Thursday, January 29, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 7, 2015

So, I'm assuming by now, if you watch this show or not, you might have heard that the Twilight-fanfiction turned trashy BDSM romance novel is being converted into a film. One plagued with bad buzz because the leads apparently have no chemistry and they needed an R-rating simply because of all of the cheap mid-90s softcore they needed to fill the running time and take away from the awful, awful plot? Trust me, I'm going to see Fifty Shades of Grey and give it the due thrashing it deserves, but until then we have the soundtrack - and the songs that won't stop rising on the charts. I have to say, America, you seemed to take my assertion that the public had taste like a challenge, because from the looks of things, we had a rough week.

But enough of that, let's talk about our top ten. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars continued to absolutely rule, finally reaching the top in airplay thanks to strong gains on the radio, streaming, and sales. And the fun thing is that 'Thinking Out Loud' by Ed Sheeran is steady right behind them at #2 - a distant second but second nonetheless. The first surprise of our countdown comes with 'Take Me To Church' managing to rise a slot to #3, and sure, part of it is thanks to strong streaming, but with its slightly lower sales and slowing airplay, I reckon it snagged the slot less on its strength and more on the weakness of Taylor Swift's 'Blank Space'. That song slipped to #4 even despite its YouTube dominance mostly because, well, it peaked in airplay and had weaker sales, it's starting to fade naturally. What's not fading is 'Shake It Off' at #5, which is losing airplay and sales and is really only being propped up thanks to YouTube, but here, it's getting to be a numbers game, with few songs strong enough to replace it. I mean, Maroon 5's 'Sugar' unsurprisingly went to #6 thanks to a good week across the board, but beneath that? Meghan Trainor's 'Lips Are Movin' might still be gaining airplay, but its weaker YouTube, sales, and especially streaming is holding it back to #7. Meanwhile Sam Smith's 'I'm Not The Only One' seems to be mostly propped up on streaming, because it's finally dropping in airplay and sales and YouTube were both shaky this week. Nick Jonas' 'Jealous' had the same problem having peaked in airplay, but its weaknesses were even more stark all across the board including a particularly bad sales week. It was enough for us to get a new entry into the Top 10 - Fall Out Boy's 'Centuries', which is the first Fall Out Boy song to crack the top ten in eight years! And it's not even because that song is doing great - it just had a good sales and streaming week and hasn't really peaked in airplay! With this many losses, we could be getting an interesting Top 10 in the next few weeks, mark my words.

Of course, when we venture out to look at our losers and dropouts, things get a little less interesting. The biggest dropout is Bobby Schmurda, followed by Trey Songz's collaboration with Nicki Minaj 'Touchin, Lovin' which I actually didn't mind, and that awful posse cut DJ Khaled put together with Chris Brown, August Alsina, Future, and Jeremih. But they're all 2014 songs that are finally getting thrown off, and they aren't the only ones. 'Beg For It' by Iggy Azalea and 'LA Love' by Fergie continue their freefalls to 72 and 79 respectively, the actually pretty good song 'Perfect Storm' by Brad Paisley takes a hit to 78, and Calvin Harris' solid enough collaboration with John Newman 'Blame' drops to 50. The last three songs aren't exactly surprising either, with 'Heartbeat Song' by Kelly Clarkson dropping to 67, 'Homegrown' by the Zac Brown Band going to 81, and 'Uma Thurman' by Fall Out Boy dipping to 85 - but then again, none of these songs have full videos yet and thus haven't really built a lot of YouTube growth yet. And no, Fall Out Boy, releasing a remix with a Wiz Khalifa verse isn't helping anyone!

But let's talk about our gains - and really, it's a mixed bag. Yes, it's good to see 'Style' by Taylor Swift go to 37 - it'll likely rocket to the Top 10 if Taylor releases a video - and 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk The Moon gained a little to 64. But outside of that... well, Ne-Yo and Juicy J's 'She Knows' went to 38, but that's because he needed something to push that new album, and 'Take Your Time' by Sam Hunt unfortunately went to 53 because country radio programmers have no idea what the hell they're doing. But seriously, does anyone want 'Throw Sum Mo' by Rae Sremmurd featuring Young Thug and utterly wasting Nicki Minaj on only the hook going to 73? And, of course, we've got our songs from 50 Shades Of Grey, with 'Earned It' by The Weekend rocketing up to 27 - thanks mostly to the video - and 'Love Me Like You Do' by Ellie Goulding cracking the top 20. Neither song is anywhere near the artist's best songs - hell, they aren't even the best from each artist on the Hot 100 - but I at least know that the second the movie is released they'll probably start fading - neither of these tracks is a 'Let It Go', if you catch my drift. 

Now for our solitary returning entry...

Already covered this about a month ago and it hasn't grown on me. For a follow-up to 'Shower', it's nowhere near as sticky or interesting, and I still find Becky G cooing sexual entreaties at me very uncomfortable - for God's sake, Dr. Luke, she's 17, it's just getting creepy at this point! And are you just going to drip-feed us singles from Becky G or actually release an album at some point?

Well, that was quick. Now onto our new arrivals, starting with...

99. 'Slow Motion' by Trey Songz - I think I was kinder than the majority of critics to Trey Songz' 2014 album Trigga - and really, upon retrospect, outside of 'Change Your Mind', the album has not held up well. It also hasn't sold all that well, so it's not exactly surprising he's rereleasing it with a new single... and honestly, it's a step in the right direction. Sure, it's very much in Trey Songz typical wheelhouse with the blatantly sexual lyrics and the whole conceit of everything being in slow motion gets kind of funny the more you think about it, but the muted guitars, gentle clicking beat, it kind of fit. And yet as typical with Trey Songz, the production completely falls apart and lets him down - did anyone think the best thing for an intimate sex song was gang vocals, a heavier clap beat, and a warped hollowness to every sound punctuated by whooshes and distant chopped vocal samples? In other words, man, this song should have been a lot better.

96. 'Immortals' by Fall Out Boy - oh lovely, the worst song from Fall Out Boy's American Beauty/American Psycho - and just like with Trey Songz, it's the production that lets them down, specifically on the vocals. It's very compressed around the mid-to-upper range, which makes Patrick Stump's vocals feel so much thinner. Granted, the completely gutless backing vocals, either autotuned or not, do not help matters. The frustrating fact is that the bass and guitar lines are actually pretty good, and while Patrick Stump's warble over the underwritten chorus is grating, the verses are solid enough. And look, as it is the song is still passable, but once again, it's nowhere near as good as it should be.

94. 'Somebody' by Natalie La Rose ft. Jeremih - so as I've talked about a number of times, R&B has effectively usurped most pop music from the charts, and as we saw in the latter half of 2014, all sorts of artists tried to fight for dominance. Natalie La Rose is the newest artist to enter the fray, signing to Flo Rida's imprint and now working with Jeremih - in other words, she's working with the definition of forgettable. As such, there's not much to this song - the thicker synth line is distinctive but it's clearly biting from the DJ Mustard template, especially with the snap and drill-like percussion. As for our singers... well, outside of Jeremih borrowing his cadence from Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' - he's got a weird habit of doing this with songs from the late 80s and early 90s - and insisting that they don't have to tell nobody - okay, why the secrecy - the song isn't all that special. I hate to compare anything against 'Don't Wanna Go Home' by Jason Derulo, but for as much as I hate that song, at least it understood that if you want a song about staying turned up past when the club closes, at least it had energy. This track is better, but it is forgettable.

86. 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap - have you ever been in the situation when just looking at a song's title gives you a bad feeling? Yeah, going into 'Trap Queen' by New Jersey rapper Fetty Wap, I had no expectations of quality outside of another rapper whose not from the south jumping on trap beats. And while we did get that, I wasn't expecting this - namely because it's a song that alternates between being actually not bad and pretty damn awful. The one consistent element is the production, which is actually brighter and generally more agreeable than most thanks to the major chords, if a bit overcrowded thanks to that chiptune over the chorus. But Fetty Wap... see, the funny thing is that on a technical basis, he's not a bad rapper, and his second verse proves he can string together a pretty good flow. And hell, the content's not bad either - sure, most of it is typical luxury trap rap, but I couldn't help but be amused by the fact that he and his 'trap queen' are partners in crime, even making pies together - at least until Fetty Wap ruins it by saying he's going to run into the house and screw someone else's girlfriend. And that's not counting his half-sung cadence on the other verses, which sounds a little like he's trying to do a Future impression without the Autotune, and it just doesn't work, at least for me. Otherwise... honestly, there's a part of me that kind of likes this song, but like our first new arrivals, it could have been a lot better.

82. 'Worth It' by Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink - you know, I can't help but be a little amused by the marketing on display here - both Kid Ink and Fifth Harmony are dropping albums in the next week or two, so why not do a song together for cross-promotion? Well, if 'Worth It' is the production of their collaboration, I'm a lot more interested in whatever Fifth Harmony might put together than Kid Ink, because he does not come across all that good. I remember liking tracks off of 'My Own Lane', but man, he does not impress here, mostly because his single repeated verse is pretty damn lazy. As for Fifth Harmony... well, now that I can tell them apart, I can definitely say that giving Dinah and Normani the least number of verses to focus on Ally and Camila instead was definitely a mistake, because the more soulful delivery is much more appealing, especially when the instrumentation sweeps in. Outside of that, the production still sounds about as thin as you'd expect coming from Syco Records and the horn line makes this the second song on the chart trying to rip off 'Talk Dirty', and considering the lyrics are pretty damn thin, I think I'm going to stick with Little Mix. 

71. 'Truffle Butter' by Nicki Minaj ft. Drake & Lil Wayne - so when I reviewed the standard edition of The Pinkprint and slagged the absolutely terrible song 'Only', I got a fair few comments telling me I should look up the deluxe edition song 'Truffle Butter' with Lil Wayne and Drake because apparently it was a lot better. Now, I wasn't exactly willing to hear more Nicki Minaj after that album and if the song had really been great, it should have actually made the album, but now that 'Truffle Butter' is charting, how's the song? Well, it's a hell of a lot better than 'Only', that's for damn sure. I'm not going to say it's a great song - at the end of the day, the content's pretty empty and the double rhymes from all three artists on this album are exasperating, but the bars are solid enough from all three rappers and they all get a few modestly clever lines. If anything, I probably take most issue with the production - sure, the percussion has energy, but the melody is this washed out, dreary low keys and a faded voice, and you'd think for a song about bragging about sex and money you'd bring a little more energy. Overall, it probably would have been a much stronger album cut than most of The Pinkprint - and given what I've heard about the problems within Cash Money right now, this is looking to be a management issue.

(no video because the song has been pulled from everything)

54. 'FourFiveSeconds' by Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney - okay, can somebody tell me what the hell Kanye is doing with these Paul McCartney collaborations? I'm not saying that they're precisely bad, but I keep expecting a lot more than I'm getting, and 'FourFiveSeconds' is no different. Now don't get me wrong, there are things to like about this song - Rihanna's rough-edged vocal performance is great and the multi-tracking is well done, and the stripped down guitars and organ on the bridge was a good touch. Hell, you can even tell that Kanye's starting to become a better singer to the point where's not relying on the autotune in the same way. But let's be real, this is a song about being on the edge of flipping out within seconds, one that could land Kanye in jail - and you pair it with instrumentation that has no tension or tightness or any sense of groove or conveys any sort of anger! And once again, you have Paul McCartney, and you give him nothing to do beyond the instrumentation? I feel it's been the tagline of this episode, but once again, we've got a song that passable, but damn, it should have been a lot better.

So that was this week... and wow, I'm not impressed. No outright standouts in either direction, which means the margin between best and worst gets pretty damn thin... okay, for worst, I think I'm giving it to Natalie La Rose's 'Somebody' ft. Jeremih with the Dishonourable Mention slipping to 'Immortals' by Fall Out Boy - and really, I can't say either song is bad, just alternatively forgettable and disappointing. For the best... you know, Nicki's going to take it, because 'Truffle Butter' with Drake and Lil Wayne just scrapes in over 'Slow Motion' by Trey Songz, a song that actually kind of grew on me a bit. I don't have high hopes, but given the albums dropping over the next few weeks, the charts could at least get interesting. Let's hope...

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