Thursday, June 18, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 27, 2015

So here's the mixed blessing of a week like this one. You look at the charts, see that very little actually happened across the board with perhaps one of the smallest numbers of songs new or returning to the Hot 100, and it allows you to breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, something that's pretty light across the board. But then it's the creeping question of whether I'll be able to keep all of this interesting on a week where - gasp - there's little to actually complain about!

But then I realized there is indeed something, and it ties back to the top 10, most of which was completely static this week and thus boring as all hell. Yes, of course 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth held onto the top slot even despite the smallest of airplay gains - it's got a stranglehold on Youtube, solid streaming, and consistently good sales. And of course it's enough to keep 'Bad Blood' by Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar from getting higher, because even as it gains in airplay and leads on sales, the only streaming presence it has is YouTube - bet you're regretting walking out on Spotify now, eh, Taylor? But even if she had that, it probably still wouldn't have been enough to beat 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap which still holds #3 thanks to its stranglehold on streaming and solid sales, even despite steadily losing airplay. Right beneath it we've got 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk The Moon, which spent the week still gaining airplay and had solid sales to compensate for its non-presence in streaming and YouTube - in other words, just like last week. Where things start to change a bit is 'Want To Want Me' by Jason Derulo sitting at #5 - sure, no change in position, but airplay and streaming has started to dip and sales are weakening. It's only here because 'Uptown Funk' isn't strong enough anymore to beat it even despite still being here even losing across the board. The problem is that the losses aren't significant enough to knock it back, and the fact that it still does kick all amounts of ass. This leads to our one new track, one that's long been charting high in Canada and now has only finally broken the top ten in the States: 'Cheerleader' by OMI smashing up to #7. Generally all good news here: it's healthy across the board, with particularly strong sales, and I can definitely see this rising more as the summer takes hold. It was enough to push back 'Earned It' by The Weeknd to #8 - although the nonexistent sales and heavy losses in airplay did more to hurt it - and 'Hey Mama' by David Guetta, Bebe Rexha, Nicki Minaj, and Afrojack to #9, which had a reasonably solid week, with gains in YouTube compensating for an odd slip in streaming. Finally, we've got 'Honey I'm Good' by Andy Grammer holding onto #10, where it did have a solid week in sales and airplay and even picking up a bit of streaming... just not quite enough to make a major impact.

See, only one new song having a pretty modest and predictable impact, not a lot to say there! And if you go to the songs losing or dropping out, it's the same thing. For drop-outs, the two big ones are 'Truffle Butter' by Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Lil Wayne dropping out - the only single from The Pinkprint I actually liked - and 'FourFiveSeconds' by Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney for an album that still hasn't been been officially announced despite multiple singles. And the losses aren't that difficult to explain either. 'Chains' by Nick Jonas slipping to 54 and 'Don't It' by Billy Currington falling to 66 are both a result of the songs naturally exiting, although I will say Billy Curriington's losses did surprise me - you'd think he'd have more buzz. Beyond that, 'L$D' by A$AP Rocky also took a hit to 98, but it's arguably too slow and weird for mainstream radio, especially during the summer. The real delight for me was the major hit to 'Pretty Girls' by Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea, which I think it's reasonable at this point to call a flop single as it tumbled to 70, mostly for being obnoxiously stupid beyond repair.

It's not all great news, though, which takes us to our gains, where country radio in particular had a very busy week. It wasn't exactly surprising to see the boosts to 'Hell Of A Night' by Dustin Lynch to 89 or 'House Party' by Sam Hunt to 65 - they're both summer songs, and even though I'm not a fan of either, I can see why they're charting. Same sort of thing by 'Tonight Looks Good On You' by Jason Aldean going to 56 - he's enough of an A-lister that I'm surprised this song hasn't risen faster. The slightly bigger surprise is 'Buy Me A Boat' by Chris Janson at 67, but again, it's a bro-country song about boats, of course it's going to do well in the summer. Hell, the one non-country song that got a big boost was 'Planes' by Jeremih & J.Cole, which I'll attribute to Jeremih seemingly being a guy who gets charting hits for his guest stars while being completely easy to ignore himself. The one big surprise from me was 'Like A Wrecking Ball' by Eric Church getting a boost to 53, mostly because I'm not sure why - yeah, it's got the same sort of washed-out style as Little Big Town's 'Girl Crush', which still has cemented itself on the charts, but it's so sloppily produced and with such ridiculous lyrics, I just can't take it seriously. Eh, to each their own, I guess.

But now onto our solitary returning entry, and a damn good one it is!

Look, at this point I've talked about twenty one pilots so many times that you should all know I really love this song, even despite probably not being in my top three from that album! Hell, even the people who didn't like Blurryface like this song, and for damn good reason: it's just a monumentally strong pop song, coasting on a great vocal performance from Tyler Joseph, prominent melodies, a great explosive chorus reprise, and starkly memorable lyrics. Never has a bizarre non sequiteur like 'My taste in music is your FACE!' had so much punch - God, I love it!

Yeah, no complaints with that, let's see if the rest of the week is that damn good!

97. 'Lose My Mind' by Brett Eldredge - you know, maybe it was just bad timing, but I missed covering Brett Eldredge's debut album Bring You Back when it first dropped - I was getting my sea legs on YouTube, and he was just another male country star breaking in the era of bro-country. Yeah, talk about a massively stupid oversight, because going through that album, I missed a real talent, beyond just a uniquely rich and textured baritone - despite his production being a little slick for my taste, he still fits into neotraditional country and is a strikingly strong and unique songwriter - you don't hear songs like 'Raymond' or 'Go On Without Me' on mainstream country radio, and that's just wrong. Of course, the reason I thought that was that songs like 'Don't Ya' and 'Beat Of The Music' fell pretty close to that bro-country mold, even though like Billy Currington or Chris Young, his brand of it is still definitely a cut above. That's why his lead-off single from his upcoming album hits me in a weird place - for one, it interpolates a melody from 'Crazy' by Gnarls Barkley and features oddly jagged guitar lines against a handclap beat that would normally irk me - and yeah, the production is still too slick to really compliment Eldredge's voice well. But that interpolation lends the song a fantastic sense of groove and momentum that Eldredge's subject matter uses excellently. It's a song about being crazy in love together that sounds crazy, so yeah, I can definitely dig this!

94. 'This Could Be Us' by Rae Sremmurd - well, that's one hell of a comedown. So for those of you who somehow forgot, Rae Sremmurd's Sremmlife was the first album I covered in 2015, and it will probably be the worst of them, a revoltingly limp slice of concentrated garbage featuring two of the least likeable and listenable rappers I've ever had the misfortune to cover. And thus far, they've charted four singles and at least one will make the Hot 100 year end list. So while I'll discuss that in six months or so, let's talk about the newest single, which of the four sounds the most like an actual finished song, in that it actually has a melody thanks to the hollow pianos and the horns. Of course, that doesn't distract from the fact that the song is a disjointed, inarticulate mess, right down to the chorus, where Swae Lee is lamenting that this girl is acting distant towards him, but the other voice is repeating how 'money make your girl go down'. So if I were to stretch for a meaning, it's about how my girl is only interested in Rae Sremmurd for their money - and these guys are somehow still infatuated enough that they want the girl to lie to them and say she loves them, even though they're letting her act like a whore? Why else would they be trying to compliment her or act like they're hot shit when they so clearly aren't? Outside of the sourness I feel in my gut whenever I watch these two try to rap, this is a song asking for me to be sympathetic because these girls are golddiggers - and yet they're talking about my girl, so why should I feel anything? Ugh, this song blows, and watching these two try to act in a music video is embarrassing - next!

92. 'Back It Up' by Prince Royce ft. Jennifer Lopez & Pitbull - heh, should have seen this coming. One of the things you tend to notice about the Hot 100 is that if you're a Latin star looking for a full mainstream crossover, your best way to do it is collaborate with Pitbull. In this case, Prince Royce looks to sustain the momentum he got with 'Stuck On A Feeling' and Snoop Dogg by hooking up with Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez, the latter who got her career resurgence thanks to Mr. Worldwide here. So how does our second single turn out? Well, outside of Pitbull not knowing what dancehall is and Jennifer Lopez singing through gratuitous pitch correction and the entire song about girls backing up their butts and cheating on their boyfriends, it's fine enough. The buzzy synths don't have a lot of texture but the percussion does, and all three acts do have some charisma. I think my big issue with Prince Royce is how little unique personality I get from him - yeah, he's got pipes, but beyond that, we already have Enrique Iglesias doing much of the same thing, and he's at least finally bringing more distinctive Latin flavor. But I can't get mad at this song - it's inoffensive enough, and it'll play well this summer if it becomes a hit. Eh.

86. 'John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16' by Keith Urban - hey, want me to blow your mind? Keith Urban is forty-seven years old, and he still sounds like he's in his twenties or thirties - guess being married to Nicole Kidman for nearly a decade keeps you young. In any case, Urban has finally stopped releasing singles from Fuse, which dropped two years ago and has the lead-off single for a new album... and I have to admit, I'm not really a fan. I get that Urban's always sat on the edge of pop country, but if it wasn't for the lyrics, I wouldn't know what genre to classify this: the thick bass line, the incredibly stiff drum machines, the choppy acoustic guitars, the organ interlude, the multiple key changes. I'd say it reminds me of the late 90s/early 2000s acoustic flavoured pop where Keith Urban originally made his fortune - and yet the lyrics are very much about embracing who one is and his country roots, which always feels weird for me because Keith Urban is Australian. What's it's really most reminiscent of is Sam Hunt, or the song 'Jonesin' from Billy Currington's last record - which makes sense, because they were both cowritten by Shane McAnally and share the same staccato style that's interesting, but doesn't really do a lot for me, which is pretty much where I fall on this track. But I think my big issue is that as a song, it's Keith telling us who he is instead of showing us - even in a song like this, more of a story might be better, just saying.

82. '3500' by Travi$ Scott ft. Future & 2 Chainz - there's plenty of reasons why people hate Drake, but I think the reason that doesn't get enough attention is that the major of people he's put money behind are terrible. Yeah, The Weeknd isn't bad and we'll get to him in a few minutes, but I just do not see the appeal of acts like PARTYNEXTDOOR or TraviS Scott, both who try way too hard to be dark with their brand of autotuned debauchery that's less thrilling or intimidating and more just a cheap Future ripoff. So when we have '3500', seven minutes of Travi$ Scott, Future, and 2 Chainz engaging in fuzz-saturated luxury porn, it's goddamn unbearable. The best thing I can say about this track is that I can kind of appreciate the murky synths and organs, tinkling keyboards and eerie vibe with hints of guitar that remind me more than a bit of Kanye's 'All Day' - if only the actual content of the song wasn't badly written luxury rap about doing stupid amounts of drugs and bragging about fur coats that barely tries to rhyme. And while Travi$ Scott's verse is bad, Future's is worse, where he's still raging about Ciara running off on him and saying he pisses cough syrup. At least 2 Chainz's hyperbole is a little amusing and his rhyming has gotten a little better, but none of it is witty enough to excuse the fact that this song is over seven minutes long and has enough original content to fill one and a half. And I'll say it again: using such dark, ponderous tones for your luxury rap doesn't make you look imposing and it sure as hell doesn't look like you're having fun. Granted, when you're around Future, fun just isn't happening. Next!

24. 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd - heh, so remember a few weeks back when I said that The Weeknd really can't pull off the pseudo-horror vibe he was attempting on 'The Hills' and that one of the few R&B artists who could have ever made it work was Michael Jackson? Well, here comes 'Can't Feel My Face', and The Weeknd trying to pull off the best Michael Jackson impression he can muster - and it's actually not bad. Now let me stress, it's not on Michael's level - the bass is nowhere near tight or defined enough to match the percussion, and the fuzzier elements that The Weeknd smears all over the instrumentation don't do a lot for me and feel like they're trying to make the track darker than they need. Which is what I'd say for The Weeknd' lyrics too, embracing the whole 'live fast, leave a beautiful corpse' element that I've never really found all that fun. And yeah, The Weeknd isn't as tight or intense as Michael was - but it's a hell of a lot more fun and gripping than most of his material. I think my biggest consistent issue with The Weeknd is that he's not as emotionally evocative as his R&B influences, but this is a step in the right direction, so yeah, I'll take it.

So overall, pretty quick week, and pretty easy to evaluate. Yeah, to no surprise at all 'Tear In My Heart' by twenty one pilots just runs away with the Best of the Week, with the Honourable Mention going to 'Lose My Mind' by Brett Eldredge for almost single-handedly convincing me to check out his next album. As for the worst... see, I know what all of you are thinking, but I'm giving it to '3500' by Travi$ Scott, Future, and 2 Chainz and Dishonourable Mention to 'This Could Be Us' by Rae Sremmurd, because at least that song had a tune, the fragments of a workable idea, and wasn't seven goddamn minutes long! God, we need some better hip-hop on the charts right now...

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