Thursday, May 7, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 16, 2015

So remember when I was lamenting last week that the expected chaos after the collapse after a long-running #1 didn't happen? Turns out I should have just waited one week, because we might have one of the busiest weeks on the Hot 100 I've seen in a long time. Massive gains, sizeable losses and dropouts, a slew of new and returning tracks, and even new entries to the Hot 100 that show that even if the #1 slot might be safe, everything beneath it sure as hell isn't. And in some cases, that instability might end up being a good thing.

But enough wasting time, we need to talk about our Top 10! Unsurprisingly 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth has a stranglehold at the top, with massive airplay gains compensating for gently slowing sales and still dominant across streaming and YouTube. Unless something huge is coming to unseat it - and right now, depending if the sales or streaming collapse, that could happen - it's got some dominance. So let's take a look at its nearest competition, a song I never thought would be a huge hit rising to #2, 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap - a virtual non-presence on YouTube but with solid enough sales, still gaining in airplay, and absolutely monstrous streaming. It's still far enough back in multiple categories that I doubt it'll go to #1, but you never know. What's notable is that it shoved back 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars to #3, which has respectable enough sales but airplay was in freefall this week and streaming was significantly weaker too. Behind it, even despite ruling the radio, is 'Earned It' by The Weeknd at #4 - but it's not incredibly strong in streaming, it did not have a good sales week, and even that radio airplay seems like it might have peaked. Beneath that, cracking the Top 5 and putting a huge smile on my face, 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk The Moon - and really, it's getting there on sales and airplay gains at this point. Not quite there on streaming, but it is getting stronger, which is a welcome sign. Beneath it is 'Sugar' by Maroon 5 slipping to #6, which I would say basically took body blows this entire week in sales and streaming, but it actually seemed to get a bit of a second wind, actually getting a day of airplay gains and it rose on YouTube this week. Not enough to be substantial and it was still losing by the end of the week, but still interesting. Certainly more interesting than 'Love Me Like You Do' by Ellie Goulding' falling to #7, which had lousy sales, took some hits on airplay even despite its dominance, and really is holding its position on streaming. It'll be interesting to see if it can hold up against 'Want To Want Me' by Jason Derulo rising up two slots to #8 - not a great song by any stretch, but it had gains in all categories and is only where it is because airplay hasn't caught up yet. This takes us to the one new arrival to the Hot 100, and the one I can't believe is actually here: 'Nasty Freestyle' by T-Wayne, and okay, seriously, America? You made this a Top 10 hit? You are all aware T.I. dropped a record just last year that did this flow with better production, wordplay, and personality? Because this song has no radio whatsoever, and I can't see it getting it. Right now, just huge streaming and respectable sales, the sign of people checking into it for a short time before throwing it out like a novelty. Which I would say sucks - this guy has being doing this sort of thing on YouTube for years now... except the song is terrible and is already inspiring a horde of bad rip-offs down the line. More on that in a bit, but to round out our Top 10, we have 'Thinking Out Loud' by Ed Sheeran at #10. Not much to say here: it's here because of streaming, YouTube, and airplay longevity, and it won't be for long.

Now onto our losers and dropouts, and we actually had a pretty crowded set this weeek. Of the dropouts, the big ones are 'I Don't Mind' by Usher & Juicy J ending a respectable run - although seriously, Usher, when are you dropping UR, you put out 'Good Kisser' as your lead-off single nearly a year ago - 'Outside' by Calvin Harris & Ellie Goulding unfortunately leaving, 'Little Red Wagon', Miranda Lambert's Kesha ripoff, and 'Riptide' by Vance Joy, a song that I've been aware of for a while but for the life of me can't see the appeal. As for losers, we actually have a reasonably sized set this week, and not a good week for Rihanna, as 'American Oxygen' loses momentum to 91 and 'FourFiveSeconds' slides to 36. Beyond that, most of the losses are fairly predictable: 'I Really Like You' by Carly Rae Jepsen falls again to 75, 'Ain't Worth The Whiskey' by Cole Swindell thankfully drops to 86, 'I Want You To Know' by Zedd & Selena Gomez continues to unimpress at 46, and Nate Ruess' solo effort 'Nothing Without Love' falls to 89 - only really disappointed in that one, but I'm not exactly surprised either - as I said, Queen was more than Freddie Mercury.

But oh dear god, we had a huge week with gains. Let's start with the ones that I've talked about before: DJ Snake continues slithering up the charts with his deep-house inspired collaboration with AlunaGeorge 'You Know You Like It' going to 26 and the far inferior 'Lean On' with Major Lazer and M0 continuing its rise to 59. Then we had our new arrivals from last week getting some traction: 'Cheerleader' by OMI to 63 because it's a solid lightweight summer song, 'Nasty' by Bandit Gang Marco ft. Dro to 65 because the trend of nu-crunk is taking off, and 'Flex (Ooh Ooh Ooh)' by Rich Homie Quan to 66 because America hates me. It almost makes feel bad that I ripped into other gainers this week like 'Fight Song' by Rachel Platten surging to 50 or 'Like A Wrecking Ball' by Eric Church bumped up to 78, or even 'Love You Like That' by Canaan Smith going up to 77 - I don't like any of those songs, but they're better than Rich Homie Quan! But really, there were a fair few surprises this week: I get why 'Renegades' by X Ambassadors surged to 69 to effectively fill Mumford & Sons' old slot, but why exactly did 'Be Real' by Kid Ink and DeJ Loaf rise to 68? I honestly thought that song was too downbeat and mediocre to gain traction, but that's not the only song with Kid Ink to gain this week, because 'Worth It' by Fifth Harmony went up to 21! Apparently the world is more receptive to third-rate 'Talkk Dirty' wannabes than I am! The last two songs... well, I shouldn't be surprised they rose this week, but I still am. The first is 'Honey I'm Good' by Andy Grammer, which has steadily been climbing the charts and now has cracked the top 20 at 17 - and don't get me wrong, I like the song, but I never expected a track this corny and whitebread to do as well as it did. I guess a similar attitude informs why 'Sangria' by Blake Shelton rose to 44 - despite being intended as a drunken sex song, it's very 'safe' in that mold, and probably play to the same adult contemporary sentiment that gave 'Honey I'm Good' some presence.

Granted, country had a fair few switch-ups this week beyond that, but before we get to that in detail, let's talk about our returning entries!

A song that's effectively on its last legs, and good riddance for it. It's a song about masturbation in every sense of the term, both in the lyrical text and subtext - which would be fine if it was actually paired with instrumentation that remotely felt sexy instead of a droning mid-range synth that never evolves, underweight percussion, and those pitch-shifted vocals. Sure, I get that this song isn't for me in any way, but is it really all that better when Nicki co-opts bad Vine memes from OT Genasis? In other words, Nicki does have some decent flows, but that's about it, and I won't be displeased to see this gone.

First of the many country tracks debuting or returning to the charts and... You know, Luke Bryan, it kind of kills the vibe on your final Spring Break mixtape to put one of the more sour and stiff songs as your leadoff single. Coupled with the obvious synthetic syncopation of the groove and how the guitars just run through each other and the fact that Luke Bryan might have stood to not make a song about some girl playing games with him when it's clear she's trying to get his attention and get a reaction since they're no longer together, this track is just a mess. Next!

Hey look, a Jason Aldean single I actually don't mind being on the charts. This was a song that charted way back when the album was first released and then dropped out, and honestly, it's nothing that far outside of Aldean's wheelhouse, especially with the minor chord progressions and rougher vibe and the fact that Aldean's not great playing the longing romantic... but where this song wins for me is the instrumentation. The country rock guitar tone has a solid presence and actually progresses well into a solo, the backing rhythm is a great accent touch, and the bass line is actually pretty solid. There's better songs on Old Boots, New Dirt - I still hold 'Don't Change Gone' is one of the best songs of 2014 bar none as it shows off a lot of dimension you don't often see for Jason Aldean, but I can settle for this.

I feel I've already talked about this song two or three times on Billboard BREAKDOWN, and really, nothing has changed. Still the best song off of American Beauty/American Psycho, re-entering the charts thanks to them finally dropping a video. And while I don't think the video is stellar - I have to admit, I would have loved a Pulp Fiction homage and it's not like the titular actress is doing much these days, she could have shown up - it's still awesome that it's here. Don't really expect it to be a hit, but you never know.

Well, okay, that was a bit better than expected. Now onto our new arrivals, starting with...

98. 'Crushin' It' by Brad Paisley - I admit I was hard on Brad Paisley's last album Moonshine In The Trunk, but there's a reason: the guy is one of the most creatively diverse songwriters in mainstream country, and seeing him making lightweight beach fodder feels like he's coasting, especially when he could be on the cusp of guiding country's search for a potent new sound. That said, while 'Crushin' It' is nowhere near the best song off of the album, it's enjoyable enough for a thicker and bouncy melodic groove, a great guitar solo and Brad Paisley's got buckets of effortless charisma. If I have an issue with it, it comes in the lyrics, namely that the writing feels a lot clumsier than it should, and that doesn't even touch on the unfortunate timing of the Bud Light reference. Putting aside the fact that it's an unbelievably terrible excuse for beer, the recent ad campaign about how it removes 'no' from your vocabulary and the unsettling implications of advertising beer on the express purpose to get drunk - which is actually pretty uncommon in alcohol advertising, normally it's selling a lifestyle or some silliness - Paisley could afford to crush better cans than that junk. As it is, the song's fun enough, will probably do well enough this summer, but 'Limes', 'You Shouldn't Have To', and 'Moonshine In The Trunk' were all better songs, just saying.

97. 'One Hell Of An Amen' by Brantley Gilbert - and on the topic of country artists I came down hard upon, I'll admit that Brantley Gilbert's Just As I Am was actually a passable record, albeit barely. Yes, 'Bottoms Up' was atrocious and 'Small Town Throwdown' with Thomas Rhett and Justin Moore was almost as terrible, but there was quality there with tracks like 'That Was Us', the sort of laid back bros anthem that actually worked pretty damn well as a fond reminiscence of old hell-raising. In other words, it's the perfect summer anthem... and yet instead the third single he releases is a by-the-numbers military glorification anthem that describes dying in battle as 'one hell of an Amen'... or at least it is for the first verse, as the second is from the perspective of someone fighting against cancer. And you know what, as much as I want to point at Jason Isbell's 'Dress Blues' and say "Do better", I can see the surface appeal of this song, to go out to face your maker with everything you've got. That's potent stuff - which is kind of handicapped by Brantley Gilbert still being one of the least impressive vocalists behind the microphone. Having recently listened to albums from Zac Brown and in the process of listening to Chris Stapleton's debut, Brantley Gilbert's thin-sounding rasp is just does not measure up. Overall, I don't dislike this song as much as I did last year, but it's not one I'd ever seek out either.

94. 'Flicka Da Wrist' by Chedda Da Connect - so you want to know one of the reasons the success of acts like Rich Homie Quan pisses me off? Like it or not, there's only one of him, and for the most part, outside of Billboard BREAKDOWN, I can ignore him entirely - unless, of course, wannabes start creeping onto the charts. And that's exactly what's happening with guys like Chedda Da Connect - if you don't know who this guy is, well, he's affiliated with our recent Top 10 arrival T-Wayne, so that' where you want to point blame. Now say what you want about T-Wayne - God knows I have - but at least he has presence and you can make out what he's saying. Chedda Da Connect, however, decides to fuse the incomprehensibility of Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug with the staccato flow of Migos with a washed out synth that only escalates into squealing irritation. As for the content, it's so bare-bones and devoid of interesting bars beyond the 'flicka da wrist', which combined with Nicki and Beyonce's 'Feelin Myself', seems like an apt enough metaphor for masturbation. Either way, I don't know if I'd call this junk nu-crunk given its total lack of driving energy, but even if it's not, it still blows chunks. Next!

87. 'Stressed Out' by twenty-one pilots - you know, the appearance of twenty-one pilots has really been consoling for me on these charts - they have rarely blown me out of the water, but it's nice knowing that we'll at least get some quality. Well, this is their third single off of their upcoming album Blurryface, and after the gothic darkness of 'Fairly Local' and the piano-driven pop rock exuberance of 'Tear In My Heart', 'Stressed Out' goes for something a little more low-key and the typical feature of the sophomore major label record: the internal crisis, looking back to their roots and yearning for a simpler time. And while there are elements I like about the song - the lyricism has a good flow and I liked the sentiment that even greater success brings higher expectations and intensifies insecurities - but instrumentation doesn't have nearly the same impact, and the last bridge using the pitch-shifted voice doesn't exactly leave the song on a good note. It's probably the weakest of the three tracks pushed to radio, and while I'm still looking forward to Blurryface, I hope it's more in the vein of the earlier singles and not this.

82. 'Infinity' by Mariah Carey - so Mariah Carey has effectively reached the stage of her career that she has been so monumentally successful that if she wanted to coast by on compilation releases of her past hits with the occasional fresh single packaged with it, she could easily sustain her career. Hell, she's probably one of the few artists who still can do that, given that iTunes has effectively done a number on the concept of the 'Greatest Hits' album. In any case, this is that fresh single... and honestly, it's not one of her better ones. Yeah, the thicker strings and pianos are pretty, but the song's mix is so dense that it has an oddly breathless vibe, and mixing Mariah's voice a little deeper does nobody any favours. On top of that, the writing of the song is awfully clumsy and mostly confines Mariah to her mid-to-low range - I mean, 'corny like Fritos'? Come on, Mariah, you're better than that. And given that it's a break-up song and it feels like Mariah is scraping for real drama... yeah, no, she's done better than this.

71. 'Simple Man' by Sawyer Fredericks - and finally we get a song from my least favourite contestant from The Voice, this time covering a Lynyrd Skynyrd classic... and I'm sorry, no - even with the organ and richer guitars, his voice is just too thin and weedy to hold this song. Granted, of his covers, this is probably the most appropriate and probably his best because it lets him stay in his midrange, but Ronnie Van Zant had presence and an easy richness that Sawyer Fredericks just doesn't have. Plus, you know, the guitars were way better on Lynyrd Skynyrd's version, but it's not like you're going to get those on The Voice. As it is, I don't hate this, but Fredericks has yet to impress me as a vocalist, and his choice to pick songs that demand raw, heavier soul will likely backfire on him if he's not careful. Granted, he made it to the next round, so what the hell do I know?

Okay, so honestly... that was a little better than I expected. Not quite the plethora of crap I expected, but we still did get 'Flicka Da Wrist' by Chedda Da Connect easily walking away with the Worst of the Week, with the Dishonourable Mention going by a very narrow margin to 'Games' by Luke Bryan, as at least Nicki Minaj had a few good flows on 'Feelin' Myself' that could save it. As for the best... look, I hate giving it to 'Uma Thurman' by Fall Out Boy week after week, but it's still the clearest standout, with the Honourable Mention... it's tricky, but I'm giving the edge to Brad Paisley over twenty-one pilots, as it's not his fault Bud Light decided to shoot themselves in the face and the latter song just underwhelmed me. Let's hope next week is at least a little quieter, but somehow I doubt it.

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