Tuesday, October 27, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 7, 2015

Before I start, if you're not already aware, my first full-length fantasy novel called To Kill A Dragon just dropped on Amazon - so if you're interested, I'd really appreciate if you took a look, the link's in the description below, maybe pick up a copy to drop a review. After all, if I dish it out, I need to be able to take it too.

...You see, Drake? What I did there just now is called 'marketing', and while it's on a far smaller scale and will probably lead to a far smaller return, I'd argue I didn't screw it up nearly as badly as you screwed up this week.

I should explain, and really it's all about the Top 10. My initial prediction was that the release of the video for 'Hotline Bling' would dethrone 'The Hills' from the #1 spot - after all, while it topped airplay, it's clearly peaked and was a step back both on sales and streaming and it lost on YouTube. And considering how much Drake's video was a viral sensation, you'd think it would have worked... except Billboard doesn't count video streams from Apple Music. And thus, considering he only put the video on YouTube yesterday, several days after the viral explosion was at its peak, 'Hotline Bling' remains stuck at #2 even despite topping streaming and sales. And now you're thinking, 'Well, there's always next week' - except have you seen Adele's sales, streaming, and YouTube stats, plus the fact she's a radio darling? 'Hello' is going for a top 5 debut, if not #1 - Drake had his shot at a #1 if he had dropped his video on both platforms, and he blew it. Whose fault this is is a different question - did Drake screw up or was it intentional mismanagement on the part of Birdman to rob Drake of his first #1 and all the more clout when he eventually sues to get Views From The 6 released? Either way, that question is far more interesting than the rest of the Top 10, which didn't really change much. #3 remains with Justin Bieber's 'What Do You Mean', which took back YouTube and held steady on streaming to compensate for weakening radio and sales. Then Shawn Mendes went up another slot with 'Stitches' to #4, which compensated for a slip in streaming with gains on airplay and sales - analogous situation to 'Wildest Dreams' by Taylor Swift, which rose up to #5 on even better sales and airplay gains to compensate for its complete lack of streaming. Granted, the weakness of '679' by Fetty Wap and Remy Boyz had to help, as while it picked up radio and held steady on streaming had a weaker-than-expected sales week to fall to #6. Beneath it 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd held onto #7, because despite plummeting airplay and sales and weakening streaming, it actually gained a bit on YouTube. And it's the exact same situation for 'Locked Away' by Rock City ft. Adam Levine at #8 - losses across the board except in YouTube. Then there's 'Watch Me' by Silento, which is holding on thanks to the YouTube presence that will never die and nothing else. This actually takes us to our one new entry this week: 'Perfect' by One Direction. I'll talk more about the details later in the video, but it at least got the rollout done properly - with strong sales, good streaming, and YouTube coordinated to net it a #10 debut. It won't last very long there, but it got in, which is saying something.

And on that topic, let's talk about our losers and dropouts. Quite a few big ones this week in the latter category, with 'Earned It' by The Weeknd, 'Bad Blood' by Taylor Swift & Kendrick Lamar, and 'House Party' by Sam Hunt making their long-overdue exits. Hell, even though it was inching up the charts 'El Perdon' by Nicky Jam and Enrique Iglesias bowed out after an astounding thirty weeks, and 'Fly' by Maddie & Tae exited early as predicted. Not many losses this week, though, and they're all pretty predictable. 'I'm The Plug' by Drake & Future drops to 96 on the count of being terrible - frankly, I'm stunned it lasted this long - and 'Marvin Gaye' by Charlie Puth and Meghan Trainor falls hard to 54 for being flat out embarrassingly awful. Although in that case it might be more because it's nearing its twenty weeks... which leads us to the losses for 'Lose My Mind' by Brett Eldredge falling to 67. Yeah, I know, I should have seen it coming, but still, it's a little disappointing that it fell that hard and will probably miss the year-end list.

And of course country radio is plugging its losses in the worst way possible, which takes us to our gains and the continued success of 'Die A Happy Man' by Thomas Rhett rising to 36 and 'Break Up In A Small Town' by Sam Hunt rising to 59. Thankfully, the rest of pop radio actually seemed to get their crap together, with 'Confident' by Demi Lovato surging up to 31, 'Lay It All On Me' by Rudimental ft. Ed Sheeran rising to 74, and 'Back Up' by DeJ Loaf ft. Big Sean rising to 62 - although some of that added publicity might be tied to the Lil Durk controversy and the allegations DeJ Loaf might be a lesbian or bi and I've long ago stopped caring. Most bizarrely we have the sudden boost for 'Stressed Out' by twenty one pilots to 81. I'm not complaining, it's not a bad song, and I guess the mood fits the fall more than mid-spring, but it's still odd to see it on the rise months after the album dropped.

And on the topic of weird returns, let's discuss the two of them, shall we...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining we've got more Fall Out Boy on the charts... but seriously, this as the next single and not 'Jet Pack Blues' or 'Novocaine'? But really, it's not Fall Out Boy that got this song on the charts, but the remix that featured the most obvious collaborator possible: Demi Lovato. And really, if the success of 'Confident' has proven anything, if you get a huge brassy song that's playing towards pop rock and actually allows Demi to get visceral and play off Patrick Stump, you could get something special. And I'll say it: she sounds great on this track, twisting the lyrics just enough to fit her alpha-female persona and it's completely believable. I do wish she went a little grittier on the bridge like she did on the second verse and that the production allowed her to really explode - the production really is too clattering and busy to flatter anyone well here - but for the most part, this song is great, and easily is better than most of the songs on both the albums from Fall Out Boy and Demi Lovato that they dropped this year. See guys, more of this - you don't need to make rap remix albums, this sort of thing is just fine!

And again, we have an example of an artist completely ignoring better single choices. Really, Jason Aldean, this over 'Don't Change Gone', one of the best songs you've ever made and one of my personal favourites from 2014 across the board? Regardless, getting a fourth single from Jason Aldean's only decent Old Boots, New Dirt a year after it was released seems to be pushing it, and this song is only okay, mostly hurt by its completely monochromatic production than anything else. Because as much as that riff isn't bad, the fire of the guitars seems nowhere near as explosive as it should, and the bass feels completely limp, especially if this is supposed to be country rock. And then there's the lyrics... okay, if you're so certain everyone's gonna remember you were here, why don't you describe your wild adventure so you don't try to fabricate a legacy that has no detail to it? And more importantly, why would you describe yourself as going out like fireworks and shooting stars, things that are forgotten minutes after they occur? Overall, I can't get too annoyed with this song, but it's telling about Aldean's myth-making that I'll forget this song after I finish this episode.

Now on that cheerful note, let's talk about our new arrivals, starting with...

99. 'Can't Sleep Love' by Pentatonix - well, it wouldn't have been my choice for a single, but I'm not against Pentatonix breaking onto the radio. I didn't talk much about 'Can't Sleep Love', mostly because I'm ambivalent to positive on the track - the R&B-esque flair is generally likeable, Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi do a good job trading off vocals, especially on the final chorus, and the lyrical sentiment of looking for true love and being heartily sick of dating rung true for me. I've seen complaints about some of the vocal layering and production about not being 'true a capella' - frankly, I don't quite buy that, considering if you fiddle with the fidelity of a microphone or the layering you can make the same argument, and it's analogous vocal production. Besides, whatever filters that are applied on this song are pretty minimal in order to make the melody line a little more elastic and some of the vocal snippets fit with the mix a little better, and I'm generally okay with that. Overall, it's a good song.

97. 'Home' by One Direction - so if it wasn't for the fact that Drake completely screwed up his #1 chance, this would have been the week of One Direction, because this is the first of two songs they dropped in preparation for their upcoming record before their hiatus. Except that's a lie because this song was actually included on the Perfect EP released for their second single and didn't even make the album... which is a shame, because it's actually decent, showing how they initially have doubts that the relationship is going to work out, and when they discover their partner feels the same, they lend support to each other and it's all better. Pretty sweet sentiment, and when paired with the liquid rollick of the guitars and those huge drums, it does have some impact. I do think it's missing a bridge or perhaps another verse to really build to a satisfying climax point - probably the reason it was cut from the album - but overall, this works, and might be a sign the new One Direction album might work after all.

95. 'Roses' by The Chainsmokers ft. ROZES - hey, remember '#Selfie'? Remember how it was an attempt at viral marketing that tried to worm its way into our consciousness by playing off a bunch of dumb club chick jokes that Kesha had already lampooned a thousand times better four or five years earlier? And remember how it absolutely sucked? Well, the makers of that godawful track are back with 'Roses' in a stab towards mainstream electronic music that actually takes itself seriously... and while it might be better than '#Selfie', it's not by much. This is mostly an issue of production, which switches through about five or six synth tones and four hi-hat/beat percussion progressions in an incredibly choppy attempt to find something that might catch the ear. And with no good transitions, it just falls limp far more than it should... which is a shame, because ROZES herself isn't bad on this track. Sure, she's playing to a very Lana Del Rey vocal timbre and the lyrical sentiment feels weird - if she warmed this guy's heart so much, why would you be concerned that he'd leave - but she's probably the best part of this song and I could see her doing well in this vein. Shame she's stuck with The Chainsmokers, who can barely rise above mediocrity and another song I'll forget in an hour.

90. 'Say It' by Tory Lanez - you know, when I first saw this guy's name, I didn't recognize it - and considering this guy is Canadian, that's saying something, because this looks like his first song to make any serious impact - and he's been putting out mixtapes since 2009. And he did it in a way that I can predict will get a lot more popular: by fitting himself between Drake and The Weeknd, especially with his flow and delivery. But believe it or not, I actually think this guy isn't bad - granted, the sample from Brownstone's 'If You Love Me' from 1994 is doing a lot of heavy lifting in carrying the melody, but the hook is decent and while the lyrics aren't that special in telling the girl to prove her love for more than just the foreign car even though he's very much down already, the sentiment gets the right balance between sincerity and not wanting to get played. If I were to nitpick, I'd say that the pitch correction propping up the crooning is pretty blatant and the outro feels a little overproduced, but I actually dig this - hell, I've liked it more than most of what Drake's put out recently, mostly because it has a stable melodic foundation. Nice work, Tory Lanez, hope I see more from you.

79. 'Cake By The Ocean' by DNCE - so you know how Nick Jonas has managed to translate his previous career with the Jonas Brothers into a solo run that's proven surprisingly good after the misfire of 'Jealous'? Well, I suspected it'd only be a matter of time before his brothers tried a similar solo path, with DNCE the group set up by Joe Jonas. And unlike his brother, who tried to move into smoky, overtly sexual R&B, DNCE is more of a funk-pop act trying to capitalize off of the continued success of 'Uptown Funk'. Shame it's a lot less good, mostly because the lyrics are way raunchier than they have any right to be with this instrumentation - once Rihanna and Chris Brown made 'Birthday Cake' in 2012, the whole 'cake' metaphor got a lot less sexy. And yeah, that bassline is pretty sweet, but it doesn't have anywhere near the prominence and rollick, especially with the painfully thin guitars and runny synths that just feel plastic, especially with Joe Jonas' far from convincing falsetto. The entire song sounds way more broad and goofy than it should, to the point where you might get the impression that they're actually talking about baked goods... until you get the 'You're fucking delicious' line. I was going to use the line 'The cake is a lie'... but then I considered what the sexualization of that metaphor might mean and I now have to rethink my entire life. Next!

10. 'Perfect' by One Direction - so this is the big second single from One Direction's upcoming album before they go on hiatus. I'll have more thoughts on that when I cover the album in a few weeks, but coming after 'Drag Me Down' of which the only thing that I can really praise was the prechorus that built a crescendo the song couldn't pay off, we could only go up. And really, 'Perfect' is fine enough - it's hazy, percussion saturated and the vocal production feels a little compressed with a bit too much reverb, but when we get a guitar melody it's decent enough and while the harmonies are pretty sparse, the hook's not bad. But of course so much of the controversy is surrounding whether the song is about Taylor Swift, who briefly dated Harry Styles and who cowrote this song... and really, you can go either way. There are a few lyrical implications, but I'd argue the mood is still kind of mixed, with One Direction almost expecting things to go sour after this night, the way they put the faults on display. Kind of runs contrary to the line that they're 'perfect for you', but really, that's nitpicking. Overall, it's definitely not better than 'Night Changes', the second single from Four, but it's passable, I can take this.

So this week was generally agreeable again, but without many standout tracks as a whole on both sides. Hell, giving worst of the week to 'Cake By The Ocean' to DNCE and Dishonourable Mention to 'Roses' by The Chainsmokers ft. Rozes feels unfair, considering that neither song is outright awful. As for the best... well, okay, 'Irresistible' by Fall Out Boy featuring Demi Lovato does run away with Best of the Week, but Honourable Mention is trickier... And you know, I'm going to give it to 'Say It' by Tory Lanez for having a pretty slick, enjoyable vibe and a flow that's surprisingly solid. I do wish he had a little more bass in his voice, but he's younger than me, that comes with time. So yeah, we've had a few solid weeks here, let's hope for more!


  1. Mistake. El Perdon kept gaining and bowed out at an astounding 30 weeks instead of 20. (it kept gaining and bb keeps it on the charts until it loses its bullet) Still a REALLY IMPRESSIVE chart run, some people predicted it to be on the Year End List.

    1. Huh, shocked that they let it stick around that long. Odd.