Friday, December 26, 2014

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 3, 2015

Today is the first official week of 2015 for Billboard - which is a little odd, considering they start their year and it still is December, but this was the year where we both got the long-awaited finale of The Voice that notched six new hits. And while J. Cole managed to hold a little more momentum, unsurprisingly, most of this week belonged to Nicki Minaj, for better or for worse.

But before we get to that, it's time to start with our top ten! Once again, there isn't much change at the very top, with 'Blank Space' by Taylor Swift still not peaking on airplay and holding onto the top slot for its sixth week and 'Take Me To Church' by Hozier still absolutely crushing streaming as it holds onto slight gains in sales and inches its way up the airplay chart. But the biggest gains of this week belong to 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars, which lodged solid gains in airplay, streaming, and sales - odds are, if it manages to maintain its momentum, it'll likely be the one to take #1 from Taylor Swift, not Hozier. Ed Sheeran's 'Thinking Out Loud' leaps up to its highest slot yet at #4 thanks also to strong gains across the board, gains that 'Lips Are Movin' by Meghan Trainor can't quite match, especially on airplay, as it dips to #5.

From below there, the bottom five show a little more movement. Sam Smith's steady gains are stymied as he drops back a bit with 'I'm Not The Only One' to #6, 'Love Me Harder' by Ariana Grande & The Weekend rises to its highest point yet at #7 even despite weaker sales, Nick Jonas' 'Jealous' unfortunately reenters the top ten at #8 thanks partially to continued airplay gains and decent enough streaming, but more because the two below it, 'Animals' by Maroon 5 and 'All About That Bass' by Meghan Trainor have both peaked in airplay and are clearly sliding down, and will likely join Taylor Swift in exiting the top ten if the slide continues.

Now onto our big movers. It was actually a pretty sparse drop-out list, mostly consisting of songs from the back half of 2014 that many would prefer remain in that year because none of them were all that good: 'Neon Light' by Blake Shelton, 'No Flex Zone' by Rae Sremmurd, 'New Flame' by Chris Brown ft. Rick Ross and Usher, and 'Cool Kids' by Echosmith. And this trend mostly continued into our major losers, the first two being posse tracks that nobody wanted to hear, 'Lifestyle' by Rich Gang ft. Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan to 44, and 'Hold You Down', a DJ Khaled song featuring Chris Brown, August Alsina, Future, and Jeremih to 54. And it's rare when I can't recommend a single artist of the entire posses, but wow, there's nothing there worth salvaging. And that trend continued with Fergie's atrocious attempt to regrab the spotlight with 'LA Love' dropping to 55 and August Alsina's barely passable autotune abuse on 'No Love' dropping to 93. I wish I could say the same about the rest, but really, they're just a collection of good if not great songs underperforming. Nico & Vinz's pretty good follow-up single 'In Your Arms' drops to 100, J. Cole's 'Wet Dreamz' tumbles to 98, 'Girl In A Country Song' by Maddie & Tae looks to have finally worn out its welcome as it drops to 84, Keith Urban's surprisingly good 'Somewhere In My Car' falls to 80, and Blake Shelton and Ashley Monroe's heartfelt hookup track drops back to 66, although I suspect some of that is just stabilizing after the gains of the video's debut. The one surprise for me was Pentatonix continuing to lose steam with 'Mary Did You Know?' dropping to 58 - believe it or not, it's still the holidays, and while these sorts of songs tend to evaporate come January, it hasn't really been consistently strong throughout the holidays, which is weird.

Because here's the odd thing: the biggest gainer this week, bar none, was 'Santa Tell Me' by Ariana Grande which shot up to 44. Hell, Mariah had decent enough gains this week too, so it's a little surprising Pentatonix hasn't held on in the same way. Elsewhere in our gainers, it's a bit of a mixed bag, mostly characterized by songs that aren't all that good gaining traction - 'G.D.F.R.' by Flo Rida ft. Sage The Gemini & Lookas rising to 77 and 'Just Gettin' Started' by Jason Aldean unsurprisingly going up to 73 - and songs that have already received success in the UK gaining traction here. This includes the pretty forgettable 'Sledgehammer' by Fifth Harmony going to 75, the perplexing 'Prayer In C' by Lillywood remixed by Robin Schulz at 69, a song I still think I should like more than I do, and the generally pretty great 'Ghost' by Ella Henderson rising to 47. Overall, it was a pretty low-key week, so let's pop over to our two returning entries!

Already talked about it twice already, a pretty solid dance tune, wouldn't mind seeing Pitbull or Ne-Yo notch this as a hit. Next!

I've already talked about this song twice, once when it first debuted and when I reviewed The Pinkprint - and while I've warmed a little to it, I'm still underwhelmed. Nicki's rhyming is nothing stellar, the production is very washed out, and while I do like NIcki's more confessional songwriting, some of the painfully cliched lyrics and the weird tone of the song, trying but not quite balancing real remorse and a kiss-off... look, it's okay, but not great, and it's really only back on the charts thanks to The Pinkprint dropping this week, and it won't be the only song on the charts for this reason only.

And those are the only recurring songs, so let's venture to our new arrivals, starting with...

95. 'Lonely Eyes' by Chris Young - Okay, Chris Young dropped A.M. back in 2013, and we're only now getting 'Lonely Eyes' and not 'We're Gonna Find It Tonight'? That said, I really liked A.M. when I reviewed it over a year ago, and while it's nowhere near the best song from that album, 'Lonely Eyes' works for what it is, an understated pickup song that coasts by Chris Young's great charisma and fantastic voice. I will say I'm not a fan of releasing this song around this time of year, especially when Blake Shelton's 'Lonely Tonight' is still one the charts - it just strikes me as a little cheap to capitalize on holiday loneliness like that, just saying. Still, it's a good song.

90. 'Apparently' by J.Cole - so this was the single that J.Cole intended to chart instead off of 2014 Forest Hills Drive, and it's one I didn't really talk about... and look, it's not bad. I like the production and J.Cole is still a good rapper. But this song, once again, does a lot to showcase exactly why that album frustrated me as much as it did. J.Cole tries to apologize for leaving his mom to fight against foreclosure while he was off in New York City trying to get his deal and get laid, and he could have built an entire song around those apologies - and then he gets on his second verse which is just more bragging about watches and to 'give a virgin the urge to rape him'. Coupled with the fact he's not really passable as a singer and his bars were good but nothing amazing, it's just not a song I can really enjoy. 

88. 'Get On Your Knees' by Nicki Minaj ft. Ariana Grande - I said back when I reviewed The Pinkprint that I actually did like this song a fair bit. The understated production lets Ariana show off her pipes and fits the eerie air of dominance Nicki's trying to cultivate, the lyrics are tonally consistent, and both artists are actually pretty convincing, with Nicki having a few corny punchlines like the Katy Perry reference but overall it's a good song. If she was looking for that next single to blow up, I'd push this over 'Bed Of Lies', because Ariana Grande has rarely sounded better. Nice work.

83. 'Lost Stars' by Matt McAndrew & Adam Levine - the first of our entries from The Voice, and it's a cover - of an Adam Levine solo track that he did for the movie Begin Again, and the song is awful. That's mostly because it's the sort of 'white guy with acoustic guitar' that seems completely gutless and filled with hackneyed lyrics that are bad even by Maroon 5 standards. So that said, does Matt McAndrew add anything that might save this song? Well, his voice is a better fit and they sound better for most of the track... until we get to the falsetto. Now I don't like its inclusion on the song period, but placing him directly after Levine shows McAndrew really out of his comfort zone and it just doesn't sound good. The fact that it's just not a good song either is probably the deal-breaker her. Ugh.

74. 'Soldier' by Damien - this was The Voice finalist I've never talked about before, and with a completely original song too. As it is, it's decent enough. I'm not blown away by the songwriting, and though Damien is a solid singer, the production is really sloppy, especially on his music video. There's no need for such obvious pitch-correction, and it really emphasizes the artificiality of the whole performance. At the end of the day, it's kind of forgettable in the same way so much thin reality show music is, which is a bit of a shame, and I'm not exactly surprised this guy came in fourth.

65. 'Masterpiece' by Jessie J - wow, Jessie J is really trying to follow up 'Bang Bang' with anything possible - but to be fair, she picked one of the better songs from Sweet Talker with which to do it. And really, I do like most of the song - the lyrics have that hard-edged potency that still have me convinced Jessie J would be a much better fit for rock than pop music, the strings and piano sound pretty solid, and Jessie J is a good singer - but then someone decided to drizzle bad pitch correction all over the back half of her chorus and this song just loses all impact for me. I said this back when I reviewed Sweet Talker, Jessie J needs better producers, because songs like this aren't helping.

63. 'Lost Without U' by Chris Jamison & Adam Levine - one thing I noticed from looking through The Voice finale is that Adam Levine contributed a lot on both of his team's performances, and really it started to strike me as unwise, especially when they chose this track. In case you don't remember, 'Lost Without U' was one of Robin Thicke's biggest hits before his career rocketed into the stratosphere with 'Blurred Lines' and subseqently went off a cliff with his followup album Paula. As it is, 'Lost Without U' is not a great song, but honestly I think Chris Jamison did a better job with it - his voice is nowhere near as stiff as Levine's and I think his falsetto sounds a lot cleaner. He could have carried this song on his own - and yet that didn't exactly happen. Eh, let's see what happens if he goes solo.

53. 'Velvet' by Chris Jamison - unsurprisingly, it's better. In fact, this song is actually pretty damn great. A pretty damn solid bass rattle with a dark, slinky mix that recalls smoother, more watery production that almost reminds me a little of some great 80s R&B. And with decent enough sex lyrics and Jamison bringing some passion, the song mostly works - until we get to that synth on the chorus. Wow, talk about neutering the vibe - it just sounds so thin and chintzy and just doesn't fit at all with the rest of the song. Otherwise, a really damn good track, but man, if we're looking for an area where The Voice is letting its potential stars down, it's in the production.

43. 'Feeling Myself' by Nicki Minaj ft. Beyonce - well, it looks like we got the '***Flawless' remix part two, and wow, this is lousy. Let's start with the fact that the production is awful, a completely inert melody line that might have a little depth but nowhere near interesting percussion and never evolves or becomes less shrill and grating. On top of that, Beyonce is wasted on this song, a lazy chorus that repeats the same combination of words before a few peripheral pieces that just do nothing. And once again, we run into the problem with Nicki that she's nowhere near consistent - initially with the first verse the song seemed to be about masturbation, but really it's just more hollow forgettable luxury rap that features Nicki stretching out syllables for no good reason and completely tired references. I mean, a reference to 'Coco' by OT Genasis, a song that will hopefully be gone in a few months. And for as much as Nicki's trying to amp up her dominant sex appeal, it's kind of undercut when you're calling some other guy in the second verse 'daddy'. You want more reasons why The Pinkprint is not all that good or interesting, this a prime example.

34. 'My Baby's Got A Smile On Her Face' by Craig Wayne Boyd - so this is our big single from Craig Wayne Boyd, the one that ultimately won him The Voice - and honestly, it's okay. It's let down by weak production, especially with him being mixed too low, but honestly it's just not all that interesting. It's about how his girl is so satisfied after a night of hot sex, but the song is way too tame for that, especially with his delivery. Besides, Billy Currington already wrote a very similar song on his last album, so it's just not all that distinctive for me. I'll say the same thing many other country critics have said - we already have a lot of male country artists, and I'm not seeing what Craig Wayne Boyd brings uniquely to the table besides a good voice. And given his aversion to the press and his fans plus an oversaturated market and The Voice's haphazard record of turning any success stories, I don't see him really sticking around.

14. 'Wasted Love' by Matt McAndrew - you know, throughout the many times I've covered Matt McAndrew, I've never really been a huge fan of him, but this song came damn close to winning me over. For one, he easily has the best production of any of The Voice original songs with solid percussion, good backing vocals, and the fragments of organ, and the song actually takes a chance by tapping into the frustration and confusion that comes with love evaporating seemingly out of nowhere. Matt McAndrew really does sell this song, and it's unsurprising it's the best of The Voice singles, even if I do think 'Velvet' had a shot if the production was better. So why didn't he win? Honestly, I'd put it down to Adam Levine's bad management - you saddle the guy with a terrible duet and you force him outside of his range for falsetto that is nowhere near his strengths, whereas Blake Shelton was content to sit back and let Craig Wayne Boyd do his thing. As it is, 'Wasted Love' is a pretty damn good song, and considering it climbed as high as it did, it seems like the public agrees.

So really this was the week of The Pinkprint and The Voice, and as such we got a mixed bag. For the worst, it's easily 'Feeling Myself' by Nicki Minaj and Beyonce, although the Adam Levine and Matt McAndrew duet 'Lost Stars' is also a major contender. For best... it's trickier this week, as I wasn't really gripped by any song, but it'd probably be a tossup between 'Get On Your Knees' by Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande or 'Wasted Love' by Matt McAndrew. And probably for the first time ever, we have songs that are both the best and worst from two distinct artists! I don't see that being a common occurrence again, but you never know.

No comments:

Post a Comment