Tuesday, July 21, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 1, 2015

So we've now settled into the doldrums of summer, the time of year where everything seems to slow down and nothing all that interesting happens on the charts. The Top 10 was mostly static, not many movers and shakers, and even our list of returning and new arrivals is smaller than ever...

Which of course means I'm not exactly complaining, so let's not waste any more time and get to our Top Ten. 'Cheerleader' by OMI holds onto the #1 slot thanks to leading sales, solid radio gains, strong streaming and even a bit of YouTube, but I doubt it'll hold it for long, because 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd is right behind it rising to #2. And really, it's playing the margins at this point, because it's gaining airplay at a faster rate, leads streaming, and is perilously close on sales - no YouTube for that final boost, but I reckon it's only a matter of time before it comes through here. And really, the fight to the wire here tends to make the next slew of songs not all that interesting. 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth slips to #3 as airplay is in freefall, sales are weakening and it slipped in streaming, mostly being propped up by YouTube at this point. And 'Bad Blood' by Taylor Swift & Kendrick Lamar isn't that far behind it, slipping in YouTube, starting to bleed airplay and sales starting to slide back. It's at #4 because while 'Watch Me' by Silento did gain airplay and sales and even a bit of YouTube, it slipped on streaming, which might indicative that it might be in for a fall sooner rather than later. Then there's 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap at #6, basically held up on sales and slipping streaming at this point, and only above 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk The Moon because that song has never had enough streaming or YouTube to buoy up its weakening airplay and sales. And the funny thing is that even though 'Fight Song' by Rachel Platten is gaining, it suffers a similar problem, with not exceptional streaming and slowing airplay gains to match its strong sales - I predict an early peak with this one. And now this takes us to our two new top ten entries, starting with 'Lean On' by Major Lazer, DJ Snake & M0, in other words known as my least favourite current DJ Snake song. I'm not even saying it's bad, but just kind of mediocre with one of the most grating synth lines supporting M0's not exactly interesting vocals - but it was enough to send the song to #9 on the back of okay sales, small airplay gains, and absolutely huge YouTube and streaming. And then we have The Weeknd's second top ten entry, 'The Hills', breaking in thanks to sales and streaming and little else... and I still wish I liked this song more than I do. Sure, it's creepy with the warped guitars and rough edges and screaming, but the lyrics aren't nearly interesting enough to build this sort of menace, The Weeknd has nowhere near the intensity to pull this off, and that chorus feels limp every time I try to get into the crescendo. At least Miguel makes his desaturated, rough-edged R&B fun.

And on the topics of artists who might deserve better, let's talk about our losers and dropouts, where country had a particularly bad week across the board. 'Diamond Rings And Old Barstools' by Tim McGraw and Catherin Dunn unfortunately exits the chart early, as does 'Smoke' by A Thousand Horses after a respectable debut run... although the bigger news is that 'G.D.F.R.' by Flo Rida, Sage The Gemini, & Lookas also bows out after a respectable run that in no way merits the song's mediocrity. And the losers follow suit, with 'The Night Is Still Young' underperforming with a slip to 54, 'Love Me Like You Mean It' by Kelsea Ballerini continuing to fall at 72, and 'Little Toy Guns' by Carrie Underwood taking another rough hit to 86 - honestly thought Carrie would have lasted a little longer, but it happens.

Our gains, however, are a little less explainable - well, at least some of them are. 'Like I'm Gonna Lose You' by Meghan Trainor & John Legend gets an unsurprising boost to 70 and 'Break Up With Him' by Old Dominion jumps to 89 off of their respective debuts, the former of which I expected and the latter of which makes me want to set things on fire. But the other two gains are a little weirder. I don't exactly mind that 'Young & Crazy' by Frankie Ballard went up to 64 - it's a fine enough song, but the sudden radio boost is a bit surprising, given the song dropped months ago. I'm guessing it's radio programmers looking to fill gaps, but that doesn't explain 'El Perdon' by Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias jumping up to 76 seventeen weeks into their chart run. Okay, it got a YouTube boost, but the big news is that the release of the English version meant it got a slew of additional sales. You'd think they'd have done that earlier in the chart run to build momentum, but eh, wishful thinking.

And this takes us to our two returning entries, starting with...

I'm surprised to see this back after the video was released a month ago, but it was one of the few songs I actually did really like from Dark Sky Paradise, an album title that's still absolutely laughable. And it's mostly held up, with the exception of that gratuitous autotune on Kanye and Big Sean's hook - just give to John Legend and let him handle it on his own, neither of you two needed to be there. But to his credit, Big Sean's bars are actually pretty solid, as he reflects upon some of the hollowness of his hype and how he could never face the same conditions his grandmother did, who fought in World War II, made captain, and then came back to help raise him. It's the sort of tribute that still does have an element of corniness - especially that Kim line in the first verse - but it feels more authentic to Big Sean's feelings, and the stripped back pianos do help. Overall, yeah, it's a solid song, definitely like this.

Hey, look, a song I actually said I liked returned to the charts after a week of absence! If only this could happen for songs like 'Coffee' or 'King Kunta' or 'Bills' which are outright awesome instead of just being pretty good. And for the most part, I like this. The sandy beat, Fetty Wap's warbling trying to win over a girl without stealing her from another dude, and even Drake decided to contribute a verse on the remix... and it's actually pretty good, showing another side of him with a new girl getting over his ex and driving her home. Hell, Drake even does this sing-rap thing that Fetty Wap does surprisingly well... it's still a little annoying and Drake can do better, but if Fetty Wap was looking for a follow-up hit, this could indeed be it. Pretty damn good.

Okay, that was actually a fairly solid way to start the week, now onto our new arrivals, starting with...

94. 'Burning House' by Cam - you ever encounter those songs you really want to love a lot more than you do? Yeah, this is one of those cases, a brittle acoustic ballad with hints of piano about a dying relationship. And really, there is a fair amount to like - Cam's a good singer, the delicate instrumentation does have a certain frail elegance to it that I like, especially if you pay attention to the accent moments in the background of the mix. But that chorus... okay, if the fire is representative of the troubles breaking this relationship and that's the only place where Cam feels anything close to her partner, why the constant usage of a sleepwalking metaphor? Putting aside the fact that sleepwalking around fire is a recipe for disaster, it implies her unconscious mind is the only thing pressing for this relationship while rationally she's trying to keep her distance. And honestly, that does mostly work, but I can't help but feel we're walking through the ashes of this house instead of the fire. Decent enough track, but I'm not sure it's great.

92. 'Fly' by Maddie & Tae - so the common buzz in the country music scene is that 'bro-country', at least in terms of the checklist-driven meatheaded subgenre that was popular over the past few years, has mostly receded and allowed a bit more diversity. And while I'm definitely not complaining, it has meant that the 'anti-bro-country' camp, acts that made their initial splash fighting the trend, need to define their artistic progression quickly or be left irrelevant. This includes new country duo Maddie & Tae, who dropped 'Girl In A Country Song' last year, a song that was so fascinating it inspired a Special Comment on this very show. So I was keen to hear their follow-up single... and yeah, it's pretty decent. The instrumentation is mostly agreeable, although that choppy banjo rollick is a little distracting and takes away from an otherwise solid neotraditional sound, especially with that fiddle and steel guitar elements. And the lyrics play well in a 'you have to fall hard before you get up', analogous to what Kacey Musgraves did with 'Silver Linings' two years ago. I guess where I cool a little on the song is the melodic construction and sound - it's just a little tepid for me, lacking in distinctive texture or differentiations in composition, and the lack of more interesting harmonies between Maddie and Tae is a little disappointing. Again, not bad, but coming off of 'Girl In A Country Song', I'm a little underwhelmed.

90. 'Should've Been Us' by Tori Kelly - so I've gotten a number of questions on why I didn't cover Unbreakable Smile by Tori Kelly a few weeks back, and while I did mostly like the breezy and generally enjoyable 'Nobody Love', it was the sort of song that didn't really grip me as much as I'd like, and I wasn't entirely surprised it dropped off the Hot 100 like a rock. I mean, I covered Hilary Duff and Carly Jepsen, why not give Tori Kelly a chance? And after listening to this song, I'm starting to see why I got all of those requests, because this is pretty solid. Tori Kelly still gives me the impression with this track she might need a little more seasoning before she's quite ready for primetime - her cooing is solid but it doesn't quite come with the same ease, but the scratchy percussion and dusty swirl of synths is generally enjoyable, even if there is barely a melody driving this track outside of a reverb-drained synth at the back. And the lyrics reflecting on a lost relationship that Tori Kelly misses are generally fine, even if I do feel they're a little underwritten to rise above. Definitely a solid song, but I'm not sure how long it'll stick with me, so I'll enjoy it while I have it

80. 'Kings Never Die' by Eminem ft. Gwen Stefani - okay, I want to know who in the offices at Shady told Eminem that recycling the themes and instrumentation from Recovery was a good idea. Because while I mostly liked that album, with every single Eminem has released in the past few months falls into the same holding pattern. And while on some tracks he seemed aware of his own writer's block, at this point it seems like Eminem is content to hop on a vaguely rap-rock inspired beat, get a female singer, and tear anyone in his path to shreds... except at this point he's got no more enemies to conquer, and no matter how much he wants to cast himself as an underdog, it's just unbelievable. As such there's no drama and without more innovative wordplay, it just feels like Eminem is spinning his wheels trying desperately to find something new to write about. Now to be fair, 'Kings Never Die' is better than the sludgy, borderline incompetent 'Phenomenal', but it's still nothing special, putting Gwen Stefani on hook duty as a sad reminder of how far she's fallen. The rock sample still feels too heavy, especially considering more monochromatic synths are piled on top, and Eminem trying to sing his way through the end of the second verse is just ridiculous. And as for the content... okay, Em, I know you're pissed at critics who keep marking you down, but I get the feeling you're missing the message why: we're exasperated because you keep repeating yourself and it's maddening how one of the best technical rappers can't bring anything beyond punchlines and increasingly tired and bland rock samples. At this point in your career, you have nothing to lose by getting more experimental, or collaborating with more underground artists that could use your starpower, or going political, or maybe trying a concept album. But making pseudo-inspirational pap for soundtracks... dude, maybe you should have acted in Southpaw instead of writing for it, because this isn't interesting. At all.

So yeah, easy choice for the Worst of the Week with 'Kings Never Die' by Eminem and Gwen Stefani, but honestly, I don't really have a Dishonourable Mention. So once again, I'm going to go with two Honourable Mentions and a Best of the Week, the latter of which - and I can't believe I'm saying this - to Big Sean, Kanye West, and John Legend for 'One Man Can Change The World', with the Honourable Mentions to 'My Way' by Fetty Wap & Drake and 'Should've Been Us' by Tori Kelly. Not a lot to really say, but the absence of outright crap is a good thing, so let's hope for more.

No comments:

Post a Comment