Thursday, June 4, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 13, 2015

Well, that didn't last long. Almost as quickly as it took the top slot, Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar were elbowed off the top, and it's not exactly surprising that happened either. Once again, the fight over the top will likely be the biggest story this week, but it obscures what happened below, where a whole load of songs surged up the charts and we got another well-sized crop of new songs - and in a nice change of pace from last week, most of them are actually decent!

But before we get to that, we need to start with our Top Ten, and where Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth took the number #1 slot back with 'See You Again', where it pretty much owned airplay and in a surprise twist took back the top slot on YouTube as well. It did slip on streaming and the sales are no longer where they were, but airplay gains have not slowed down, so where it'll ultimately land is anybody's guess. Where things get interesting are with 'Bad Blood' by Taylor Swift & Kendrick Lamar, and what it looks like here is what happens when the hype starts to peter out. It might have been the perfect storm of factors to get her to the top, but keeping her there is a different question - longevity these days needs to have an airplay component, and while she gained this week there and had a firm grip on sales, it wasn't quite enough, as she slipped on YouTube and she doesn't have the same streaming presence. Where you see that dominance is with 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap, which took the top spot for streaming on-demand this week, had solid sales, and despite slow airplay gains, it was still picking them up. Beneath it was 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk The Moon, which would be ruling the radio if it wasn't for 'See You Again' and had another solid week of sales. Steaming did slip though, and the lack of YouTube hurts it, so it'll be interesting to see what happens when the airplay starts to slow. The next surprise of the week came at #5, where 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars went up a slot, and not just because of other chart weaknesses, because it did gain a bit of airplay and had a better-than expected sales week. And with enough consistent strength on YouTube, it was enough to stay above 'Earned It' by The Weeknd, which took the hit to #6, as airplay struggled, streaming took a major hit, and sales were barely worth mentioning. I can see it dropping out, maybe against 'Want To Want Me' by Jason Derulo, which had another solid week in sales and airplay to compensate for streaming slipping back a bit as it held onto #7. 'Hey Mama' by David Guetta, Nicki Minaj, and AfroJack held onto #8 in a similar way, only a few steps back because Derulo has more established airplay, but with gains across the board, I can see it as real competition. Then we had 'Sugar' by Maroon 5 at #9... and look, I get the feeling it's sticking around on airplay and YouTube inertia, because the sales sure as hell aren't there. And finally, sticking around like nobody's business, is 'Nasty Freestyle' by T-Wayne, once again here because of streaming and sales. Personally, I'm amazed we're allowing a low-rent T.I. wannabe last as long as he has, but with all the gains we had this week, something's bound to come up.

But before we get to that, let's talk losers and dropouts. Not going to lie, I'm a little amused that 'Feeling Myself' by Nicki Minaj dropped off, because they might have been able to get some swell beyond the recurring list if they had paid attention to how long their song had been hovering around the bottom of the charts before dropping the video, because barring a major boost, it's not coming back. Beyond that, the only other big dropouts were 'Take Me To Church' by Hozier, ending a very respectable run, and 'Ayo' by Chris Brown & Tyga, of which there is nothing to respect. Interestingly, there weren't many losers this week, and three of them fall into the exact same category of songs having shorter runs and less impact than expected. 'All Day' by Kanye West, Theophilius London, Allan Kingdom, and Paul McCartney dropping hard to 79, 'I Want You To Know' by Zedd & Selena Gomez falling to 85, and 'Raise Em Up' by Keith Urban and Eric Church sliding to 98, all are probably not going to last a full twenty weeks at this rate. Then we have the hit to 'Kick The Dust Up' by Luke Bryan to 41, my hope because the song is garbage but more likely because there's no video yet and country radio is always a little slow to change. And finally we have 'Nasty' by Bandit Gang Marco sliding back to 54 - which is a little fascinating because for all of their anger at T-Wayne for ripping them off, he still did more with the song than they could with their brand of aggressively annoying nu-crunk, and the public seems to be responding to it. As someone who doesn't like either song, the most I can hope for is that only one sticks around.

The sad fact is that doesn't seem to be the case, which takes us to our gains this week and the one gain I missed last week - 'Flex (Ooh Ooh Ooh)' by Rich Homie Quan now having risen to 31. And really, it has to be on the strength on a beat with some texture, because everything else is a pathetically limp smeared-over mess that's too lazy to bother having a melody. And it's not like it's the only terrible track getting traction, as 'Crash & Burn' by Thomas Rhett rose to 76, which makes lament the loss of regional country radio and its increased consolidation and gentrification - pretty much the only excuse why this is here. But really, beyond that, the rest of our gains were actually decent. 'The Night Is Still Young' by Nicki Minaj gets another boost to 38, likely on its way to being a top 20 for this summer, and OMI's 'Cheerleader' follows suit with a bump to 16. In particular it was a really busy week for country radio, with 'Baby Be My Love Song' by Easton Corbin rebounding to 65, 'Tonight Looks Good On You' by Jason Aldean jumping to 74, 'Crushin' It' by Brad Paisley bouncing up to 83, and most surprisingly, 'Diamond Rings & Old Barstools' by Tim McGraw and Catherine Dunn surging to 68. The biggest surprise for me, though, was the success of 'Uma Thurman' by Fall Out Boy rising to 56 - maybe it just took a little time for people to recognize it's a damn great summer song, but I hope it manages to pick up some momentum, because it's been five months since we got the song and I'm still not sick of it, which is saying something.

And on that note, let's deflate my good mood by talking about our one returning entry...

The more I listen to this song, the more I'm confused why anyone would care about it. Derivative across the board from the beat, rapping cadence, and every bit of content, with the only distinctive thing about it being that synth that bleeds across the end of the prechorus and contributes nothing. The best thing I can say about it is that it's forgettable, in that unless I have to cover it again, it'll never cross my mind. Next!

Well, that was quick. Now onto our new entries and hopefully some better tracks, starting with...

95. 'Planes' by Jeremih ft. J.Cole - so I have to ask, is Jeremih ever actually going to release an album? Or make a music video, or be seen in public? I know, he's apologized a number of times why we've seen so little from him, but maybe the reason Def Jam is hesitant to release an album because Jeremih's not helping drive any momentum for this upcoming record, which apparently is supposed to be released in mid-July. Either way, it's really hard for me to care. I've said in the past Jeremih is the sort of artist who slips through the cracks, and if it wasn't for J.Cole's presence on this song, I reckon this track would have a similar fate - maybe rise a little, but nobody would care outside of critics in six months. Now to be fair, in comparison with trash like 'Don't Tell 'Em', 'Planes' is at least tolerable as your standard R&B sex jam, and I kind of liked the faded synth and low end bass driving the melody. But it's a track that's so minimalist that Jeremih's jittery flow sounds oddly out-of-place - there's no flow to it, and it doesn't help that most of his lyrics are kind of ridiculous - dude, no whip is so big that you can't find your girl unless you're a bus driver. And then there's J.Cole's verse, and I'll give him this, you can tell he's just goofing off and he does make it sound fun. Nothing he said was all that good - I did find it funny that the normal 'steal your girl' line was written to imply she was with both of the guys and not just J.Cole - but it was played with a lighter tone... which doesn't match the instrumentation at all. But at the end of the day, the track is passable enough, and by Jeremih standards, that's saying something.

94. 'Kiss You In The Morning' by Michael Ray - you know, now that The Voice is over, I was hoping we might actually get a break from reality show stars showing up on the charts, but nope! Michael Ray, for those of you who don't know, apparently won the show The Next: Fame Is At Your Doorstep, a competition that debuted this year on the CW, and this led to him snagging a record contract with Atlantic. Now that was back in 2012, and it's taken him this long to launch a song... and really, this is all he could come out with? Yeah, Michael Ray has personality and there's nothing that egregious about the country sound with some decent guitarwork, but that's really all I can say about the song that stands out. The lyrics are forgettable bro-country mush with clumsy rhyming,about all the times and places Michael Ray wants to kiss you, and for someone who's not looking for that, this song does very little for me, especially considering any dozen other bro-country songs does the exact same thing. 

93. 'You Changed Me' by Jamie Foxx ft. Chris Brown - Jamie Foxx is one of those guys that I always find a little difficult to evaluate, mostly because he's on the extremely short list of Academy Award winners who have also landed charting hits. It's always frustrated me that Jamie Foxx's brand of R&B never called more back to the soulful power of Ray Charles, the role he played that won him that Oscar, but I'd argue more of that is due to the era of R&B where he notched his hits. To me, 'Blame It' with T-Pain is the sort of track that belongs less to Jamie Foxx and more just a cultural artifact of what R&B was like at that time, as it's not like he brings a ton of unique personality to it. On some level, I think that's the issue I have with 'You Changed Me' - they have to pile on so many effects to Foxx's voice to make it distinctive during the chorus, which to some extent he doesn't need, because his second verse does show him a little more natural soul and it sounds pretty good. And the lyrics aren't bad either - they play themselves a little classier than Chris Brown normally touches, and while he still makes his verse all about sex, he doesn't sound bad on it. I do wish there was more of a melody anchoring the song - the instrumentation is pretty bare-bones - but I honestly didn't mind this. And like what I said for Jeremih, when it comes to Chris Brown tracks, that's saying something. 

92. 'Buy Me A Boat' by Chris Janson - okay, I'll be honest: I have never understood the whole fascination around boats. I'm allergic to seafood, I don't fish, I have no interest in sailing, and the upkeep costs seem stupid expensive. And on that note, Chris Janson and I might agree, a name you'll only recognize if you read the liner notes of recent bro-country records that aren't directly affiliated with Luke Bryan. He actually did have a bit of success off of briefly signing with Columbia Nashville, but after that dried up, he went independent and dropped this. And honestly, when it comes to modern country, this isn't bad - the sizzling guitar licks that brood over the song, Chris Janson's coiled, rough-edged twang, and only slipping when some of the thinner, weedier tones creep in. And yeah, while I don't get the whole boating thing, there's a certain pragmatism to the track's blunt admission that it'd be nice to be filthy rich. And it's a nice change of pace to be singing from the perspective of not having it and wanting it than bragging about having it and everyone else doesn't. At the end of the day, sure, it's shallow, but again, it's passable enough.

91. 'Young & Crazy' by Frankie Ballard - I reviewed Frankie Ballard's Sunshine & Whiskey last year, and since I reviewed it, I haven't gone back since. It was one of those albums that mostly went in one ear and out the other - not precisely bad but nothing all that memorable. But in comparison with most of the record, 'Young & Crazy' was one of the songs I mostly liked - the guitar melody was pretty solid and had some good snarl and punch, especially on a pretty slick solo, and I dug the lyrics, mostly using the fact that he's trying to rack up his experience now when he's young before settling down. Going back to the song now, you would have to wonder that crossing the line a few hundred times might feel a little excessive, but that's nitpicking. I think my issue with this song might ultimately come back to Frankie Ballard himself, mostly because he doesn't bring a lot of unique charisma to the table - he's a fine enough singer, but his tone is very relaxed, which doesn't really suit the sort of young exuberance you need for a track like this. It just seems to come a little too easy, that's all. Still a good song, but not quite great, at least for me.

90. 'Loving You Easy' by Zac Brown Band - oh, I was worried about this. See, the Zac Brown Band's last record was not really a country album - it crossed a half-dozen different genres with varying degrees of success, and this song is a prime example of that - mostly because it's a song drenched in mid-to-late 70s disco, especially with the shimmering background textures, the organ, the bassline, that guitar lick, and the very polished production. Hell, the most country element of the track is the fiddle segments that just feel weird. That said, if we're judging the song by the standards of the genre, is it good? Yeah, I definitely like this - there were plenty of better songs off of Jekyll + Hyde I would have picked instead, but this is passable, and the key change and crescendos are pretty damn fun. But it doesn't belong anywhere near country radio, and I suspect if it's not sent to pop soon, it's going nowhere.

89. 'Stitches' by Shawn Mendes - even after reviewing his debut album, I'm still a little torn on Shawn Mendes. He's one of those young pop stars I want to like, and 'Something Big' is an awesome track in taking Ed Sheeran's template and infusing it with some rollicking heaviness. But it's the sort of song that's damn near impossible to follow up without feeling like a letdown, and despite being a good song, 'Stitches' does fall into that category. It's a bit of an odd song too, and it makes you question how much Shawn Mendes wants to fall in love with this girl, especially as him tripping over himself makes this relationship seem like absolute hell - and given she's watching the entire thing play out and not helping, I can see his point of view here. In any case, Mendes doesn't quite bring the same intensity to the track, and while the groove is good, the chorus lands on a bit of a sour note for me. Once again, far from a bad track and I dig the nuance, but for me it just misses the mark from really clicking.

80. 'Electric Body' by A$AP Rocky ft. Schoolboy Q - I honestly did not expect any songs from At.Long.Last.A$AP to be sent to radio - and to be fair, A$AP Rocky really didn't make a song like 'Fuckin' Problems' on that album that had the ingredients to be a smash hit. The fact he landed two songs on the chart at all amazed me, but let's start with the faster and more energetic track - and how it's far, far worse. It's here for a chorus about women shaking their asses as A$AP Rocky stacks paper and drives expensive cars - which is at least delivered with a good flow, the one point I'll really give this song, but the wordplay is nothing that special and the creaking ominous feel of the guitar doesn't lend it any momentum or power, although I did kind of dig what sounds like a tambourine over the chorus. But then we get Schoolboy Q's verse and... dude, I'm trying to like you, and you have bars 'gonna whip that bitch like Ike / I can fuck your bitch off hype'? Even if I kind of like the more hard-hitting beat on the hazy outro, it's really a case of obnoxiousness and weak content hampering a beat that's only so-so. In other words, I'd skip this.

62. 'L$D' by A$AP Rocky - now this is the sort of A$AP Rocky track I can get behind - and believe it or not, that's actually been pretty controversial, mostly because he spends the majority of the song singing in a drugged-out haze that basically focuses on getting high as balls on acid and screwing the girl. But maybe it's my taste for good psychedelic rock or that thicker synth and beat that comes midway through the song before the chorus reprise, but this really clicks for me. There's a melody that carries through the song, the lonely guitar fragments play well across the entire song, and there's a density to the mix thanks to the thickness of the bass that really comes across strikingly well. I'm not saying the song is much more than drug-addled hedonism, but there's a way to do that well, and I'd argue that A$AP Rocky pulls it off here - damn good song.

20. 'The Hills' by The Weeknd - so remember what I said about wondering where Jeremih's new album is? The same thing goes just about as much as The Weeknd, who has had more success off of collaborations with Ariana Grande and Fifty Shades of Grey than his own material. In any case, this is apparently the lead-off single for his newest record Chapter III, which apparently is set to be released this summer... and wow, this was not what I was expecting. The odd thing is that I can see what The Weeknd was trying to do with this song: take the chilly Hills Have Eyes sample, the warped guitars, the shrill screaming and fuse it with the bleak, borderline horror-movie tones you often see in modern trap-flavoured hip-hop and R&B. And I'll give The Weeknd credit for at least sketching the lyrics with the creepy, unstable air of the sort of psychopath who would have lyrics like 'when I'm fucked up, that's the real me'. But man, I don't buy this at all, and it has everything to do with The Weeknd's voice and writing. To be blunt, he's not Michael Jackson, probably one of the few artists who could push this sort of sinister vibe in mainstream R&B and make it work, and it usually worked with a much tighter composition. But the larger issue is that The Weeknd isn't visceral or all that shocking, at least not as much as he thinks he is - his voice doesn't have that raw punch, no matter how many layers they slather on top of it. It's at least better than when Maroon 5 made 'Animals' on atmosphere alone, but to me, it misses the mark.

So yeah, overall a better week than last time, but not great all around. For the worst, 'Flicka Da Wrist' by Chedda Da Connect narrowly takes it from A$AP Rocky and Schoolboy Q for 'Electric Body'. But for best... well, 'L$D' by A$AP Rocky gets that, but Honourable Mention is trickier... I'm giving it to the Zac Brown Band's 'Loving You Easy' for being the easiest for me to enjoy, but again, it doesn't belong on country radio.  Will that be corrected by next week? Well, that assumes it lasts that long, but only time will tell.

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