Thursday, April 9, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 18, 2015

You know, it's odd, after several weeks with so much going on with the Hot 100, it's nice to get a bit of a breather. The biggest news this week isn't an avalanche of new or returning songs, but rather the longevity of the one at the top, and as such we have one of the smallest number of new tracks that I've ever seen on the twenty weeks I've covered the chart. And honestly, I'm not sure how that'll evolve over the next few weeks - the insanity of the album releases in the first quarter of this year seems to have given way to some relative calm, which means that unless we have more artists throwing curveballs - and I wouldn't discount that - we might have the chance to relax a little here.

Well, relax except for our Top 10, that is, where things are definitely interesting this week - and not really because of major shifts. No, the talk right now is about 'Uptown Funk!' by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars hitting their fourteenth week at #1, only two weeks shy of the record set by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men with 'One Sweet Day'. Now at this point, it's a numbers game to see if 'Uptown Funk' gets there, because it did not top the sales charts this week, and while it still leads in streaming, YouTube, and radio airplay, it is slipping steadily. The question, as it has been over the past few weeks, is how long that slip can hold against competition - but who's going to replace it? Once again, 'Sugar' by Maroon 5 had a consistently solid week at #2, but the airplay gap is still measureable, and there's a question how long it'll take to close that gap. Because 'Love Me Like You Do' by Ellie Goulding, even rising to #3 probably won't get there, the airplay boost not compensating enough for slips across the rest of the board. The next is 'Earned It' by The Weeknd rising to #4 off the backs of even more radio play and solid enough sales and streams... but again, YouTube has been weak here, and the question is whether radio can compensate for that. And 'Thinking Out Loud' by Ed Sheeran is out of the conversation at this point, losing pretty much across the board and especially in airplay to fall to #5. Below that we've got two songs that are fairly stable: 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap at #6, which still has a huge lead in streaming and solid sales as the radio struggles to catch up; and 'Style' by Taylor Swift, which is slipping in sales but still has enough airplay built up to hold onto #7. Beneath it, 'G.D.F.R.' by Flo Rida, Sage The Gemini & Lookas actually manages some gains in streaming, sales, and airplay to rise to #8, which is enough to force back 'FourFiveSeconds' by Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney back to #9 which at this point is hemorrhaging everything - bizarrely, except YouTube, where it was never much of a presence there anyway. But now we need to talk about the track that could indeed serve as a serious threat to 'Uptown Funk': 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth. Now I praised this song when I first covered it three weeks ago, but with the smash success of Furious 7 and the smart placement of the song within the movie to serve as a tribute to the late Paul Walker in a way that was respectful rather than exploitative, it has caused the song to vault up on massive sales to rocket up to #10. But here's the thing - even with the video set to debut next week on YouTube that reportedly has lots of footage of Paul Walker and even despite some gains on the radio, it's all about timing. Sales projected next week for 'See You Again' are set to be enormous, but will sales be enough to compensate for not quite making ground in other categories just yet? In this case, only time will tell.

So before we talk about the rest of our gains this week, let's briefly discuss our losers and dropouts, of which there weren't many. In the former category we basically have a group of country songs that have just reached the end of their run - in this case either a little prematurely like 'Lonely Tonight' by Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe or 'Just Gettin' Started' by Jason Aldean - or naturally like 'Make Me Wanna' by Thomas Rhett. Beyond that, our losers are easy enough to explain: 'Apparently' by J.Cole continues its graceful slide down to 99 - frankly it's amazing it lasted this long - 'El Perdon' by Nicky Jam and Enrique Iglesias falls off to 90 and loses most of the steam it had from the YouTube Music Awards, and 'Prayer In C' continues its descent to 70.

And besides Wiz Khalifa's monster hit, there were a fair few gains this week too. As expected, the arrival of 'King Kunta's video for Kendrick Lamar vaulted him back up to 61, and the new arrivals of 'Hey Mama' by David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj and AfroJack and 'You Know You Like It' by DJ Snake & AlunaGeorge got more of a boost to 56 and 83 respectively. Not the first time DJ Snake would crack the chart this week, but we'll get to that in a second. Elsewhere, the other gains are based off of steady increases - 'Worth It' by Fifth Harmony & Kid Ink lands at 41 and 'Where Are U Now' by Skrillex, Diplo, and Justin Bieber goes to 64. Most discouragingly is the continued growth of Meghan Trainor's 'Dear Future Husband', a song that gets worse every single time I hear it and yet jumped up to 39. I don't see it having enough presence to really snatch the Top 10, but right now with a fair number of songs starting a slow rotation out, you never know.

Anyway this week we have zero returning entries and only five new entries, so let's not waste any more time!

98. 'Commas' by Future - long-time viewers of my channel, particularly in hip-hop, should be well-familiar with my opinion on Future, namely that he's a painfully generic rapper with terrible tone, sloppy wordplay, rarely any production worth mentioning, and who feels the need to slather autotune all over his voice for no discernable reason. His album Honest was one of the worst I ever covered at least until Rae Sremmurd came along, and it also seems to be mostly a lie considering he was apparently cheating on ex-fiance Ciara. And while I tend to ignore artists' personal lives, I did feel a positive twinge of catharsis when Ciara released the break-up track 'I Bet' beyond just being a great song. Well I should have expected Future would have something coming, and we got one from one of the three mixtapes he dropped since Honest, this song being from the tape Monster. And really, it's nothing special whatsoever - Future brags about 'fucking up some commas' - a reference to spending money and the commas to separate thousands and millions. Of course, that's provided you could understand him through slurred autotune and in the third verse hopping on the Migos flow to brag about selling cocaine and luxury goods, all set against your standard trap beat with a howling squeal occasionally added to ruin any sort of mood. It's not even that the song is bad by Future's standards, just that it's boring, recycled luxury rap that's nowhere near fun or interesting, and a song that Future has already written in different forms dozens of times. Skip it!

97. 'Love Me Like You Mean It' by Kelsea Ballerini - so for those of you who care, it's been a pretty slow start for country in 2015, both in albums and on the radio, but if the major labels in Nashville won't kick into gear, the indie labels aren't going to waste time. In this case, the launch of Kelsea Ballerini, who started writing songs in her teens and now has a full debut pop country album coming in May. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like she's the next Lucy Hale, because I'm more than a little underwhelmed by this. Aside from a flow on the chorus that sounds strikingly like 'Crash My Party' by Luke Bryan, my main issues with the track come in the instrumentation, with the obvious drum machines, synth flutters and effects doing the best they can to actually obscure any country elements - or real melody. Kelsea seems like a fine enough singer and she does have a knack for a good rollicking rhyming cadence, and while the song does fit very much into convention - challenging a guy to stand behind his words and stick with her. In other words, it's listenable, but it doesn't really excite me all that much.

91. 'Good Lovin'' by Ludacris ft. Miguel - so Ludacris' comeback album might not have sold as well as his heyday, but it still did better than I expected and he even managed to lodge a single on the charts, likely because of that performance on Ellen. And I have to be honest, it's a bit of a departure for Ludacris with this sort of single, with the warm scratchy piano sample, Miguel's soulful delivery, and the downbeat themes, where Ludacris reminisces on failed relationships. And yeah, so much of this song is carried by the fact that Ludacris has buckets of raw charisma and sounds genuinely regretful, but also because it's a solid, well-structured song because he doesn't have any easy answers to said breakups. It's not the best song off of Ludaversal, and I don't really see it sticking around given it plays things a little more seriously, but if we're going to get new rap songs on the charts, I sure as hell would take Ludacris over Future, so there's that!

87. 'The Matrimony' by Wale ft. Usher - I have gotten a ton of requests by people to cover The Album About Nothing by Wale, and honestly I'm a little bewildered as to why. The guy did start as a solid enough spitter with some interesting content, albeit with some technical rhyming issues that always frustrated me, but then he signed with Rick Ross and his records seemed to lose focus. One thing that I've always found odd about him is his love of Seinfeld of all things, even getting the man himself to appear on the records and titling all of his tracks like episodes of the show. Now the mixed critical reception has had me a little wary about covering the record - and honestly, after this track, I'm still conflicted. Yeah, Usher sounds fantastic over the smoother soul production - duh, it's Usher - but I'm not sure the actual content of the track really works. See, it's trying to act as a reassurance that Wale is going to be there for his current girl and he can see it working out in the end, except that the lifestyle and fame keep causing him to slip up, along with his own fears of commitment. And while I appreciate the honesty of the song, dude, saying you don't want her to excel and somehow surpass you is not a good implication, and you'd think if the love was strong enough to justify marriage, it'd persevere beyond all of your temptations. Coupled with Wale forcing a couple of rhymes... look, I dunno, I've heard this sort of song done better - not bad, but not precisely great either.

77. 'Get Low' by Dillon Francis & DJ Snake - so it looks like DJ Snake is making his big play for 2015, this time teaming up with American producer Dillon Francis. The song originally dropped in 2014, but it also landed on the Furious 7 soundtrack, which got it this slot on the list. And here's the thing - for a trap song like this, this does a lot right - several solid crescendos, good varied percussion, a good anchoring melody that does manage to switch up balanced against vocal snippets that balance well against the hi-hats. Hell, I'd argue it evolves more than 'Turn Down For What', even if doesn't have the killer force of personality that is Lil Jon. The one piece I didn't love is the middle-eastern-inspired tone after the first crescendo, a little too nasal for my tastes, but honestly, the melodies have a lot of personality against a pretty solid groove, and it's a very listenable track. Sure, some of the reason it's now getting play is because of Rae Sremmurd, but I prefer to ignore those two and it seems like the reception by actual fans of the song has been much the same. So yeah, I'll take it.

So wow, this was a short week. And I'm not complaining - after the week I've had, it's nice that Billboard BREAKDOWN is pretty easy. And since we got so few tracks, I'm going to keep the spirit of positivity and drop the Dishonourable Mention for this week. Worst of the Week - yeah, it's Future's 'Commas', no question. Best of the Week also is pretty easy with Ludacris and Miguel's 'Good Lovin', and I think I'm going to give Honourable Mention to DJ Snake and Dillon Francis' 'Get Low' - not sure I like it as much as when Lil Jon and the Ying Yang Twins did it, but it's got a place too.

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