Tuesday, January 24, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 4, 2017

...look, they can't all be good weeks. But to quote a favourite critic of mine, often times the worst kind of bad is the absence of good, and the more I looked through the charts this week, the less I found that was all that promising, not just in our new arrivals but in the songs that took measurable hits. Now don't get me wrong, the Billboard Hot 100 has had worse - look to most of last year - but if 2017 has been characterized by a noticeable positive uptick on the charts, which I'd argue it has, this is not a good sign.


Of course, the biggest signifier of that came in our Top 10, where 'Bad And Boujee' by Migos and Lil Uzi Vert retook the #1 off of streaming gains... and look, I knew it was always going to be a margins game here, given that its sales and airplay gains have been slower, but seriously, this is nothing Migos hasn't done dozens of times before with more energetic production and wordplay! Now thankfully, this is still a margins game, because 'Shape Of You' by Ed Sheeran is right on its tail, thanks to dominating sales, big airplay gains, considerable YouTube, and right behind on streaming - it only lost the #1 thanks to sales ebbing off, and I think there's a real chance it'll take the top again - on top of just being a far stronger song, but that's a different conversation. Beneath all of this 'Black Beatles' by Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane is sitting at #3, and really, I'm thinking this won't get much further, as it's effectively falling off in every category with the exception of sales, but it's not like those are strong. Then we get 'Closer' by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey which actually picked up to #4 more because it's not losing as fast as other tracks, courtesy of higher airplay and YouTube which gives it some staying power... which is something 'Starboy' by The Weeknd and Daft Punk also has, but its YouTube has always been weaker and it had a miserable sales week. Unfortunately, what didn't was 'Bad Things' by Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello, which rose up to #6 thanks to being uniformly strong in all categories - as much as I can't stand it, we might not be getting rid of this quickly. Now some of you are probably wondering where 'Castle On The Hill', the other, better Ed Sheeran song is.. well, like I expected, it dropped out of the top 10 as sales plummeted... what I didn't expect was a replacement. Yep, it's 'Paris' by The Chainsmokers, their solo top ten breakthrough at #7 thanks to big sales and considerable airplay traction, which is just dandy. And to follow that, 'I Don't Wanna Live Forever' by Zayn and Taylor Swift also retook the top 10 at #8, thanks mostly to airplay traction and sales that never quite went away. Now I'll take this over 'Don't Wanna Know' by Maroon 5 and Kendrick Lamar muscled back to #9, which is basically only here thanks to an airplay lead that is diminishing... but not by much. Finally, clinging onto #10 is '24K Magic' by Bruno Mars,  basically here thanks to sales and radio that's also fading fast, it'll probably be gone soon.

And on that topic, what about our losers and dropouts? Well, in a rare piece of good news, I'm actually pretty okay with the songs that are gone - I'm not losing any sleep about 'OOOUUU' by Young M.A., 'I hate u i love you' by gnash & Olivia O'Brien, 'May We All' by Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw, or 'Sleep Without You' by Brett Young dropping out, although the last was a decent enough pop country song. I'm a little more concerned with our losers here - you already know that 'Castle On The Hill' by Ed Sheeran fell hard to 28, but I expect with the video it'll rebound. What caught me more off-guard was the losses for 'Parachute' by Chris Stapleton down to 90, or the sudden steep drop for 'In The Name Of Love' by Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha to 47 - yeah, it's been around for a while, but still. Beyond that, our other two losers were 'You're Welcome' by Dwayne Johnson from Moana to 91 - I'm frankly amazed it lasted this long - and 'Neighbors' by J. Cole down hard to 84 - similar comments here.

But okay, what are we replacing them with? Well, in our returning entries, not much - 'Say It' by Flume and Tove Lo recovering briefly to 94 isn't bad, but 'My Shit' by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie up to 100 certainly is. As to our gains... well, some are cases of continued momentum, like 'iSpy' by KYLE and Lil Yachty up to 32, 'Rockabye' by Clean Bandit, Sean Paul, and Anne-Marie up to 38, and 'I Got You' by Bebe Rexha catching on big to 53 - I'm a little stunned how well it's doing, to be honest. What shocked me even more was 'Call On Me' by Starley also picked up to 79 - seriously, people actually give a damn about this song? Really? Similar case for 'Fresh Eyes' picking up a late run boost to 68 - granted, it's not a bad track, but he's definitely made better and I'm surprised this picked up now. Finally, 'Party Monster' by The Weeknd picked up to 36, probably off of a video that was actually pretty awesome. It's not 'False Alarm', but between this and 'I Feel It Coming', the better songs from Starboy are sticking around, and that is promising going forward.

Of course, it becomes all the more promising when you take a look at our new arrivals... and let's just get through this, shall we, starting with...



99. 'Down' by Marian Hill - you know, there's a part of me that's still a little unnerved that commercials have the power to land songs on the pop charts, but such was the power that when this was played before the Seahawks and Falcons playoff game, it caught such attention that it wound up on the pop charts. Now for the majority of you who didn't know - and I include myself in that category - Marian Hill is a duo that reportedly drew upon blues, jazz, and heavy bass to build their debut album last year Act One. And while I can see some of the jazz in frontwoman Samantha Gongol's delicate vocals, the much more recognizable presence is the blocky percussion and pitch-shifting playing off the prominent trap snare that operates as a hook - it's not like that muted piano is adding much outside of some slightly higher flourishes. And yet it's nowhere near as sexy as it seems to think it is, partially because the vocals feel placed a tad too deep in the mix, partially because that jittery percussion isn't all that sensual, and partially because the main lyrical mood is frustration that they went out and now the unnamed guy isn't willing to get more into it. Coupled with how they repeat and stutter the word 'down' into oblivion, I can only assume the reason this song caught on was the novelty of the commercial... because otherwise, I'm not seeing it.



98. 'Black' by Dierks Bentley - I swear, at some point I should start a consulting practice to go to major record labels and tell them which songs to release as singles - especially for country, because they keep screwing it up! I didn't love either 'Somewhere On A Beach' or 'Different For Girls', but I was confident Dierks Bentley would release 'Man In The Moon' next as a single - it's got Maren Morris, it's easily the most well-written and atmospheric track on the album, it has potential, even if it's not particularly country. Nope, instead he goes for the title track that is driven far more by the blurry blocks of percussion than the guitar melody that's drowned in reverb that feels like it's actively struggling for air, even on the solo! And look, I'm a big fan of Dierks Bentley as a singer - his tone is solid, and if he wanted to make a moody sex song, I could be on board, even if the main conceit is that he can't see anything he's doing because it's pitch black... yeah, I see the appeal, but there's a part of me that sees this backfiring hard. But beyond that... look, it's not a bad song, and if Dierks Bentley wants to keep pushing the more atmospheric country sound, this isn't a bad way to do it, but there's a big part of me that feels country has pivoted away from this direction, and he might regret this choice, along with the majority of that last album.



95. 'Not Nice' by PARTYNEXTDOOR - okay seriously, who still cares about PARTYNEXTDOOR? I thought we all had a meeting, I served drinks, decided that it was cute for a few minutes in 2014 or 2015 that we tolerated him because for some reason we were giving money to anyone Drake cosigned, and then moved the hell on? I could have sworn that was the case, given that nobody asked me to cover that hour-long block of sound he called a sophomore album in 2016... but apparently 'Come And See Me' stuck around long enough that we got a follow-up with 'Not Nice'. And wow, if PARTYNEXTDOOR wanted to convince me he had any personality at all, he blew it with this, which takes your expected tropical tone, rattling tropical vibe, and plays off the most barebone melody possible! And of course he's not trying to sound remotely engaged in this material... which if anything makes it worse, because this is a song where he's cussing out a girl and her friend for being bad despite looking so nice - in other words, it's the light version of Drake's concern-trolling but deficient of any framing or personality to excuse it. And so, again, I thought we moved on from this - and if any luck holds, this'll be forgotten soon enough.



88. 'Despacito' by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee - so here's something ironic: for as much as Pitbull has made songs in Spanish, his biggest hits were always in English... and yet while he can't catch a break right now, we're getting songs entirely in Spanish doing pretty well on the Hot 100, namely this new track from Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. Now you probably know the latter name for some of his asinine Latin hip-hop that has had sporadic success in the mid-2000s and, well, now, but Luis Fonsi has been around even longer, his first record dropping in the late 90s. Hell, he's even cracked the Hot 100 before in 2005 and 2008, but this is his biggest charting hit to date... and honestly, it's not bad at all. Sure, Daddy Yankee's braying delivery is not helping anything, but the writing is nowhere near as bad as 'Shaky Shaky', which plays into Fonsi's smoother, more assertive delivery. I'll give him this, he's got real charisma here, and that plays well against the more prominent Spanish guitar flourishes that drive the majority of the song, even if I do think the percussion is a tad overmixed. Overall, I'm not going to say I love this, but when it comes to Latin pop that's on the radio right now, this is very listenable, I'll take it.



77. 'Not Afraid Anymore' by Halsey - I feel like I said this only a few weeks ago, but when you give a not-particularly good featuring artist airplay, eventually the mainstream is going to ask questions about what else they've released... and that meant it was only a matter of time before Halsey got something else to chart off of the success of 'Closer'. Except in this case it's not even a new single but another song from Fifty Shades Darker, which already sent my rock-bottom expectations plummeting lower, mostly because 'sexy' has never been something I've heard in her wheelhouse. And lo and behold I was very correct in that assumption, but to be slightly fair to her, I think she was at least trying along the writing to get there, emphasizing how she's not afraid of how dark and sinful and transgressive it all is. Of course there's no details associated with any of it, but at least the writing is in the right ballpark - which is something I can't say about the production. It's telling that MAGIC! frontman Nasri Atweh had his fingers in producing this and drowning the textures in reverb even as the lumbering percussion and trap snares completely swamp out any vestige of melody, but what's more glaring is how tinny and frail the hi-hats in the clumsy as hell percussion arrangement - I get going for dark and abrasive, but this is bad mastering, plain and simple! In other words, I can at least give this song some points for being the right direction, but it loses all of them for completely mishandling the delivery - in other words, painfully mediocre. Next!



43. 'T-Shirt' by Migos - same statement I made about the last track, all the more true here, except at least in this case Migos are releasing a song from their upcoming album instead of just a promotional hit from a movie that seems destined to suck, literally and figuratively. Shame this isn't better, as for some reason Migos thought the next thing their triplet flow needed was to be staccato and jittery as hell - credit to Offset who at least tries to build more of a flow on this song, but he can't do much on the last verse. Hell, most of the song belongs to Takeoff more than anyone, who seems to be trying to make up for not showing on 'Bad And Boujee', but if anything his deeper songs sound even more awkward with how clipped this delivery is. And let's forget the content - again, like most Migos songs, it's beyond help as they rap about jewelry and selling cocaine - my issue comes in the production. Blubbery bass, an extended warble of synth holding whatever melody that the wiry low synth doesn't have, all against your standard trap beat that eventually drowns itself in reverb, what this isn't is fun or energetic or aggressive. Maybe this comes from listening to Pusha T or even Migos' better songs, if you're going to rap about running cocaine, can you at least bring something of an aggressive edge instead of this languid, tedious drone of a tune? As for whether it's better than 'Bad And Boujee'... honestly, I don't like either song, neither are good signs that Migos' upcoming record will have any spark at all, and that's the real disappointment.



7. 'Paris' by The Chainsmokers - okay, there is a pretty huge elephant in this room when it comes to this track and believe me we'll get to it, but let me start with the fact that I was trying to like this song. There's no real breakdown that annoyed the hell out of me, I like the guitar that anchors the melody, and for as dead-eyed as Andrew Taggart's vocals sound, it kinds of makes sense with the content of the track. Of course, said content doesn't paint Taggart in a remotely good light - they're hanging out in a presumed delusion of a relationship that he knows is doomed, and yet he almost seems to be settling for it, the 'clever' thing to do to snatch this girl up. And the contrast in how Emily Warren's uncredited yearning for the connection does play off Taggart's depression at the situation reasonably well, even though, again, this is The Chainsmokers framing their female counterpart as not having the same perceptiveness as them. But there are two big problems that prevent me from liking this, the first being that it's stated right on the first verse that Taggart is off getting drunk with other girls, and really, the only thing that pulls him back is that it's not fair she's left behind... kind of brushing aside the implied cheating of it all, aren't you, for a relationship you don't even want! But the larger problem is the obvious one: melodically, this is a pretty shameless interpolation of M83's 'Midnight City' if not an outright ripoff - at the very least, it's way too close - and just like the last time on their Collage EP, they've given no credit. That being said, this is one of the better Chainsmokers songs to come out recently, but for the most part... yeah, this isn't doing it for me.

So yeah, even despite me not feeling all that well, I was not wild about our new arrivals or the charts this week as a whole and I suspect that would have been true regardless. Best... I wouldn't say anything is great here, but 'Despacito' by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee had the most groove and organic flavor, so I'm giving it the best of the week, with Honourable Mention to 'Black' by Dierks Bentley, which again, not nearly the best from the album, but it's at least tolerable. Worst... yeah, 'Not Nice' by PARTYNEXTDOOR takes that easily, but Dishonourable Mention is going to 'T-Shirt' by Migos for not working at all whereas at least Halsey and The Chainsmokers have some elements that came together. Overall, not promising, but I expect things will improve - the more boring the charts get, the more likely it is the songs with actual energy and verve will smash through, or at least I hope so.

3 comments:

  1. One of the better weeks I've seen.

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  2. I dont buy that ' worst kind of bad is the absence of good' shit and neither do you based on your picks for the worst songs of the last years, its always a song with a aggravating factor.

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    1. Otherwise, Post MELON would have ran away with No. 1. Shawn Mentos at least had that somewhat comedic "BETTER THAN HE CAN" at the end of the bridge.

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