Thursday, March 5, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 14, 2015

So here's an interesting hypothetical for all of you - presume you're an artist who has scheduled to release his album - and then out of nowhere, one of your competition drops a critically acclaimed mixtape/album that gains him a ton of buzz. You're angry, you're annoyed - without warning, he seems to have stolen your thunder - do you delay your record? It's an interesting question - but it appears by staying the course, Big Sean got an interesting results on the charts. Simply put, Drake was riding a wave of hype that managed to lodge ten songs off of his new album on the charts, and when they inevitably faded, something had to replace them. Now sure, Big Sean could have impacted the chart with his album anyway, but I'd argue he wouldn't have lodged as many tracks - and unlike Drake, the songs Big Sean got charting were his best ones. I might not like the guy, but I have to give him props here, even if some of it was pure luck.

But before we get to that in detail, let's talk about our Top 10, where there were a lot of small shifts thanks to playing on the margins. The top two are a prime example - 'Uptown Funk' did top sales and continues to run airplay and do well in streaming, but its airplay gains were roughly equivalent to Ed Sheeran's 'Thinking Out Loud', which slipped on YouTube and was just coming up short in sales and streaming. It was still enough to block Maroon 5's 'Sugar' from rising beyond #3, and once again it had a pretty solid week of gains across the board. It was enough to unseat 'Love Me Like You Do' by Ellie Goulding to #4, which might be dominant on streaming but is still being held back thanks to airplay not quite rising fast enough. Beneath that we have 'FourFiveSeconds' by Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney making a recovery to #5 thanks to good sales and strong airplay, but it's handicapped by weaker streaming and YouTube. It was enough to push 'Take Me To Church' by Hozier back a step to #6, which might still have strength in streaming but is fading on airplay and sales. It probably won't be long before it's overtaken by Taylor Swift's 'Style', but there it's a numbers game, because while it's picking up a lot of airplay, YouTube and sales haven't been as strong. It's enough to shove 'Blank Space' back a peg to #8, which is holding on thanks to still being huge on YouTube and failing everywhere else. Beneath that - the surprise for me - was 'Earned It' by The Weeknd, which is holding its slot thanks to sizeable sales and huge streaming, yet little airplay or YouTube. I almost get the feeling that nobody marketing the song expected it to be a hit - easy to understand, I didn't expect it either - and at this point it's probably less related to Fifty Shades and more tied to the song itself, which does make a twisted sort of sense. Finally, our new arrival at #10 is 'Time Of Our Lives' by Pitbull & Ne-Yo, otherwise known as 'Give Me Everything Part 2: The Good One This Time'. No complaints here, it's been hovering below the Top 10 for weeks now, it's a good song, and despite no real YouTube presence, I'm happy it snagged a slot, if only for one week.

Now onto our drop-outs and losers, and there were a lot this week. Well, more on the losers side - the two dropouts were 'Tuesday' by I LOVE MAKONNEN and 'Habits (Stay High)' by Tove Lo, both songs that had reached the end of their run naturally. One was terrible, one was excellent, it shouldn't be hard to guess which is which. No, where more of the activity this week was in our losers. Some were cases of continued losses, like 'Only One' by Kanye West slipping to 92, 'Stuck On A Feeling' by Prince Royce and Snoop Dogg dropping to 88, and 'The Heart Wants What It Wants' by Selena Gomez falling to 61. Others were songs that are just on their way out, like 'Bang Bang' by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and NIcki Minaj falling to 50 and will likely be out next week, or 'Sun Daze' by Florida Georgia Line slipping to 69. Others are cases where the previous gains just didn't make enough of an impact to last, like '10 Bands' and 'Energy' by Drake falling to 73 and 40 respectively, and 'I Bet My Life' by Imagine Dragons continuing its wild chart run by dropping to 47. From there, the only other major losers were 'I See You' by Luke Bryan falling to 67 - makes a certain amount of sense, given its a late single from an album dropped in 2013 - and 'I Lived' by OneRepublic going to 74, a song that isn't nearly interesting enough to have lasted where it did.

Now there were a lot fewer gains - and most of them are fairly easy to predict - 'Blessings' by Big Sean & Drake going to 36 and 'Heartbeat Song' by Kelly Clarkson rising to 37 are because of album hype, and 'Glory' by John Legend and Common is thanks to it winning the Academy Award. From there, though, the other gains are a little trickier. 'Lay Me Down' by Sam Smith is the first example as it recovers to 62, but I think that's more the case of a song that should have held its position in the first place. 'Slow Motion' by Trey Songz is a good song, but it shooting up to 77 is a little strange. The shocker was 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap rocketing up to 16, because outside streaming, I have no idea how it's getting so much presence. Once again, of ignorant trap-flavoured hip-hop there's a lot worse and I'll take this over 'Coco' any day, but still, it's bizarre.

But enough about those, let's talk about our returning entries, starting with...


Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to see this back on the charts, but it's a little odd that it is. I'm guessing it's only thanks to YouTube streams for the lyric video, which is fine enough, but I stand by what I said when I covered this a few weeks ago - there are better songs that Little Big Town could have chosen for their follow-up single for 'Day Drinking', and this isn't one of them.

I do not understand why this song came back and not 'Uma Thurman'. I mean, come on guys, 'Immortals' was below average even for soundtrack fodder. And 'Centuries' won't last forever on the charts. I'll reiterate my advice - get a good video put together, forget the Wiz Khalifa remix, and push that instead of this.

And that's our returning entries - now onto our long list of new arrivals, starting with...

99. 'Paradise' by Big Sean - this song surprises me if only because it contains a lot of elements that wouldn't otherwise work for me - production from Mike Will Made It, awkward pitch-shiffted vocals, Big Sean bragging about himself - but honestly, I don't mind 'Paradise', easily one of the better songs off of Dark Sky Paradise. The beat has a lot of ominous presence thanks to the stormy production, low horn line, and crackling synth, and though Big Sean does have a couple awkward bars and his flow change-ups definitely raised my eyebrows at points, he did actually have some solid punchlines here that I did like. Once again, I think my biggest issue with Big Sean is his inflection and delivery, but the nasal 'oh god' is easier to overlook when he actually has decent bars. In other words, it's a pretty good song.

98. 'Watch Me' by Silento - man, I miss the days when rappers making dumb-ass dance tracks had voices with presence and power. Lil Jon might not have written smart songs, but he was a lot easier to like than this guy, who sounds like a cross between Rae Sremmurd and Soulja Boy and who actually makes references to Soulja Boy and the stanky leg - in 2015! And I could go on about how his painfully thin yelp for us to watch him doesn't work when we can't actually see what he's doing - he doesn't describe it well, which makes it the Nickelback 'Photograph' problem all over again - but I think the larger problem is that even by the standards of party dance songs, it's painfully underwritten and lazy. This song would not exist without the other dance songs it co-opts - and it doesn't even make them half appealing. 'Soulja Boy' might have been asinine and 'Stanky Leg' might have been borderline unlistenable - I guarantee the majority of you haven't relistened to that song from the GS Boyz since it dropped, trust me, it's bad - but at least they had a crunk chorus and heavier beats than this. Once again, we've got another song that's only famous because of YouTube - or more likely Vine - and should be forgotten as quickly as possible. Next!

97. 'One Man Can Change The World' by Big Sean ft. Kanye West & John Legend - another one of the songs from Big Sean that I actually kind of liked, but really your tolerance for this track will come down to how much can tolerate Big Sean or Kanye West singing with all the Autotune you'd expect and Big Sean's unabashed earnestness. Because let's be blunt, there are some rough spots here - the Kim line in the first verse, the fact they only got Kanye on this song for him singing and no verse - but to Big Sean's credit, there is real humility here as he filters the 'more money more problems' song into a track more focused on realizing how great he does have it and being grateful for it all, especially drawing the comparison to his grandmother who was a captain in WWII and faced much harder struggles. And that line about meeting Jim Carrey and getting famous off of wearing masks is also a pretty solid one too that implies there really could be more to Big Sean. Having heard his album I know there isn't a lot more, but it's nice to see a glimpse.

93. 'Raise 'Em Up' by Keith Urban ft. Eric Church - if the past year has taught me anything about Keith Urban, it's that for a pop country artist, he's doing a lot of things right. Yeah, he's still very much part of the Nashville songwriting machine and yeah, a lot of his music has a very strong pop flavour with electronic elements and backbeats, but he's one of the few who does it well. His production is top-notch, he always keeps a melody from either his guitar or steel guitar prominent, he's got a ton of charisma and works with good songwriters, and he always gives a lot of props to indie country acts who could use the support like Sturgill Simpson. Guys like Keith Urban and Jake Owen might make very polished, very radio-friendly music, but songs like 'Cop Car' prove there's a place for it. As such, when Keith Urban sent this song to Eric Church for a duet partner, Church was floored by its quality. And even though I'd argue 'Raise 'Em Up' isn't one of the best songs on the album, for a late-record single, it's still damn good. Excellent spacious production that shows exactly how country can sound modern with a lot of texture, solid performances by both men, and lyrics that do push the more conservative patriotic button but do so in a way that's not overbearing or patronizing or pandering. I'm not sure if this'll be yet another hit for Keith Urban - it's his sixth single from Fuse, which dropped late in 2013 - but I wouldn't have a problem if it was.

90. 'Smoke' by A Thousand Horses - okay, as effectively the only critic who covers country music on YouTube, it's weird when a country band charts and I've never heard of them before - especially when they sound like this. For one, they don't have the stereotypical bro-country sound or image, even if the subject matter of their song doesn't exactly rise above, 'Hey, this girl is intoxicatingly hot'. I honestly think they could have done a little more with the smoke metaphor than they do on this song, and the sound and production is very early-to-mid-2000s country rock, but overall it's passable. Nothing spectacular, but I've definitely heard worse on country radio.

89. 'Nobody Love' by Tori Kelly - it's always a little weird talking about other YouTubers on the chart, but I'm not exactly going to complain that they're here. For those who don't know, Tori Kelly originally got her start very young on YouTube before eventually auditioning for American Idol... which went precisely nowhere. So she went back to YouTube, released a few EPs, started working Bieber's manager Scooter Braun, was featured on a Professor Green track that was huge in the UK but did nothing in the States, and now she's working to get her debut album off the ground. So this is the lead-off single and it's actually pretty good. Her vocal delivery reminds me a lot of Christina Aguliera and Ariana Grande - hell, with all of the horns and minimalist beat over the chorus, the comparison to 'Problem' is inevitable - but it's going more towards soul than straightforward pop, which I think is a pretty good choice. I do have nitpicks - that noodling sax doesn't really fit on the back half of the chorus, and the lyrics are pretty forgettable - but overall it's pretty good. I think its success will depend on how long the radio embraces horns like it has this year so far, but there's potential here.

83. 'You Are In Love' by Taylor Swift - I think Taylor Swift's tactic of drip-feeding her bonus tracks to radio might have some adverse side-effects, especially considering she's fought so hard to pull every other version of the track off YouTube. With this case, I'm a little baffled as to why, because this song is the definition of bonus disc material - ephemeral, inessential, a pretty basic love song that really doesn't have a lot to it. They meet, they fall in love, with Taylor Swift writing nearly all of it in the second person so the audience can insert themselves into it. But there's so little to it that I don't really see it making a huge connection - sure, not a bad song, but it is forgettable and I can't see this lasting on the charts.

80. 'All Your Fault' by Big Sean ft. Kanye West - man, I want to like this song a lot more than I do. The production balances its soulful sample on the hook with a lot of bombast on the verses thanks to the backing chorus, Kanye and Big Sean trade off bars really well on that third verse that show some real skill... but goddamn it, Kanye, you needed to do another draft on that first verse, because it's uneven as hell. The positive comparison of yourself to Tom Cruise - which again, makes way too much sense for all the wrong reasons - followed by a comparison to Walt Disney that actually isn't a bad one, but then you follow that by jacking the hook from 'I Don't Give A Fuck' and then comparing you tearing up the city because you're awesome to violent protests against Eric Garner... there's a time and place for you to get political, Kanye, and this wasn't it! And the damn shame is that Big Sean's verse is actually pretty good once he gets going, and as I said I really liked the third verse where he and Kanye traded bars. Once again, it's a decent enough song, but it should have been better.

71. 'You're So Beautiful' by Empire Cast ft. Jussie Smollett & Yazz - no, I still haven't had a chance to start watching Empire yet - I'm still trying to catch up on House of Cards, work full time, and put out five videos a week. So this is only my second exposure to the show or its music... and talk about the sort of song that immediately makes me curious to see more. For starters, there's two versions of this song, the one done by Terrance Howard in an earlier episode and the one that his son co-opts to come out - and the latter is easily superior, creating a slick R&B track that reminds me a lot of very early Usher, balancing smooth charm and real intensity. If I have an issue with the song, it'd probably come in a few lyrics - it's playing very much of the One Direction 'What Makes You Beautiful' brand of pseudo-empowerment early on until it's viciously subverted - and I do think the bass and synth line over the chorus is a little flat, but otherwise... yeah, apparently I've got anothe reason to watch Empire now, because this track is great.

66. 'First Kiss' by Kid Rock - okay, seriously, is Kid Rock still relevant? I thought we gave this guy his moment in the mid-to-late 2000s and moved on. But apparently he dropped a new album - for which I actually got requests - and this is the lead-off single. And actually... this is pretty good. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the reason Kid Rock had a career in the first place - the guy had a shocking amount of charisma for being such a sleaze ball, and his voice had a surprising amount of grit and texture. Granted, I'm not sure it's enough to really elevate this song - sure, it's nice to see a song with a real hard rock guitar lick that isn't afraid to get rough and fiery, but you can tell Kid Rock's biting very much into the lucrative template of late-period Bon Jovi or Bryan Adams with subject matter that's more about reminiscing than actually doing anything now. And yeah, it's not anything that rock radio hasn't done for decades - but at the end of the day, I'm a fan of hard rock, and while I know this song isn't going to chart for shit, it's nice to see it here.

17. 'I Want You To Know' by Zedd ft. Selena Gomez - I was expecting more from this. I don't I've ever really talked about Zedd, but that's because as a producer he's never really blown my mind. Yes, 'Clarity' was a good song, but I give more credit to Foxes than him, because neither 'Stay The Night' with Hayley Williams or 'Break Free' with Ariana Grande did a lot for me. And now he's swapped them out for Selena Gomez with one of his least impressive productions yet. As EDM goes, it feels about two years out of date, especially with the blatant autotune, glitchy production, and synth melody that doesn't really do a lot. And look, I like Selena Gomez, but she's the last person you want paired with Zed - quite frankly, she doesn't have the pipes to match him - she's better working in slinky, stripped back pop than this mid-range saturated mess that's only distinctive for that double crack during the keyboard solo. And look, EDM is nowhere near as big as it was a few years ago, and I really don't see Zedd prolonging its relevance with this song, just saying.

So that's our list this week - and honestly, there's a lot here to like, and it's hard for me to pick a top song. So what I'm going to do is this: no Dishonourable Mention this week, instead TWO Honourable Mentions, and they're going to be 'One Man Can Change The World' by Big Sean ft. Kanye West and John Legend, and 'First Kiss' by Kid Rock, with the top song going to the Keith Urban and Eric Church duet 'Raise 'Em Up'. Now this is done because I want to highlight the fact that 'Watch Me' by Silento is a goddamn turd of the highest order - forget Worst Of The Week, it might be one of the worst songs I've ever covered on this show. Please God, don't let this become huge - we already had 'Coco' this year, we don't need another song in that vein.

No comments:

Post a Comment