Thursday, April 16, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 25, 2015

Well, it finally happened. Fourteen weeks into its run, just a scant few weeks from breaking a record held for nearly twenty years, it was unseated by a dark horse soundtrack hit by a subpar rapper and a YouTuber that nobody could have seen coming. Yes, the rest of the week happened and gave me a fair amount to actually talk about, but in a rare occurence on this show, it actually looks like our Top Ten might be more interesting - because this week, 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars lost the #1 slot.

So let's talk about that major shift, shall we? Our new #1 is 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth and in retrospect, I shouldn't be as surprised as I kind of am that this got big. Wiz Khalifa has been at the top before, he's riding the wave of Furious 7's tremendous success, 'Let It Go' last year proved that soundtrack hits have viability, and Paul Walker's tragic death gave the song some real emotive presence - it's basically this year's version of 'Candle In The Wind 1997' by Elton John. The fact that like that song, it happens to be a good song helps matters - but unlike that song, there is an open question how long it'll last. This week it rode monstrous sales and huge streaming to the top, buoyed by a strong YouTube presence, but how long that lasts becomes the big question - those sorts of sales bursts rarely hold for multiple weeks, and the question becomes whether airplay can keep up. Because let's face facts, 'Uptown Funk' still has a ton of airplay and unlike most long-time hits, it's not dropping as quickly as expected. Sure, it's no longer dominant in streaming, but it still has the top YouTube slot - if 'See You Again' slips, and I'd argue it might, 'Uptown Funk' has a shot at going back to #1 and still challenging the record. Yes, it'd be non-consecutive and purists will take issue with this, but I'd argue it's still relevant.

That is, of course, if 'Uptown Funk' can stop any competition from slipping in. 'Sugar' by Maroon 5 seems the first contender by sales and airplay position, holding to #3, but it seems like airplay has finally stalled out and it slipped on streaming and YouTube this week. Next up is a more serious contender with 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap rising again to #4 - sure as hell higher than I ever would have expected, with stronger sales and huge streaming, but it doesn't have a lot of YouTube and even with slow gains on airplay, will it be enough? 'Thinking Out Loud' by Ed Sheeran at #5 is out of the question at this point - losing in all categories except for decent streaming numbers, but I don't see a recovery here. Well, what about 'Earned It' by The Weeknd at #6, which somehow is still gaining a ton of airplay... but the sales numbers are not impressive and streaming looks shaky as well. 'Love Me Like You Do' by Ellie Goulding would have been a contender, but it did not have a good week, with radio slowing, dips in streaming, and surprisingly weak sales - it may have hit its peak here. So what about 'G.D.F.R.' by Flo Rida, Sage The Gemini, and Lookas at #8? Well, I'm honestly a little unsure about this one - good sales and airplay, sure, but streaming is shaky and the lack of real YouTube might not give it enough of a push to really make it. Now on to the contender that I want to see make it, and our new arrival to the Top 10 at #9 - 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk The Moon! Yes, we've got an indie rock song in the Top 10 again, and yes, it's awesome. And it's also surprisingly healthy across the board - strong sales, gains in airplay, and even starting to pick up some streaming. Yeah, it's not doing great on YouTube, but I can hold out some degree of hope. The last on our list is 'Style' by Taylor Swift, which is holding onto #10 thanks to airplay and little else.

Moving away from all that craziness and excitement, let's move onto the exact opposite - losers and dropouts. The latter category is pretty much all tracks that were on their way out anyways - 'Apparently' by J.Cole, 'I See You' by Luke Bryan, 'I Bet My Life' by Imagine Dragons, 'She Knows' by Ne-Yo & Juicy J, 'Night Changes' by One Direction, 'Animals' by Maroon 5, and - most pleasing of all - 'Coco' by O.T. Genasis. It doesn't help me much - 'Coco' still likely lasted long enough to land on the year-end list, but at least I'm not seeing it now. And in a nice change of pace, we didn't get a lot of big losers this week either. 'Homegrown Honey' by Darius Rucker drops to #81 - odd, considering his album just dropped, guess everyone else ignored it as hard as I did - and 'Lonely Eyes' by Chris Young, both of which are just losing steam naturally. And then there's 'Outside' by Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding, and actually liking that song, it's a little frustrating to see it slip to #46... but then again, it's oscillated all around the charts, so I have no idea where it's going to land.

But where the majority of the action was this week was in our gains, most of which were simply following in the path of previous boosts. 'Dear Future Husband' by Meghan Trainor continuing its regrettable rise to 26 is thankfully balanced out by 'Honey I'm Good' by Andy Grammer maintaining its steady boosts to 34. In particular electronic music had strong gains this week - 'Where Are U Now' by Skrillex, Diplo, and Justin Bieber rose to 42, 'Get Low' by Dillon Francis & DJ Snake rose to 61 off its debut last week, and 'You Know You Like It' by DJ Snake & AlunaGeorge continued its rise to 67. Hell, even 'Hey Mama' by David Guetta, Nicki Minaj, and AfroJack rose up to 44. Outside of that... well, Kanye West's 'All Day' with Theophilius London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney went up to 52 - probably will gain more with that Kendrick Lamar remix going around - 'Bright' by Echosmith got a boost to 76, and for some ungodly reason, 'Commas' by Future went up to 79, because apparently our charts needed more badly written and generically made hip-hop tracks.

Want proof? Let's take a look at our one returning entry, shall we?

The only reason this song is here is because of Furious 7, and it's still a painfully generic retread of what 'We Own It', swapping out 2 Chainz for Iggy Azalea and potent energy for a terrible burbling synth line. In case clarification is required, that's not an upgrade.

Well, that was quick. Might as well get to our new entries, where we thankfully get another reasonably sized list, starting with...

100. 'Lean On' by Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. M0 - so DJ Snake's massive push continues with another collaboration notching the charts, this time with producer Major Lazer and Danish electropop singer M0. And I can't say I'm a fan. Don't get me wrong, the deep low synths defining the background with the snaps is fine, but that synth line grates on my nerves and the pitch-shifting doesn't help matters. The real problem comes with our singer M0 - I first became familiar with her collaboration with Iggy Azalea on 'Beg For It', and she really does come across as a poor man's Charli XCX, as her voice is a fair bit thinner and shakier, with the pitch correction on the edges only highlighting it. It's not a terrible track, and there is far worse that dropped this week, but it's not something I'd ever really seek out.

99. 'Baby Be My Love Song' by Easton Corbin - so as I mentioned in the past, there are certain country artists that fell through the cracks of my general knowledge when I drifted away from the genre in the mid-to-late 2000s, and Easton Corbin dropping his debut record in 2009 was one of those artists. He's also never been huge - I recognize his name from looking through old charts, but thanks to his neotraditional focus and odd single release schedule, with the previous single being released back in January of 2014 - I wasn't all that familar with him. And after this song... well, I still don't have much here. He's got a good voice and a generally agreeable sound, but the list of country artists who play in a similar, 'adult-contemporary' brand of country is only getting longer, and even despite that wheedling guitar solo, there isn't really enough to make Easton all that distinctive. Don't get me wrong, the writing is pretty good, but if we're looking at a guy who's playing very much in the lane Tim McGraw made and Chris Young deepened, Easton Corbin would fit the bill. Good enough pedigree and it's a good enough love song, but the song doesn't exactly leave a lot of an impression.

98. 'Goodbye' by Who Is Fancy - so one of the odd things that has happened with YouTube over the past few years is the rising prevalance of talk show hosts getting their own channels, which overall I don't mind so long as they aren't getting promoted over similarly ranked talent. And hell, I'd almost applaud Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen, and John Oliver for getting a grip on how they can leverage YouTube to reach a younger generation. What I've started to see, though, is that the typical musical performances on these shows can gain traction via YouTube crossover, which leads us to Who Is Fancy, the bizarrely named young singer-songwriter co-signed by Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta and who got recognition thanks to a performance on Jimmy Fallon. And i'm conflicted about this song - on the one hand, it's percussion-heavy and does feel like it's trying to snag a middleground between Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran, especially with usage of the organ and strings to simmer in the background - hell, even the melancholic lyrics fit the mold for that with our singer-songwriter. But as a singer himself, I'm not seeing a lot of unique, distinctive personality, and his voice... well, it sounds like he's singing through his nose, and that doesn't do much for me. The song's fine, I guess, but nothing I'd say is all that special.

96. 'Crash And Burn' by Thomas Rhett - you know how I've mentioned over the past few weeks that country radio is struggling right now for material, going for deeper cuts in desperation to fill the bro-country bubble with something that might appeal to my generation? Well it looks like they finally hit the bottom of the barrel, and we've got a new single from Thomas Rhett. There might be worse bro-country artists working today with Cole Swindell and Chase Rice, but I don't think there's one I respect less than Thomas Rhett, who owes his musical career to his father Rhett Atkins and who has been churning out material that varies between forgettable and atrocious. Hence the appropriately titled 'Crash And Burn', the second single from his upcoming record - and like Sam Hunt, it belongs nowhere near country radio. For one, it has much more in common with the vintage blues/doo-wop with the whistles and shouts and rollicking guitar than anything country, following very much in the vein of Meghan Trainor trying to fuse retro trends with modern ones and for the most part failing. In this case, Thomas Rhett skipped over the actual composition - which he didn't write - and outright appropriated the melody line of Sam Cooke's 'Chain Gang' without giving credit. And for good measure, the generation presentation completely fails too, with Thomas Rhett's lazy drawl completely failing to add any sort of drama to the fact his relationship just ended and hey, he should look on the bright side. What's telling is the lyric 'I let another love crash and burn', which means one of two things: he either got dumped thanks to his own laziness and clearly doesn't seem to care all that much, or he dumped her and is trying to let her down easy by saying that he's hurting too which screams of insincerity. Either way, between the terrible writing, lazy delivery, and outright theft, this song can remove itself from country radio any time, because it sure as hell doesn't belong there - next!

82. 'Tear In My Heart' by twenty-one pilots - when I covered Twenty-One Pilots a few weeks ago on the week where Kendrick Lamar debuted, it actually managed to impress me by stepping into a darker, nastier sound that showed the group improving by leaps and bounds in writing and composition. 'Tear In My Heart' shows more of the same advancement, but it's much closer to the band's typical sound, with the blend of keyboards and drums bringing together a much brighter and vibrant sound - and honestly, it's awesome. Powerfully melodic with its pretty basic but effective hook, impressively earnest, the synth background adding a lot of swell, a well-executed tempo shift, and for a pretty simple love song, it's got the sort of balance between memorable details and pop rock power that makes a damn effective song. Dear God, after 'Crash And Burn', I needed a track like this, and it's gotten me all the more excited for that next album - definitely recommended.

70. 'Ride Out' by Kid Ink, Tyga, Wale, YG & Rich Homie Quan - I'm always a little surprised when a posse cut lands on the radio, especially when the rappers aren't from the same posse or label or aren't giving DJ Khaled another hit, and especially when the posse cut is less than four minutes. In this case, this song's arrival is much easier to explain: it's yet another song from the soundtrack of Furious 7. And considering I only liked maybe one-and-a-half of the rappers on this song, I didn't expect it to be good. And honestly... it actually is pretty good. A lot of this comes down to them focusing their strengths - Kid Ink is given the hook, Wale, Tyga, and YG get verses, and Rich Homie Quan gets an intro everyone will forget. But from there, the synths are anchored in a pretty solid bass line and the melody is pretty striking with a good hook. As for verses... honestly, all three do a solid job, but I'm probably going to give the edge to Tyga for actually bringing a pretty solid flow. The content is nothing all that interesting - a lot of macho swagger and brotherhood imagery, with only YG adding any viscera to it - but for this sort of song, given the time they had, it works.

So yeah, up until these last two songs, this week was not great whatsoever. Worst is 'Crash And Burn' by Thomas Rhett by a mile - seriously, screw that song - with Dishonourable Mention going to the Major Lazer, DJ Snake, and M0 collaboration 'Lean On'. As for the best, it's easy: the posse cut 'Ride Out' gets the Honourable Mention easily, with 'Tear In My Heart' snagging the top slot. It's going to be interesting in the coming weeks as the Furious 7 songs exit the charts, that's for damn sure.

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