Wednesday, August 19, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 29, 2015

Right, so let's explain why this didn't drop on its regular Tuesday timeslot. Well, believe it or not, I suspect it wasn't Billboard's fault the charts were delayed, mostly because the sales data that they got from Nielsen surrounding a certain song was wildly inaccurate, originally placing its debut in the top ten instead of midway down the chart where it belongs. This frantic revision - which other chart analysts had already estimated properly earlier this week - caused Billboard to delay a day to make sure the numbers are in properly on what was otherwise a pretty regular week.

Well, not quite if you look at the Top 10. The first surprise for me was that 'Cheerleader' by OMI took back the #1 slot even despite not topping any category. Sure, it narrowed the gap on airplay, it had a good sales week, and did well on streaming, but the only reason it took back the #1 was YouTube, with just enough to push it above 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd falling to #2. And I really, I suspect these songs to trade that top spot back and forth for a bit, considering it's topping airplay, streaming, and sales, but by a pretty thin margin. We then have the unfortunate revival of 'Watch Me' by Silento to #3 thanks to, again, good sales, streaming, and YouTube, even as the radio continues to ignore it. Not the case for 'Lean On' by Major Lazer, DJ Snake & M0, which rose to #4 on YouTube dominance, gains in streaming and airplay, and pretty solid sales. The gains weren't quite as strong, however, as they were for 'The Hills' by The Weeknd, which surged into the Top 5 on solid sales, better streaming, decent enough YouTube and steady airplay gains - as much as I'm ambivalent on the song, I can see it going even higher too. What I don't see going higher is 'Fight Song' by Rachel Platten, which rose to #6 on sales but had losses across both streaming and airplay - I don't see it sticking around for much longer, and thank god for that. What got a surprising boost for me was 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap going back to #7, which somehow picked up enough streaming and YouTube to push it higher. Similar case with his song 'My Way', except you can swap out YouTube for boosts in airplay, although they did seem to slow as the week progressed. It was enough to push 'Bad Blood' by Taylor Swift & Kendrick Lamar down even further to 9, and with losses in airplay and the only stability on Youtube, it could be out of the Top 10 very soon. And this leaves us with a song returning to the top 10 I honestly was surprised caught on: 'Good For You' by Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky, with good sales, considerable airplay gains, and even a boost in streaming. I can definitely see this having longevity in the coming weeks ahead, this could get interesting.

And on the flip side, we've got our losers and dropouts! I honestly have a pretty hard time complaining about the majority of these dropouts, with the only ones I really liked being 'Slow Motion' by Trey Songz, 'Good Thing' by Sage The Gemini & Nick Jonas, and 'Crushin' It' by Brad Paisley, with the latter two cut short before their time. But if by losing those we also get rid of 'Take Your Time' by Sam Hunt, 'Love You Like That' by Canaan Smith, and 'This Summer's Gonna Hurt Like A Motherfucker' by Maroon 5 - along with 'The Matrimony' by Wale & Usher, and it was tolerable enough - I'm okay with these. We also had a considerable week of losers, most of which can be explained fairly easily. 'Rotten to The Core' from Descendents dropping to 48 and 'Back To Back' by Drake falling to 32 both took losses because one is terrible and the other has a shelf life as people start to forget about the Meek Mill/Drake beef - which is funny considering 'R.I.C.O.' by Meek Mill & Drake plummeted again to 68. Then there's the more surprising non-starters, with 'Drag Me Down' by One Direction falling hard to 26 and 'Omen' by Disclosure & Sam Smith hitting 88. And finally, we've got our rotation of songs that are heading out naturally, some because country radio is gently phasing them out, like 'One Hell Of An Amen' by Brantley Gilbert going to 76 and 'Tonight Looks Good On You' by Jason Aldean falling to 79, and some that oddly didn't connect as party songs as well as anyone expected, like 'Fun' by Pitbull & Chris Brown going to 74 and 'The Night Is Still Young' by Nicki Minaj continuing its downward trajectory to 83.

But we've got a lot of fresh songs coming to replace them - although the only one debuting last week to pick up steam was 'Here' by Alessia Cara as it rose to 85. Elsewhere we've country filling in the gaps with 'Anything Goes' by Florida Georgia Line rising to 77, 'Save It For A Rainy Day' by Kenny Chesney continuing to 69, 'Burning House' by Cam picking up steam to 65, and 'Fly' by Maddie & Tae going up to 67 - nice momentum for that upcoming debut album, good to see. Beyond that, we've got two pop hits that seem like smashes in the making, with 'Cheyenne' by Jason Derulo picking up more momentum off of last week to 66, and 'Locked Away' by Rock City ft. Adam Levine boosted again to 25 - I definitely see both of these as top 10 contenders, so it'll be interesting to track how much higher they rise.

What's not so interesting is our solitary returning entry...

 It's here because the album dropped, that's it - and the fact that it's here instead any number of the songs from Dr. Dre's Compton album - which Luke Bryan beat out in sales, which proves most of America has no idea what good country music is. And look, by the standards of that album, this song isn't the worst thing there, but it's a pretty shameless ripoff of 'Burnin' It Down' by Jason Aldean where Luke Bryan somehow comes across as a dick against some of the most sterile and cold instrumentation I've heard for a country love song in a while. But then again, this isn't country music, no matter how much you smear those acoustic guitar textures across the song. It's only redeemed because Luke Bryan is a good singer, that's it... and even then, I'm starting to think that might not be enough.

So now that that's handled, let's move on to our new arrivals, starting with...

100. '100 Grandkids' by Mac Miller - I'm always a little surprised I've never really had the chance to talk about Mac Miller, but that's more because he seems to inhabit his own hip-hop ecosystem. His not-particularly well-received debut album had no features, and while he did bring together a much stronger second release in 2013 with Watching Movies With The Sound Off, he's never been a rapper I've considered essential to discuss. And with this song, that hasn't changed. It's not that it's precisely bad - the horns, the blubbery bass and keys, it's a good foundation, and there are a few moments of good wordplay in setting up clever bits of language... but the actual content isn't all that much to write home about. At least when Asher Roth had more ideas than this - they weren't good ideas, but they were more than just only decent luxury rap. In other words, I get Mac Miller's appeal, but this isn't doing anything for me.

99. 'Black Magic' by Little Mix - called it. When I talked about a couple choice songs off of the Canadian Hot 100, I knew that it'd only be a matter of time before 'Black Magic' landed on the American charts, and I was right. What I didn't really expect was some of the backlash against it - yeah, there are sexual undertones in it if you read between the lines, but the girls have all of the control of the situation, still imply it's the guy's choice so it doesn't get creepy, and they're clearly playing it very coy. Coupled with a solid guitar groove and underlying melody, it falls into the Spice Girls mold without being as aggressively obnoxious as they could get. The video... yeah, not really a fan of that, but this song is damn good pop, and I stand by that.

98. 'Gonna Wanna Tonight' by Chase Rice - okay, seriously? Are radio programmers so desperate to scrape the bottom of the barrel in bro-country that they put this on the radio, a song from an album a year old that was dropped as a single nine months ago? In case you don't know - and congratulations if that's the case - Chase Rice along with Cole Swindell are among the least likeable bro-country acts left in the industry, mostly because they make increasingly synthetic, interchangeable nonsense that can get pretty damn obnoxious. Chase Rice to his credit can hit better highs, which is likely why this song was chosen, but ladies, do you really want to be with a guy who asks for sex saying, 'I hope you're gonna wanna tonight'. Outside of that, you will not remember another lyric in this song, or Chase Rice's lack of personality, and outside of that you have watery guitars, drum machines, and a beat so deep and heavy it doesn't remotely belong on this sort of love song. In the end, it is a cut above Chase Rice's worst material, but it doesn't rise above mediocrity and it's easy to skip - next!

97. 'Nothin' Like You' by Dan + Shay - I'm starting to think country radio programmers are allergic to new country or something. What, you guys couldn't find one song from, oh, I dunno, the last Alan Jackson or Jason Isbell or Ashley Monroe or Lindi Ortega or Kacey Musgraves or something? Hell, I'll settle for the new Kip Moore or Billy Currington, you don't need to go back to albums from over a year ago to pull up new songs! In any case, 'Nothin' Like You' is from pop country duo Dan + Shay from their debut album, which I remember really quite liking when I covered them over a year ago. And yeah, I'm not going to lie, it's a pretty basic pop country love song, but I think what won me over more beyond the ridiculously adorable video is the production - a really great melodic rollick in the guitars, a breezy vibe, a solid solo, real drums, and some good vocal interplay. I'm not going to say this is a great song - there were better single choices Dan + Shay could have released, and they could have been more timely - but it's definitely enjoyable, I'll take this.

96. 'Love Myself' by Hailee Steinfeld - okay, is it a 'thing' now that every aspiring actress wants to have a music career too? I get chasing the EGOT, but you're not going to get it with your standard pop record. Now to be fair, Hailee Steinfeld is a fair bit closer than most young actresses - she was nominated for an Oscar for True Grit, and I thought she should have gotten it - but I suspect the reason we've got a song from her is her friend Taylor Swift, who featured Steinfeld in the 'Bad Blood' video. I suspect some of that clout and network helped get this song on the charts... and I have to admit, I'm conflicted about it and not for the reason you might think. For one, Steinfeld has a really good voice and a lot of presence behind the microphone, and while the glassy instrumentation doesn't really have much body or uniqueness until the thicker, buzzing chorus, it's still catchy even if it doesn't have much of an instrumental melody. And I have no issue with the song being about masturbation - because it totally is, as she's trying to get over someone after a breakup, and that's fine - hell, she's doing it better than Beyonce and Nicki Minaj did with 'Feelin' Myself'. My issue with this song... look, it's impossible for me to hear this and not think about the other big 'I love myself' song that dropped less than a year ago: 'i' by Kendrick Lamar. And when you consider how much more 'i' means as a song to addressing the mental anguish and depression faced by the black community after systemic racial inequality, this feels trivial, and considering that Steinfeld was in the video with Kendrick during 'Bad Blood', she should be aware of this. I dunno, I'm assuming its unintentional, but it has the feel of co-opting a cause that can mean life and death now for another self-esteem anthem, and that feels a little cheap to me. Still, not a bad track

51. 'High By The Beach' by Lana Del Rey - so you all want to know the reason why the Billboard charts were delayed. Yeah, it was Lana - apparently, sales figures for this single were so grossly exaggerated that it was set to debut at #7 this week until somebody checked the math and realized there was no way in hell most of the listening public had lost that much sanity. So yeah, in case you can't tell, I'm not a fan of Lana Del Rey - I'm not saying 'Video Games' wasn't an excellent song or 'National Anthem' a very good one, but I will say Born To Die was painfully mediocre and Ultraviolence was just painful. Now this is her opening single from her upcoming album Honeymoon, reportedly a plan to go back to her old style after the Dan Auerbach-produced bore that was her last album. And... look, it's not good. I'll put aside the fact that the warped haze she's trying to create with the desaturated keys feels incredibly artificial, especially with that synth tone that comes in on the bridge and chorus, but I get nothing out of her drone over the chorus, especially when her cadence gets awkwardly staccato. Instrumentally, the song needs a darker foundation or elegance that it strangely doesn't have, and no amount of Lana crooning 'motherfucker' is going to make that believable. And on that subject, the lyrics are not good - Lana swears with the impact of a bad Maroon 5 song, and the lyrical arc once again features Lana Del Rey dissing a soon-to-be ex, confident she's got it on her own and will take bloody revenge... all while getting high on the beach. Yeah, people don't get violently psychotic when they're high, all of which is tied back to my suspicion that Lana is trying to give off the impression that she doesn't care about any of it - so if I don't buy any of Lana's femme fatale acting, why would I care that she doesn't care either? Yeah, this song fails across the board and does not give me a good feeling going forward for that album... ugh, we'll see what happens.

33. 'Again' by Fetty Wap - okay, I get putting money behind a new hot artist, but this is Fetty Wap's fourth charting single right now - and he doesn't have an album out yet. Thankfully, I can mostly get behind what he's dropped, and this is no exception. I wouldn't say it's his best - 'My Way' is still a fair bit stronger - but I do like, again, how it focuses on how he wants to stay true to his girl no matter the circumstances, with the only thing getting in his way being the work and money, the latter of which is represented as the 'girl' in the first verse. Once again, it's nothing lyrically all that special, especially as it outright bites lyrics from 'Trap Queen', and it's hard not to think that Fetty Wap is perhaps getting a bit too much credit for making his songs seventy percent chorus, but he is believable in selling it. And I really do like the deeper multi-tracking they bring in for the second half of the chorus, it sounds pretty damn good against the trap beat and off-kilter oily melody, which is probably the only element besides the Kanye-esque autotuned outro that probably doesn't work as well as he thinks it does. Otherwise... yeah, I don't mind this, I'll take it.

So that was our week... and honestly, kind of middle of the road across the board, which makes Honourable and Dishonourable Mentions tricky. For Worst of the Week, 'High By The Beach' by Lana Del Rey runs away with it with probably 'Gonna Wanna Tonight' by Chase Rice snagging the Dishonourable Mention if only for its clumsiness and bad production. But for best... Honourable Mention I'm giving to Dan + Shay for 'Nothin' Like You', with the best going to 'Black Magic' by Little Mix. Let's hope the latter becomes a hit!

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