Tuesday, October 6, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - october 17, 2015

Okay, normally what happens on a week full of new arrivals from a big release, you can normally expect a bunch of them to fall off the week after or at least take a sizeable dip after the hype fades. What you don't normally expect is nearly all of them to gain traction and for the charts to pick up all of the remaining tracks from that album you didn't cover and add them too! Such was the apparent magnetism of Drake & Future that not only did they not go away, they got bigger and even brought more along for the ride. Joy.

But we'll get to that a bit later - let's focus on our top 10. Unsurprisingly, 'The Hills' by The Weeknd reigns at the very top for another week as he tops sales and airplay with considerable power on YouTube and streaming too. This in contrast to the faltering of 'What Do You Mean?' by Justin Bieber - not by much, of course, it still has a ton of YouTube with strong sales and surging airplay, but streaming did slip a bit this week. Mostly thanks to the competition of 'Hotline Bling' by Drake rising up to #3 thanks to taking the top spot on streaming with great sales and big gains on airplay too - and again, this is without a video - although with that coming soon, I reckon it's a matter of time before Drake takes the top spot. It was enough to push back 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd down to #4, though even despite good streaming and gains on YouTube the sales were not exceptional and it started slipping on airplay - not quite in freefall, but it's only a matter of time. Then we had '679' by Fetty Wap & Monty rise up to #5, mostly by holding steady on streaming and picking up decent sales and airplay... but I can see it getting passed in later weeks by a song like 'Locked Away' by Rock City and Adam Levine, which rose up to #6 on stronger sales and surging airplay, even if the streaming isn't exceptional. What's more important is that the gains here were enough to shove 'Watch Me' by Silento down to #7, as the sales look like they're finally faltering and YouTube took a hit as well. And right beneath it we've got our coming replacements, the first being 'Wildest Dreams' by Taylor Swift at #8, which may have lost YouTube this week but compensated with huge sales and runaway airplay - no streaming, but I'm getting the feeling the Taylor Swift machine doesn't really need streaming in the same way anymore. Beneath it we have a new entry to the top 10, and one I'm surprised to see catch on this much: 'Stitches' by Shawn Mendes at #9. Okay, seriously, this awkward little song and not 'Something Big'? Regardless, it's here thanks to similar airplay gains and sales boosts, only with streaming compensating for YouTube. And both of these gains pushed back 'Good For You' by Selena Gomez & A$AP Rocky to #10, which is now in free fall on airplay and with weak sales and streaming, it'll be gone fairly soon. One thing I'd like to note is that since The Weeknd unseated OMI, the Top 10 has been dominated by Canadian music... and that for many months of this year, the #1 slot has gone to acts that aren't American. Just food for thought.

But stepping away from that, let's talk about losers and dropouts, and in the latter camp I find it hard to complain. Yes, we lost 'Alright' by Kendrick Lamar and 'Honey I'm Good by Andy Grammer and 'I Don't Like It, I Love It' by Flo Rida, Robin Thicke & Verdine White, but if that meant we could knock out 'Classic Man' by Jidenna ft. Roman GianArthur, 'R.I.C.O.' by Meek Mill & Drake, and 'Crash And Burn' by Thomas Rhett, the latter probably blocking it from landing on the year end list for 2015, I'm definitely not complaining! Hell, losing 'Kick The Dust Up' by Luke Bryan down to 99 and 'Gonna' by Blake Shelton to 97 isn't half bad either. Granted, country had another rough week with 'Buy Me A Boat' by Chris Janson continuing its free fall to 73 and 'John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16' by Keith Urban dropping to 50 - but then again, they're both near the end of their twenty weeks, no surprises here. Similar case with 'Ghost Town' by Adam Lambert falling to 91 or 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars falling back down to 27 - the big surprise there was that 'Uptown Funk' got a revival at all! Outside of that, 'Infinity' by One Direction proves to be a non-starter - told you - falling to 85, which leaves 'Black Magic' by Little Mix slipping again to 89... again, a damn shame, it's a really good pop song, and I'm looking forward to the album.

But now we have our gains... and let me just blow through all the Drake & Future boosts in a hurry because I really couldn't care less. 'Jumpman' goes to 21, 'Big Rings' nicely rises to '52' - it'll be the hit, I hope - 'Diamonds Dancing' rises to 53, 'Scholarships' goes to 69, 'Live From The Gutter' rises to 74, and most depressingly, 'Digital Dash' and 'I'm The Plug' went to 62 and 76 respectively. Joy. What's worse is that Chris Brown's newest track 'Liquor' somehow picked up to 61 off of the video, even despite the unsettling connotations everywhere and the fact the song is just an unstable mess. Fortunately, we have 'Levels' by Nick Jonas, who after the disaster that was 'Jealous' has turned into a surprisingly solid pop star this year, because I still really like this song.

But on the opposite note of acts I don't suspect will have much pop viability going forward, our returning entries...

You know it's not a good thing when I remember my analysis of the song more than I remembered the song itself. Mostly because a revisit to the track doesn't give it much that stands out. Muted keyboard, trap hi-hats, choppy bass, solid vocals supporting lyrics that are painfully high school, with a crowd sing-along for the bridge that doesn't really build to much beyond it. Overall, it's not exactly a good song, but I'd certainly take it over, say...

Wow, this music video couldn't be trying to leap on the dystopian trend more if it tried, plus a healthy dose of Joan Of Arc imagery to make it at least marginally more visceral. Shame the song still blows, trying to milk a fusion of Lorde's populism without her tight writing and Lana Del Rey's appropriation of vintage iconography to clumsily repurpose old glam as new, and it really, really doesn't work, especially with this video. Look, I get why people like Halsey - every generation wants something that could scream of punk - but say what you will about Green Day, at least they wrote decent melodies and when they tried for arena rock bombast, they could pull it off. Sorry Halsey, bragging that you're high on legal marijuana and listened to Biggie and Nirvana doesn't make you sound cool, it makes it look like you're trying way too hard to seem edgy and can't get there.

So now that all that's settled, let's get to our new arrivals, starting with...

96. 'Lay It All On Me' by Rudimental ft. Ed Sheeran - well, this is awkward, and yet another case of the UK being several steps ahead of the American Hot 100, because while the drum & bass band Rudimental might be a household name there, this is their first ever song debuting on the Hot 100. And honestly, this isn't bad - anchored in a solid piano and synth melody, a pretty damn propulsive thicker beat on the chorus, Ed Sheeran's more soulful multi-tracked vocals. Yeah, he's staying more in his willowy falsetto, which admittedly isn't where I think Ed Sheeran is at his best, and the lyrics aren't much special, and I don't think the song quite lands the impact with that melodic progression, especially with those washed out oily flourishes on the back half of the song, but it's definitely passable, I'll take this.

87. 'Jersey' by Future - I should have predicted this track showing up - because hey, you give Drake a solo track on the collaboration, of course Future should get one too, right? And now I'm going to say something that might blow your mind: I actually don't mind this, mostly because it doesn't swamp itself out in reverb while still getting some dramatic swell, keeps the melody prominent, and the synth tone actually is pretty decent. Sure, Future is still being Future on it, and it's probably darker than it should be for a flossing anthem about wearing jerseys, but there's an odd nervousness to this song, as Future seems spooked so he's trying to retreat back into his comfort zone. And sure, said comfort zone is boring as hell full of spending and dirty Sprite, but I've definitely heard worse off of that tape, so I can take this.

86. 'Jugg' by Fetty Wap ft. Monty - this, on the other hand... yeah, not one of my favourites from Fetty Wap's debut. I know I liked that record more than most, but trying to make 'jugg' a thing over a skittering keyboard melody that really doesn't go well against that hi-hat progression and a whole load of fake low horns with Monty's least likeable verses with him trying to pull a similar elongated syllable thing to Fetty Wap and it's nowhere near as catchy. And here's the thing that baffles me: was I the only one who thought 'Trap Luv' went so hard that it'd be an easy pick for the next single? Because this is below average, and Fetty Wap is not the kind who can afford below average songs, especially considering his painfully limited lyrical skills. After all, you can only sustain your momentum for so long.

84. 'Don't' by Bryson Tiller - so you know how I've said in the past that Drake's hands seem to be everywhere in the Hot 100 these days? Well here's another example, because Bryson Tiller may have garnered a lot of music industry insider attention and a cosign from Timbaland, it was probably the cosign from Drake that got him the most press and got Tiller's debut album TRAPSOUL to chart surprisingly well, this being his lead-off single. And normally I've got a mixed record with artists that Drake has cosigned - and surprise surprise, this guy sounds exactly like a guy Drake would cosign. Murky, washed out sound with minimal beat trying way too hard to be eerie with a singer midway between R.Kelly's most understated songs and Drake himself, complete with bitter lyrics that are trying to snap at a guy who doesn't treat the girl well and yet don't shy away from slamming the girl a few times for good measure. It's just sour, and even though Tiller tries to brush it off as saying it's only the other guy that makes him feel this way, it doesn't really excuse it. That, coupled with the obnoxious pitch-shifted bridge, makes this one song I'm not unhappy I missed the first time.

82. 'Change Locations' by Drake & Future - and we're back to the Drake show, and somehow I feel I've heard this song before. Sparse, rougher beat, washed-out synths, an air of melancholy that completely doesn't fit the vibe of money stacked to the ceiling and screwing so many models you need to start screwing waitresses and then moving on to drinking so many bottles that they have to change locations. And sure, Drake's got a few decent lines, but you'd think for how shallow this track is it could at least be enjoyable. This is just tedious, and makes me wish I could go back to listening to Fetty Wap - at least he's having fun. 

78. 'Plastic Bag' by Drake & Future - ...well, it's better than 'Change Locations', but I think that might be because Drake takes more of the lead and the production is modestly better, with slightly more prominent percussion, faded synths that do have a bit more colour thanks to some of the backing vocals ebbing in, and an oddly vintage crackle around the edges of the mix. Lyrically, it's about a stripper getting a plastic bag to pick up all the money thrown at her that evening... and I just imagined that mental image and just felt a feeling of overwhelming sadness. Look, folks, at this point I've covered every song Drake and Future included on this album, and maybe one or two of the songs had any sort of potential in the long term. And again, I think Drake is reaching a point of overexposure faster than even he might realize, and considering how much the quality has fallen off, he could be in trouble in a year or so.

71. 'Writing's On The Wall' ft. Sam Smith - so let me get something surprising out of the way first: I think in theory the choice for Sam Smith to do a Bond theme is a fantastic idea. Seriously, he's got the serious stiffness to fit the veneer of aristocracy that touches the Bond franchise in the past decade, while being just soulful enough to evoke that smoother touch when soul anthems were the standard for Bond's best songs. That being said, I'm conflicted about this one. The instrumentation is fine - could afford to be a little smokier and darker, not as orchestral, but that's nitpicking - and I mostly like the grand dramatic swell of the lyrics, as they do work for the tragedy of the character. The problem I have with this song is Sam Smith's vocal arrangement. Not his voice - his falsetto might not be as clear as I'd normally like, but again, nitpicking - but the fact that he spends nearly half the song in that falsetto. Maybe it's just me, but considering how powerful and rich Sam Smith can sound in his low and mid-range - the proof is on the prechorus, it sounds fantastic - for him to spend so much of it in his thinner upper range strikes me as a misstep, especially for a Bond anthem. And of course it doesn't help matters that Adele's 'Skyfall', one of the best Bond songs in years, is still fresh in plenty of minds, but mostly because she still had that smoky organic rasp that Smith can't quite pull off, especially in his upper range. Now don't get me wrong, there have been far worse Bond songs, and I'm still convinced Sam Smith has a good Bond song in him yet, but frankly, I'd rather see Nick Cave do one first.

56. 'Alive' by Sia - I have to say, it's weird that Sia is now someone the mainstream considers a pop star - maybe it's just being familiar with her material from the indie sphere before David Guetta and 1000 Forms Of Fear turned her into a household name, but the fact that Sia's now the biggest debuting act on the charts this week just feels strange. What's all the more strange is that this is a song that Sia cowrote with this with Tobias Jesso Jr. - not a great sign, but I get his appeal - and Adele of all people; it was intended for Adele's third album before being rejected at the last minute. And after Rihanna rejected it too, Sia recorded it for her upcoming album in early 2016 - and wow, this is something. Sure, it still plays to the same template of aggressively heavy percussion and Sia shredding her voice to an alarmingly painful and raw degree, but with a more prominent keyboard melody, less reverb, more melodic swell, especially on that chorus to provide an anchor point, and actually able to play off its crescendos, it's a better form of it. Hell, as much as the vocals just make me wince painfully as some who does a lot of singing, it does fit the lyrics as a woman who has been through absolute hell and yet found her own way out and she's still alive. It's visceral, yet triumphant, and while I'm not sure it'll quite match the careening desperation of 'Chandelier', it's still a damn good song.

And that ends out our week, and wow, the pickings are a fair bit slimmer here. Sia runs away with the Best of the Week for 'Alive', but Honourable Mention is trickier and I think I'm giving it to 'Lay It All On Me' by Rudimental & Ed Sheeran. As for the worst, I think I soured more on 'Don't' by Bryson Tiller than anything, with 'Change Locations' by Drake & Future getting the Dishonourable Mention - yes, the music video was just enough to save Halsey here, even despite how hysterical that song remains. Let's hope we get something different than Drake up ahead, for his sake more than mine.


  1. With New Americana, I feel that Halsey was trying to not sound cool, appropriating cult icons as a way of subverting the American dream. Note the word "new" in New Americana - this is a song playing along the same lines of Marina and the Diamonds' whole Electra Heart concept (probably why people are obsessed with her), and just like that album, the execution is too frail to save the song's ambition.

    Maybe the issue is in the song's framing. There is nothing in the chorus or Halsey's tone that gives off any type of sarcasm or self-awareness, and her attempt at self-awareness in the bridge is below average, making the song seem a bit more earnest.