Tuesday, November 10, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 21, 2015

No time for introductions this week - busy week, we'll get to more details surrounding the influx of new country when we get to it, if I want to keep this episode under fifteen minutes because of this goddamn copyright strike, gonna have to go fast!

Okay, top ten. Unsurprisingly, Adele held the very top with 'Hello' because she's still dominating nearly every category, with her sales continuing to break records and her airplay showing no signs of slowing down. In other words, even though Drake's 'Hotline Bling' went back to #2 on solid stats across the board, especially YouTube, when Adele has over five times your sales, you're not stopping her. This takes us to 'The Hills' by The Weeknd, which might have jumped back to #3, but I don't see it lasting long - sales have slipped and airplay is dropping, it's here on streaming and little else. But it was enough to hold off 'Sorry' by Justin Bieber to #4 - even despite good sales, great streaming, and strong YouTube, airplay is not gaining fast enough. Granted, it's doing better than 'What Do You Mean' at #5, which is losing airplay and slipped on sales and YouTube. In comparison, 'Stitches' by Shawn Mendes is holding steady at #6 - sales are consistent, airplay is still gaining, and streaming holds steady - it won't get higher without YouTube, but it's not slowing. And now we come to our first new top ten entry: 'Focus' by Ariana Grande at #7. We'll talk more about it later, but it's here because of respectable streaming, good airplay gains, weaker than expected sales, and absolutely massive YouTube... all of which shoved back Taylor Swift's 'Wildest Dreams' down to #8... although with weakening sales and airplay, that might have been inevitable. Similar case with '679' by Fetty Wap and Remy Boyz falling to #9, only holding thanks to streaming as airplay is slipping and sales are nonexistent. And finally, we have our second new arrival: 'Like I'm Gonna Lose You' by Meghan Trainor ft. John Legend, the best song off of her debut album... and even that was because John Legend completely steals the entire song. Anyway, it's here on airplay, respectable sales and a bit of streaming - in other words, expect to see a lot of this for the next few months. Joy.

And on a similar note, losers and dropouts! A few pretty big ones this week, with 'Marvin Gaye' by Charlie Puth & Meghan Trainor finally exiting and taking 'Gonna Wanna Tonight' by Chase Rice and '100' by The Game ft. Drake with it. More importantly, 'Sugar' by Maroon 5 has finally left the charts after a 42 week run - who would have known the most squealing, inoffensive song of the band's career would have been one of their biggest! And the majority of our losers have been around for a while too, with only 'Emperor's New Clothes' by Panic! At The Disco plummeting to 98 off of its debut and 'Perfect' by One Direction falling to 44 because that's what new One Direction songs do. The rest... well, I can't say I'm thrilled 'Levels' by Nick Jonas dropped to 84 early, but if it's taking 'Love Myself' by Hailee Steinfeld with it to 60, I guess I'm okay. And sure, 'Cool For The Summer' by Demi Lovato fell to 72, but it's got its points and it's taking 'Anything Goes' by Florida Georgia Line to 65 and 'All Eyes On You' by Meek Mill ft. Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown to 57 with it. Again, net positive!

Shame it's really the only net positive, because when we look at our gains, both absolutely suck and have gotten 'Worst of The Week' from me. 'Exchange' by Bryson Tiller rises to 86 on disingenuous attempts to hook up with an ex, and Sam Hunt's 'Break Up In A Small Town' is bitching about an ex while the music throws up over itself. Still not enough to prevent it from going to 42, but given that country radio got a bit of a culture shock last week, it'll be interesting to see how long it sticks around, especially given it's a fourth single.

But before we get to that, let's blow through our returning entries pretty quickly, shall we?

This is one of those tracks I completely forgot until this week, and yet every single time I hear it I find more to remember why I don't like it. Chris Brown's painfully synthetic chorus clashing with Big Sean's lazy drawl filled with corny punchline after corny punchline that definitely phones in the rhyming on the second verse, it's just nowhere near as good as that backing groove. And trust me Chris Brown, for as much as you say you want me to take you serious, I think even the music video realized that was a losing proposition. In other words, not bad, but definitely not great either.

It comes around every Halloween like clockwork, and this one is no exception - mostly because it has aged exceptionally well and it's a great song. The massive synth hits that transition into a sweet bass groove with great horror-tinged atmosphere especially with the organ, with Michael Jackson proving just why he's one of the best pop stars of all time with a visceral intensity that's impossible to fake. But believe it or not, I probably wouldn't count this as one of my favourite MJ songs - the horns don't quite fit the atmosphere, and even with the awesome spoken word outro from Vincent Price, the track does run a tad long. Still, damn great song: see, The Weeknd, this is how you do it!

Okay, not a lot of time here and we've got a lot to cover, let's go!

100. 'We Went' by Randy Houser - so maybe it was bad timing for Randy Houser to release his lead-off single for his upcoming album the same week as the CMA awards, but after four singles from an album dropped in January 2013, might as well get a new one. And it seems like every b-list country star, Houser decided to pivot straight for country tones that are way too slick and smooth for his vocals, with a lockstep beat holding until real drums finally come in. The bigger issue is that Houser is a belter with a huge voice... and not only does production gloss over it or give him any sort of grit or edge - the backing vocals definitely don't help - it places him against a fast-paced cadence on the verses that's not flattering at all. As a whole, I've heard worse country songs in this vein, but I don't think this track's going to be the huge starter that Houser's looking for, regardless of poor timing.

96. 'Already Callin' You Mine' by Parmalee - you know a band is scraping the bottom of the barrel when they're pulling from an album that dropped in 2013 and that I barely remember today, but such is the case for Parmalee and 'Already Callin' You Mine'. Now credit can be given for a guitar with some sizzle and real drums - after all, these guys are one of the few country bands still working, even if the guitar solo is pitiful - but the larger issue comes in lyrics straight from the bro-country playbook with an unhealthy load of presumption - dude, you admitted you just met her and am probably thinking too fast, and yet you're still already calling her yours? Look, this song was dropped as a single in February of this year, and it's only now clawed a spot on the radio. But with bro-country on the wane, it's not about to last.

95. 'Beautiful Drug' by Zac Brown Band - you know, I said Parmalee's one of the few country bands still working, mostly because with tracks like this I don't know if you can really consider the Zac Brown Band a 'country' act! Seriously Zac Brown, if you wanted your EDM crossover you should have released 'Tomorrow Never Comes' - the pop version to mainstream radio, the acoustic to country radio! Instead, we get probably the worst track from Jekyll + Hyde, trying to merge acoustic guitar into a muddled slurry of a beat with played out lyrics... and yet to give Zac Brown credit, this isn't a terrible track, mostly because it's got a steady melodic foundation and the band can still put together a fast-picked stomper impressively well. Again, for EDM-touched pop country I've certainly heard worse, but Zac Brown is capable of much better and thankfully it's only here because of the CMAs - next!

83. 'Me, Myself & I' by G-Eazy & Bebe Rexha - I'll admit my initial impressions of G-Eazy when I covered him months ago were not good - he came across as self-obsessed with a clumsy flow and with content that didn't even try to be interesting. Now I'll admit he did trade up for his hook this time, swapping out Remo for Bebe Rexha who feels like a slightly less raw Charli XCX against another spacious and melodic beat with a pretty damn solid groove for the hook - honestly, the instrumentation and hooks he gets is solid. But when we dig into his rapping and content... it feels like a softer, less interesting version of what Drake's been shovelling out this year, trying to find the existential ennui in success and he's got no real commentary on it. Again, I like the hook and production, but I've already had enough of Drake this year, I don't need copycats.

51. 'I'll Show You' by Justin Bieber - wow, Bieber seems to be transitioning into one of the least interesting pop singers of the past decade, and with 'I'll Show You' I've figured out the reason why: there's no tightness in his delivery, nothing that feels visceral or impassioned. Granted, the misty trap of this track doesn't help matters, anchored in a synth that's not bad until we get to the hook where it tries to build squealing presence and doesn't fit at all. Now I could go on by saying that compared to the howling dubstep that Skrillex used to make this is a sell-out, but the lyrics from Bieber deserve some consideration in showing his exhaustion with fame and all that pressure and how we'll never understand... uh, no, Bieber, I'm not feeling sorry for you, and so far you've shown me tracks that are only interesting thanks to their production, and not you. Next!

23. 'Tennessee Whiskey' by Chris Stapleton - so now we get to the big story. For those of you who didn't watch the CMA awards, Chris Stapleton smashed the paradigm wide open by scooping up Album Of The Year, Newcomer of the Year, and Best Male Performer, and the explosion of album sales in response has been huge. But none of that really translates to radio... except that between sales and the performance, radio has been forced to respond and the song he did with Justin Timberlake 'Tennessee Whiskey' has broken onto the Hot 100. And here's the hilarious thing: this song is a cover, originally written for David Allan Cole before being covered by George Jones in the 80s and Stapleton now. And I'll go a step further and say it wasn't my favourite song on Traveller - it's a serviceable cover that gains a lot thanks to Dave Cobb's great production and just being a damn solid country track, but I honestly think Stapleton oversings the song a bit, especially given the more mellow presentation in the bassline. But look, even with that on a week full of country mediocrity, this is a shot of life that kicks all amounts of ass and I'm thrilled to see what Stapleton is going to do from here. 

7. 'Focus' by Ariana Grande - does anyone else wish that Ariana would underplay her music than make overblown stuff like this? Because this is a mess and with each listen it gets harder and harder to like. Yes, I can appreciate real horns, especially on the bridge, interesting percussion, and thin synths on the prechorus... but all the rubbery effects, handclaps, and Jamie Foxx doing his best Mystikal impression on the hook only highlight how much this feels like a blend of the worst parts of 'Problem' and 'Bang Bang', all clattering noise and fragments instead of a defined whole. And with lyrics that feel token and Ariana Grande not sounding her best, the composition of this track reminds of a slightly less obnoxious version of Fifth Harmony's 'Worth It' with Kid Ink. But minus a bad rap verse and the insufferable entitlement, there's really not enough to this song for me to really love it, and not a great sign for an opening single.

So that was our week, and wow, that's a whole of okay at best. 'Thriller' runs away with the Best of the Week - because of course it does, with Honourable Mention easily going to 'Tennessee Whiskey' by Chris Stapleton. As for the Worst... not really an easy choice, but for me I'm giving it to 'I'll Show You' by Justin Bieber for bland sell-out whining and Dishonourable Mention to 'Beautiful Drug' by The Zac Brown Band for some truly egregious production missteps in getting those synths to blend with the guitars. As a whole, though, these songs are just mediocre, it's one of those weeks.


  1. Could you please review Rustie's new album "EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE"?

  2. Please don't involve old songs in your Billboard Breakdown awards because that is just unfair to other new songs. It's okay if you like such songs but it just would be obvious.

  3. Wait, copyright strike? When was this and what for? It must've been for something recent.