Tuesday, December 19, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 30, 2017

So as I've been predicting, the charts are heading into the lull around the holiday season - and I mean that more than most, because I don't think I've seen the Hot 100 this static in months, with only a pretty sparse crop of new arrivals to bring any real disruption. Hopefully that means I can keep this episode short and get to work on my last few reviews before year-end lists, but hey, you never know, right?

Whatever, the top ten, where for another week we have 'Perfect' by Ed Sheeran and Beyonce at #1... and really, that should be no surprise, with Sheeran debuting yet another video for it on YouTube and it already being a sales and radio darling. I do have to wonder whether it might suffer from overexposure - being boring and saccharine might work for the holiday season, but will it last after that? It certainly is holding over 'rockstar' by Post Malone ft. 21 Savage at #2, as despite ruling streaming it seemed to hit a peak on the radio and still remains only second best on sales. Compare this to 'Havana' by Camila Cabello and Young Thug at #3 - yeah, not quite as strong on streaming, but YouTube is better, sales are up, and it is consistently ruling the radio even as Ed Sheeran is racing to catch up. Now all of this thankfully places 'Gucci Gang' by Lil Pump at a disadvantage at #4 - yes, its YouTube will never die and it had a good sales week, but with no significant radio, it's not getting higher. Then we have 'Thunder' by Imagine Dragons at #5, which despite strong sales is mercifully is taking hits on the radio - I can see this fading in the face of competition... which just might happen with our first new top ten entry at #6: 'MotorSport' by Migos, Nicki Minaj & Cardi B. Now I'm confident in saying this is only about half of a good song and the sales aren't what they need to be yet, but thanks to the video, climbing streaming and some slow radio gains, this might have a bit of staying power, especially if the video doesn't fade. It put it above 'Too Good At Goodbyes' by Sam Smith down to #7, but I might have expected the dip this week anyway, because even as radio somewhat stabilized, its streaming and sales are not putting it over. It is holding up over 'Bad At Love' by Halsey at #8 which is surging on the radio... but not quite enough to hold over weak streaming and a sales decline this week. And then we have our second new entry to the top ten and one that I never expected would get this high: 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' by Mariah Carey, at #9. Now here's a bit of history: for songs to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1994 when this was first released, they had to be released commercially as a single, and thus this never charted until after that rule lapsed years later. And yet even still it would have a hard time getting higher thanks to the recurrent rule on sales... which Billboard removed in 2012, which has allowed this song to chart higher and higher every year. And as such, thanks to sales, streaming and YouTube, it's back, overtaking 'No Limit' by G-Eazy ft. A$AP Rocky & Cardi B down to #10. Now this'll rebound next week - between the album dropping and the video, it's fine - but it did stagger a little in sales and the radio, which is a bit worrisome.

And on that note, losers and dropouts - and wow, not a lot here! Again, it seems like we're clearing away the junk of 2017, with dropouts for 'Love So Soft' by Kelly Clarkson, 'The Race' by Tay-K, and 'Congratulations' by Post Malone ft. Quavo... and really, it seems similar for our losers. 'Jocelyn Flores' by XXXTENTACION finally takes a hit down to 98, 'Tell Me You Love Me' by Demi Lovato stumbles after the video down to 81, and in the biggest surprise for me, 'End Game' by Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran and Future fell to 49. I mean, it's not a good song, but you'd think all that starpower would have pushed this higher.

Granted, when you look at our gains, I think I'd rather take Taylor Swift over convicted sex offender 6ix9ine taking 'KOODA' up to 50 off its debut last week, which is sharing awkward space with 'It's The Most Wonderful Time' by Andy Williams up to 35. But that's all the gains we have - we actually have more returning entries with 'Legends' by Kelsea Ballerini making a welcome return, along with 'No Smoke' by YoungBoy Never Broke Again - a song I'll never remember minutes after hearing it - and 'Last Christmas' by Wham! back at 44 - I was wondering when this would come back, nice to hear it. What caught more of my interest was the return for 'Pull Up N Wreck' by Big Sean, Metro Boomin and 21 Savage at 80 - not because the song is good, but because I was genuinely surprised anything from Double Or Nothing would chart, and this week proved me wrong in multiple ways.

But before we get into that, let's start with the rest of our new arrivals, beginning with...

86. 'Untouchable' by Eminem - look, I'm not sure how many of the new Eminem songs are going to cross over to the Hot 100 - this one has blown up on YouTube, which is likely why it landed where it is, and after the review I just gave Revival it feels almost like kicking a guy when he's down, especially when this is arguably the most political he gets on the record. But man alive, this is a hard song to like, six minutes of surface level race politics with a badly integrated Cheech & Chong sample that's playing for Prophet of Rage-quality rap rock, and while this might play as mind-blowing to an audience that doesn't engage with more hip-hop, for those of us who do it can feel shockingly trite. Yes, hiring more black cops would probably help, but police solidarity and ignoring the actions of bad cops is a thornier issue and just sending the black cops into black neighborhoods doesn't seem like the right approach when community outreach and dealing with systemic poverty is a more appropriate response. And yeah, Eminem kind of gets there, and I appreciate how he takes time to castigate self-serving Republican individualism with a really apt Captain America reference and targeting blind patriotism over dealing with real problems. But here's my issue: if you note how Eminem uses 'we' after the beat switch, he's speaking from the perspective of black America - so why the hell did he not just bring on a rapper of color to actually deliver this? Again, it's indicative of the issue on this album where Em wants to make a political statement, but is trying to become the standard bearer of this issue, which really doesn't help elevate the voices that should be heard. And when you combine it with the choppy flows and six minute runtime... yeah, it's passable, but only barely.

82. 'Danger' by Migos & Marshmello - you know, I've been on the fence with Marshmello thus far with his crossover singles - I think he has good melodic instincts as a producer, but it's hard not to feel like his drops are a little one-dimensional, typically flattened bassy synths playing off a few notes. So can he do more opposite Migos for a song that's featured on the Bright soundtrack? Honestly, it's pretty decent - minus the expected drop, Marshmello takes his oily synths and trap skitters and pairs it with a bombastic, synth-horn driven chorus with big drums that is a pretty solid fit for Offset and Takeoff delivering more focused bars that actually seem to capture the hard-bitten criminal and enforcer elements that fill the movie - even though that bipolar line from Offset was really in poor taste. If I were to pinpoint a weakness here, it's probably Quavo on the hook - the tempo slows, his flow is more abortive, and I'm not sure he has the intensity to match the production as well as he thinks he does. But still, for a Migos song it certainly stands out as different and not as one-dimensional, so I can respect that.

77. 'My Dawg' by Lil Baby - another week, another trap rapper with a career mostly dependent on Autotune... but frankly, I'm actually a little bit surprised that we haven't seen a Lil Baby song on the charts before now. A friend of Young Thug who only started rapping this year right after he got out of jail, he's been churning out mixtapes and racking up some big cosigns. And with this song... look, he sounds like a more subdued and less interesting Young Thug, with content that doesn't rise above the generic flexing and talking about putting girls in a 'full nelson' as they try to rip off his pants. And when you factor in how many rhymes he flubs with impunity, I fail to see why on earth I should give a damn about this beyond some decent rattling tones and pianos behind the trap rumble. And thus, in the end, like so many of these songs, I'm going to forget this exists in a week - let's move on.

72. 'Dark Knight Dummo' by Trippie Redd ft. Travis Scott - so when I saw the title of this song, I thought this might be a diss track - I know that Trippie Redd has had beef with 6ix9ine, and while I wasn't really crazy about Trippie Redd on the song he did with XXXTENTACION, the fact he got a Travis Scott cosign was encouraging for his first solo crossover, right? Wrong, because my god, this is a mess of a track. Let's deal with the production first: I might not mind the buzzed out bass, but when you tack on a sandy trap skitter and a gleaming melody that feels clumsily shoved in that's somehow louder than Redd's vocals, you've got a big problem, especially when it doesn't drown out Travis Scott! Granted, if there was a song that showcases how Redd might not be ready for primetime, it's this - not only are his nasal howls barely salvageable even with autotune, especially with how his backing vocals are dumped in, his flow is so slapdash and clumsy that the rhymes barely hold up outside the sloppy mixing - and really, it's not like his content is remotely interesting either. And given that most of the melody is interpolated from his song with XXXTENTACION and Travis Scott really isn't bringing top-shelf material here either... yeah, I can't endorse this, it's a mess.

67. 'Go Legend' by Big Sean & Metro Boomin ft. Travis Scott - I'm not sure what I was expecting with this, because when Double Or Nothing dropped the biggest criticisms weren't for Metro Boomin, but Big Sean dropping some of his corniest bars yet - and I'm sitting back here with a bemused, completely unsurprised expression - glad you're all catching on this, it's been a few years. And 'Go Legend' had its work cut out for it, given that its melodic sample is from a pretty recognizable Diana Ross sample - even if you tack on slightly darker synths and a trap beat, it's hard to make that not sound kind of schmaltzy! And to add to all of that, you've got Travis Scott delivering one of his most monotonous and repetitive hooks yet and Big Sean rapping about being friends with John Legend - shame you've picked up none of his class as a few bars later you talk about 'socking a girl out her socks' - as he does for his dogs now he's 'husky', as he gets high watching Rick & Morty. Okay, the last line might be the most realistic thing Big Sean has ever rapped about, but at the same time, by the Nine Hells Big Sean is nowhere near as imposing as he thinks he is! Not exactly saying this is bad - the fact that Metro Boomin managed to make this sample palatable at all is a testament to his skill - but no way in hell I can take this seriously.

61. 'Never Be The Same' by Camila Cabello - so look, for as much as I was not a fan of Camila Cabello in Fifth Harmony, she's been doing a lot to redeem herself going solo - I didn't mind 'Crying In The Club', and while 'OMG' didn't really work, 'Havana' is one of those songs I predicted was a bonafide hit the second I heard it, and it's good enough to deserve it. So could she follow it up on her own? Honestly, I'm not convinced, and sadly it's primarily driven off of Camila as a singer - I'm sorry, but whenever she goes up into those breathy high notes where she falls flat more often than she should, it can't help but highlight how limited she is as a singer. It doesn't help that the percussion-heavy mix barely has any consistent melody to back her up, or that the lyrics feel pretty damn thin in describing how this relationship has utterly consumed her attention, but really, of the songs she's released thus far in preparation for the debut that have charted, this is probably the least interesting.

So yeah, the quality took a step down after last week, but it's less that anything here is outright bad and more just a lot of mediocrity. The best of the week is going to Migos and Marshmello with 'Danger' - not a lot to it but it had the most elements that worked - with the worst... I'm tempted to give it to Trippie Redd, but that ridiculous sample and some of the asinine bars knocks 'Go Legend' by Big Sean, Metro Boomin and Travis Scott down for me as the worst - at least the foundation of 'Dark Knight Dummo' was salvageable, even as the song was effectively saved by Travis Scott. Whatever, next week is probably one with a lot of mediocre Eminem and G-Eazy unless the holiday season deflates it all, so we'll see.

1 comment:

  1. hmmm
    very interesting, i see.

    As a fan of Camila, I can say that her songs that haven't charted tend to be better - with the exception of "Crown", which is from Bright, and the only song that has her as a solo act that I can't stand (yes, I like Bad Things). "I Have Questions" & "Real Friends" are her two best tracks, so I'd recommend listening to those.