Tuesday, June 27, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 8, 2017

In retrospect, maybe I expected way too much from the American public. Granted, I think I've been saying that for most of the past two years, but in this case it's particularly - and for the most part confined to the United States, I should. Because when I made the prediction that Lorde topping the sales charts with Melodrama on the Billboard 200 album charts meant that she'd have something that'd cross over... well, even despite the lack of an obvious pop single, it's not like anything on Pure Heroine was an easy crossover either. And yet, not a single new song from Lorde on the Hot 100, and only one on the Bubbling Under charts - for perspective, Canada had four, and do I even need to say the catchphrase anymore before I decide to get it printed on merch?


Whatever, it's far more of your loss than it is mine, so let's instead take a look at the top 10, where once again 'Despacito' by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Bieber is at #1. And this should surprise nobody - it's dominant in nearly every category and still has radio momentum, and I don't see what stops it before it becomes entrenched as the summer songs of 2017 - which I don't mind, because when you consider the original minus Bieber, it's not a bad song. What caught me a little off guard was the momentum shifts for 'I'm The One' by DJ Khaled and his posse at #2 - sure, between strong streaming, sales, and YouTube it's not going anywhere, but it did have a bit of an airplay hiccup, although the reasoning why is fairly obvious. Then we have 'That's What I Like' by Bruno Mars at #3, pretty much all thanks to declining but still massive airplay and YouTube that just won't die despite a bad sales week. But what could be an interesting challenger is our newest arrival and a top five debut at #4: 'Wild Thoughts' by DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller. I will have more thoughts about this song's actual quality much later in the show, but let me say that if there's a song to challenge 'Despacito' right now, it's this one: it's racking up strong sales and streaming numbers, YouTube is rising fast, and most importantly, it's got radio momentum, because Rihanna is a radio darling. I'm curious to see how momentum continues but for now, this is potent. It almost makes even talking about 'Shape Of You' by Ed Sheeran seem perfunctory - yeah, I still really like the song, but even I'm getting tired of watching it die slowly at #5. Then we have 'HUMBLE' by Kendrick Lamar also down to #6... and honestly, it may have peaked on the radio and while its decline will be slow thanks to YouTube, it is going to start declining. Similar case for 'Mask Off' by Future, where the sales are even worse and radio's been in free fall, pushing it down to #7. This seems like good timing for 'Congratulations' by Post Malone and Quavo, which rose up to #8 on just having some modest gains in every category - unlike other songs here, it's stable. Compare to 'Something Just Like This' by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay, falling to #9 as it loses in all categories and especially radio, or 'Stay' by Zedd and Alessia Cara, which is barely clinging to its radio despite even weaker numbers. Suffice to say the top 10 is not stable going into the summer, and a well-timed disruption could blow at least a third of these songs away.

And on that promising note, losers and dropouts! Now most of this was good news in the latter category: 'Swang' by Rae Sremmurd, 'Heavy' by Linkin Park and Kiiara, 'Gyalchester' by Drake, 'Bon Appetit' by Katy Perry and Migos, 'Hometown Girl' by Josh Turner, 'Black' by Dierks Bentley... okay those last two are mostly passable, but still, I'm not complaining about this. And when you go to our losers... yeah, most of these don't bug me either. '2U' by David Guetta and Bieber down off the debut to 26, 'Butterfly Effect' by Travis Scott losing its gains to 95, 'Woke Up Like This' by Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert down to 94, 'To The Max' by DJ Khaled and Drake just flatlining at 78, 'Swish Swish' by Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj losing all of its pickups to 84, it was a rough week for a lot of people. Now it's not all good news: gains for 'Love Galore' by SZA and Travis Scott fell to 81 off the debut, as did 'Do I Make You Wanna' by Billy Currington to 93, and I'd be remiss to say I'm not concerned that 'Sign Of The Times ' by Harry Styles took a big loss down to 42 - I'm not worried it's going to miss any year-end lists, it's got several more weeks to accrue points, but still, not a great sign. And to round things out, 'If I Told You' by Darius Rucker down to 76, where I think my surprise comes that this song picked up as much as it did altogether.

Where things get a little more exasperating for me comes in the returning entries and gains, especially for the former category where 'My Old Man' by Zac Brown Band made another return to 86... and I have to ask, was this song coming back worth Lorde not, seriously? All our gains were pretty straightforward in that regard, in particular for 2 Chainz, who had all three of his singles gain traction: '4 AM' with Travis Scott up to 55, 'Good Drank' with Gucci Mane and Quavo recovering yet again to 70, and 'It's A Vibe' with Ty Dolla $ign, Trey Songz, and Jhene Aiko - otherwise known as the best one - up to 58. The last two... eh, 'Reminder' by The Weeknd is slowly picking up to 87 off its return, and 'Strip That Down' by Liam Payne and Quavo is apparently becoming a thing up to 34 - believe me, even though I like this song, I'm still a little amazed it's actually doing well.

So now we have our new arrivals... wait, we only have six this week? Screw it, World Hit, I'm talking about a Lorde song that I actually really like, let's go!


So here's the thing, I think Lorde could have gotten this song to chart with the right video at the right time, and as soon as we get that music video I expect to see this on the Hot 100 - granted, we could also get screwed out of a great song, so I'm going to talk about it here anyway. And look, this is not better than 'Green Light' or 'Liability' or 'Hard Feelings/Loveless' or 'The Louvre', but as an album closer and a single in its own right its a damn great song - mostly because it embraces the technicolor gleam of a modern pop track while still maintaining a melody as the thickened synths, steady cracks, guitar flutters, and huge swell of backing vocals swirls around her. But for as much as it is a pop song, it's really the capstone and perfect coda of the record, where the fear of loneliness and the aching pain of losing musical heroes last year drags her out for another night to find some vestige of connection in a perfect places... all the while realizing such perfection is never there, and being okay with not getting it. And you know, there's a part that thinks a certain thin white duke is looking down at this song with understanding - hell, he gets it, why can't you? Yeah, this song is absolutely excellent, it deserves to chart and with all of our luck, it probably will, but in the mean time, let's move on to our significantly less impressive list of new arrivals, starting with...


100. 'Real Hitta' by Plies ft. Kodak Black - of all of the new arrivals, this one is probably the most exasperating, especially when placed in the context of what was replaced instead. Seriously, who the hell has thought about Plies at all in years, so for those of you who have no idea who this guy is, a brief introduction: he came out in the mid-to-late 2000s with a couple records, none of which are any good on the fact of all being too long, dependent on guest stars, and really kind of stupid. Now he's been churning out mixtapes for the past seven years since everyone thought his career ended around 2010-11, but it turns out he's planning to drop an album in September of this year where this song may or may not show up, and since apparently Kodak Black is still relevant for some reason, we have this... and really, without Kodak Black, this would not have gotten big whatsoever. I'm not saying his hook is good - like his verse, it feels lacking in detail and lazy in structuring his flow, but when you have a beat that doesn't really evolve or do much of anything with its drab toneless synth and sparse trap beat, it's not all that interesting. At least Plies has a certain braying charisma and a few tolerable lines in his last verse, but that first verse... 'all that ass got there back start to look like a pamper'? Bragging that you saved this girl's number under 'Febreeze' on your phone because her butt doesn't smell? I know you're talking about money when you describe this girl not being with someone with this much 'cheese', but on some level, the fact that we got a song from Plies in 2017 with bars like that along with a Santa reference... that's pretty damn cheesy to me. Pass!


89. 'Feel It Still' by Portugal. The Man - okay, full confession: I've never really heard anything from Portugal. The Man before. I know they've been putting out records since the mid-2000s and have some low-charting crossover on the rock charts, but this is the first single that I've ever heard connect with the mainstream Hot 100, and... well, there's a part of me that's not entirely surprised that this song needed an iPad and vitamin water commercial to crossover, because any sort of track with this sort of old school bluesy swagger feels decidedly out of place in the mainstream. But yeah, for the most part I like this - there's some groove in the bassline with the squonk of the horns and I like how it interpolates some of the melody of 'Please Mr. Postman' but twists it in a slightly darker direction, and in terms of framing the lyrics as emphasizing a coming revolution... honestly, that feels a little phoned in, but it's not bad. If I were to have any gripe with it it's that it doesn't really have much of an edge or bite, and frontman John Baldwin Gourley isn't helping things - the very thin, frail falsetto just doesn't have the intensity to really match the groove of this track, and it leads to something that should have been a lot better. Overall though... eh, pretty good, I'll take it.


83. 'Relationship' by Young Thug ft. Future - so apparently Young Thug's most recent record is called Easy Breezy Beautiful Thugger Girls, and it's primarily driven by tones you'd usually find in acoustic pop, which has a bunch of people who don't know what country is calling it his 'country' record. And of course we get his crossover with Future landing on the charts and... wow, I can't be the only one who thinks this feels phoned in, right? For one, if you're pairing Future and Young Thug trading sung lines, it shouldn't be possible for either of them to sound as bad as they do here - Future is obviously worse, but the glaze of autotune over both of them doesn't exactly flatter Young Thug either! And when you pair it with piano, a chintzy little chiptune synth and your standards trap beat, and neither artist bringing bars or flows that are all that interesting - outside of that 'pop an X pill like we Malcolm', which is awful in every way, shape and form - it's two artists that are capable of better seemingly not trying to outshine the other, which leads to a really lousy song. Next!


61. 'First Day Out' by Kodak Black - okay, we already have a song on the Hot 100 called 'First Day Out', and while I was not a big fan of Tee Grizzley, I would sure as hell prefer he have more hits than goddamn Kodak Black. And while I'm not going to say everything he's ever made is absolutely terrible, this is pretty inexcusable. On the one hand, it's more mindless bragging overloaded with brand names and rhymes that barely connect and all the ways he's going to violate his parole again now that he's out - because that's intelligent - but what I find more than a little gross about this song is the framing. After all, Kodak is triumphant, he's out of jail, he's gone through hard times and dark times in order to see the light... and then you remember one of the charges that he still has to face beyond his parole that he repeatedly violates is sexual assault. And considering he's shown pretty much no remorse for anything, and the entire song is pretty much glorification of him along with implications he's just going to commit more crimes... yeah, I have no use for this garbage and anybody enabling it, fuck this trash.


51. 'Feels' by Calvin Harris ft. Pharrell, Katy Perry & Big Sean - of all of Calvin Harris' collaborations, this one... I'm not going to say it surprises me, but it is a little amusing that Katy Perry is relying on him for any sort of hits or relevance considering how badly Witness has flopped. And honestly, I think I enjoy this more than anything else that Katy Perry has done this year, mostly because it's dropping into bright, colourful, early 80s funk with that thinned out guitar line off the thicker bass and Pharrell trying to get his best Bruno Mars impression on. And I'm not going to deny that Calvin Harris has a good handle on the funk, especially when the beat switches up to slightly thicker tones on Big Sean's verse. And I'll say it, I've seen some music critics make comparisons between Big Sean and Ludacris, and while he's nowhere close in terms of tight wordplay and charisma, this is probably the closest Big Sean has gotten in some time - he sounds better ripping off Luda than he does ripping off Drake. And while his bars have the same goofiness that can definitely get corny - that stupid parakeet/Airbnb couplet is all kinds of dumb - I think the larger problem is Katy Perry herself, as she sounds utterly tuned out here - there's more groove and spark on this song than all of your last album, how are you not enjoying this? Well, besides that, I actually really like this, wouldn't mind seeing it become a hit.


4. 'Wild Thoughts' by DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller - well, I think congratulations are in order for DJ Khaled, likely giving Bryson Tiller the biggest hit of his career, but really, the reason 'Wild Thoughts' charted as highly as it did was because Khaled seems to have figured out a simultaneously release drop that'll get a song to chart and not neglect the video, and when you couple it with the album that just dropped, he's got timing on his side. All of this neglects the question of whether this is any good, and... yeah, of the songs he's released thus far from Grateful, this is by far his best. And again, it's hard for me to give DJ Khaled much credit - Rihanna is on her game and for a song where she's supposedly white girl wasted, she still sounds sexy as hell. And points to Bryson Tiller - yeah, the Adam Sandler movie reference was a little out of left field, but if he's going to fill in for Chris Brown in having workable interplay and charisma with Rihanna, I'll take that, his verse is solid. But let's get real: the reason this song works is the Santana sample of 'Maria Maria', which is one of the most aggravatingly catchy guitar riffs to have come out in the last twenty years. And I'm not going to lie, I'm not a fan of how obvious the sample is - 'Maria Maria' was a #1 for ten weeks in 2000, and when you have a song that immediately recognizable, it can seem lazy to sample it so blatantly - that said, Khaled and his producers did shift the tone a little, punch up the bass groove, give the entire mix a little more depth; as much as this can seem a copypaste, Santana did sign off on it and praise how it was preserving the vibe. And yeah, as much as this seems mercenary to cherry pick from the last time we had a Latin pop boom, Khaled at least brought on costars who knew what they were doing and overall created a pretty damn good song.

In fact... for me at least, it's the best song of this week, a pretty terrific pop song overall, and considering how hard I've come down on all of these artists in the past, that is saying something. As for the worst... yeah, 'First Day Out' by Kodak Black, and I shouldn't have to explain myself. We're now heading into the summer, and DJ Khaled's probably going to have a big week coming up, especially given how well he's positioned himself... well, we'll see.

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