaced-out party in which party-goers danced to bass-heavy electronic dance music that was later known as a “rave”, often separated from the legal club scene as they’re organised in a DIY fashion, known as a “free party”, without all of the restrictions from legal clubs. Both the noise levels and people are illegally high, and naturally by 1994, the government had prohibited “the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”. Yes, really. Before rave was in legislation and law enforcement could crack down on their organisation, rave was a massive scene in the UK and Europe known for its innovation in electronic dance music, specifically in house, techno and especially breakbeat. I can’t go through everything about that now because it would take hours to explain and discuss the innovations being made within dance music in Britain at the time and that’s not the purpose of this write-up, so instead, how about a novelty single from a dance act whose second album was called In Gorbachev We Trust? “Ebeneezer Goode” is one of the dying remains of “toy-town techno”, a fad in electronic dance music that created some genuine hits out of sampling children’s entertainment, of which Smart E’s and their song “Sesame’s Treet” is probably the most well-known. Regardless, the Prodigy got the most blame, as Mixmag infamously questioned if “Charly” killed rave. Whilst it obviously didn’t cause the crackdown on raves and the anti-establishment nature of dance music raved on, and it clearly didn’t stop people from making dance music, it did open some floodgates for painfully unfunny novelty singles like, I don’t know, “A Trip to Trumpton”. This song by The Shamen, formerly an alternative rock act, features rap verses about the effects of ecstasy and is one of those unfunny novelties, with some of the most basic and cheesy synths of the entire 90s. You could find me enjoying much of the toytown techno of that era or at least appreciating its influence on happy hardcore, but “Ebeneezer Goode” in all its corny lack of subtlety probably deserved to be banned. For the record, I don’t think that’s because its chorus is a mantra repeating that “E’s are good”, rather because it is just an irritating peace of house-pop and probably one of the earliest examples of it. Mr. C claims that some people are still in disbelief of its psychedelic content but I can’t see how anyone doesn’t see through whatever shred of wit exists here. If the song was really about rugs not drugs as he jokingly claimed, it might have been a more interesting song.
That wasn’t even the first rave hit to be banned, as D-Mob’s “We Call It Acieeed” faced similar scrutiny for its drug references earlier in 1988. That hit #3, actually lower on the chart than our next and final controversy, which was actually first sparked in 1988. That year, legendary rapper Kool Keith threatened in the song “Give the Drummer Some”, credited to his group of Ultramagentic MC’s, to change his pitch up and...
“Smack My Bitch Up” – The Prodigy
Peaked at #8 in 1997
The Prodigy are a legendary electronic group, possibly best known for popularising hardcore breakbeats in the mainstream by combining them with the punk and metal energy that led them to see great success in not just the dance and pop scenes but attracting rock and alternative listeners to their brand of aggressive and volatile dance music. There’s nothing more aggressive and volatile than smacking one’s bitch up, I suppose, and Kool Keith’s ode to pimping is repeated ad nauseam in the final single from The Prodigy’s greatest album, The Fat of the Land. Kool Keith, for the record, did go on to censor the lyrics to “Give the Drummer Some” to remove the offending lyrics in a remix, but it didn’t stop The Prodigy from sampling the original bar and turning it into a rather tasteless chorus that, stripped of its context, seems to promote domestic violence. It didn’t help that the video featured cocaine sniffing and sexual assault, but as Liam Howlett said, there was a realness to the video as people of all generations have had awful nights out off of their heads from alcohol and hard drugs. The video may be hyperbolically offensive but when the song is called “Smack My Bitch Up”, what else is there to lose? The band continued to back-track and claim that smacking your bitch up can be equated to doing “anything intensely” which we all know is nonsense considering the lyrics of the original and how the video decidedly refuses to re-contextualise the hook. It still sold records because, of course it did, it’s The Prodigy and therefore television and radio stations liked to remix the track in order to emit some offending words. BBC Radio 1, for example, played an instrumental, which was one of the best things about the development of electronic music in the eyes of the censors: anything could be emitted with a couple buttons. Personally, I think the song is insanely dull and if I’m going to choose a hit from that album, it is absolutely the killer rave anthem that is “Breathe” (that one topped the chart, by the way), since most of the energy in “Smack My Bitch Up” comes from irritating synth tones coating the entire track in some of the worst-aged production The Prodigy have ever incorporated into their music. It still led to some funny situations, such as when despite all the BBC radio bans on the content, a remix of the song played with the offending line intact during Top of the Pops whilst they were counting down the top 10, which included this track.
That’s not the last time that the BBC banned a song. In response to the controversy surrounding “Smack My Bitch Up”, a spokesperson claimed that they don’t ban records anymore, two years before they banned Linda McCartney’s posthumous #56 hit “The Light Comes from Within” for profanity in 1999. Paul McCartney campaigned for the song to be unbanned out of respect for his late wife, the response from BBC Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles being pretty blunt ageism, which should prove that censorship is not always if ever in the listener’s best interest. Just last year, the public decided to buy a particularly derisive song about current Prime Minister Boris Johnson that Christmas that was conveniently not mentioned by name on BBC Radio 1. At the end of the day, corporations and massive companies own popular music and the industry surrounding it, and what they do sticks, even if with the rise of digital downloads and more recently streaming services, we as the public have more choice in what becomes a hit song than ever before, for better or for worse. The days of blanket-bans on what music we as consumers can listen to are far from gone in the UK and if anything have gotten easier. In the late 2010s, law enforcement, specifically London’s Metropolitan Police, targeted UK drill videos online and requested them to be deleted for promoting violence, because music that speaks to reality scares both those trained to avoid it and those privileged enough never to experience it.
With all that said, I hope this more experimental write-up was interesting and gave some insight into the days where radio was important with some of my own personal commentary slipped in there. Oh, and for legal reasons, I’d like to clarify: E’s are not, in fact, good, and we here at REVIEWING THE CHARTS do not endorse smacking one’s bitch up. Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next weekend for your usual programming.
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 10/07/2021 (Brent Faiyaz & Drake, D-Block Europe)
Fair warning: This week, we’re treated to a lot of football anthems and rap songs, so if you’re not strapped in for a... decidedly heterosexual episode, this may not be a worthwhile read. Speaking of decidedly heterosexual, Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits” is actually #1 for a second week after its debut last week and welcome back to a filler week on REVIEWING THE CHARTS!
I guess we’ll start with the drop-outs of which on a filler week we actually have a couple more than I expected. A notable drop-out is a song exiting the UK Top 75 – which I cover – after spending at least five weeks in the region or peaking in the top 40. Other than some debuts from last week, including “Talk of the Town” by Fredo and most of Tyler, The Creator, exiting the chart this week are “Solar Power” by Lorde after only three weeks, “Life Goes On” by PS1 featuring Alex Hosking, “Your Power” by Billie Eilish, “Beautiful Mistakes” by Maroon 5 featuring Megan Thee Stallion and finally, #2 hit “WITHOUT YOU” by The Kid LAROI after 31 ungodly weeks, and considering I’ve been writing this show consistently in this format for every single one of them, I’m kind of sad to see it go. I’ll talk about The Mid YAOI by the end of the year anyway.
For now, it’s best to look at our notable fallers, songs decreasing by at least five spots from last week, wherein we have “You Right” by Doja Cat and The Weeknd off the debut at #15, alongside “Kiss Me More” featuring SZA from the same album at #20 and while we’re here, “Ain’t It” is at #43. We also saw drops for “Wow” by Tion Wayne at #50 (which is a shame, since it’s hilarious), “Peaches” by Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon at #52, “Dinero” by Trinidad Cardona at #58 off of the debut, “WUSYANAME” by Tyler, The Creator featuring YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Ty Dolla $ign unfortunately collapsing to #60 as the album fails to linger as much as Doja’s, “ZITTI E BUONI” by Maneskin at #67 (although much better than their other hits), “RAPSTAR” by Polo G at #68, “Your Love (9PM)” by ATB, Topic and A7S at #70, “Rollin’” by MIST featuring Burna Boy at #71 off of the debut, “Astronaut in the Ocean” by Masked Wolf at #72 (though I reassure you, it’s not losing sales, just putting its gains in slow motion) and finally, Nathan Evans’ “Wellerman” as remixed by 220 KID and Billen Ted at #75.
As always, what’s more fascinating is what comes around to replace it and we’ll cover the returning entries in a bit but as for notable gains, we do have some interesting climbers this week, like “Mirror” by Sigrid at #64, “Late at Night” by Roddy Ricch at #63, “All Eyes on Me” by Bo Burnham surging up to #49 because, of course, it’s 2021, “BED” by Joel Corry, RAYE and David Guetta at #32, “Leave Before You Love Me” by Marshmello and the Jonas Brothers at #28, “Fly Away” by Tones and I at #25 and finally, “Black Magic” by JONASU making a legitimate run for the top 10 as it peaks at #14 this week. This could be a hit, and I honestly can’t say I’m upset with that.
It’s within that top 10 that we see the second pandemic the United Kingdom has had to face this year: football. As the 2020 EUROs – named as if 2021 is a re-do – continue to show England’s national team has at least some prowess or maybe just luck, the football anthems are streamed in celebration, giving me a chance to not only talk about our returning entries but also discuss some pop music history, which is never not interesting until it isn’t all that interesting. Returning to the chart at #61 this week, we have “World in Motion” by ENGLANDneworder, or just New Order, as this is the legendary electronic group’s only #1 in the UK, performed alongside members of the English national football team circa the 1990 World Cup, as well as comedian Keith Allen for whatever reason. The song was originally written for the campaign and was described by New Order themselves as “the last straw for Joy Division fans”, which is about the same joke I had prepared for this one, although it doesn’t stray away from some unsubtle ecstasy references as a result of it being a 1990 dance hit in the UK. Interestingly, Gary Lineker wasn’t actually present in the song because he had his OWN football single that nobody remembers. I’m glad that he’s absent given that they would have made him do John Barnes’ rap otherwise, because, yes, there’s a rap verse and it’s probably the most remembered part of the single. It’s actually a pretty well-constructed single for what it is although explicitly being made for football, unlike Neil Diamond’s 1969 classic “Sweet Caroline”, returning 50 years after it hit #8 in 1971, as it joins back at #48. Ignoring the fact that Neil Diamond’s from New York, the song has a long recent history in English sports, because, I mean, have you heard the song? It’s one of the most anthemic pop singles ever recorded, and ironically enough, it was initially adopted by Northern Ireland after winning against England. It’s mostly as high as it is because of two impromptu performances of the song by the audience in the games England won against both Germany and Denmark, with their manager calling it a “belter”. The song’s about John F. Kennedy’s then-nine-year-old daughter Caroline but I guess it’s one of those songs that means nothing other than its “vibe” or connotations at this point.
Also re-entering at #36 is “Vindaloo”, an irritating #2-peaking single by “Fat Les”, a band formed in 1998 for the sake of stringing out a racist joke from the year earlier as long as possible and making it some kind of wholesome anthem for a multicultural Britain as it celebrates the World Cup. Funnily enough, Keith Allen also wrote this one alongside members of Blur, and was pipped at the post that year by “Three Lions”, another collaboration between Britpop and comedy, performed by David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and the Lightning Seeds, which fittingly surges up to #4 on this week’s chart, not deservedly so exactly because the song still sucks but at least anyone living in England can tell you with cheaply-justified hope that it’s coming home, it’s coming home. Not only that but it’s getting a vinyl reissue that should make sure this tops the chart once again. The song’s historical importance can’t exactly be denied and it’s something I’ve discussed on this show before, so how about we move onto some new arrivals that end up sounding just as heterosexual? That’s just the word I’m going to use for these songs today but you’ll get exactly what I mean if we most if not all of this.
#73 – “Renegade” – Big Red Machine featuring Taylor Swift
Produced by Aaron Dessner
This, however, is a bit of a curveball, as I had no idea who Big Red Machine were and how the hell they got a Taylor Swift feature until I found out that it’s just Aaron Dessner of The National and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, both of which have collaborated extensively with Swift this past year, this being the first single by either of them featuring Taylor instead of vice versa and by “featuring”, I mean she sings the entire song with some backing from Vernon. As much as I can say folklore and especially its follow-up evermore were kind of hit-and-miss albums for me, this is a pretty excellent folk song about the frustrations that can come with being in a relationship with someone struggling with their mental health, as anxious, clicking percussion perfectly represents alongside some folksy guitar strumming throughout that make this song pretty excellently layered amongst all the other subtle effects around Taylor’s voice as she harmonises with Bon Iver about being in that middle place where you’re unsure whether to break it off or not. Swift shows nothing but pity and even asks how insensitive her chorus is in order not to break her partner entirely, whilst also questioning whether it’s worth pursuing a relationship so clearly held back by anxiety and depression. Is there really a place for Taylor in this person’s life? Whilst I wish there was more to the bridge, the final chorus still has those gorgeous backing harmonies and strings that clutter the track even more, especially within that outro as whilst there’s not exactly interplay, Vernon and Taylor sing different melodies and conflicting hooks, really getting into the claustrophobic mindset of both someone with too many choices regarding the relationship as they calculate the pros and cons as well as the subject as they attempt to make room for someone they don’t want to lose as everything else drifts away from them. I didn’t expect to get that much out of this single but it’s a pretty freaking brilliant song, so I’m glad it’s here – and that’s all for sincerity and in-depth analysis, folks, as whilst all art is equal, the passion isn’t, starting with...
#69 – “SWERVE” – JAY1 and KSI
Produced by Trobi and Diztortion
Well, I’ll say this – the placement fits the content like a glove, as British rapper JAY1 legitimises KSI for a collaborative single in the same vein of a “Strike a Pose” or similar Afrobeats-tinged pop-rap single from the past couple year about sexy women because it seems that KSI’s stuck with all of them. You know you can donate, JJ. JAY1 unintentionally masturbates and flubs rhymes whilst KSI hops on the second verse for some trite OnlyFans wordplay and you’d think a YouTuber would have a better mic. Regardless, he’s “hella horny like a rhino watching porn”, “chews it like a Chewit” and compares ejaculation to hitting someone’s mother in the face... wait, what? Okay, well, at least it’s short and I can’t say there isn’t some vague groove to the bass here, but I can’t help but think neither rapper decided to be all that coherent on this one.
#59 – “Olé (We Are England)” – Krept & Konan, S1lva and M1llionz featuring Morrisson
Produced by Show N Prove
Apparently, this is the official anthem for England’s 2020 EUROs campaign, in which they get five British rappers over a drill beat because, well, England, all getting them to spit some football bars. Is anyone else confused by rappers who will constantly talk about the flaws in the system that lead them down a road of violence and drug trafficking suddenly showing up to celebrate their country? I guess nationalism is sort of ingrained in football – and more pop music than we’d like to admit – but regardless, it seems out of character. Also, if this is so official, why is Krept talking about a girl giving him throat? Why’s Morrisson talking about shooting people and cocaine? To be fair, for an official football anthem, it goes pretty hard with that triumphant vocal sample drowned out by really thundering 808s as all rappers have some pretty traditional flows but energy and charisma the England team should be proud of, especially Konan here. S1lva especially, despite being the least known rapper on this, delivers some pretty funny lines about his Brazilian origin that makes his victims scream out “Olé” and overall has a tad more tact and flow than the messy and honestly flimsy deliveries from both Morrisson and M1llionz, who just sound kind of out of breath. It’s a tad long at four minutes, but I could see this going off, although personally I hope to never be in a situation where it does.
#55 – “You for Me” – Sigala and Rita Ora
Produced by Sigala
This is a song originally written by Charli XCX and produced by Easyfun and A.G. Cook, but because God hates us, the officially released version is by Sigala with vocals from Rita Ora. To be fair, that demo is making the rounds and it’s not particularly unique, although it definitely has that very robotic Charli charm and at least remains some of its hyperpop origin and backing, with this fully-realised version going full-on house, as Rita Ora sounds even more robotic than the number one angel herself. We have those 90s pianos, throaty vocal performance and anti-climactic drop flooded by a mix that ends up sounding as manufactured as possible. To be fair to Sigala, the synth tone on that drop sounds pretty great and Rita Ora’s clearly imitating some of Charli’s inflections to her best attempt, so this really isn’t bad, just a bit tired, almost exhaustingly so. We’ve heard it before and we’ll hear it again.
#54 – “Big Shark” – Russ Millions
Produced by J1 GTB and Rxckson
So you’re saying the two rappers behind the biggest drill song of all time and #1 song in the country for plenty weeks are now sitting next to each other on the chart within the #50 range? Okay, well, to be fair, the song’s name is in itself an obscure reference to a DM that leaked in which Stefflon Don rejected a Russ Millions feature on a remix because whilst he may get views, so does “Baby Shark”. Naturally, he responds by in the first verse by saying he’ll have sex with her before asking for forgiveness from Allah because she’s with Burna Boy. This sounds a lot more comical than most drill, relying on a strings sample distorted to the point where it’s almost an electric guitar as well as pounding bass – seriously, that 808 is LOUD – as well as Russ Millions’ natural charisma, of which he has very little. It’s almost surprising you can hear some of his violence and sex raps over the heavy bass, and since he’s pretty uninteresting, it absolutely decreases the song’s impact but I can’t say this jerky drill beat doesn’t bang when it wants to, and Russ’ flow on that second verse is pretty great. He does, however, say he “mashes up vagina”, and that just happens to be one of the few lines I can actually hear so good job, mixing, for covering up everything except what needed to be obscured. This won’t be the last follow-up single from any of the nine rappers on the “Body” remix we see charting, and isn’t the first, but I think it may be the worst so far.
#44 – “Talk About” – Rain Radio and DJ Craig Gorman
Produced by DJ Craig Norman, Billen Ted, Robbie Yates and Yjneb Nosbig
Now this one is making moves in the EDM scene and actually has some interesting story behind it, or at least the sample used, which is actually from long-forgotten pop girl of the 2000s, Nelly Furtado, specifically her underrated 2012 single “Big Hoops (Bigger than Better)”, which is how she and Darkchild have writing credits. Despite an odd and grating performance from Furtado, the forward-thinking, bassy and pretty janky electronic production sounds pretty great even now. I mean, it’s no “Say it Right”, especially without Timbaland, but I think it at least deserved to enter the Hot 100, peaking at #14 over here in the UK. My favourite Nelly Furtado single is “Do It”, because of and not in spite of the plagiarism, though I’m glad they didn’t sample that considering the legal ramifications... although that could make a killer house track. Instead, they have Tita Lau essentially cover “Big Hoops” over a bassy house beat not unlike 90s deep house but without those cheap pianos, instead some more ambiance and flat-sounding percussion working as the foundation for Lau somehow sounding more infuriating than Furtado’s original. I mean, this doesn’t sound awful, and it’s not unlike slap-house to make new renditions of older songs, but I’m kind of out of the loop on how this one got big. Moving on...
#40 – “Kevin McCallister” – D-Block Europe featuring Lil Pino
Produced by OUHBOY
Okay, I’ll bite – who’s Kevin McCallister? Well, maybe people who are less uncultured than me would recognise that name, as that’s the character Macaulay Caulkin plays in the classic Home Alone films, referenced here for practically no reason as neither are actually mentioned in the lyrics. This song sees DBE recruit Lil Pino – who’s ostensibly actually part of the group alongside Young Adz and Dirtbike LB – who spits his first verse after his release from prison last December. He has the first verse of three, without a chorus tying it all together, beginning after the DBE tradition of running through all of your ad-libs quietly over reverb-drenched ambiance in the beginning of the song, over a flute loop this time around which is completely unrecognisable by the time it drops, although does sound pretty great when it hops in and out this watery trap percussion. The content is your typical drugs, sex and violence, as well as a heavy amount of flexing, although Lil Pino switching up his flow shows a genuine attempt to improve, probably due to his time in prison, which I can respect. Dirtbike LB, coming afterwards, sounds constipated when he comes in and exhausted when he comes out, with his flow never stabilising... and then, like a man yelling “SKI!” in a London council estate, Young Adz saves the day with a janky but endearing flow that is really playful over the beat. He brings some unique, vaguely comical lyricism as you’d expect from Adz, as codeine falls on his liver, he dates girls who are lawyers whilst also dealing crack and he’s got a Jeep that feels like a bus. I think I unironically like Adz a lot nowadays, considering he has the best flow here and absolutely the most interesting bars, sounding himself over the beat, which essentially means he’s simultaneously over-confident and bizarrely shy whilst coated in a cheap layer of Auto-Tune. The song just ends after that, which I think is fitting, and yeah, that’s D-Block Europe for you. I think DIrtbike LB is being outshone as quickly as possible by even his guests, but I suppose I’ll have to wait for the conclusion to the DBE saga when they release their new album. This chapter, however, is just passable.
#34 – “Wasting Time” – Brent Faiyaz featuring Drake
Produced by The Neptunes
Chad Hugo of The Neptunes works as the mediator of Pharrell’s wizardry, as is particularly clear when Pharrell Williams produces himself and goes in bonkers directions. Thankfully, they’re back collaborating for an R&B cut just like it’s the mid-2000s, with the cover art even representing the old Bathing Ape-style design that represents this era. Like much of our gains this week, I can’t actually see this really lasting as whilst it’s not bad at all, this is a slow, five-minute track chock full of more Brent Faiyaz than it is Drake, as Faiyaz chips in abruptly after the gorgeous strings intro alongside some static percussion with an immensely groovy bass... although like the last single with Tyler, The Creator, Brent Faiyaz is not giving his voice enough space in this claustrophobic production, especially since we have an aggravating squeaking vocal sample and despite all the beautiful harmonies, not really a recognisable hook here. To be fair, with this style of R&B, it’s more about the emotion of the lyrics and performance than it is the chorus, and whilst Brent Faiyaz can obviously sell a longing, desperate display of affection incredibly passionately, I’m not sure Drake can without sounding pathetic... so he just kind of rambles and that works a lot better, with some complex rhyme schemes and weaving in a lot of pop culture references, including this clever chess theme across the verse and rapping in a way that reminds me of that nostalgic late 2000s and early 2010s era of pop-rap, even down to corny lines like “when I was an actor, I couldn’t clean up my act”... or at least that’s what I thought he said. He actually says “Acura” there, but I like my version better. It’s more of a Drake line than the genuine article. Whilst Drake’s verse is impeccable, it still finds itself over production that just chugs along at a snail’s pace whilst also sounding pretty messy, almost as if Chad Hugo wasn’t there to clean things up until the last minute and all he did was make sure it never goes anywhere. Also, Drake, I love the flow of when you say this but why exactly would you flush your condoms? You say so that they don’t collect your specimen, but what exactly does that entail? The Genius annotation just says, hilariously enough, that he’s doing it “so nobody can extract Drake’s semen for nefarious purpose”, which is the best sentence I’ve read all day. What nefarious purpose, exactly? You’re a fully grown man, so I really don’t see a reason to hide the fact you had completely safe, consensual and protected sex. Whatever the reason is, it’s clearly not stopping you from ditching the Magnums entirely on occasion.
Well, this was a mixed bag and I think “heterosexual” is still the best way to describe it, although it doesn’t mean there isn’t some good stuff here, as “Renegade” by Big Red Machine featuring Taylor Swift obviously gets Best of the Week, with an Honourable Mention to... I guess Brent Faiyaz and Drake for “Wasting Time”, although I’m not that big a fan. Worst of the Week could go to pretty much anything here but I’ll give it to Russ Millions for “Big Shark”, with a Dishonourable Mention to “Talk About” by Rain Radio and DJ Craig Gorman, both peculiarly awful and lazy tracks of their respective genres. Regardless, here’s this week’s top 10:
It’ll be another filler week next week but we will see impacts of certain artists come flooding in soon enough, so be prepared for that. For now, thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 03/07/2021 (Tyler The Creator, Doja Cat, Ed Sheeran #1)
It feels like the routine on this Summer’s chart has been a busy week and a filler week and then the cycle repeats, which is something I dread on the Friday evening but honestly kind of a refreshing schedule – it’s not like I dislike writing this every week. This week especially seems promising but not really for the #1 as Ed Sheeran debuts at the top with his newest single “Bad Habits”, giving him his 10th UK chart-topper, tied with Eminem and Calvin Harris for the sixth most ever. This streak of #1s started in 2014 with “Sing”, with his latest before this week being 2020’s “Own It”, a collaboration with Stormzy and Burna Boy. We’ll discuss “Bad Habits” more later as it gives Ed his 41st week on top, replacing Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u”, because there’s a lot more to discuss on this week’s REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
There are 13 new arrivals this week and with that comes a whole lot of movement within the UK Top 75, which is what I cover for historical purpose but mostly convenience. A lot of songs that probably would have survived became victim to circumstance – or just ACR, look it up – as our list of notable drop-outs contains many songs that spent more than five weeks on the chart or peaked in the top 40, including “Need to Know” by Doja Cat surprisingly not rebounding from the album, “Meant to Be” by Stay Flee Get Lizzy featuring Fredo and Central Cee, “Sunshine (The Light)” by Fat Joe, DJ Khaled and Amorphous, “Little More Love” by AJ Tracey, “Cover Me in Sunshine” by P!nk and Willow Sage Heart, “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” by Fred again.. and The Blessed Madonna, “Starstruck” by Years & Years, “Anywhere Away from Here” by Rag’n’Bone Man and P!nk, “Nice to Meet Ya” by Wes Nelson featuring Yxng Bane, “Black Hole” by Griff (to both my surprise and dismay) and finally, “Don’t You Worry About Me” by Bad Boy Chiller Crew. I feel like these songs were mostly gaining but were too slow to catch up with our new slew of arrivals.
With that in mind, we also have plenty of notable losses, dropping five spots or more from last week, like “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat featuring SZA at #14 which would have had an album boost if not for ACR – it’s a ridiculous and convoluted rule – dropping alongside “Confetti” by Little Mix at #18, “Body” by Russ Millions and Tion Wayne at #23, “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles at #31, “Believe Me” by Navos at #36, “BED” by Joel Corry, RAYE and David Guetta at #37, “Let’s Go Home Together” by Ella Henderson and Tom Grennan at #38, “Summer 91 (Looking Back)” by Noizu at #39, “Little Bit of Love” by Tom Grennan at #41, “Wow” by Tion Wayne at #44, “Way Too Long” by Nathan Dawe, Anne-Marie and MoStack at #47, “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd still here at #51, “Head & Heart” by Joel Corry and MNEK at #55, “Astronaut in the Ocean” by Masked Wolf rolling down in the deep at #57, “RAPSTAR” by Polo G at #58, “Wellerman” by Nathan Evans and remixed by 220 KID and Billen Ted at #61, “Lost Cause” by Billie Eilish at #63, “Life Goes On” by PS1 and Alex Hosking at #64, “The Business” by Tiesto at #65, “Solar Power” by Lorde at #66, “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals at #68, “Late at Night” by Roddy Ricch at #69 (for the song’s content, nice), “Welcome to the Internet” by Bo Burnham surprisingly still on the chart at #71 (more on him later) and finally, “WITHOUT YOU” by The Kid LAROI dying off at #73.
We do have some movement upwards on the chart, starting with our sole returning entry and a bizarre one at that with “Mirror” by Sigrid returning for a second week at #72, and now our notable gains, songs moving up at least five spots from last week. We don’t have that many, but they are here, and pretty strange gains, not ones I’m sure are really worth the attention, but we do have “Leave Before You Love Me” by Marshmello and the Jonas Brothers entering the top 40 at #35 alongside “Fly Away” by Tones and I at #33 (her first top 40 since “Dance Monkey” – yes, really) as well as “Black Magic” by JONASU at #30, his first ever and a pretty good showing for a first charting single. We also have the expected continued gain for “3 Lions” by David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and the Lightning Seeds at #22 and a good showing for “Remember” by Becky Hill and David Guetta off of the debut at #16. Also, “By Your Side” by Calvin Harris featuring Tom Grennan enters the top 10 at #10. Now we’ve covered all of the movement – of which there was a lot to cover – it’s time to review these new arrivals, but we won’t be getting to the biggest stories for a while. Instead, we’re starting with...
#70 – “All Eyes on Me” – Bo Burnham
Produced by Bo Burnham
I’ve talked about “Welcome to the Internet” a couple weeks ago, and to repeat my sentiment on Burnham as a whole: He’s missed me entirely and these two songs are actually the first I’ve heard of his work. I haven’t seen Inside but the Netflix comedy special seems to be gaining a lot of consistent attention, seemingly on TikTok for the most part, so we get a second song debuting this week about his anxiety about performing on stage as well as addressing the ego that comes with being a performer as he speaks directly to the audience. The song outside of its context makes Burnham seem kind of unlikeable but that’s to be expected when I have no idea what character this is supposed to be playing, so I’m really just thankful that the song has an actual structure, as Burnham croons in his deep, synthesized voice in a song that’s honestly more of a pop song than you’d expect from a musical comedy. Sadly, I can’t really stand the vague trap-esque percussion, even if it is muffled behind the brooding synths and canned laughter. The little interlude sketch is pretty slow pace-wise and doesn’t really contribute much to the song other than a sense of realism to the otherwise theatrical content – I mean, the third verse is full of cryptic pandemic references – but God, out of the context of the special, this is just a five-minute slog that does little to develop itself outside of a demo or song idea, so by the time what sound like guitars come in during that final chorus, the song abruptly—
#67 – “Thot Stuff” – Megan Thee Stallion
Produced by OG Parker and LilJuMadeDaBeat
The song’s not called “Thot Stuff” but, come on, Megan, REVIEWING THE CHARTS is a family show. With that said, this song is pretty incredible – sure, I could do with more than one line repeated in that mind-numbing chorus, but just like “Body”, the three verses make up for it in spades as she delivers quotable lines mostly taking ownership of her own sexuality and what it means to be a “thot”, with some pretty damn funny lyrics being unapologetically Megan and not caring about what others, specifically men, seem to think. Some of my favourites include when she says she walks around the house and stops at every mirror just to admire her own posterior, how she’s like a doctor because she’s ordering CCs (a lot of layers to that one) and really the entirety of that relentless third verse. Relentless is the best way to describe this song, really, as Megan rarely stops her constant brag-rap delivered with utmost confidence over a grimy Dirty South beat (with some great echoing vocal samples), only giving time to... Pardison Fontaine of all people. The energy in this can’t really be denied, and there’s a lot of power to this given how lifeless this beat would be with pretty much anyone else on it. I doubt it’ll be a hit over here, but I hope it at least sticks around past this week.
#56 – “Rollin’” – MIST featuring Burna Boy
Produced by Fred again.. and Toddla T
MIST is a Birmingham rapper that was pretty successful around 2018 and 2019 but I feel I haven’t talked about in a while. I actually really liked his songs “Savage” and “So High” with Fredo but his voice has never been the most powerful or really recognisable in British rap so pairing him with Nigerian song-stealer Burna Boy feels like a recipe for overshadowing MIST, especially if neither are actually going to be on chorus duty, instead sending that away to a sample of Donell Jones’ #2 hit “U Know What’s Up” from 1999. Like a lot of that era of R&B, it’s pretty forgettable but does feature a guest verse from Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes from TLC. In fact, the original song is decidedly unsubtle, with his second verse describing how he “feels a bone coming on”, but without a good chorus, and without the verses from Pharaohe Monch, Terror Squad and Xzibit of all people on the “rap remix” (which is genuinely kind of good), the song’s completely unmemorable. Naturally, Fred again.. and Toddla T heard the least catchy R&B hit of the late 90s and decided it was appropriate to sample not the chorus but the first verse whilst repeating the vocals in a pretty annoying way over a sub-par Afroswing beat that pushes Donell Jones – and all the vocalist for that matter – way too towards the front in the mix. There’s this really loud string loop that comes in to make everything indecipherable until a really awkward transition to the chorus and... yeah, this is worthless. At least Burna Boy delivers a pretty interesting falsetto flow, but even that is mixed so questionably that there’s not really any point in giving it praise. Without that vocal sample, the outro feels so bare as the instrumental just rides out for no other reason than to shove producer tags in here, and what a disastrous song. Maybe that goes to show that if the song you’re sampling isn’t all that interesting, the product will have to under- or over-estimate how reliant it can be on said sample. In this case, it’s irritatingly overestimated but knowing my luck, this’ll be in the top 20 in two weeks.
#53 – “CORSO” – Tyler, The Creator
Produced by Tyler, The Creator
Okay, so our first big album bomb this week – or as much as the UK Singles Chart’s “three-songs-per-artist” rule will allow – is from California rapper Tyler, The Creator, who, with his sixth studio album CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST delivered on the production and energy but in my opinion, not much else. Thankfully, the songs debuting this week are for the most part good – and not nine minutes – but as a whole, the record felt a lot looser in terms of narrative and therefore less engaging than his last two albums, two that I hold in very high regard. This new full-length feels like it’s constantly caught between telling some kind of story in Tyler’s typical neo-soul sound or deciding just to flex over hardcore and grimy rap beats, of which this song falls into. When a whole lot of the content here is uber-rich lifestyles depicted with a lot less nuance than it usually would be coming from Tyler, the more emotional and introspective content feels a lot more detached and whilst with more spins, it could definitely grow on me – an album with that good of a Lil Wayne verse being this inconsistent is practically an insult – but for now, I just think it pales in comparison to Flower Boy or even IGOR, which grew on me immensely after listening. If you read my episodes at the time of that album release, you’d find that I was not a fan of songs like “I THINK” at all. I ramble about this album’s quality here mostly because the more rap-heavy cuts on here give me less to say, with “CORSO” being the first full track on the album and of course having the video and ending up here as a result. Whilst I love the nostalgic DJ Drama yelling, it does cut into the concept of having an actual hook here, which a lot of the record is lacking in comparison to other projects. DJ Drama describes Tyler’s verses as “clips” and it’s difficult for me to think that doesn’t ring true, since whilst filled with pretty smooth wordplay at times, they tend to stray off into different topics without much of a cohesive drive or intent behind them. Instrumentally, the song is a chaotic CHERRY BOMB-esque collection of jazzy segues punctuated with explosive, distorted hardcore drums and a layering of obnoxious sound effects. The third verse is the best here, staying on topic of the album’s narrative whilst building up gradually with the quirky synths we know Tyler for alongside piano noodling and some gorgeous strings that lead into the wonderful “Can you turn the noise up?” refrain that honestly might leave some of my critiques redundant... except for when he says that she left his heart “twerking”, which is a pretty bizarrely awful line for Tyler honestly. With all that said, I can’t deny the groove here and it’s far from one of the most boring or messier tracks off of the record, so I’m glad it’s debuted this high, although it absolutely won’t stick around.
#50 – “Dinero” – Trinidad Cardona
Produced by Willstrumentals and D’Mile
Trinidad Cardona is an R&B singer from Arizona who blew up with this Latin-infused bilingual breakout hit, mostly big on TikTok, about a partner who, despite Trinidad Cardona struggling for cash at the time, still wants him to spend all of his money on her. It starts off so well, with a pretty guitar line as well as some bright horns and typical Latin pianos before it devolves quickly into moombahton because there can’t be any good in this world. It reminds me of those brostep songs that were essentially a lot more interesting and better EDM song before those wub-wubs came in. I do like Cardona’s voice and the content doesn’t really go into much detail for my taste but does switch flows a few times pretty slickly throughout the only rap verse, delivered over a trap beat because of course it is. The messy vocoder bridge only leads awkwardly into another chorus where everything more organic about this, even Cardona’s voice, is drowned in this ugly, bass-heavy groove that just doesn’t work over the prettier and fluttery instrumental otherwise presented here. This really feels like a song that could have delivered a lot more, but I can absolutely see this charting high, even if it’s partly in Spanish, which isn’t all too common on the UK Singles Chart.
#49 – “Pound Signs” – Headie One
Produced by ESTheProducer and LikkleDotz
Before we get back to Tyler, we have another single from British rapper Headie One, one I find really consistent in quality, but particularly when he’s on his calmer pop-rap vibe, which is not displayed here, as Headie returns to the hardcore drill sound for this single that debuted at #49 despite a considerable amount of hype, as Headie actually released the instrumental for the song in order for aspiring rappers on TikTok to remix the track, which is honestly kind of an awesome idea. Sadly, this instrumental isn’t all that interesting, being a typical drill beat with booming 808s, staggered hi-hats and some subtle melodic lines in the back of the mix. Headie One himself has a lot of energy as always and his recognisable voice does lead to some more interesting lyrical detail about what the money is doing to him than another rapper would, with some funny wordplay about Susan Boyle of all people, but not enough to really last three minutes, as by the second verse, he sounds exhausted. The song could have done with getting rid of that second verse and maybe two of the choruses as it feels like an unfinished song stretched out for no real reason with little of substance, ending on an abrupt bass hit. The song is passable as is and honestly a step up from some of the other drill material I’ve heard from Headie but it could hit a lot harder and faster.
#48 – “LUMBERJACK” – Tyler, The Creator
Produced by Tyler, The Creator
It’s a bit of a misleading statement to say that this is produced by Tyler as it owes less to him than it does the Gravediggaz beat the instrumental is based on, adding little to it other than over-the-top absurdity that makes Tyler’s flexing sound a lot less interesting as well as making the song feel like it’s constantly chopping itself up into fractions in the middle of choruses, not that the chorus is particularly memorable other than the line “Shout out to my mother and my father, didn’t pull out”, which is as funny or unique as this flexing really goes on a beat that ends up sounding like a dull demo egregiously using the sample before a lot of record scratching and unnecessary yelling from not only DJ Drama but his former Odd Future companions. Tyler sounds as monotone as possible talking about GRAMMYs and cars, creating this weird contrast between pure laziness and this aggressive maximalist approach that just ends up weakening the song further, if it even qualifies as much of a song. This is absolutely a low point on the album and doesn’t really work better within or removed of its context. We’ll come back to Tyler once again for a high point on the album after moving through a couple more of these new arrivals.
#34 – “Talk of the Town” – Fredo
Produced by Jaiah and Tyrell 169
So it seems that Fredo had enough leftovers from that latest album and is dropping a bunch of loose singles... except this is actually a single from his third studio album set to release this year, of which the “Independence Day Freestyle” which debuted a couple weeks back is now the title track of. This new song uses a really dated, 2015-sounding synth lead to carry its booming trap beat and unlike “Funky Friday” which had a very similar foundation, there’s no interesting chemistry and decidedly less tact to some of Fredo’s typical brand of flexing, gunplay and reminiscing on the days where he was drug trafficking whilst also acknowledging how difficult it was to get out of that situation. To be fair, there is some vaguely fun lyricism here, like when he’s “quicker in her box than Raheem Sterling”, but when the verses are practically indistinguishable from the chorus, I find it really hard to care about any of this. Sorry.
#29 – “Ain’t It” – Doja Cat
Produced by Kurtis McKenzie, Yeti Beats, Rogét Chahayed and tizhimself
Man, female rappers this week are making it really hard for me to stay family-friendly, huh? Well, the song title isn’t “Ain’t It” – use your imagination – but thankfully much like the last, this song is also pretty great, coming off of Doja Cat’s consistently infectious and joyous Planet Her, which with some trimming of the fat and maybe some smoothening of the more rough-around-the-edges R&B cuts, could really have impressed me more than Tyler’s album last week. Unlike a lot of the album, the production isn’t handled by Y2K of bbno$ fame (again, of all people), instead by a roster of four producers that deliver a pretty solid piano-based R&B beat for Doja Cat to deliver a highly-anticipated and –leaked crooning chorus in an eerie if not mocking falsetto. The song is mostly about men that take advantage of their relationships to leech off of their girlfriend, with some pretty funny lines detailing this conflict, in a similar situation to “Dinero” with a lot less moombahton, which is always a positive. The song’s sparkling keys shower the chorus in a lot of sprinkling positivity that contrast the pretty harsh content perfectly, especially when Doja Cat goes pretty manic in the second verse with a wacky delivery and ad-libbed shrieking. Sure, the song doesn’t really go anywhere on a grand scale musically, but for a funny pop-rap cut without a trap beat even, this is welcome on the charts.
#27 – “Learning Curve” – Aitch
Produced by Random and WhYJay
I mean, what do you want me to say? It’s a new Aitch song. This one has a more straightforward, piano-heavy trap beat that really digs its bassline into your head with a pretty simplistic beat that decides to cut out for no reason a lot of the time, even if mostly it sounds good, especially with those crashing sound effects, because Aitch is just that interesting of a rapper that the instrumental can’t handle his wordplay. On a serious note, this is just a boring two minutes of this guy rapping about the typical flex-and-sex you get from Aitch without any likeability or the bounce you get from some other Aitch instrumentals, just producing a basic, cheap track with no real merit outside of it being vaguely catchy.
#25 – “WUSYANAME” – Tyler, The Creator featuring YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Ty Dolla $ign
Produced by Tyler, The Creator
This is YoungBoy’s only appearance in the top 40 in the UK so far, interestingly, as his success seems to be heavily localised to the US. For Tyler’s final entry, we get the most obvious pop crossover, and whilst it’s not my favourite off of the track listing when “RUNITUP” with Teezo Touchdown or “JUGGERNAUT” with Lil Uzi Vert and Pharrell Williams exist, “WUSYANAME” is a pretty solid calmer R&B cut reminding me a lot of the smoother tracks on IGOR or most evidently, the loosie release of “BEST INTEREST”, as we’re treated to a pretty great classic R&B sample that’s actually built upon unlike in “LUMBERJACK” (or “Rollin’”, even). Tyler delivers a pretty hilarious pick-up line to start off the verse, telling a girl that she looks malnourished, and gets his Nelly on as he sing-raps “what’s your name, girlfriend, what’s your name?” With decidedly less DJ Drama and a lot more focus in establishing more of the narrative early on in the album, with some great lines about watching indie movies she’s never heard of, Tyler can deliver the pitched-up crooning pretty convincingly as he harmonises with Ty Dolla $ign on the chorus, cementing his status as a cheat-code feature to add depth and soul to any song. YoungBoy Never Broke Again is YoungBoy Never Broke Again, that’s for sure, and he himself delivers some good vocal melodies even if his verse feels cut short, not that it’s a complaint as the song flies by pretty fast anyway at barely two minutes and he’s pretty clearly the worst part of it, other than the fact that it’s pretty under-developed. Whilst lacking a bridge, which could have easily sounded excellent considering Ty Dolla $ign’s here, the song becomes a high point off of the album through production alone as those glistening keys ride off a typical 90s new jack swing beat and sounds really blissful, but never really coming to a true climax or even building up to it because, well, that comes later on in the album. If I see any Tyler song sticking around, it’s this one – because it has an actual chorus – and God, I sure hope it does.
#9 – “You Right” – Doja Cat and The Weeknd
Produced by Dr. Luke
Whilst Tyler may have more songs on the chart, he debuts at #4 on this week’s UK Albums Chart right behind Doja Cat at #3, and she also has the highest-charting debut besides ol’ Ed boy as the second fully-promoted single from Planet Her that is “coincidentally” also produced by Alleged Rapist Beats debuts with a video as well as an extended remix with another verse on the deluxe edition, which probably gave Doja the edge for the albums chart. Despite the co-lead credit, this is mostly a Doja Cat song mostly about cheating on her partner with The Weeknd because I mean, who wouldn’t given the chance? You’ll never have to work again off of “Blinding Lights” cash alone. The song’s instrumental gives off the spacey, extra-terrestrial R&B vibe that much of the album attempts to carry but ultimately fails in that department whilst still delivering some incessantly catchy hooks. Instead of the typical formula we see from Doja Cat, where the first verse is singing and the second is built up to by a chorus and features a more manic rap verse, we instead replace that with The Weeknd who delivers a smooth verse but little else as we’ve heard much of this sleazy content from him before, and he’s only there for less than 30 seconds, not even bothering to harmonise with Doja on the final chorus or deliver any ad-libs. With that said, it’s still a slick R&B cut that I can see sticking around on name recognition alone, much like...
#1 – “Bad Habits” – Ed Sheeran
Produced by Ed Sheeran, Fred again.. and Johnny McDaid
Okay, so if I like an Ed Sheeran song, it’ll be a ballad more often than not but I do tend to like some of his folksier up-tempo tracks if they have enough power as a “Castle on the Hill” or even the groove of a “Cross Me”. This song is decidedly detached for Ed Sheeran, stripping his typically down-to-Earth persona for one fully fuelled by materialism and partying habits only the rich can really effectively divulge in, which he acknowledges is bad but only because it brings out some kind of fictional dark side in ol’ Ed boy instead of really coming to terms with the fact that fame and wealth is worthless if it’s not spent correctly, like, say, The Weeknd would. Of course, in the music video, he’s dressed up as a vampire so it’s not like we should expect much of substance – according to Genius, the entire chorus is just an extended How I Met Your Mother reference and God, of course it is because this song just sucks. It starts with this vague impression of organic life with a fake count-in and canned audience cheering, before diving into a disgustingly cheap guitar strum that is accompanied by Ed Sheeran pitched up and Auto-Tuned to the point of sounding like Shawn Mendes with even less soul and passion. Of course, the chorus tugs on the slap-house trend by pounding a bass note into your head whilst Ed mumbles about his bad habits over that same guitar lead being pushed through the wringer by the dated dance-pop production. This sounds like it was recorded in 2016 and left over then because it didn’t have a heavy enough tropical drop, which would probably benefit the song if anything because it provides some life and flavour outside of this constant house drone that decides to eliminate any kind of momentum it has at all times. Also, because of course, it has a bridge and three choruses, lasting nearly four minutes because of course. There’s nothing unique about this other than the fact it inorganically drifts through a badly-written pop song with all the care, passion and intricacy of artificial intelligence tasked with writing a Summer hit. This will stick around but given some lukewarm fan reception, I don’t see this lasting anytime as long as, say, “Shape of You”, which sounds intense by comparison. This is just pure lifeless garbage – I’m not sure if I see the appeal even but, damn, if this abhorrent industry-bound slog is what you find catchy or endearing, more power to you because you’re clearly seeing something beyond what I can even imagine.
Well, that was a bit of a rant and one I’d usually save for a Year-End Worst Hit Songs list if I had any hope in that actually making the Billboard Year-End. Regardless, Worst of the Week easily goes to “Bad Habits” by Ed Sheeran, with a Dishonourable Mention for MIST’s “Rollin’” featuring Burna Boy honestly quite far behind. Funnily enough, both are produced in part by Fred again.. Telling. Best of the Week goes to Megan Thee Stallion for “Thot Stuff” but honestly there’s plenty quality to choose from here, as Honourable Mention just barely goes to Tyler, The Creator’s “WUSYANAME” featuring Ty Dolla $ign and YoungBoy Never Broke Again. Doja Cat WAS really close, though. This is the week’s top 10:
And for next week, there’s not much of note to be released so it’ll probably be a great deal of filler, thank God. Thanks for reading if you got this far and I’ll see you next week!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 26/06/2021 (KSI, Olivia Rodrigo, Mabel)
You know the drill. Olivia Rodrigo is at #1 for a fifth week with “good 4 u” and welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
To keep it simple, this is a filler week. Next week, we have albums from Tyler, The Creator, Doja Cat and more singles flooding up the chart so let’s just take a breather for now, starting with the drop-outs, a lot of which aren’t too important because they’re debuts from last week that dropped out of the UK Top 75, which is what I cover. One notable drop-out is that of Olivia Rodrigo’s “deja vu” dropping out from the top five because of the UK Singles Chart’s Accelerated Chart Ratio rule meaning its streaming points are essentially halved after 11 weeks on the chart, as well as the UK Singles Chart’s ‘three-per-artist’ rule meaning that Olivia Rodrigo’s third-best performing song, in this case fourth as the Official Charts Company has unnecessarily docked points from “deja vu”, DEBUTS this week at #17. If that isn’t proof that we should have the American model of no limit per artist but also top 50 recurrent rules, I don’t know what is as this is a complete mess. Otherwise, we have only one other notable drop-out that was on the chart for more than five weeks or peaked in the top 40, that being “Ferrari Horses” by D-Block Europe featuring RAYE that was on its way out. It’s a good song, in my opinion, though given how the UK charts work, I somehow doubt it’ll make the year-end.
In terms of our losses, songs moving down more than five spots in the chart from last week, we have a few, including “Astronaut in the Ocean” by Masked Wolf at #20, “Believe Me” by Navos at #31, “Summer 91 (Looking Back)” by Noizu at #32, “3 Lions” by Baddiel and Skinner with the Lightning Seeds at #34 interestingly enough off of the return from last week, “Friday” by Nightcrawlers and its dopamine re-edit with Riton featuring Musafa & Hypeman at #39, “Peaches” by Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon at #41, “Solar Power” by Lorde falling off hard from the debut at #45, “Blinding Lights” by the Weeknd at #46, “Lost Cause” by Billie Eilish at #47, “RAPSTAR” by Polo G at #48, “You” by Regard, Troye Sivan and Tate McRae at #52, “Starstruck” by Years & Years at #55, “Late at Night” by Roddy Ricch at #58, “Need to Know” by Doja Cat at #63 off of the debut (will probably fall out on album week, which is a shame because the song is great), “Sunshine (The Light)” by Fat Joe, DJ Khaled and Amorphous at #69, “Anywhere Away from Here” by Rag’n’Bone Man and P!nk at #70, “Meant to Be” by Stay Flee Get Lizzy featuring Fredo and Central Cee at #72, “Wonderland” by Unknown T featuring M Huncho at #74 off of the debut and that’s all.
Whilst we’re here at the bottom of the chart, it should be noted that first of all, we have a returning entry in the form of “Hear Me Say” by Jonas Blue and LÉON at #74, and our gains – five spots climbed or more – follow from there, starting with Maneskin’s “ZITTI E BUONI” as the Eurovision-winning song gets some deserved residual success at #51, given that it’s better than their other charting songs (We’ll get to them) and then including “Leave Before You Love Me” by Marshmello and the Jonas Brothers bizarrely boosted to #43, alongside “Fly Away” by Tones and I at #42 off of the debut, “Let’s Go Home Together” by Ella Henderson and Tom Grennan reliving its gains before last week at #33, “Transparent Soul” by WILLOW featuring Travis Barker at #28, “Black Hole” by Griff getting the album boost at #23 (with no other songs debuting, which is to my surprise, not that the barely-20-minutes record really deserves anything other than its best song on the chart), and finally, gains in the top 20. Firstly, we have “Our Song” by Anne-Marie and Niall Horan expectedly doing well at #12 despite being kind of garbage in my opinion, and to continue that trend, Maneskin get their second top 10 hit in the form of their cover of “Beggin’” boosting hard off of the debut to #10, whilst “I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE” is still in that region at #6. Just delightful. Anyway, we have some odd-ball debuts this week, so why not start with...
#67 – “Black Magic” – Jonasu
Produced by Jonasu
Thankfully not a cover of the Little Mix song of the same name, “Black Magic” seems to be the break-out hit for Dutch musician Jonasu, who’s worked mostly as an EDM producer and songwriter, his biggest hit to date being his co-writing credit on Sam Feldt’s “Post Malone”. Now making music under his own stage name and of course, since he’s a house DJ, not crediting his female guest vocalists because they don’t need as much recognition and exposure as the DJ, despite these songs being primarily driven by THEIR pop hooks, he’s made the big time with “Black Magic”, a pretty rote house track mostly reliant on the impassioned but mostly disposable delivery of the lyrics, that are also pretty generic, over bassy slap-house that I’ll admit has some groove. Jonasu plays this interesting middle ground between glitchy, awkward 808s and cheap percussion against more soulful vocals and a careening glitter ball of synth magic, and it does work for the content basically concerning sex and a connection Ms. Uncredited Vocals has with her partner, surely an exhilarating one at that. Whilst I’m still not entirely on board with this since it’s a bit too generic and a sound I’ve heard many a time before on this very chart this year, I can see this becoming a hit and I absolutely wouldn’t mind that happening.
#65 – “Bando Spot” – M1llionz
Produced by Jevon and HONEYWOODSIX
British rapper. Drill beat. Sexual and violent punchlines. Big, punchy 808s. Okay, facetiousness besides, I kind of get what this one is going for. Using an interpolation of 50 Cent’s pretty awful “Candy Shop” on the hook, M1llionz makes a song about hitting up girls that uses some... vaguely clever idea of musical punchlines to refer to sex in the first verse, but otherwise not much else of note. In fact, M1llionz spends a lot of his time rambling about drug trafficking, taking someone else’s girl and... now accepting Bitcoin as a form of currency for his services. M1llionz sounds half-dead rapping on this confusingly menacing beat considering the mostly comical content, and by the second verse, we’re back to robberies and gang violence, so any concept goes out the window. The mixing is also not great as it typically is, making M1llionz all that more unlikeable as he’s forced to the front of the mix alongside the bass. Oh, and don’t worry, girls, Mr. M1llionz doesn’t have a foot fetish, but he has a fetish for his guns. Yeah, this isn’t worth anyone’s time.
#60 – “Ramenez la coupe á la maison” – Vegedream
Produced by Evasao
Okay, this one I don’t see going anywhere, mostly because I have no idea what it’s doing on the chart anywhere. So, if you live in Europe or care about sport, you probably know that an international football tournament known as the Euros, organised by UEFA, is being played right now. This happens every four years – with room for pandemic-induced error – and typically, just like a World Cup, “3 Lions” may return to viral notability, but rarely does a song from the other side pop up. Vegedream is a French rapper and R&B singer who made this song in celebration of France winning the 2018 World Cup, so I guess it’s not even related to this tournament, so as someone who doesn’t follow British sports, yet alone French sports, I was dumbfounded to how this of all songs debuted this week, but it happened to be a viral TikTok trend because, well, of course, it’s 2021. In the song, Vegedream crowns his favourite French football players, referenced by name, in mindlessly repetitive and Auto-Tuned bars, for being “the blues” who “brought the cup home”, or at least that’s what I get from the translated lyrics. It’s a pretty simple track to get the gist of, especially if Vegedream’s vocal layering covers up much of the Afroswing groove. At least the people making Afroswing in France sound like they care, I suppose. I can’t say that chorus isn’t ridiculously catchy, but there’s not much to discuss here, and absolutely not enough to warrant this barely written song a four-minute runtime. Just read how repetitive some of these verses are, it’s obvious this was a rushed celebratory track. The song went #1 in France, though. Who’d have thunk?
#38 – “Let Them Know” – Mabel
Produced by RAYE and SG Lewis
Mabel is Neneh Cherry’s daughter and whilst I’d like to say that’s why she’s charting and that’s why she has resources to make big-budget pop songs – thanks, nepotism – that’s never been the selling point and given some of the US traction she’s been able to gather with “Don’t Call Me Up”, Mabel has proved herself as somewhat of an international hit-maker in her own right. Given the production credits from fellow singer RAYE and soulless white-boy disco producer SG Lewis, it’s fair to expect a pretty synth-heavy funk and dance track from this new single, debuting at the tip of the top 40 and well, no, I wasn’t far off at all. Oh, and MNEK has co-writing credits alongside the other three so I’d be an idiot to expect anything else. It’s still awesome, though, with that quirky and wonky synth-line being drowned out in waves of over-production in just the most wonderful way, as Mabel slides through pop-culture references over a bass-heavy groove from SG Lewis that is reminiscent of piano-house trends but keeps its unique identity through its unapologetic refusal to refrain. That drop is a messy synth platter with Mabel informing her audience that much like her, you’re also “that bitch” – and God damn it, I WANT to be that bitch! The pitch-shifted, intimate bridge is absolutely a MNEK songwriting idea and it works perfectly when there are so many perfectly layered and tuned – however digitally that may be – vocal twists and turns painted over it as it builds up once again to that immense chorus. A lot of over-the-top pop can end up headache inducing but this one gives up at just two and a half minutes, rendering it irresistible rather than insufferable. This is pretty great and I hope it sticks around.
#22 – “Remember” – Becky Hill and David Guetta
Produced by David Guetta and Franky Wah
This, on the other hand, is “Remember” by Becky Hill and David Guetta, in which that restrain is also refused, but without any of the fun. The lyrics aren’t empowering despite the incredibly generic piano-house beat, one with so many obviously 90s tendencies, down right to the fact it sounds like a cheap keyboard used to make some happy hardcore sound euphoric back in that time during that drop. Becky Hill’s content here is mostly oddly melancholy, remembering and NOT reminiscing in any way about a break-up, in fact I have no idea why this dance-pop song that sounds like neon colours, school discos and glow sticks – except without the fun – is about a past relationship haunting this woman who clearly has struggles trying to grapple with the concept of nothing lasting forever, with no real detail given to why they broke up in the first place, which could justify some of Hill’s belting. Considering some of these lyrics, she may just have schizophrenia. In that case, I’d argue the house beat fits perfectly but given how that’s obviously not what she’s going for, this ends up as a dud.
#17 – “favorite crime” – Olivia Rodrigo
Produced by Dan Nigro
This should have charted weeks ago alongside the rest of that album as it’s clearly the most streamed music of this past month in the UK and elsewhere... but rules are rules, except, of course, when you’re talking about the differences between the Queen’s and the President’s English, in which case, you can drop the “U” or reinstate it whenever you like. Seriously, I’m surprised given the Official Charts Company being the joke that it is, they didn’t “correct” Rodrigo’s spelling in their chart listing. I’ve talked about the inconsistent album that is SOUR back when “traitor” charted and this song doesn’t give me a lot more to talk about, especially given that despite its status as a fan favourite, this was actually one of the least enjoyable tracks on the record for me, although that may be down to its placement as that album’s sequencing leaves a lot to be desired but also leaves you with a lot of just uninteresting ballads. The narrative of this song is mostly coming to terms with how she is partially responsible with the relationship crumbling because she let herself be treated badly by her partner, which in practicality may be true but is kind of an awful message, even if ultimately the line “I hope I was your favourite crime” is deservedly vindictive of Mr. Shall-Not-Be-Named-Cough-Cough-Joshua-Bassett. The theme does continue for the rest of the song but feels awfully basic in its folkish acoustics, reading and sounding more like a diary entry than a fully-realised song. Taylor Swift is written all over this and could probably deliver that emotional bridge a lot better, but this is just lacking for me in comparison to the more touching cuts and especially the rock songs off of that same album. This is fine and I understand why it’s a fan favourite but not even chart-induced indulging in Disney-curated teen melodrama can keep me from thinking this is at least a bit underwhelming.
#2 – “Holiday” – KSI
Produced by Digital Farm Animals and Jake Gosling
KSI is always debuting high at #2 and #3; I wonder when he’ll grab that #1 spot, which I think isn’t out of reach for the guy to my surprise. Regardless of chart success, KSI is here to prove that he’s not just a YouTuber, comedian, Internet and television personality, semi-professional boxer, FIFA let’s-player and rapper, as he’s also a pop singer, or at least thinks he can be as he’s experimenting with different styles that seem to be just as all over the place as his album title. To be fair to JJ, that upcoming album is indeed titled All Over the Place, so maybe this guitar-flavoured pop cut could prove that he’s a man of many talents after all? Well, it doesn’t. KSI’s singing still sounds pretty off-tune with the obvious vocal manipulation, and his inflections vary so much but result in someone trying vaguely hard but knowing pretty clearly that they’re straining in this attempt at a love song that I’ll admit kind of soars with the introduction of the steady drum pattern in the chorus, even if it’s really abrupt. The multi-tracking on KSI’s voice makes it a lot more bearable but that’s not to say this oddly detailed love song is giving me much more than that: the detail, which is decidedly mundane and full of clichés. I’ll give him that the concept of calling his partner a holiday is interesting and is full of potential that just isn’t tapped here, but could create a complex song if written by better and more unique writers than KSI. This isn’t bad at all, just kind of amateur in a really uninteresting way.
Well, there’s not much here to really give any kind of title considering most of it is middling but I’d say the Best of the Week is pretty confidently going to Mabel for “Let Them Know”, with an Honourable Mention to... I guess, Jonasu’s “Black Magic”, even if it’s not really that great. Worst of the Week is even harder but I’ll just say that M1llionz gets it for the worthless “Bando Spot”, whilst “Remember” rides the wave of being lazy and uninteresting to Dishonourable Mention. Here’s this week’s top 10:
Like I said in the rundown, next week may be big, although considering we didn’t talk about “LUMBERJACK” this week, I may be overestimating Tyler’s impact and it could be Doja Cat-dominated. All is speculation until next Friday though, so thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 19/06/2021 (Mimi Webb, Lorde, Doja Cat)
Okay, so I expected a busy week, but not necessarily a batch of thirteen new arrivals. Well, before we get to the bundle of joy that is this week’s new arrivals, there’s a lot to discuss in the rundown because of course, 13 new arrivals has a pretty dire effect on the usual goings-on of the chart. Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u” spends a fourth week at #1 in the UK, weeks it’s being robbed of in the US, and welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
It almost feels like Christmastime with the sheer amount of movement here, so much so that I’m going to try and run through this as quickly and dryly as possible – it’s just easier this way. I cover the UK Top 75, and notable drop-outs are songs exiting the top 75 which either peaked in the top 40 or spent at least five weeks on the chart. This week, that includes both of J. Cole’s remaining songs as “Pride is the Devil” with Lil Baby drops out as does “My Life” with 21 Savage and Morray, as well as “Titanium” by Dave, “All You Ever Wanted” by Rag’n’Bone Man, “Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic, “Latest Trends” by A1 x J1, Travis Scott’s remix of HVME’s remix of Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps”, “My Head & My Heart” by Ava Max and of course, the usual suspects that will be back next week: “Dance Monkey” by Tones and I and “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers. The UK really needs recurrent rules.
Notable losses are songs dropping five spots on the chart, and we do have plenty this week, including Majestic’s remix of Boney M.’s “Rasputin” at #16, “Butter” by BTS at #23 (a far cry from #1, huh?), “Wow” by Tion Wayne off of the debut at #28, “Lost Cause” by Billie Eilish also off of the debut at #31, “RAPSTAR” by Polo G at #42 ironically due to ACR (look it up) despite having the album boost this week, “Starstruck” by Years & Years at #43, “Late at Night” by Roddy RIcch at #48 off of the debut, “The Business” by Tiesto at #51, “Meant to Be” by Stay Flee Get Lizzy featuring Fredo and Central Cee at #55, “ZITTI E BUONI” by Maneskin at #57, “Nice to Meet Ya” by Wes Nelson featuring Yxng Bane at #58, “Cover Me in Sunshine” by P!nk and Willow Sage Heart at #61, with P!nk also seeing losses for “Anywhere Away from Here” with Rag’n’Bone Man at #62, “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals at #63, “WITHOUT YOU” by The Kid LAROI at #64, “Your Power” by Billie Eilish at #67, “Ferrari Horses” by D-Block Europe featuring RAYE at #71, “House & Garage” by Morrisson featuring Aitch at #72 and finally, “Beautiful Mistakes” by Maroon 5 and Megan Thee Stallion, with the album boost, down to #75.
Well, what’s filling in the blanks? Well, we’ll cover more of that in the new arrivals but we do bizarrely have notable gains this week, particularly “Leave Before You Love Me” by Marshmello and the Jonas Brothers at #69, “Transparent Soul” by WILLOW featuring Travis Barker at #33 and, okay, well, that’s pretty much it, although in the highest regions of the chart, we do have a returning entry for “Three Lions” as we do every time England does marginally okay in international football. The song’s originally by comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner in collaboration with 1990s Britpop band the Lightning Seeds, and it’s become somewhat of a national chant as it returns to #22 in celebration of the UEFA Euros. It actually hit #1 during the 2018 World Cup season so this may or may not happen again this year. Oh, and “I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE” by Maneskin becomes their first top 10 hit at #7 but I think it’s best we acknowledge as little as possible of that song’s existence, and move on to our new arrivals, and what a crop we have.
#74 – “Slide” – Bandokay
Produced by SB Beats, UDLinkups and DT5 Beats
We’ve seen Bandokay before on this series, and he’s part of the UK drill collective OFB – or Original Farm Boys. One of the most interesting tidbits about this guy is that he’s actually the son of the late Mark Duggan, the man whose death by the hands of law enforcement actually created much of the underlying tension behind the 2011 England riots. Sadly, I’ve got less to say about the music itself, as this is very much a typical UK drill track with the tense percussion, bizarre mix full of ad-libs and sliding 808s, as well as a pretty weak violin loop serving as the basis for Bandokay, who just isn’t all that interesting as a lyricist or performer to me, at least on this song. I thought his contributions to “BLM” with Double Lz and Abra Cadabra were actually pretty great, but here, there’s less content to discuss given that this is mostly gang violence and women, which is fine but he’s just not really a likeable presence on an already dull beat.
#73 – “Beggin’” – Maneskin
Produced by Maneskin
Welp, can’t escape from these guys for too long. It seems that the British public is genuinely very interested in this Italian rock band after they won Eurovision, and is actually looking deeper into their back catalogue to find this deep cut off of an EP from 2017... except that this is actually just a cover of the Four Seasons song from 1967, which had new life injected into it by Madcon in 2007, who I personally think had the better version. That’s not to say that I really like the song as whilst it’s undeniably catchy, I’ve always found it pretty rote and honestly kind of monotonous, which is probably why I like the more energetic Madcon cover. Whilst the Four Seasons’ version didn’t actually chart in the UK, it’s been covered and remixed in top 40 hits now at least four times, Madcon’s hitting #5, and this is that fourth version. Is it any good? Well, I’m already not that big on our main vocalist here, so put him over a pretty minimal and groove-less rendition of “Beggin’” and it just sounds excruciating. I assumed these guys could rock pretty hard from their Eurovision entry but their other charting entries have just been weak at best and aggravating at worst. To add fuel to this pop-rock fire, this is actually a cover of Madcon’s verse, rap verse included. Yeah, this isn’t for me, at all, when there are at least two better and more iconic versions to look back on.
#70 – “Fly Away” – Tones and I
Produced by Dann Hume and Tones and I
Despite having one of the biggest hits of the century, it’s interesting to me how Tones and I fails to deliver on another big single outside of her native Australia, and I think most of that can be attributed to the novelty of “Dance Monkey”, in which she practically plays a character, meaning that the rest of her music, even down to her vocal tones, are unrecognisable. It’s such an outlier, and I myself am part of this problem because that’s the only song of hers I’ve heard that I actually enjoy. Yeah, I know it’s an insufferable meme track, but at least there’s personality and a hook so mind-numbingly ear-catching that it’s become sort of a phenomenon, even if people tend to criticise the track – “Astronaut in the Ocean” falls into that same ball-park... but what do I know about this new Tones and I song? Well, I don’t like it all, basing itself off of the plucky acoustics and reliant almost entirely on Tones and I as a vocalist, who’s more annoying here than she was on “Dance Monkey” as she chugs through a vague self-empowerment anthem that’s reminiscent of “Fight Song” in how its inoffensive songwriting triggers some kind of gut response of disappointment. Sure, there’s genuine attempts at atmosphere being built, especially with the claps and almost gospel touches, but that all drowns out inside of the top 40-radio synth work that makes it a lot more difficult to enjoy for me than it should. There’s just no punch to it.
#68 – “Call on Me” – RAYE
Produced by Billen Ted and Andrew Wells
That sea shanty remix money just benefits everyone in the end, doesn’t it? Regardless of its producers, as they may as well be anonymous, this is pop star RAYE’s newest single and it’s going to be some underwhelming dance-pop with a vaguely catchy hook, right? The answer to that is, “Yes”, and it’s got everything – ambiance and reverb drenching the synths and vocals, a piano-house lead melodies as well as a pretty cheap-sounding four-on-the-floor drum pattern, as RAYE sings through thinly-veiled Auto-Tune about being there for her partner. This is serviceable for BBC Radio One and that’s all it needs to be.
#66 – “Welcome to the Internet” – Bo Burnham
Produced by Bo Burnham
I’m familiar with some Internet musical comedians – sadly, I don’t think Neil Cicierega will ever chart although he very much deserves to – but Bo Burnham skips past me entirely. He has made moves well past Internet and YouTube comedy, now directing and producing films, including a Netflix comedy special titled INSIDE which in part due to its themes revolving the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown or quarantine period has become a smash hit. It’s also a musical so naturally, here’s a song from Bo Burnham of all people charting. Hey, it’s a busy week, but absolutely a unique one. Only one of the artists represented has two songs charting. “Welcome to the Internet” is a tune I can’t speak on the context of given that I have not seen the film it originates from, but I can say is pretty great lyrically, discussing the overflow of content on the Internet and the impact it has on people, escalating in severity to the point of nonsense conspiracy theories as the verses go on. It’s satirical, and with added context, I’d be able to construe a message out of all of this, but given that the comedy seems to come pretty natural from Burnham and not as forced as it could have been in a show tune context with the jaunty keyboards and sound effects. That nostalgic bridge also works pretty well – it’s obvious that he’s an Internet comedian from this song because just to bring out the inner awful nerd in me, the dude sounds like Brentalfloss at times, but that doesn’t mean the song loses value. If anything, it gains it from having such an involved and online personality as the frontman promoting the power of the Internet, what life was like before it and its potential dangers. It’s not something you ever expect to chart but I’m not bothered it’s here.
#65 – “Black Hearted” – Polo G
Produced by Mikey Beats and Aidan Han
The only artist we have more than one debut from in these 13 new arrivals is Chicago rapper Polo G, as two songs debut from his third album, Hall of Fame, a record I’m mostly lukewarm on. Polo G is an interesting rapper, absolutely, and this song especially shows that lyrical detail I admire in his writing, as he is very willing to go into pretty deeper or darker storytelling about his upbringing and being raised in a place of poverty and violence, but tends to stray off-topic or rely on awkward, Auto-Tuned flows over dull piano- or guitar-laden beats (often with odd bass mastering) that put me off of the entire song. The choruses aren’t choruses, just parts of verses stitched together and repeated to sound vaguely cohesive and not even catchy. There are some highs on the record and ultimately due to a lot of good beats – despite increasingly punched-in and janky flows – it ends up being more fun of an experience than it should for being 20 whole tracks. The Lil Wayne and Pop Smoke collaborations trump pretty much everything else on the record, though, including “Black Hearted”, which is pretty much an embodiment of most of my grievances as well as appraisals for the album as a whole. Other than his TEC making someone do the Harlem Shake, there’s not much else to speak about until we get to his next debut.
#56 – “September” – James Arthur
Produced by Red Triangle
Would anyone support a petition to only allow artists to release singles named after months in their respective months? This is like Guns ‘n’ Roses releasing “November Rain” in mid-February, which, by the way, is exactly what they did. To be fair to Mr. Arthur, this song is actually about when he met his partner “just before” September (you know, mid-June), in his typical strained delivery that sounds even worse here isolated. It starts off borderline unlistenable as he practically coughs his way through a verse, and then by the end of the verse he trails off and stops trying, which I’m pretty glad about as otherwise, that chorus would be as rough as the post-chorus. Arthur’s content is surprisingly detailed, actually, and whilst I appreciate that I don’t think this pathetic, acoustic guitar-heavy trap beat deserves any of the effort being put in. Hey, at least this song has an... awkward instrumental break for no reason. That’s something, I suppose.
#52 – “Wonderland” – Unknown T featuring M Huncho
Produced by Cage Beats, R14 Beats and Jony Beats
There’s so many “Beats” in this producer credit, I’d be shocked if the song’s liner notes wasn’t product placement. Despite being credited to Unknown T, M Huncho carries both the chorus and a verse to himself, although the beat is perfect for his comical Auto-Tune mumbling delivery given that it has the typical guitar loop, although it does throw him for a loop using a more drill-adjacent beat than the trap-wave you typically hear M Huncho over. I guess the only surprise here is that I like this. Both Unknown T and the masked singer over here deliver more energetic performances, even if this beat didn’t really ask for it given how surprisingly laid-back it is for drill. Sure, the content is comically substance-less, but so is M Huncho, who feels like Bruno Mars and sounds pretty disappointed in it, as well as Unknown T, who’s flying to Qatar. The fact that there are no lyrics here I can pick up on and say were really stupid combined with how the hook’s implementation of the title and “Wonderland” theme is actually pretty fun in its own roundabout way, just makes me conclude that this is a surprisingly well-done song, especially with the reverb and guitar furthering its cloud-rap aesthetic. The last song I liked from Huncho was called “Pee Pee” though, so maybe don’t trust my taste in British trap.
#49 – “Having Our Way” – Migos featuring Drake
Produced by Preme, Wallis Lane, Jack LoMastro and Azul
Speaking of trap I like a considerable amount more than I should – it’s a running theme this episode – Migos released their first instalment in their album series, Culture III, and it’s probably my favourite album from the group, showing a unique growth in them coming to their own that I haven’t seen from them, meaning that if this is their final record, it works perfectly both as a swan song – especially considering some of the lyrics on the back half – as well as a comparison piece to the youthful and energetic first Culture album from 2017. “Having Our Way” is far from my favourite on the album but given that it features Drake, of course it is the only one to chart. The “Drake-Draco” line sounds funnier from Lil Durk than it does Drake, and him handling the first verse and chorus in an awkward yet fascinating flow makes the song seem slower than it is, as the pace starts to pick up as soon as we get to the triplet flows from the Migos. Also, if four producers are needed for this awfully-mixed beat with a vague idea of a synth melody and some of the worst trap percussion I’ve ever heard, then Migos needs to hire better producers. With that said, I actually think the song is kind of fun and loose, which allows for Drake and the Migos to deliver really uninteresting verses content-wise with few stand-out lyrics... okay, so there’s little reason for me to like this at all other than how this feels more like a cypher with a chorus than an actual structured song and that makes the nearly five-minute runtime worth it, especially since the backing synths actually sound pretty ominous. Takeoff being done dirty in the chorus is just disgraceful, though, especially since he has the best verse here.
#47 – “No Return” – Polo G, The Kid LAROI and Lil Durk
Produced by Ryder Johnson, Mason Wu and Taz Taylor
I’ve never been as angry as an artist as I was when I first heard this track and had to admit I greatly enjoyed a song with The Kid LAROI as a lead artist. To be fair, he only handles the hook, but it was enough to get a music video and single push for the track, which I think is one of Polo’s best. The strings actually sound pretty intimidating but not as intimidating as Polo G’s hungry delivery over this trap knock that delivers the energy and anger you’d expect and hope from a gangsta-rapper. The whole song is just your typical rags-to-riches story but again, the detail Polo gets into is considerable, especially before The Kid LAROI sings his least excruciating performance so far in his career, before Durk flows at a rapid pace about the hurt he experiences as a result of his friends dying in the streets, and, yeah, this is a pretty great pop-trap single. Polo’s line about the three being “little kids turned grown men coming from cribs dysfunctional” also stuck with me the most considering how young these rappers are and what they had to experience at such a young age almost purely due to systematic prejudice and the chance of being a Black kid in Chicago... except The Kid LAROI, of course, but we can ignore the Australian child as long as he keeps on singing hooks and nothing else.
#37 – “Need to Know” – Doja Cat
Produced by Dr. Luke
The fourth and final chapter in this quality trap quadrilogy comes from Doja Cat, whose promotional single – not really a hook-focused pop tune – was promoted with a massive high-budget sci-fi music video which I watched for... research. “Need to Know” is a spacey trap banger with some really epic synths that crush down into pounding 808s on which Doja Cat strips all subtlety – and presumably clothes – in a comically sexual set of verses, needing it in her like Chuck E. needs cheddar, giving him telekinetic erections, and of course, taking someone else’s husband. It’s not just men taking other peoples’ bitches, but at least Doja Cat sounds really enthused whilst rapping about it, with one of the most charismatic rap performances of the year. Sure, there’s a bit of dissonance and it’s a little slow for my taste, but I’m glad I finally have one of these female-rapper sex jams I can actually endorse, mostly down to the production adopting more cloud rap and alternative R&B sensibilities, which will always be more to grasp onto than the sparse 808-heavy beats on tracks like “WAP” or “Body”, not that those are bad songs at all. Sadly, it’s produced by an (alleged) rapist, but I’m pretty sure half of the music industry are terrible people, so be honest with yourself with what matters: the person not singing or the fact that the music is great. There’s not a moral decision that damages this song like it may do with other production work by Luke – read: Kesha and the late Juice WRLD – so I’m going to reluctantly bop to this. Great track.
#17 – “Solar Power” – Lorde
Produced by Jack Antonoff and Lorde
To my surprise, this isn’t the highest debut this week, and you’ll be disappointed when you find out what peaked higher, but for now, I guess it’s time to talk about Lorde, the New Zealand songwriter who shook the pop world with “Royals” (a song I was never able to stand), before becoming an indie-pop critical darling with her iconic record Melodrama, an album I hold very dear as I’m sure millions of pop fans – nay, music fans – do to this day. Naturally, a Jack Antonoff-produced new wave jam is the safe bet to reassure that after her hiatus, Lorde has still got it and... well, it’s more subtle than that cover art would have you believe, relying on a scratchy guitar not too dissimilar to “Faith” by George Michael, with much of the mix being full with dreamy guitars during that first chorus alongside several multi-tracked vocal takes from Lorde in which she sings about pure Summer euphoria, ignoring and dismissing everyday life’s troubles in order to have fun. The entire song is a build-up that sounds great until it leads up into a pretty anti-climactic drop that honestly just sounds uninterested in itself. With its lines about being a “prettier Jesus” and interpolating A Tribe Called Quest, it’s hard to take seriously but I do wish some of that camp energy provided a greater bombast more than just Clairo vocalising in harmony on the outro. This is good and could very well grow on me in album context, but I don’t think this is great just yet.
#12 – “Dumb Love” – Mimi Webb
Produced by Gary Gueyikian and Johnny Black
Because who else is more important to popular music than Lorde’s comeback other than a TikTok star and/or genuine industry plant releasing a follow-up to her dull, garbage ballad that happens to be just as dull and manufactured as the last one? I’m disappointed in you, Britain... for many reasons in addition to this. To be fair, this song, despite its mixing throwing Webb’s voice as well as the harmonies too far to the front of the mix to make me fully appreciate it, has kind of a decent gospel or soul groove, even if that feels market-processed and that it was dragged around business meetings. Bleh.
And that’s all – an episode that felt disproportionately short considering how stacked of new music there was to discuss this week. It really is a mixed bag but I do feel mostly positive regarding these new arrivals. Best of the Week goes to Doja Cat for “Need to Know” with an Honourable Mention towards Bo Burnham of all people for “Welcome to the Internet”. Worst of the Week is easily granted to “September” by James Arthur and the Dishonourable Mention can go to that gross “Beggin’” cover by Maneskin. Where did the Madcon guys end up after that song anyway? Regardless, here’s our top 10:
Thanks for reading. We may have somewhat of a breather before July rolls around, as it’s not like GoldLink is going to chart anything – and God, I hope not. See you next week!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 12/06/2021 (ArrDee, Billie Eilish, Roddy Ricch)
Don’t you just love an unexpectedly busy week? I don’t know how many new arrivals I was expecting to review this week, but I think it was less than nine. Regardless, “good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo spends a third week at #1 - welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS!
You know the gist by now: notable drop-outs are songs dropping out of the UK Top 75 – which is what I cover – after spending at least five weeks on the chart or peaking in the top 40. We have some pretty big ones this week, like J. Cole’s “Amari”, “Don’t Play” by Anne-Marie, KSI and Digital Farm Animals, “Get Out My Head” by Shane Codd and #1 hits in “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi and... sigh, once again, “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo off of the return from last week because of the silly chart rule that only allows three songs to be in the chart from one artist at a time, leading to a top 10 song dropping off to make room for another and it happening in reverse the next week. Yes, “traitor” returns at #5, higher than any new arrival, but this is just embarrassing for the Official Charts Company to acknowledge, surely? I don’t have an issue with a rule that makes my job easier, but at least expand it to five songs.
That’s our only return this week, but we do have some notable losses – songs that dropped at least five spots from last week – like “Butter” by BTS at #13, “Anywhere Away from Here” by Rag’n’Bone Man and P!nk at #20, “Levitating” by Dua Lipa at #24, “BED” by Joel Corry, RAYE and David Guetta at #25, “Black Hole” by Griff at #26, “Little More Love” by AJ Tracey at #27, “Little Bit of Love” by Tom Grennan at #34, “Friday” and its dopamine re-edit by Riton and Nightcrawlers featuring Musafa & Hypeman at #35, “Don’t You Worry About Me” by the Bad Boy Chiller Crew at #36, “Let’s Go Home Together” by Ella Henderson and Tom Grennan at #37, “Meant to Be” by Stay Flee Get Lizzy featuring Fredo and Central Cee at #38 off of the debut, “ZITTI E BUONI” by Maneskin at #41 (Sad to see that one go so fast), “Blinding Lights” by the Weeknd at #42, “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” by the Blessed Madonna and Fred again.. at #43, “The Business” by Tiesto at #44, “Head & Heart” by Joel Corry and MNEK at #47, “Your Love (9PM)” by ATB, Topic and A7S at #49, “Your Power” by Billie Eilish at #50, “Nice to Meet Ya” by Wes Nelson featuring Yxng Bane at #52, “WITHOUT YOU” by the Kid LAROI at #53, “House & Garage” by Morrisson featuring Aitch at #55 off of the debut, “Wellerman” by Nathan Evans and remixed by 220 KID and Billen Ted at #57, “Titanium” by Dave at #59, “Ferrari Horses” by D-Block Europe featuring RAYE at #60, “Latest Trends” by A1 x J1 at #61, “All You Ever Wanted” by Rag’n’Bone Man at #66, “SUN GOES DOWN” by Lil Nas X at #69, “Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic at #71, Travis Scott’s remix of HVME’s remix of Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” at #72, “Dance Monkey” by Tones & I at #74 and continuous losses for J. Cole: “Pride is the Devil” with Lil Baby at #67 and “My Life” with 21 Savage and Morray at #70.
God, it seems like every other song on the chart just dropped hard this week, huh? Well, we did see gains for “Beautiful Mistakes” by Maroon 5 and Megan Thee Stallion at #64 which will have more gains next week thanks to the album, and some bizarre surges for “Believe Me” by Navos up to #30 inexplicably, “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles going from #64 to #29 in its 57th week. Oh, and also “I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE” by Maneskin is at #12 but that should nowhere near to the top 10. Well, since we don’t have much else to talk about, I suppose I should just get straight into the new arrivals, starting with...
#75 – “Leave Before You Love Me” – Marshmello and Jonas Brothers
Produced by Marshmello, Heavy Mellow, Digital Farm Animals and Alesso
That “Circles” song by Post Malone was a massive hit last year, and whilst it’s grown on me, I don’t think I can say I like it as much as the Weeknd’s current hit, “Save Your Tears”, which reminds me of that Christmas classic “Last Christmas” by WHAM! This new collaboration between the marshmellow emoji DJ and the bizarre Jonas Brothers reunion sounds like it cribs pretty clearly from those three songs, as well as “Lost in Love” by Air Supply and pretty explicitly from one of my favourite songs of all time, “Instant Crush” by Daft Punk featuring Julian Casablancas. It’s pretty distracting, I’ve got to say, but if anything I do find it amusing how pop music’s ever-lasting love-affair with 1980s synthpop pastiches has gone full circle and started ripping off each other’s melodies. That’s not to say this song doesn’t have its own fair share of merits as it describes almost comically a one-night stand, which actually delivers a pretty funny contrast against this soft, adult-contemporary backing, but considering there are literally five better songs I could listen to for this same energy, except done a lot less lazily from people who actually care unlike Marshmello or the Jonas Brothers, I fail to see why this is anything worth checking out past an intermittent radio listen, which is all it was really made for in the first place.
#63 – “Hats Off” – Lil Baby and Lil Durk featuring Travis Scott
Produced by YoungTN and Chi Chi
Last week, Chicago rapper Lil Durk and his frequent collaborator from Atlanta, Lil Baby, joined forces for a collaborative album championing themselves as The Voice of the Heroes because apparently Lil Durk is the voice and Baby is the hero. I personally thought the album was okay but lacking in focus – or professional engineering and mixing – as it touches on conscious and detailed topics but not nearly enough to be interesting for more than two minutes, especially over a variety of beats that wants me to sound stupid for calling it a variety. Admittedly, the project as a whole finds itself feeling a lot less than an hour long despite running at 18 tracks and there are a fair few good songs on that track listing, with two of my favourites actually debuting this week, consecutively. This is “Hats Off”, a track reliant on 80s-esque futuristic synths for whatever reason as they drown out behind some Latin-inflected guitar and Lil Baby doing his typical frog-throat rambling over some trap skittering and I mean, it’s exactly what you’d expect how that to sound. Thankfully, I find Lil Baby a pretty entertaining presence through all his flexing even if he is out-performed by Lil Durk making perhaps unwarranted fat jokes towards DJ Khaled and Travis Scott delivering one of his best and most unique featured verses in years. At some point, Durk pleads for someone to get Kim and Kanye to sort their marital problems so they can get back to prison reform, which I can respect... I think? It just kind of comes out of nowhere.
#62 – “Voice of the Heroes” – Lil Baby and Lil Durk
Produced by TouchofTrent and Haze
This is the title track, promoted with a single release the week before the album and accompanied with a music video, and makes sense as a lead single because it exists to push the album’s thesis statement: Durk’s the voice and Baby, well, he’s the hero, and Durk’s heavy-handed yet memorable hook delivers that idea with as much conviction as possible. Hell, I actually really like the content for the first few verses, with the duo continuing to struggle with balancing fame, family and their reputation in the streets, but by the time we get to the second two verses delivered by each rapper, Durk is essentially calling himself the voice of the streets for... making his girlfriend squirt, whilst Lil Baby is the hero for being “somewhere in her cervix”. Sure, at least the beat’s mangled vocal samples and bells are pretty cool.
#46 – “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l” – WILLOW featuring Travis Barker
Produced by Tyler Cole
Someone tell Willow Smith to stay away from J. Cole. She’s been bubbling under for most of the late 2010s much like Jaden Smith has for much of his music career, but thanks to TikTok success and genuine streaming traction, this pop-punk song with Travis Barker of blink-182, a man all too willing to put his name on anything with guitars, seems to be her big break (if that can exist for someone born into massive showbiz success). Is it any good? Well, yeah, it’s a Paramore song. I like how this new wave of pop-punk revivalists in the mainstream seems to be more open to people of colour than this genre ever was, and if Willow Smith is going to be one of the leading figures, well, damn, she has the voice for it, even if that chorus strains her a little too much – I do prefer the verses here. Travis Barker’s drumming as always is pretty manic, although I’d like to hear other 90s pop-punk musicians get on these zoomer pop songs to see what they can deliver, maybe make these Barker-produced songs sound a little less stiff? Ultimately, the riffs are strong and the rest of the song is mind-numbingly infectious, so this is not bad at all, although I feel like that’s because I like late-2000s Paramore and well, it might be even easier to make comparisons here than it is with Olivia Rodrigo.
#40 – “Late at Night” - Roddy Ricch
Produced by GYLTTRYP and Mustard
For someone who made 2020 his year with massive hits like “The Box” and “ROCKSTAR”, I’m surprised his lead single to his upcoming sophomore effort isn’t getting as much traction, although a slump is all too common. I was curious to how this wasn’t gaining clicks until I listened to the song and immediately realised that this is far from as smooth and delightful as “High Fashion” or as gorgeously triumphant as “Ballin’”, as this Mustard collaborations keeps itself remarkably minimal, in this case a code word for some downright boring R&B. When the intro is already taking my girl in chipmunk vocals, I expect very little of this more subtle, seductive track from Roddy and he may not be the type over a West Coast bounce we’ve heard from both Roddy and Mustard before. With predictable and at times kind of just gross lyricism, especially in that chorus, it’s hard to pay attention to anything outside of this dead production and Roddy’s pained yelping making absolutely no sense for a slow jam. The string interlude in the video is nowhere to be heard on Spotify, so really I can’t think of anything I like about this song except for perhaps the pointless reverse outro which ends just as abruptly as it starts. Yeah, I’m pretty disappointed with this one.
#21 – “Wow” – Tion Wayne
Produced by CZR Beatz and Pxtrik
This won’t be the last time in this episode when I can say that this UK drill song debuting in the top 40 by a rapper featured on Russ Millions’ “Body” remix is freaking hilarious. Tion Wayne has always been one of my favourites of this scene and he doesn’t disappoint here in charisma alone as he flip-flops through this hard and menacing drill beat, commanding the listener to “suck their mother” over booming 808s, right after questioning why everyone is “judging like Simon Cowell”. Sadly, I don’t think the verses are as wild or funny but they serve as acceptable filler if only for those carefree ad-libs, although I think I’d prefer if there wasn’t a meandering third verse. Either way, the song’s fun and that’s all there is to it, really.
#15 – “By Your Side” – Calvin Harris featuring Tom Grennan
Produced by Calvin Harris
Man, remember when Calvin Harris was good? Even that rhetorical may be a bit misleading considering I don’t think this prolific DJ and producer has ever had a time where he’s consistently shown off his considerable prowess in sound design and songwriting. He’s at his best in his niche of funky white-boy disco, and I think the closest he got to a consistently great record was in the Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 era, which after seeing his biggest ever single in “One Kiss”, was abandoned since Harris decided it wasn’t worth his time to put in the effort anymore, reforming to his old days of EDM shovelware. I may say all this to deride the guy’s post-2017 work but I actually think this song is pretty alright, as whilst I’m not a fan of Tom Grennan, his youthful timbre works against the echoed claps and incessant guitar line, which soon warps into a wonderfully ugly 80s synth into the drop, reminiscent of the festival-house days that just sounds too stupid and fun to even really mock. It’s lazy, sure, and insanely repetitive, but considering you’ve got Tom Grennan on the mic, you might as well distract from his soulless charisma-void performance with something as obnoxious as this drop, and hell, it might just work for me.
#14 – “Lost Cause” – Billie Eilish
Produced by FINNEAS
Yeah, what a surprise, I like this one too. In this more subtle and minimal brand of alternative R&B, Billie essentially drags down an ex for having no will to grow as a person or commit to their relationship, deriding them as a “lost cause”, which sounds harsh but plays into the quick-to-assumptions angst displayed in many a Billie Eilish track. Unfortunately, I don’t think the song conveys its content as well as it could have been, as whilst this great bassline adapts well to Billie’s voice, still too loud in the mix for me to fully appreciate to be honest, as this song should not be intimate at all, creating an overbearing tone to her vocals that if anything flip the song’s concept on its head and make her a tad less likeable in her ditching of the ex, which would be essential for a minimal R&B track acting as a middle-finger to said ex. That’s just a nitpick though, as the song is mostly pretty slick and well-produced, especially with that siren-esque synth starting in the second verse, although I wish it was better constructed as a song in itself, as it tends to meander during the pre-chorus and never have any kind of release or catharsis, which would seem absolutely necessary for a song this angry, yet not so much for a song this dismissive. Whilst I like the sound of this song and its content, once again I feel like the Eilishes’ execution of these ideas doesn’t do much for me, which bas been a worrying and underwhelming pattern for all of the single releases since “my future”. We’ll see next week what that album entails, and I hope it surprises me.
#7 – “Oliver Twist” – ArrDee
Produced by ZEL
I feel like all of the former unknowns on the “Body” remix will have their own big hit sometime thanks to the fact it was a global smash for everyone involved, but ArrDee, one of the more celebrated rappers on the song in terms of their energy and verse quality, just happened to be first and I’m glad because this isn’t bad at all. ArrDee has some unique, almost slowthai-esque “mad lad” energy to him, especially on that chorus where he says that he just wanted some more live Oliver Twist, of course in the most comically over-the-top tone possible. The menacing drill beat doesn’t do his personality justice, however, and I feel clashes with how ArrDee raps along here, not that the beat is bad as anything with that hard of a violin loop is always in my good books. ArrDee is less of a rapper in this song as he is a mild observational comedian, and it works for his rambling, conversational flow, something quite unheard of in drill, where most rappers are as grizzly and staccato as possible. This is perhaps a bit too long considering how little of the verses there are in comparison to the killer chorus, but overall, this is also pretty fun.
That took considerably less time than expected considering the circumstance, but it was a pretty good week over all. I don’t really think it’s a bad song but if I weren’t to give a song I unfavourably compared to Air Supply Worst of the Week, it’d feel insincere so it can go to “Leave Before You Love Me” by Marshmello and the Jonas Brothers, with a Dishonourable Mention to Roddy Ricch’s “Late at Night”. Whilst most of the music here is good, not a lot of it is all that great so I find myself giving Best of the Week to “Transparent Soul” by WILLOW featuring Travis Barker, and an Honourable Mention for Lil Baby, Lil Durk and Travis Scott on “Hats Off”. Here’s this week’s top 10:
Next week, we’re greeted with albums from Polo G, Migos, Griff and Maroon 5, so it could be a big one, folks. For now, thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 05/06/2021 (Fredo & Central Cee, Maneskin)
Well, since everything from last week – it was a Eurovision album bomb, essentially – couldn’t last, we have a filler week but nothing’s actually filling in those blanks, so basically a lot of gains and returns. Welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
I may as well start by saying that we have an unusually hefty amount of returning entries because not enough new music was released to really make up for all of the losses from last week. These returns include “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac at #75, “Get Out My Head” by Shane Codd at #73, “Don’t Play” by Anne-Marie, KSI and Digital Farm Animals at #70, “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers back again at #69, “Dance Monkey” by Tones & I at #67, “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles at #64 and finally, thanks to silly UK chart rules that only allow for the three best-performing songs from a lead artist to chart, “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo returns at #6, whilst her song “traitor” drops out from the top 10. I understand that the purpose of this is to make sure the charts aren’t flooded with the same release – and it makes my job easier – but I think it’s to the detriment of the chart’s accuracy. Otherwise, what else dropped out to make room for all of our returns and gains? Well, our notable drop-outs – songs dropping out of the UK Top 75, which is what I cover, that spent five weeks in the region or peaked in the top 40 – include “Runaway” by AURORA, “Mask” by Dream off of the debut, “Last Time” by Becky Hill, “Addicted” by Jorja Smith and finally, “Martin & Gina” by Polo G, as well as some decidedly less notable Eurovision debuts from last week. “Martin & Gina” actually lasted a full 20 weeks without peaking in the top 40, just outside at #48, which I find intriguing.
Slightly less intriguing are our notable losses – songs that moved five spots down the chart this week – and those include “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)” by Lil Nas X getting ACR’d at #15, Eurovision winners “ZITTI E BUONI” by Maneskin at #25 (more on them later), “Your Power” by Billie Eilish at #39, “WITHOUT YOU” by The Kid LAROI at #42, “Titanium” by Dave at #49, “SUN GOES DOWN” by Lil Nas X at #56 off of the debut and of course, the expected continued losses for J. Cole as “Pride is the Devil” with Lil Baby is at #50, “My Life” with 21 Savage and Morray is at #55 and “Amari” is at #66. I refuse to acknowledge how those song titles are stylised.
We actually have a lot more gains here for once, as seemingly everyone and their grandmother has had a notable gain this week. These include “Believe Me” by NAVOS at #60, “Sunshine (The Light)” by Fat Joe, DJ Khaled and Amorphous at #53, “You” by Regard, Troye Sivan and Tate McRae at #48 thanks to the video, “Life Goes On” by PS1 and Alex Hosking surging up to #47 off of the debut, “Head & Heart” by Joel Corry and MNEK at #40, “Your Love (9PM)” by ATB, Topic and A7S at #38, “Way Too Long” by Nathan Dawe, Anne-Marie and MoStack at #37, “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” by Fred again.. and The Blessed Madonna making the top 40 – unfortunately – at #36, “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd rebounding to #35 for whatever reason, “The Business” by Tiesto at #33, “Don’t You Worry About Me” by Bad Boy Chiller Crew at #31, “Summer 91 (Looking Back)” by Noizu at #29, “Bed” by Joel Corry, RAYE and David Guetta at #19, “Levitating” by Dua Lipa continuing its second wind at #18, Majestic’s remix of Boney M.’s “Rasputin” at #11 and finally, Little Mix getting yet another top 10 hit as “Confetti”, propelled by a bizarrely uncredited Saweetie remix, rises to #9.
Now we’re done with that, I guess it’s safe to go and discuss our moderate batch of dull new arrivals, starting with...
#74 – “Mirror” – Sigrid
Produced by SLY
Let’s be blunt: After a year-long hiatus from releasing music, Sigrid is back with exactly the same stuff she’s been releasing for her career up to this point. It’s hard not to listen to yet another 1980s-esque synth bass and stock drum pattern without thinking that, yeah, this is sure a British dance-pop song from 2021, and kind of a re-hash. I do like the more intricate production details here though, like the cutting snare and all the flagrant strings in the chorus. With that said, I don’t think it brings more than that and with a song written as basically a self-empowerment anthem without any sense of making an actual catchy pop song that isn’t kind of clunky, I struggle to even register this as much of a song. That final chorus does do an interesting switch-up with the lead piano, and Sigrid’s voice isn’t awful here, even if it does feel slightly more strained than it should be, and it doesn’t help that the song quite frankly isn’t finished, ending as abruptly as it starts. Sigrid has made some great synth-pop before – I particularly like “Sucker Punch” – but I really hope I don’t see her fall into the same trap with the upcoming singles.
#68 – “Ride Out” – Bugzy Malone
Produced by Blinkie
Bugzy Malone is probably one of the least interesting personalities in modern British hip hop but regardless, here he is with a club-ready flex song reliant on some gross vocal samples and rote trap-adjacent beats laying a perfectly dull foundation for him to compare himself to Peter Griffin because of his gold belt buckle. Sure. The production as a whole is actually kind of messy and unfocused, considering the vocal sample in the chorus not at all blending with Bugzy, and most of the drum and bass mastering combined with Bugzy’s dead-pan delivery making his braggadocio sound like regret and bad decisions, which I don’t think is intentional. I fail to see, really, why I should care about this at all.
#65 – “Hear Me Say” – Jonas Blue and LÉON
Produced by Jonas Blue
Jonas Blue is probably one of the least interesting producers in modern British electronic music despite his contributions to the popularity of tropical house back in 2016 or so but regardless, here he is with a club-ready dance song reliant on some vaguely smooth synths smothered in a rote house beat and airy, anonymous vocals laying a perfectly dull foundation for generic lyrics lamenting the bittersweet end of a relationship, all undercut by an incoherent drop that rids the song of any potential melodrama or emotional gravitas. LÉON has a raspier voice that I guess makes the content more convincing – and I do hate to repeat myself this blatantly on this show – but considering how much piano house is on the charts every week just to clog up space, and how if anything, this song does less than it should to even try and stand out, I fail to see, really, why I should care about this at all.
#58 – “Respect the Come Up” – Meekz
Produced by Riddle
Here we have Meekz, yet another uninteresting British rapper, trying to frame this song as something potentially motivational or empowering in the intro before immediately dropping into aggressive flexing and gunplay that serves little purpose to anyone but Meekz, and given how this guy spends two long verses – and therefore nearly five minutes – saying next to nothing other than the same rap lyrics about snakes, gang violence and the trap that isn’t detailed enough to convince me about anything, especially when this guy is going to sound half-asleep for the entire track. I guess it’s kind of funny when he says he doesn’t rap but instead, he makes sounds? I know full well that it’s unintentional and a lot funnier than he thinks it sounds, which is kind of telling for this guy going forward. Fredo debuted a song this week, so why is this Poundland version charting?
#46 – “House & Garage” – Morrisson featuring Aitch
Produced by Harry James
When I first saw this, I misread the lead artist as “Morrissey” and was honestly ready to just dismiss this chart entry entirely. Thankfully, it’s just this rapper who’s clearly charting as a result of this Aitch collaboration that I actually think is pretty good. Sure, nothing all that lyrically notable is said, not that you’d expect it to be, but you can tell there’s at least some thought put into semi-clever lines about 21 Savage, not that it begged repeating. What really makes this song click for me isn’t the rappers, obviously, as they’re in one ear and out the other, both of them portraying some sort of strange anti-charisma over this really funky UK garage beat using spacey vocal samples and some gliding synths to accentuate the groove of its 2-step beat. This is far from reinventing the wheel, but it’s just a fun throwback to this 2000s era of UK garage that to me still holds a lot of weight and maybe even nostalgia, so I’m fine with this charting. I hope it sticks around.
#44 – “Daily Duppy” – Young Adz
Produced by Handz Beatz
A “Daily Duppy” freestyle is typically in actuality a written verse performed by a rapper for the YouTube channel GRM Daily, usually by artists in grime, drill or even Afroswing. These are highly anticipated as sometimes they get rappers who are hook-focused out of their comfort zone but are always exciting to hear a rapper bring their A-game for the fans of British hip hop. I can’t say I watch them myself but they have an audience clearly as they get enough YouTube views to chart ever so often. For once, the loveably crap Young Adz of trap duo D-Block Europe can strip the Auto-Tune and just spit bars for as long as possible... and you know what, I think it came out really freaking great. I have been warming up to DBE but putting Adz on this melancholy, guitar-based and reverb-drenched trap beat is a safe bet for a typical DBE track usually, so it’s surprising to hear Adz get rid of any of the melodic flows and just spit. Young Adz and his deadpan, tortured delivery make some of the content here hit a lot harder, speaking mostly about his conflict getting out of street violence and how it haunts him despite the years of fame and success, which leads to complicated attempts at making amends with people from his South London district that couldn’t get out. Never has a British trap-rapper sounded so simultaneously heartfelt and heartless, with some incredible and occasionally unpredictable flows that leave as much dead space for his bars to resonate. Sure, the beat does get stale after a while and the topic isn’t as focused as I’d like it to be, especially when he raps lines such as “got so much pain in my heart, I’ll need another lung”, but I think this is otherwise pretty solid. I hope to see more of this going forward from Young Adz and hopefully D-Block Europe as a whole, even though I really doubt that he’ll ever deliver on that. The DBE trap-wave stuff can be pretty funny, at least.
#24 – “I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE” – Maneskin
Produced by Maneskin and Fabrizio Ferraguzzo
I don’t think that I’ve ever read a more Italian name than “Fabrizio Ferraguzzo”. Anyway, this is the second song from Italian Eurovision winners that seems to blow up from out of thin air, and honestly, I really wish it didn’t. My friend titled this song “rapist post-punk revival” and I’m not sure if he’s that far off as this is an incredibly uncomfortable sex song featuring cringeworthily simplistic and at times really awkward, misguided lyrics sang by a vocalist who’s not trying over this driving hard rock beat that has enough energy to be kind of menacing but not enough to actually be interesting as the whole band seems to phone it in. That chorus is just awful, and seems to have very little relation to the verses, all of which are in English. Add some whispering to the second verse and I immediately never want to listen to this again.
#17 – “Meant to Be” – Stay Flee Get Lizzy featuring Fredo and Central Cee
Produced by LayZBeats and Pilgrim
Stay Flee Get Lizzy has charted before and are essentially at least what I thought of as a UK equivalent to Internet Money, as in a collective of producers, but Genius refers to them as a “lifestyle and clothing brand”. Either way, the real big names are Fredo and Central Cee, two of the most popular UK rappers both coming off of high-profile album releases, and this collaboration is entirely passable. Both the chorus and the verses ramble through different topics, mostly related to flexing or gang violence that you can expect out of any other UK drill song (although admittedly the beat does hit harder here with a particularly great chipmunk vocal sample sliding over that oddly bouncy 808). When I listened to this with my friend on a voice chat, he laughed pretty hard over Central Cee saying “she swing both ways, LGBT”, so I guess that’s something. Either way, these guys have more personality than a Morrisson, Meekz or even an Aitch, so I’ll accept something that mildly bangs.
This was actually an alright week all things considered but again I find it really hard to care about anything, even if there are both some genuinely good and pretty damn bad songs in our roster here. I guess Worst of the Week goes to “I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE” by Maneskin for being just atrocious, with a Dishonourable Mention for Bugzy Malone’s “Ride Out”. The Best of the Week easily goes to Young Adz’s “Daily Duppy” freestyle but with an Honourable Mention to Morrison and Aitch for “House & Garage” for just being a fun track. Here’s this week’s top 10:
I don’t see many interesting weeks coming up soon so this may be one filler week of many to come. Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week.
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 29/05/2021 (Eurovision, BTS, Olivia Rodrigo, Galantis/David Guetta/Little Mix, Anne-Marie & Niall Horan)
What better way to celebrate the end of a week in which I have been consistently ill and surprisingly busy? Sixteen new arrivals, of course! Shoot me, but first, congratulate Olivia Rodrigo for her second #1 as “good 4 u” gets the album boost to overthrow “Body” this week. I can safely say I think it’ll be there for a while. Let’s just start REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
Sixteen new arrivals and therefore, kind of a bloodbath. Why are there sixteen new arrivals? We’ll get to it. Other than six new arrivals from last week, we have a couple other drop-outs, the notable of which being those that spent five or more weeks in the UK Top 75 – which I cover – or those that peaked in the top 40. Therefore, those include, rather ironically on Olivia Rodrigo’s album week, former #1 “drivers license” (only dropping out because of a silly UK chart rule that only allows three songs per lead artist on the chart), as well as “Don’t Play” by Anne-Marie, KSI and Digital Farm Animals, “Another Love” by Tom Odell, “Calling My Phone” by Lil Tjay and 6LACK, “Heartbreak Anniversary” by Giveon, “Tonight” by Ghost Killer Track and D-Block Europe featuring OBOY and “Miss the Rage” by Trippie Redd and Playboi Carti. I’m not complaining about most of this, sorry, Giveon.
We have no returning entries – thankfully – so instead we can just focus on notable falls and climbers. I guess we’ll start with notable losses, songs that dropped five or more spots from their placement last week, and of course we do have a few of them at least as a result of, say it with me, sixteen new arrivals. The first few of these are all harsh drops because of ACR, which happened to coincide with the rest of the chaos, including “Little Bit of Love” by Tom Grennan at #24, “BED” by Joel Corry, David Guetta and RAYE at #25, “Friday” (Dopamine Re-Edit) by Riton and Nightcrawlers featuring Musafa & Hypeman at #26, “Peaches” by Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon at #29 and “Let’s Go Home Together” by Ella Henderson and Tom Grennan at #33. We also have the losses for J. Cole staying surprisingly slim with “My Life” featuring 21 Savage and Morray at #27, “Pride is the Devil” featuring Lil Baby at #28 and “Amari” at #35. The rest are mostly just expected continuous fallers, like “Wellerman” by Nathan Evans and remixed by 220 KID and Billen Ted at #44, “Nice to Meet Ya” by Wes Nelson and Yxng Bane at #46, “Your Love (9PM)” by ATB, Topic and A7S at #50, “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” by Fred again.. and the Blessed Madonna at #51, “Ferrari Horses” by D-Block Europe featuring RAYE at #53, “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals at #57, “Seeing Green” by Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne at #58 off of the debut, “All You Ever Wanted” by Rag’n’Bone Man at #61, “Martin & Gina” by Polo G at #63, “Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic at #64, “My Head & My Heart” by Ava Max at #65, Travis Scott’s remix of HVME’s remix of Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” at #67, “Addicted” by Jorja Smith at #68, “Beautiful Mistakes” by Maroon 5 and Megan Thee Stallion at #70, “Sunshine (The Light)” by Fat Joe, DJ Khaled and Amorphous at #73, “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi at #74 and finally “Believe Me” by Navos at #75. Phew.
Now what’s interesting is that we have nearly just as many gains, and they’re pretty unique, big surges in most cases, starting with “Cover Me in Sunshine” by P!nk and Willow Sage Heart at #52 thanks to the album boost that also prompted P!nk’s “All I Know So Far” to creep into the top 40 at #39, “Build a Bitch” by Bella Poarch at #32 off of the debut, “Starstruck” by Years & Years at #31 thanks to a bizarrely uncredited Kylie Minogue remix, “Little More Love” by AJ Tracey at #21, “Didn’t Know” by Tom Zanetti at #20, “Higher Power” by Coldplay at #19, “Black Hole” by Griff at #18, Majestic’s remix of Boney M.’s “Rasputin” at #16, “Good Without” by Mimi Webb soaring into the top 10 and hence becoming her first at #10, and Olivia Rodrigo getting her third thanks to the album boost as “deja vu” is at #4. I think that’s more than enough that needs to be said about music that was already on the chart last week, so welcome back to the part of this series where I get either increasingly frustrated or exhausted every time I have to list another song.
#72 – “Life Goes On” – PS1 featuring Alex Hosking
Produced by PS1 and Mark Alston
So, what better way to start sixteen new arrivals? A generic piano-house club track, of course. PS1 is a New York DJ and for this track with a 90s-esque piano and synth melody, bassy drop and tight, bland percussion as well as oddly-mixed anonymous female vocals made to sound robotic regardless of genuine emotive performance, he’s enlisted Australian singer Alex Hosking as well as co-songwriting from hit-makers GOODBOYS, both of which make remarkably little difference to the fact that despite being a faux-inspirational club track, this song is incredibly joyless and flailing in as pathetic and one-note of a fashion as possible. Yes, that is one exhaustive sentence chugging on as long as possible, but there’s no better way to parallel this disposable garbage than that.
#71 – “What a Time” – Julia Michaels featuring Niall Horan
Produced by Ian Kirkpatrick and RKCB
Niall Horan coincidentally has two unrelated female-male duets debuting with him in this week. Thankfully, Julia Michaels only has the one track debuting, and for the love of God, I can’t even figure out why she has the one, as this is a track from a 2019 EP that flew massively under every radar except seemingly mine as whilst I have listened to this EP, I cannot remember for the life of me liking any of it besides “Anxiety”, which makes sense since Michaels is at best an uninteresting songwriter and at worst an insufferable vocal presence. Regardless, I’m going to assume the surge is due to TikTok or some kind of residual Niall Horan hype, whatever there is of that, and look at this song two years after the fact. Well, for what it’s worth, I appreciate the vaguely folkish guitar riff, even if it’s going to be drowned out immensely by Michaels’ approach to vocal takes, which is to put as little effort into that first take and then multi-track enough for it to sound listenable, particularly on that bizarrely unfitting chorus in which reminiscing on a wonderful, intimate time with your partner is demonstrated by rote piano chords, an awkward string swell and distant, reverb-drenched incoherency on the vocals. I guess I do like the switch in the final chorus as she changes “what a time” to “what a lie” to emphasise the bitterness of that break-up, but I don’t think that bitterness has to soak the entire master because this song is dripping in apathy that I just don’t have any time for personally in my pop power ballads. Wait, Niall Horan was on this song?
Eurovision Song Contest 2021
Whilst I may not do a special episode on this blog for the Eurovision Song Contest, I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to watching and enjoying it every year. This year’s, the first since 2019 for obvious reasons, was hosted in Rotterdam in the Netherlands and was won by an Italian rock band, with the United Kingdom infamously receiving zero points yet somehow more applause than Israel’s performance. Telling. It’s not all politics though, obviously: the reason songs win is not just the lighting, stage presence, vocal performance or grandiosity, but rather the songs themselves, or at least ostensibly so. The winner this year didn’t have the best of any of those factors in my opinion – no, not even the politics – so it’s clearly about a mixture of this success criteria. This year had some particularly good songs and the most consistency out of Eurovision in a while, naturally leading to quite a few new arrivals, also factored in by the charts being weak, so we essentially get an album bomb. Let’s pile up every new arrival related to Eurovision and talk somewhat more briefly about each song, starting with...
#66 – “Dark Side” – Blind Channel
The Finnish entry this year is one of two heavy rock entries, both of which charted, and this is a genre represented by about one country annually. There’s always a Gothic-influenced or industrial-esque band in the shortlist or national finals if not the semis and international final, but it doesn’t stop them from being some of the most interesting Eurovision contesters. It’s in English and came sixth with 301 points. Is it any good? Well, it’s far from bad with that pumping electronic groove before it’s crushed by metallic, distorted and rather ugly guitars that remind me of, if anything, scene-era nu metal and crunkcore, especially due to the clean and growling vocal dynamic. The song is still anthemic as all hell and if we ignore the dog barking and stuttering vocals, as well as the fact that these vocalists don’t have that much grit to their performance, we can appreciate the clamouring rock track this is, and I’d be lying if I said that final chorus isn’t pretty epic. Next!
#62 – “Voilá” – Barbara Pravi
The French entry this year is one my staunchly Italian nationalist online friend immediately had a distaste for, and as someone with British citizenship, I am also legally obliged to give this Worst of the Week. Sorry, Barbara but traditions are traditions. It’s in her native French and came second overall with 499 points. Is it any good? Well, like many French entries and French pop songs in general, it’s in a chanson style that adapts very well to the modern western art-pop sound, as Pravi’s cooing vocals are at full focus in the mix as they skate around more subtle pianos, wonderfully elegant strings and this wistful tone that may or may not make sense for the content. What? I’m not learning a word of French past what was grained into me during primary school. Overall, I think this is a pretty great song with a lot of that almost Bjork-esque swell especially in Pravi’s vocal performance that I think makes for a pretty excellent listen, especially by the time that abrupt finish hits. I’d probably prefer it being a bit less minimal and scattered so the hook hits harder but overall this is one of the best Eurovision entries this year. However, she is French so, next!
#59 – “SHUM” – Go_A
The Ukrainian entry, always successful enough to get to the finals, was particularly hyped up prior due to its... eccentricity and ended up in fifth place with 364 points. It’s in their native Ukrainian so they might as well be garbling acid both verbally and as a written text, so I guess I have to judge it on the fact that this is pretty bonkers, with a charismatic and energetic vocal performance that yells over triumphant bassy horns perfectly blended with the 80s bass synths but not so much with those chirping flutes that, whilst cool on paper, kind of just give me a headache when faced against this thumping dance beat that remains decidedly strained for most of its runtime, and annoyingly so as it means the song never has that cathartic of a release, at least to me, but what drop it has ends up deconstructed and janky in something that might fit on PC Music but I’m not sure it does on Ukrainian Eurovision. This has something there, but I’m not into it. Sorry.
#47 – “Embers” – James Newman
REPRESENTING: United Kingdom
A catastrophic loss is British culture at Eurovision, and it’s not the first time in this century that we’ve gotten the infamous null points. James happens to be related to the more noteworthy John Newman, but that didn’t avoid a “nil points catastrophe”, coined by Jochan Embley, who reviewed the song for the Evening Standard and is now set in stone as an utter fool as his quote predicting that not to be the case this year is now forever preserved on the Wikipedia page for this very song. Nice one, Embley. We finished at twenty-sixth and Newman should honestly be glad this embarrassment is charting. The worst part of this whole ordeal is that the song’s actually fine and definitely representative of British pop music with its 90s-esque piano, bassy drop and anonymous vocal performance – if any of that sounds familiar – and I do love the plastic brass added here for the sake of bombast. It’s nothing interesting, and a tad too long considering how little it does with its musical premise, but it’s not worse than half of any given Eurovision. Maybe next year we submit a UK drill song, I’m sure that’ll get the people going. Tion Wayne, do you want to take a flight to Italy in 2022? Maybe bring Young Adz here while you’re at it; that could truly be a fascinatingly out of place Eurovision entry but at least one of these countries – probably Russia – would vote for it. As for now, at least this was funny to see absolutely bomb, and Graham Norton become increasingly hopeless for its success as the night went on.
#43 – “10 Years” – Daoi Freyr
One part of this guy’s backing band tested positive for COVID-19 so they had to isolate and just show the dress rehearsal again but it didn’t stop them from charting and delivering a pretty damn unique entry, as Iceland is known for doing nowadays. It’s all in English and finished in fourth place with 378 points, and is it any good? Well, for one of the whitest concepts in television, this is the whitest song of this year’s entries, starting with some gentle violins before abruptly careening straight into this Daoi Freyr guy monotonously droning over bass-heavy nu-disco straight out of the 2000s with a level of irony balancing out whatever sincerity there is in the quasi-R&B breakdown, and, you know, it’s fun, at least? I do think the stage performance is remarkably more interesting than this funktronica mess in the studio, but this is catchy and inoffensive, two good ways to get people to care about your song in Eurovision, so it makes sense. Also, that chiptune synth-solo borderline saves this song, even in all its brevity.
#17 – “ZITTI E BUONI” – Maneskin
So third place didn’t chart – sorry, Switzerland – but we do obviously get the winner charting as high as the top 20. The chart’s weak and the lead singer’s hot and probably does cocaine – it’s a recipe for success, especially when they probably have mafia connections and can threaten or buy their way into the charts. Unrealistic and possibly xenophobic stereotypes aside, this is the Italian entry and whilst I was personally gunning for Portugal, who came twelfth, I can see how this gathered 524 points, even if they had to censor the lyrics for the sake of the contest, not that I can tell because I do not know a lick of Italian. Sorry, Ignacio. Anyway, this song kicks ass and rather disrespectfully at that, as the lead singer breathily sings over garage rock-esque guitar licks and some pretty manic drumming that delivers not only a catchy hook but an undeniable groove, assisted by some slick rapping that comes out of the blue in the second verse and honestly fits the song – and the singer – a lot better than it has any right to. Congratulations, Italy – you’ll be paying out the ass for the next contest. Ciao!
Back to your regularly scheduled programming...
Well, that got a lot out of the way. Not all of it, though.
#60 – “Topshottas Freestyle” – Potter Payper
Produced by Chucks
Potter Payper is basically some guy from Barking, East London, and that’s all you need to sign a record deal with the same label that has Stormzy on payroll so that’s why he’s here. With that said, there’s something deeper here, or at least in the first few lines of this singular verse – without a chorus – in which Potter Payper narrates a street lifestyle, far too common for young working-class British men, retelling what is probably his truth about the consequences of ignoring motherly advices and finding yourself in a situation surrounded by gang violence, drug trafficking and all the paranoia that comes with it. Of course, he then brags about his wordplay, gunplay and fashion, and the rest of the verse just feels aimless with nothing exactly restraining the meandering checklist of clichés, and zilch returning it back to what I thought was going to be the point of the song. I guess this trap beat is okay but this same acoustic guitar and oddly-mastered bass is so common and uninteresting that I find it hard to care. I don’t have an issue with British music being Americanised as that’s just the result of musical evolution and the sharing of culture, but when the only way you can tell this isn’t from the States is the accent does make me question why this is charting amongst Dave and AJ Tracey instead of Lil Baby and Gunna.
#56 – “GANG GANG” – Polo G and Lil Wayne
Produced by Angelo Ferraro
Polo G, after just having the biggest hit of his career with the US #1 hit “RAPSTAR”, follows it up with a Lil Wayne collaboration and thanks to a busy and just misguided release date and timing, it makes a lot less noise than it should. It absolutely deserves that level of attention too, with its chopped-up borderline ambient melody that creates a perfect foundation for this high-energy bass-heavy trap beat as well as Polo G delivering a lot more energy than on “RAPSTAR” (to the point where I think that’s the reason why his actually interesting songs don’t do as well). The chorus has a pretty great melodic switch-up by the end and whilst the flows are pretty rote, it’s hard to say they aren’t smoothly delivering all of the flexing and gunplay pretty typical of Polo G, and if anything that’s what it’s missing: an extra layer of depth, not that I care of course, because Lil Wayne’s on it. Wayne has been astonishingly great on features recently and this is one of his most impressive features to the point where I could barely write about it on first listen, with some of his slickest flow switches ever and whilst the content doesn’t get any more interesting than pouring his heart out for his lean, his pure charisma outshines anyone who could have been on this track and this means this ends up pretty excellent in terms of 2020s trap-rap. I don’t know when that Polo G album is coming but I hope it has more of this. Also, for the love of God, Wayne, keep this energy up for the next album. I’m begging you.
#42 – “SUN GOES DOWN” – Lil Nas X
Produced by Roy Lenzo, Omar Fedi and Take a Daytrip
As his follow up to “MONTERO”, we have a new, decidedly less sexual Lil Nas X hit debuting again surprisingly low on the chart considering the last single’s success, finally delivering in the musical department as for me, there’s a constant conflict between wanting to like Lil Nas as a character, performer and personality rather than actually enjoying any of the guy’s music. Last time I talked about Lil Nas, I did bring up the Pitchfork album review that questioned if he really liked music and whilst it’s funny, I do see how Lil Nas could have perhaps taken Pitchfork to heart as a result as he practically explains his love of popular music as a way for him to feel like he belonged in a community, which is especially meaningful for a man constantly left alienated because of his own mental health issues as a teenager and struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality, to the point of suicidal thoughts. I just love how the verse ends on a happy note where makes the leap of faith to come out and how now he’s proud of himself, he wants to make sure his fans are proud of him since they’re the people who got him there. For me, those last lines recontextualise the chorus as becoming less about contemplating death but more about ascending to a happier place and rejecting all your struggles that you’ve overcome. It helps that this is all sang pretty soulfully over an almost emo guitar melody with some basic flows but gorgeous multi-tracked vocal melodies accentuated by strings that elevate this song even higher, even if it seems underdeveloped. Sure, it doesn’t have that second verse, but does a victory lap need a re-over?
#38 – “Mask” – Dream
Produced by Perish Beats and Banrisk
#22 – “Our Song” – Anne-Marie and Niall Horan
Produced by TMS
Okay, so this is a duet where two ex-lovers – only in the song – attempt to get over each other but end up hearing a song they held special to their relationship and all of the memories and pain comes flooding back. Without the youthful exuberance of Taylor Swift’s song of the same name, this duet should carry some bitterness and resentment but mostly capture a hesitant nostalgia... and despite being oddly Niall Horan-dominated, I guess it does that pretty effectively, or at least would if Niall wasn’t crushed by a misshapen trap beat that drowns this pathetically fluttering guitar loop into a mush that not even Anne-Marie can over-sell. Everything here is so utterly basic that it kind of screws itself over by trying for any energy or passion, and therefore kind of just doesn’t. I’m glad.
#9 – “Heartbreak Anthem” – Galantis, David Guetta and Little Mix
Produced by Bloodshy, Henrik Jonback, David Saint Fleur, Thom Bridges, David Guetta, Mike Hawkins, SONDR and Johnny Goldstein
It really speaks to the power of Little Mix that even with only three members and only one of them not expecting a child, they can bring Galantis back of all people. Although given that Galantis is already a duo, I fail to see why David Guetta needs to be here, and the same can go for any of the other seven credited producers of this song, which actually only includes one half of Galantis! I question if a song ever needs that many, despite the fact that in reality they probably contributed zilch to the song each, just enough to get a pay check. None of that should matter, however, if the song isn’t good and I’ll admit this is far from the worst that any of these guys have delivered, with a string melody and swell not unlike 2015-era house Galantis themselves made, and vocal deliveries from the girls that sound like they were located in vastly different locations from each other (to the point where anyone harmonising with Perrie sounds really awkward regardless of how many vocal manipulation effects you can put on them). For seven producers, that’s inexcusable, but as a song, it’s just a shallow post-break-up song that kind of feels like a dig towards Jesy if anything (although I hope it isn’t). I’m not a fan – I never was going to be – but it works for what it is as this colourful house jam, and not much else. This is Galantis’ first top 10 since 2016, by the way. Yeah, Little Mix are that big.
#7 – “traitor” – Olivia Rodrigo
Produced by Dan Nigro
It couldn’t have been “brutal”? Or “hope ur ok”? Okay, well, if we’re going to have the dullest track on the album bar one I guess we’ll go with the one that follows the “drivers license” formula to a T but without as much passion in the vocals, without as much interesting songwriting quirks and with a whole lot of rote fluff removed far from any indie-girl influence that undercuts what is essentially a teen-pop product. I’m not going to pretend I cannot get caught up in melodrama and embrace that, but this is a slog of a ballad with an almost sing-song, condescending vocal melody in that chorus, multi-tracked and studio-produced to rid her of any of that natural rasp she has when singing live. The song is about being annoyed by an ex finding someone new and the more toxic thoughts that come with being the ex-girlfriend in that situation, but with decidedly low stakes this time around that just make her more unlikeable than relatable. I’m sorry, I didn’t think that album was half-bad at all, but please don’t make this the post-release hit.
#3 – “Butter” – BTS
Produced by Ron Perry, Rob Grimaldi and Stephen Kirk
See, I value my personal information, and I don’t know about you but I’m as scared of these guys as I am Nicki Minaj stans, or Minecraft YouTuber stans, or serial killers, so whilst I doubt my platform is extensive enough to reach that level, I also know that these people are so online that they could easily find me somehow somewhere. With that said, just to clarify, when I say I wish I could “Nope” myself out of this one like I did with Dream because I have consistently little to say about this band, it’s not because I in any way dislike BTS or the band members within, or their record label that manages them and many other K-pop bands which I also do not dislike, or, because I’ve seen this happen, East Asians in general. Is that enough stalling to just say I don’t care about this basic pop fluff? When BTS are in Korean, their lyrics aren’t embarrassing and their production tends to be more experimental or at least catchier, more interesting. I like a fair few Korean BTS songs as a result but I just do not see the appeal in making another stiff, cleanly-produced 80s-esque funk-pop song with some chiptune synths that are admittedly kinda cool other than getting on US radio. There’s some interplay between the boys here but it just leads to a pretty homogenised track where none of them have enough personality to shine through, not even SUGA and RM on the tacked-on rap verse that so awkwardly ends. The synth solo sounds perfectly out of an era of dated 80s synths that I’m not sure anyone other than Bruno Mars actually had nostalgia for, and not even some pretty vocoder can save it. The writing is too clumsy, the production’s not equipped to handle it and there’s not much to speak of in terms of performance. I fear for my life when I say it but I think this is actually pretty bad.
Okay, so, we’re finally finished with this week and God, I’m glad, as there’s not that much quality here to speak of, although what is here is here in droves, so Best of the Week gladly goes to Polo G and Lil Wayne for “GANG GANG”, with “Sun Goes Down” by Lil Nas X following closely behind as an Honourable Mention. In terms of Worst of the Week, it doesn’t actually go to they who shall not or he who should not be named, instead going to the pathetic “Your Song” by Anne-Marie and Niall Horan, with a Dishonourable Mention going to BTS for “Butter”. It’s just “Dynamite” again but with considerably less reason to exist. Here’s this week’s top 10:
If I make it to next week, who knows what’s coming? This is a slower week – hopefully – and I don’t think black midi will chart, though it’d be comical, so I’ll hold off on predictions and just thank you for reading. See you next week!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 22/05/2021 (Olivia Rodrigo, J. Cole’s ‘The Off-Season’, Nicki Minaj)
Yeah, it’s a big week, given the impact of J. Cole, Jorja Smith, Olivia Rodrigo (more on that next week) and the remaining impact of the BRIT Awards. There’s a lot of nonsense on this chart, a busy as hell one at that, but this surprisingly did not affect the #1, as the remix to “Body” by Russ Millions and Tion Wayne spends a third week at the top. Let’s just attack this head on. Welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
First of all, let’s get this nonsense out of the way: what happened to songs already on the UK Top 75 chart, which is what I cover? Well, a fair few of them dropped out. Any song that spent five or more weeks in the chart or peaked in the top 40 is considered a notable drop-out, and this week, they include “Wants and Needs” by Drake featuring Lil Baby off of the return last week, “Track Star” by Mooski, “Heat” by Paul Woolford and Amber Mark, “6 for 6” by Central Cee, “Patience” by KSI featuring YUNGBLUD and Polo G, “Hold On” by Justin Bieber, “We’re Good” by Dua Lipa, “Commitment Issues” by Central Cee (Gosh, didn’t think J. Cole would take a chunk out of this guy’s audience specifically), “Up” by Cardi B, “Streets” by Doja Cat and finally, “Get Out My Head” by Shane Codd, but also interestingly “i n t e r l u d e” by J. Cole dropping out off of the top 40 debut despite the album boost. This doesn’t mean it didn’t perform well but rather this is demonstrating this silly chart rule where in the top 100, one artist can only have three songs, preventing album bombs that you see on the US Billboard Hot 100. It makes the chart less accurate but arguably more diverse and hence fun for me to talk about.
There are also a few returning entries to add some fuel to this chart fire, one that has already combusted in the US this week, as “Slumber Party” by Ashnikko featuring Princess Nokia is back at #70 thanks to the video, “All You Ever Wanted” by Rag’n’Bone Man is back at #51 thanks to a delayed album boost, and the same can be said for “Addicted” by Jorja Smith at #49.
Then we have our notable losses, songs that fell at least five spots down the chart this week, including “WITHOUT YOU” by the Kid LAROI at #18, “Higher Power” by Coldplay falling big off of the debut at #25, “Your Power” by Billie Eilish at #26, “Didn’t Know” by Tom Zanetti at #28, “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals at #30, “Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic at #31, “Don’t You Worry About Me” by Bad Boy Chiller Crew at #39, “Latest Trends” by A1 x J1 at #46, “Last Time” by Becky Hill at #52, “All I Know So Far” by P!nk at #55 off of the debut, “My Head & My Heart” by Ava Max at #57, “Martin & Gina” by Polo G at #58, “Miss the Rage” by Trippie Redd featuring Playboi Carti dropping hard off of the debut at #60 (Really, what was expected here?), Travis Scott’s remix of HVME’s remix of Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” at #61, “Cover Me in Sunshine” by P!nk and Willow Sage Heart at #63, “Don’t Play” by Anne-Marie, KSI and Digital Farm Animals at #65, “Sunshine (The Light)” by Fat Joe, DJ Khaled and Amorphous at #66, “Tonight” by Ghost Killer Track featuring D-Block Europe and Oboy at #71, and finally, “Calling My Phone” by Lil Tjay and 6LACK at #73.
That’s not to say there weren’t any notable gains however as we do have some interesting remnants of BRITs excitement and some other reasons for our gains this week, which include “One Day” by Lovejoy (more on them later) at #54, “It’s a sin” by Elton John and Years & Years at #47, “Way Too Long” by Nathan Dawe, Anne-Marie and MoStack at #43, “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo at #35 off of the success of “good 4 u” (again, more on that later), “Black Hole” by Griff at #23 thanks to the BRITs, and finally, “deja vu” by Olivia Rodrigo at #11. Really, all of this is just me stalling because this is a massive week – I’m writing this early – let’s just get through this... starting with—oh, for God’s sake.
#75 – “Taunt” – Lovejoy
Produced by Cameron Nesbitt
Two weeks in a row, ladies and gentlemen: Minecraft YouTuber-core. How this happens I have no idea but regardless, the people of the UK seem to enjoy this Wilbur Soot guy’s new band. Is the new single better than the last one that charted from this EP, at least? Well, yeah, it is, mostly because at least this one’s an actual pop rock tune that, whilst derivative again, has more hooks than “One Day”, especially those stop-and-start-again verses that give me mathcore flashbacks, just with less of a catharsis to come from it other than that infectious, trumpet-laden chorus. The content is pretty gross if anything, seemingly focusing in on this past relationship from secondary school in which Wilbur tears into a girl for being insecure despite her privileges... for seemingly no reason. I mean, surely, you’ve moved on, right? Thankfully, Wilbur does get his comeuppance by the end of the song as the girl throws his drink at him, but it does leave the rest of the song with a pretty spiteful taste in my mouth that can’t be avoided by some pretty, 2000s indie rock-esque instrumentals. It doesn’t help that Wilbur Soot is such a non-presence as well, which I can see improving as the band goes on to record more material but the problem is with this early stage is that for now, it’s all rather primitive... yet it’s still charting. Oh, and if any people happen to find this that are fans of this guy, I am terrified of you so I’ll clarify that I don’t dislike this band at all, I’m just not a fan of what I’ve heard. I just wanted to put that out there because I value my personal information.
#74 – “Crocodile Teeth” – Skillibeng
Produced by Adde Instrumentals and Johnny Wonder
So last week, Nicki Minaj re-released her classic 2009 mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty onto official streaming services for the first time, with a remastered mix of some of her classic remixes as well as some new tracks or fan-favourite loosies sprinkled in. Why do I say this in reference to some random unrelated track, you ask? Well, we’ll get back to Nicki later but this song was actually remixed by Nicki and appears on that mixtape, despite baring no resemblance or relation to that mixtape at all, given this was released in 2020. The UK Singles Chart is particularly inconsistent is crediting remixes however, so we have the original here and, for what it’s worth, I quite like this. Skillibeng isn’t the most interesting presence but does his job in being vaguely menacing and violent over this cheap piano-led Afroswing instrumental with some questionable bass mastering. The song is in Patois but you can get the gist that it’s gunplay and flexing, typically stuff you’d hear in any UK drill track and it’s generic for sure but catchy enough to ignore. This version of the song is completely passable but I do think it is elevated by Nicki’s short introductory verse on the remix. I’d obviously have preferred there be more interplay but the remix was probably only known to Skillibeng when Nicki’s lawyers reached out anyway.
#72 – “Straightenin” – Migos
Produced by DJ Durel, Atake, Sluzyyy, OSIRIS, Nuki and Slime Castro
So Migos are finally preparing to release their highly-anticipated record Culture III as the boys are back together after some time apart, in which they have had varying levels of success, with Offset probably delivering the best solo material because he has both the best qualities of Takeoff and Quavo and always delivers on guest verses... I’m sorry, what about this needed six producers? This beat is not bad by any stretch with some vague flute loop eerily played under a rote trap beat, of which the bounced 808s are probably of most interest, but I do not understand how one person, let alone just an AI, couldn’t have made this alone. Regardless, the beat is good enough to make Quavo sound like he finally cares, even if he’s just going to talk about how he just saw Tenet – a bit late to the party – and how he turned a pandemic to a “band-emic”. Yeah, okay, so we’re going to ignore Mr. Quavious and move onto Takeoff and Offset who... at least have some good flows, albeit just the same triplet deliveries they’ve had for years. I think the most interesting part about this whole song is the slippery backing vocal that follows Quavo in the later choruses, which shows an attention to detail I missed from these guys. There’s only so much I can hear Quavo say “don’t nothin’ get straight ‘bout straightenin’” before I lose my mind, though, especially by the time we get to that awkward outro, so I can’t call myself a fan of this. If we’re speaking trap-rap from acts on hiatus, I really would have preferred “Lay wit Ya” by Isaiah Rashad and Duke Deuce to chart but I guess these guys will do.
#64 – “Independence Day Freestyle” – Fredo
Produced by Handz
By the end of this episode, I will never want to hear skittering hi-hats ever again. For now, however, we’ve got the same genre, different country as we go home to Fredo, a British rapper who’s pretty consistently good to be fair to him and did release an album I liked earlier this year. This is just a random freestyle he dropped last week because he felt like it, and here it is on the chart. Okay, well, it isn’t an actual freestyle because nothing that’s called a freestyle actually is in 2021, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a trap banger in itself and it’s got the foundation for it. I love the eerie chipmunk vocal sample that adds a touch of soul to the menacing keys before they get drowned out by trap percussion and Fredo going through his typical rags-to-riches commentary and memories of gang violence in one massive verse that somehow keeps my interest throughout the entire three minutes. The flow is about as smooth as it gets with UK rap, typically a lot stiffer, especially in drill, and the mixing’s fine, so yeah, I can’t really complain. I’d have preferred a chorus, obviously, and there are extended freestyles we’ll talk about later that do this a lot better, but for now, I can dig this, especially considering it’s pretty damn quotable for what it is. “If I fell off, I must have fell off the stairs into some elevators” is a bar, as is when he says he’s got more foreign cars than an Asian wedding or when he calls himself “Lord of the Bling”... okay, maybe that one’s not as impressive.
#62 – “The Great Escape” – Blanco and Central Cee
Produced by LiTek and WhyJay
Central Cee is a more familiar name but you may not know Blanco who, despite the collaboration with Cee making it ripe for comparison and comedy, is not a French white rapper. Rather, he’s from pioneering drill group Harlem Spartans and this is actually his first solo charting song thanks to Cee’s appearance. As you’d expect, this has some loud drill production and vague acoustic guitar loop as well as some stuttering vocal production peppered with dark 808s (that do bang here in all honesty) and pointless alarm sounds. Whilst drill is so standardised now, I do actually like this beat because it’s what I want to hear Cee on; sure, it’s got the guitar and the flutes but it’s also got a sax riff, which is what made “Loading” so fun. Blanco himself is also a more charming presence than Cee and their two energies bounce off of each other pretty well, even if the most witty their punchlines get are just referencing Powerpuff Girls characters... and when they’re not basic, they’re borderline incoherent but whatever, this is a fun slice of misogyny and violence that you’d expect from the genre with at least some care put into it. Not bad at all.
#56 – “Bussdown” – Jorja Smith featuring Shaybo
Produced by Riccardo Damian, Jeff “Gitty” Gitelman and Kal Banx
This is the break-out single from the most recent “project” from Jorja Smith, going the Drake route of not bothering to name it an album, mixtape or EP, and this one features London rapper Shaybo in a track about materialism but not as much embracing it as becoming increasingly alienated by it as whilst wealth may bring you luxury and connections, it detaches you from reality, which is the point in Shaybo’s verses about being Miss Naive, someone who is increasingly aggressive as a result because, well, she always gets what she wants, right? This is not a project I listened to but the content is promising... until I actually hear the song, with its awkward, clattering percussion showered in overwhelming vocal mixing that fails in whatever intimacy it attempts to present, and that’s before the decidedly unsubtle air horns and guitar licks. The song is minimal enough for the content to kind of fall flat as well, as a song like this feels like it deserves more than a slick bass groove, rather some kind of maximalist yet subtlety eerie production. I’m thinking Shaybo would actually make more sense there than she would here as well as her awkward, pathetic-sounding flow is delivered in the most dead-pan cadence, so much so that it drifts off fully into background “vibe” music but even then, it feels too distracting in the mix to work as that. I did want to like this but it just ends up as a really disappointing track from Jorja Smith, once again.
#42 – “Seeing Green” – Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne
Produced by GOVI and Kid Masterpiece
We’re half-way through our batch of new arrivals and what better way to celebrate than a posse cut by three rappers long past their prime by now without a chorus that pushes six minutes? Normally, that would be sarcastic, but in this case it is absolutely not as this is awesome. I love 2000s hip-hop and a chipmunk soul-inflected beat blended with early 2010s era proto-trap production is obviously going to appeal to me as that type of contrast is what I love about more lyrical hip-hop, hell, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was said this was a Kanye beat or more accurately perhaps one by Harry Fraud. It helps that over that gorgeous soul sample we have all three rappers proving they still have it as performers, with some detailed verses from the classic Young Money crew that if nothing else provide a perfect nostalgia button for their era of dominance in hip-hop, not that it’s ever stopped since. I also just love hearing Lil Wayne hungry again, because I am a pretty big fan of his voice, delivery and even some of his wordplay and one-liners, all of which he expresses perfectly in his high-energy verse that switches through flaws as if it were all some off-the-top freestyle, and knowing Wayne, it might as well could have been. I love how he starts his verse off by shooting a guy and then saying it was his bad for doing it because he was a “good cat” and somehow it gets more off the rails afterwards, as he calls his girl a vacuum and says he’s peeing lean, before this self-proclaimed “badonkadonk bikini fiend” reminisces about his bisexual ex from Atlanta in a pretty clever use of repetition in rap. This is all with his sludged drawl of a delivery, which becomes especially important when he calls us all back to 2010 as when Wayne was in prison at his career peak, Drake always said “Free Weezy” and now 10 years later, Wayne’s saying “Free Drizzy” because Drake’s locked up in Canada because of the COVID-19 pandemic... because of course. I know it just seems like I’m itching out tiny little details in the verse but that’s what’s so great about repeated listens to detailed and great rap verses. That’s not to say Wayne is the only stand-out here either as Nicki Minaj impresses with that confident delivery she’s known for as she clarifies her beef with Cardi B being less about her “copying her homework” as it was about her up-hill battle with the industry, she recites how bitches are infamously her sons and delivers some pretty clever and quotable lines of her own, like “brand new Vanilla Maserati, I’ve been Haagen-Daszin’”... which again sounds like a bar straight out of 2010. I think the best verse here might actually be from Drake as much as I hate to say it, with bravado out of the gate that seems pretty deserved for someone with as immense success as he’s had. Not only is he referencing back to 2010 and even his Degrassi days, comparing it to the run-up to his upcoming album since he’s back on two crutches, but he’s also delivering some of his most interesting and quotable lines in years, and it all runs off so effortlessly and smoothly, but with a constant hunger and conviction reminding me of some of his deeper cuts like “Dreams Money Can Buy”. I won’t go further than I already have with this song – even though I could gladly quote practically the entirety of Drake’s verse, even when he aspires to be Vladimir Putin (I guess it’s better than accidentally comparing himself to Hitler) – but I’ve rambled on enough about this wonderful track. Triumphant lyrical rapping over soulful vocal loops will never be a thing I stop having a fondness for; these are some of my nostalgia biases creeping in – especially since these aren’t close to being the best verses any of the trio have delivered – but it’s so great hearing all three back on form together. Check this out if you haven’t as it’s absolutely a highlight off of the mixtape’s re-release.
#37 – “Build a Bitch” – Bella Poarch
Produced by Sub Urban and Elle Rizk
Bella Poarch is a name I had to search up and it turns out she is another one of these TikTok stars turned pop singers and all power to them for starting their career through such a useful and culturally important platform, honestly, and realistically, anyone regardless of their career background could make a song I enjoy, so there’s no use in dismissing them as a result, especially if I actually enjoy the concept of this song. The writing tends to be a bit childish as expected – again, more on that later – particularly when she sings lines like “Bob the Builder broke my heart and told me it needs fixing”, but the song’s theme of embracing young women for how they really are instead of Photoshopped, unrealistic beauty expectations is a message I like being expressed to her audience of teenage girls; I see it as necessary in the social media age. I do think that this message could be expressed with more tact than a Build-a-Bear parody but it never goes the slut-shaming route and is more critical of the men demanding or expecting perfection from their female partners, or on a wider scale the expectation for successful women to follow fashion and beauty trends, especially by men in their industries and fields. Poarch herself is a light-hearted vocalist kind of reminding me a bit too much of a self-serious Ashnikko but the melody in the chorus is infectious enough for me to ignore how void a personality she is. It’s harder however to ignore the stiff 808s that drown out clattering, awkward future-bass production and that drop just being really gross, kind of ruining the song in how it’s clearly a lean towards hyper-pop without fully drawing itself within that lane. Either way, this is fine, and at barely two minutes it struggles to find itself as a finished song let alone anything I can be offended by. This is remarkably okay, and that’s more than I expected.
#16 – “a m a r i” – J. Cole
Produced by T-Minus, J. Cole, Sucuki and Timbaland
These songs don’t even show up when you search them on Spotify and to be honest, I was hoping that would lead to limited success but of course, it didn’t. J. Cole’s latest album The Off-Season is yet another mediocre instalment in a dull catalogue full of rambling verses from a guy who thinks he has much more to say than he actually ends up saying, and it’s exhausting to listen let alone discuss the man’s art out of a sheer lack of personality or wit that follows his every move. His Dreamville label is filled to the brim with people more consistent, skilful and interesting than Cole has ever been so it’s just frustrating to see the label boss get all of the recognition. Regardless, I’ve never liked Cole as an artist – especially not a conscious one given the ableism, homophobia and tone-deaf exchange with Noname just last year – so I’m almost glad he’s stripped off half of the pretence of making a woke, important album. He’s just rapping on this record, which gives me the excuse to run through the rest of these consecutive bores from Cole as quickly as possible. First of all, we have “a m a r i”, a barely sufferable dud from the album scored by a blend of acoustic guitars and squelching trap percussion that fails to platform Cole’s Auto-Tuned moaning, oftentimes just aggravating and barely listenable, and sometimes disguising some pretty weak, topic-less verses for a man who claims to be focused. “Want smoke? I’m a whole nicotine company” is not the silliest bar on the album, but I’m almost convinced the song ends as abruptly as it does because Timbaland’s embarrassed that he helped produce such an underwhelming beat and not even someone praised as a modern great can save it from being worthless.
#15 – “p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l” – J. Cole and Lil Baby
Produced by T-Minus
One of my favourite hip-hop releases of last year was Aminé’s Limbo, a diverse selection of tracks that ranged from conscious hip-hop about his ambitions and fears about growing up and raising children in a modern world as well as typical trap-rap flexing and R&B crooners about girl problems. All of this is smoothly stirred into a pot of personality that actually attempts to bridge a gap between older and newer generations of rappers rather than just claiming to. “Can’t Decide” is not one of my favourite tracks from that record – “Compensating” with Young Thug executes its ideas just that little bit better for me – but it’s still a fun, R&B-adjacent tune with insanely catchy hooks about Aminé’s relationships. So why did we need a J. Cole remix? This guy sucks the fun out of beats like a vacuum in a bouncy castle, as he sloppily whines in an almost emo-rap cadence over a cheaper West Coast slide he just can’t convincingly sell. Lyrically, Cole focuses on the idea of pride and how it corrupts someone’s morals, criticising the flashing of money and social isolation from the family... both of which seem like Cole’s M.O. at this point, right? Success amidst independence? Platinum without features? This time around, there is a feature however from Lil Baby, who much like Cole claims to be focused in this very focused whilst pick-and-choosing between random trains of thought in his typical frog-throat delivery. Hey, at least Lil Baby flows with less strain and unwarranted, desperate effort that Cole does, and ends up out-shining the primary artist entirely, even if he’s going to “pay silly bands to have sex on the jet”. ..What?
#13 – “m y . l i f e” – J. Cole, 21 Savage and Morray
Produced by WU10, J. Cole and Jake One
The first lines of this song are “Spiralling up just like a rich person’s staircase; no fly zone, please stay out of my airspace”. Cole, I thought pride was the devil! I understand that one can still acknowledge the flaws in their worldview whilst embracing it and engaging themselves in it – that’s really a lot of the point of rags-to-riches rap – but some subtlety or at least some explanation from someone who wants you to see him as focused, woke, hungry and a master of his craft, would have been nice, right? This is Morray’s first charting hit in the UK and I’m glad he’s here as he’s basically what differentiates this from the duo’s prior collaboration “a lot”, a song that not only banged harder but felt smoother and Hell, just more coherent, especially with some soulful production that this new collaboration glaringly rips off. Morray’s biggest hit is “Quicksand” but his mixtape Street Sermons is full of soulful and honest trap-rap that I’d absolutely recommend for gospel flavour on the surface and the lyrical detail behind the bravado being extensive and confidently delivered, especially standing out on his own with no features to speak of. He has the chorus on here and I’m surprised DaBaby doesn’t have the second verse so this could be a North Carolina anthem but we do have 21 Savage, who delivers his typical brand of cold-hearted (or rather no-hearted), stoic paranoia bars but at least that’s a personality. 21 Savage delivers a slick flow over this sample and spits the pretty simple yet profound bar of “I pray that my past ain’t ahead of me”, leading to probably the most enjoyable verse on the whole album. If you couldn’t tell, the new guys outshine the old guard so obviously with so little effort it’s kind of impressive on Cole’s part even. I’m glad this is the biggest hit from this album so far as not only is this one of the best tracks out of a slim selection but it’s big for both 21 and especially Morray, who I’m really rooting for against, say, a Rod Wave or Kevin Gates in terms of southern rap with a lot more soul and grit. Oh, and Cole, “know it’s on sight when I see you like I’m working at Squarespace”? Really? Again, it’s not the dumbest bar on the album.
#2 – “good 4 u” – Olivia Rodrigo
Produced by Alexander 23 and Dan Nigro
It’s pretty fitting to book-end a batch of new arrivals mostly consisting of hardcore gritty trap with two up-beat alternative rock tracks, and I’ll say I prefer this to Lovejoy mostly because, well, like I said with “Seeing Green”, my biases will always be on full and honest display, and as someone who’s a sucker for pop-punk of all eras, especially if it’s a female-fronted band with some youthful, raspy vocals, this will obviously hit for me. Throughout Sour, I found it hard to buy into the teenage melodrama due to Dan Nigro’s production often sounding too clean for its own sake, never allowing the guitars to really crash into some lo-fi, distorted noise like they seem to want to do on tracks like this, “deja vu” and especially the opener, “traitor”. Sadly, that cuts the chances of radio airplay by a ton more than it should, so we end up with mixing that slides off Rodrigo’s reverb-drenched vocals too smoothly, creating a rather formulaic album, unfortunate for its sheer excess of promise. With that said, this is one of my favourite tracks off of the album, if only for that funky bassline and some of Nigro’s most interesting stylistic and production choices, particularly in the drumming, which sounds as organic as possible for something that was programmed by him and Alexander 23. The sarcasm-laced post-break-up kiss-off is already not unfamiliar territory for Olivia Rodrigo and neither was it for Avril Lavigne, which this track tends to sound almost like an imitation of, down to the inconsistently PG-13 image as “screw you” is delivered with as much conviction as the actual F-bomb in the same verse. Regardless of how much it wants to consistently kill its own momentum, this janky songwriting actually reminds me of early Paramore, much of which holds a special place in my heart, so whilst Hayley Williams has been off doing her solo work – and Paramore seem to have moved on from this kind of bitter, petty pop rock anyway – this quenches that thirst pretty effectively.
Olivia Rodrigo bags the Honourable Mention for “good 4 u” as well as it’s one of two songs debuting this week I think are pretty damn special, the other one being “Seeing Green” by Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Drake as it grabs Best of the Week. For the worst, I mean, pick your J. Cole-flavoured poison but personally I’d say “a m a r i” can be crowned Worst of the Week with a Dishonourable Mention to... great, I don’t want to seem like I hate J. Cole but nothing else here is even as bad as his Lil Baby collaboration “p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l”. Here’s this week’s top 10:
Expect two more of those spaces filled up by Olivia Rodrigo next week as whilst we may not get any new entries from her the album will have an impact regardless on the chart. Otherwise, I guess we’ll have to wait and see with how a Queen-sampling BTS song wrecks the chart – probably will give both Olivia and “Body” some #1 competition – as well as new songs from Little Mix, Lana Del Rey, Polo G and Lil Nas X popping up not too far behind it. It should be just as busy next week, folks, so strap in, I suppose. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you then!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 15/05/2021 (Coldplay, J. Cole, Trippie Redd & Playboi Carti)
I’m awful at predicting this chart, I really am, but most of that is probably down to how I only make vague predictions at the end of each episode without even considering most releases that’ll actually chart. Let’s just say I didn’t expect nine new arrivals this week. At the top, however, little has changed as the absolutely huge “Body” by Russ Millions and Tion Wayne with a remix featuring whoever the hell is spending its second week at #1. The rest of the chart, however, gets a bit more interesting. Welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
The biggest story to effect the chart this week is of course 2021’s BRIT Awards happening this Tuesday, which I’m sure boosted a lot of songs during the mid-week. I also actually covered the awards show on that day if you’re curious, with some of my observations, predictions and opinions. We can very clear see – or hear, for that matter – the impact of the BRIT Awards in this week’s chart, as it did cause a lot of gains and new arrivals that shook up the chart right in the middle of the tracking week. Firstly, we do have some drop-outs from the UK Top 75, which is what I cover, only one of them, “Paradise” by MEDUZA and Dermot Kennedy, being all that important given it was a top five hit but we do have a handful that lasted five or more weeks or peaked in the top 40, like “Medicine” by James Arthur flopping embarrassingly, “Addicted” by Jorja Smith dropping out to prepare for the rebound next week given her album release and “Solid” by Young Stoner Life, Young Thug and Gunna featuring Drake.
Speaking of Drake, he also provides the singular returning entry as “Wants and Needs” featuring Lil Baby is proving to be the actual hit from that three-pack from March, coming back to #65. Scaling down the chart, we also have some notable losses, songs that dropped at least five spots on this week’s chart. Those that fell include “Your Power” by Billie Eilish dropping harshly to #15 off of the debut, as well as “Your Love (9PM)” by ATB, Topic and A7S at #18, “Confetti” by Little Mix to #21 off of the return (with Saweetie, the artist quite literally solely the reason it’s had this second wind, still bizarrely left without a credit by the UK Singles Chart), “My Head & My Heart” by Ava Max at #27, “Titanium” by Dave at #31, “Wellerman” by Nathan Evans and remixed by 220 KID and Billen Ted (yes, THEY’RE credited) at #36, “Patience” by KSI featuring YUNGBLUD and Polo G at #42, “Heartbreak Anniversary” by Giveon at #44, “We’re Good” by Dua Lipa at #47, “Way Too Long” by Nathan Dawe, Anne-Marie and MoStack at #49, “Head & Heart” by Joel Corry and MNEK at #51, “Beautiful Mistakes” by Maroon 5 and Megan Thee Stallion at #55, “Don’t Play” by Anne-Marie, KSI and Digital Farm Animals at #56, “Calling My Phone” by Lil Tjay and 6LACK at #59, “Commitment Issues” by Central Cee at #67, “You” by Regard, Troye Sivan and Tate McRae at #69, “Get Out My Head” by Shane Codd at #70, “Hold On” by Justin Bieber getting ACR’d at #71, “Streets” by Doja Cat at #73 and finally, “6 for 6” by Central Cee at #75.
Filling up the room for those losses, however, are the gains, always a tad more interesting, as the songs that rose at least five spots on this week’s chart – or make their first appearance in the top 40, 20 or 10 – are usually having the BRITs to thank to some capacity. The climbers include “Summer 91 (Looking Back)” giving Noizu his first top 40 hit at #31 (and I’ll admit, the song is growing on me), Griff also getting her first with “Black Hole” at #35 thanks to her win and performance at the BRITs, “WITHOUT YOU” by The Kid LAROI rebounding to #13 thanks to that once-again uncredited remix with Miley Cyrus and finally, entering the top 10 for the first time is “Anywhere Away from Here” by Rag’n’Bone Man and P!nk at #9, getting the boost from a perfect trifecta of gains: Rag’n’Bone Man released his album on Friday then on Tuesday had the closing performance of this song at the BRIT Awards with additional vocals from the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS choir, who are also now appearing on a new release of the song the day after, prompting a whole lot of sales, of which I assume and hope are going to charity. It’s Rag’n’Bone Man’s third top 10 hit, P!nk’s 21st(!) and interestingly enough, the NHS choir’s second top 10 hit as they had the Christmas #1 back in 2015. With all of that out of the way, I suppose it’s time to get to our varied array of new arrivals.
#74 – “Dick” – Starboi3 featuring Doja Cat
Produced by Nius and SoFLY
This week is kind of a weird week if that wasn’t immediately obvious as our new arrivals are kind of all over the place, starting with... well, I think I could say less about the song than the title does. Starboi3 is this SoundCloud rapper from New Jersey who made a song with Doja back in 2019 – I assume she was more accessible for features back then –and it didn’t blow up at all, really, giving Starboi3 some additional traction but not until 2020, in which Doja Cat got her #1 hit and TikTok picked up this explicit single as a new sound. Sadly – or thankfully – the song was never released officially onto streaming until very recently, meaning, surely, the hype’s over by now? The answer to that is no, as it’s climbing up charts in both the UK and the Bubbling Under in the US... so there’s got to be something good about this song, right? Well, no. Not at all. Of course, that is subjective, but I do question your sanity if you’re honestly enjoying this unlikeable nobody shout “Dick!” over a basic, no-melody trap instrumental with heavy 808s not too dissimilar to drill, before going into a beyond basic chorus and verse about, well, you can guess, with rhymes sounding either like an awful freestyle or a kid with a rhyming dictionary. “She not with him tonight, she not with Jim tonight”? Of course, that’s in the post-chorus because if there’s one thing this song needs, it’s a freaking post-chorus. I also don’t think Starboi3 realises that making her scream for her parents is quite the opposite of sexy – or even raunchy and mindless, as it’s actually just creepy and terrifying. Speaking of terrifying, Doja Cat is here and not even she can add a less basic flow with a verse that just ends up going in one ear and out the other, even if I do like the seductive backing vocals that at least try to make this not a slow, joyless slog. However, I do NOT like the Pickle Rick reference. To be fair, this was 2019, but also to be fair, never reference that again, I am begging you. This is a disaster on all fronts and probably one of the worst tracks I’ve had to review in this series. Good start!
#64 – “Freaks” – Surf Curse
Produced by Surf Curse
This new song is actually even older, being released initially as a deep cut from this Nevada duo’s 2013 album. As you’ll probably tell, this is charting off of people streaming after hearing the song on TikTok and, I mean, at least the song’s actually good this time, careening off of a clearly surf-inspired clean riff surrounded by some basic drumming and a good bassline. It’s not great as it does feel increasingly basic as I said, almost like one of those local bands that don’t get much national attention or traction but do play some gigs and get some love at those places, to the point where it’s kind of big if they play shows outside of their region... which makes sense because that is exactly what they are. This is just some band from Reno but here it is charting on the UK Singles Chart and while it’s here, I should say whilst there’s not much here to discuss given how minimal it is, Nick Rattigan’s vocals are fittingly desperate for the theme of social alienation and particularly rejection as it’s pretty obvious he’s aiming venom at himself for a bad break-up, although given the sound and tone of the song, probably his first, with that double meaning of the mantra in the outro, “I won’t wake up this time”, potentially being a crushing line for someone in similar circumstances. That’s not me, exactly, so this doesn’t hit, but I’m glad that Machine Gun Kelly song from last week got replaced with some actually decent alternative rock on the chart. I hope this does well.
#60 – “One Day” – Lovejoy
Produced by Cameron Nesbitt
“One Day” is the biggest track from new English rock band Lovejoy’s debut EP, Are You Alright?, and whilst I was planning on not mentioning the fact that the band is fronted by Minecraft YouTuber Wilbur Soot, that is the only reason it’s charting – and he’s charted with “Your New Boyfriend” a couple months back, a song that I actually kind of liked. It’s also immediately obvious in the writing that this comes from an Internet personality, with some not-so-well-woven detail and increasingly gratuitous self-awareness that eventually cycles back and ends up as seeming like they have none at all... okay, like most indie bands but that’s beside the point. This happens to be Wilbur’s least favourite song on the release – one that I haven’t listened to because even if I’m not too old for mindless pop music, Minecraft YouTuber alt-rock may be where I draw the line – and I can completely understand the distaste for this given that it starts with the line, “Why’d you have to kill my cat?” I also have some qualms with the song sonically as it may be the most derivative rock single I’ve heard on this series, given how obviously it rips from indie rock bands of the 2000s, with an oddly clean mix that doesn’t exactly fit the obvious stream-of-consciousness lyrics and Wilbur’s erratic delivery. Also, there’s a whole lot of trumpet on this song, which I guess is a surprise, but that doesn’t make up for a drummer who can clearly play very well but has to chaotically play over a song with practically no groove. I do like that second chorus in how it builds up to a somewhat anti-climactic guitar solo but as a full song I do not really get the appeal of this that I don’t get out of other post-punk revival bands from decades back who are still pumping out music. This isn’t bad – I swear, don’t dox me – but I just want something more compelling from this. I will always be glad regardless of the quality that we have more rock on the chart, though, even if this’ll be gone by next week.
#57 – “It’s a sin” – Years & Years and Elton John
Produced by Stuart Price and the Pet Shop Boys
One of my favourite performance from the BRIT Awards this year was Olly Alexander of Years & Years sharing the stage with the iconic Elton John to cover Pet Shop Boys’ “It’s a Sin” which had renewed interest from last year as it was the namesake for a hit TV series about HIV/AIDS, for which this fittingly played a role and has kind of been recontextualised as a gay anthem, which makes complete sense if you look at its lyrics about the Church telling Neil Tennant “how to be”. It’s also one of the Pet Shop Boys’ most camp and theatrical songs, so giving it to Years & Years and Elton John to cover for the BRIT Awards make all too much sense. No, they’re not able to live up to the theatricality of the original, especially if Alexander’s vocals are going to be this clearly manipulated at points, but with Elton John’s piano laying a perfect foundation for the rising intensity of the track, we do get a sense of that original melodrama, with the synth-work and house groove coming in before Elton John’s voice, sounding smokier and wiser with age, and in my opinion, more compelling as a vocalist, especially if they’re both going to sell this song with the most convicted of deliveries. I don’t think a cover could ever live up to that original iconic track but if anyone’s going to get close, it’s Elton John. Expect this to rise next week.
#50 – “Never Left” – Lil Tecca
Produced by ThankYouWill, Taz Taylor and Cxdy
I’ll always be annoyed that Lil Tecca blew up as a rapper instead of a producer, as I don’t think this guy has any likeability or charisma about his flow, cadence or delivery, and that’s only after you get over how dry and whiny his voice can get. However, he can make some great and incredibly infectious beats for other rappers, including a song I see becoming a hit soon in SoFaygo’s “Knock Knock”, which I will bet on at least making the Billboard Hot 100 if not the UK Singles Chart. It’s unbelievably catchy. With that said, Tecca is here in the form of some SoundCloud raps over a boring synth pluck and vaguely tropical Internet Money trap beat, sounding and flowing way too much like Gunna for his own benefit, or Gunna’s benefit, if we’re honest, as this shows how easily he can be replaced. I usually don’t write off this type of rap and will absolutely defend it, but this song isn’t even catchy or unique. I mean, I don’t like “Ransom” either but at least it was kind of fun and I still know the lines in the chorus a couple years later. I’ll forget all about this by next week if it doesn’t stick around. At least he shouts out Chief Keef. God, I hope he charts sometime, that’d be funny.
#45 – “All I Know So Far” – P!nk
Produced by Greg Kurstin
So, P!nk is back but not with a studio album, rather an upcoming live album in which the two new, original songs are about or featuring her daughter. This is the second single from said album and is probably coasting off her appearance at the BRITs in terms of a relatively high chart debut. I’ve never been that big a fan of P!nk but she has her classics, none of which are in the past 15 years but that’s beside the point. This single in particular is an acoustic ballad dedicated to her daughter in which P!nk provides a rapid intensity alongside pretty great-sounding acoustic guitars, pounding drums and strings that sells the content about empowering yourself, with some nice lyrical detail about always being yourself, basically, which would come off as cliché and preachy if it weren’t for some oddly specific lyrics in those verses and the chorus that basically just tell her daughter that despite the fact the world will constantly try to crack down on her and everything she does much like life does to anyone but especially women, she should stand up for herself and what she believes in. However, none of that cuts deep when she’s being raised by a millionaire, huh? There’s little Hell to be put through when you’re born with a silver spoon, huh, Willow? Regardless, this isn’t a bad pop song and its content isn’t as misguided as it is just sang by the wrong singer, although I’d find it hard to get a singer with as much rasp and wisdom in the mainstream to sell this as convincingly as P!nk does – vocally, not lyrically. This is a couple steps above that last single, “Cover Me in Sunshine” at least, which was just insidious. Next.
#32 – “Miss the Rage” – Trippie Redd featuring Playboi Carti
Produced by Loesoe
Okay, so all of our last three new arrivals are in the top 40 and we start with... o-okay, well, it’s 2021, anything can and will chart and I should know this by now, but it’s still surprising to see a song by these two guys debut so high, especially since Whole Lotta Red produced absolutely no charting hits in the UK outside of “@ MEH”, which doesn’t really count. This is Trippie’s highest-charting song ever in the UK that isn’t fronted by KSI, so I guess streaming must have been that good – also, the charts are still weak. For what it’s worth, I do like both Trippie and Carti to their respective extents, and I am aware that this is only as big as it was because of the hype from the leak, which also featured Mario Judah, and that in itself was a big song but it took years for Carti’s feature to be cleared by the label, as is infamously true for much of Carti’s work and even his last official collaboration with Trippie that was actually deleted after release. I’m still hoping on an official release for his verse on Yung Lean’s “Yayo”, but whilst we have this instead, I might as well talk about it and... Well, let me explain to you what I see as the appeal of these two rappers. That appeal is, mostly, that they don’t rap even though they both very much can. Trippie yells, moans, growls, screams and spends most of his work singing in his typical raspy, venomous voice, whilst Playboi Cart spits and coughs his way through substance-less ad-libs to the point where any actual wordplay or lyrical detail gets you excited for that brief moment. In this song, Trippie and Carti don’t eschew the typical role of a rapper and both just... rap normally, which would not be a complaint if they weren’t so bland in that role, which is the whole point of their unique, phlegm-filled deliveries in the first place. As a result, this song just ends up feeling empty, even if this awfully-mixed, bass-boosted beat with some lovely distorted video-game synths and hardly audible trap skitters does go incredibly hard. Don’t get me wrong: this is still catchy and Trippie flows very well over a beat that sounds made for him and Carti. Hell, Carti has grown on me so much recently that my fondness for this might just be me eating anything he releases up. With that said, he’s the worst part of the song as his baby-voice style emphasises how lacking this song is in just anything. I do like the wordplay at the tail-end of the verse as, yes, that happens, perhaps not as iconic as some of his other oddly profound or clever lines on his last record but at least it’s something. At least this is some interesting American trap, unlike...
#25 – “i n t e r l u d e” – J. Cole
Produced by J. Cole, Tommy Parker and T-Minus
The pandemic has affected the music industry to the point where big-name rappers release album interludes as lead singles. Said album has songs shorter than this interlude, with most of its dull filler feeling like additional interludes, quite unbefitting for such a big and hyped-up album from Cole which frankly is just another boring addition to an already consistently dull catalogue. I’m just not interested in what Cole has to say because he’s never been likeable and I feel like there’s better rappers that bridge the gap between old and new like how Cole sees himself as doing, the “MIDDLE CHILD”, perhaps, like, you know, Drake? If we want to go for a more direct comparison from lesser-known rappers, the direct comparison I use for this new record is Aminé’s latest, also made up of a variation of trap bangers featuring massive, charting names versus introspective, conscious lyrics, yet Aminé is an interesting character with quotable lyrics that aren’t embarrassing, knows how to write an actual hook and whilst he also brings on both classic and modern features, he’s never out-done by them, creating an actual bridge rather than just some guy who thinks he can write his own role in the industry and culture without his own music backing his case. Unfortunately for me, it works – every freaking time – largely because of his continually loyal fanbase but also a general public interest in the guy that I do not understand, especially when more than a decade into his career, he’s still pushing out mediocre projects. He cuts his album’s length by a ton and still ends up with a bloated record. I barely need to talk about the track itself, right? Even if it has as much structure and effort put into it as his normal songs do, it’s labelled quite literally as an interlude. Sigh, well, in this interlude, Jermaine raps over a drowned-out soul sample and admittedly, sticks to the topic of reminiscing on where he came from, the violence in Fayetteville, a similar violence of which was what killed Nipsey Hussle, who he compares amongst Pimp C and Jesus as they all died at 33. Cole himself is 36 so I guess for once he doesn’t think he’s Jesus. It took him a while to realise.
#12 – “Higher Power” – Coldplay
Produced by Max Martin, Oscar Holter and Bill Rahko
I assumed this would debut at #3 until the BRIT Awards performance gave it a boost to debut at the top but I guess everyone else had the same opinion of that awful opening performance as I did, because here it is at #12. Well, that doesn’t matter, right? Coldplay’s last album similarly underperformed... but at least that time, they had a genuinely ambitious album for once in their careers with some genuine experimentation and themes I did not expect to come out of Coldplay. It was a better album but not an accessible one, with its only pop single being a bittersweet anti-war anthem which trivialises bombing in the Middle East to onomatopoeia. It’s a great song but it wasn’t going anywhere, so it’s no surprise that their next lead single is a soulless synth-pop track produced by Max Martin. Admittedly, the synth tone in the intro is kind of unique in all its nasal 80s nostalgia, but, man, I thought we moved past just rehashing for a hit, Coldplay. This is pretty obviously just a crap attempt at being “Blinding Lights” which trades in its machine-gun loco-motive drum pattern for one that is a lot more stiff, and its iconic, memorable lyrics for a forgettable set of love-struck laziness. Oh, yeah, and Chris Martin is far from the Weeknd both in the studio and live at the BRIT Awards – seriously, dude sounded half-alive. This isn’t offensive, just a bore that is clearly a desperate label move ready for when they can tour again, and if their last record proved anything it was that Coldplay seemed like they were finally above that.
Well, that’s our week – again, a questionable one at best and kind of a bad one at worst. Either way, this is a strange array of songs and I do like how the UK Singles Chart subverts everything you’d expect of it so often that chaos becomes the trend, even if not all of it is any good. I guess Best of the Week goes to “Freaks” by Surf Curse, with an Honourable Mention to Elton John’s cover of “It’s a sin” with Years & Years. Surprisingly enough, J. Cole actually doesn’t get Worst of the Week as the album gets a lot worse than that interlude, so he gets a Dishonourable Mention alongside Starboi3’s “Dick” being crowned Worst of the Week, and honestly probably Worst of the Year so far, not that I’m keeping track of that. Here’s this week’s top 10:
What’s coming next week? More J. Cole, Olivia Rodrigo’s newest single and probably – and hopefully – some album tracks from Jorja Smith and Nicki Minaj. For now, though, thanks for reading. It’s a big week next week, and I’ll see you then!
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BRIT Awards 2021: Observations, Comments & Review
I don’t have a commentary post on the BRIT Awards like I usually do because be honest: nobody wants to read that, but regardless I do feel the need to keep up with the tradition of the event and post some comments about the awards since, well, it’s going to impact the chart. It would make a hell of a lot more sense to broadcast the show on a Friday as a result of that so it makes the biggest possible impact and doesn’t leave me with confusing left-overs and assorted gains that only picked up traction in the mid-week... but I digress. You should get the gist but I’ll do some explaining prior for the sake of it. Regardless, I guess welcome to REVIEWING THE CHARTS?
So, how do the BRIT Awards work? Well, every year, the BPI – the British Phonographic Industry – holds the BRITs to celebrate pop music in the most high-profile ceremony for popular music in the United Kingdom. Back in the 1990s, it used to feature some of the craziest, most unexpected moments in the history of British pop music, with this anarchic reputation that has since been sanitised and refined to where it is now: a high-budget award ceremony hosted by some idiot, probably, and recorded live for broadcast on ITV. This year, it’s hosted by Jack Whitehall – as it has consistently been in recent years – and was delayed as a result of the global pandemic, but regardless, it’s back and we’ll see how the show copes with restrictions and social distancing... okay, well, it does involve Dua Lipa so I don’t think much of that will be going on but regardless, the show will naturally be affected by COVID-19, even if our response is going better than it was this time last year with all the vaccines coming out. What has not changed is our host and, oh, my God, I wish it did because Jack Whitehall is an annoying void of personality who’s never not been unfunny and awkward, especially on such an improvisational show like the BRITs. I think the only host who can live up to the flamboyancy of the show is Graham Norton, but he’s got his work cut out for him as the Eurovision narrator and he does a damn good job at that too.
Most awards are announced on the night but some, like the Global Icon and Rising Star award, were already decided – it’s Taylor Swift and Griff, by the way. I do play a little game every year where I have a scorecard, and that’ll be posted right now. After that scorecard is posted, you’ll come back to me from after the awards have finished with some of my comments – nothing of a gret deal of detail, probably, but definitely observational. See you in a tad.
Well, that was a nice slice of rainbow capitalism, if a bit too refined for what it is. I’ve felt this for years now but the BRITs do feel so factory-processed to go perfectly now that some of the charm is lost. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the ceremony as that would be largely untrue – a lot of the performances for one were great. Some highlights included Olivia Rodrigo’s performance which in my eyes certified her as a popstar to watch, especially with that husky, imperfect vocal delivery towards the end that really sold it for me. The Weeknd delivered the most consistently and aesthetically high-quality performance with a “Save Your Tears” Zoomed straight from I assume Canada. Years & Years paraded around with Elton John on a technicolour stage pretty befitting for the gay anthem they performed, Headie One and AJ Tracey traded some new politically-charged verses with less impact than Dave but pretty fitting of the entire aesthetic of the show. The last BRIT Awards felt perhaps too serious, not that I’m offended by social messages being placed into award shows, but the fun just wasn’t there and was actually here in spades, especially with the vibrant Y2K choice of aesthetic that made perfect sense for a lot of these performers, especially the Dua Lipa medley that basically started the show off with some high-energy girl-group nostalgia.
In fact, a lot of that was there this evening, with Little Mix becoming the first all-female group to win Best British Group, to my surprise, and HAIM of all people winning Best International Group, although it seems clear to me that the awards were just given to whoever was there as a result of certain restrictions. Said restrictions in fact made the show arguably smoother and more refined than ever, and I’m actually happy for it. There were barely any noticeable mistakes either, other than an indecipherable few verses from Headie One in which he performed gestures that made it quickly obvious what was being rapped anyway, and Lewis Capaldi commanding everyone in the audience, including key workers, to shut up before his quickly-censored profanity, long after the watershed, bled out through emergency mute functions.
The whole “key workers” bit has annoyed me since the pandemic started – if the government is going to be this performance, at least provide them adequate pay and mental welfare for all of the arduous work you put NHS frontline workers through long before and including the pandemic. I’m saying that not because I wanted to spew my own diatribe but because that’s pretty much what Dua Lipa said as the Queen herself made sure to not only have one of the best performances of the night but also deliver some of the longest and most meaningful victory speeches, in which she dedicated her awards to individuals you may not have even heard about who have served their local and national community on a certain scale. Charities were often brought up, whether it’s Boy George blessing the rains down in Africa much like he patronisingly did on the at-best misguided, at-worst maliciously ignorant “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” all those years ago. Proceeds from Years & Years and Elton John’s performance will go to charity, as will those of Rag’n’Bone Man and P!nk’s “Anywhere Away from Here” (which is actually a genuinely good song live rather than on studio recording). Rag’n’Bone Man may have the biggest impact next week on the charts because he had both the closing performance and the album boost, so watch out for that on Friday.
Speaking of that, this awards show was on a Tuesday, meaning its chart impact will be muted or at least split between two tracking weeks – although I do think this is the type of event that can help a song have some mid-week rebound. The impact of the BRIT Awards as a whole intrigues me – I mean, it has much less prestige than the GRAMMYs and was known for its campy chaos. It’s never been about awarding credibility or artistic reputation, even if Taylor Swift may have thought it was in her semi-inspiring speech, it’s always just about putting on a fun, extravagant show. Money should probably be pumped into something more representative of Britain – the only Scottish man who spoke was Lewis Capaldi – but as we have this tradition, we might as well engage and enjoy the mindlessness of it all. The cynic in me says it’s fake-woke circle-jerks for millionaire popstars but I can never watch it and conclude that it’s anything as deep as that. I mean, it started with Coldplay sounding like hand gel and featured a sea shanty acting as a roast of the guests but still had some serves and looks from everyone on the red carpet and somehow managed to get Michelle Obama to big up The Weeknd for two minutes straight, so it’s doing something right. In the nicest way possible, the BRITs this year were very lame and very gay, but that’s the purpose they will always need to fill in pop culture. See you on Saturday!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 08/05/2021 (Billie Eilish, DJ Khaled)
Whilst this is slightly busier than last week, I am genuinely surprised with how little is actually going on here on this week’s chart, a lot less than I expected or predicted. With that said, the top of the chart is where our biggest story comes from and that is “Body” by Russ Millions and Tion Wayne taking advantage of a weak chart with its star-studded remix and peaking at #1 for its first week, replacing Lil Nas X’s “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)”. Not only is it the biggest hit for both of these guys and their first #1s, but it’s the first #1 for the entire UK drill genre, which kind of came out of nowhere for me since I think the song’s pretty worthless but with a TikTok challenge and streaming numbers that have even placed it in the American Spotify chart, it’s gearing up to be one of the biggest British rap songs ever. Let’s hope maybe this one doesn’t stall out as badly as “Don’t Rush” outside of the UK. With all that out of the way, let’s start REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
Our only new arrival from last week’s UK Top 75 (which is what I cover), “Come Through” by H.E.R. featuring Chris Brown, is gone on the next off of the debut. Well, at least we have more than one new song this week, as well as some interesting chart nonsense lower down, but also some notable drop-outs for “Mr. Perfectly Fine” by Taylor Swift, “Mercury” by Dave and Kamal., “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” by Drake featuring Rick Ross, “All You Ever Wanted” by Rag’n’Bone Man (which will rebound next week as that album makes its impact) as well as “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles finally making what seems to be its last exit. Our only return is in the form of “Confetti” by Little Mix getting a massive surge back at #15 after its Saweetie remix and the attached music video, though Saweetie doesn’t happen to be credited here.
We do have an interesting selection of gains and losses, as with the notable fallers – dropping five spots or more down the chart – we have “Titanium” by Dave at #23, “Wellerman” by Nathan Evans and remixed by 220 KID and Billen Ted getting ACR’d down to #29 (it had a surprisingly great run), “The Business” by Tiesto having the same happen to it at #32, “We’re Good” by Dua Lipa at #40, “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo at #43, “Blinding Lights” by the Weeknd at #45, “Don’t Play” by Anne-Marie, KSI and Digital Farm Animals at #51, “Calling My Phone” by Lil Tjay and 6LACK hit hard to #54, the same with “Up” by Cardi B at #59, “You” by Regard, Troye Sivan and Tate McRae shaking off the gains #63, “Get Out My Head” by Shane Codd at #60, “Heat” by Paul Woolford and Amber Mark at #66, “Solid” by Young Stoner Life, Young Thug and Gunna featuring Drake at #69, “Paradise” by MERDUZA and Dermot Kennedy at #71 and, sadly, “How Does it Feel” by London Grammar at #75.
Where it gets a bit more telling about how the charts are going to adapt into the Summer is in our climbers as we have solid gains for “Another Love” by Tom Odell making another run at #60, “Sunshine (The Light)” by Fat Joe, DJ Khaled and Amorphous inexplicably at #57 and now we get into the top 40 where we have more potential future hits. “Way Too Long” by Nathan Dawe, Anne-Marie and MoStack is at #38, “Don’t You Worry About Me” brings the Bad Boy Chiller Crew their first hit at #37 (although the song is only ever worth hearing for that chorus) and “WITHOUT YOU” by the Kid LAROI returns to the top 40 at #30 thanks to a remix with Miley Cyrus who is again not credited by the Official Charts Company. Boney M. are granted their first new top 20 hit since the 1990s, even if it is just a remix of a song that went #2 in 1978, as Majestic’s remix of “Rasputin” is at #18. Our final gain is for a song first entering the top 10 thanks to the remix with Ariana Grande finally making an impact – yet once again not given the official credit by the OCC – as “Save Your Tears” by the Weeknd makes its way up to #8, becoming his tenth top 10 hit here in Britain. That’s not the only song to first enter the top 10 this week but we’ll get to that in due time with our... odd selection of new arrivals this week.
#73 – “EVERY CHANCE I GET” – DJ Khaled featuring Lil Baby and Lil Durk
Produced by DJ Khaled and Tay Keith
Two of our new entries are from DJ Khaled’s most recent album Khaled Khaled, an album much like any Khaled album I found cheap and just dull. This record especially is just mixed horribly, with a budget spent exceedingly on getting big-name features instead of any worthwhile engineers to actually mix and master this 50-minute trainwreck. The album doesn’t have many highlights at all but if I had to choose some they would be the two debuting this week, the first of which is basically a Lil Baby cut, “EVERY CHANCE I GET”, with a verse from Lil Durk. Okay, so, yes, first of all, much like the rest of the record, this mix is compressed and just weak, with bizarre bass mastering and drums that sound like garbage, before we get to Lil Baby himself sounding even froggier than ever. I do think that gives the song part of its charm, though, as with a Tay Keith beat, it’s definitely going for a hardcore, old-school Memphis rap atmosphere, and with Lil Baby’s flow switches disguising paranoid lyrics about the typical gunplay and flexing, it does effectively make a pretty intimidating listen... okay, well, it would, if DJ Khaled didn’t have to pop in to convince Lil Baby to “keep going”. We also get a single verse from Lil Durk here, mixed like he recorded his vocals in his bath to the point where it’s clipping against the bass, but delivering a King Von-esque flow that sounds pretty great, and admittedly more detail than you’d expect. I also love that silly “mmm-mmm” flow he uses at the end. I do wish a song like this, clearly supposed to be menacing, did not have the ludicrous personality void that is DJ Khaled on it, and it’s not like they need Khaled to collaborate together – or with Tay Keith for that matter – so I don’t really see why the dude doesn’t just shut up and promote his albums as compilations instead. I understand it comes from his mixtape days, but if this is going to be a studio album, treat it like one and just be quiet for once.
#72 – “Oblivion” – Royal Blood
Produced by Royal Blood
Royal Blood got the #1 album this week for Typhoons and admittedly, whilst I am interested in this band, I haven’t gotten around to listening to it, so I’ll take this album cut as a preview of what to come. If I am doing that, I hope to be surprised by whatever else that album has in store as I’m not really a fan of this. That eerie choppy guitar loop being immediately crushed by this heavily distorted riff and stiff percussion just does not sound unique or interesting, especially if Mike Kerr is going to sound this soulless. The build towards the chorus feels pretty pathetic and unwarranted, and said chorus is just not catchy, before we get to content about how he knows his fate through how arrogant he’s been and he deserves what’s coming to him. I mean, sure, but there’s nothing that makes it obvious that these guys don’t care about what’s coming to them given the pained vocal delivery and monotonous instrumental. It doesn’t feel exciting, rebellious or whatever emotion this tries and fails to capture, just stiff and staggered in its execution. This does make sense for Royal Blood but seems to me like they’re resting way too heavily on ideas ran through the soil at this point. With all that said, this isn’t bad at all, just not as great as those other singles have been from the record. I think I’d be more forgiving if it didn’t come off as a Queens of the Stone Age tribute act writing “originals” that bomb at their shows.
#56 – “love race” – Machine Gun Kelly featuring Kellin Quinn
Produced by Jeff Peters, Jared Gudstadt and Travis Barker
I guess this might actually be a rock-heavy week – not that I’m complaining about more of a rock presence on the chart but God, I wish it wasn’t coming from MGK. I’ll have some choice words to say about this guy’s last attempt at a pop-rock hit by the end of the year, probably, but at least for this song he brought on someone with some kind of legitimacy. Kellin Quinn is the frontman of post-hardcore band Sleeping with Sirens, one of the most successful bands in their genre but not one unlike others that grew out of the metalcore-infused pop rock to anything more unique or experimental. With that said, Quinn is barely here and other than Travis Barker’s typical explosive drums, MGK is the biggest presence here in his raspy but borderline unlistenable vocal tone that I just can’t stand, especially if it’s going to stretch out “run” as long and as far as he did in that longing, desperate chorus. MGK barely even lets Kellin Quinn have his own verse, registering him as backing vocals throughout the entire song, dampening his vocals that sound a lot more unique and enthused, especially when he starts screaming. That bridge did give me trancecore flashbacks – not that I’m complaining if I’m fully honest – so I’ll admit the part of me that eats up emo-pop garbage did let this grow on me a bit, but, man, without a guitar solo to distract from pretty awful lyrics (not that I’d expect much more from this artist or genre) and without really letting Quinn loose on the vocals, it’s lacking a certain grit and punch I expect from post-hardcore. The song did, however, indirectly remind me of New Found Glory, for which I am thankful for.
#53 – “I DID IT” – DJ Khaled featuring Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby and DaBaby
Produced by Ben Billions, Joe Zarrillo, DJ 360, Tay Keith and DJ Khaled
You wouldn’t expect an artist line-up like this to continue this trend of rock in this week’s new arrivals, but you’d be surprised, and personally I’m pretty happy with how much rock seems to be creeping up back into the public consciousness as if there’s one thing I got back in touch with the most over lockdown, it was the rock music I was raised on and it led to me even further appreciating a genre I had kind of lost touch with over the years out of just a lack of interest. With that said, this isn’t a rock song per se, but it does heavily and lazily sample a classic like much of this Khaled album, going for “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos. I’m not going to lie, either, it sets up a pretty effective back-bone for a trap banger about being awesome, especially with those squealing riffs in the chorus. Oh, yeah, and the mixing is horrible as expected, but to be honest to me it does not dampen the boasting, anthemic nature of this track, especially with Post Malone being a perfect choice to croon that infectious chorus. Megan Thee Stallion has a pretty embarrassingly by-the-numbers verse over a switch in the beat that makes it sound oddly stunted, but she does have that swinging rock charisma that people like Lil Baby do not have. With that said, I think I’m at the point where I eat anything Lil Baby says or does, because the flow switches combined with his frog-throat delivery is just impeccable. Content-wise, I think everyone here realises they’re being squashed by the clipping beat as they just go off about complete nonsense that goes in one ear and out the other apart from Lil Baby’s misguided but still pretty funny line about how he contemplated going vegan but sees no point in it because he’s got ten karats in both of his ears. Sure. At least DJ Khaled as something to do as he... harmonises, I guess, with Posty on the chorus. DaBaby is as distant as possible from the microphone to the point where I can barely hear him, not that it matters when his verse is that basic and short. This is kind of a trainwreck in all honesty, but with four choruses and a beat this heavy, it’s hard to be annoyed by it. Overwhelming maybe but these performers are all characters by themselves and throwing them in this three-minute chaos of squealing guitars and trap skitters just fascinates me if anything. Does it count as a posse cut? I don’t know. Either way, this is hilarious.
#5 – “Your Power” – Billie Eilish
Produced by FINNEAS
Decidedly not hilarious is this new single from Billie Eilish looking to be a smash from that upcoming album which now has a track listing and release date, with this functioning as I suppose the true lead single and her seventh top 10 here in the UK. It’s a brave choice too considering the lyrical content which is a pretty scathing attack on her ex-boyfriend and their abusive relationship, making several references to the gap in age and power dynamic that played into something really distressing for the both of them but especially a young, vulnerable Billie Eilish who found herself helpless in this relationship because of that “hero” quickly revealing himself as little more than his projected insecurities. The song’s detailed enough not to detach itself from Billie’s personal struggles but also works as what I suppose is a warning, as it’s retelling a story all too familiar with many girls of her age at the time who end up in these really scary situations. It does help that the song itself is great, relying on these layered acoustic guitars to form some kind of dejected groove behind Eilish’s vocals, whispery and cooing as always but in this case way too loud in the mix for my taste to the point where it kind of takes me out of the song as a whole. With a better master that blends her vocal take a lot better into the guitars, maybe going for a fuzzier, dream-pop angle, could work a lot better but with that said, I do understand the purpose of making it feel this intimate and minimal because Billie’s honest songwriting calls for a delivery like this, even if she ends up sounding shakier or even mumbling at times as a result. This is a big debut for Billie for a song not prepared to do as well as it did given its content and sound that is not exactly radio-friendly and oftentimes requires more heavy of a listen than a pop song would otherwise. I do love that final outro as her humming careens off the gentle guitars with just enough scratch but I do question how abrupt the ending is. Hopefully when the album’s out, we’ll have a bigger picture to as where this single in particular fits in.
With only five new arrivals and not much in the way of anything bad, I guess Worst of the Week goes to “Oblivion” by Royal Blood but giving a Dishonourable Mention would just end up as dishonest. Therefore, Best of the Week goes to Billie Eilish for “Your Power” but – and I cannot believe I am saying this for a 3/10 album with only fluke hits – but DJ Khaled – and Lil Baby for that matter – get a tied Honourable Mention for both of their songs, “EVERY CHANCE THAT I GET” with Lil Durk and “I DID IT” with Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby. Now to distract from the fact I just did that, here’s this week’s top 10:
I can’t really make any healthy predictions for next week. Maybe we’ll get some songs from Lil Tecca, Rag’n’Bone Man or Bebe Rexha? Maybe we’ll end up with some fluke Weezer smash hit, who knows? Regardless, thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week.
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REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 01/05/2021
You know the drill by now, right? This week is a strange one, and we’ll get to exactly why in a bit but for now, Lil Nas X’s “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)” spends a fifth week at #1. Welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
Just as we had a pretty relaxed week last week, we have another one this time, and possibly one of the least interesting weeks in British singles chart history, if anything just preparing us for whatever comes out of the DJ Khaled album next week. With that said, there is some movement in the UK Top 75, the group of songs which I cover, including some notable drop-outs, notable in this case meaning the song had spent more than five weeks on the chart or peaked in the top 40. That includes AJ Tracey’s “Anxious” off of the album-boosted return last week and “Best Friend” by Saweetie featuring Doja Cat making its exit after 15 weeks.
We do have some returning entries as well, as “Addicted” by Jorja Smith makes a comeback to #58, alongside some bottom-hangers like “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi at #72 and “Slumber Party” by Ashnikko featuring Princess Nokia right beside it at #73. Where it gets more interesting would be our gains and losses, and starting with the latter, we have “Don’t Play” by Anne-Marie, KSI and Digital Farm Animals getting ACR’d at #45, HVME’s remix of Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” falling naturally to #48, “Solid” by Young Stoner Life, Young Thug and Gunna featuring Drake at #55 off of the debut, “Mr. Perfectly Fine” by Taylor Swift at #63 and “Mercury” by Dave and Kamal. plunging to #68, as well as some seriously harsh drops for Central Cee as “Commitment Issues” falls to #57 and “6 for 6” is at #64.
Our gains, however, are a lot more interesting. We have “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles taking advantage of a weak chart at #70, “How Does it Feel” by London Grammar with an unexpected boost to #67, about as unexpected as “Sunshine (The Light)” by Fat Joe, DJ Khaled and Amorphous at #62, “Heat” by Paul Woolford and Amber Mark at #61, “You” by Regard, Troye Sivan and Tate McRae off of the debut to #56, “Cover Me in Sunshine” by P!nk and Willow Sage Heart at #54, “Martin & Gina” by Polo G rebounding at #51, “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” by Fred again.. and The Blessed Madonna sadly at #47 and “Summer 91 (Looking Back)” by Noizu at #43. Entering the top 40 for the first time are “Last Time” by Becky Hill at #39 and “Starstruck” by Years & Years at #38, their first top 40 hit since 2018. They join other gains within the top 40 like “Anywhere Away from Here” by Rag’n’Bone Man and P!nk rebounding to #32, “Runaway” by AURORA at #29, “Didn’t Know” by Tom Zanetti at #24 and Majestic’s remix of “Rasputin” by Boney M. at #21. Whilst the Ariana Grande remix may have done nothing for “Save Your Tears” by The Weeknd just pushing up to #20, a remix did have an effect on “Body” by Russ Millions and Tion Wayne, surging up to the top 10 at #4 thanks to a new version with ArrDee, ZT and E1 of 3x3, Darkoo, Buni, Bugzy Malone and, for whatever reason, Fivio Foreign. None of those artists are credited by the Official Charts Company however so it just becomes both Russ and Tion Wayne’s highest ever charting song. So, now that all of that is out of the way, how about we get into our new arrivals... or shall I say, new arrival?
#75 – “Come Through” – H.E.R. featuring Chris Brown
Produced by Cardiak
Yeah, I said this was an uninteresting week, but really, what are the odds that in the entire UK Singles Chart, the only song to enter the top 75 of songs listened to by the British public in this tracking week was at #75 and by Chris Brown? Yeah, it must be really dire here in ol’ England, huh? I was thinking about how to get around this – I mean, there are two more new arrivals in the top 100 in general that I found whilst fact-checking this anomaly of a week, but it’s just some house song and a Bugzy Malone throwaway single, both of which might debut in the top 75 proper next week. I could have talked about some foreign charts, like, say, the US Billboard Hot 100? Australia? The global charts? Hell, I could have even betrayed my nation and talked about the French charts for this episode. I decided against that, however, on a basis of principle. When I started this series up again after a break in Autumn of last year, I promised to myself that I would bring what this series used to lack: consistency. I would always, on every Saturday, deliver a review of the songs that first entered the UK Top 75 that week. That is the plan and how it will stay until I decide to overhaul the format again, which at this rate is probably going to be a temporary Christmas fix and not much else. With all that said, I’m a compulsive liar. I’m not going to review a Chris Brown song; I’ve always actively avoided reviewing his songs proper on this series and this is no different as you can tell by a stalling method I’d perfected for when this guy’s songs end up in the public consciousness. H.E.R.’s success in the US has always seemed really odd for me considering how little the public resonates with all of her award-winning, critically-acclaimed work – that has never done anything for me personally – and this is actually her highest-charting song in the UK as a lead artist as a result of the feature from one Mr. Breezy. Speaking of that guy, he has never released a good song that doesn’t feature Drake and even that is stretching it as really he just has that one good song with Drake from around 2019 and nothing else. Of course, that’s just my opinion, and if you like the man’s music, that’s fine, but I really can’t get over how the industry has normalised this guy so heavily considering his streak of continually abusive and violent behaviour. I’d wish the guy got help if it at least made the music any better. At least it’s not “Freaky Friday”, I suppose.
Surely, Cactus, you can’t give a song any of the titles in a week where there’s only one song to review, right, let alone Worst of the Week? My answer to that is, “Screw you, it’s my show”, and that Worst of the Week goes to “Come Through” by H.E.R. featuring Chris Brown. Best of the Week goes to – God, I don’t know, that song 3OH!3 did with Katy Perry in 2009. Now, that’s a pop classic. Here’s this week’s top 10:
Thank you for reading! I’ll see you next week.
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 24/04/2021 (AJ Tracey, Young Thug/Gunna/Drake)
On this week on the UK Singles Chart, we get a well-deserved break after last week’s chaos but we still have seven or so new arrivals – half of last week’s amount. Lil Nas X’s “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)” is unfazed by any of it as it spends a fourth week at #1, and welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
So last week was busy but a lot of what debuted and returned didn’t actually sustain so we have a plentiful amount of drop-outs and returning entries this week as well. For notable drop-outs – as in songs that had peaked in the top 40 or spent at least five weeks in the chart (specifically the UK Top 75, which I cover) – we have “Anyone” by Justin Bieber, Drake’s “What’s Next” after only six weeks, “What Other People Say” by Sam Fischer and Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift’s re-recorded version of “Love Story” and “Headshot” by Lil Tjay featuring Fivio Foreign and Polo G as well as the late DMX’s “X Gon’ Give it to Ya” off of the return last week.
We do have an oddly large amount of returning entries as a result of this because I guess there’s not enough new stuff to fill in the cracks, as “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles is back at #75, “Heat” by Paul Woodford and Amber Mark at #69, “Anxious” by AJ Tracey at #68 off of the album boost, “Another Love” by Tom Odell at #67 and “Cover Me in Sunshine” by P!nk and Willow Sage Heart at #62.
Then we have songs actually on the chart that are moving about – first off, let’s start with our notable losses, falling about five spots or more on the chart. We don’t have an excess of these, but we do have “Calling My Phone” by Lil Tjay and 6LACK getting ACR’d at #23, “Latest Trends” by AI x JI and remixed by Aitch at #33, “Mercury” by Dave and Kamal. off of the debut to #47 (good!), “Black Hole” by Griff at #48, “All You Ever Wanted” by Rag’n’ Bone Man at #49, “Mr. Perfectly Fine” by Taylor Swift at #50 off of the debut, as well as “Anywhere Away from Here” by Rag’n’Bone Man and P!nk also off of the debut at #51. Oh, and again, falling after last week’s debut, we have “Way Too Long” by Nathan Dawe, Anne-Marie and MoStack at #52. Other fallers that actually lasted at least one more week on the chart include “6 for 6” by Central Cee at #57, “Paradise” by MEDUZA and Dermot Kennedy at #63 and that’s about it. Also, somehow “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” by Drake featuring Rick Ross is sticking to the charts at #71 despite all of the more pop cuts off of that EP – and by that I mean the songs that aren’t six long minutes of pure rapping – dropping out. How that is I have no idea but it does bring us to our gains.
Our gains are always more interesting and we do have a fair few of them this week, like “Starstruck” by Years & Years at #56 off of the debut, “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” by Fred again.. and the Blessed Madonna somehow surging up to #55 off of the debut, “Beautiful Mistakes” by Maroon 5 featuring Megan Thee Stallion at #54, “Summer 91 (Looking Back)” by Noizu at #53, “Last Time” by Becky Hill at #46, “Don’t You Worry About Me” by Bad Boy Chiller Crew at #45, “Medicine” by James Arthur at #44, “Head & Heart” by Joel Corry and MNEK at #41, “Blinding Lights” by the Weeknd rebounding at #40, “Runaway” by AURORA making the top 40 at #34 (six years late), “Levitating” by Dua Lipa bizarrely rebounding at #32, “Didn’t Know” by Tom Zanetti at #31 and that’s pretty much it other than big gains for Olivia Rodrigo’s “deja vu” up big to #12 and “Let’s Go Home Together” by Ella Henderson and Tom Grennan breaking into the top 10 at #10. A lot of these new entries are concentrated towards the bottom of the chart, so let’s start with something that’s actually pretty great.
#74 – “How Does it Feel” – London Grammar
Produced by London Grammar and Steve Mac
London Grammar are an indie pop band from Nottingham that just scored their second #1 album with Californian Soil, one I found genuinely promising but absolutely meandering. For all of the great, swelling and powerful tracks there were – many already on the pre-album EPs and singles – there were pointless, time-consuming ballads that feel if anything underwritten and dull. My personal favourite track, “Baby it’s You”, was the lead single and it actually charted, though this cut is the highest-peaking track from the record and also, thankfully, one of my favourites. Hannah Reid has a smoky, unique voice and it always swells over these atmospheric, reverb-drenched instrumentals, full of subtle bass and those infectious guitar links before it drops into the borderline vocaloid drop in that distorted synth-pop chorus that... okay, is pretty anti-climactic and there for no reason other than to give an excuse for the band to incorporate that 80s production into the rest of the song. Regardless, it’s still a damn good production and that chorus is unreasonably catchy, even if she’s hitting falsetto notes I’d never be able to sing along to. It’s not a song that ends too early so it can stream well either; this is a pop song constructed like one of old, and is just as intricate, especially with those twinkling keys in the final chorus. This isn’t the best on the album by far but it’s understandably the one that’s the most accessible and upbeat so it makes sense it’s here. I don’t expect it to stick around but I wouldn’t mind if it did.
#73 – “Sunshine (The Light)” – Fat Joe, DJ Khaled and Amorphous
Produced by Cool N Dre and Amorphous
So, Fat Joe might be back? I’d be hard-pressed to find out way until I look at this... comeback single of sorts and realise that the chorus is just straight-up taken from a Rihanna song, that being the verse of “Kiss it Better” from 2016 layered over this almost disco-sounding sample of Luther Vandross and that’s pretty much the song as far as the beat is concerned. In that way, I guess it’s kind of fun and harmless but Rihanna’s vocals are mixed pretty horrifically on this instrumental without any attempt to cover it up with some backing vocals, which would have been a really good touch. DJ Khaled is only here because he finishes Fat Joe’s punchline and he contributes literally nothing else. In fact, Fat Joe is a waste of time here as well, especially in that really odd bridge and second verse. Admittedly, I guess his first verse has one clever line but it’s all clearly so unfocused even when the sample gives you a lot to work with in terms of content. By the time the Luther Vandross vocal sample is oddly dribbling over the beat, I’m out of this.
#72 – “Ski” – Young Stoner Life, Young Thug and Gunna
Produced by BabyWave, Outtatown and Wheezy
Slime Language 2 was a project I thought was actually fairly enjoyable given its runtime and content. I mean, it’s 23 tracks running at about an hour and a half of just mindless flexing, sex and gunplay from Young Thug and YSL affiliates but it has an energy and camaraderie that I rarely find is all that noticeable during these label or collective albums, and whilst not any particular rapper shines on more than one track, we still hear a lot of voices on the record that are far from unpleasant and can hold their own against Thug, one of them of course being Gunna. I’m surprised the songs with Travis Scott or Lil Uzi Vert didn’t debut but this Thug-Gunna cut did, but I guess that video pushed it over the top and I’m glad because this is by far one of my favourites on the album on pure, stupid and mindless energy. That camaraderie that I mentioned is in full force here as Thug and Gunna trade bars over this basic watery beat with some catchy strings and, of course, awkward bass mixing. The first intelligible words are “Spider sex” and then Thug just goes into yelling “Yeah!” because, sure, that’s a chorus. Thugger delivers his typical flow-switching charisma with a lot of loud, fun energy and whilst not anything of lyrical standard is said here, I love how he and Gunna trade each other’s names on their versions of the post-chorus. It’s a clever, little touch that makes songs like this feel just that bit more fun, if the manic ad-libs didn’t already show that. Gunna’s verse might be the best of the two here as he actually comes with some unexpected energy over that beeping synth loop that sounds great finally coming from Gunna, and, yeah, what can I say? It’s a mindless trap banger that will be out as soon as it was in – both for the charts and your ears – but it’s so much fun and with Thug’s poppier projects, that’s all that matters.
#66 – “You” – Regard, Troye Sivan and Tate McRae
Produced by Regard
The Kosovan DJ that brought us that great remix of Jay Sean’s “Ride It” as well as original song “Secrets” with RAYE is back and bringing... Troye Sivan and Tate McRae with him. Okay, I mean, sure, maybe Regard can pump up the production to get either of these singers to sound enthused. The content is pretty basic, with the “coming back to an ex” story we’ve heard before and not much interplay between Tate and Troye – not that there can feasibly be but that’s beside the point. This isn’t all that important to a song like this, though, but it can be done so it always feels anti-climactic when these EDM songs don’t have good lyrical content anchoring its groove and catchy hooks. That said, this song is actually pretty good, trading much of the more fast-paced house grooves and minimal deep house drops for a pretty slick, almost synth-funk production with some hard-hitting 909 bass and Troye’s laid-back mumbling falsetto actually sounding pretty great over electro percussion and this blend of really cool, retro synths that aren’t afraid to sound jerky and out-of-tune in that post-chorus. They almost remind me of Plastic Beach if this isn’t that ludicrous of a comparison. Tate McRae barely exists here but that’s fine – sadly she has the only verse and her voice just doesn’t mesh that well with Troye’s outside of some of the chorus harmonising, and on its own just sounds kind of unwarrantedly raspy on pretty clean, smooth production. Regard’s addition of those distorted backing vocals and the lenient vocal manipulating in that bridge make sure you know this is intricately produced to every detail and I just love that ramping of intensity even if the final chorus doesn’t really act as that impactful climax so the song ends on kind of a low note where I can tell Regard didn’t know where to go from there. Otherwise, this is a pretty great synth-pop track and I really hope it sticks around. I knew Regard had an ear for more unique EDM production since he came onto the charts for the first time with “Ride It” so I hope to hear what’s next from him as well. For now, oh, God, please make this a hit.
#61 – “Kukoc” – AJ Tracey featuring NAV
Produced by Yung Swisher and Pxcoyo
This is our first of two songs that debuted this week from AJ Tracey’s album Flu Game, which I decided not to listen to on the basis that it was nearly an hour’s runtime with a NAV feature. It’s just my luck then that for whatever reason, the British public decided the NAV song was the second most important track to listen to when the album dropped. Well, I guess this beat isn’t bad, especially with that synth flashing over the acoustic guitar inflections and the Pop Smoke-esque rattling drill percussion creating an oddly-mixed and cluttered beat but one that I guess still hits pretty hard. NAV sounds more enthused than ever over a drill beat – maybe he should stick to that – but I still feel like this is just a pointless song. The content is primarily just flexing and AJ Tracey’s energy is there but not in a particularly likeable, charming way or in an intimidating, menacing way so he just ends up out-shined by NAV’s cheaply Auto-Tuned and simple, basic flow in his verse where he emphasises how he’s a grown man at 30 years old – yet still not showing any sign of maturity, seemingly. This is listenable for sure but at best it’s a mildly amusing drill track and at worst it’s sensory overload. The build-up is only in the intro here and it’s just full force for the next two minutes making it kind of aggravating to even listen to and keep up with. Oh, and “Kukoc” is some Croatian basketball player mentioned once in the chorus. That’s about as interesting as this content gets.
#36 – “Solid” – Young Stoner Life, Young Thug and Gunna featuring Drake
Produced by Foreign Teck, Elvas, Wheezy and OZ
It’s an unwritten rule that if you release an album, the song with Drake on it will always debut on the charts, and often particularly high. Okay, I guess it didn’t work for Drakeo the Ruler – sadly – but it did work for Slime Language 2. “Solid” which absolutely did not need the four producers it has is pretty much just the trio being as uninteresting as possible as they slide over a synth-based trap beat with, say it with me, odd bass mixing. I guess Drake’s hook is mildly catchy and the steel pans in the verses are kind of fun even if they’re there for pretty much no reason. Gunna probably delivers the best verse, if not the purest as he brags about having solid friendships, and boasts wealth over the beat which gets a lot more eerie and downbeat with Gunna over it for whatever reason, even when he’s spitting ridiculous sex bars. The best part of this as with most of the YSL label projects is the interplay between Young Thug and Gunna, as over an increasingly badly mixed beat and some slick organ licks, Thugger ends off the track with an effortless verse and... well, it sure is a trap-rap song by Young Thug, Gunna and Drake. That’s for sure. It’s not bad at all and this beat could be a lot better if there were more steel pans and better mixing, it’s just that none of these guys deliver as well as they can and like most things he’s on nowadays, Drake is the worst part of it.
#29 – “Little More Love” – AJ Tracey
Produced by Venna, Mark Raggio, RyFy and Yoz Beats
I’m surprised there’s little fanfare about this song and the album in general, especially given how big songs like “West Ten” and “Bringing it Back”. Sadly, I think this might be a case of waiting too long to get the record out or just AJ’s star fading away and towards – unfortunately – Digga D. This cut got the music video treatment and hence debuted the highest of any entries this week but it was set for a top 10 debut from the album and video boost, but just seems to have stalled. I actually think that’s pretty unfortunate as this is a great song, with that tropical guitar lick that sounds cheap when drenched in the reverb and especially when the beat comes in and it’s mixed too loudly, but that doesn’t really obscure the trap knock and groove, particularly in that chorus with AJ’s expected dead-beat delivery. That delivery really works for this song, though, as it’s about the paranoia that comes with unexpected fame and success for someone from a background of poverty. I wish the beat gave AJ more room to breathe but he still flips the typical UK flows on his verses so they’re a lot more catchy and smooth, particularly over those soulful vocal loops that come in at the same time. That second verse is pretty excellent too, as whilst it’s short, it runs through some pretty excellent flows and some interesting lines, like about how he sees himself as Che Guerava, represents his Trinidadian identity and how he’s “got God” so he and his crew don’t need to wear a bullet-proof vest, which is actually kind of profound for Tracey. The horns at the end of this beat deserve some credit for making this song great too, and with all the sounds packed into this song, I think I understand why this one has four producers, even if this cluttered mix could use halving that total.
This is a pretty solid week all things considered, with a lot of good to great songs, so much so that it’s difficult to give out titles. I guess Best of the Week is going to “Ski” by Young Stoner Life, Young Thug and Gunna but I’m convinced to give a three-way tie for Honourable Mention. I think I’ll just stick with giving it to Regard, Troye Sivan and Tate McRae for “You” but it was close. Worst of the Week ends up going to “Sunshine (The Light)” by Fat Joe, Amorphous and DJ Khaled almost by default, with a Dishonourable Mention to AJ Tracey’s “Kukoc” featuring NAV, even if I still kind of like the song. Here’s our top 10 for this week:
Hopefully next week will keep this quality going, but in terms of new arrivals I can’t really make any concrete predictions other than a boost for “Save Your Tears” and hopefully an impact from Jorja Smith and Little Simz. I guess time will tell however, so thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 17/04/2021 (Polo G, Dave, Doja Cat & SZA, Taylor Swift)
Okay, so, UK Singles Chart time – all hell broke loose. I knew Taylor Swift and Dave would make an impact but I was also not expecting all of the chaos to come with it. With that said, Lil Nas X is still at #1 for a third week with “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)” and let’s just get through with this. This is REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
In this starting rundown segment, I’ve got a lot to cover so I’ll make it quick, no nonsense. First of all, I cover the UK Top 75. Why the top 75? I’m difficult – even though it’s actually more convenient. Secondly, the notable drop-outs – songs that peaked in the top 40 or spent more than five weeks on the chart that are gone from the top 75 this week thanks to this avalanche of 14 or so new arrivals. This week, we say goodbye to a bunch of our debuts from last week as well as “telepatía” by Kali Uchis, “Bringing it Back” by Digga D and AJ Tracey, “You’re Mines Still” by Yung Bleu and remixed by Drake, “Midnight Sky” by Miley Cyrus, “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles, “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers and several #1 hits, including “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, “Sweet Melody” by Little Mix, “Mood” by 24kGoldn featuring iann dior, “Dance Monkey” by Tones and I and finally, “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi, after spending a whopping 113 weeks in this region... despite being terrible. I mean, it’ll be back next week but celebrate the little victories, like our returns, for example. “X Gon’ Give it to Ya” by the late DMX is back at #72 after the passing of the hip-hop icon last week. This legendary song was actually one of his later hits – not even a hit in the States – and originally peaked at #6 in the UK back in 2003. We sadly don’t see anything else from DMX returning but we do also see Taylor Swift’s re-recorded version of “Love Story” revisiting the charts at #45 off the album boost.
Now for the songs that fell or rose this week, starting with the notable losses, being songs that dropped five spots or more. First, we have “Your Love (9PM)” by ATB, Topic and A7S at #13, followed by “Don’t Play” by Anne-Marie, KSI and Digital Farm Animals at #17, “Hold On” by Justin Bieber at #20, “Save Your Tears” by the Weeknd at #22, “Up” by Cardi B at #23, “Commitment Issues” by Central Cee at #25, “Latest Trends” by AI x JI plummeting at #28, “Patience” by KSI featuring YUNGBLUD and Polo G at #29, “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo at #34, “We’re Good” by Dua Lipa at #35, “Anyone” by Justin Bieber at #40, “Black Hole” by Griff at #41, “All You Ever Wanted” by Rag’n’Bone Man at #43, “WITHOUT YOU” by the Kid LAROI at #44, “Binding Lights” by the Weeknd at #46, “Goosebumps” by HVME and Travis Scott at #47, “6 for 6” by Central Cee at #48, “Medicine” by James Arthur at #49, “Head & Heart” by Joel Corry and MNEK at #50, “Met Him Last Night” by Demi Lovato featuring Ariana Grande at #54 off of the debut, “Paradise” by MEDUZA and Dermot Kennedy at #58, Doja Cat’s “Streets” at #60 and “Best Friend” with Saweetie at #61, “Tonight” by Ghost Killer Track featuring D-Block Europe at #62, “Get Out My Head” by Shane Codd at #63, “Beautiful Mistakes” by Maroon 5 featuring Megan Thee Stallion at #66, “Track Star” by Mooski at #67, “Headshot” by Lil Tjay, Fivio Foreign and Polo G at #73, “What Other People Say” by Sam Fischer and Demi Lovato at #74 and finally, whatever’s left of Drake as “What’s Next” is at #68 and “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” with Rick Ross is at #70.
Our gains are arguably more interesting, as it’s impressive to climb five spots or higher or reach the top 40 for the first time in the midst of all this nonsense. Therefore, we do have just a few gains, those being “Runaway” by AURORA at #51 off of the debut, “Nice to Meet Ya” by Wes Nelson featuring Yxng Bane making a surprise attack at the top 40 going to #39 off of the debut, “Good Without” by Mimi Webb at #18 and “Ferrari Horses” by D-Block Europe and RAYE continuing its gains up to #16. That’s pretty much it – still took a while – so let’s get through those 14 new arrivals, huh? God help me.
#75 – “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” – Fred again.. and The Blessed Madonna
Produced by Boston Bun and Fred again..
This is one of the songs that really padded out our new arrivals list – to explain, a lot of the time, these songs were released weeks ago and only now gain enough traction to debut within the top 75 and hence be discussed by me. This one just happens to have popped up in a week where everything is going on already so it kind of gets lost in incoherency but regardless, this is a song from Ed Sheeran’s producer Fred Gibson, who I refuse to call by his stage name, from his most recent project featuring vocals from The Blessed Madonna, most commonly known right now as the producer and DJ behind the club mix edition of Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia and hence the “Levitating” remix with Missy Elliott and, well, actual Madonna. The song itself is one I’m surprised is about anything but has these mostly spoken word vocals about how we as a world have “lost dancing” to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as hugs, and, well, that’s all she decides to elaborate about. She also guarantees that once everything is over, “what comes next will be marvellous”. Whilst I appreciate the sentiment, I think it’s almost a dangerous promise, given that we’ll be in this pandemic for longer than anyone expected and it’s pretty evident that we’ll still be keeping to social distancing as the vaccine roll-out continues all throughout this year. At this point, we’re still in lockdown and international travel will still be stunted for years after the fact. This song feels like The Blessed Madonna getting on her pedestal about the arts and their impact on people without going into any detail that warrants the soapbox, bizarrely over some synth-heavy deep house beat that decides to do little more than flutter through the entirety of the five-minute runtime. Yeah, this is pretty insufferable. Next.
#71 – “Slumber Party” – Ashnikko featuring Princess Nokia
Produced by CallMeTheKidd
Okay, so TikTok picks this one up and the label then decides to push this over “Deal with It”, a brilliant pop song that was right there and already had the high-budget video to boot? Regardless, this is taken from Ashnikko’s debut mixtape of sorts, Demidevil, and whilst as a whole the project does little more than act as harmless fun guising as anything more, a couple of the singles are genuinely pretty great, including this one, which seems to be a break-out hit for rapper Princess Nokia. This song relies on the jerkiness of its almost DJ Mustard-esque club beat and that warped might-be-a-flute loop to support Ashnikko’s similarly sloppy delivery, which decides to be as in character in possible – of which I mean that it is obnoxious and frankly ridiculously stupid. This isn’t a “slumber party” at all, and whilst the childish implications are if anything kind of unnerving, there is a lot of fun to be had here if you get past the “kawaii hentai boobies” in the chorus. Nokia’s verse continues the album’s general early 2000s aesthetic with her referencing many hits and singers from that time period in a pretty slick albeit one-and-done verse that should really be extended further than it is. I mean, I would have preferred that to Ashnikko’s second verse comparing her girlfriend to the little girl from The Addams Family, before mentioning how her eyes go black when she orgasms and that her spit tastes like Juicy Fruit gum. Okay, so when it comes to filthy lesbian rap I think I prefer acts like BASSIDE but for what it’s worth, this is surreal and fun enough for me to like. I hope it does well, but know she has better songs even on that same tape.
#69 – “Versus” – SL and M1llionz
Produced by Lucas Dante and Yng Cld
Oh, hey, another drill track by two guys produced by two guys for two guys to rap about how cool it is to be the two guys they are. I guess the gimmick here is that the single actually has an instrumental version as well for whatever reason; I guess they want people to remix the track. That would make sense, as this beat is immediately recognisable from that chipmunk squeak of a glitched vocal sample they use. In fact, I think I prefer the instrumental version because when those booming 808s come in, it hits really hard especially with the scattering drill percussion. SL and M1llionz are trading bars here in what is basically one verse and it’s not like they’re saying nothing of interest here as there is a viable enough amount of detail here in these bars about exactly what you’d expect. But that’s exactly what it is: exactly what you’d expect. By the first verse, you’ve already heard SL talk about watching The Boondocks and that’s about as interesting as it gets. Sure, the interplay between the two guys in this case is pretty smooth, but it goes on for about a minute too long and M1llionz has a lot more charisma than SL so it does feel like half the song is wasted away. The producers know that too, as they decide to fade the song out very quickly after M1llionz stops rapping his final bars. This is fine – on some days, I’d probably call it really good – but it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.
#64 – “Starstruck” – Years & Years
Produced by Mark Ralph and Nathaniel Ledwidge
We’re not even out of that bottom third of the chart and we’ve still got a lot ahead of us before we get above that point. Here, we have “Starstruck”, sadly not the Lady Gaga or 3OH!3 song but instead the first officially solo song by Years & Years, which is now just frontman Olly Alexander after his bandmates’ departure, similar to Panic! at the Disco except the members seem to be on good terms, or Ritt Momney, except no one here is a Mormon missionary... yet. Whilst you could see this from a mile away if you had listened to that last album, it would be deceiving to say it’s only Olly this time around as he’s enlisted several outside producers and writers to craft a pretty straightforward love song. Well, is it any good? I’m not entirely sold on it, mostly because it seems to reject all of the lyrical intrigue there was in those past two albums – at least intermittently – for a pretty generic if not pure and lovely content, with the most interesting of lyrics being about sipping his partner up like cosmic juice, which I’ll admit got a laugh out of me. It is fitting for how this janky dance-pop song sounds as sonically it’s kind of a quirky mess with a lot of bassy grooves in the verses only to be replaced by a shiny synth blend that completely shrouds the chorus in video game sound effects and French house-esque filter effects. This sound is very much a late-2000s early-2010s throwback in some ways and throwing it back even further in others, which creates an interesting sound but not enough to not let this become easily stale after just the second chorus, especially if it’s going to purposefully fumble its climax for an awkward build-up that involves basically revealing the drop measures before it should have. Yeah, I want to like this but it just seems kind of confused as it is. I’m still going to listen to that third album whenever it comes, but I’m somewhat disappointed with this lead single thus far.
#57 – “Lingo” – Deno featuring J.I. the Prince of NY and Chunkz
Produced by Da Beatfreakz
Alright, so British rapper Deno has enlisted New York rapper J.I. – who I refuse to call by his full stage name – and Chunkz, who I’m pretty sure is some YouTuber, to hop on a beat from DaBeatfreakz, specifically this watery R&B beat with vocal loops drowned out by bass and some awkward mixing. Deno isn’t much of a presence in the verse or chorus, J.I. talks about some girl not chewing him right and Chunkz, who sounds awful on any beat with the whiny Auto-Tuned mumble, somehow doesn’t say anything of interest despite being the semi-professional comedian of these three guys, or at least not before Deno takes over his verse and they all give up for the last couple measures. Yes, that was one sentence – this song doesn’t deserve much more.
#56 – “Shy Away” – twenty one pilots
Produced by Tyler Joseph
I’ve never been that big a fan of twenty one pilots, but I was actually pretty fond of her most recent album, Trench. What fascinates me about them is how they seemed to have done really well for themselves that one time in the Blurryface era and have coasted off the success of that to fund some of their more out-there and experimental musical aspirations. I don’t think they’re looking for big hits anymore – which is good because this won’t be one – but people will always be looking out for what they do next, and they’ve just announced a new album coming soon with this as the lead single. Thankfully, it’s not that COVID-19 pandemic pandering from last year which got on my nerves a lot more than it should. “Shy Away”, instead, goes for... 1980s dance-punk, because, of course. I do love that jerky synth lead and how well it’s backed by that chugging bass and percussion, which we’ll always know is organic coming from Josh Dun. The song itself is a somewhat vague motivational track but not for no reason, as these lyrics actually originated from when Tyler Joseph was giving advice to his brother, a budding musician, trying to get him to see himself in a new light and find his unique purpose in music and not to “shy away” from continuing with his dreams. I can get behind that, especially if it’s going to have squealing guitar segues, an infectious power-pop chorus that will probably not leave my head for a long time and the excellent swell of guitars in that third verse before the brief breakdown in the post-chorus with all those squibbling synth effects. It’s just a wonderfully constructed song on all accounts, even if it sacrifices some of that unique personality we usually get from Tyler for the sake of making a tighter pop-rock song.
#52 – “You Belong with Me” (Taylor’s Version) – Taylor Swift
Produced by Taylor Swift and Christopher Rowe
I guess the best place to start with these re-recordings is the original song, which I’ve never liked. I’ve never seen a reason to enjoy Taylor’s entitled adolescent whining over some pretty garbage production making what may as well be organic country instrumentation sound like MIDI tracks. She doesn’t deliver a particularly good vocal performance, or at least one good enough to excuse “She wear short skirts, I wear T-shirts, she’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers”. There isn’t enough detail to make this seem like a toxic relationship so she ends up just sounding bratty. This new version, from a matured Taylor Swift a decade later, has decided not to change any of these lyrics and it just sounds worse coming from a Taylor who clearly knows a lot better and is in a happy relationship. Okay, the instrumentation sounds a lot more organic and has more of a groove than it used to, with some more intricate production moments that are cool, but that’s really the only change that improves on an already mediocre song. Taylor’s voice has improved a lot since that original recording but so has she, and her selling these lyrics with as much conviction while in her 30s just ends up sounding sad. It only makes sense to “reclaim” these songs if you’re going to try and make them your own again, and not representative of someone I don’t think Taylor is anymore. Alas, it’s listenable, but this could have been one of the more interesting re-recordings and nothing was done with it past the better mixing and a pretty epic guitar solo, even if it does feel unwarranted by the content.
#42 – “Way Too Long” – Nathan Dawe, Anne-Marie and MoStack
Produced by Scribz Riley, Tré Jean-Marie, Nathan Dawe and GRADES
For someone who is solely a producer and DJ, I say that’s two or three too many credited producers, but regardless, before we get to more Taylor Swift, which we will eventually, we’ve got some leftover house track with B-list stars that starts with the words, “Hey, yo, yo, it’s Stack Rack”. With that said, I actually kind of like this song with its strings swelling more than the usual track and its bass-heavy club groove in the verses being more complex in its percussion, especially when the sound design is that interesting in the second half of the verse as all of these effects and different synth patterns occur in the back of the mix, which kind of lets me forgive how anti-climactic the drop is. It’s not really an EDM song as much as it’s a light-hearted pop track and Anne-Marie isn’t taking it as seriously as she could, especially on that vocoder-drop chorus, which makes the song a lot more fun that it should be. MoStack is who really shines on this track though, as his verse is – probably unintentionally – very funny, as he twists the meaning of the song to a phallic joke, happily engages in monogamy, particularly with every British pop-star he can think of and says “forget quality, I want quantity”. He just lists famous singers by the end of this verse that he finds attractive and is completely gone off the deep-end by the time he’s ignored by Anne-Marie’s swell of a chorus. It’s not a great song and definitely falls into the traps that most EDM does but as it is, it’s a fun track with a surprisingly hilarious and sloppy guest verse from MoStack that I was not expecting, as well as just being inoffensive across the board.
#33 – “Mercury” – Dave featuring Kamal.
Produced by Manny Manhattan and Kyle Evans
Dave released a double A-side single – or at least whatever the equivalent for that is in the streaming age – and this was the less popular track, “Mercury”, with singer Kamal. If you don’t know Dave is, he’s one of the biggest and most celebrated rappers in the UK and this is his first solo release since 2019. I’ve usually been pretty happy with Dave’s releases – hell, Psychodrama was one of my favourite albums of 2019 – but I’m not entirely sure I can endorse this lazy trap beat relying on some gentle but overbearing pianos and groovier bass knocks. Really, the beat is pretty minimal so we can focus on what Dave’s saying, right? Well, we could, but why would we want to? Sure, there’s some good wordplay weaved into here and I don’t dislike his stories about gang violence and paranoia, even if they’re delivered in the most checked-out almost condescending way possible, but I can’t get behind the misogyny that seems to run a lot deeper than it does in typical rap. Sure, he makes the same googly-eyed observations about attractive women, describes some parts of the sex but interestingly not any part he plays, and also describes her as a “work of art”, but this is all after he dismisses women in general for not “forgiving him for his sins”, in some thinly-veiled Ariana Grande reference that leaves me more pissed off than he is, especially since Dave’s not as self-aware as he thinks he is, particularly because he himself can barely forgive himself for his wrongs in that second verse. Instead, he shrouds it in hedonism like any other rapper – what have the women got to do other than make good decisions for themselves about who they sleep with? He doesn’t go into disgusting detail like Digga D on “Toxic” but it rubs me the wrong way, especially if he’s going to then complain about the myth that is cancel culture. If this comes from a genuine place where he was genuinely attacked for something he didn’t deserve the abuse for, I’d understand, but why even complain about the supposed mob of Twitter users when the only tie you have to it is something reported on your brother by the right-wing press that everyone ignored? Other than missing the point terribly, it’s not like this song is catchy or notable. Even he acknowledges that this five-minute bore wouldn’t make the album, and it’s for good reason.
#32 – “Anywhere Away from Here” – Rag’n’Bone Man and P!nk
Produced by Rag’n’Bone Man, Mike Elizondo and Ben Jackson-Cook
So this is Rag’n’Bone Man’s second single from that upcoming album, or at least the second to chart, and after the surprisingly great post-punk rocker that was “All You Ever Wanted”, I’m excited to hear what a duet with P!nk could sound like. After all, they’re both rougher voices in the pop sphere, even if P!nk’s been doing it for much longer. Sadly, it’s a ballad... not to say they can’t do ballads well but this is a pretty minimal piano-lead track with some really badly mixed vocals from Rag’n’Bone Man as he channels an unintelligible Dave Grohl that’s way too loud in the mix, especially when the strings come in and cloud the mix. I do like the content once again with Rag’n’Bone Man as he continues to discuss the careless days of his youth, but this is more about growing older and eventually growing discontent with that lifestyle and each other, just wanting to be somewhere else. P!nk delivers this in a way that’s a lot more flattering to her voice and the instrumental, but when the borderline choir vocals come in with those terribly-mixed harmonies between the two and that pointless bridge, I give up on this song. It just refuses to go anywhere, I’m sorry, and it had a lot of potential but these voices don’t particularly mesh together especially over some basic piano and strings. This could have been great and as is, is less than mediocre.
#30 – “Mr. Perfectly Fine” (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault) – Taylor Swift
Produced by Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff
I didn’t listen to the re-recorded version of Fearless; instead I just listened to the six or so bonus “from the vault” tracks because that’s the only new content and I’m not big on any of it. It sounds exactly as you’d expect a 31-year-old woman reciting lyrics she wrote and shelved when she was a teenager, not even thinking they were good enough to release then, decades after the fact, and most of the songs just aren’t interesting at all. I think “Bye Bye Baby” is a great pop song but besides that there’s nothing much to enjoy in these tracks, at least from me. I know that Taylor’s biggest fans will love how she re-recorded leaked and rumoured songs that had been circulating but as someone detached from that, it does nothing for me. This song in particular is about Joe Jonas, because, of course, it was, and it’s a petty, sarcastic break-up song Taylor should be able to deliver confidently but ends up falling flat based on almost that awful verse melody alone, which is just janky, unpleasant and stretched out to the point of annoyance, especially if it’s going to be produced this well. She dug up this track seemingly only to get Antonoff on the record, and, sure, the chorus is catchy and has that one great moment with those crashing guitars, but it enjoys killing its momentum as soon as it gets going... for five minutes. Yeah, I’m sorry but I’m not interested in what was left on the cutting room floor a decade separated from the release of this re-recording, especially if this fully-fleshed instrumentation does little more than distract from how dreadfully boring this song is. Wake me up when she re-records Speak Now or especially reputation, because that will truly be fascinating.
#10 – “Kiss Me More” – Doja Cat featuring SZA
Produced by tizhimself, Carter Lang, Rogét Chahayed and Yeti Beats
I’ve forgotten to mention that three of those 14 new arrivals actually debuted in the top 10 this week, meaning, yes, whilst we’re nearly done, we’ve still got a lot to cover and we start with what seems to be the lead single from Doja Cat’s upcoming album, as she enlists SZA to assist her on this classily unclassy disco-pop song. Those main guitars do sound great, especially with Doja’s signature cooing over them, and that’s before we get to that slick pink disco groove not dissimilar to “Say So” but with a tighter, fun bassline and how quickly Doja strips off the subtlety. I could do without that mess of a post-chorus that is just a blend of too many, not very great vocal takes, but I do love how it leads into Doja’s unsubtle sex bars that actually go into some interesting detail, but not as much SZA being kind of filthy but also delivering a pretty great vocal performance, even if she starts with asking her partner for that “gushy stuff”. I do find it odd that it decides to censor “dick” of all words, but this production is great and I actually particularly like that final chorus and post-chorus once SZA starts harmonising on it. As is, it’s a pretty tight and likeable disco jam from two charismatic performers... co-written by Dr. Luke. Goddamn it, Doja, I don’t know what contract he’s got you in but Jesus, someone do something about that.
#9 – “Titanium” – Dave
Produced by Kyle Evans and P2J
This is our second Dave song and obviously the more successful of the two, at about three minutes shorter – thankfully – debuting in the top 10. It’s much better than “Mercury”, even if the song literally starts with him bragging about not needing vibrators to make his girlfriend orgasm. That said, the lyrics here are actually a lot slicker, flowing much like he did on “Streatham” as he lists so many precious metals you’d think he’s Bender. I do like the intricacies in these lyrics, even if he doesn’t really adapt it into any wordplay. He mentions how awkward that it is that his neighbours are going to vote Conservative as he brags in an almost freestyle-like structure in the single verse he spits, which has a couple flow switches and a lot more empty space than it should for a beat this awkwardly mixed, as whilst I like the trap percussion here, it really does not sound that great over borderline MIDI pianos. The little string inflections and drum fills here are cool though, and those intricacies are what makes Dave’s verse so interesting, as he foreshadows his bar about Tyson Fury with an ad-lib that Fury used himself as a build-up for his boxing matches. His JAY-Z references are also on point and pretty clever, it’s just that there’s still not much to this past that and I’m left pretty underwhelmed with these releases from Dave, even if they’re not from that next album, whenever that’s coming.
#3 – “RAPSTAR” – Polo G
Produced by Einer Bankz and Synco
Well, Lil Tjay debuted at #2 a couple weeks ago so I guess it’s only fair for his fellow “Pop Out” rapper, and the one I personally immensely prefer, Polo G to have his surprise, kind-of-out-of-nowhere top 5 debut. Much like “MONTERO”, this track was being teased for nearly a year, having first been shown as an acoustic collaboration with professional ukulele player – yes, seriously – Einer Bankz, who’s also credited with production here, in May of 2020. Just shy of a year afterwards, we get “RAPSTAR”, in the same vein of other all-caps trap songs about musical success like “ROCKSTAR” or “POPSTAR”. Maybe next we’ll get “NEOCLASSICAL DARK WAVESTAR”. Regardless, this song is basically just about being epic and Polo G can effectively sell that even in his more basic flexing because of that intermittent detail like when he says the only woman he talks to is Siri, which isn’t even a brag or a flex, more a sad admission of his crippling loneliness which I don’t think was intended. He also does more than empty flexing, discussing his past drug addictions and how he coped with that alongside all of the struggles he had to overcome at the same time. That second verse may start with him saying he’s 2Pac reborn but it goes a lot deeper into his anxieties than I expected. All of this is over a melancholy guitar-based beat with some great bass and better mixing than is expected of these pop-trap singles, even if it’s still far from perfect. Those eerie vocal loops in the background add a lot to this song and I think that chorus has a pretty great build-up, even if the percussion may seem a bit too basic and uncomplicated as an effective drop. I can’t really complain about this at all, though, as it is really good for what it is and I’m glad it’s this high.
And with that, I’m finally, FINALLY finished with scouring through these new arrivals and I’ll admit that it was less of a mixed bag and more of a generally positive week, at least for me, as I found more I liked than anything I disliked, particularly with Best of the Week as that goes to twenty one pilots for “Shy Away”, with the Honourable Mention going to Ashnikko’s “Slumber Party” featuring Princess Nokia, although there’s a lot to praise on the charts this week. In terms of Worst of the Week, it’s probably going to go to Fred again.. and The Blessed Madonna for “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)”, with a Dishonourable Mention for, sadly, Dave’s “Mercury” featuring Kamal. I would like to note that Taylor Swift was awfully closer than she should be to getting that this week. Here’s this week’s top 10:
What to expect from this week? Gosh, I don’t know. AJ Tracey? Young Thug? Either way, we’ll see whatever happens to all this – whether it gets flooded out or they all end up sticking around – next week, so I’ll see you then. Thanks for reading.
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 10/04/2021 (Olivia Rodrigo, Demi Lovato)
Well, I guess it’s a pretty slow week – at least more than I had predicted – given that I thought Demi Lovato and Olivia Rodrigo would make a lot more of a genuine impact high up in the chart than they actually did. I can’t really predict the chart accurately at all in those conclusion segments considering I write and release these episodes even before first-day streaming numbers are released, but I at least expected Rodrigo to debut in the top 10. Alas, we have kind of an unexpected filler week, before Taylor Swift impacts the charts next week – I think that prediction’s enough of a safe bet to be right, right? Anyways, Lil Nas X’s “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)” stays at #1 for a second week that I didn’t see coming, and let’s just start REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
Now I talk about music that is purposefully out of my comfort zone on this series – the music is accessible, sure, because it’s charting music but not all of it is in genres and scenes or by artists I know a hell of a lot about or have listened to repeatedly. Hence, I don’t tend to talk about my own music taste often on here, because of two reasons: one being that I’m unsure it even exists and can be summed up in a sentence, and two being, well... according to Spotify’s “On Repeat” playlist, I’ve been listening to “Paralyzer” by Finger Eleven an obscene amount this past week – if you had to make a Cactus Chart, it would probably debut at #1 15 years after the fact. Now, ignoring the fact that I kind of do want to make that chart, which I probably can with last.fm, I’m sure that will quell any need to talk about my own deeply embarrassing musical habits on this page ever again. Now, moving from the Cactus Single Charts to the UK Top 75, which is what I cover, we can see that there’s been some minimal action on all fronts.
In terms of our drop-outs, we do have a couple notable ones, including both of Fredo’s songs as ACR cuts their streaming numbers and hence, rather unfairly and inaccurately, “Money Talks” with Dave and “Ready” featuring Summer Walker both exit the top 75. I guess they were on their way out eventually, and some ACR-affected songs have indeed survived this week, but it’s still annoying to see for songs that are contemporary and still popular. Otherwise, we have “Wants and Needs” by Drake featuring Lil Baby exiting, as well as some genuinely big hits from this Winter, those being “Good Days” by SZA, “Whoopty” by CJ – finally – and “you broke me first” by Tate McRae after 35 long weeks. Now the charts are no longer addicted to blue cheese, what’s filling in the gaps?
Well, we only have one returning entry, that being “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, a song that seemingly cannot stay dead, not that I’m complaining. What’s more interesting is what’s on the chart itself, as we do have some notable climbers and fallers. For the notable losses, we have “Good Without” by Mimi Webb at #23 off of the debut, “Patience” by KSI, YUNGBLUD and Polo G at #24, “Anyone” by Justin Bieber at #31, “6 for 6” by Central Cee at #37, “Blinding Lights” by the Weeknd still here at #38, HVME’s remix of Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” at #39, “Head & Heart” by Joel Corry and MNEK finally dropping out of the top 40 at #41, “What’s Next” by Drake continuing to collapse at #49, taking “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” with Rick Ross at #51 along with it, “telepatía” by Kali Uchis at #56, “Mood” by 24kGoldn and iann dior at #62, “Sweet Melody” by Little Mix at #66, “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi finally making way for an exit at #68, “Bringing it Back” by Digga D and AJ Tracey at #69, “Cloud 9” by Beach Bunny sadly at #70 off of the debut and finally, “You’re Mines Still” by Yung Bleu featuring Drake at #72.
What’s shocking to me is the little impact that both Demi Lovato and Lil Tjay had, showing that people might just not care about these artists past their singles. Sure, we got some tracks from both of them – that are already being pushed as singles – but on Lovato’s side, “What Other People Say” didn’t move an inch and we only got minimal gains for Lil Tjay’s “Headshot” and “Calling My Phone”, which I expected to go back into the top 40 and top 10 respectively. In terms of our actually notable climbers, well, we have “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers going for a fiftieth chart run at #67, “Beautiful Mistakes” by Maroon 5 featuring Megan Thee Stallion at #60, “Don’t You Worry About Me” by Bad Boy Chiller Crew surging up to #53, Tom Zanetti getting his first top 40 hit with the garbage “Didn’t Know” at #40, “Black Hole” by Griff at #33, Majestic’s remix of Boney M.’s “Rasputin” at #29, “Ferrari Horses” by D-Block Europe and RAYE at #22, and that’s about it other than our single notable change in the top 20, that being “Millions” by Russ Millions and Tion Wayne up to #13 off of the debut, despite being an absolutely worthless song. In fact, it’s looking pretty dire in the top 20 in general, I’m starting to hope that my Cactus Charts actually had any impact. Regardless, we still have eight new arrivals to discuss, so let’s start right at the bottom.
#73 – “Film out” – BTS
Produced by UTA and back number
Now, BTS occasionally releases songs for the Japanese market, a common practice for K-pop bands – as far as I know – and this one in particular was marketed only in Japan for a Japanese film. Therefore, I think I was pretty reasonable in thinking this wouldn’t even get close to charting, but I should never underestimate the power of BTS fans buying digital singles. After all, that’s what kept “Dynamite” on the chart for as long as it had its run. Now, I’m not well-versed in J-pop at all other than some brief dives into city pop and picopop – both of which I enjoyed thoroughly – so I didn’t really know what to expect but it does make perfect sense to me that the boys are crooning over a cleanly-produced, theatrical piano-lead instrumental. Given that there’s a post-chorus consisting almost entirely of “ooh-ooh, la-la-la-la” about 45 seconds in, I gave up entirely in terms of lyrical content, although reading some of RM’s translated lyrics in particular makes it seem oddly poetic. How does it sound? Well, exactly as I’d described it: the boys are reigning themselves into to a more subtle instrumental and whilst some of the multi-tracking is distracting and each of the parts don’t really flow as well as they wanted it to, especially due to the loud vocal mixing which definitely overshadows the impact of the wonderful string swells in the final chorus and gives you enough audio-wise to completely ignore the trap-adjacent percussion. The song’s fine and I do like the inflections of acoustic guitar especially, but I’m not really impressed by this, not that I was supposed to – it’s a Japanese soundtrack song, it’ll be gone tomorrow and I’m sure the audience there is enjoying it more than I can.
#64 – “Summer 91 (Looking Back)” – Noizu
Produced by Noizu
Now if you don’t know how Noizu is, I can’t blame you as neither did I. I quickly found out he was another house producer and this track that had been released in January had just gained enough steam to debut this week. The guy has been in EDM production for a while and was immediately cosigned by people like Skrillex and Diplo, and he seems to hide behind this cartoon character for branding and anonymity’s sake, which I can’t blame him for when I consider the public images of both Skrillex and Diplo. The song, originally just called “Summer 91”, was remixed for a major-label release on RCA, and it’s about what you’d expect. It’s a deep house track with a driving 90s MIDI piano melody, uncredited female vocals that can’t even get close to the power of those diva house vocals from decades before and a anti-climactic drop with some cheap percussion. The chorus actually sounds a lot like “Body” by Loud Luxury and brando from one or two years ago, so it’s not even that original in its main hook, though I can give it credit for the synth-work being more sci-fi and kind of interesting, and its song structure being increasingly disjointed, even moreso than the typical house-pop track that debuts low on these charts, which means a lot less when the song has so little tricks up its sleeve. And no, the 220 KID remix isn’t any good either, in fact, it’s a lot worse.
#63 – “Run it Up” – Lil Tjay featuring Offset and Moneybagg Yo
Produced by Josh Petruccio
I tried to listen to that Lil Tjay record and within five tracks decided it was absolutely not worth my time, so I’m glad we only have a single song from the album debuting, though I am surprised that it seems to be the borderline posse cut that runs for nearly four minutes and I’m immediately disappointed. I know how all three of these guys can flow and how fast and high-energy all of they can be, as well as how smooth Offset always is, so why is this beat such a dull, piano-lead sludge with gross bass mixing? Why is Lil Tjay wasting my time both content- and delivery-wise, flubbing rhymes to the point where he doesn’t even bother finishing the line, even when he cops Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” flow in the middle of his verse? Why is the chorus just “Run it up” repeated ad infinitum with no energy? Okay, so it’s not all bad – Offset impresses flow-wise as he always does, trying his hardest to inject some energy into this with his ad-libs and constantly changing flow, because at least he has a personality and some charisma, but even he stops trying by the end of his verse. Moneybagg Yo channels 2 Chainz but without anything that makes 2 Chainz a worthwhile presence for a verse that somehow ends up as the best, most consistent here, and, yeah, I now know me skipping the majority of this record was a good choice.
#59 – “Runaway” – AURORA
Produced by Odd Martin and Magnus Skylstad
I know nothing about AURORA, and I was pretty confident I wouldn’t need to past her John Lewis advert success and her part on the Frozen II soundtrack of all places, but alas, she’s charting again with no kind of visual phenomenon attached to it. AURORA is a Norwegian singer-songwriter on the same wavelength as Bjork and hence the eye of a lot of critical success that doesn’t necessarily translate always into album sales. She has seen intermittent success with singles so I assumed this had just been somewhat of a breakout single from her newest record... but no, it’s from her first album and the single was released all the way back in February of 2015. So, naturally, you’ve got to assume TikTok and you would be correct, but is the song good? Well, the vocal loop double-tracked to act as a synth melody and eventually a choir is kind of a cool idea, and AURORA herself has this frail, accented delivery that’s definitely endearing. The song itself is about escapism and running away from confronting your emotions and the writing is good, even if it tends to be a bit messy if more attention is placed onto it, particularly in the verses. That’s not to distract from the fact that this is absolutely a song from 2015 as if you couldn’t tell from the percussion you can tell from the future bass-esque that’s almost cringeworthy in its anti-climactic entrance and doesn’t even really work at all, especially when it just disappears prematurely. I get going for a glitch-pop thing but it just does not make sense in a ballad like this, in fact, I’m finding it hard to find a part that could be used in a TikTok. The second drop works a little better because AURORA has more conviction in her desperate vocal delivery that sounds legitimately great, but I still think there’s such little impact in the percussion that the blend of synths and strings becomes ultimately just a distraction from what could have been a decent piano ballad. It makes it more interesting, for sure, but also more frustrating. Much like Ryn Weaver’s “Pierre”, also a 2015 indie-pop track suddenly charting six years after the fact a couple weeks ago, there’s a good song hidden somewhere in shoddy and awkward production. I really wish I could have liked this more.
#50 – “Dancing with the Devil” – Demi Lovato
Produced by Mitch Allan
Okay, so our next two songs are both from Demi Lovato’s comeback album, Dancing with the Devil...the Art of Starting Over, an album that if anything I am glad exists as it is a catharsis for Demi Lovato that needed to be released as it discusses her overdose, rehab, last relationship and everything both leading up to those events and the aftermath of them. The album isn’t perfect but feels open, revealing and most importantly an honest release for Demi Lovato and I think that’s worthy of praise in itself. As a 19-track album, it is bloated but does have enough sonic experimentation in the pop sphere for it not to grow stale, and I think there are great songs in there – it’s a good album – but you can already tell it’ll be dated soon enough, not that that’s really a problem now in 2021, but might hurt future revisits, especially with some of the production that already sounds awkward. Thankfully, we get two pretty down-beat and dark tracks from the record, which is where it usually shines, the first being the (half-)title track, released just a week before, and it’s pretty excellent. This soulful track builds itself on echoed percussion, subtle piano and Demi stumbling purposefully through verses detailing her mindset when she drinks alcohol and soon enough ends up “dancing with the Devil” and taking harder drugs like cocaine and heroin in the second verse. Musically, the chorus does struggle with some awkward mixing that makes the strings and instrumentation kind of pile up in a blend that sounds a lot louder than it should be, especially when everything is layered up to make each instrument indistinguishable and unrecognisable, pushing Demi’s vocals to the middle and forcing each multi-tracked ad-lib and vocal run to barely fit in the mix. I love this song from a songwriting standpoint even if it tends to be a bit blunt, but it definitely suffers from this production, which is mostly fixed in...
#44 – “Met Him Last Night” – Demi Lovato featuring Ariana Grande
Produced by Xavi and TBHits
This is my favourite song on the record by a fairly big margin, as everything seems to work here, in a way that doesn’t happen across the rest of the album. The song goes for a similar metaphor with the Devil being illicit substances, something that’s been done before and will continue to be done for eons, but Demi and the songwriters do go for a more unique take on it, picturing both Demi and Ariana in a bar or some kind of late-night hang-out as they “see the Devil” – really, seeing themselves at a low point partaking in substance abuse, which is a really interesting and potentially heart-wrenching perspective, especially if we’re going to get the duality of the chorus being self-aware of these vices but ultimately indulging in them anyway, compared to the verses and bridge where Ariana acts as Demi’s consciousness, vowing and pleading with her never to let drugs “take advantage of her innocence” again. The bridge is just wonderful in how the interplay between Ariana and Demi leads to Demi confronting these vices and promising that she won’t ever end up this bad again, before the truth is revealed by Ariana twisting the pre-chorus. Originally, it’s a threat to “the Devil” – that she can see right through the initial appeal of taking hard drugs and will try her hardest to dismiss them – but with the added context of that bridge, becomes a pretty telling response to Demi’s confidence, shutting her down by saying she sees through this facade of willpower and that she’ll still resort to substance abuse once again... which is sadly reinforced by that final, striking chorus that doesn’t change at all from the first, constructing a narrative that ends up going full-circle as Demi is back to where she started. It helps that this instrumental is downright demonic as well, with those menacing 80s synths sliding over some gorgeous violins in the intro, before all of that cuts out for the pre-chorus as that leering melody is whispered by both singers, and the chorus continues to rise with the strings, synthesised brass and the sparse percussion, which drops in Ariana’s verse to become a booming, drill-adjacent beat not afraid to cut out for Ariana’s multi-tracked humming. In fact, I love how organically this beat moves despite it being so obviously programmed, with the swelling of those strings before every impact and the intricate vocal sequencing making sure every gorgeous vocal run and ad-lib is heard. I’m almost glad I’m confident in this not becoming a hit because I would have already talked it to death here before it gets a chance to top my best list, as this is one of the most brilliantly-constructed pop songs I’ve ever heard and absolutely deserves your attention.
#43 – “Nice to Meet Ya” – Wes Nelson featuring Yxng Bane
Produced by Ayo Beatz
And now for some guy featuring some other guy produced by another guy. To give full credit, this beat is actually very well-produced, especially with that gorgeous piano lead in before the reggaeton-esque drum rhythm kicks in alongside those squeaky horns. It’s everywhere else where this song collapses in on itself, as Wes Nelson’s voice is drenched in so much Auto-Tune and reverb that it just sounds grossly cheap, with some comical ad-libs and some comically bad lyrics in this chorus, which I’ll repeat to you now. In a rather Shakespearean tone, our lead artist plays poetic word association with the hedonistic lifestyle of one Wes Nelson, excitedly greeting the listener with a “Nice to meet you”, before striking our deserved attention with his simplistic albeit bitingly effective rhymes. “Stepped in froze, freezer. Christian Dior, huh? Christian Dior, Jesus.” I don’t expect Nas from this guy but I at least expect bars that makes some kind of sense and don’t sound like juvenile attempts at early 2010s Drake-esque hashtag-rap. The song continues to waste the potential of its pretty great production as Wes Nelson strains his voice and somehow still ends up mumbling in his off-beat flow and janky cadence. Yxng Bane is, I hate to say it, probably the best part of this track, as at least he can convincingly sing and his detailed description of him messing around with a vegan girl (which has no relation to what he says, but he still says it) is at least more interesting lyrically than whatever Wes Nelson’s saying. “I met her in Victoria’s Secret then she let me into her Victoria’s secrets” is about as awful as a line when sang as it is read, and I mean, Wes Nelson’s falsetto doesn’t do him much justice in the unnecessary third verse either, so, yeah, this is a pretty crap attempt at riding a great beat. Give this to Rema or Burna Boy and something could have been done with this.
#27 – “deja vu” – Olivia Rodrigo
Produced by Dan Nigro
Finally, we have the follow-up single to Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license”, a song I liked, and I’m glad I did because so did Olivia herself and her producer Dan Nigro, as here we have essentially a sequel if not a reboot to that song. Here, Rodrigo starts to question the authenticity of Joshua Bassett’s new Disney-ordered relationship with Sarah Carpenter—I mean, her unnamed ex-boyfriend’s new fling with another woman. It’s an interesting take to have Rodrigo in a place where somewhat sympathises and pities the new girlfriend, as she’s not getting anything unique or new from her ex-boyfriend anymore. In fact, a lot of this song is really confrontational as she demands the boyfriend to tell his new girlfriend that all the stuff he’s doing with her is what he did with Rodrigo. That’s all fine and good but how does the song sound? Well, it’s got a bell-based instrumental, almost one that’s childish and intimidating, which is perfect for the petty selfishness of the content. In fact, the song as a whole seems to attempt to go for that, with the hilariously multi-tracked and echoed fake laughter in the first verse, as well as all of the extra inflections and backing vocals throughout. The song builds in a very similar way to “drivers license”, but drops earlier into a killer indie-rock groove with a squealing guitar and incredibly distorted drum pattern, almost reminding me of a Flaming Lips song if that’s not too far-fetched of a comparison. This song ultimately does enough to derive and distinguish itself from “drivers license” and whilst it’s not as smooth of a powerful pop track as that one was, and the mixing here is definitely more awkward, we get a different side to Olivia Rodrigo that we’re not to have as much sympathy for. Sure, we know how tough the feeling of being replaced is, but she’s noticeably pettier and arguably kind of unlikeable especially in that bridge, which is a lot more fast-paced than the rest of the song and also has somewhat gratuitous swearing because this is still a formula. Overall, I think this is a pretty great song and I might ultimately prefer it to “drivers license” just out of how it sounds and I’m always happy to see more genuine rock on the chart, so I’m glad we end on a good note.
And on said note, Olivia Rodrigo cops the Honourable Mention for “deja vu” – not that there was much competition – with the Best of the Week going to “Met Him Last Night” by Demi Lovato featuring Ariana Grande. For Worst of the Week, it’s really not that easy as I thought it would be as not much here is that bad at all. I guess I’ll give it to Lil Tjay once again as “Run it Up” featuring Offset and Moneybagg Yo is just joyless, with a Dishonourable Mention for Wes Nelson and Yxng Bane for just crapping all over a great instrumental on “Nice to Meet Ya”. Anyway, here’s this week’s top 10:
I’m not sure if I can make any confident predictions for tomorrow, other than the impact of Taylor Swift, Twenty One Pilots and, if I’m getting my hopes up, BROCKHAMPTON? Regardless, thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week!
REVIEWING THE CHARTS: 03/04/2021 (Lil Nas X’s “MONTERO”, Mimi Webb, Russ Millions & Tion Wayne)
So, we have a #1 debut, and that’s pretty much the only story here in the UK Top 75 as we get a filler week before Demi Lovato, Olivia Rodrigo and Lil Tjay run in and cause havoc. As for now, “Wellerman” is replaced at the top by Lil Nas X’s controversial “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)”, spending its first week at #1 after making pretty sudden gains assisted by the video and alternate versions – the mid-week projection had this at #15. Elsewhere, we just see the fall-out from Bieber. Welcome back to REVIEWING THE CHARTS.
It’s a quiet week – only seven new entries, and none from Rod Wave, 24kGoldn or AJR as I had predicted. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some stuff to talk about within the chart, or particularly off of the chart, as we have a fair few drop-outs switching their places with returning entries. In particular, we have Justin Bieber’s “As I Am” featuring Khalid being swapped out for “Anyone” at #25, as well as drop-outs for “Arcade” by Duncan Laurence – slightly premature, I’d think – and all of Lana Del Rey’s songs from last week. We also “Anxious” by AJ Tracey, “Heat” by Paul Woodford and Amber Mark and “Toxic” by Digga D exit the chart, but the only real notable loss was “34+35” by Ariana Grande ending its 21-week run on the chart. Returning to the Top 75 in its place – which I cover – we have “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers of course at #73, as well as “Midnight Sky” by Miley Cyrus at #72, “You’ve Done Enough” by Gorgon City and DRAMA at #70 (really hope this one becomes a hit) and “Don’t You Worry About Me” by Bad Boy Chiller Crew at #66. In terms of climbers and fallers, we do have some notable gains and losses. For songs travelling down the chart, we have “Patience” by KSI featuring YUNGBLUD and Polo G tanking a sharp drop in its third week to #18, “Streets” by Doja Cat shaking off the video gains at #22, “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo continuing to collapse at #27, another sharp drop for HVME’s remix of Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” down to #34 probably due to ACR, which was probably the fate for “Get Out My Head” by Shane Codd at #46. The same probably can’t be said for Drake’s losses, as “What’s Next” is at #40, “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” featuring Rick Ross is at #41 and “Wants and Needs” featuring Lil Baby stalls at #55. We also see falls for “Money Talks” by Fredo and Dave at #50, “Bringing it Back” by Digga D and AJ Tracey at #51, “Sweet Melody” by Little Mix on its way out at #57, “Headshot” by Lil Tjay featuring Polo G and Fivio Foreign down to #61 off the debut (although it’ll rebound thanks to the album as soon as the next week rolls around), “Ready” by Fredo featuring Summer Walker at #62, “You’re Mines Still” by Yung Bleu featuring Drake at #63 and “Day in the Life” by Central Cee at #69. Where it gets interesting are our gains, such as outside the top 40 with “What Other People Say” by Demi Lovato and Sam Fischer which could very well get even higher next week thanks to the album. We also have “Track Star” by Mooski at #53 off of the debut and a couple of tracks entering the top 40 for the first time, those being “Heartbreak Anniversary” by Giveon at #39 and Majestic’s remix of “Rasputin” by Boney M. at #38. Elsewhere in the top 40, we have “Let’s Go Home Together” by Ella Henderson and Tom Grennan at #13 and two songs marking their first week in the top 10, those being “Little Bit of Love” by Tom Grennan at #10, a song continuing to sour on me, and “Your Love (9PM)” by ATB, Topic and A7S, an EDM song at #8 that I initially mocked for its soulless repackaging but has honestly got me pretty hooked since. I’m excited to see how this one does. For now, however, let’s get on with our new arrivals.
#64 – “Cloud 9” – Beach Bunny
Produced by Joe Reinhart
Beach Bunny is a power pop band who last year released their album Honeymoon on Mom+Pop and it’s basically a modern r/indieheads staple in that it’s an accessible, airy pop-rock record fronted by a woman. It’s not anything unique, really, or different if you look further into it but that’s fine because there’s a lot of vaguely “indie” or music snob releases pushed out every year that miss the charts entirely. It’s a different story, however, when a year later, it gets viral on TikTok and streams its way onto the chart. In that case, we have “Cloud 9” by Beach Bunny, a pretty simple but sweet love song about a guy who just makes her feel a lot better about herself in times where she can’t pick herself up from the rut she’s in. Again, it’s a simple track but enhanced by the wonderful and unique vocal performance from front-woman Lili Trifilo and some pretty great production making sure no guitar lick is missed in this mix, especially in that chorus which is such an ethereal blend of the electric guitar dubs. I would argue that this actually should end at that second chorus even if it ends feeling abrupt as the transition to the final chorus feels a lot less cathartic than it does awkward, especially if the bridge is going to be a simplistic, quirky instrumental meander that doesn’t go far enough to be a guitar solo and hence feels kind of like a worthless addition. As is, this is a pretty great song still, just not the most fully realised once it loses that initial tight surf groove, though I’ll let it pass if we’re going to get rock this good on the charts again. I know this won’t really get more traction for Beach Bunny – or power pop for that matter – but more of this, please.
#52 – “You All Over Me” (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault) (Remix) (feat. DaBaby) (Part 2) (Radio Edit) – Taylor Swift featuring Maren Morris
Produced by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner
Sadly, this does not feature DaBaby and is not the remix, radio edit or sequel to any previously released song. Jokes aside, I guess brackets are the next big comeback for pop music, which goes hand-in-hands with remixes and re-releases, hence why Taylor Swift is dusting off this leaked Fearless-era cut for a new recording with country singer Maren Morris, who you probably know from her contributions to Zedd’s “The Middle”. Now whilst Swift is a great songwriter, I do often find myself frustrated by how she treads common ground all too frequently without establishing much different with how a song is structured or how it emotionally connects. This is true not just lyrically but especially sonically as of recent, as despite being written in 2008, it has too much in common with the less interesting cuts off of folklore for me to really care that much. That’s especially if Taylor’s going to undercut the clean acoustic guitars with flourishes of harmonica and crow sound effects, showing some genuine intrigue here before refusing to let any of that develop past a couple stray melodies or notes further back in the mix. I’m trying really hard to be compelled by these re-recordings and re-releases of her back catalogue as I do consider myself a fan, but it’s tough to pay attention when any new compositions we get sound like folklore leftovers with Maren Morris only put to use as decoration, much like HAIM on “no body, no crime” – and we already got an album full of folklore leftovers. I’m not a fan of this, sorry – I can see the appeal, and I do think this has enough of a country tinge to it to make it at least somewhat interesting – but this goes in one ear and immediately out of the other.
#48 – “Tonight” – Ghost Killer Track featuring OBOY and D-Block Europe
Produced by Ghost Killer Track and Kenzy
Screw the formalities and screw the analysis because D-Block Europe are back to add another D-Block to their EU collection – and since they’re Londoners, their only – and that’s Paris, and contrary to the British nature, we’ve let French rap chart in the top 50 out of the fact that they collaborated with two of the most comical rappers in British history. They’ve also linked up with producer Ghost Killer Track, also from France, as this is ostensibly his song even if he intends not to prove himself with this dull piano-based beat and oddly-mastered bass and percussion, which are really just DBE staples. Unfortunately, past the initial comedy of that first line in the chorus, neither Young Adz or Dirtbike LB deliver any stupid lyrics or funny inflections, instead just resorting to being as boring as they can in their constant flexing as possible. I guess the French guy here, OBOY, commands a higher energy in his verse if only through his comical “no, no, no” ad-libs, but he’s the only French speaker in an otherwise basic British trap song that I just cannot see the appeal in when we’ve had song after song from these guys for three years now. This won’t be the last we see of cookie-cutter UK rap this week though so brace yourselves for that.
#47 – “Last Time” – Becky Hill
Produced by LOSTBOY
It’s almost as if the charts are trying to send me off to sleep as here we have Becky Hill, a singer hedging the line between a non-presence and mildly annoying, which is arguably more frustrating than downright infuriating as her slightly smokier voice does not sound bad, just lacking in texture in every way, especially if the multi-tracking is going to be this minimal on a royalty-free deep-house beat produced by Getty Images with a pretty worthless drop, a generic and simple melody of piano stabs for major chords, and a whole bunch of reverb on the vocal take... but it still ends up feeling dry as there’s nothing here to quench that thirst for a tighter, bass-heavy house banger or even a more ethereal, dreamy trance track, deciding to stick to a healthy medium of boring and utter garbage. Yes, that was a singular sentence. I’m not awake enough to form a cohesive sentence less than 40 words long, and this new Becky Hill track is just worsening that if anything. Speaking of...
#21 – “Body” – Russ Millions and Tion Wayne
Produced by Gotcha Bxtch
Who’s Russ Millions? He’s Russ. No, not that Russ. British Russ – or Russ Splash, stylised as Russ splash on Spotify and nowhere else. This confusingly-named fellow appeared on the charts a couple times and possibly most famously with “Keisha & Becky”, a song also featuring Tion Wayne that is referenced on this very track. Sigh, I usually like Tion Wayne but even he can’t be bothered to delivery his usual brand of suave charm or sinister menace, instead opting for a more growling but ultimately completely monotone cadence that doesn’t flatter him or Russ, who one of my friends described as sounding like one of the aliens from Toy Story. This is a pretty by-the-numbers drill beat too, and it’s pretty safe to say that neither Russ or Tion Wayne here are going to bother with wordplay, even when they start pretty smoothly trading bars and Tion Wayne goes for a more unique chopper flow in the second verse. This is just not of any note. Once again, speaking of...
#17 – “Good Without” – Mimi Webb
Produced by Freedo
I assumed Mimi Webb debuted this high because of a talent show she won or something because I’d never heard her name but instead, she just happened to have a major label deal before her unreleased song just happened to go viral on TikTok and just happened to be supported by one of the women who just happened to be the biggest creator on the platform. Yeah, and this song just happened to be garbage, suffering from every possible millennial pop trope and then some, from the mix dressed rather too overtly in reverb, the ugly guitar pluck, a generic indie-girl voice that you swear you’ve heard before in one of those dreadful piano covers of popular songs they use in adverts, as well as this ballad being undercut by badly-programmed trap percussion. I can tell this label is trying to create somewhat of an Olivia Rodrigo phenomenon from this and I for one am terrified of the Poundland knock-offs to come. Screw this.
#1 – “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)” – Lil Nas X
Produced by Roy Lenzo, Omar Fedi and Take a Daytrip
At least Lil Nas X will bring some passion into this chart week? Well, not really, as when I hear this I recall that Pitchfork review of his EP, a much-maligned critique that featured the ever-so pretentious questioning if Lil Nas X really enjoyed making and listening to music. It reminds me because I think I now fully get it – at least when Lil Nas X was making slap-dash pop rock with Travis Barker or meme-worthy country rap with Billy Ray Cyrus for less than two minutes apiece, there was something invigorating in the execution or at least in concept. That 7 EP is still not a bad debut at all, but this new single “MONTERO”, a long-anticipated record that went from constantly-teased demo to Super Bowl commercial to Satanic-panicked videos of Lil Nas giving Satan a lap-dance to own the conservatives, has the same remote dreariness to it as “HOLIDAY” did late last year. The acoustic, Latin-flavoured guitar loop reminds me of his much better track “Rodeo” from that aforementioned EP that used its energy for similarly lighthearted subject matter but with some genuine energy, a Cardi B feature and a lot less subtle moombahton creeping in. With that said, I can’t say Lil Nas X didn’t try, as his vocal performance, whilst largely insufferable and strained, gives some energy to an otherwise aggravatingly stunted beat, and makes it a lot more infectious than it has any right to be. Content-wise, the song is essentially about a full circle where Lil Nas X becomes increasingly desperate for a man who starts off lonely and in a bad place, and the irony is that Lil Nas gets more explicitly sexual and crazed due to a combination of the LA life-style surrounding him and the fact that he’s simply, for lack of a better term, “down bad”, despite the fact that this guy doesn’t seem particularly desirable. Lil Nas knows this, though, and acknowledges it in the pre-chorus where he outright says that this guy is living the cocaine-addled celebrity life, but not living it right without Mr. Bullriding and Boobies in his life. I’m happy about the video and the outrage it seems to cause not just within conservative spaces but also amongst the hip-hop community, particularly Joyner Lucas, and I’m pretty happy with how out and proud Lil Nas X is about his sexuality, even if it leads to lines like “Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m ridin’”. I’m just really not a fan of this song past its content, which could really be interesting but falls flat with this plucking production that wastes time in barely two minutes with humming interludes. It’s not bad at all, just not for me.
And that concludes our week, and wow, what a bad week this was for new arrivals. Admittedly, it’s a filler week so only “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)” will probably last – or at least we can hope as even if I don’t like the song, I still have to give out an Honourable Mention to someone, and it may as well be Lil Nas X trying to put the effort in. Best of the Week easily goes to Beach Bunny for “Cloud 9”, far and away the only good song here, with Worst of the Week also going out pretty easily to Mimi Webb’s “Good Without”, which is the type of soulless, unmemorable garbage that makes pop music look uninspired, and as a person who writes about the charts constantly, it’s a misconception I don’t want proven or revisited. Dishonourable Mention is a toss-up but I guess I’ll give it to Russ Millions and Tion Wayne for that sprinkle of drill disappointment that is “Body”, and that’ll be it for this week. I predict some impact from Demi Lovato, Lil Tjay and especially Olivia Rodrigo next week, but for now, here’s our top 10:
Thank you for reading – sorry for the grouchiness on this one – and I’ll see you next week!
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