Tuesday, December 15, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 26, 2015

Well, so much for the holiday slowdown! This was another one of those deceptive weeks on the Hot 100, where if you were only paying attention to the Top 10, you'd see a lot of stasis - but descend to the lower reaches of the charts and you'll see a whole lot of turbulence, as 2015 continues to flush away, with some pretty huge gains coming up to replace them. The Top 10 might sleep soundly now, but I expect disruption sooner rather than later.

But we need to talk about them anyway, so let's get through the Top 10 quickly and move onto something interesting. Of course Adele's 'Hello' holds dominant at the top - rules YouTube, dominant on streaming, still gaining airplay, and while sales have softened, she's still on top there. And yet 'Sorry' by Justin Bieber is closing the gap at #2, as he pushes his streaming dominance with surging airplay, YouTube, and strong sales. What's not picking up is 'Hotline Bling' by Drake at #3, which is slipping hard on sales, airplay and is being kept solvent by streaming and YouTube... for now. 'What Do You Mean' by Justin Bieber at #4 is bringing some competition with more presence on streaming and YouTube - not enough to compensate for even weaker airplay and sales, but still notable. The real Bieber story comes from his next hit rising to #5 'Love Yourself', which has finally picked up some airplay to back its streaming and sales - who knows, it might have some viability as a hit after all. It pushed back 'The Hills' by The Weeknd to #6, but that was going to happen anyway, where despite YouTube gains is only holding onto its spot thanks to streaming and despite airplay losses. Similar case for 'Stitches' by Shawn Mendes at #7 - painfully weak sales plus peaked and falling airplay even despite scraping some airplay gains. What is holding steady is 'Here' by Alessia Cara at #8 - and yes, I'll be covering the album, be patient, it's coming - and it's pretty much thanks to still gaining airplay with some okay streaming, because those sales are not impressive and she's got no YouTube. Not really the case for 'Same Old Love' by Selena Gomez at #9, with stronger airplay gains and better sales - but even despite streaming gains, it's still a bit behind, although don't expect that to last. This pushed back 'Like I'm Gonna Lose You' by Meghan Trainor and John Legend down to #10, because while it did have respectable sales and solid airplay gains, it did lose streaming - not a good sign.

And on that note, losers and dropouts. And we had a busy week here, so let's start with the latter as 'Photograph' by Ed Sheeran, 'My Way' by Fetty Wap and Monty, 'I'm Comin' Over' by Chris Young, and 'How Deep Is Your Love' by Calvin Harris and Disciples all ended respectable chart runs. That's probably not going to be the case for some of our losers, so let's start by blowing through the expected Bieber losses quickly: 'No Pressure' with Big Sean dips to 96, 'The Feeling' with Halsey fades to 70, 'Company' goes away to 95, 'Mark My Words' slips to 90, 'Purpose' stumbles to 85, and 'I'll Show You' collapses down to 51. Outside of those, what I notice most about our losses is continued inconsistency. Sure, Chris Brown's 'Liquor' falling to 99 is inevitable, but it's never had stability - mostly on count of being terrible. There's slightly less of an excuse for 'Smoke Break' by Carrie Underwood falling to 83, but then again, country radio tends to rotate material out on a fairly consistent timeline - probably explains why 'Nothin' On You' by Dan + Shay fell to 69. Then we have the losses you'd expect: 'Renegades' by X Ambassadors continues its exit to 50, 'Drag Me Down' by One Direction continues to underwhelm at 46, and 'Hit The Quan' by iLoveMemphis continues its total collapse down to 45, and good riddance. And finally we have the losses for 'Confident' by Demi Lovato - and this I put up to bad timing more than anything, because while it's gaining airplay, it might be too little too late, especially considering a track this confrontational might not play well during the holidays for most. And yes, that sucks, because the song is awesome, but again, it's also not had a particularly consistent chart run.

Of course, it's also got competition and this is where we need to talk about returning entries and gains - and make no mistake, there were a LOT of them this week. The returning entries all make a fair amount of sense: 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' by Brenda Lee comes back to #44 because of the holidays, '$ave Dat Money' by Lil Dicky featuring Fetty Wap and Rich Homie Quan comes back hopefully as good holiday advice, and 'Beautiful Drug' comes back because country radio needs something to plug in the gaps that might play well around New Year's - why it's this from the Zac Brown Band and not 'Tomorrow Never Comes', I have no idea. But make no mistake, our gains were numerous, so let's start with the easiest culprit over in country: 'Home Alone Tonight' by Luke Bryan and Karen Fairchild rising to 67, and if this is the best country radio can do right now, I might as well get used to another disappointing year for the mainstream. Hell, it's not like hip-hop in the mainstream looks much better: 'Best Friend' by Young Thug rising to 72, 'Down In The DM' by Yo Gotti picking up to 68; it's a bad sign when 'Me, Myself & I' by G-Eazy ft. Bebe Rexha surging to 36 might be the best of your gains in that genre! Of course, when you switch over to the poppier side, things look a little better: 'My House' by Flo Rida continues to gain traction to 55, Fall Out Boy and Demi Lovato pick up more traction with 'Irresistible' at 84 and prove that Demi should just keep making rock music, and twenty-one pilots continues its unexpected rise to 28 - seriously, it's picking up significant airplay, I'm genuinely shocked it caught on! Of course, that gain is overshadowed by the meteoric rise of 'In The Night' by The Weeknd, the gains this week to crack the top 20 at #19 thanks to the video - expect this to break the top 10, and considering it's easily the best song on The Weeknd's last album, I'm actually pretty happy. Unfortunately, when you look at some of the other gains I'm a little less happy - at the least objectionable you get 'Adventure Of A Lifetime' by Coldplay going to 39 and 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello rising to 52, mostly just either bland or slipping on their potential. Then you've got 'Stand By You' by Rachel Platten surging up to 61, but hey, it's the holidays, it's got that uplifting sort of vibe, I can tolerate this. A little less tolerable is 'One Call Away' by Charlie Puth rising to 75, but it just debuted last week, I'll cut it a bit of slack. What's not getting any slack from me is the newest rise for 'New Americana' by Halsey and okay, seriously people? This is a protest song for kids who are so insulated in the bubble of their own self-satisfied privilege that they don't realize it's a shamelessly derivative mess that worships old-school Americana more than any actual revolution. This song has been consistently panned, so why in the Nine Hells does it keep coming back?

In any case, let's pray it stays near the bottom, and in the mean time, let's focus on our new arrivals, starting with...

98. 'Drifting' by G-Eazy ft. Chris Brown & Tory Lanez - am I the only one who finds it weird that suddenly G-Eazy is charting real hits now? Seriously, I remember covering this guy around a year ago on Billboard BREAKDOWN and I'm not really seeing a huge progression, or a reason why he's charting and a rapper who could play to an analogous lane like, say, Logic isn't. In any case, he dropped his sophomore album and this is one of two new songs hitting the charts from the guy, teaming up with the winning duo of Chris Brown and Tory Lanez to make a track that gets worse every time I hear it. Because on the surface it's not bad - the life of touring and success naturally makes it harder to sustain a relationship back home, and now that things are collapsing, they find themselves missing the girl they left behind. And you know, as much as I don't like him, Chris Brown's hook really is the best part of the song for capturing that, especially against the guitar, because both Tory Lanez and G-Eazy blow it completely. Granted, in the first case it's more Tory Lanez's sloppy writing against the unsteady fluttering melody that desperately needs more foundation than the sparse bass and flattened hi-hats, but with G-Eazy... dude, you're actively cheating on her with girls on the road, if you really gave a damn you'd either bring her along or you'd stop! Now to be fair, the framing is self-aware enough to realize he's behaving like an asshole, but it also completely undercuts the sincerity of the hook that wants G-Eazy to be presented as 'sensitive' or 'complicated', when in reality he's neither. It doesn't help either than he's still a painfully boring MC whose wordplay is barely well-constructed enough to disguise his limp, Drake-esque delivery. It's not a good sign when the best thing I can say is 'Chris Brown's hook is fine' - but it honestly is good enough to keep this song in mediocrity, so I'll give it that.

97. 'Sorry' by Rick Ross ft. Chris Brown - you know, it's kind of astounding how far Rick Ross' star has fallen over the past few years, and while you could point to the atrocious 'U.O.E.N.O' verse as the starting point, I honestly expected he'd stick around a bit longer. After the two underwhelming and mediocre records he released in 2014, he dropped a new album this year and I don't think anyone really cared, even if the critical reception was a bit better. In any case, this is his first charting hit in some time with Chris Brown showing up again for the extended hook - and unlike last time, he's easily the worst part of this song. Not because of the writing, but the absolutely gratuitous autotune slathered on his voice as he tries to croon about his continuous stream of screw-ups - you'd think for production this classy and slick, Chris Brown could have at least tried more here. And that's the thing: if you gave the hook to, say, Usher or Miguel, this would easily sit as a pretty solid Rick Ross track: his flow and bars connect, that gleaming guitar and synth combination is smooth as hell, and the framing of the bragging works better that actually sounds pretty sincere in trying to win this girl back to treat her better. Now it's still pretty vapid - the final verse is basically luxury rap bragging about everything he's buying this girl - but the sentiment is a tad more believable, and Ross underplaying isn't a bad sound for him. Not bad at all.

94. 'Random' by G-Eazy - so now we get our second G-Eazy track... and ugh, who thought him that badly tuned guitar melodic riff was a good idea? But putting that aside, the song this reminds me the most of was one of opening tracks from the most recent Meek Mill album, 'Lord Knows', which took a bombastic choral sample to actually give the insane bombast some real power. The big difference here is that the sample is not as good and G-Eazy is nowhere near convincing in this sort of bragging mold. I mean, if you don't get a Phantom you're going to throw a 'tantrum' - I'd say this might be satirical if the entire track wasn't taking itself so damn seriously as G-Eazy tries to assert himself as better because he has more money than his rivals. Have to be honest here, money doesn't make up for personality or the fact that there's not a single rhyme or bar here that I haven't heard done better elsewhere. Definitely glad I didn't waste my time covering the G-Eazy album now, because this is obnoxious as hell.

93. 'Backroad Song' by Granger Smith - well, took it long enough! It's not usual when Canada gets country songs before the United States, but I heard 'Backroad Song' by Granger Smith months ago, and I'm guessing he's finally charting because country radio needs to fill time somehow. The funny thing is that Granger Smith has been around releasing albums since the late 90s independently before signing to Broken Bow this year - this song is off an EP he dropped after his seventh album in 2013... and yet that hasn't really translated into much on this track, which might as well be branded as yet another modern, by-the-numbers pop country track about cruising down a backroad with his girl. The funny thing is with the exception of an unneeded backbeat, this track isn't bad - the electric guitars have a bit of roiling melodic punch, Granger Smith's voice has natural charisma, and the song is much more focused on enjoying on the drive than anything else. It's not really going to be a song I remember after this week, but it's not alright, I don't mind this.

89. 'Dessert' by Dawin ft. Silento - so, just so you all know, Vine hits are not going away any time soon, because following the wake of Shawn Mendes, we now have this Brooklyn EDM-pop artist who notched his first major hit outside of the dance charts with this... and what's worse, he dragged Silento back with him. And look, at first I was actually inclined to be charitable to this track - Dawin didn't sound terrible on the hook, and while Silento's thin vocals were unimpressive, it was trying to play for an innocently sweet love song just a little percussion heavy and a very restrained melody. But then the drop happened and this song turns painful. Not only do we have a chipmunk voice spewing absolute nonsense as the percussion starts hammering complete with gang vocals and a buzzy squeal of a synth line that was so obnoxious that I was almost happy Silento took over. Yeah, that's how grating this song is, and that's before we get the second drop where the chipmunk voice tries to sound tough and just sounds constipated. And look, if you have a higher tolerance for that chipmunk voice you might be able to take this song more... but for me, this was pure unfiltered, cheaply produced awful. Next!

77. 'Hands To Myself' by Selena Gomez - oh great, one of the worst songs off of Selena Gomez's 'Revival' debuts on the chart thanks to a Victoria Secret lip-sync video - and yet in comparison to the audio torture that was 'Dessert', I'm almost inclined to be charitable to this. Yeah, the percussion-heavy gallop and synth layered over a formless guitar doesn't do much for me especially as they pile on the backing vocals in a desperate attempt to give the impression Selena Gomez is invested in this song beyond a whisper that's too stilted to be sexy, and the lyrics imply that the drug concoction she's on means she can't stop touching people who she probably shouldn't, and then the song pulls the line, 'I mean I could, but why would I want to'. This track has the feel of going to a rave with someone whose already taken too much E and molly and won't stop groping you, only less interesting and this time you can't blame chemical dependence. But again, at least it's not 'Dessert' by Dawin ft. Silento! Still, this is pretty mediocre, and not something I'm inclined to revisit any time soon.

21. 'Somebody To Love' by Jordan Smith - okay, here's my issue with people covering Queen and this song in particular: Freddie Mercury was the sort of very rare performer that could balance theatrical grace with raw, voice shredding power and make it feel authentic and not staged. And when you have covers performed on reality shows or Glee and everyone rushes to proclaim them the best thing since Freddie, my immediate reaction is to scoff because it's not like these shows will ever let them deliver the hard rock edge that underscored those classics. All of that being said, I'll give Jordan Smith credit for getting damn close. At this point he's so obviously the frontrunner that I don't know why anyone still cares about the other contestants, and considering his sales and viral success, it's clear the public agrees - and yet I'm still not totally in love with this cover. And yes, it's mostly because of the gospel runs on the final lines - it strikes me as gratuitous and unneeded, especially when he makes it clear he's one of the few that can actually bring some visceral punch to the track. And yeah, it's still not as raw or as driven by rock as I'd prefer - I do appreciate they kept some of the guitar solo, though - I'm not going to deny Smith did a damn fine job.

And really, on this week of mediocrity, he easily rose above to snag Best of the Week. Honourable Mention... you know, it's not a great song, but I'll give it to Rick Ross and Chris Brown for 'Sorry', mostly because that production was fantastic. As for worst... yeah, 'Dessert' by Dawin and Silento runs away with this, with Dishonourable Mention going to 'Random' by G-Eazy for being obnoxious as hell and that really bad guitar tuning. Let's pray for better for next week.


  1. No foreign chart spotlight this week? Also did you mean to mention Shawn Mendes when talking about Vine? I don't really recall him having any ties to Vine. Or EDM.

    1. Nah, the foreign chart spotlight will be a recurring segment (ie. when I want to include it). And Shawn Mendes actually got his start as a Vine star.

  2. What do think of Rockin Around The Christmas Tree? I was hoping you'd at least review recurring entries you haven't covered.

  3. I'd like to note that last week Confident was boosted majorly by a 69 cent sale on outlets like iTunes. Despite the 10 position drop, according to the staff it made notable gains in airplay and streaming; they just weren't enough to compensate this week.

  4. You'd think Liquor would have a bit more longetivity to it though, regardless of quality, considering Royalty drops in the next couple of days. I mean, I wouldn't give too much of a shit regardless (I'm gonna be checking out Baroness), but still.