Thursday, February 5, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 14, 2015

This was one of the more deceptive weeks for the Hot 100 - not that it was a bad or good week, we'll get to that, but that from first glance, not a lot seemed to change or evolve. I mean, the Top 10 barely seemed to shift at all, and we only have seven songs, new or returning, to talk about. But look a little deeper and you'll start to see a lot more traffic, some expected, but a fair bit that did surprise me.

So let's start with the area that saw the least amount of change: the Top 10. Unsurprisingly, 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars easily holds sway at the top thanks to huge airplay gains and dominating sales and streaming handily. And in an easy second place, 'Thinking Out Loud' by Ed Sheeran is holding second across the board - in other words, the same as last week, and with neither song showing signs of slowing, this'll probably continue. Where things start to get interesting is with Hozier's 'Take Me To Church', which has started to slow in sales and seems to be coming close to peaking in airplay. It's got a solid enough hold against Taylor Swift's 'Blank Space', though, which is holding most thanks to YouTube and established airplay, but it has peaked and the sales weren't stellar here. And now the next four songs owe their increased position more to the losses of the song ahead of them than anything else! Well, okay, 'Sugar' by Maroon 5 might be the exception with strong sales and streaming and slowly picking up airplay, but 'Lips Are Movin' by Meghan Trainor is holding steady most on YouTube and airplay as sales and streaming get shakier, and 'I'm Not The Only One' by Sam Smith and 'Jealous' by Nick Jonas are losing airplay, streams, and sales pretty quick. They only gained positions because Taylor Swift's 'Shake It Off' seems to have finally lost its second wind and is finally going into a nose dive, propped up most on YouTube and whatever airplay it has left. Rounding out the top ten we have 'Centuries' by Fall Out Boy, which I get the feeling is only holding onto its slot because of consistency across the board, not because of any great gains it might get - sometimes, that's enough.

Now let's talk about drop-outs and losers, where things are getting more interesting. As expected, the exits of 'Black Widow' by Iggy Azalea ft. Rita Ora and 'Don't Tell Em' by Jeremih ft. YG are just the remnants of 2014 being flushed away, along with Calvin Harris' collaboration with John Newman 'Blame'. Hell, you could make that case for 'Steal My Girl' by One Direction and Iggy Azalea's 'Beg For It' dropping too to 99 and 83 respectively. But really, if you want to see the big drops, you need to look at country, because four songs took major hits this week. Some are the natural fading of the song running their course - 'Perfect Storm' by Brad Paisley going to 93 and 'Shotgun Rider' by Tim McGraw dropping to 74 are prime evidence of that - but the losses for Kenny Chesney's 'Til It's Gone' and 'Something In The Water' by Carrie Underwood, dropping to 86 and 55, those surprise me a little more, mostly because there isn't much coming up on the country charts to replace them and I honestly thought Carrie might have more staying power. And outside of country, 'Earned It' by The Weeknd dropping to 38 confuses me too - sure, all the gains last week were from the video, but I figured the drop this week would be more mild, because it's clear the hype from Fifty Shades Of Grey hasn't died yet and Ellie Goulding's song for that movie gained more this week. The last two losers, 'Waves' by Mr. Probz and 'The Hanging Tree' by Jennifer Lawrence from Mockingjay, they don't surprise me so much that they're dropping but that they were hits in the first place. Granted, they added some real variety, and I hold that as a sleeper hit 'Waves' was pretty damn good, but still...

And now we come to our gains, and it looks as if the charts are trying desperately to plug the holes in the top ten they know will be coming in future weeks, especially with the rising success of 'Time Of Our Lives' by Pitbull & Ne-Yo surging to 11 and the massive jump for Rihanna, Kanye, and Paul McCartney's 'FourFiveSeconds' to 15, almost entirely based sales because it's not like you're finding that song anywhere on YouTube! It's a similar case, I reckon, with 'Truffle Butter' by Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Lil Wayne - even despite the bewildering strength of 'Only', Nicki's other singles simply haven't taken off, not like this. More bizarre is some of the other gains - I mean, 'She Knows' by Ne-Yo and Juicy J going to 25, that makes sense, he dropped an album. And Kelly Clarkson's 'Heartbeat Song', some of that is just priming for the video, which actually just dropped. But 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap somehow rising to 72, 'Somebody' by Natalie La Rose ft. Jeremih going to 76, 'Dangerous' by David Guetta ft. Sam Martin somehow getting a second wind and rising to 87, all of these don't seem to make a lot of sense, as 'Dangerous' had lost all momentum, 'Trap Queen' is patently ridiculous and really is only here because of YouTube, and 'Somebody' left so little of an impression that I can barely remember it and I reviewed it a week ago!

Well, putting that aside, let's take a look at our chart arrivals, starting with the returning entries...

At this point, I think this song is just destined to fade on and off the charts whenever there's space, because it's not doing much else and it only gets worse every time I hear it. Next!

It's charting because now there's a video. That's pretty much it, really, because I stand by what I said originally about only one - it's not a bad song per se, but it feels a lot more than an album deep-cut than a lead-off single. What I find interesting is that if this is going to be indicative of the sound of Kanye's next album, we might be getting 808s & Heartbreak Part II. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it, but I am interested, to say the least.

Those were the returning entries, now onto the new arrivals, starting with...

96. 'I Bet' by Ciara - so did you know that Ciara and Future were actually a couple for a while? Better question, did anybody care? An R&B starlet that made mostly good music but nothing that really interested me paired with one of the worst hip-hop artists working today? Well, apparently they aren't a couple anymore, and Ciara's lead-off single for her new album this year Jackie is addressing it. And honestly, as much as I can't stand Future, the reason I like this song is more because this is one of Ciara's better songs in a long time. Pairing trap hi-hats with the gentle guitars puts me in the mindset of mid-to-late 90s R&B, and Ciara using her more soulful lower range is a really solid fit which does a lot to nail the balance between a righteous kiss-off and that ending where it's clear there's still some residual feelings that haven't quite faded yet. If I were to criticize anything, it'd probably be in some of the backing shouts throughout the verses that sound a little like Future or maybe outright sampling him, and while I get why they were there, they just felt a little out of place for me. Still, for a more melodic R&B breakup jam, it's a damn good one.

95. 'Talking Body' by Tove Lo - well, it wouldn't have been my choice of a single to follow 'Habits (Stay High)', but the charts are better with more Tove Lo, and 'Talking Body' is a pretty solid song. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the elongated syllables in the chorus, that synth on the second verse near the background is not one I like, and there really is too much reverb on everything, but I still dig this song regardless. Tove Lo's got charisma, and while I'm not sure sultry is in her wheelhouse, but I'd argue this song isn't supposed to be sexy so much as it is Tove Lo is using their connection as therapeutic. Plus, that percussion progression over the chorus is surprisingly propulsive, and while it's not as good as 'Timebomb' or 'Not On Drugs', for a simple pop song it works, I'll take it.

92. 'Chains' by Nick Jonas - okay, I didn't review Nick Jonas' self-titled album mostly because I have been underwhelmed by everything Jonas Brothers' related since the mid-2000s. I didn't like them then, and considering how much I couldn't stand 'Jealous', I had no reason to check out his album. Well, the odd thing is that 'Chains' sounds nothing like it, and I'm half-convinced this song is charting because of - you guessed it - Fifty Shades Of Grey. And the funny thing is that of the songs peripherally related to it that aren't a Beyonce rerelease, this is probably the best of them. I'm not saying this is a great song - Nick Jonas' attempt to mimic Justin Timberlake in the style of 'Sexyback' isn't really convincing, and the lyrics do feel underwritten and a little cliched for this sort of song, but there's a fair bit to like. The faded strumming, the pseudo-gothic swell of the backing synths, the eerie backing vocals and roiling swell of the beat, more varied percussion, and production that's on the upper end for pop music all contribute to a track that's certainly better than what I'd usually expect from Nick Jonas. I'm not going to call it great, but I've definitely heard worse, so it's fine enough.

81. 'Budapest' by George Ezra - well, it took you long enough! Like Ella Henderson, George Ezra's been a thing in the UK for months before ever touching the American Hot 100, following in the wake of the folk/blues rock revival over there that kind of fizzled out in the US two years ago. And George Ezra knows his stuff, going beyond obvious Dylan influences to very early folk and blues acts like Lead Belly and Howlin' Wolf. And while he doesn't quite have the raw power of an act like Hozier or Ed Sheeran's cover of 'Make It Rain', his thicker baritone does have a weathered dignity to it that I do appreciate. And for as simple as the lyrics are, I like the sentiment of ditching material wealth to find true love - sure, it's done to death, but it's handled right here. If I were to nitpick, it'd come down to the production and instrumentation - I like some of the distorted snarl that comes through on the bridge and that five note flutter in the background from the guitar is a nice touch, but I think I'd like the song a little more with a bit more of a ragged edge or fire. It's a little too composed, doesn't quite call to mind the whirlwind romance that George Ezra is proposing - but as it is, it's still good, works for me.

75. 'Shots' by Imagine Dragons - okay, for all of you who keep asking, yes, I'm going to be reviewing Smoke + Mirrors by Imagine Dragons - hell, I like this band and it's not like much else is dropping in February, of course I'll be covering them. That said, I didn't really like 'I Bet My Life', and seeing that they were going to be opening their new album with a song called 'Shots' did not exactly enthuse me. But how's the song? Well, I've said in the past that Dan Reynold's vocals remind me of Bono - and here, they prove it because this song is early-90s U2 from the guitar flutter to the more textured percussion to Dan Reynolds embracing his higher register and falsetto. The biggest difference is in the synthesizers, and honestly, they fit, adding a certain rubbery elastic punch to the song that I really liked. And hell, the lyrics feel very U2 as well, broadly sketched, well-framed, mournful at the breakup caused by his own failure and yet sincere enough to crave for it to return. I do wish that Dan Reynolds had delivered a little more of his raw edge to this song, but that's the same thing I'd say about U2 from the early 90s, so go figure. In other words, I really hope this charts, because with U2 operating at half-strength, I could definitely do with more rock in this vein on the pop charts, and it's pretty damn good all the same.

So as I said, a deceptive week, but overall a pretty damn good one, because there's not a new song that dropped this week I don't like in some way. Which means picking a worst of the week is tough... I guess if pushed, I'd give it to 'I Mean It' by G-Eazy ft. Reno for a second time, but even a dishonourable mention is tough here... I guess it'd probably be 'Only One' by Kanye West & Paul McCartney for the wasted potential, but still, it's not a bad song, just an odd one that's more of a curiosity than anything else.. As for the best, I'll take Imagine Dragons imitating U2 anyday, and 'Shots' walks away with this easily, with 'I Bet' by Ciara right behind. After a pretty mediocre week, it's nice to see things start to look up.

1 comment:

  1. I'm shocked you didn't go on a rant like you said you would the moment CoCo broke into the Top 20...