Thursday, June 11, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 20, 2015

You know, after the past few weeks – and somehow falling behind again in my reviews – it’s nice to actually have a new Hot 100 that’s actually fairly lightweight in terms of new songs, most of which I’ve already heard before in some capacity. It’s one of the breather moments you get as summer starts to settle into gear and the album release schedule eases back a bit, at least for the pop charts.

Case in point? Look at our top 10, where ‘See You Again’ by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth reigns for another week at the top, even as the airplay gains finally seemed to have peaked, with it only holding dominance there and on YouTube. It’ll be interesting to see what eventually rises to replace it for the second time around, so let’s look at its closest competition ‘Bad Blood’ by Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar. It’s holding #2 right now thanks to solid sales, YouTube, and consistently strong airplay gains – it’s probably the most likely candidate as the airplay gains aren’t slowing. Beneath it we have our streaming leader with ‘Trap Queen’ by Fetty Wap, which looks to be a slightly more unstable position, because despite a good sales week and even some YouTube gains, airplay started dropping this week. A similar case for ‘Shut Up And Dance’ by Walk The Moon – yes, good sales week, but no YouTube, streaming losses, and a shaky airplay week means that this admittedly excellent song might be in trouble coming soon. Especially against the competition led by ‘Want To Want Me’ by Jason Derulo rising to #5, which despite only good sales had a very solid airplay week and picked up streaming, likely off the back of his album dropping last week and being better than expected. It was enough to push ‘Uptown Funk’ by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars back a peg to #6, which lost across the board except in YouTube, where it holds consistently and is probably the reason it’s still where it is. ‘Earned It’ by The Weeknd, however, doesn’t have that luck, as it hemorrhaged airplay en masse and took a hit in streaming to fall to #7. It still had enough to hold against ‘Hey Mama’ by David Guetta, Bebe Rexha, Nicki Minaj and Afrojack at #8, mostly thanks to a surprise softening in airplay gains, only decent sales, and actually a loss in on-demand streaming as it gained in YouTube, but not enough. This leads us to our new Top Ten entry: ‘Honey I’m Good’ by Andy Grammer rising to #9. To say that I’m a little astounded this is here is understating it, mostly because it’s the sort of song that’s so goddamn corny in terms of refusing the opportunity to cheat, but it is catchy as hell, which likely led to its excellent sales week and steadily rising airplay – nothing on streaming or YouTube, but given the annoying as hell video and the song’s overall sound, I’m not at all surprised. Finally we have ‘Sugar’ by Maroon 5 somehow holding on at #10 – it’s here thanks to YouTube and whatever residual airplay it’s got left, because streaming took another hit and sales at this point aren’t even worth mentioning – and considering some of the songs coming up behind it, I can’t see it lasting.

But before we get to those, let’s talk first about our losers and drop-outs. Sadly, we lost some pretty decent songs from the charts this week – ‘Homegrown’ by the Zac Brown Band losing naturally, and ‘I Bet’ by Ciara, ‘Raise Em Up’ by Keith Urban and Eric Church, and ‘King Kunta’ by Kendrick Lamar gone before their time. Outside of that, ‘All About That Bass’ by Meghan Trainor is finally off the charts, along with ‘Heartbeat Song’ which exited naturally. And a few of our big losers follow a similar pattern: ‘Chains’ by Nick Jonas dropping to 43 and ‘FourFiveSeconds’ by Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney are on their way out naturally, and ‘Flashlight’ by Jessie J going to 74 and ‘All Day’ by Kanye West, Theophilius London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney falling to 91 feel a little premature. And of course ‘L$D’ and ‘Electric Body’ by A$AP Rocky, the latter featuring Schoolboy Q, fell to 84 and 97 – natural reaction after an initial debut. The one drop this week that did surprise me was ‘Smoke’ by A Thousand Horses sliding to 59 – you’d think given the debut album just dropped it’d get a bit of a boost, but apparently not. The one drop that really pleased me was ‘Nasty’ by Bandit Gang Marco dropping hard to 82 – apparently the charts can only tolerate one terrible song named ‘nasty’ at a time, and thank god for that.

No, the gains is where things got more interesting this week, mostly because they’re a fair bit harder to explain. I mean, as much as I think ‘Classic Man’ by Jidenna ft. Roman GianArthur or ‘Photograph’ by Ed Sheeran aren’t good songs, their rises to 62 and 42 make sense, as Ed Sheeran can easily notch hits and Jidenna can rip off previous ones. The country charts also decided to give ‘Buy Me A Boat’ by Chris Janson a boost to 81 and ‘Loving You Easy’ by Zac Brown Band to 75 – the former because it’s an easy song that panders to fishing culture which gets a boost in the summer and the latter because… well, actually I have no idea, because there’s no way in hell it should be on country radio. In fact, we got all sorts of surprises, because ‘Fight Song’ by Rachel Platten got another boost to 25 – I mean, do we really need another pseudo-inspirational power ballad, I thought that was the reason that ‘Flashlight’ is tanking. And finally, ‘I Really Like You’ by Carly Rae Jepsen bounces to 60 – not all that surprising, really – people probably remember how successful ‘Call Me Maybe’ was over the summer of 2012, so why not go for a repeat? And the thing is that the song actually has grown on me a bit, even despite the chorus being clumsy in the worst way, so much so that I might actually review her upcoming album if I can find the time, which is saying something.

But now we've got a pretty small list of new arrivals, so let's start with our solitary returning entry!

I didn't have a huge amount to say about this song when I first covered it, but I think it has grown on me a bit since then. I'm still not the biggest fan of the Arabian-inspired synth choice that opens the first verse, but when you get past that it's one of DJ Snake's most propulsive and aggressively fun dance tracks, even despite the ridiculous pitch shifted vocals, mostly because it's got such a grip on the crescendos and melodic progressions, and those shrieks that punctuate the song add a lot to the dusty trap style. Honestly, it's sitting around what 'Turn Down For What' was for me, minus Lil Jon but featuring a thicker and more developed melodic progression that does work a fair bit better. In other words, yeah, I dig this.

So now onto our sparse list of new entries, starting with...

99. 'Hell Of A Night' by Dustin Lynch - really, Dustin, you had to release this as your next single and not 'Halo' or 'To The Sky'? On the one hand, I'm not surprised - if you're looking for more of a rock side of bro-country, this song isn't terrible, mostly because Dustin anchors it in a solid melodic riff with enough of a melody to support it, and for a straightforward country rock track, Lynch has the right voice to back it up. And yeah, it helps that it's nowhere near as clunky and overmixed as most bro-country is, even if I do the vocal echo isn't needed. But this songs suffers in my mind for two reasons, the first being that the lyrics are absolutely nothing worth caring about, the sort of interchangeable mush I've heard dozens of times. And secondly... dude, 'To The Sky' sounds like a Poets Of The Fall-track, and that would be amazing to hear on the radio... but therein lies the problem, in that Dustin Lynch is arguably a country act, and that song would belong on rock radio, which means you'd never see it on the charts. But putting that aside... folks, I already forgot this song exists, go check out 'To The Sky', that song is awesome.

96. 'Hood Go Crazy' by Tech N9ne ft. 2 Chainz & B.o.B. - it's weird seeing Tech N9ne on the radio. Not just because he's the sort of ridiculously skilled technical rapper that could run circles around everyone, but because even on more of his party bangers, he's a cult artist. Nothing wrong with that - I'm not the biggest Tech N9ne fan, mostly because his content and production aren't always on the same level as his skill, but I respect the hell out of him. And yet, seeing him on the charts with B.o.B. only covering the hook - a bad sign how far his stock has fallen - and 2 Chainz on this sort of track is jarring as hell. Now here's the thing: Tech N9ne sounds great on this song in terms of charisma and flow, at least when he sounds like he's awake, because half his bars feel lethargic to the point of laziness. 2 Chainz says nothing remotely worthwhile and that pimple line was gross, but in terms of technical ability he did step up, but what a complete waste of B.o.B. - the guy used to have a flow like Andre 3000, and this is all you let him do? Now I know what you're thinking - in comparison with most people who do this sort of material, Tech N9ne is so obviously better that I'd give this a pass, even though by his standards you can tell he's barely trying. But with production that's really nothing special and the fact I know Tech can do better, I have a hard time giving this a pass. And for those of you who say you can't have crowd pleasing bangers and hooks and incredible lyricism at the same time... look up Doomtree, and get back to me. 

92. 'Everyday' by A$AP Rocky ft. Rod Stewart, Miguel & Mark Ronson - as much as I dug the hell out of 'L$D', 'Everyday' was a close second, and nearly all of it was wrapped up in the hook and production. The pairing of Rod Stewart and Miguel on the hook is inspired, and I love the organ backdrop paired with some incredibly solid drums, and that first beat change-up is great. And yeah, A$AP Rocky's flow on this song is impressive - the problem is everything he says. He doesn't really have many punchlines, his bars are just empty bragging, and his obsession with trying to get lesbians to sleep with him just gets grating, no matter how self-deprecating he gets. Again, the hook and production redeems a lot, but I don't love this, and the outro just kills the momentum for me. Overall a damn good track, but I wish A$AP Rocky had more to say to make it a great one.

85. 'House Party' by Sam Hunt - I don't want to say it, but I will be honest - putting aside 'Cop Car', which Keith Urban did first and did it amazingly well to boot, this is probably Sam Hunt's best song. It doesn't belong anywhere near country radio, and the fact that it'll get more play over far more deserving artists is infuriating, but that's not Sam Hunt's fault, but really of radio programmers who say nonsense like 'they shouldn't play women on country radio', calling them the tomatoes in a salad which I don't have the time or patience to discuss today. But by the standards of Sam Hunt songs, it's still not good, mostly because the banjo carrying any sort of melody is drowned out by the percussion and it and the guitar sound clunky as hell, especially against the too-slick by half cymbals. But I think the reason this track doesn't bother me as much is that it's too stupid to hate. What I disliked about other Sam Hunt tracks was the obnoxiousness that being too slick by half didn't help - in other words, the same reason Maroon 5 can piss me off so much. But this is a clunky sing-along for drunk fratboys and it at least gets that. It's not getting a pass from me, but I don't hate it either.

58. 'Ulay Oh' by How I Became The Bomb - of all the tracks that showed up on the charts this week, this is the biggest surprise, and by far the most interesting. Not because of the music itself, but the story behind it, which ties into noted performance artist Marina Abramovich and her long-time lover Ulay. The story goes that the two had been involved intimately for years until when they broke up, they walked the entire length of the Great Wall of China to meet in the middle for one final embrace. They didn't see each other again until Abramovich released The Artist Is Present, a performance art piece where the audience was confronted with Marina's presence, designed to show how one responds when placed in direct contact with the artist. It's intimidating, as Marina's implacable presence is pretty potent - until on opening night, Ulay returns and sat opposite her, one of the few that could pierce Marina's steely exterior and drive a response, the first time she had seen him in years. On a conceptual level, it's powerful as hell, showing how those we have loved have touched something so deeply within us that the artist naturally responds, as those memories never really fade. Anyway, the reason the song is here is because a video snippet of that piece went viral on YouTube, and for good reason, it's incredibly powerful, especially considering there is no dialogue and Abramovich and Ulay convey the entire piece across the table, and you can tell how it sliced through her perfect poise. I say all this because I'm not sure how much the song holds up away the video, seeing that interaction. It's incredibly well-written and does a lot to tell that story, but the pitch correction on the vocals is a little much and the synths don't really do a lot to drive the song until the thicker low-end came in. As a track, damn solid, a great novelty, but like most other viral hits, I don't really see this sticking around.

47. 'Phenomenal' by Eminem - ...really? Em, didn't you already make with 'Cinderella Man' which was a much better boxing anthem, or any other half dozen pseudo-inspirational anthems that you've cranked out over the past few years? One of the things I've realized over the past few years is that while Relapse continues to rise in value as an underappreciated gem, Recovery keeps falling further and further in my eyes, and Eminem returning to that well yet again with 'Phenomenal' might just be one of this worst efforts to date and clear he's running out of ideas. Forget the fact that his low-key singing is completely gutless and that whoever he sampled for the bridge sounds terrible, and that the production is so ponderous and heavy that it doesn't have any of the power to really pump you up, who really disappoints me is Eminem himself. Yeah, his writing is still good, but he's slipping off the beat and from Em, that's sloppiness. The bigger problem is that the lyricism is nothing special or interesting or colourful, and the punchlines have so little flavour or character. It's the worst possible thing for an Eminem track in that it's boring as tar, and Em shouting 'phenomenal' is insufferable.

So yeah, in a change of pace, Eminem is walking away with the worst of the week, with the Dishonourable Mention going to 'House Party' by Sam Hunt - just because it's his best song doesn't make it good. And as for the best of the week... hard to pick a standout, but I think I'll give it to 'Ulay Oh' by How I Became The Bomb, with 'Everyday' by A$AP Rocky, Miguel, Rod Stewart, and Mark Ronson slipping in for honourable mention. God, as an Eminem fan it's painful to place him in this position, but the song is just junk.

1 comment:

  1. Shocked you're not celebrating the drop out of Flicka Da Wrist