Tuesday, May 10, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 21, 2016

This is probably not going to be one of the nicer episodes of Billboard BREAKDOWN, just so you're all forewarned. And those of you who follow this series probably know that already because I've been calling this for a few weeks now. Well, my predictions came true, and not only did we lose every single Prince song from the Hot 100, they all got replaced by Drake, including the #1. And I'm going to say this right now: Views has only become less interesting since I covered it, and while you could cite that being my own fault given that I've been listening steadily to Aesop Rock and Death Grips, it doesn't change the fact the record is tedious, inconsistently produced, and increasingly badly written. And yet the mainstream public jumped all over it, giving Drake the record number of Hot 100 entries - and yet unlike Beyonce, I wouldn't expect many of these to stick around.


Still got him his lead artist number #1, though, so let's start off with the Top 10. And I get why 'One Dance' got him there - it's a pop-crossover that features Drake delivering exactly no effort to murmur his way through a badly-produced dancehall pastiche, but since that sound is big right now, it claimed the top spot on sales and streaming and picked up plenty of airplay even despite no YouTube video, and the second that comes Drake will have the position on lock. Could 'Panda' challenge it from #2 if it got a video first? Frankly, I doubt it - Drake already jumped past him on airplay and streaming and sales aren't what they were. Then we have '7 Years' by Lukas Graham, which peaked in airplay this week and even with respectable sales has been thoroughly blocked from anything else that it's not going higher. What might actually last longer - to my astonishment - is 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' by Mike Posner, which went up to #4 thanks to consistent airplay, okay sales, and surprisingly strong YouTube, which it's been quietly picking up over the past few weeks. Nothing compared to 'Work From Home' by Fifth Harmony & Ty Dolla $ign, though, rising up to #5 thanks to ruling YouTube and strong airplay... although sales gains are falling off slowly. The song where losses are hurting a lot more is 'Work' by Rihanna and Drake, though, convincing me that Drake's hype is tied to the album and will probably be short-lived, as this song was bleeding in all categories even as it held to #6. Next we have a new top ten entry - and one that surprised me a bit - 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya at #7, mostly thanks to good airplay gains and sales, and as soon as Drake's streaming dominance fades it'll probably pick up there as well. 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn, on the other hand, might not be as lucky, as airplay gains slowed to a crawl and YouTube slipped as well even as it recovered to #8. Then we have our second new top ten entry, and a brand new song for this week: 'This Is What You Came For' by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna. And to answer that, no, I never come for Calvin Harris, he tends to drive me in the opposite direction, which we'll be discussing later, but apparently the public doesn't agree, because he spent the weeks running up the sales and airplay charts, as if we needed that. Finally, we have Justin Bieber returning to the Top 10 with 'Love Yourself', mostly because it has leftover airplay and YouTube - if Beyonce's 'Sorry' gains more traction, expect it to be replaced by next week.

Of course, we can't rely on that, so we have our losers and dropouts. And remember how I predicted that these large-scale arrivals would exacerbate chart collapses of many tracks prematurely? Well, we had round two of that this week, because even with Prince evaporating from the charts after the sales vanished, there were still plenty of dropouts. The biggest dropouts I predicted last week: 'Jumpman' by Drake & Future, 'Back To Sleep' by Chris Brown, 'Company' by Justin Bieber, 'Acquainted' by The Weeknd, and unfortunately 'You Should Be Here' by Cole Swindell, even though an album release might have given it more momentum. Granted, country had a rough week regardless - not only did 'That Don't Sound Like You' by Lee Brice also drop out, 'Confession' by Florida Georgia Line fell to 96, 'I Like The Sound Of That' by Rascal Flatts dropped to 97, and - sadly - 'My Church' by Maren Morris fell hard to 80. Then we had the losses that were easier to predict: 'Team' by Iggy Azalea continues to flop at 88, 'Youth' by Troye Sivan takes a nosedive down to 83, 'Promise' by Kid Ink and Fetty Wap continues down to 91, and Kanye West's two songs 'Famous' with Rihanna and 'Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1' with Kid Cudi go to 95 and 98 respectively. Unfortunately, as I also expected Beyonce also took some pretty big hits this week, although I'd argue without Drake rushing in she could have held more longevity, and it still didn't prevent songs like '6 Inch' with The Weeknd from only falling to 28, it's still got sales and staying power. However, 'All Night' went to 64, 'Freedom' with Kendrick Lamar fell to 65, 'Daddy Lessons' slid to 66, 'Pray You Catch Me' went to 70, 'Sandcastles' slipped to 71, and 'Love Drought' dropped to 73. Finally, we have the outlier: 'Summer Sixteen' by Drake went to 89 - the track that should have been on Views becomes a casualty of its inevitable short-lived success. Oh, the irony.

Now, as with last week there weren't many gains or re-entries, but we did get a few. As expected the continued rise of Pink's bland return 'Just Like Fire' went back up to 55, and 'Somewhere On A Beach' by Dierks Bentley recovered hard to 41. I'm a little bit more surprised that 'Lost Boy' by Ruth B regained its traction to 42 or that 'Let It Go' by James Bay went back to 32 - there really isn't much to either song, they don't need that much momentum! And of course 'Pop Style' by Drake got the big boost from the album and went to 21 - joy. But the song that drew my curiosity was the returning entry at 29: 'My Boo' by the Ghost Town DJs... which because of an Instagram 'Running Man' challenge that unfortunately has nothing to do with the movie that crossed over to Vine and got piled on by pretty much everyone on the parts of social media that goes crazy over asinine dance crazes. Wow, for the most part I don't care whatsoever, but I will note this challenge has let it rechart higher than it originally did back in 1996, and it's not a terrible dance-pop-ish R&B track, so I'll let this slide... for now.

And on that note... might as well get started with the newest round of the Drake show for our long, long list of re-entries that'll be a lot less interesting of fun than when Beyonce was here because at least she had a video to match up - although this will be easier to edit and can't you tell by now I'm stalling? Well, enough wasting time, let's start with...


(yeah, there are no Drake videos here - thanks Apple Music)

86. 'Views' by Drake - so just like last week, I've already reviewed the album in detail, so I'm going to endeavor to keep all sixteen of these new Drake entries fairly short, especially considering this record left very little impact on me. That said, this is one of the better tracks, opening with a decent gospel sample that builds into at least slightly more opulent production and swell. And Drake's actually rhyming... although it's up for debate whether or not the thoughts he's expressing here are 'too deep for a therapist' especially when it's very much his lane of surreptitiously attacking rivals without naming names and bragging. But there are three lines that draw more attention, the first being that Drake never compromised for sales - no, you just did it to get a #1 single - that we wouldn't believe more of his life story - well, you could try telling us one of these days instead of maddening vagueness - and 'if I was you I wouldn't like me neither', the one element of self-awareness before this track fades into atmospherics for the final minute. And while that line is definitely true about the rest of the album, in context of the song it feels incredibly disconnected outside of just referring to jealousy, which kind of undercuts the whole pseudo-gospel vibe. In other words, it's a decent song, but man it's got problems too.

75. 'Fire & Desire' by Drake - don't get me wrong, I dig the minimalist buzz of the instrumentation and bass-heavy punch, even if the pitch-shifted vocals drive me up the wall... but Drake at this point it's been five years since 'Moment 4 Life' - if you haven't screwed Nicki Minaj by now, it's not going to happen, especially after 'Anaconda' and 'Only' in 2014, no matter how many desaturated, sloppy ballads you make. I may have liked this a little more before, but saying you've got 'z's for these other girls sleepin' on 'em'... yeah, I get why Nicki wasn't interested. Next!



74. 'True Colors' by Zedd & Kesha - we take a short break from the Drake show to something I haven't seen in a long time: a Kesha song on the Hot 100! Okay, to be fair here, it's not really a Kesha track: she didn't write it, and it's actually a remix of a song Zedd already made in 2015, and I wouldn't say it's one of his best entries either. On the other hand, Kesha sounds great on it - she's always had a talent for melancholic electro-pop that her singles in her heyday never recognized, even if I do feel her vocals are a little too compressed here. Hell, even though I don't think this song is destined to be huge - Zedd's production is a little too muted to really explode, even despite the gleaming keys, roiling drums, and bells building to the minor key crescendo - it's proof that Kesha still has far more charisma and raw power than so many modern pop acts these days. Not the sort of killer material that Kesha's delivered in the past, but if this is what we need for a modest revitalization, I'll take it.

72. 'Faithful' by Drake ft. Pimp C & dvsn - I can't be the only one who's uncomfortable with that sampled Pimp C verse being here, right? The legend is dead, and when you sample a verse where he specifically says he only works with Bun B and that rapper is nowhere to be found here, you've crossed the line of bad taste again, Drake. Regardless, this song then proceeds to swamp out the bass, Drake proceeds to fall off the beat on the hook, and imply the girl's suspicions about him cheating are lodged firmly in her vagina - and women like this guy again? It's not a good sign when dvsn is the only thing worth caring about in their earnest and pretty powerful delivery that doesn't remotely fit in with anything else of the song, and even then the writing is only okay. As a whole, though, this track is a mess - next!

68. 'Keep The Family Close' by Drake - you know, there was some promise with this as the opener. The atmospherics that lead to this lush, piano-and-horn-touched opening as Drake laments all the friends he had to leave behind, full of all of the tortured metaphors that he pushes to their limits - that Chrysler/Bentley metaphor, the 'fooding/serving them' line - as he says his friends were supposed to 'put their pride aside and ride with him' - what are you asking to put their pride aside for, Drake, what are you asking them to do? And sure, there are points that hit with some impact - the blasts of horns and organ texture for the second verse - but it's not like Drake is singing with real passion or the mix hits with any real depth beyond the one deeper drum or the mix doesn't fade into atmospherics for the outro that don't really go anywhere. Again, this should be good... and yet somehow, it just isn't.



63. 'Don't Mind' by Kent Jones - we now take our second short break from the Drake show to talk about a protege of DJ Khaled - seriously. Well, maybe that's not quite fair, as apparently he's a trained jazz pianist who wanted to become a music professor and got his start working behind the scenes, and this is his breakout single, interpolating a melody from Barry White's 'Practice What You Preach' on the hook. So fitting for a song in the grand tradition of screwing foreign girls - to quote him, they give him 'desktop till he overloads' - and giving them license to cheat by saying, 'Well, your man doesn't speak English, so how would he know?' And to accompany those godawful lines we have a minimalist DJ Mustard-esque synth loop with some faded synth and cymbals and a frontman who speak-sings through a track with some insufferable smugness - and that's saying something given I have twelve more Drake songs to cover! Next!

61. 'Redemption' by Drake - we're now heading into a part of Drake's Views that I actually like, starting with 'Redemption', a very minimalist track with a muted bassy tap and warped filters around the hook to supplement the non-melody of the track. But really, the song is more about Drake's words, as he starts delving into his own bad relationship habits as he yearns for real affection and searches for the right words to earn her redemption. Apparently none of those words was an apology, because he feels he's entitled to those for Christmas on the final verse as he wonders if those exes still think about him - and in a welcome moment of self-awareness, he realizes he's probably never going to be forgiven. I still don't like the victim complex underscoring the track and the production is borderline non-existent, but it works for what it is, I'll take it.

54. 'Weston Road Flows' by Drake - probably the best song on Views thanks to a flipped Mary J. Blige sample, it's Drake returning to rapping about his come-up and bragging about how far he's come. And even though Drake's been to this well dozens of times before, there's enough detail here and a couple decent lines - even if those lines are counterbalanced by 'platinum like wrappers on Hershey's' and a few pointless shots taken at Meek Mill. Again, Drake has made better songs in this vein, but if Drake returning to his roots can give us this, I guess I'll take it.

53. 'Feel No Ways' by Drake - from the best song on the album we come to the worst, which tries to go for a late 80s R&B vibe, but it just doesn't connect with how the noisier lo-fi drums play off Drake's cleaner singing, especially when it's going to switch up later anyways. But what I really can't stand are the lyrics, where Drake says because this girl wouldn't go along with doing things Drake's way, they're over and now she's pissed - 'gassed up', as Drake describes her - and she's badmouthing him. But wait, on most of your charting entries before Views, especially 'Hotline Bling', didn't you want a girl who would stay home and be a good girl for you? And what I really hate is the framing: Drake, stop framing yourself as a victim here, it's not remotely romantic or believable, and it's nowhere going to be enough to justify your douchebaggery. Ugh, talk about a mess - next!

52. 'Too Good' by Drake ft. Rihanna - and to continue on the 'let's feel sorry for Drake's romantic bitching' train, we have his collaboration with Rihanna. Now to his credit the fact that Rihanna is here injects the song with a more textured tropical beat that has a little punch and provides the mirror image to his arrogance. But then again, maybe it's for the best when both of them think they're too 'good' to each other and this just ends - and while I'd probably say this is more of a song than 'Work' was, it's a shame it doesn't bother to make either of them remotely likable, with Drake coming out worse as he tries to accuse Rihanna for playing the victim when he's doing the same damn thing! So yeah, I actually kind of liked this song in context with the album, but on its own, it's not nearly as good - man, that's exasperating.

49. 'Child's Play' by Drake - and on the topic of Drake screwing things up with women, we have this song which opens with the sample implying that if your girlfriend goes to a season opener basketball game, she's screwing a player on the team. You know, because women can't like sports unless there's sex involved - granted, Raptors tickets are expensive and I'd be frustrated too given how they blew things in overtime yesterday but we're getting off-topic. Actually, can I keep ranting about DeMar DeRozan and his godawful shooting in Game 4, because this song is rancid. Yeah, bouncy sleigh bells and decent hook, but then we get to the verses, where Drake dives into soap opera horseshit with a girl he pulled out of the hood, who starts fighting with him at the Cheesecake Factory, drives his Bugatti to get tampons, and is actually a little suspicious when Drake lies about the number of people he's slept with, all behavior that inspires Drake to hide the keys and threaten to take her back to the hood. I've heard K. Michelle songs, from an actual reality TV star, that have more dignity and class than this disingenuous classist nonsense, and at least she'll go over the top with her melodrama! Ugh, this blows - next!

47. 'With You' by Drake ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR - Drake, you keep trying to make PARTYNEXTDOOR happen with these overly autotuned stabs at dance floor hookups. If it wasn't going to happen off of If You're Reading This It's Too Late with 'Preach', a song that actually evolved and was better than this forgettable track with the only memorable part being Jeremih's crooning, it's not going to happen!

45. '9' by Drake - Drake, you keep saying you're ready to die for Toronto - why don't I remotely believe any of it? And why is this song such a pale facsimile of all of the bangers you shoveled out last year, with a less interesting synth melody, your standard trap hi-hat, and a clumsily autotuned fragment for what passes for a hook here? And let me stress, this is a song I don't mind - it at least has a melodic progression even as Drake raps about his chain going 'jang-a-lang' - but again, he's done so much better!

44. 'U With Me?' by Drake - I'm starting to think that Drake conned the public into thinking he wasn't a complete twit around women, because him DMing all of his exes to tell them they 'belong to him', even in a symbolic context, is more creepy than anything else! And even though he references his supposed real-life girlfriend in passing in this song, he spends this track trying to ascertain his side bitch's commitment to him - dude, you're dating Serena Williams, what the hell are you playing here, and why the hell am I supposed to care about your angst that she's not communicating with you fast enough? Angst that you communique by saying that she's 'toyin' like a happy meal'? Yeah, the bombast on the third verse is impressive after the beat switch-up, but it stands out because it's one of the few places on this record where Drake actually sounds like he's trying, and even then it drops into a trap-touched outro with pianos that feels both dragged out and abrupt. Again, another song that had some potential, but it certainly doesn't come together enough.

40. 'Still Here' by Drake - it's not a good sign that I tend to forget this track exists every time I listen to this record, mostly because the scuzzy synth and Drake's lazy flow does nothing to make me like a guy who brags about poorly investing his money and stealing girlfriends. It's not even that it's bad so much as it's bland - I've heard this before, Drake, and if you don't care, why should I?

38. 'Grammys' by Drake ft. Future - it's a leftover from What A Time To Be Alive and not a good one. At least that record had some sparkle and glitz to it, something this bass-swamped generic trap banger does not have. At least Future sounds like he's having fun as he spits your generic Future verse, although I do question him not wanting features when this itself is a feature, but again, at least he's having fun not caring, in comparison with Drake who cares way too much about being Top 5 - yeah, Drake, you wish.

34. 'Controlla' by Drake - so I haven't talked much about Drake hopping on this Caribbean accent, and while of course he's unconvincing on it, I think the bigger issue ties into how he tries to assert that he's an aggressive 'controller' for this girl through his gentle autotuned croon against a completely desaturated mix plus sample and airhorn and whining about girls who don't want to see him happy. Gee, after what we've heard today, I can't think of why...

33. 'Hype' by Drake - so here's a confession: I had to put all of these songs back on my iPod to relisten to them for this episode. And given that we're now on the last song and I've practically relistened to the entire thing, I can say with certainty that I'll be taking them all off again, because I only found more things that didn't work. At least we're ending off with a 'banger' against a muted, twinkle and stale trap beat with real bars, where Drake says he's been 'blacking' after a Michael Jackson reference, or how he got his epiphany at Tiffany's after spending $50,000 dollars, or how he hasn't run out of material - see this album - or how his hook completely kills any momentum that he might have had from his previous verse... so yeah, that's Views. It was mediocre at best. Expect over half of this record to fall off the charts in record time.



20. 'H.O.L.Y.' by Florida Georgia Line - I heard about the controversy surrounding this song long before I heard the track itself, and rumors suggesting that it was indicative of a new trend coming from country, drawing on religious phrasing and iconography to refer to less religious things. Now let's be clear that this is nothing new, especially outside of country music when you look at acts like Hozier or Depeche Mode or Nick Cave or really the majority of 'gothic'-themed acts. But even within country I'm not exactly against it on principle, as Maren Morris' 'My Church' drew upon some soulful production and smart songwriting to recontextualize what 'faith' meant to her, which was more of the music. Florida Georgia Line, on the other hand, use it for a punishingly stiff piano ballad with gratuitous autotune on the backing vocals to describe the heavenly girl who saved him from heartbreak, who I'm going to choose to think is Rachel Platten from when she made 'Stand By You'. The sad fact is that even she's probably better than this, as then we get the second verse with these guys getting the girls screaming hallelujah when they touch them and wow, I don't buy it for a second. And sure, this is embarrassing, but at least their previous songs used to be a facsimile of country - this is just bad pop that's way too stiff and uses its title as an acronym to mean 'High On Loving You'. Gross, skip this.



9. 'This Is What You Came For' by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna - and we end this week on the precipice of boredom itself, with Calvin Harris. And I'd usually say that's not quite far as he has evolved since his interchangeable blasts of synth that cluttered up the early 2010s, but the truth is that i just don't care at this point, and this song is here because of name recognition for he and Rihanna alone, not because it's actually good. And look, I didn't like either of Rihanna's previous collaborations with Calvin Harris, 'We Found Love' and 'Where Have You Been', but at least Rihanna sounded like she cared on both songs and 'We Found Love' had a hell of a hook. This... Rihanna's on autopilot, the thicker synths on the crescendo break into another rattling beat that's more hazy claps and choppy vocal fragments than instrumental melody, and it barely has any sort of punch. At least when Zedd brought in Kesha, he got a singer who actually cares about what she's doing and who isn't going to croon through a song that I'm guessing Taylor Swift refused to do even as a favour to her boyfriend on account of being too bland. But considering this week... nope, I'm still going to forget this, I'll pass.

So this week went entirely too long and man, so much of it was a wasteland devoid of quality. For best... thank god Zedd and Kesha showed up to add some passion with 'True Colours' to take the top spot, and I guess I'll give Honourable Mention to 'Weston Road Flows' by Drake for being the best track off of Views. But the worst... I honestly can't think whether 'Child's Play' or 'Feel No Ways' is worst, so they're going to tie for this week, with Dishonourable Mention going to 'H.O.L.Y.' by Florida Georgia Line for some atrocious production and that second verse. Right now I'm just thankful most of this crap will be gone for next week - or at least I hope so.

7 comments:

  1. I feel like I am the only one that reads these, which is quite a shame.

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    1. Nah, I've been reading these for a couple of months now. They should get more recognition tho.

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    2. I'm a reader as well. Something always feels more comfortable to me about reading reviews that aren't comedic.

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    3. You guys know he has a youtube channel right?

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    4. I read them too, even though I also watch the videos the next day.

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  2. I read almost every review and every Billboard Breakdown. Due to several reasons I prefer reading texts to watching videos, so I was really glad to find blogger who posts his reviews in two forms.

    ReplyDelete