Friday, November 21, 2014

billboard breakdown: an introduction

Since 1959, Billboard magazine has published a list of the top 100 songs in the United States. Many other publications have competed against them, but for decades the Billboard Hot 100 has reigned supreme, chronicling the popular songs through sales, radio airplay, and recently the rise of streaming and YouTube. These are the songs that have captured the cultural zeitgeist, for several months or for just a minute. And while a select few will rise to reach that history-defining year-end list, there's a whole load of tracks that will miss the cut or go unexamined...

Until now. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Billboard Breakdown, a new series where every week I will be taking a look at the Billboard Hot 100 chart in detail. Those of you asking for singles' reviews, here's your chance for me to grant your request. 

This new show will have three parts. The first will be examining the "cream" of the crop, the Top 10, where we'll be talking about what the movements in that select group. After all, it's these tracks that have the best shot of making that year end list, and I'll be talking about how and why these tracks behave the way they do.

Next up is an examination of our big movers, the songs moving by increments of ten or more. These are the tracks that are building buzz and airplay, drawing a lot of attention, or the songs that are losing that traction and flying towards the recurring list, where if songs drop below 50 after twenty weeks, they will be removed from the charts.

Our third segment is the one so many of you will likely enjoy the most: the new chart arrivals! This is where I will be covering the new songs debuting on the charts in detail. Whether they debut in the bottom ten or smash the charts at #1, this is where you'll get the chance to hear me discuss these songs in detail. Now if you watch my regularly scheduled album reviews, you might hear me talk about a few songs before they show up here, and vice-versa, and keep in mind opinions about said songs might differ from album review to here. That's inevitable, and honestly expected as album reviews will highlight singles in context with the rest of the album, while on Billboard Breakdown the songs must stand alone. 

And across the series, there might also be some random asides about other Billboard Charts, like the unavoidable fact that despite how good the American charts might be, the Canadian Hot 100 will always be better, or whatever insanity will randomly crop up on the UK Official charts. And keep this in mind: just because a song charts highly is no indication of whether or not it's a good song - certain artists have established fanbases, record labels have a vested interest in certain singles from certain artists doing well, and of course there will be fads and trends that will trigger certain odd shifts. Not to worry, there is nearly always an explanation, and I will endeavor to provide it. 

We begin at the tail end of the 2014 Billboard year - which began at the beginning of December, because Billboard is weird like that. The current Top 10 is a state of disorder, with Taylor Swift's 'Blank Space' rocketing to #1 on digital and airplay gains, just enough to overtake Meghan Trainor's 'All About That Bass', still holding steady at #2 thanks to massive streaming. 'Shake It Off' manages to hold onto #3, and its replacement by 'Blank Space' makes history for Taylor Swift to be the first artist to replace herself at #1. #4 is Maroon 5's 'Animals', lodged there thanks to still-growing radio airplay, and rounding it out is 'Habits (Stay High)' by Tove Lo at #5, easily the best of the top 5. Below that, the biggest news is Nick Jonas' awful song 'Jealous' breaking into the Top 10 off the back of his album, and in a just world he'd be exiting just as quickly. 

Curious to hear more? Stay tuned for next week, folks - and welcome to Billboard Breakdown.

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