Tuesday, October 20, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - october 31, 2015

You know, when I looked at the Billboard Hot 100 charts this morning, I was astounded: because this week scanning through the returning entries and new arrivals, I could find little to complain. Even the songs I didn't like as much weren't so much bad and in a worse week would easily miss the bottom spots, whereas for the best we got a plethora of solid to genuinely great songs. Now I'm not too optimistic to expect this'll last in the long term, but weeks like this always give me a little thrill of hope: maybe the air is shifting as we come into the last weeks of 2015, you never know!


Of course, such winds always take a long time to build, because it's not like the Top 10 is changing all that much. Even though 'The Hills' by The Weeknd peaked on airplay, it actually held the top spot in sales this week and with a YouTube boost and strong streaming, it easily held the top. But it'll probably the last week to hold that spot, because 'Hotline Bling' by Drake at #2 is dangerously close, topping streaming, close behind in sales, and still picking up significant airplay - and now that the video's been dropped, it's just a matter of time. Both easily hold off 'What Do You Mean' by Justin Bieber to #3, which is picking up more airplay and had solid sales and YouTube, but streaming actually slipped this week - not a good sign. In contrast, '679' by Fetty Wap & Remy Boys jumped up to #4 even despite some weak sales and a slip on streaming, mostly because it's got established presence on airplay. Granted, it didn't gain as much as Shawn Mendes with 'Stitches', which leapt up to #5 on big airplay gains, strong sales, and even picking up more streaming - if it had YouTube it'd probably be on top. Analogous situation with 'Wildest Dreams' by Taylor Swift up to #6, which had better sales and even bigger airplay gains to compensate for YouTube slipping, but with no streaming, I don't expect it to get much bigger. These three shifts were enough to push back 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd down to #7, although that'd probably happen anyway given its losses on airplay and sales, basically propped up on YouTube and streaming. Similar case for 'Locked Away' by Rock City ft. Adam Levine falling to #8, which spent the week fading on airplay and streaming, only okay sales, and a YouTube boost that's too little, too late. But of course, we've got the really good news: 'Watch Me' by Silento falling to #9 off of weak sales and YouTube finally taking a hit as that viral video that caused it to spike finally fades away. And finally, with more staying power than I expected, 'Good For You' by Selena Gomez & A$AP Rocky spent another week clinging to #10 as radio and sales declined - mostly because streaming got a bit of a boost. But again, when faced with real competition coming up from below, I can see this song being gone soon.

And just like last week, we'll take that note to talk about our losers and dropouts. A fair few big ones this week, including three that never really took off the way they should and will probably miss the year-end list: 'Planes' by Jeremih & J.Cole, 'Buy Me A Boat' by Chris Janson, and the underperforming 'Ghost Town' by Adam Lambert. The only one that really cleaned up this year is easily the best of them: 'Uma Thurman' by Fall Out Boy. I can't say much the same for our losers, though, three being the expected drops for Drake & Future songs like 'Change Locations' falling to 96, 'Live From The Gutter' going to 93, and 'Diamonds Dancing' tumbling to 66. And the rest are examples of country radio rotating out songs like 'John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16' by Keith Urban falling to 70 and 'Fly' by Maddie & Tae slipping down to 95... hey wait! I'll admit it wasn't a great song from their debut, but it probably could have another good 6 weeks, why get rid of it early?

Well, the sad fact is that country radio did elevate a whole crop of newer tracks this week, the biggest being the jumps for the shameless Ed Sheeran rip-off that is 'Die A Happy Man' by Thomas Rhett to 50 and the hack job 'Break Up In A Small Town' by Sam Hunt rising to 76. At least we get 'Stay A Little Longer' by the promising Brothers Osborne going to 88, but really, is that enough? Unfortunately, that lack of quality extended to some of the other gains: 'Come Get Her' by Rae Sremmurd rose to 64 with one of the most grotesque videos I've seen in a while, especially as a country fan, and 'The Fix' by Nelly ft. Jeremih continues to offend fans of Marvin Gaye and good taste by rising up to 73. It's telling that the least objectionable gains are coming from 'Antidote' by Travi$ Scott going to 41 and 'Same Old Love' by Selena Gomez surging up to 18, in the latter case due to the video.

But moving away from tepid things to come, let's talk about returning entries where things are actually more interesting, starting with...


You know this week is actually pretty tolerable when the worst track we get is an asinine novelty song that manages to coast off of a solid enough hook from Fetty Wap, throwing Rich Homie Quan off of his guest verse early, and Lil Dicky playing his trite rip-off of Macklemore, The Lonely Island and Weird Al with a lot more obnoxiousness and bad Jewish jokes, mostly on the outro that goes way too long. Let's be honest here, this song wouldn't have come back without that hook, because the novelty only goes so far when I could just put on 'Thrift Shop' instead, a much better song. Next!


Yes, I know by this point it's overplayed in the U.K., but Jess Glynne's great melodic groove with the keyboards and rollicking beat does a lot to anchor a pretty sweet love song. If I were to nitpick I'd say that the opening half chorus doesn't hit with the same swell as I'd like to see, but by the time the subtle bass kicks in to match the horns, especially over that bridge, I have a hard time complaining. And yes, I can see why some might see the clarion presentation and accessible production and call this 'grocery shopping' music or some silliness like that, but if my local grocery store played pop this good, I wouldn't be getting my Triscuits and hummus and prosciutto wearing headphones!


Not going to lie, I've cooled on this track a little since I covered it first a few weeks back, and I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it's how that lumbering beat feels a bit out of place when it first comes in, and the crooning vocal layers feel a little bowled over. Thankfully, the organ and piano still balance off of the acoustic elements, that prechorus has a pretty solid groove, and there's still a pretty solid gallop to the progression, although maybe a slight increase in tempo might make it a little stronger. Then again, I've always been more of a fan of Ed Sheeran playing for raw soulful power instead of his more willowy range. In other words, it's a perfectly likeable song, but I like my EDM a little more aggressive or uptempo.


When I covered The Documentary 2 just yesterday, I didn't have much complimentary to say about '100'... but the more I think about it, it's not so much that it's a bad song. I think a bigger part of it is Drake overexposure playing in this very washed-out, tired lane, and The Game's more aggressive gangsta flow just doesn't fit very well over the instrumentation, especially considering how much he's playing bodyguard because someone apparently put a hit on Drake. Somehow I doubt that, mostly because the way Drake's going he'll torpedo his own career through over-saturation, especially considering how much he's attacking rappers in more of an underground lane who could probably take him apart with wordplay. Sure, he took down Meek Mill, but face real competition and it'd be a different story. As for The Game... you ever get the feeling he likes his friends way more than they like him? Especially with all of the namedropping in that final verse, I've got that feeling, and overall it leaves me very much lukewarm on this track at best.


Not a lot to say about this track I didn't already say in the Demi Lovato review yesterday - easily one of the best tracks on the album, great pairing of the heavy horns with the drums, aggressively dominant and sexual lyrics that Demi is more than convincing singing, a massive chorus that can build off a pretty sparse echoing snap, and a pretty damn solid video too. So yeah, definitely not complaining, this song's awesome.

So okay, a few minor hiccups, but we only have three new songs and they all look decent, so let's start with...


100. 'Love Me' by The 1975 - when I was very new to reviewing music, I covered the self-titled album from The 1975, a band with a knack for ridiculously catchy teen anthems drenched in smoky mid-80s-inspired new wave with the sort of jittery energy that comes with flying too high and knowing exactly how much you're spiralling out of control. Of the indie rock bands that dropped in 2013, they were one of the more polarizing ones, and while I did praise them a lot, outside of the singles I haven't exactly revisited their debut much. Well, now they've got a sophomore record primed to drop in February of 2016 and this is the lead off single... and wow, I wasn't expecting this. For one, all the rubbery wailing, interweaving vocal lines, and off-kilter guitar lines, accented with horns just give the song a certain demented energy that reminds a bit of recent Franz Ferdinand except with a slightly more expansive mix and nowhere near as tight of a groove. It really is messier than it has any right to be, the sort of unsettled track that gets under your skin and just feels awkward - and considering the song is about trying - and mostly failing - to embrace the narcissism expected from modern pop stars, that makes sense. I don't quite entirely love it the same way I did their previous singles 'Chocolate' and 'Sex', but I'm not complaining either.


99. 'Top Of The World' by Tim McGraw - when Tim McGraw announced that he was calling his next record Damn Country Music, it drew a lot of interest, some from critics who saw it as a cynical marketing ploy to gather swagger and some from critics who saw it as a cynical marketing ploy to cater to country traditionalists alienated from the mainstream. I figured I'd wait until I actually had a song before I started projecting - after all, with the exception of the lead-off single from his last album it's been looking like Tim McGraw is heading back towards the neotraditional lane. This song... well, it doesn't really do that, but that would imply it does much of anything. The running joke that I have is that Tim McGraw makes the country equivalent of Xanax, but in this case it's the sort of overly synthetic lead-off single with a blend of obvious fake drums and synths and too much cymbals to flatter any sort of guitar melody, and that's before we get to vocals and subject matter that just feels kind of limp, focusing on how being in love makes you feel like you're on top of the world no matter what you might have. And again, the problem is a lack of drama - without any real stakes, the song just kind of falls flat for me. Not bad - Tim McGraw at least knows enough to recruit writers who can structure a hook - but pretty far from great.


92. 'I Got The Boy' by Jana Kramer - and here's the song I was looking forward to talking about this week. Most people probably recognize Jana Kramer the most from her acting career, but around 2012 she started making country music, along with a well-publicized engagement and split with Brantley Gilbert. The hilarious thing is that I'd argue she was a fair bit better than Gilbert was, grounding herself in solid neotraditional textures with writing that was easily well-above average - a path that Lucy Hale would later take to fantastic returns with Road Between two years later. Now that Kramer is happily married, this is the lead-off single for her newest album Thirty One, what do we get here? Honestly, we got a damn good country song. Solidly warm guitar textures, gentle drums, a prominent melody, and the sort of mature acceptance that comes with age as she looks at an old flame who has grown up and gotten married and moved on with his life. I do think that Kramer's vocals are a little overstated for this song - she probably could have afforded to downplay it a bit, aim for a little more subtlety - but really, that's minor, and I'll admit I'm a sucker for this sort of country. Damn good song - even if knowing country radio, it's not going to stick around for long.

So yeah, that was another pretty short week, and another set of easy choices. Of course 'Confident' by Demi Lovato stands head-and-shoulders above the competition, but it's going to be a ladies' sweep because 'I Got The Boy' by Jana Kramer will take Honourable Mention... and I'm going to have it tie with 'Hold My Hand' by Jess Glynne. Mostly because I don't really have a Dishonourable Mention for this week, with '$ave Dat Money' by Lil Dicky, Fetty Wap, and Rich Homie Quan taking the worst. Overall, again, not a lot to complain about, generally a pretty good week. More of this please!

3 comments:

  1. Is the Julia Holter review coming up soon?

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  2. I've forgotten to respond directly to your observations on country songs plunging down the composite chart faster than those of other genres before, but wanted to take a moment to do so.

    The reason why country singles tend to fall more rapidly on the Billboard Hot 100 is because country releases rarely receive any crossover airplay. All of the audience for a country single is limited to a solitary format, while Rhythmic and Alternative artists with Mainstream Top 40/Pop crossover potential like X Ambassadors and Elle King enjoy stubborn longevity because while both have peaked at Alternative with their respective releases, they are currently growing at Mainstream Top 40 and Adult Top 40 radio. Country artists don't have that same advantage and, thus, repeatedly tend to plunge like boulders off Mount Kilimanjaro.

    Here in the United States (I suspect this is also the case in Canada, but can't confirm it), many singles that aren't from A-list artists tend to have ridiculously lengthy chart runs up the airplay chart (Chase Rice just completed his 51st week with "Gonna Wanna Tonight"). Then, right after peaking at radio, they almost always plunge to declines of one-fifth of their entire audience or more.

    "Fly" plunged hard this week because it is has been on the chart for nearly 40 weeks here and, coupled with very high listener burnout and lack of high positives in callout, the writing was on the wall that its decline would be nastier than average. In fact, its fall is one of the worst in all recent memory: with only "Girl Crush" rivaling it. Before that, you'd probably have to go all the way back to "Travellin' Soldier" by the Dixie Chicks to find a fall as ghastly (and, in that case, it was only because of Natalie Maines' remarks).

    *

    Just wanted to provide some context behind your perceptions of country singles having a rough year. There's more to it than meets the eye when you take a look at our Mediabase and Billboard airplay charts! =)

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