Thursday, July 2, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 11, 2015 remember when I said last week I had a sense of foreboding that something bad was coming, that I couldn't quite feel it and it hadn't quite happened yet, but it was on its way? Yeah, I'm starting to wish these bad feelings didn't come up so much, because sure enough...

Yeah, might as well get to it, let's start with our top ten. Unsurprisingly, 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth continues to hold sway at the top, but at this point it's a matter of time before it's unseated, as it spent this week haemorrhaging airplay, had a surprisingly low sales week, and even lost streaming - sure, it's got YouTube locked down, but at this point it's only a matter of time, no record-breaking here. And beneath it 'Bad Blood' by Taylor Swift & Kendrick Lamar is ready and waiting, still steadily gaining airplay with respectable sales and YouTube - as I said last week, if it was a presence at all in streaming, it'd be #1 right now. The first shift comes with 'Cheerleader' by OMI at #3, our leading challenger for the top spot and it seems like the odds are in its favour: major gains in streaming and airplay, top sales, and while it slipped a bit in YouTube, it at least has some presence here. Compare to 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap which it unseated and pushed to #4 - sure, it rules streaming still, but beyond that, the sales and airplay are steadily shrinking and its YouTube presence is pretty underwhelming. The first big surprise comes in at #5 with 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk The Moon - I honestly thought it was going to fall harder this week, but it turns out it didn't lose quite enough sales or airplay to push it back, and with streaming static, it held up just enough. This takes us to our first new Top 10 entry: 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd. And this doesn't surprise me all that much: it's probably the most fun song that The Weeknd has ever released and imitating the style of Michael Jackson is an easy way to get a ton of radio airplay in a hurry. Although, the more I think about it, the more I find the chorus of the song a little underwhelming and the lyrics a lot less appealing - I mean, this is a song about enjoying numbness, which is no feeling. Does that actually sound fun to anyone? But now we have to talk about the one where everyone's expecting me to be furious - and honestly, I don't care. Yeah, it's 'Watch Me' by Silento, a song that's part Rae Sremmurd and part every single terrible dance song that got popular in the past decade before becoming a joke. The song is absolute garbage made famous by dumb dance videos on Vine and yeah, I'm a little offended by the total lack of effort it took and how successful it became because of it, but let's get real here: this is a summer fad, and it's only here thanks to sales. Streaming is dropping and airplay is advancing at such a slow pace that it won't stick around - it's here because of the weaknesses of other tracks, not its own strength. Easy proof of that is 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars finally dropping to #8 - even despite a brief gain in streaming and the tight grip it has on YouTube, its sales aren't worth considering and it's still losing airplay, and I expect it to have a slow ride out. Then we have our third new entry and a new song to the charts: 'Good For You' by Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky, debuting at #9. I'll save the majority of the conversation for when I talk about new tracks, but it's here because it had tremendous sales, huge airplay gains, and some YouTube presence. Apparently this is her lead-off single for her next solo release, and given how much of a change in sound it is from her disastrous last album... okay, I'm interested. Finally we've got 'Hey Mama' by David Guetta, Bebe Rexha, Nicki Minaj & Afrojack, slipping a bit to #10, and really that was only because of so much activity above it pushing it down, because while the sales weren't great and streaming slipped, it's still gaining airplay and YouTube actually jumped this week. I see it sticking around longer than some of the songs that beat it out this week, to be honest.

And on that note, let's talk about our losers and dropouts! Not that many of either this week, the two big ones being 'Blessings' by Big Sean and Drake and 'Lay Me Down' by Sam Smith, the latter of which just got replaced by another Sam Smith song so we'll call that even. Oh, and 'Believe' by Mumford & Sons also exited the charts. No complaints there either, that song blows. And on the topic of complete crap, most of our losers this week got their just desserts and fell pretty hard too: 'Pretty Girls' by Britney Spears & Iggy Azalea flopped even harder to 97 amidst mudslinging from both artists on whose fault it was, 'Dear Future Husband' by Meghan Trainor is finishing its chart run by falling to 46 - good riddance - and 'Bitch I'm Madonna' by Madonna & Nicki Minaj collapses to 95 for being a flailing and desperate mistake that should never have happened. The other two losers are 'I Need Your Love' by Shaggy, Mohombi, Faydee & Costi dropping to 92 - which is a surprise, I thought this was a guaranteed hit this summer - and 'Wild Child' by Kenny Chesney ft. Grace Potter continuing a hard drop to 89. It's on its way out anyways, but I did think it'd stick around for a little longer.

But believe it or not, we had even fewer gains: as predicted from last week, 'Stitches' by Shawn Mendes gets a sizable boost to 56 thanks to its recent video, and 'Good Thing' by Sage The Gemini & Nick Jonas profits off of their unlikely chemistry to land a respectable gain to 90. But now we have the one gain that is stubbornly refusing to make sense: 'Classic Man' by Jidenna ft. Roman GianArthur. I could go on again about how this is a blatant ripoff of Iggy Azalea's 'Fancy' that has significantly less personality and the interjection of gang vocals completely flies in the face of anything that's classic and how the pseudo-rapping barely tries to rise above standard brag rap about slinging cocaine - because that's classy! Say what you will about Iggy Azalea, she at least had a better flow than this and had Charli XCX bringing some firepower for the hook! But it's got the same problem as most of Iggy's worst material, and that is I don't believe any of it - there's no verisimilitude to this track, I don't buy Jidenna as a 'classic man' or anyone remotely close to being an oldschool gangster. 

And the scary thing is that considering we have no returning songs to the charts, only new tracks, let's start with something that might be marginally more believable...

100. 'Check' by Young Thug - I'm going to tell you all something that might blow your minds: I don't hate Young Thug. Yeah, I don't think he's a good rapper on any technical standards and his voice grates on my ears and yeah, he's often way too hyperbolic for his own damn good, but he has one thing I think could give him potential down the road: personality. As much as I don't like him, I can see Young Thug's appeal, and I can see why Birdman is manipulating him as Lil Wayne's successor - which is the other reason I can't really hate Young Thug, because he's Birdman's pawn. That said, it doesn't make the music good, which is why 'Check' is painfully mediocre. What Lil Wayne at least understood is getting music with some energy or some innovative production, but like most of the Young Thug I've heard, the melodies are limp and hazy and the percussion is regurgitated trap hi-hats. And the frustrating thing is that most of the bars aren't interesting: it's luxury rap that only gets interesting when Young Thug gets pulled over and shoves crack cocaine up his ass. If that's your thing, have fun, but no, this isn't for me. Next!

99. 'Like I Can' by Sam Smith - I've gone on record saying I'm not the biggest Sam Smith fan - he's not a bad singer, he's got range and a stately presence to him, but his lyrics can be lacklustre and he often comes across as extremely stiff and lacking in energetic soul. And while his latest single from In The Lonely Hour take steps in the right direction, I'm not really won over by it. Partially because Ed Sheeran and Hozier both do this sort of acoustic-driven song with more soul and power, but partially because Sam Smith's voice isn't a great fit for it - it sounds like he's singing with a cotton ball in his mouth that prevents him from really enunciating with potent energy. Plus the lyrics really feel petulant to me - it's basically a list of what his lover's current boyfriend is but doesn't love like he does. Plus that line in the bridge, 'I love your demons, like devils can'... I dunno, Sam Smith might have impressive range, but this song should be better than it is.

96. 'Real Life' by Jake Owen - I'll admit that I probably give Jake Owen more credit than he deserves, but for the most part I find it hard to dislike the guy. For one, he's got incredible vocal charisma that can make up for the fact he barely has any writing credits, he's smart enough to pick songs with some decent driving momentum, and though his production has tended towards the synthetic side, he's often been able to keep it lightweight enough to make it work. In other words, I wish a lot more bro-country played in Jake Owen's lane. In any case, he's finally done releasing singles from Days Of Gold and this is his lead-off single for his fifth album... and I'll be blunt and say he's made songs that are a lot better that this. The guitar tone is annoying as hell and way too staccato, Owen's low-key pseudo-country rap isn't good and his enunciation on the chorus really grates on my nerves... but at the same time, it feels like when Brad Paisley makes one of his more comedic songs and the more irritating parts are kind of the point. What it reminds of a lot is 'American Kids' by Kenny Chesney, but that song had more flow and groove. And yeah, the lyrics are fine enough for what they're trying to do, but it doesn't make the song all that listenable. Yeah, sorry Jake, I like a lot of your stuff, but you've made better music than this.

93. 'Yoga' by Janelle Monae & Jidenna - this should not be the way that Janelle Monae gets on the pop charts. Not as a tagalong song on an EP tied to one of the most worthless tracks to chart right now, but on her own merits thanks to killer singles from albums that are some of the best of their respective years. And I remember hearing this song when it dropped a few months ago and feeling this crushing sense of disappointment: instead of the Afrofuturist tracks that broke half a dozen genres, Janelle Monae got there by making a dance song with too much pitch-shifting about her ass. Now by that standard, it's actually pretty decent - sure, the lines about her not following the rules are complete nonsense because she's very much playing the game for this song to land on the radio, but Janelle Monae has tons of personality and that definitely plays to her advantage. Of course Jidenna contributes nothing special, but he's not terrible here either. I'm not going to deny that this song is a disappointment - oh god, it is - but it's very listenable and thus far this week, I'll take it.

81. 'All Eyes On You' by Meek Mill ft. Chris Brown & Nicki Minaj - I don't like Meek Mill. And to be fair, I don't think he was ever trying to be likeable, but putting aside being signed to a label with Rick Ross, Meek Mill is not a rapper I'd ever seek out, mostly because the primary focus of his bragging seems to be rubbing it in everyone's faces, which is insufferable. So this is the big single from his sophomore album Dreams Worth More Than Money after 'Check' went nowhere and he recruited Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj to give it a chance at the radio... and guys, honestly, this isn't great. It's a song coasting on Chris Brown's hook to add some romantic atmosphere - already not a good sign - but then Meek Mill comes way too aggressive with his flow, which only highlights the fact he's not very good as a technical lyricist. Once again, Nicki Minaj is the best part of this song with the best bars and able to match his intensity, but the tone of the song is weird. Yes, I get that Nicki And Meek Mill are dating - it's pretty much the only reason this song is on the charts - but this doesn't come across like either partner is in love, it's way too abrasive especially with the minimalist and dark synth tone, and focused instead on the first confrontation. I can see the appeal, but I don't get a lot out of it.

74. 'I Don't Like It, I Love It' by Flo Rida ft. Robin Thicke & Verdine White - so one thing that I've noticed over the past few singles is that Flo Rida is realizing he needs to develop a personality, at least in terms of picking hooks that work for him, now that he can't bankroll his hits off of stupid club bangers. Sure, 'G.D.F.R.' gave him a little more relevance, but it wasn't bound to last, so this time he teamed up with Robin Thicke - who after the disaster that was Paula last year would probably do anything for another hit - and Earth, Wind & Fire bassist Verdine White for a new hit. And really, I'm not going to say this is great - Robin Thicke feels extremely anonymous on the hook, and the choice to opt for a slower beat means that we can discern more of Flo Rida's bars and they're nothing special. But to be fair the guy at least has a workable flow and the number of interesting lines does redeem many of the sloppier ones, and it helps he's working with a damn good retro-disco groove in the guitar and bass line. Oddly, I do feel the beat is a little underweight for Flo Rida's voice, but that might be because I'm used to hearing him on much heavier production, so I'm not sure if this might grow on me more. As it is... yeah, it's alright, I'll take it.

67. 'No Sleeep' by Janet Jackson - god, I needed this. Janet Jackson for me is one of those R&B stars that I don't often find myself revisiting, but I'm always grateful when I do, mostly because she's got a great talent for making songs that are sexy as hell and have a ton of potent atmosphere - even though there is a part of me that loves when she went really political in the very late 80s. But this song is very much in her wheelhouse - a sexy-as-all-hell seductive R&B track with a stormy atmosphere that has fantastic flow, a great subtle melody with some organ twinges that balances the groove and a deftness to the writing that's genuinely charming. The bridge isn't great, it's a little overstated for my tastes, but overall, I can definitely groove to this, definitely recommended.

9. 'Good For You' by Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky - I've always had a fondness for Selena Gomez - she made solid pop music when she was with The Scene and she made the most out of her limited range. That said, her last album Stars Dance sucked and even though I was at the very early stages of being a critic when I covered it, my opinion hasn't changed. Since then, she seems to have been working to repair her image a little, first with the solid 'The Heart Wants What It Wants' and now with this... and let's make this clear, this song is much more A$AP Rocky than it is Selena Gomez, and that's all thanks to the production and a lot of the writing. And here the thing: for the most part it works: Selena Gomez isn't a bad fit for the thick haze of A$AP Rocky's production, and there's a certain gothic opulence to the song that mostly works. Hell, A$AP Rocky's verse about preserving her image in front of the public does show a lot more consideration than he normally would ever have about anyone. But where I think this song struggles is that it's trying to sound sexier than it is. Part of it is that Selena Gomez sounds so limp and lacking in energy on the chorus, and when you're placed against Janet Jackson, you're not going to measure up. On the other hand, compared to the rest of this week, yeah, it's pretty good, I'll take it. 

So overall, none off these songs aggressively irritated me as much as I expected, so picking a worst is actually harder than I expected. I think I'm going to give it to 'Check' by Young Thug for just being the most obviously broken, but Dishonourable Mention is going to 'All Eyes On You' by Meek Mill ft. Nicki Minaj & Chris Brown, less because it's bad but because it's been a while since I've seen a romantic couple on a song sound less in love. As for the best, Janet Jackson runs away with this on 'No Sleeep', but Honourable Mention will go to the wannabe on 'Good For You' by Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky - what can I say, it grew on me. Overall, I'll call this week an improvement, if only because there were no outright atrocities.


  1. You know, I understand that the production of ''Good for You'' sounds good and all, but I still feel pretty uncomfortable listening to the lyrics (and I normally find lyrics less inportant that the sound of it), because thet make it sound like Selena is completely dependent to the one she loves, to the point that it is no longer romantic, but kind of morbid. I am not disappointed in you or anything, I still liked the post for the rest, I just thought that you as a feminist would have some issues with this as well.

    1. I can see the morbid elements, but keep in mind there's nothing about the song that implies that Selena's being forced or coerced to do this - if anything, the flagrant luxury porn makes it seem like she's revelling in it as much as A$AP Rocky is. And if it's her decision, then that's a perfectly feminist line of thought to take.