Thursday, June 25, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 4, 2015

You ever see one of those charts on which not a lot really seemed to happen, but still gives you a feeling of foreboding regardless? Believe it or not, I got that feeling pretty strongly this week, because despite the fact very few new songs dropped or impacted the charts in any largely significant ways, I can see things are coming up for change across the board as the summer settles in.

Case in point, the Top 10. Yeah, 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth held onto the #1 slot, but it lost airplay and sales hard this week, which means that it managed to have just enough streaming and YouTube dominance to hold on, but it won't for long. Now you'd think that 'Bad Blood' by Taylor Swift & Kendrick Lamar would have enough to replace it - strong YouTube, potent sales, still gaining in airplay albeit a bit more slowly... but without streaming to really push it over the top, it remained stuck at #2. 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap hits at #3 thanks to still ruling streaming and holding steady in YouTube and sales, but airplay has been falling steadily for a while now, and against a stronger challenger, I can't see it holding forever. This takes us to our big challenger: 'Cheerleader' by OMI - and at this point all of the odds are in its favour. Sure, not quite dominant in sales just yet, and it did slip in YouTube, but it has reasonable streaming and has had good airplay gains all week - given the summer is coming on in force, I'd be shocked if this doesn't rise higher in the next few weeks. It was enough to push back 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk The Moon to #5, but that might have happened regardless: a drop in streaming, sales, and finally starting to bleed some airplay, it looks like its respectable top ten run might be starting to fade. What isn't fading against all expectations is 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars, still at #6 for all the same reasons: losing a little across all categories, except for YouTube, which is providing it the stability to somehow hold on. And as predicted. 'Want To Want Me' by Jason Derulo slipped right past it to #7 thanks to losses in streaming, and serious blows to airplay and sales. I reckon it'll be overtaken by 'Hey Mama' by David Guetta, Bebe Rexha, Nicki Minaj, and Afrojack within a week or two, because at least it's still healthy in airplay, gaining in streaming, and had some stability in sales. The other song reaping the benefits is 'Honey I'm Good' by Andy Grammer, which is here because it's solid in sales and airplay - and at this point, stability will be what keeps that track in the Top 10 more than anything else. Finally, there's 'Earned It' by The Weeknd, and the surprise is that it hasn't fallen out entirely, as it spent the week losing airplay and streaming with abysmal sales - besides, there's better songs from The Weeknd coming up, and I think everyone's sick of this one.

But before we get to that, let's talk about our losers and dropouts. In the latter case, not a lot of surprises. 'Time Of Our Lives' by Pitbull & Ne-Yo ends a respectable chart run as does 'Chains' by Nick Jonas, whereas both 'All Day' by Kanye West, Theophilius London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney and 'I Want You To Know' by Zedd & Selena Gomez feel cut a bit prematurely short - which really isn't surprising, given how both songs are underwhelming. Most of our losers this week fall into a similar category: 'Pretty Girls' by Iggy Azalea and Britney Spears continues to be a spectacular flop by losing again to 81, and 'Nasty' by Bandit Gang Marco ft. Dro skids down to 99 - no issue for either of these, they both suck. The rest of our losers in country, and they show evidence of just getting elbowed out of the way by new country songs for the summer. 'Smoke' by A Thousand Horses drops to 75 after a respectable run for a debut single, 'Wild Child' by Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter slides to 67, and 'Sippin On Fire' by Florida Georgia Line finally takes a hit to 60.

But unlike our gains last week, none of our winners are country songs coming up - and yes, I include Sam Hunt's 'House Party' in that category, even despite going up to 52. Unsurprisingly, the radio still has a big appetite for Michael Jackson wannabes, which is why 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd went up to 12, but it also apparently wants to have a repeat of 'Fancy' last year, which is why Jidenna & Roman GianArthur's exasperating ripoff 'Classic Man' went up to 50. The success of the last two gains does surprise me, though, so let's start with 'Renegades' by X Ambassadors - it can't all be because of that car commercial, right? I'm not really complaining - as indie folk rock goes, it's not bad by any stretch, but I can think of a whole slew of acts in a similar vein on Canadian radio who'd be a lot better. And speaking of Canadians, we've got Shawn Mendes' 'Stitches', likely to get another boost next week given the new video that dropped hours ago. Overall, the song isn't bad, but again, when you had 'Something Big', 'Stitches' is definitely a downgrade.

And on that note, let's talk about our returning entries, the first of which is definitely a downgrade...

At this point there's a part of me that's resigned to the fact that Vine's not going away and we're going to get asinine crap coasting off of it for the next little while until kids hop on the next trend - but could it at least be less completely generic and annoying than this? We already have a Young Thug and the majority of time we don't want him either! Next!

Now this is more like it. Given how much The Weeknd and Miguel play in similar territory, it's amazing how much stronger and more enjoyable Miguel's sound is, with a much greater command of atmosphere and mix balance, lyrics that don't feel as obsessed with hedonistic nihilism, and the usage of bass and guitar in a way that actually has some tightness to it. But I think the biggest difference ties into the fact that Miguel makes it looks easy and effortless, with the sort of genuine charisma that falls closer to Usher than The Weeknd, even though his vocal runs aren't as quite as strong - even though he does make a good case for it on the back half of this song. But yeah, 'Coffee' goddamn rules, awesome R&B song, great to see it back on the charts thanks to the video, and it definitely has gotten me psyched to review his album, great song.

So when I covered this song about a month ago, I mentioned how it didn't really click for me - not bad, per se, but just missing the impact thanks to the underweight backing vocals against the fuzzier synths and the heavy pitch correction slathered over Jon Bellion's singing. Since then, I haven't listened to this song since, and returning to it a month later as it returns thanks to the video, my opinion hasn't changed, even though I will say that brief percussion escalation before the bridge is pretty solid. Otherwise... eh, it's okay, I guess.

Not a lot to really say about those returning entries, so now onto our new arrivals, starting with...

100. 'Good Thing' by Sage The Gemini ft. Nick Jonas - you ever see collaborations on songs and just wonder why? Two people working together who don't even seem to inhabit the same pop ecosystem, let alone show up on the same song. That was the thought I had when I initially saw Sage The Gemini, a rapper who I don't think has been on anything remotely good, and Nick Jonas, a singer trying and not quite succeeding at being Justin Timberlake, on this track. The surprising thing is that this song is actually pretty good. For one, it's much more of Nick Jonas' song than Sage The Gemini's - he's got the pre-chorus and chorus and even despite Sage The Gemini's lower tones and shouts over the chorus, he's really not a huge presence on this track. But then again, I wouldn't exactly mind if he was - yeah, his technical rhyming skill is nothing special, but his flow on the second verse is actually really good and the overall concept of the record of finding feelings creeping into their hookups and just rolling with it is pretty solid. I won't entirely say the tone works - Nick Jonas sells the uncertainty, but I'm not sure he conveys enough of the exhilaration that comes with such a decision. Beyond that, I like the acoustic elements, but the ghostly background textures and that thick wobbling synth over the chorus make the song feel oddly bleaker than I'd expect for a song celebrating a 'good thing keep happening'. Overall, I was expecting this to blow, and was pleasantly surprised - nothing great, but good enough.

93. 'Sparks' by Hilary Duff - so I already talked a little about this song when I reviewed Breathe In, Breathe Out last week, and honestly I don't really have a lot to say about it, mostly because the elements I like cancel out with the stuff I don't. The whistling hook is good, the chipmunk echo of it annoys the hell out of me, the percussion is over-emphasized but has a lot of punch and texture, Hilary's delivery doesn't do a lot for me, but for the pseudo-Britney Spears approach of the song, it mostly works. I guess if I were to come to a conclusion about 'Sparks', it'd be that I wish other songs from that comeback album had been chosen as the lead-off single instead of this, because while it's okay, it's nothing special.

87. 'Marvin Gaye' by Charlie Puth ft. Meghan Trainor - I've always said it's a little awkward to criticize a fellow YouTuber - #TeamInternet, support more people from the platform, all that jazz - but when said YouTuber has been a bigger reason than Wiz Khalifa why people care about the top song in the country for ten weeks, I'm inclined to be less charitable and admit 'See You Again' doesn't really do much for me. Yeah, good tribute, but the parallels between it and 'Candle In The Wind '97' are pretty stark, and he's no Elton John. Honestly, I'm surprised it's taken him this long to have another charting single - and he got it by working with Meghan Trainor, who increasingly finds more reasons to annoy me with every week 'Dear Future Husband' is on the charts. And just like Meghan Trainor's entire career, 'Marvin Gaye' might be the most painfully white version of anything related to black culture I've heard in a long time. Seriously, don't we already have Michael Buble to make this sort of stuff, because this is so goddamn stiff, from the flat squonk of the horns to the faux-scratchiness of the prechorus to the goddamn gang vocals on the chorus that don't belong at all? And the fact they're trying to evoke Marvin Gaye, a goddamn legend in soul and R&B for a track that if it wasn't for a few cute references you'd be forgiven for thinking has never heard of sex... I'm sorry, absolutely not. This isn't tight or soulful or even remotely interesting, and since we got 'Coffee' back this week, I have no use for this. Next!

84. 'Bitch I'm Madonna' by Madonna ft. Nicki Minaj - ...all of you who asked and keep on asking why I didn't cover Rebel Heart, do I really even need to answer that question at this point? And it's goddamn heartbreaking as a guy who will stand up for Madonna being one of the most transformative and important pop stars of all time - dead serious. There are so many pop icons today that would not have careers if Madonna hadn't paved the way for it... but her most recent material has stumbled hard, and this is coming from a guy who genuinely loved that song '4 Minutes' she did with Justin Timberlake in the 2000s. For at least the past decade, Madonna has been on a quest to retain youth and relevance in a pop scene that only rewards it for a short time, and this track is all the more evidence, following the Taylor Swift template of cameos to draw views to the video and recruiting Diplo to give the song the slightest bit of instrumental relevance. But at least when Ke$ha stole a nursery rhyme cadence for 'Take It Off' it was half-parody and at least partially subversive... whereas here it's played straight, coupled with a synth on the outro that sounds less like a saw and more like fingernails scratching an oily balloon that won't pop. Coupled with the siren, the complete lack of driving groove, the gratuitous autotune slathered over Madonna's vocals, the plastic chiptune and Nicki Minaj sounding like Azealia Banks for no adequately explained reason, this song seems designed to annoy the piss out of me. And that's before we get to the lyrics - which are asinine. Madonna, if you're such a presence, why are you pouring your beer into shoes? Why are you bragging you're a bad bitch when your career does it for you? And if this song is designed for you to assert you are Madonna, why did you let Nicki Minaj say it on her final bar? No, this song is flailing and desperate in the worst possible way, and the saddest part is that anyone following Madonna's career over the past few years saw it coming.

73. 'Ghost Town' by Adam Lambert - it seems like for the past few weeks I've been deluged with requests to cover Adam Lambert's newest album The Original High or give some opinion on the guy. So here it is: for the most part I like him. Coming out of mid-period American Idol as the runner-up, he quickly distinguished himself as having a ton of raw charisma and power and that first record For Your Entertainment did a ton to establish his presence as a potent new pop star. Unfortunately, a lot of that momentum leaked away with his follow-up album Trespassing, which took a lot of that energy and paired it with Dr. Luke's recycled production, and surprisingly sterile lyrics - almost reminiscent of what happened with Marina & The Diamonds that same year. Thankfully, he still had singles like the title track produced by Pharrell that did manage to stick out, but it wasn't exactly much that got me excited for a new record. And after listening to the lead-off single from The Original High, I'm still not excited. Sure, I get that he wanted to ease back on the campy theatricality - that can be tough to maintain unless you're a mad genius like Freddie Mercury - but there's just not much to this song to dig into. When the song isn't stuck to an acoustic guitar, it's mired in a fog of reverb over a dark synth, whistle and snap... and sure, that's good for a dance melody, but when you have one of the most powerful male voices in pop, this is all you give him to do, especially given the bitter horror imagery of the lyrics that emphasize shattered dreams? I dunno, when you have a voice as raw and explosive as Adam Lambert, you'd think you'd want to give him some rougher production to work with instead of a progression that anyone could use. Not a bad song, but it sure as hell doesn't give me incentive to hear more.

So yeah, might have been a brief week, but we didn't get a lot of quality. 'Coffee' easily runs away with the Best of the Week again, but for Honourable Mention, I'm going to give it to Sage The Gemini & Nick Jonas for 'Good Thing', which turned out a fair bit better than expected. Worst of the week... you know, I'll give 'Flicka Da Wrist' by Chedda Da Connect a break and only assign Dishonourable Mention, with the worst going to 'Bitch I'm Madonna' by Madonna and Nicki Minaj, not only for being easily the least listenable track, but also considerably the most disappointing. Let's hope for a bit more next week.

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