Thursday, January 22, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 31, 2015

So this was a pretty simple week on the Billboard Hot 100 - in that there were movements and changes that you could easily predict. And yet it was almost a deceptive week on the charts, where it might seem a lot happened - we even got a new song debuting in the top ten, and trust me, we'll get to it - but it's not exactly disruptive to the status quo, and if anything, its success is all the more predictable.

But before we get to that, let's talk about our top ten. Unsurprisingly, 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson holds steady at #1 thanks to absolutely dominating sales, streaming, and still gaining on airplay. And as I predicted, consistently steady gains from Ed Sheeran's 'Thinking Out Loud' across the board were enough to propel it up to the number two slot. That was enough to push down 'Blank Space' by Taylor Swift to #3, which might be dominant on airplay, but having peaked there and with slowly declining sales, it might be slowly starting to recede. What's not receding is 'Take Me To Church' by Hozier, which had a pretty steady week across the board and still hasn't peaked in airplay and landed it at #4. The first big surprise on the charts was the sudden jump from 'Shake It Off', which leaped up to #5 almost entirely thanks to streaming and YouTube having peaked in airplay and slowing in sales. Its sudden success is enough to keep 'Lips Are Movin' by Meghan Trainor stalled at #6 despite a pretty solid week, and to push 'I'm Not The Only One' by Sam Smith back down to #7, despite still not having peaked on airplay.

But now we have our Top 10 debut, 'Sugar' by Maroon 5 coming in at #8 - and really, the fact that it debuted so high isn't really a surprise. The sales were strong, and while it'll probably need streaming to maintain its position, the radio has always been very receptive to Maroon 5, and it's already gaining airplay. Beneath it are two songs that also aren't surprising - 'Jealous' by Nick Jonas holds steady at #9 despite a pretty good week all around, and 'All About That Bass' by Meghan Trainor barely clings onto #10 even despite steadily decreasing airplay across the board. 

Next up we have our drop-outs and losers - and honestly, I can't really complain much here. 'Stolen Dance' by Milky Chance finally drops out - good riddance - followed by 'Rather Be' by Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne and 'Somewhere In My Car' by Keith Urban - neither song being bad, but they're both distinctly of 2014, and I have no problem them dropping away. Hell, most of our losers fall into a similar category: 'Steal My Girl' by One Direction dropping to 82, 'Beg For It' by Iggy Azalea falling to 57, 'LA Love' by Fergie continuing its drop to 66, these are tracks losing steam half because they're of last year and also because they aren't all that good. Our other losers aren't that far removed either: 'Elastic Heart' by Sia drops to 29 because the video's controversy is starting to fade, 'Only One' by Kanye West and Paul McCartney drops to 85 thanks to a lack of a video and it being more of a deep cut curiosity than lead-off single, and 'Ayo' by Chris Brown and Tyga drops to 72 because it's outright crap. Honestly, it's probably dropping more because of no video, but come on, I'd like to believe that the mainstream public has some vestige of taste.

Hell, if you take a look at the songs rising up the charts, you might buy it. Sure, 'Dear Future Husband' went up to 84, but that's likely due to Meghan Trainor releasing her record and it actually selling fairly well, which allowed the song to stabilize. And then there's 'Earned It' by The Weeknd going up to 70, but that's because they finally dropped a video and the morbid curiosity surrounding the inevitable trainwreck that will be Fifty Shades Of Grey is enough to attract some attention. And then there's 'G.D.F.R.' by Flo Rida ft. Sage The Gemini & Lookas... okay, I still have no idea why this is going anywhere considering how its so blatantly a ripoff of 'Talk Dirty', but I'm guessing its only charting thanks to being vaguely danceable. But the rest of the songs - 'Time Of Our Lives' by Pitbull and Ne-Yo and 'Outside' by Calvin Harris & Ellie Goulding continuing their rise to 24 and 58 respectively, 'Style' by Taylor Swift rocketing up to 52, and most surprisingly Hoodie Allen and Ed Sheeran's 'All About It' going up to 78, these are all good-to-great songs, and I can't complain about them getting some traction. 

Of course, now we need to look at our new tracks, so let's start with the one returning entry...

Already talked about it two weeks ago - wasn't much to say about G-Eazy then, and it makes even less of an impression now. Next!

And now, our new entries, starting with...

98. 'The Body' by Wale ft. Jeremih - so Wale's got another single about sex and girls, this time the lead-off from an album called - and I swear this is true - The Album About Nothing. Well, good of him to cut to the chase, but how's the song? Well, did you ever want to hear Wale and Jeremih make a bunch of hit-or-miss car double entendres about sex when trying to pick up a girl? The frustrating thing is that it's not a bad idea - Wale's still kind of corny, but more of his lines connect than miss and those that don't are outright hilarious, and the production's not bad - but Wale from a technical standpoint just isn't that good of a rapper. There are too many flubbed or forced rhymes for me to really appreciate the song, and all they do is remind me that Big K.R.I.T. did this sort of song so much better just last year. Next!

96. 'Say You Do' by Dierks Bentley - really, Dierks, this is the next single off of Riser and not 'Here On Earth' or 'Damn These Dreams'? I may have really liked Riser when I reviewed it, but 'Say You Do' wasn't one of the reasons why - and on the surface, it looks okay. Dierks Bentley has a fair bit of charisma, the melody and production are pleasant enough, but it's the lyrics of this song that really bug me, because the premise is basically pleading with an ex-girlfriend for a hookup, and to lie and buy into it even if the feelings aren't there. And the thing is this could have worked if the tone was right, and played with a little more darkness or desperation - but as it is, the song is so placid and Dierks Bentley's performance is so underwhelming that the framing seems to romanticize the sentiment rather than reveal it as kind of creepy and manipulative. From a compositional standpoint, the song's not bad, but in comparison with other singles Dierks Bentley could have released, man, he could have done better.

92. 'Glory' by Common & John Legend - so the reason this song is charting at all is because it recently got nominated for Best Original Song for the movie Selma, one of the few nominations that film got because they bungled the screener rollout. In any case, it's really a two horse race between 'Glory' and 'Everything Is Awesome!!!' by Tegan & Sara and The Lonely Island from The LEGO Movie, another film that got snubbed hard by the Academy this year. And as much as I'd love to see Tegan & Sara and Andy Samberg holding Oscars, 'Glory' has this in the bag. Selma is already a great film that takes a much more nuanced look at the life of Martin Luther King, and combine it with a song that takes the cultured ease of John Legend, the gospel swell in the pianos and strings, and Common dropping verses that aren't his best, but still pack a considerable punch and give him a much-needed opportunity to get political. The song is still nowhere near either artist's best, and I do wish Common had gone a little harder and sharper, but if he had done so, this song wouldn't be nominated for Academy Awards. As it is, it's got the anthemic quality the Academy likes, and it still is a good song... but not quite a great one.

73. 'Uma Thurman' by Fall Out Boy - no, if you want to find a song inspired by a film that's actually all kinds of awesome, you should check this out. I've already talked about 'Uma Thurman' when I reviewed Fall Out Boy's album not long ago, and this was easily the best song on it, not to mention one of Fall Out Boy's best singles in a long time. The jittery piano line, the Munsters sample, the sweet grooves that recall Pulp Fiction-era Tarantino, it's almost enough to completely ignore that the song is basically coasting on the raw ego of the narrator and his girl as they dance, even if said dance is going to be lethal. It's not one of Fall Out Boy's more substantial songs, but when it's this fun, it doesn't matter.

48. 'Homegrown' by Zac Brown Band - man, it's been a while since we had new stuff from The Zac Brown Band, but I'm sure as hell glad to see them back. One of my favourite country groups of the past decade thanks to killer harmonies, a knack for melody, and a penchant for great songwriting and experimentation, 'Homegrown' is the lead-off single for their upcoming album, so how is it? Well, it's pretty good, if a little basic. Nowhere near their best - the production feels a little compressed, the songwriting doesn't do much beyond standard small-town love, and that changeup in the final third of the song doesn't quite stick the landing - and it definitely suffers in comparison to a song like 'Chicken Fried', but the lead-off singles from The Zac Brown Bannd rarely are the best from the album, so I still have high hopes. And at the end of the day, 'Homegrown' still has enough organ and good harmonies to win me over, so I'll take it.

37. 'Heartbeat Song' by Kelly Clarkson - I remember when I used to be excited for new Kelly Clarkson songs... and then I sit back and remember that was over six years ago. To be fair, Clarkson seldom releases bad songs, and the worst I could expect from this new single was that it was bland - and surprise surprise, it is. Kelly Clarkson still sounds good, but maybe it's the more electronic vocal production, but she just sounds checked out on this track, and with the thin, percussion-heavy instrumentation and interchangeable lyrics, I can't help but feel like I'm listening to her version of Fifth Harmony's 'Sledgehammer' - and I can't believe I'm saying it, but I think I might like 'Sledgehammer' more. 'Heartbeat Song' is just forgettable, and while I shouldn't be disappointed - 'Since You've Been Gone' was over a decade ago - I still kind of am. Kelly Clarkson's better than this - I just hope she remembers that.

8. 'Sugar' by Maroon 5 - hey look, a new song from the Adam Levine solo project masquerading as a pop rock group! To say I didn't like V is probably understating it, but to give them the slightest shred of credit, 'Sugar' wasn't one of the reasons why - mostly because it evoked so little of a reaction from me. Adam Levine's vocals are completely emotionally inert for me, the guitar lick is a disco reject that has no soul or energy and barely any tempo, and the lyrics are only distinctive when they rhyme words or phrases with themselves or just show off their own incompetence. The song 'Sugar' reminds me the most of is 'Won't Go Home Without You', but that song at least had a good guitar melody and some desperate energy - you could buy that Adam Levine at least cared on that track. With 'Sugar'... look, it's a third single from a barely mediocre album that's only on the radio because it's completely inoffensive and it fills time. 

So that was our week, and honestly, for the most part it was above average, so much so that there wasn't a song I'd consider outright crap. If pushed, it'd probably be a toss-up for the worst between 'I Mean It' by G-Eazy ft. Remo and 'Sugar' by Maroon 5, but neither of them are as bad as some of the truly atrocious tracks I've covered here. As for the best, 'Uma Thurman' easily walks away with it as one of my favourite songs of the year thus far, but 'Homegrown' by the Zac Brown Band isn't far behind. Overall, things appear to be getting better - we could use some good pop music, and it's nice to see the charts start to deliver.

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