Tuesday, January 23, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 27, 2018

It feels weird when, for once, my predictions are actually mostly right on the money. Granted, they were pretty obvious predictions in who was going to #1 or was going to fall out of the top 10 or even some gains and loses - and if I were to say this week that both Drake songs are going to chart next week, that's not going to blow any minds - but still, it's an odd feeling, especially when there are songs coming up that look pretty damn promising!


But first off, the big news in our top 10: thanks to that album bump, 'Havana' by Camila Cabello & Young Thug went to #1, the first for both of these artists. And I'll repeat what I said in my review of the debut album: this is arguably one of the best songs off of it and a good song to boot, I'm fine with it being at #1. What's interesting is how it got there, because it really was a margin's game - not quite there on airplay or the radio, it inched over the top on streaming, specifically YouTube. Now this'll start to fade and I'd put money on 'Perfect' by Ed Sheeran retaking the top spot thanks to sales and airplay dominance - for now, it's at #2 - but I'm starting to see cracks in its strengths, it's more vulnerable than it might appear. Now what threw me a little off-guard was 'rockstar' by Post Malone and 21 Savage getting a hint of a comeback up to #3, regaining on-demand streaming despite losses on the radio... but let's get real, even though 'Finesse' by Bruno Mars and Cardi B fell to #4, it's going to rebound hard - it may have slipped a bit across the board, but that radio surge is not slowing down, it's going to be big for a while. I will not say the same thing about 'Bad At Love' by Halsey at #5 - it's only as high as it is thanks to the radio, and it peaked there this week. Hell, the only reason it went above 'Thunder' by Imagine Dragons at #6 - steadily dropping in all categories - is because 'No Limit' by G-Eazy ft. A$AP Rocky and Cardi B dropped harder with less to work with, especially in sales. This takes us to a top 10 entry that's been long in coming and one I'm actually pretty pleased to see: 'New Rules' by Dua Lipa at #8. And really, as much as I like the song, it's only here because of the radio - its sales and streaming peaks have long passed, and it pretty much got here because 'Too Good At Goodbyes' by Sam Smith is floundering at #9, as it peaked HARD on the radio too. Finally, still clinging to the very bottom, we have 'Motorsport' by Migos, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B... basically at #10 because its streaming is solid while everyone else is bleeding.

And on that topic, losers and dropouts, and in the latter category we've got big ones: 'I Could Use A Love Song' by Maren Morris, 'That's What I Like' by Bruno Mars, and the true big one: 'Despacito' by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee! But really, they all had respectable runs, you could have seen this coming - something I'd also say for our losers here too. As I predicted, 'Filthy' by Justin Timberlake did not last in the top 10 as it fell hard to 29, and underwhelming audiences 'All The Stars' by Kendrick Lamar and SZA fell to 53. Then we had the continued losses for 'I'll Name The Dogs' by Blake Shelton to 82 and '...Ready For It?' by Taylor Swift down to 96, and now that the sales discount is gone, 'Tell Me You Love Me' by Demi Lovato fell hard to 72 - good riddance.

And really, most of our gains make sense in this mold too, especially as we have no returning entries. Of course 'End Game' by Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Future is up to 18 off of the video and some sales traction, and 'Never Be The Same' by Camila Cabello got its big boost to 30 - which in the big prediction i got wrong, there was no real album bomb for her, this was the only significant pickup. Then we have the success for Lil Skies and Landon Cube, with 'Nowadays' picking up to 55 and 'Red Roses' up to 69... and really, considering how melodic they are, even if the content is empty they'll catch some real momentum, especially on streaming. And following its gains from last week in the build-up for Culture II, 'Stir Fry' by Migos is up to 60 - encouraging, I want to see this do well. The only real surprises for me are 'Written In The Sand' by Old Dominion up to 59 - I guess it's got enough radio traction to do well here - and 'Lemon' by N*E*R*D and Rihanna up to 40, which has quietly built a bit of a radio following for itself as well.. interesting, I'd be curious to see if it can push it any higher when older songs above it fade.

But now onto our list of new arrivals... and it's a diverse and pretty weird set this week, starting with...



98. 'El Bano' by Enrique Iglesias ft. Bad Bunny - it always throws me a little that Enrique Iglesias has been making music for well over two decades at this point, especially at this point of his career where he's hopping on reggaeton production that everyone will forget in a day if not less. And if that gives you a hint to how little I care about a song like 'El Bano'... well, mission accomplished, because between the fizzy bass tap of the beat, a keyboard line and barebones acoustic strumming providing only the faintest trace of real instrumentation, this is the sort of sound I feel I've heard dozens of times before and certainly not all that flattering to Enrique Iglesias. And it does feel like he's on autopilot here, a hookup jam where the opening lines of the hook have him wanting to screw this girl in the bathroom with an attitude of 'well, if it happens it happens'. And as expected, Bad Bunny contributes nothing - let's move on!



93. 'IDGAF' by Dua Lipa - okay look, I'm happy that Dua Lipa is finally catching on with American audiences, and while this is no 'Be The One' or 'Lost In Your Light' or 'Homesick', this is a damn solid follow-up to 'New Rules', and arguably even better. But let's also get real: this is a modern P!nk breakup song with its sparse electric guitar and huge percussion that lets Dua Lipa use her imperious presence to maximum advantage - granted, the thicker bass swell and piano is what knocks this into quality territory for me. And it helps that Dua Lipa tilts into sheer blunt aggression - not so much an easy dismissal that you lose the drama but decisive, leveraging her edge. In other words... yeah, I liked this several months ago, still like it now, check it out.



91. 'King's Dead' by Jay Rock ft. Kendrick Lamar, Future & James Blake - this is the first time Jay Rock has ever charted on the Hot 100 - oh, he was close with 'Money Trees' with Kendrick off good kid, m.A.A.d city, but this is one where he got there as the headliner... and yeah, it certainly helped he had Kendrick, Future, and James Blake for backup, but for a hard-edged gangsta rapper who most of us would never expect get mainstream traction even despite having the sound quality to get there, this was exciting... and yet I can't say I'm exactly happy with what we got here. For one, the number of repeated bars from everyone doesn't exactly reflect well, especially with Jay Rock delivering a flow that's more reminiscent of a hyper-competent 2 Chainz than his more expressive growl against the bassy trap skitter - yeah, the rhymes connect and the flow is good, but I kind of expected more from him. And with Future cribbing from Juicy J to plug the bridge - and sounding awful to boot - and with James Blake as a glorified cameo, the real reason to check this out would be Kendrick's hook and verse, especially after the beat switch which switches into an even thicker buzzy rumble with a shade more melody. But the frustrating thing is that since this is another song off of the Black Panther soundtrack, the content isn't allowed to become more than sheer braggadocious flexing, and with the exception of Future, they can all do better. Man, really wish I liked this more...



84. 'Tequila' by Dan + Shay - ...you know, I guess it has been that long since there's been a new Dan + Shay record - and really, this duo has a better track record when it comes for singles than you'd expect for this brand of pop country, but facing a fair bit more competition both in their genres and as a country duo, can they still stand out? Well, yeah, somewhat - I'm not thrilled whatsoever they decided to plug a blocky drum machine instead of just sticking with real drums against the more elegant blur of piano, cello, and acoustic guitar that has more flavor, and that's before you get the very breathy vocal arrangement. But I do like the content, taking the earnest sincerity that's always characterized the duo and letting them get wistful about an old flame - nothing all that complex, but it's the added fine detail in the story that makes it stand out in comparison with a lot of pop country in this vein. So yeah, not exactly great, but pretty good all the same.



80. 'My My My!' by Troye Sivan - I'm not going to mince words, I've been waiting for Troye Sivan to cut loose. Sure, his production is probably never going to get that colourful or interesting, but his writing has gotten sharper and I could tell that if he was willing to push some explosive energy, he could be pretty compelling as a pop artist. And hell, that was even the topic of 'My My My!', a song about liberation in the hookup and cutting loose... and no, he doesn't quite get there, but he's at least on the right track with this with the bigger overdubs on the hook as more warping, electronic layers pile in - nothing that feels seriously meaty against that very thin, punchy beat and pitch-shifted vocal samples around him, but there's at least a little more swell here to match the tightness. I guess as a whole it's a little too frail to really connect - something I've commented about a lot of Troye Sivan's work as a whole, but with more groove, he's starting to get more interesting, and I'd be curious where that next record goes.



71. 'Outside Today' by YoungBoy Never Broke Again - okay, seriously, what the hell is the appeal of this dude? He keeps releasing singles and they keep charting and I've yet to hear anything rising above mediocre. And outside of a moderately catchy hook melody against the desaturated keys and piano and underweight trap hi-hats, this doesn't go much further, half talking about everything he's bought - including a baby tiger, who was seized earlier this month after being off his property with signs of neglect - and half a paranoid rant talking about everyone he's going to kill when he does his next drive by - which feels odd to mention where your most memorable line is how you're not going outside, but whatever. And seriously, I mean that, 'whatever' - this song is barely more than two minutes, the second verse is half the length of the first, the syllable counts line to line are increasingly sloppy, and any original content beyond the flexing does not make YoungBoy Never Broke Again remotely interesting or likable. So yeah, skip it.



64. 'KEKE' by 6ix9ine ft. Fetty Wap & A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie - am I the only one who has the feeling that 6ix9ine's hype is already starting to sputter out? Despite 'Gummo's success, he's struggled to push his follow-up singles and I'm not sure how getting Fetty Wap or A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie was bound to help him, especially when neither make content that really fits his lane. Granted, they're both more interesting MCs than 6ix9ine, who shouts through a hook that Fetty Wap actually gives some melody when he takes it, but after that and his verse Boogie never brings it back, which gives us another painfully underwritten track that feels half-finished! Granted, when you're dealing with MCs as one-dimensional as 6ix9ine and Fetty Wap are, you kind of expect it, but at least Fetty Wap used to be likable and this fast-paced synth, bass, and sharp trap beat isn't a bad fit... but this sort of hard-bitten content is just not him and watching him sing-rap through the sloppy rhyming on the hook just made me feel sad - come on, dude, you're better than this. And while he does switch up his flow midway through the verse, it's not like Boogie can save this either. So yeah, as much as I might dig this production, nobody here is doing enough with it, and as much as I don't mind seeing A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie or Fetty Wap get another shot on the charts, I just want to see 6ix9ine go away.



47. 'The Champion' by Carrie Underwood ft. Ludacris - I think I know what a bunch of you are going to say, but you can relax: even though it's Carrie Underwood, I'm not really treating this as a pop country song - it's not being promoted to country radio, it's just a track that's here for the Super Bowl for a crossover that'll win over big audiences. And apparently it's working, the iTunes run this song has had is kind of amazing, but how is the song itself? Honestly, not stellar - the vocal pickup for Carrie is pretty thin and only seems to emphasize her nasal midrange against the grinding rock guitar and occasional howling squeal - and since this is modern pop, none of it is allowed to gain any real swell or firepower against the popping trap percussion, which is right at the very front... but without some real bass groove or muscle, it just doesn't carry much for me. And yeah, the content is empowerment cheese and watching Ludacris rattle through all eight letters of the word 'champion' is kind of ridiculous, but it's more damn ambition and consistent thematic focus than anything anyone else brought this week, plus he's a force of personality with real charisma! Look, I can't in good conscience say this is a great or even all that good track, but if this is the faint reminder that Ludacris can still spit and really deserves more attention, I'll take what we can get.

So yeah, this week was all over the place... but I really can't say the low-points outweighed the good songs, with 'IDGAF' by Dua Lipa taking best of the week and 'Tequila' by Dan + Shay snagging Honourable Mention. As for the worst... this is going to 'Outside Today' by Youngboy Never Broke Again, because at least when 'KEKE' by 6ix9ine, Fetty Wap, and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie is slapdash, badly constructed and disappointing there's decent production behind it, something 'Outside Today' does not have. Next up... I don't expect Fall Out Boy to have enough to crossover, so it's really anybody's game if and when Camila Cabello falls off, so stay tuned for that.

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