Tuesday, January 26, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 6, 2016

Well, it finally looks like we're out of the January lull and into the weeks where the charts get a little busier - and sure, some of that was bound to happen thanks to the new Panic! At The Disco album doing a lot better than I'd argue anyone expected, but more of it is the feeling that things are starting to change up in force, with the chart instability of the past few weeks only further indicative of that.

As such, let's start off with our top ten, where Justin Bieber has become one of the few artists in history to hold both the #1 and #2 song at the same time... yay, I guess. Ugh, look, I've been bored with Bieber for a while, and though 'Sorry' is sitting at #1 thanks to huge streaming and YouTube dominance, it's effectively instrumental white noise. And it's also not going to last much longer, if airplay and sales keep slipping the way they are, likely to be replaced by 'Love Yourself' at #2, which has a lot of serious momentum behind it, taking the top spot in sales and streaming and gaining airplay fast - it doesn't quite have YouTube in the same way, but I doubt that'll be much of an obstacle. It was enough to push 'Hello' by Adele back to #3, as it appears to be dropping faster than I expected, with airplay in freefall, tumbling streaming, and with at best YouTube and surprisingly strong sales keeping it where it is. But it's got competition coming from 'Stressed Out' by twenty-one pilots at #4, which is continuing to rack up airplay and sales - although this week was the big jump in streaming - it might not have YouTube, but to some extent, it won't matter the way it's going. Next up we got 'Here' by Alessia Cara at #5... and frankly, I think it only got the spot thanks to airplay inertia and other song weaknesses, because despite picking up a bit in streaming it's losing airplay and sales are nonexistent. Probably similar case for 'Stitches' by Shawn Mendes going to #6 - picked up a bit of streaming and held the line on the radio to disguise that the sales just aren't there. For the weaknesses you can probably point to 'Same Old Love' by Selena Gomez falling to #7, which is just hemorrhaging airplay at an even faster rate and doesn't have enough streaming or YouTube to back it up. This brings us to the challenger, the new top ten entry: 'Roses' by The Chainsmokers ft. ROZES at #8. Now I'll be blunt: it's surreal to see that after '#Selfie' the mainstream public decided to give The Chainsmokers another hit, especially one as choppy, jumbled and all over the place as 'Roses', even if I have softened on the track a little bit since I covered it on Billboard BREAKDOWN months ago. Regardless, it's got some real momentum behind it - decent streaming, respectable sales, and actually picking up some airplay traction. This takes us to our last two entries, the first being 'Hotline Bling' by Drake at #9 - which is basically being propped up by YouTube and some remaining streaming and airplay - and 'What Do You Mean' by Justin Bieber holding at #10 - also held up by YouTube and given the heavy streaming losses basically nothing else.

And on the topic of losses, let's take a look at our losers and dropouts, and in the former category they were numerous this week. The biggest losses came to Fetty Wap, as both 'Trap Queen' and 'RGF Island' exit, but 'Blase' by Ty Dolla $ign, Future and Rae Sremmurd wasn't far behind, and neither was both songs from the celebrity couple on The Voice, with 'Used To Love You' by Gwen Stefani and 'Gonna' by Blake Shelton both being gone from the charts. Now we didn't get that many actual chart losers, this week, and of the few we did, I'm not complaining about 'New Americana' by Halsey continuing its fall to 87 or 'Gonna Know We Were Here' by Jason Aldean beginning its exit at 74. What concerns me more is 'Confident' by Demi Lovato falling to 40 - I know its traction has been a bit shaky in recent weeks, but if it starts losing momentum now it'll miss the year-end list for 2016, and I genuinely hope that doesn't happen.

And speaking of unfortunate developments, we might as well talk about our re-entries and gains, the first being 'Emperor's New Clothes' by Panic! At The Disco coming back to 72 - as you'd expect given the album's success. Unfortunately, I've really gotten sick of it and I can't say that I'm happy to see that it's back, even if only for a short time. And then there's 'Acquainted' by The Weeknd at #100, planned as the newest single - fantastic, so the worst song off of his album is positioned as the next single instead of 'Dark Times' with Ed Sheeran or 'Losers' with Labrinth or even 'Tell Your Friends' which has a Kanye producing credit! All of which would be better single choices than this, so we'll see what happens here. Where the charts got a lot more busy are the gains, and we've got a sizeable chunk here. Of their debuts last week, 'Bang My Head' by David Guetta, Sia, and Fetty Wap jumped to 84 and 'Drunk On Your Love' by Brett Eldredge pulled to 69 - both are pretty mediocre, so I'm not exactly pleased. Nor am I impressed that 'Dessert' by Dawin ft. Silento jumped to 68 or 'Hands to Myself' by Selena Gomez continues to gather momentum at 21. Fortunately, though, the rest of the gains I'm actually quite happy with: 'My House' by Flo Rida being generally enjoyable as it jumps all the way to 12, 'Sugar' by Robin Schulz ft. Francesco Yates keeping momentum to 58, 'Heartbeat' by Carrie Underwood picking up to 60, and to my surprise, 'You Should Be Here' by Cole Swindell going to 70 and 'Nobody To Blame' by Chris Stapleton hitting 80. I honestly thought Cole Swindell's best song was dead in the water and Chris Stapleton would never pick up enough traction to hit country radio, but maybe I was wrong here, which is only a good sign.

So let's see if our new arrivals can hold up the quality, starting with...

98. 'Lean & Dabb' by iLoveMemphis - ...okay, I should have been expecting this. After all, Silento managed to find a way to get a second hit lodged on the charts, I should have known that the 'Hit The Quan' guy would have something in reserve too. And I'm going to say this: of all of the nu-crunk hits I've seen, this isn't as bad as most of them. I'd take this over 'Watch Me' or 'Hit The Quan', mostly because of production that at least tries to sound a little rougher and doesn't have a terrible synth. It might start off more brittle and rattling than most, not helped by the background of girlish backing vocals, but finally they got some vocals on the bridge that actually sounded grittier to match the production! Sure, iLoveMemphis is still completely underwhelming and he's milking 'Hit The Quan' for all it's worth - the shoutouts to 'google them' during the outro screams of desperation - and it's definitely exasperating to watch him try and fuse even more dance references into his new dance song, but there's definitely an undercurrent of real gratitude to this track behind the bragging and open acknowledgement that despite how awful 'Hit The Quan' was, it has pulled him out of poverty. Of the nu-crunk songs I've heard, this is probably one of the closest to crunk and thus is probably the best - still pretty mediocre and iLoveMemphis is far from a good rapper, but I can tolerate this.

96. '7 Years' by Lukas Graham - okay, first thing: Lukas Graham is not a person. In fact, it's a pop band who has had some impressive success in Denmark blending in elements of soul, and has only crossed over outside of Scandinavia with this single '7 Years'. But I doubt it was the soul influences that got Lukas Graham crossing over, because with the slightly off-kilter flow and sharp staccato percussion balancing against the swells of strings and piano, this is very much falling into the vein of twenty-one pilots. And while I won't say it's as clever and self-referential as twenty-one pilots at their best, Lukas Graham is also telling a bigger story, focusing on his come-up, focusing on his dreams and the family he keeps close, and reflecting on the future that lies ahead, utilizing his age as signposts for the chorus. Honestly, it's a sweet sentiment that's executed pretty effectively, and while 'Remember When' by Alan Jackson is still the gold standard for this sort of song, I'm not complaining because this is pretty damn good regardless.

95. 'Middle' by DJ Snake ft. Bipolar Sunshine - so did you know that DJ Snake doesn't yet have a debut album? And sure, that's common among electronic producers who only churn out singles but for as much production work DJ Snake has put in, including multiple top ten hits, he hasn't bothered to release an album to the mainstream... until now. This is reportedly a lead-off single, recruiting the little known English singer-songwriter Bipolar Sunshine for his hook. And yet of DJ Snake's singles, this is probably not one of my favourites, with the clinking percussion and earsplitting swells of synth that bleed into a barely comprehensible hook overloaded with pitch-shifting, it's got a thin shrillness that really does not sit well with me. I'll give Bipolar Sunshine some credit for trying to give this track some weight, but he can't help but sound completely listless - which is at odds with the oddly calculated lyrics, which seem to be trying to play it off ignorance and just feels a little too frigid to inspire a lot of feeling. Of DJ Snake songs, I might have eventually warmed a little to 'Lean On', but I don't see that happening here, don't really care for it - next!

92. 'Death Of A Bachelor' by Panic! At The Disco - so this is our first of two Panic! At The Disco songs, the title track where Brendon Urie puts forward his best impression of Sinatra swagger... and look, as I said when I reviewed the album, it's a good song, but I just don't buy the attitude. This is Urie exploring the loss of his bachelorhood with a vintage sample, a bass-heavy snap beat with horns that's trying to play for a certain swagger at mourning bachelor life but finding new happiness... and yet most of that swagger dissolves on the hook where Urie shreds his voice with raw power that's potent, but doesn't exactly match the rest of the swagger he's attempting. And then you have that jittery organ interlude that only gets marginally better with the horns, and am I the only one thinking that Urie is much more concerned with celebrating that death than the marriage, which he seems a lot more hesitant to approach? As I said, it's a good song and it's certainly got more personality than most songs on the Hot 100 right now, but I'm not sure if it would have been my single choice over 'Crazy = Genius' or 'LA Devotee' or 'House of Memories' - just saying.

89. 'Victorious' by Panic! At The Disco - and yet say what you will about the title track, it's definitely better than this. And it's entirely an issue of the production - did nobody bother to give the drums or bass any presence at all, because everything is plastered right in the midrange and as such it feels overloaded, thin, and way too blaring for its own good? And sure, it's a song celebrating shallowness and it's supposed to have a certain cheapness to it, but between the overlayered backing vocals, the buzzy synth and guitar that doesn't nearly have the groove it needs, and the pre-chorus that feels oddly rushed going into a pretty decent horn-driven hook, it's the sort of full-force pop rock that feels like a headrush - one that rapidly turns into a headache. Next!

82. 'Walking On A Dream' by Empire Of The Sun - okay, you're going to have to follow me on this one. For a while now, there have been songs creeping into the Hot 100 that some enterprising critics have branded 'car commercial songs' - tracks that get big based off of the fact that they could soundtrack a commercial. Now music has gotten big thanks to commercials in the past, but with the success of 'Too Close' by Alex Clare and 'Renegades' by X Ambassadors, it's clear that these songs can be just as big - if not bigger - because of the commercials, not in spite of them. But say what you will about most of these songs, at least they're new songs! 'Walking On A Dream' is a track from an Australian synthpop duo and it was dropped in 2008 - the band actually hasn't released any new albums in three years! Now I'll say this: the song is agreeable enough - the slightly desaturated vocal line that was popular in the mid-2000s that actually features a really pleasant falsetto against a really sparse drum machine and muted melody, lyrics about the dreamlike quality of falling in love, it's the sort of song where it's subtle enough to fill in the background but melodic enough to stick with you - in other words, the perfect commercial, and will probably be forgotten by me just as quickly.

79. 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' by Mike Posner - oh, I haven't been looking forward to this... In case you don't know, Mike Posner started his career with 'Cooler Than Me' in 2010, which is easily one of the worst songs of that year by a mile. The only reason that song is remotely likable is the production and even that sounds a little dated six years later. The bigger reason why I didn't like this guy was his gutless voice, his asinine self-aggrandizing, and his badly written attempts to hit on a girl by insulting her. In other words, I'm not surprised everything he released after that song flopped hard, and apparently this is a song he wrote about his rise and fall in the music industry, inspired by none other than Jake Owen calling him on his bullshit. And you know, I'll say it: I actually like this, mostly because it's an older, more honest version of Mike Posner than I've normally heard, reflecting on empty fame and loneliness that it's impossible to relate to folks who saw him come up and make it. That's the lyrical content... and really, it's a shame that Posner's not a more interesting performer or picked better instrumentation. I actually heard the remix before the original version, which picks up the tempo for more of a tropical house vibe that coasts off some pretty slick synth work, and I highly recommend you hear that version instead of the slowed-down acoustic version that's way too syrupy and slow to maintain the atmosphere. Sure, it sounds like what Bieber's putting out now, but at least Posner is a better technical writer and actually more to say.

So yeah, that was our week, and really, I'm going to have a hard time picking any great songs, because I wasn't really blown away by anything. For the best of the week, I'm giving it to Lukas Graham's '7 Years' for some great pop construction, but Honourable Mention is going to 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' by Mike Posner, but only for the remix! As for the Worst... I'm giving it to DJ Snake for 'Middle' with Bipolar Sunshine for just giving me a headache, something that our Dishonourable Mention 'Lean & Dabb' by ILoveMemphis didn't even manage to pull off. So yeah, not quite as great as previous weeks, but still fine enough, I'd take more of this.


  1. Looks like a pretty good week, although one absolutely minor correction. My House went up to 12, not 11. Just saying.