Tuesday, October 11, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - october 22, 2016

So here's the other thing about the last weeks of a Billboard year - more than ever, it becomes a game of timing if you're looking to land a song on the year end list. Release the song early enough and it's no issue, but unless you've got a guaranteed smash hit heading for an inevitable #1, it might actually serve you better to release your songs a little later - keep in mind that most tracks will only ever stick around for twenty weeks on the charts, and the last thing you want is to release a track where midway through its lifespan the year shifts and you're only left with a portion of that time to rack up the accumulated sales, streaming, and airplay to get on the next year's list.

Now some of you might be thinking this isn't that big of a deal... but all you need to do is look at our top ten for a prime example of this. No, not 'Closer' by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey at #1 - it's still mostly dominant across the board, although airplay gains and sales were not what they once were. I wouldn't quite say it's vulnerable to real challenges, but 'Starboy' by The Weeknd and Daft Punk is making a case for it, rising to #2 on surging airplay, heavy streaming and YouTube, and sales that while not incredible still are pretty solid - will it be enough to get higher and snag that spot? It was enough to outstrip 'Heathens' by twenty one pilots down to #3 - and that's saying something, as that song has stronger airplay and decent sales... but it slipped hard on YouTube and it was outclassed on streaming. Then there's 'Cold Water' by Major Lazer, M0 and Justin Bieber, which peaked hard on airplay this week and then lost ground across the board - it's definitely vulnerable to a challenge from the other Justin Bieber track, 'Let Me Love You' by DJ Snake at #5, which is riding airplay momentum, stronger sales, and even better streaming. Not quite there on YouTube, but that's just a matter of time. Then there's the welcome little boost for 'Broccoli' by D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty up to #6, which is currently enjoying even better sales and real streaming presence as its airplay slowly catches up. I'm not sure how much higher it'll get or what sort of crossover potential it has, but I'm happy it's here, especially if it shoves back 'Treat You Better' by Shawn Mendes down to #7, which spent the week wavering on airplay, losing streaming and airplay, and with no sales worth caring about. I can't see it lasting much longer... which is exactly what I'd say about 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia ft. Sean Paul, which is only here thanks to airplay it's rapidly losing. Similar case for 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya at #9, with the only reason it's holding on is a bit of streaming to compensate for weaker airplay. And this takes us to our newest top ten entry, one I can't believe is here: 'i hate you i love you' by gnash ft. Olivia O'Brien. A song, for the record, that I've turned on pretty harshly for being one of the most limp, charisma-bereft songs I've heard in the damp mess that's been 2016 on the Hot 100... and yet for some ungodly reason the radio thinks we want to hear it, because it's been picking up traction with better than expected sales, and when I say that, I'm referring to my expectations, because this song has been on the Hot 100 for twenty-five weeks, so who the hell is still buying this?

Ugh, let's move on to our losers and dropouts, and we've got a pretty healthy crop of both this week, especially in our dropouts. And yeah, it kind of sucks that 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' by Mike Posner is finally gone - along with 'You Look Like I Need A Drink' by Justin Moore, which just fell like a stone - but when you consider it took with it 'Mama Said' by Lukas Graham, 'Me Too' by Meghan Trainor, 'No Shopping' by French Montana and Drake, and finally 'Work' by Rihanna and Drake, I'm not complaining! The other dropouts... well, I've always been kind of ambivalent about 'Never Be Like You' by Flume ft. Kai or 'H.O.L.Y.' by Florida Georgia Line or 'Hasta El Amanecer' by Nicky Jam, and 'Purple Lamborghini' by Skrillex & Rick Ross was always going to fade with Suicide Squad, I'm not exactly complaining here. When it comes to our losses, on the other hand... well, okay, most were on their way out anyway, like the sharp losses for the compilation song 'Forever Country' down to 73, or Kelsea Ballerini losing hard again for 'Peter Pan' at 80, or 'Perfect Illusion' by Lady Gaga continuing to flop at 69. The other losses are mostly explainable - both 'Different for Girls' by Dierks Bentley and Elle King going to 67 and 'We Don't Talk Anymore' by Charlie Puth ft. Selena Gomez dipping sharply to 21 are to be expected, they've both been around nearly twenty weeks. What caught me by surprise was the sudden drop for 'This Girl' by Kungs & Cookin' On 3 Burners... okay, it probably shouldn't surprise me, given the typical chart trajectory of these sorts of electronic hits as the radio evaporates, but I am a little disappointed - hoped it would have more staying power.

And on that note, our returning entries and gains, and seriously, 'You Don't Own Me' by Grace ft G-Eazy is back again at 87? I like the song - sure as hell more than our other returning entry 'Juju On Dat Beat (TZ Anthem)' by Zayion McCall and Zay Hilfigerrr - but it's bounced on and off the charts for weeks now while never picking up real traction, which means it's likely got no shot at any year-end list. As for our gains... look, none of them are remotely close to getting there, and for the most part I'm okay with that. I'm not wild that 'CRZY' by Kehlani is up to 85 or 'Wishing' by DJ Drama ft. Chris Brown, Skeme & Lyquin is up to 77, or that out of nowhere we're giving a radio push to 'I Know Somebody' by LoCash up to 58, but the real story comes in our last two gains. The first is the frankly startling amount of traction Niall Horan formerly of One Direction picked up with 'This Town' to 25, pretty much on sales alone - don't get me wrong, I like the song, I just didn't expect it to pick up this fast. And yet the song I'm really thrilled to see pick up traction is DJ Khaled's massive R&B crossover with Chris Brown, August Alsina, Jeremih, Nicki Minaj, Future, and Rick Ross, 'Do You Mind', which thanks to the video roared up to 52. No complaints at all about this - the song remains catchy as hell and if this song has the potential to be as big as 'For Free'... hell, I'm onboard with that.

So does the good news continue when we look at our new arrivals? Well, let's start with...

100. 'All Eyez' by The Game ft. Jeremih - so for those of you who don't know, The Game has been on a bit of a surge as of late and has been putting out a lot of material - and by that I mean this is the lead-off single for his third album released this year, given he put out two soundtrack projects. And this runs the serious risk of flooding the market, but to his credit The Game also said that his new album 1992 would have few if any guest appearances, which is something I've been hoping he'd make for years now! Of course, for the crossover radio single he picked the bonus track with a credited guest star, who I'd argue is competing with the liquid but limp production from Scott Storch as the least interesting parts of the song. It's not terrible - there's some decent atmospheric layering and Storch's barebones melody fits in fine with modern production - but it isn't interesting, and watch The Game rap through a pretty barebones love jam is not the best use of his talents, even if I do buy his sincerity talking about a girl he actually names. And sure, I appreciated the jabs at Future & Desiigner, but the first verse alternates between being corny as hell - seriously, dog filters on your selfies - and then comparing his girl to his car. And I get that it's an R. Kelly reference, but he got slagged for it back in '95, and like it or not, The Game is not R. Kelly, he's not really smooth enough to pull something like that off! As a whole, this is just pretty mediocre.. not exactly a good sign for The Game's new project, but hey, if I get through my backlog in time, I might take a look.

98. 'Wanna Be That Song' by Brett Eldredge - so when I covered Brett Eldredge's last album Illinois, I made it clear that it was a pretty obvious pivot towards mainstream country radio, and combined with some painfully formulaic songwriting it ultimately rung a little hollow for me. All the more so now, given that country seems to be pivoting back towards a more neotraditional sound, which places a song like this in a bit of an awkward place. Now to be fair, for that album this is one of the better tracks - Eldredge's heartfelt sincerity makes his desire to be that special song for the girl does come through well, and while the electric tones are a tad too clean to fit within country - especially on the bridge - there is a melody here against the gentle acoustic groove. Hell, with all the guitar tones blurring together you'd think this would be right up my alley... except for two things: the odd clumsiness of the writing of the cadence on the hook; and that drum machine, which they try to blend with the rest of the mix but it doesn't quite fit. Still, if Brett Eldredge wants to keep releasing singles and won't release the title track of that album, this isn't a bad choice, I'd take it.

97. 'Fresh Eyes' by Andy Grammer - the more I think about it, the more it strikes me that Andy Grammer is a pop artist from a different time. He's honest, straightforwardly sincere, and has an upbeat energy that reminds me of what you'd get decades ago, or maybe in the late 90s, and compared to how dour so much of modern pop feels, he might be a throwback but he's certainly appreciated. That said, I'm not sure I feel about his newest track 'Fresh Eyes', the lead-off single for his third album, mostly because in comparison with songs like 'Honey, I'm Good', it's far more stripped back. Oh, the emotional honesty is still there, as the song shows him blown away by how hot his girl is when she dresses up and for him to appreciate how lucky he is and he shouldn't forget that, and I can see why that would be the sort of little emotion that shouldn't be overplayed, which makes sense for the sparse tapping beat, acoustic melody and for Grammer to sing much quieter than usual. But maybe the song could have opted to be a little 'prettier' with the effects, or perhaps at a slower tempo to emphasize the romantic sentiment, because as it is... it's a good song, but this could have been a great one.

94. 'Lifted' by CL - okay, I wasn't expecting this - or to put it another way, I expected it back in 2012-2013, not now! For those of you who don't know, CL is a South Korean singer and rapper who was a part of 2NE1 before releasing this as her first American single, cowritten by Asher Roth and sampling from Wu-Tang Clan and no, I swear I'm not making any of this up! And you can definitely tell Asher Roth cowrote this - it's got the same sort of lazy, half-stoned delivery that I'm sure excuses how often the rhyme scheme is just dropped across the entire song! And that's not getting into how often CL just leaps into tones and accents that you can definitely tell are pretty far removed from South Korea, but at this point I have no idea how offended anyone is going to get about that anymore, given that popular culture crucified Iggy Azalea but has somehow let Post Malone and Drake get away with it. And sure, it's catchy - you can thank the hook sampled from 'Method Man' for that - but it's not like that cloudy backing whistle and flattened bass playing off the trap beat on the verses is all that interesting. Really, the best thing about this song is the hook, and even there I can't give her full credit. Yeah, hate to say it for the first South Korean crossover since PSY, but this is pretty mediocre - at best.

91. 'Don't Touch My Hair' by Solange ft. Sampha - and here comes the second surprise, and if anything it's bigger: two songs from Solange's new album A Seat At The Table broke through on the Hot 100 this week, which is the first time she has ever crossed over beyond the R&B charts in the US. Now I can't say I loved either track when I reviewed the album last week, but let's start with the song I liked less: 'Don't Touch My Hair'. And as I said in the review, I don't mind the content of this track, where she tells people to back off not to touch her hair, as it represents something deeper and more profoundly spiritual to her, which white culture likes to unwittingly trample over to touch it. Hell, though I wouldn't claim any spirituality or dealing with microaggressions in the experience, I don't like people touching my hair either - I'm already losing it, no need to hasten the process! But bad jokes aside, I appreciate the sentiment of this... I wish I liked the instrumental more, which starts off sparse with the watery tapping beat before adding a thin gloss and cowbell and synths that sound right out of the 80s considering their depth... and that's not a good thing. I appreciate the blubbery bass and trumpet accenting Sampha's vocals, but then we come to Solange herself... and I can't say this is one of her better performances, specifically as she tries to take her vibrato melisima into a lower range and she doesn't quite have the tonal control to make it come through all that great. Still, it's a good enough song... just not a great one.

74. 'Cranes In The Sky' by Solange - and now the track I actually liked a fair bit more from A Seat At The Table. No, not quite as much as 'Mad' or 'Junie' or 'F.U.B.U.', but it's still a damn good song, relying on a solid bass cushion against the mournful strings, ascending piano and harp, and the sharper beat. And the multi-tracking here is flat-out gorgeous as Solange sings about trying to push aside her depression in all sorts of experiences and yet unable to shift those iron-grey metal clouds. And while I understand the song is primarily intended as a meditation on feeling unable to escape systemic racism, it also works on the level of just finding an escape from depression. And beyond that... there isn't a lot to really say here, it's a damn solid R&B song and I'm happy it crossed over, definitely will take this.

63. 'False Alarm' by The Weeknd - so we're now very much in the build-up for a new album from The Weeknd, set to be released in late November this year. This song was one of the promo singles that began to pick up airplay in Canada before being confirmed as the second single... and wow, I thought I liked 'Starboy', because this is AWESOME, the sort of track that shows The Weeknd goes into the bombastic gothic darkwave from where he sprang in Toronto. Seriously, if Sisters Of Mercy were still making music today, they'd make a song like this and you'd never expect it to get airplay! The smoky guitars accenting the muted edge of the bassline that kicks off the chilly synths and ghostly backing vocals before the beat kicks into a howling grind of a fast-paced groove - seriously, this hook rules. As for the lyrics... well, The Weeknd is singing about a fame-hungry golddigger here and how any sign of love for her is a false alarm, but again, it's the framing that makes this song work, half because he knows there's a certain emptiness to her calculating lust and greed, and half because he's not judging her for it, just knowing for himself to keep his distance. And unlike a song like Hall & Oates 'Maneater', there's no warning here for other guys so much as taciturn acknowledgement - perhaps not the perfect Weeknd song going back to the raw grit of an Illangelo-produced track Trilogy, and that ending sample is weird, but man, between this and 'Starboy', I'm onboard for that new album. 'Starboy' had to grow on me, this won me over instantly. Fantastic stuff.

60. 'Say It' by Flume ft. Tove Lo - so I didn't cover Skin when it dropped earlier this year - the reviews were lukewarm at best, and I wasn't in love with 'Never Be Like You' like so many were, it happens. But I did get comments from a lot of people that I should check out Flume's collaboration with Tove Lo, and here we are. Let me get this out of the way: I like it more than 'Never Be Like You', mostly because Tove Lo is the sort of charismatic presence that draws a lot of attention right out of the gate, and her vocal line holds the unstable oscillations of synth behind her in check even as the layers develop more buzzing bite as the lumbering beat drops in to warp and contort around the mix. And that sense of unease and instability works for the content too - it's a song about hooking up with an ex, and Tove Lo is walking the very narrow line between obviously wanting it and the hesitation that comes before making a big mistake. I think the song could have had a little more of an edge if it didn't play the hook as exultant as it does, but overall, this is pretty solid, I'll take it.

18. 'All We Know' by The Chainsmokers ft. Phoebe Ryan - okay, we'll get to talking about The Chainsmokers in a second, but the person who probably deserves a little more attention in this conversation is Phoebe Ryan. If you don't know the name, she's a young singer-songwriter who has worked behind the scenes for Oh,Honey, Melanie Martinez and Britney Spears, and is one of those rare artists who seems to attract a lot of attention inside the music industry if not outside of it, getting rave reviews from Taylor Swift and Tove Lo if not the mainstream public. Well, The Chainsmokers seemed set on changing that, using their huge popularity to propel her inside the top 20 with this track... and I'm kind of conflicted on it. On a lyrical level it's easily better than 'Closer' describing a relationship on the edge of collapsing but trying to hold it together all the same - although the sentiment of doing it because 'this is all we know' definitely is questionable - but it's also a song that feels very much like 'Closer' 2.0, swapping out sharp staccato piano for more of a groove on guitar complete with chimes to play off the drum machine and snap, to the point where the melodies driving the hook share a lot of the same cadence if not the exact notes. Sure, the breakdown is better, but it's not like that flattened synth is doing anything interesting like in 'Roses' or 'Don't Let Me Down'. But I think my larger issue comes with both Andrew Taggart and Phoebe Ryan themselves - sure, Ryan's got a certain whispery coo that isn't bad, but they're both playing the song so flat that I can't get invested in any of the emotional drama! So sure, it might be a 'better' 'Closer' thanks to tonal choices and writing, but I'm not sure upgrading from 'bad' to 'nondescript' is all that much of an upgrade, just saying.

So that was our week, and wow, we got a healthy spread here, on average pretty positive. Worst is obvious: 'Lifted' by CL, if only because the writing is way too sloppy to waste a Wu-Tang interpolation, with Dishonourable Mention going to The Game and Jeremih for 'All Eyez', definitely not the sort of track I'd prefer he do. As for the best... come on, it's not even a contest as 'False Alarm' by The Weeknd runs away with this, closely followed by 'Cranes In The Sky' by Solange - what can I say, it's a gorgeous R&B tune, I'm happy it crossed over. Overall, though, there's some promise going forward for the charts as 2016 closes out, I'm pretty hopeful about this.


  1. Wow, didn't expect you to like False Alarm as much as that. Very interesting.

    Hope you're ready for Bruno Mars' return next week, that one's gonna debut big.

  2. Hey,It's been a while since you made the worldwive hits sections,what are you thoughts on Lost on you or Human?