Tuesday, July 28, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 8, 2015

Well so much for the summer lull. Even as the album release schedule has slowed a bit, it was a reasonably busy week on the charts, thanks to even more change-ups in country, a slice of album tracks from Future, and one of the biggest leaps to the Top 10 I've seen in a while.

So let's talk a bit about that Top 10, shall we? 'Cheerleader' by OMI holds on for another week with dominance in sales, strong streaming and solid gains in airplay can offset a slight slip on YouTube. All of that was enough to hold 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd at #2, which might rule streaming but seem to abruptly slow its gains on radio and was overshadowed by a few other big songs this week on sales. Probably will change when the video hits YouTube today for next week, but we'll see what happens. Beneath it - to my inevitable dismay - 'Watch Me' by Silento picked up to #3 thanks to healthy gains across the board, especially in sales, the slowest on the radio hopefully because programmers think if they can stall a bad dance craze out, people will get sick of it before it has a chance to go to #1. And yet again it held 'Bad Blood' by Taylor Swift & Kendrick Lamar to #4, which spent the week wavering at the top of airplay before starting to drop, with slightly weaker sales and only really holding steady in YouTube - I reckon it'll be dropping soon. And it's not the only one, as 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth falls to #5, only held up on YouTube as it spent the week losing airplay and streaming hard. And yet 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap slipped to #6 as well, only where it is thanks to sales, streaming, and a bit of YouTube left. But that's not all the Fetty Wap we've got because in the only major gain we had this week, leaping up to #7 we have 'My Way' ft. Monty. And considering this is probably my favourite Fetty Wap song to date, especially with the Drake remix, I'm okay with this jump, largely driven on massive sales and not much else at this point. It'll be interesting to see if streaming or the radio catch on or if he drops a video, because I can see this getting bigger. Beyond that, 'Fight Song' by Rachel Platten holds onto #8 thanks to sales and airplay holding steady, 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk The Moon slips to #9 mostly because sales and streaming spent the week dropping and oddly holding steady on streaming, and 'Lean On' by Major Lazer, DJ Snake & M0 dropped to #10 thanks to incredibly strong YouTube and streaming and sales and airplay that are a fair bit weaker. Definitely will be interesting how long it'll stick in the Top 10, given the drops above it. 

And speaking of losers, let's take a look at our losers and dropouts, with the latter category having a fair few. As predicted, 'Little Toy Guns' by Carrie Underwood unfortunately makes an early exit, but the rest had their due time in the spotlight, with 'Don't It' by Billy Currington, 'Somebody' by Natalie La Rose ft. Jeremih, and especially 'Style' by Taylor Swift on their way out. The one big disappointment for me here was 'I Really Like You' by Carly Rae Jepsen - not that I love the song, although it has grown on me, but because this is a plain failure in marketing and release. Her album E.MO.TION dropped back in June in Japan, and since everything leaks these days, I already reviewed it and it was a surprisingly solid record - but with a release date in the States set for mid-August, she's lost all of her momentum behind 'I Really Like You' and has to start fresh, losing all the summer rush she could have leveraged. But putting terrible marketing aside, we had a pretty large crop of losers too, especially on country radio. 'Girl Crush' by Little Big Town finally takes a bit of a hit down to 36, 'Love You Like That' by Canaan Smith drops to 62 on its way out, and so does 'Baby Be My Love Song' by Easton Corbin. The surprise was that 'Sangria' by Blake Shelton fell hard to 58 - outside of 'Lonely Tonight' with Ashley Monroe, Blake hasn't had a good release run and this song's all the more evidence. And he isn't the only one flopping hard: 'This Summer's Gonna Hurt Like A Motherfucker' by Maroon 5 plummeted to 64, hopefully on its way out for being the garbage song I think everyone realized. And finally we have 'Bright' by Echosmith, which is on its way out gracefully to 80.

And since we already talked about our one big gainer, let's discuss our solitary returning entry, shall we?

Might as well get this out of the way: yes, I'm still disappointed that the title track from Florida Georgia Line's last album is not a tribute to the classic musical or, for a change of pace, the deep-cut 'Confession' which is a genuinely great track. Instead we get another generic bro-country anthem with gratuitous autotune, choppy drum machines, and an oddly lumpy chorus that spends too much time in minor key progressions to build to a satisfying moment. And like the majority of Joey Moi's production, it's too busy to give the melody or tune more flow. In short, the last time I remembered this song was when I covered their album last year - I haven't thought of it since, and I can bet after I'm done with this Billboard BREAKDOWN, I won't be thinking of it again.

So now onto our new arrivals, starting with...

100. 'Dance Like We're Making Love' by Ciara - the follow-up single from Ciara's last record and a pretty natural progression to one of the better songs after 'I Bet'. Sure, it's not at that song's level in terms of the writing or production, relying on a brittle snap and beat that uses some misty multi-tracking to give Ciara some more swell against the very minimalist melody. But yeah, in terms of a sultry dance jam that's sexy as hell, Ciara nails it here - not lyrically complex, but this song definitely does not need to be. I do wish the crescendo hit a little harder after the bridge and this song maybe had slightly more refined production, but that's nitpicking - it does exactly what it needs to do, and does it well. Recommended.

99. 'Save It For A Rainy Day' by Kenny Chesney - well, I forgot this song existed, but I'm not exactly surprised Kenny Chesney's positioning it as a new single. It's a summer song about ignoring heartbreak with lightweight acoustic texture and a generally agreeable melody with a hint of organ, and the second after it's done playing, you'll join me in forgetting this song ever existed. And really, I think the biggest factor here is Kenny Chesney himself - his delivery is so mellow and inert, completely on autopilot, and if he doesn't care, why should I? In other words, it's fine background music, but it's not rising above that and Chesney is capable of better.

95. 'Blow A Bag' by Future - so this is the first of two Future songs that charted this week off his better-than-expected-but-still-not-good album Dirty Sprite 2, and it's by far the weaker one. Providing you can get past Future's voice and personality - tough step, I know - the blubbery washed-out synth against the thin trap hi-hats are completely generic and the content only gets interesting when Future mentions how his grandfather would be proud of where he is right now and how he hopes he can stay humble. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but blowing a bag of money on luxury cars at the mall doesn't seem like something that would evoke pride from a grandparent, and it sure as hell doesn't make you seem humble. In other words, this song falls directly into the heap of recycled trap bangers that Future has shoved out, and it's not even one of the better ones. Next!

85. 'Locked Away' by Rock City ft. Adam Levine - I have mixed feelings about covering this song, mostly because I never expected to see Rock City in front of a microphone, let alone with Adam Levine. For those of you who don't know, this duo are a pair of songwriters who certainly have an eclectic set of songs credited. On the one hand, we get tracks I can appreciate like 'Shower' by Becky G or 'I Bet' by Ciara... but on the other hand, we have songs like 'We Can't Stop' and '23' for Miley Cyrus and 'Pour It Up' for Rihanna and 'Only' for Nicki Minaj and 'When I Grow Up' for The Pussycat Dolls... suffice it to say, they've made a lot more crap than quality. But now signed to Dr. Luke's label Kemosabe - another bad sign - they've teamed up with Adam Levine to drop a single for an upcoming album titled #WhatDreamsAreMadeOf. But putting aside from stealing the title of a Hilary Duff song I actually really like, does their lead-off single work? Actually, I think it does. Yeah, it's very much a pop-friendly brand of reggae and there isn't as much melodic foundation to it outside of the chorus, but there's a level of polish in the production and layering, especially with the percussion and horns, that does work pretty well. And I'll say it: Adam Levine hasn't sounded this good in years, sticking more to his mid-to-low range - you wonder why he wastes so much time caterwauling in his falsetto. I think my biggest nitpicks comes with Rock City themselves, in that while they bring some island-inspired flavour, they don't exactly stand out as distinctive vocalists. That said, I do like the lyrical sentiment in asking if the girl would stick around if our frontmen are dead broke, even if it does push the melodrama with the 'die for me' line. As it is, I can mostly enjoy this, even if it is a little formulaic - after all, there's a way of doing the formula now.

81. 'Strip It Down' by Luke Bryan - if I was in the office of Luke Bryan's promotional team, I'd be getting a little worried by now. Sure, the tours are selling out and many would argue he's still an A-list act, but with the tide turning on bro-country and his lead-off single 'Kick The Dust Up' underperforming, the next song needs to come strong or Bryan could be in trouble, this time actually featuring a writing credit from him. And the first thing that needs to be stressed is that this is barely a country song, falling very much into the same vein of 'Burnin' It Down' by Jason Aldean in its pseudo-R&B vibe. stiff drum machine beat, and washed out guitars. And yeah, Luke Bryan is the biggest asset on this song with a solid baritone, but 'stripping it down' is not all that sexy of a term - reminds me more of carpentry than anything. But putting aside easy 'hot wood' jokes, it's the second verse that irks me - why drop her cell phone on the ground and break it, dude, not cool! In the end, I do like more of a melodic focus, but with this production and this focus, I'm not exactly a fan, and that upcoming album... yeah, not that excited.

68. 'Where Ya At' by Future ft. Drake - our second Future entry, and actually one I don't mind, as I mentioned when I reviewed the album last week. For one, Future's choice to opt for a lower, darker tone and subject matter as he questions where one of his boys was when Future was struggling in the trap, and with the desaturated rattle far in the background anchoring a fragment of a melody, the mood actually feels cohesive for once, and Future's able to maintain some focus. And sure, to some extent most of this song feels like a set-up for Drake's verse, which actually has a few solid bars and shows him able to match Future's flow pretty well, but I'm not going to deny that it works. Yeah, I can't believe I'm saying it about a Future track, but I'll call it when I see it.

60. 'How Deep Is Your Love' by Calvin Harris & Disciples - so I've made no secret of the fact that I don't like Calvin Harris, mostly because in the EDM landscape, he produces some of the most recycled and yet simultaneously the most annoying tracks without distinctive personality. And I had hoped that as EDM fades from the public eye, he'd recede with it... only for him to simultaneously hop on the deep house trend with London electronica trio Disciples to drop this single. And by the standards of Calvin Harris, it's not bad, mostly because the choice to go into deep house has required he develop a little more restraint. What it hasn't developed is personality: the wavering vocals of Ina Wroldsen aren't bad but they aren't great, and while the piano does have a solid melodic foundation with the low-end synth, the chorus feels cluttered with the sampled backing vocal, and none of it has organic depth or punch. And like usual, the lyrics are barely worth mentioning. At this point, Calvin Harris' high water mark for me was the tinny, ragged 'Outside' with Ellie Goulding, and if I'm being honest, I don't care enough to see if he passes it - this certainly doesn't.

22. 'She's Kinda Hot' by 5 Seconds Of Summer - let me be blunt for a second and ignite an inevitable flame war: One Direction are effectively over at this point. With Zayn's departure and only unconfirmed rumours he's coming back, I reckon they maybe have one more album before they break up. And that leaves behind the biggest group One Direction helped propel to stardom: 5 Seconds Of Summer. Now I mostly liked their debut album: it was clumsy to be sure but kind of endearing for its innocence and attempt to reclaim the throne vacated by Blink-182 of lightweight pop rock. And to their credit, they definitely took steps to improve across the board for their lead-off single 'She's Kinda Hot' even though they might as well cut cheques to Green Day and The Offspring for cribbing generous notes from 'Basket Case', 'Self Esteem', and especially 'Why Don't You Get A Job'. But the production is rougher, Luke Hemmings' voice is getting better for this sort of material, and I actually kind of liked the lyrics, with enough self-awareness to realize the asinine behavior that they're writing about is doomed to backfire, but they're going to run with it while they can. It's a very teenage sentiment, and one that's not played too obnoxiously to grate on my nerves. No, it's nothing all that original and that guitar solo's not going to win awards, but on weeks like this, I'll take what I can get.

So that was our week, and there really weren't any definite standouts one way or the other. For the Best of the Week, I think I'm going to give it to Ciara for 'Let's Dance Like We're Making Love', with Honourable Mention going to 'She's Kinda Hot' by 5 Seconds Of Summer. As for the worst... I guess the Worst of the Week is going to 'Anything Goes' by Florida Georgia Line with the Dishonourable Mention to Future for 'Blow A Bag', in both cases for being tired, recycled, and completely generic. Let's hope for something a little more exciting next week.

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