Wednesday, April 18, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 21, 2018

There are a lot of narratives that need to be considered going into this week, most of which I predicted and those that I didn't I'm not sure I wanted to entertain. Of course the biggest story is the Cardi B album bomb, but like last week the Hot 100 would have been plenty busy without her.


And for a change of pace, we're going to start with our top ten, where as I predicted last week, Drake replaced himself, with 'Nice For What' debuting at #1. Now I'll have a lot more to say about the song's actual quality much later on, but there's no denying its power, with monstrous streaming, YouTube, sales, and already significant radio momentum - it's way too early to tell whether this'll be as big as 'God's Plan', but it'll probably get at least a few weeks at the top. But let's not count out 'God's Plan' just yet either - it's at #2, sure, but its YouTube is actually more consistent, its streaming is still strong, and even though its radio is wavering, it still has enough to be a presence should 'Nice For What' fall back. All of this hamstrings 'Meant To Be' by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line at #3 - it has the radio traction that will not die, sure, but streaming is weak and sales are slipping too, none of which is a good sign. Then we have 'Psycho' by Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign back to #4, propped up by still rising airplay and consistent streaming, even as sales are starting to leak away - it might be what Post Malone needs to stay in the conversation even as it seems like nobody really cares Beerbongs And Bentleys is supposed to be dropping in ten days. What also held steady was 'Look Alive' by BlocBoy JB and Drake at #5, thanks entirely to streaming and surprisingly steady radio in the face of far weaker sales. Hell, kept it above 'The Middle' by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey at #6, but given how its radio growth has slowed and sales took a big hit, that might have happened anyway. Similar case for 'Perfect' by Ed Sheeran, which is really just getting propped up by residual sales and radio at #7. Now we have our second big top ten debut and one I think everyone was expecting: 'I Like It' by Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny and J Balvin at #8. Again, I'll have a lot more to say on this later in the show, but with the huge sales and streaming it has, it has the potential to be a tremendous hit provided it gets released to radio at the right time, so while it might not last in the top ten initially, I predict with the right marketing it'll definitely stick around. The last two songs are not worth much conversation: 'Freaky Friday' by Lil Dicky and Chris Brown is somehow still at #9 thanks to YouTube that will not die, and 'Finesse' by Bruno Mars and Cardi B fell to #10 as it bleeds hard across the board - particularly in radio, I'm genuinely surprised it clung to the top ten at all!

And on that note, losers and dropouts! And this is the sign of a true album bomb, because the losses were widespread and potentially disastrous for a lot of people. Now for the dropouts this isn't bad - most aren't worth mentioning as the biggest is 'Lemon' by N*E*R*D and Rihanna and the others are either songs sputtering out anyway, like 'Written In The Sand' by Old Dominion or 'Echame La Culpa' by Luis Fonsi and Demi Lovato, or songs too small to be worth caring much about. It's the losers where there was the greater swathe, in particular hitting The Weeknd's hits from last week, forcing 'Call Out My Name' to 20, 'Wasted Times' to 63, and 'Try Me' to 74, along with the other debut 'Medicine' from Queen Naija to 86. Then we had rising stars cut short, like 'Broken Clocks' by SZA stifled back to 97 and 'No Roots' by Alice Merton to 96 - concerning, as its radio doesn't really look all that solvent. Then we have the tracks that are going to make the year-end list anyway that I don't mind exiting, like 'Him & I' by G-Eazy and Halsey to 44, or 'Lights Down Low' by MAX and gnash to 45, or even 'Marry Me' by Thomas Rhett down to 55. Hell, country had a pretty rough week as a whole: 'Most People Are Good' by Luke Bryan down to 60, 'Tequila' by Dan + Shay to 77, 'Broken Halos' by Chris Stapleton to 82, 'Five More Minutes' by Scotty McCreery to 89, 'I Lived It' by Blake Shelton to 95, and 'All On Me' by Devin Dawson forced down hard to 93. And it was almost as bad for Latin music and reggaeton too: 'X' by Nicky Jam and J Balvin to 61, 'Dura' by Daddy Yankee to 70, and 'El Farsante' by Ozuna and Romeo Santos to 73. The rest of the losers are pretty scattered: 'Hardaway' by Derez De'Shon to 84, 'When We' by Tank back to 91, 'Red Roses' by Lil Skies and Landon Cube to 94, and 'Top Off' by DJ Khaled, Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Future down hard to 90, all the more proof that apparently Jay-Z and Beyonce working with DJ Khaled is a recipe for no tangible success.

And with all of that, the two gains we got this week - and no returning entries - makes this pretty short: 'Bartier Cardi' by Cardi B and 21 Savage of course rebounds to 32, and 'Japan' by Famous Dex continues steadily up to 29, entirely driven off of streaming. Shame the song isn't really memorable or special for me to care about it much, but again, these are not where the story is this week. And hell, you can make the argument the story isn't really in the opening slate of new arrivals, starting with...



100. 'Alone' by Halsey ft. Big Sean & Stefflon Don - so honest question: why is Halsey continuing to release singles from hopeless fountain kingdom, and if she's doing so, why is it this and not 'Strangers'? Well this time around she has both Big Sean and Stefflon Don for support on a remix, and... okay, look, I'd think the opulence that came through in the horns and backing keys could have actually worked better if you didn't anchor the low end of the hook in this flat buzzy synth and blocky percussion, leaning into the jazzier side - and hell, Big Sean has always had a taste for this brand of production and the back-and-forth with Halsey, while not particularly nuanced, could work pretty well. So I don't understand why Stefflon Don effectively mirrors Halsey's same brand of coldness on the third verse and is clearly not the person who was talking with Halsey on the first, which kind of pulls you out of the emotions of the song. I dunno, it's passable, but as someone who has never been impressed by what Halsey has released from this record, this isn't doing much to change my mind.



92. 'Chun-Li' by Nicki Minaj - look, I'm not saying that there's any beef going on between Cardi B and Nicki Minaj - odds are there probably isn't and this is an attempt to spark drama when there isn't any... but it does seem pretty damn suspicious that Nicki just so happened to choose to release two singles while Invasion of Privacy was blowing up. But fine, there's nothing wrong with competition, this could stack up well... and you know, it'd be easier to walk away from those rumors if you couldn't tell that this was very clearly directed at Cardi B, referencing her songs, how she wanted to be friends and how quickly she blew up. And yet I wish Nicki Minaj had dropped something more impressive here, because this is really just okay: sparse keys, squonking horns and rumbling beat that's more reminiscent of boom-bap than trap but really not all that impressive regardless, and a hook and verses full of video game references and brand name bragging with a lot of repeated rhymes. Hate to say it, but if this is Nicki asserting dominance, I'm not really buying it.



85. 'Get Along' by Kenny Chesney - another year, another Kenny Chesney record and single pushed to radio that'll be passable at best. And look, if you remember how scathing I was about Cosmic Hallelujah, you'd know I wasn't looking forward to this at all... but the truth is that this is pretty harmless. More organic than in its choice of banjo and acoustic guitar playing off a stable groove, pretty likable loose multi-tracking around the hook, and the content... yeah, it's doofy and formulaic in its list of things to do to get along, but I can't deny it's got its heart in the right place, and the production doesn't do anything to compromise Kenny Chesney's natural charisma. Nothing all that memorable, sure, but considering how badly produced and colorless Kenny Chesney's last album was, this is a step in the right direction.



83. 'Barbie Tingz' by Nicki Minaj - so we now have our second Nicki Minaj single, the one that seems to be getting the larger promotional rollout... and I guess I see why, but man, if Nicki Minaj wants me to get on her side, I'm just not impressed by this. The nasal synth drones, deeper bass and knocking beat could work if any of it contained any real tune or melody, and for as much as Nicki wants to assert her dominance, I have no idea why she's bothering to take more shots at Remy Ma on her first verse and implying so many female rappers are just copying her style to get her place in the industry. And while we'll get into Cardi B in a few songs, can we call out that Lil Wayne's 'perfectly designed crew' has underperformed outside of Drake and Nicki - hell, when was the last time Wayne was notching success on his own here? And for as much as Nicki wants to assert herself as dominant, her rhymes on both the second and third verses here are incredibly lazy, rhyming 'bitch' with itself over a dozen times and describing everyone copying her as just her barbies she's toying with. And yet just like 'Chun-Li', the more I hear this, the less I'm convinced Nicki's throne is as secure as she thinks.



65. 'A$AP Forever' by A$AP Rocky ft. Moby - so while A$AP Rocky did his thing on 'No Limit' and while I really had a lot of issues with his last record, I also won't deny he's a more creative MC in his lane and when he announced this team-up single with Moby of all people, I had some high hopes, especially considering Moby knows his way around a catchy as hell melody. Granted, the featuring credit for Moby here is for how gratuitously they sample 'Porcelain', but the glittering pianos and elegant strings are a natural fit for A$AP Rocky's style and taste... and my god, I wish he had more to actually say against it instead of flexing triplet flows, a single verse showing angst in the most by-the-numbers way possible, and the most repetition of the word 'gang' since Migos put out 'Gang Gang' earlier this year. Granted, this is a better song thanks to the production and a little more diversity in the content... but man, I was hoping this'd be better, or at least more interesting.



62. 'One Kiss' by Calvin Harris ft. Dua Lipa - so let's get this out of the way: no, I'm not especially happy Calvin Harris is pivoting away from the retro-disco stylings of his last record in favour of more synth-driven electronics, but I had at least the hope he'd pick up an interesting sound or style from that diversion and Dua Lipa is a really promising pop presence... and here's the thing: this is more interesting than the garish EDM he pushed in the early 2010s. It's more reminiscent of house music with the tight rubbery synth and beat, accented with elongated piano and vocal textures contorting around the main groove that does have a certain sleek presence to it, something Dua Lipa can certainly handle even if the content is pretty barebones. But I can't help but feel this is a much less interesting lane for Calvin Harris - not as groove-driven or fun, just as retro in its style of electronica but not really distinctive enough to vary from older, better house music. Not bad by any means, but not really all that special either.



59. 'Diamond Teeth Samurai' by YoungBoy Never Broke Again - I have no idea why anyone is continuing to give this guy attention. Yes, the piano-driven production is better with the sharper synth accents and trap snares and this is probably one of his better hooks, but am I the only one who finds his flow on the verses really uneven and clunky, or how his content is all about robbing people, killing people, and moving drugs just like all his material is? I will say there does seem to be a bit more focus and menace on this track and he's not relying on the most nasal parts of his voice, but still, I'm not really gripped by this, and the fact this'll probably turn out another near hit for him is frustrating.



58. 'Money Bag' by Cardi B - so since I've already reviewed Cardi B's debut at length, I'm going to try and keep these recaps pretty brief... and we're starting with a song that a lot of people seem to find really obnoxious, particularly in the production. And initially I was very much in that camp with that ragged synth line and clunky bass - hell, it would be very easy to call this a blatant attempt to follow in the wake of 'Bodak Yellow'. And yet... man alive this grew on me - the hook is incredibly catchy, the flow switches are well-handled, the rhymes all connect, and even if it's flexing, it falls into the 2 Chainz territory of being so ridiculously over-the-top that it becomes enjoyable again. Yeah, it's obnoxious, but it's the right kind of obnoxious, playing into sheer bewilderment how she blew up so fast and landing some punchlines against the jealous haters while she does it. And frankly, if you're going to make the comparison to Nicki Minaj... hell, I'd take 'Money Bag' any damn day of the week.



57. 'She Bad' by Cardi B ft. YG - okay look, I get that songs like this are just intended for the strip club with the incredibly repetitive, monotonous hook from YG totally phoning it in... but are we expected to just ignore that YG isn't trying here at all and this is a serious regression to a much more basic style from him? When you pair it with a very minimalist muted synth and trap hi-hat, it would be easy to dismiss... until Cardi B sets out to be as nakedly provocative as possible to seduce the priest, eat the guy's balls, and try and set up a threesome with Rihanna and Chrissey Teigen, which even when interspersed amidst the brand name porn is at least memorable. That being said, this is definitely a weaker cut from the record, only okay at best.



50. 'Thru Your Phone' by Cardi B - again, this is another case where Cardi B saves a song that should be a lot worse - I really tend to hate songs about going through a partner's phone, but Cardi B cranks up the naked melodrama into outright murderous territory that shows some dangerous creativity. It's just a shame her production and hook can't match that at all with that clunky lo-fi snap, very muted vocal sample for a melody bleeding into a pretty cheap trap beat, and Ali Tamposi doing her best Melanie Martinez impression on the hook for a similar brand of juxtaposition. But considering the production never amps up at all to match Cardi B's intensity, it just kind of falls flat - not bad, but not precisely good either.



43. 'Bickenhead' by Cardi B - okay, I dig the flipped Project Pat sample and that hook is catchy as sin for its flexing, and I'll admit that Cardi B might be just goofy enough to pull off the nursery rhyme reference, and if she wants a guy to invest everywhere she's popping the pussy in the third verse is sure to get intriguing... and this is where I'd normally add qualifiers, but the only one that really comes to play is how cupcakKe might be doing this better, and for what Cardi B is at least trying to do, I don't mind this - solid track.



39. 'Best Life' by Cardi B ft. Chance The Rapper - so now we get the other legitimately great track on Invasion Of Privacy, where Chance brings his slightly offkilter energy to the hook and a pretty terrific verse, but that's not to say Cardi B doesn't hold her own here... even if I can't say I'm all that impressed by her complaining about Twitter drama. Still, for an upbeat song about rising above haters and flexing, Cardi B and Chance both have the same reckless enthusiasm... which makes me wish the production gave them more to work with - very minimal backing melody or percussion, and I can't help but feel like a little more lush instrumentation could have hit so much better. Still pretty great, though.



38. 'Get Up 10' by Cardi B - the album opener, where Cardi B gets on her bombastic Meek Mill-esque delivery against gleaming pianos, sirens and airhorns, and sweeping synthesizers as she describes her come-up from poverty with the sort of detail that honestly made me with Cardi B would talk a little more about her past, especially as she sprays insults and punchlines against all the bitches trying to drag her down. And yeah, she's certainly more memorable in this lane and I like the build-up here, but if Cardi B is to show more of herself with the same vivid detail and imagination, I wouldn't complain. Otherwise, this is solid, I like it. 



28. 'Ring' by Cardi B ft. Kehlani - look, I get that Cardi B was obliged to make a song like this... but honestly, it does not remotely work for her at all. She's too forceful of a presence to play meek and insecure in this lane, especially when she's going to abandon it halfway through her verse and the calling conversation feels pointless when the guy is going to drunk-dial her anyway. Granted, the much bigger problem is the utterly flat trap production and a really grating hook from Kehlani, especially when she gets her own verse to end out the song and it's not flattering to anyone. So yeah, not a good song, even Cardi B can't really save it, I said it was the worst track on Invasion Of Privacy, and I stand by that.



23. 'I Do' by Cardi B ft. SZA - I'm back and forth about this tune, mostly because the atonal synths and dreary vibe in the production is not normally what I'd prefer to hear SZA opposite - and yet she held her own with that hook. Now Cardi B... again, I think her flows are a little rougher around the edges on the first verse, but again, her punchlines are legitimately solid in asserting how those fifteen minutes are long as hell amidst a convincingly braggadocious vibe. And I like how on her second verse she doesn't pretend to be ladylike in asserting her vivacious presence against her male counterparts, for which SZA is a great fit and it's a ballsy move. I do think it's a weird album closer, but as a single on its own... yeah, I like this, good track.



21. 'Drip' by Cardi B ft. Migos - man, I wish the production on this was better, or at least there was more to that grainy synth. Granted, you could credibly make the argument this is more of a Migos song than Cardi B's - her verse is pretty solid and she switches through a fair number of triplet flows, and I'd probably say I like her verse more than Offset's or Quavo's. But then Takeoff shows up with a verse that's both pretty tightly written and genuinely funny, and when you couple it with production that wouldn't be out of place on Culture II... again, it's a better Migos cut, but it still feels like one regardless.



8. 'I Like It' by Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny & J Balvin - so as I said earlier, I expect this to be pretty huge when the radio finally gets on-board... and man, I wish I liked it a fair bit more! Don't get me wrong, the Pete Rodriguez sample adds real colour to the blocky bass beat thanks to the horns and more pronounced Latin flair, and in comparison with so much forgettable reggaeton this is a huge step-up... but then we get verses from Bad Bunny and J Balvin who can certainly flow, but I've already heard Cardi B flow in Spanish before and frankly, she could have handled this herself! Don't get me wrong, as a crossover song it's good and I can see myself liking this... but what I see liking a lot more is...



1. 'Nice For What' by Drake - hey look, Drake made a song I really like... man alive, it's been a long time since I've been able to say that! But it got there because Drake zeroed in on a formula that's worked for him before: a great sample from a female singer, this time from Lauryn Hill, a beat with some actual bounce to it, and production that doesn't feel the need to wash itself out in reverb or dour tones - he did it with 'Weston Road Flows', he's doing it here too. And yes, it's borrowing heavily from the New Orleans bounce sound, and I won't deny that Drake writing a song about girls don't need to be nice to guys not worth their time seems like the sort of advice that could backfire on him in a hurry - and again, the fact that he's the one elevated saying that message is questionable in its own right. But I won't deny that I really like this: the hook is solid as hell, the sample while basic is effective, and Drake not writing about himself is a huge step in the right direction after Views and More Life.

And that makes picking the best of the week pretty tricky. The worst is easy, I'm giving that to 'Ring' by Cardi B with Kehlani... but I can't in good conscience give a Dishonourable Mention. Instead, two Honourable Mentions, with 'Best Life' by Cardi B and Chance The Rapper tying with 'Nice For What' by Drake... and the best going to 'Money Bag' by Cardi B. Insane catchy, genuinely fun, I don't expect it to be a hit but I'd love to see it get the chance. Next week, the fallout, so stay tuned!

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