Tuesday, August 11, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 22, 2015

...I'm starting to think the summer lull is a complete load of shit. Because right after another fairly reasonable week, we get one of the most crazy weeks I've seen in a while. Major shifts up and down, a considerable chunk of new songs, and new top ten debuts, and even a new number one! And while some of it I could reasonably predict - the One Direction debut was no surprise - I wasn't expecting the return of the Drake show or the arrival of a slew of Disney songs! I mean, seriously, what the hell is going on?

Well, to start, let's handle our Top 10, and the big news that was long in coming: 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd going to #1. Frankly, I've been predicting this for weeks now... and yet it got there despite not topping streaming or sales, basically riding the top slot of airplay to the top. And it was just enough to force 'Cheerleader' by OMI down to #2 as its airplay gains slowed and sales and streaming slipped just enough, even as YouTube did get a boost. But now we have our big Top Ten debut: 'Drag Me Down' by One Direction. Call it the 'Inconsolable' of their career - fans of the Backstreet Boys will get that - and I'll talk more about the song's quality much later, but it's here thanks to a massive jump straight to the top of streaming and sales... but without the airplay surge or significant YouTube, it's not taking the top, and frankly, I don't expect it to stick around in the top 10 for long. What it did do was disrupt: Silento's 'Watch Me' was forced back to #4 even despite solid sales and strong Youtube, mostly thanks to wavering airplay and losses in streaming - no complaints from me. 'Lean On' by Major Lazer, DJ Snake & M0 was actually fairly stable, picking up some major swell on airplay while still holding a dominant spot on YouTube, only now being held back by a slight slip on streaming and some weaker sales. But beneath it there was far from good news, with 'Bad Blood' by Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar sliding to #6 on serious airplay losses, weak sales, and even losses on YouTube. Rachel Platten's 'Fight Song' picked up to #7 thanks to good sales and airplay - which might be good news for her, but not for me, considering how bland that track is. 'See You Again' by Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa continues to tumble, though, dropping to #8 and only not dropping faster because YouTube is still keeping it afloat. 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap is in a similar case but with streaming, and even that isn't lasting as it fades to #9. It's going to be replaced by 'My Way' by Fetty Wap ft. Monty at #10, which is gaining airplay and sales, but streaming seems oddly stalled, so I'm not quite sure how much bigger it's going to get.

But even with all of that activity, it looks quiet in comparison with our other chart changes, so let's start with our losers and dropouts. We've got a big chunk of the latter this week: 'Yoga' by Janelle Monae & Jidenna inevitably stalled out, 'Bright' by Echosmith and 'Love Me Like You Mean It' by Kelsea Ballerini both drop after an respectable chart run, and even 'Girl Crush' by Little Big Town fell out, thanks to its controversy finally fading. But the biggest dropouts belong to 'Elastic Heart' by Sia - which really lasted way longer than I expected - and 'Shake It Off' by Taylor Swift, which lasted way longer than it really should have. But the losers list was even bigger and really for a plethora of reasons. Some are fading naturally after longer than expected runs: 'Slow Motion' by Trey Songz dropping to 49 and 'Wet Dreamz' by J. Cole falling to 82. Others are bowing out gracefully, like 'Be Real' by Kid Ink & Dej Loaf falling to 55, 'Love You Like That' by Canaan Smith dropping to 84, 'Commas' by Future hitting 86, and 'The Matrimony' by Wale and Usher falling to 98. And some are cases of stalled momentum, like 'The Night Is Still Young' by Nicki Minaj dropping to 73, 'Crushin' It' by Brad Paisley dipping to 97, and - thankfully - 'This Summer's Gonna Hurt Like A Motherfucker' by Maroon 5 hitting 93 and thus likely missing the year-end list. And finally, we have the major losses on 'All Eyes On You' by Meek Mill ft. Chris Brown & Nicki Minaj to 43, and 'R.I.C.O.' by Meek Mill & Drake dropping to 57. Those of you who have been following the rap beefs that have exploded over the past month or so can probably predict what this means - trust me, all of you who have wanted me to discuss this, we'll talk about it a bit later.

Now thankfully our gains lists was a little smaller, but still considerable and easy enough to explain. 'She's Kinda Hot' by 5 Seconds Of Summer and 'How Deep Is Your Love' by Calvin Harris & Disciples recover off of losses to 34 and 69 respectively, in the former case because of the video's debut, the latter case because that sort of electronic music does well in the summer, which you can also explain for how Jon Bellion and Zedd's collaboration 'Beautiful Now' got a sudden boost to 74. Beyond that, Kenny Chesney's 'Save It For A Rainy Day' rising to 79 and 'I'm Coming Over' by Chris Young going to 81, but they're filling vacant slots on country radio, it makes sense. And finally, we have two songs that I bet are going to be absolutely huge in a few weeks: 'Locked Away' by Rock City ft. Adam Levine rising to 35 and 'Cheyenne' by Jason Derulo going to 80. No complaints from me on either, they're both great pop songs, but it'll be interesting to see how they perform.

And now onto our new arrivals - no returning songs this week, just eleven new ones, starting with...

99. 'If Only' by Dove Cameron - okay, I've been dreading this for a while, and frankly I'm a little surprised it hasn't happened sooner. Because in my years of chronicling the Billboard Hot 100 - and I've got an archive that goes back over a decade in terms of personal charts and logs - you'll see reality show performances and viral novelties... but you'll also get teen pop generated by Disney. Now there's a legacy of this stuff - at its best, you get soundtrack hits from great movies like from Frozen, but at its worst, you get generic schlock padding out a Disney channel sitcom, and trust me, this stuff is as forgettable as you can get. This falls somewhere in between, coming from Descendants, a Disney channel original movie about the children of Disney villains going to prep school with the children of Disney heroes and seriously, is this fanfiction? Okay, stupid plot aside, how's the song? Eh, it's passable, mostly coasting by on the fact that Dove Cameron is a passable singer against some pretty choppy and limp production. Hell, I wouldn't even say the writing is bad in trying to parse out her feelings. As it is, I don't hate this, but in the tradition of the majority of Disney sequel songs, I doubt I'll remember it.

95. 'Here' by Alessia Cara - and now apparently we're sticking with more songs by teenage female singers, this one from a Canadian who actually is a fellow YouTuber, this being her breakout single for her upcoming debut. And It's significantly more interesting than Dove Cameron, although I'd argue her voice isn't quite as refined. Thankfully, for this brand of bluesier R&B it doesn't need to be, and there's a lot to like about this song with gleaming strings, skittering piano, and hints of horns. But where this song gets interesting are the lyrics, because as much as I'm impressed by the technical songwriting - seriously, the flow of this song is great - the actual content of the song is a tougher sell. Because believe me, I get reaching that moment in house parties when you have that moment of existential emptiness where everyone is trashed and you just want to go and find a chill vibe somewhere. But I'm not sure if the tone is played as well as it could be - as much as she keeps herself in the framing, it just feels a bit too bitter, the point where the buzzkill is so complete it makes you wonder why she was even invited in the first place. Intriguing experiment, for sure, but I'm not sure it works.

94. 'Let Me See Ya Girl' by Cole Swindell - did we really need a fourth single from this guy's self-titled album? I reviewed Cole Swindell early last year, and I stand by that it was easily one of the worst country albums released in 2014... and yet bizarrely, with every subsequent single, this guy gets more traction. And this is definitely not one of the better ones, with the buzzy flat synth drizzled all over an otherwise passable guitar line. And of course none of it has any groove or texture in the slightest, vocals smothered in pitch correction, muddy cymbals and completely underweight drums, and lyrics that could have been imported from a dozen other bro-country songs and nobody would notice. At least Luke Bryan tries to bring in some acoustic texture - this feels like it could been written by a bro-country songwriting generator, and a badly programmed one at that. Next!

91. 'Comfortable' by K Camp - you know it's not a good sign when the newest XXL Freshman to chart had his biggest traction off a song with 2 Chainz. But yeah, this is K Camp, Atlanta rapper stepping up with a single that actually has gotten some traction on the radio... and I can't be the only one getting something of an older Drake vibe off of this guy, can I? Maybe it's his vocal tone or sing-rap delivery or his penchant for slipping into corniness - especially with that unfinished simile on the first verse, I thought people stopped doing that - but it's hard to ignore. But I can't really deny that liquid guitar melody is pretty memorable, and not a bad foundation when the thicker bass kicks in. But as it is, it's a song about picking up a girl and it's not particularly interesting when you dig into the bars - passable enough, but again, not sure it's going to stick with me.

90. '100' by The Game ft. Drake - oh, I was excited about this. Yeah, I know, I reviewed Blood Moon: Year Of The Wolf last year and I wasn't impressed at all, and yeah, the only reason this is here is because of Drake, but The Game's verse on Dr. Dre's Compton was solid as hell and I had some hopes for this... and yeah, it's not as good, but it's not a bad song. I think a big part of the problem is Drake sounding half-asleep on the hook - for keeping it '100', he sounds maybe at 10% at best. And while The Game mostly eases back on his namedropping during the first verse as he tips Drake off about a potential attack, he falls right back into it on the third verse, and despite his good flow, his actual bars aren't all that special. Really, Drake is the star of this track, his verse tearing into Birdman and even taking stabs saying he'd grab up conscious rappers' fans if he was in that lane... which frankly, I doubt, but it might explain why Kendrick supposedly took some passing jabs at Drake on Compton. If I were to find something that's generally pretty solid, it'd be the production - the trap hi-hats balance well against the more soulful vocals and eerie melody with the bass-heavy beat, but I can't help but wishing it had a little more energy or momentum, and at nearly six minutes, it does run long. Still, solid enough song, I'll take it.

78. 'Charged Up' by Drake - and now we need to talk about this. A few weeks back, Meek Mill went on a tear across Twitter, ripping into Drake for not adequately promoting Meek Mill's newest album with their collaboration single 'R.I.C.O.', including the allegation that Drake uses ghostwriters. Now initially I couldn't care less about any of this - I was much more interested in watching Ghostface Killah smack down Action Bronson for running his mouth, and that was legitimately awesome. But Drake was incensed by the accusation and this is his first track released in response... and like nearly all of this beef, I was underwhelmed, mostly because the production was washed-out and cavernous and featured such a minimalist beat that Drake saying he was 'charged up' felt like complete rubbish. But it's a diss track, they tend to have pretty shoddy production given how quickly they are rushed out... but even with that, Drake didn't nearly go as hard as I was expecting or hoping. Most of the song it almost seems like he's taking grim satisfaction in dismissing Meek Mill's allegations, and he definitely lands the most blows targeting Meek Mill's relationship with Nicki Minaj. But on the opposite token, Drake's bars about cops killing innocents are completely out of place and at odds with how much he seems to relish this chance to lash out. As a whole, if this had been the conclusion of the beef, I'd have been disappointed. But that's not the last we've got from Drake here, which takes us to...

66. 'Hotline Bling' by Drake - this song is not related to the Meek Mill beef... and yet I kind of wish it was, because this is the Drake I don't like. It basically falls into one of Drake's very-much oversharing songs about women, this time about a girl who used to be a booty call and is now running wild doing her own thing. And I hate to say it, Drake, but that's her business, not yours - yes, even if she's being a 'bad girl' or not 'being herself', as if you know better than she does. What I like about this song is entirely confined to the production which takes a pretty sticky melody and marries it to trap hi-hats and a heavy enough beat that does match Drake's melancholy. Overall, this song just leaves a sour taste in my mouth, and frankly, he's even done this sort of song better.

64. 'Omen' by Disclosure ft. Sam Smith - I think I was one of the few music critics anywhere who didn't really love 'Latch' by Disclosure ft. Sam Smith, mostly because while I respected the tightness of the composition, I didn't love the songwriting, mostly coming across as really clingy. But this is their followup single from Disclosure's upcoming album Caracal... and honestly, while the writing is better, I'm not sure this is a better song. I do like the sentiment of how Sam Smith realizes that not caring about a relationship and her leaving causing him to open his eyes to the consequences - that's a good omen, I reckon - but the production is really overmixed, especially with that tapping beat against the blubbery low waves during the verses and chorus - it just adds a choppier element that the song really doesn't need. Not bad, again, but it could have been better.

38. 'Rotten To The Core' by Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce, Booboo Stewart & Sofia Carson - okay, one of the things I imagine every Disney fan loves is the 'villain song', where your bad guys get to flip the script and go for glorious evil, and one of the reasons I like them more is that they get to be a little more experimental when it comes to their sound and instrumentation. They can get darker, they can get weirder... they can be NOT THIS. And look, I get that I'm effectively critiquing musical fanfiction at this point, but this is painfully unconvincing as a villain song, mostly because it's not that dark, even by Disney standards. The biggest problem is the instrumentation, a clattering drone that's way more concerned with getting our quartet of villains to fit some ideal of whatever's cool these days, and while I'll give them points for trying to vamp it up a little, the tone is way too polished and lacking in real menace to be believable. You could argue that's the point: these are teenagers who haven't embraced the vileness of their villain parents and haven't quite got a handle on it, but that's giving credit to the writing it does not deserve. Or to put it another way, you know you've failed to make a good villain song when Drake can sound darker while trying to sound like he cares about a former booty call. And speaking of Drake...

21. 'Back To Back' by Drake - now this was the diss track I actually liked, mostly because it showed Drake drawing a lot more blood over a better beat with the almost gothic beat with skittering trap hi-hats and a smothering bass beat. And it also helped that Drake sounded awake and had harder bars, tearing into Meek Mill's relationship with NIcki Minaj, failing to expose more of himself in his rhymes, unable to match Drake on wax instead of on Twitter, and how for as much as Drake gets thrashed for singing, he's still kicking Meek Mill's ass. And if you look at the aftermath of this beef across the charts, Drake won here, with all of Meek Mill's songs taking serious losses and the one diss track Meek Mill did drop not even hitting the charts. Now was any of this as good as the 'great' diss tracks? No, this is not an 'Ether' or 'Nail In The Coffin' or 'Hit Em Up' or even as good as Ghostface's video? No, it's not. But it was fun while it lasted, and if Drake keeps taking potshots at Kendrick, I'm looking forward to the latter taking Drake apart.

3. 'Drag Me Down' by One Direction - and now we come to the big one: our newest top ten debut from One Direction minus Zayn... and look, as a guy who has said many a time I'm not a One Direction fan, it shouldn't be any surprise that I'm not really a fan of this. But it's not because of the lyrics for once, mostly because there isn't much here lyrically beyond being in love with this girl whose affection is what keeps him going. But beyond crescendos and Liam trying to fill in the lower-end of the mix now that Zayn is gone, the production is what really hurts this song. Besides being way too compressed, especially with that minimal guitar, the chorus is so choppy it completely kills the groove. And when I made the 'Inconsolable' comparison earlier, it applies here too: too many minor keys and a surprisingly sour tone - in other words, if this is how One Direction wants to re-establish themselves, they could be in for a lot of trouble.

But beyond all that... wow, this week was long and not particularly good. For the best... I'm giving it to 'Back to Back' by Drake because it actually stuck the landing, but 'Here' by Alessia Cara snags Honourable Mention for at least having more ambition. Worst... ugh, I would give this to Cole Swindell's 'Let Me See Ya Girl', but it's getting Dishonourable Mention and the worst is going to 'Rotten To The Core' from the Descendants soundtrack, if only because it doesn't remotely belong on the charts and it fails on every conceivable level. Let's pray it's gone next week!

1 comment:

  1. Lean On got a major swell in airplay, but was held back by a slip in airplay? Might wanna fix that one before you film the video