Tuesday, December 12, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 23, 2017

This is one of those weeks where I'm not really sure how to evaluate things, where I had a big prediction that came true faster than I could have predicted, and the rest that... didn't, because this turned out to be a slightly busier week than I predicted, partially triggered by the mass return of Christmas music - most of which I've already talked about in detail a while ago, so hopefully this'll be pretty short?

Well, we'll see - in the mean time, the big story this week is our new #1: as predicted with a remix from Beyonce, Ed Sheeran has returned to the #1 with 'Perfect'. And look, I didn't care about 'Perfect' when I reviewed the album this year and am more exasperated that 'Galway Girl' never got the same push, but when I look at the sales numbers and huge airplay growth - supported by a lot more streaming than I'd expect, I'm not remotely surprised it went to #1... and really, I don't see what challenges it in the near future. Yeah, 'rockstar' by Post Malone ft. 21 Savage is still at #2 with huge streaming and considerable radio and sales of its own... but it was a little more unstable there, it might not have a chance to reclaim the top spot. And all of this leaves 'Havana' by Camila Cabello and Young Thug in an awkward position at #3 - great YouTube and it holds the top spot on the radio, but it got muscled back on sales and streaming, so when radio finally peaks it could be in trouble. Now does 'Gucci Gang' by Lil Pump face a similar problem at #4... well, tough to say. It's still huge on streaming and YouTube and it actually seems to have a bit of radio, but with no sales in sight, you can never tell. Now for 'Thunder' by Imagine Dragons holding at #5, the only reason it held its position with its sales losses is because 'Too Good at Goodbyes' by Sam Smith sputtered on the radio and took broader hits across the board to hold at #6. It could be next on the chopping block against 'No Limit' by G-Eazy, A$AP Rocky & Cardi B up to #7, which may have stumbled a bit in sales and streaming, but radio was somewhat consistent, and thankfully kept it above our new top ten entry: 'Bad At Love' by Halsey. Yes, a good year after 'Closer' she finally has a solo top ten hit thanks to the radio and sales... joy, I guess. It put her above 'Bodak Yellow' by Cardi B down to #9, which despite a sales improvement took hits on both streaming and especially the radio - and yet it was still enough to keep it above 'What Lovers Do' by Maroon 5 and SZA down to #10 thanks to hitting its peak on radio with sales losses - it's on its way out, folks.

And on that note, it was a pretty busy week in our losers and dropouts, with the latter category featuring some big 2017 hits taking their exit - 'Rake It Up' by Yo Gotti and Nicki Minaj, 'Praying' by Kesha, 'Strip That Down' by Liam Payne and Quavo, 'Slow Hands' by Niall Horan, 'Fix A Drink' by Chris Janson, and 'do re mi' by blackbear, which somehow managed to scrape enough points to make the year-end list in 2017... and somehow 'This Town' didn't, which is just goddamn tragic. Now we'll deal with that in due course, but in the mean time, you could probably chalk up most our losers falling back thanks to the influx of Christmas music and 2017 songs rotating out naturally, like 'Unforgettable' by French Montana and Swae Lee down to 34 or 'Unforgettable' by Thomas Rhett down to 69 or 'What About Us' by P!nk down to 51. And then you have the expected drop-off for 'MIC Drop' by BTS plummeting to 71 as the sales evaporate, along with the sudden hard cutoff for country radio on Garth Brooks for 'Ask Me How I Know', as it fell to 94. But the bigger story here is for Taylor Swift, as both '...Ready For It?' went to 43 and 'Look What You Made Me Do' fell hard to 72.

And yet, you can't quite count Taylor out yet, because when you look at our gains and returning entries, there's 'End Game' featuring Ed Sheeran and Future up to 39. And sure, it's nice that Miguel's 'Sky Walker' with Travis Scott got a bump off the album up to 35, and that Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' rode streaming up to #11 - she'll probably break the top 10 soon - what looks a lot more disconcerting are the gains for 'The Way Life Goes' from Lil Uzi Vert, Nicki Minaj & Oh Wonder to 29 thanks to streaming and YouTube, and on a similar path... 'Gummo' by 6ix9ine is up to 13. Now I've already delivered my screed against this convicted sex offender and I'll have more to say when I deal with his new song this week, but right now I'm taking solace in the fact that all he has is YouTube streaming, and that's a fickle category indeed. But let's move past that into happier territory: our returning entries! Yeah, I'm not really pleased 'Tell Me You Love Me' by Demi Lovato is back at 53 thanks to the video, but it's the holidays, and thus we're getting songs like 'Rocking Around The Christmas Tree' by Brenda Lee at 37', 'The Christmas Song' by Nat King Cole at 42, 'It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year' by Andy Williams at 45, and 'A Holly Jolly Christmas' by Burl Ives at 47. And yet while I really do like the last song there, the real welcome surprise comes with 'Broken Halos' by Chris Stapleton clawing back to 90 - I can't expect it'll last, but I'm happy it's here.

And now, our new arrivals, and an eclectic bunch we have here, starting with...

99. 'Criminal' by Natti Natasha & Ozuna - you know, these days it seems like for every interchangeable trap banger we get, we're also now getting a reggaeton crossover that somehow can ring as just as interchangeable. Now as much as I find Ozuna an underwhelming performer - he sounds like the Latin version of Lloyd - I will say that Natti Natasha is fine enough, mostly courtesy of slightly thicker multitracking and more charisma... although when you translate the song it can get mildly exasperating that she's confessing feelings even as Ozuna is noticing other similar girls that turn him on. But as a whole, when you factor in the overweight rubbery fizz of the beat against slightly more textured percussion and drowned out guitars, even if the hook is above average I can't see myself remembering much of this - sorry.

98. 'Five More Minutes' by Scotty McCreery - okay, I might be the only person who is in any way excited to see Scotty McCreery back on the Hot 100, and for that, you all need to know that the last time this American Idol winner was anything close to relevant was his 2013 album See You Tonight, which also so happened to have a deep cut that made my list of the best songs of the year. So yeah, maybe he just needed to sit out the bro-country boom and come back with a new track... and thankfully this is the sort of comeback song that clicks for me in a great way. McCreery has always been a great singer, and thus when you pair him with spacious organic production that takes the liquid blur of the guitars with more real drums and a ton of pedal steel, you get something sonically that could go toe-to-toe with any mainstream country. But it's the writing that steps up a notch here, where McCreery tries to capture the fleeting moments either fishing with a friend, taking a girl home, taking the ball down the field in his last ever football game, or as his grandfather passes away, to whom the song is dedicated. And I'm not sure if it's that moment or the fact that the right sports reference can hit a potent cathartic moment with me - I grew up an athlete, I get it - but this is a great song. Welcome back, Scotty McCreery, so glad to have you.

97. 'Marry Me' by Thomas Rhett - oh look, it's the best song that Thomas Rhett has ever written - seriously, I never thought I'd say that, but this song has a serious shot at making my favourite songs of 2017, not just hits. The great melodic contrast between the pianos and gentle acoustics compensates for percussion that's a tad too heavy, but for pop country what hits me is the content, the sort of bait-and-switch where Rhett sets it up like a wedding song... only that it's not him getting married. And then you've get a moment where you think he's going to make a big romantic play to get her... and he doesn't. Nope, he takes the strong shot of whiskey and stands at the back and tries to put the brave smile forward - and again, I've got a soft spot for an artist swallowing the bitter pill and showing real maturity, especially when it bucks against every expectation I would have made for him. So yeah, genuinely excellent song, easily one of the best tracks I've covered in the past few weeks on the Hot 100, let's make it a hit!

95. 'Bella y Sensual' by Romeo Santos ft. Nicky Jam & Daddy Yankee - okay, so we're getting two reggaeton songs this week, this one bringing in both Nicky Jam and Daddy Yankee for traction... and I'm sorry, what's different about this instrumental beyond swamping out the guitar for added synth elements and some trap-adjacent skitters? But what does kind of get amusing is the content of the song, where basically all three artists set themselves up to try and win the girl's affections, actively competing with each other - not quite the reggaeton version of 'Float On', but it does get just as funny, especially with how much they all compliment each other and how Daddy Yankee makes some out of nowhere references to Vladimir Putin! But at least on that note, it is marginally more interesting than your average reggaeton song, so while it's not great, it is passable.

93. 'Juice' by Yo Gotti - so one thing that continues to surprise me is Yo Gotti's low-key success throughout the past few years. Seriously, the guy's been in the game for a good fifteen years and only in the past two or three has he been charting serious hits... but what goes unnoticed is that he's typically with a bigger rapper like Nicki Minaj. So thus with 'Juice' I didn't have any real expectations this would take off... and after hearing it, I think I'm sticking with that impression. Standard trap hi-hats against a thicker rumble of bass, melodic suffocated behind all of it, and Yo Gotti's very low-key delivery mumbling through a hook and two verses about flexing. And look, he's a decent enough rapper, but for as short of a song as this is and the lack of any distinctive punchline or content - outside of rattling off letters that reminded me unsettlingly of 'Independent' by Webbie - it just doesn't leave much of an impression. Not bad, but not really all that good either.

61. 'Kooda' by 6ix9ine - seriously, we're giving this guy two singles on the Hot 100 right now? We have to give another edgelord convicted sex offender multiple slots on this list who nobody seems to be questioning why he's getting away with dropping the n-word every other bar? Once again, it seems like his appeal is that he can ride aggressive piano melodies and thicker trap production howling his lungs out to sound ominous and intimidating, but once you dig deeper than that he's a shockingly limited presence as a rapper, his second verse just repeating itself and his first verse talking about his 'dicky stiffy, bet she give some licky'... yeah. Look, the first subgenre of hip-hop I ever got into as a teenager was shock rap and horrorcore, and while I can appreciate intensity, if your lines are just goddamn goofy or lazy I stop taking it seriously - Eminem, this is not, and at least he was smart enough in hip-hop to not drop the n-word or he'd be seen by someone, especially in New York. Given how much controversy 6ix9ine is racking up, that's just a matter of time.

21. 'Him & I' by G-Eazy & Halsey - you know, I was actually more worried about this track than the 6ix9ine joint, because pairing two of the least interesting pop and hip-hop artists together didn't seem likely to make any sort of creative fire spark. And with this... look, I'm not seeing the appeal. Going back to other Bonnie & Clyde joints like when Jay-Z and Beyonce did it, as much as I'm not really a big fan of the song there was a sense of intensity or danger that both artists could bring to the table, none of which Halsey or G-Eazy have the presence or charisma to actually pull off, especially when all we get in terms of content is posturing, flexing, and assertions that the other is 'crazy' in a way that isn't remotely believable. And when you pair it with a drab fizzy beat and desaturated melody, it's hard not to feel like this is just G-Eazy's version of 'Bad Things' - just as mediocre, but in slightly different ways.

So yeah, I really can't say much about that, but as a whole I thought this week was above average. Worst is obvious with 'Kooda' by 6ix9ine and Dishonourable Mention for 'Him & I' by G-Eazy and Halsey, but I'm much more interested in our best of the week. Easily the more interesting picks are the best of the week, with 'Marry Me' by Thomas Rhett snagging the top spot but Scotty McCreery was close behind with 'Five More Minutes'. Overall, this is the first week of the new Billboard year where this some promise going forward, so we'll see what happens?

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