And I say all this because by the Nine Hells, I do not want to talk about the top ten right now. Once again, 'Closer' by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey is at #1 - twelve weeks people - even though it's getting pushed back on streaming and has clearly peaked on the radio. And yet for some reason it's leading sales - with the lowest actual sales number in nearly eleven years - and that's because while 'Starboy' by The Weeknd and Daft Punk is gaining in airplay and is solid across the board in every other category... it's just not picking up fast enough to tear into that margin and remains stuck at #2. And 'Heathens' by twenty one pilots is even worse off: with a sharper peak on airplay, weakening sales, and dying airplay, I can see it falling from #3 quite fast. This opens things up for 'Let Me Love You' by DJ Snake and Justin Bieber, which did hold its airplay traction with some sales gains... but it might be too little, too late, as it lost on streaming and remains at #4. This takes us to 'Broccoli' by D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty... and it had a weird week, up and down the radio, slipping on sales and streaming, really no idea how it held onto #5. Well, part of it is because 'Side To Side' by Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj muscled up to #6, with momentum in every category and really strong YouTube, and managed to shove back Bruno Mars' '24K Magic' down to #7 - look, great sales and solid radio isn't enough if your streaming is tanking these days, even if I do like this song! Unfortunately, it's facing the challenge of 'Juju On Dat Beat' by Zay Hilfigerrr and Zayion McCall, rising to #8 thanks to the fact that people are still buying it and now it has streaming momentum, which is just fantastic. And this takes us to the first of two new top ten entries, and unquestionably the better one: 'Black Beatles' by Rae Sremmurd & Gucci Mane. And folks... look, even though I've got a bit of a reputation with these guys, this is clearly their best song, and if they're going to break the top 10 with anything, I'd honestly prefer it be this - it's got sales and streaming traction, and while airplay is lagging heavily, this 'mannequin challenge' thing has given the song some additional legs. We'll see if the overplay eventually kills it for me, but for now let's deal with the much bigger issue in our second new arrival to the top ten: 'Fake Love' by Drake. Arguably his worst top ten single ever, it's here because for some reason it's ruling streaming, even though sales have dropped off sharply. Let's hope that everyone takes a hint and gets sick of this fast, because I'm not sure I could take much more of Drake's mediocrity.
And on that note, losers and dropouts! Lots of the latter this week... and sadly, most of them are actually good. 'Into You' by Ariana Grande makes its exit, along with 'Why You Always Hatin' by YG, Drake & Kamaiyah, 'This Girl' by Kungs & Cookin' On 3 Burners and 'Hold Up' by Beyonce. Granted, they took with them 'Controlla' by Drake, 'Lockjaw' by French Montana and Kodak Black, and 'You & Me' by Marc E. Bassy, but still, not a net positive. And as for our losers... eh, mixed bag here. 'It Don't Hurt Like It Used To' by Billy Currington dropping to 81 isn't surprising, nor is 'Wat U Mean (Aye, Aye Aye)' by Dae Dae falling to 99, they've both lasted a while. Then there's our debuts dropping, with 'Hallelujah' by Pentatonix falling hard to 77 and 'Shout Out To My Ex' by Little Mix hitting 86 - expect this to rebound when the album drops in a few weeks. What surprised me was 'I Know Somebody' by LoCash falling early to 82 - thought it would have more staying power, even if I don't really like it.
Of course, when you flip over to gains it makes a little more sense - country radio is reloading for the rest of the season, and thus Keith Urban's 'Blue Ain't Your Color' surged up to 25 and 'Setting The World On Fire' by Kenny Chesney and Pink jumped to 29. Beyond that, the rest of our gains here came off of debuts... and it's a damn shame nearly all of them suck! The best of them were 'Say You Won't Let Go' by James Arthur up to 85, but that's kind of overshadowed by 'No Heart' by 21 Savage and Metro Boomin' up to 71, or 'Sneakin' by Drake and 21 Savage up to 28, or 'Fake Love' by Drake breaking the top ten! At least our returning entries are pretty decent, with 'Love Me Now' by John Legend making a brief revival to 98 and 'Cool Girl' by Tove Lo returning to the charts - again - at 100, but I don't really see either of them lasting that long.
Granted, I don't see many of our new arrivals lasting long either... hopefully for good reason, because this doesn't exactly look like a good week, starting with...
97. 'Blessed Up' by Meek Mill - you know, this is all Drake's fault. If he had effectively ethered Meek Mill last year, destroyed him so thoroughly there was no hope of coming back, we wouldn't be in this situation, where Meek Mill now has seven new songs debuting on the Hot 100 this week! Good thing all of those zero requests I got to review his mixtape DC4 are going to get answered, because there's a full half of it here! Now I'll give Meek Mill some credit for at least embracing bombast - the swells of strings on the hook that leads into an oddly flattened melody against the sparse beat for the verses - but I have to take it away for pretty much everything else. The problem with Meek Mill has never been his energetic yelling, but that it's not visceral or exciting or raw, just volume for its own sake, and when so much of his content here is bragging about cars and dissing you specifically in the second verse, I just tune out. Not a bad track, but not particularly memorable either.
96. 'Chantaje' by Shakira ft. Maluma - so we immediately get a quick moment of respite courtesy of Shakira, who along with this young Columbian kid broke big on the Latin charts this week with 'Chantaje', apparently intended as the lead-off single for her next album... which looks to be entirely in Spanish, with the title translating to 'Blackmail'. And a shame it's not better across the board, because I really did not groove to this. Forget the mostly limp, watery percussion line, the primary melodic fragment anchoring it is a squawking chipmunk vocal that got annoying in record time. And that's otherwise a shame, because the rest isn't bad, with Shakira and Maluma having decent chemistry even if the song never really quite ignites. A shame, because the lyrics actually are a bit intriguing, with Shakira holding all the power in the relationship and that being considered pure 'blackmail' for this guy. Uh... okay, the idea isn't bad, but I get the feeling the execution either isn't translating or just didn't connect here. As a whole... man, I hope this isn't the lead off single, because Shakira really capable of so much better.
93. 'Blue Notes' by Meek Mill - we return to our Meek Mill show in progress and we get something I didn't expect: a guitar of some kind. More specifically it comes from a pretty reserved bluesy hook from U.K. blues musician Snowy White, and it's actually pretty understated against a gentle backdrop of organ... and so of course Meek Mill has to shout about money - his 'blue notes', as it is - selling drugs with his squad, buying jewelry, and the rest of his generic subject matter over this beat. Of course, the second verse has him clearly sick and tired of all of this struggle and getting backstabbed, but I don't get all that invested in it because Meek Mill doesn't seem to know how to modulate, ramp up emotion or restrain it to fit with the instrumental, where his shouting just doesn't work here. Ugh, there was potential to this, but again, Meek Mill doesn't seem versatile enough to make it work.
88. 'Star Of The Show' by Thomas Rhett - oh, I wasn't expecting this... mostly because, again, I don't cover deluxe issues or reissues of albums, and even if I did I probably would have never covered one of Thomas Rhett's atrocious sophomore album Tangled Up, one of the most confused, lazy, insulting messes I've ever had the misfortune to cover. So of course he sneaks a song off the deluxe edition on the charts after his single 'Vacation' failed in spectacular fashion and didn't even make the Hot 100... and yet if this song had been on the album, it might have had a chance of being a bit better! Yeah, as believe it or not, this isn't bad - oh, it's got the production problems that Tangled Up has, with the cheap fake percussion and snaps, overlayered backing vocals, a guitar line that sounds the furthest thing from country... but there is steel guitar on this song, something of a real melody, and lyrics that aren't obnoxiously awful! Sure, it's a pale, pale imitation of 'She Don't Know She's Beautiful' by Sammy Kershaw, or even 'What Makes You Beautiful' by One Direction, but tepid, lovestruck Thomas Rhett is pretty much the only version of him I can tolerate... so yeah, this ain't bad, I'll take it.
84. 'The Difference' by Meek Mill ft. Quavo and Desiigner - so we return to the Meek Mill show - plus one part Migos member - and I'm sorry, given how guttural that vocal on the intro is, it sounds like he's saying 'dick dick dick'. Shame this song can't be remotely that interesting outside of your standard desaturated trap beat and backing tone, complete with Desiigner adlibbing all over the song. As for content, the hook is based around Meek Mill's audience able to tell the difference between his wealth and everyone else's - which in person is probably true but in these songs I doubt it, all the bragging blurs together - but then again, that's raising the question who the 'you' is on this track. I get the impression it's another rapper this time around - because I sure as hell don't own a Wraith - but it's telling on a song about knowing the difference that nobody ever describes what those differences are! Oh, and Quavo's also on this track - his verse is a little more modulated and detailed, but it's still pretty forgettable, he's definitely done better. Pass!
75. 'On The Regular' by Meek Mill - I can't be the only one who thinks it's hilarious that Meek Mill tried to get his producers to remix 'Carmina Burana', chopping it to shreds with blocking percussion and a trap beat, and yet in doing so it looks ridiculously clumsy and actually ends up neutering the dramatic swell of that iconic song. All the more evidence that Meek Mill doesn't know what to do with good production when it's right in front of him, but that would ignore everything Meek Mill is saying here... talking about everything he does on the regular, which he taps off by saying that he's not regular, which I'm either expected to think he's a liar or needs more fiber in his diet. Beyond that, it really is just more of the same rapped over a sample that is easily more timeless and interesting than anything Meek Mill will ever say or do, and that he manages to ruin - skip it.
(not on YouTube, because Drake)
70. 'Offended' by Meek Mill ft. Young Thug & 21 Savage - and now we're back talking about Meek Mill, this time teaming up with Young Thug and 21 Savage and wait a second, didn't 21 Savage just work with Drake? See, that's another thing I miss about rap beefs, the camps used to be more easily defined among the lower tier rappers! Sure, you had wild cards who were good enough to work with everyone without repercussions, but 21 Savage definitely doesn't belong in that category! But really, this is more of a Young Thug track than anyone else's - he's got the hook and the first verse - and you'd think he'd get an instrumental that could remotely flatter his more interesting flow instead of this atonal piano line and chunky trap beat. Of course, then we have the lines about four hoes 'drilling him' - and presuming how often he's taking your girl, she could have been one of them! Then we have Meek Mill - starts of with an autotuned flow, flubs rhymes, and starts yelling again about killing people, and then 21 Savage tries to crank up the menace, which could be remotely interesting if he could manage to consistently stay on the beat. In other words, I've long ago stopped caring - next!
68. 'Froze' by Meek Mill ft. Lil Uzi Vert & Nicki Minaj - okay, you know something that needs to die in the discussion of gross wealth? The description of diamonds as 'ice' or 'frozen' - it's been overplayed for years now, ice rarely has the sparkle or clarity of good diamonds, and when Nicki Minaj talks about a frozen pussy right, I'm just left thinking that's cold as hell down there! Of course, with the painfully flubbed rhyme on her verse and the gratuitous autotune all over this mess, Nicki is disappointing here, but she still has more personality than either Lil Uzi Vert sounding generic as hell or like Future through a cloud of autotune against a bassy mix with very distant hints of melody, and Meek Mill shouting about being so hot he might break the thermometer or with 'all of these jewels like I celebrate Hanukkah' - seriously. Look, I've long ago given up that Meek Mill will say anything interesting, but all evidence is showing that he just serves to make his collaborators less interesting even by comparison - and we gave him a career instead of Denzel Curry for some reason? Why?
54. 'Better Man' by Little Big Town - we take our last - and very welcome - break from Meek Mill to wade right back into controversy, because this is the Little Big Town song reportedly written by Taylor Swift. And aside from taking the title from a far better Pearl Jam song... actually, that song came to my mind a lot when listening through this a couple of times, because it shows exactly why Pearl Jam were so much more powerful songwriters than Swift was. For one, there are parallels with that song - left alone at home at late nights, lingering regret, frustration at neglect... except in this case the protagonist runs and spends the song giving this guy the middle finger for not being a better man to keep her, as well as implying there was 'permanent damage', something that raises all sorts of questions this song isn't willing to answer. But it's not really played as a kiss-off - the tones are too liquid and gentle and midtempo, with that fake beat, a tad too much ghostly reverb, clouds of guitar, and all the more evidence that Little Big Town has settled into the Mirage-era of their Fleetwood Mac imitation. And while Karen Fairchild is a good singer on lead, this song should have either ditched the guys in the group altogether or Swift should have written a unique sequence for them, because they definitely don't fit in with this arrangement. As a whole, it's pleasant and will probably end up being one of the best of this week, but it's also deeply flawed, and hopefully won't stick around.
49. 'Litty' by Meek Mill ft. Tory Lanez - and now here it is, the last Meek Mill song of the week and the one with the only person who hates Drake more than Meek Mill! And it looks like their mutual hatred led to a decent song, although it's hard to say thanks to either of the guys here. For one, Meek Mill's content is not all that interesting, and him saying that he's 'raping the money' raises all sorts of uncomfortable implications, especially on a verse where he's simultaneously praising Nicki Minaj for having as much money as Mariah Carey... which she doesn't. Then there's Tory Lanez, where even despite calling out Drake for embracing some basic-ass memes still feels the need to take shots at women reportedly lying about him on Twitter, which really should be the sort of thing he should ignore than address in his big boasting track. But if I'm going to praise anything, at least the production and hook came through, bringing the thicker bombastic synth to the front against the huge bass on the trap beat with some synth flourishes that help lead into Tory Lanez doing his best Travis Scott impression. And this is really where I pinpointed my issue with Meek Mill: he's got no significant bass in his voice when he's yelling, so I never get any significant intensity from his delivery. Here... well, he's close, which is the reason this song probably fares the best, but it's more thanks to the hook, and decent is still far from actually good.
So that was our week, and wow, entirely too much mediocrity for my tastes. For the best... I'm giving it to 'Litty' by Meek Mill and Tory Lanez for at least having some bombast, but Honourable Mention will be the surprise going to 'Star Of The Show' by Thomas Rhett. I know, I know... yes, I know, but it's a likable song, and if this was on Tangled Up proper I might have been kinder to it. Worst of the Week... for the disappointment, this is going to 'Froze' by Meek Mill ft. Lil Uzi Vert and Nicki Minaj, with Dishonourable Mention to 'On The Regular', but really, a good half of the Meek Mill tracks dropped this week could qualify. Let's just hope they'll all go away next week so we can get something new and interesting going forward for the final week of this billboard year...