Tuesday, February 9, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 20, 2016

So like anyone who follows the pop charts, I've got a taste for the ironic, the sort of missed chances and opportunities that end up getting lodged in history because of how the charts put a timestamp on each moment. And this week, we got that irony twofold: not only did Drake bungle his release strategy to get a single to the #1 spot again, but now we have a new #1 smash hit from Zayn Malik, former member of One Direction - a feat that with all of their rabid fandom and push, they were never able to achieve.

Now there are other shifts this week - quite a few of them actually, but we're going to focus on the top ten for a bit because a lot happened here. So while I'll talk about the actual song itself later, let's analyze how 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn got to the #1. Quite frankly, it's the same well-timed release that should be written into the release strategy of every major pop star by now: video, streaming, sales precisely timed to beat the airplay buffer and hit the charts at the very top. And if you look at sales and streaming - and YouTube to a lesser extent - it was enough to get there, even as the radio struggled to catch up. All of this was enough to overrun 'Love Yourself' by Justin Bieber back to #2, although that margin was helped by airplay not quite gaining as much as its momentum slows near the top. It still is a lot more healthy than 'Sorry' by Justin Bieber slipping back to #3, as airplay peaked, streaming starts to slip, and sales have faded significantly, mostly supported by its YouTube dominance. And yet what didn't fade further was 'Stressed Out' by twenty one pilots at #4, which continued to pick up tons of airplay and very respectable sales to counterbalance being overshadowed in streaming - expect this to stick around for a while. What's fading a lot faster is 'Hello' by Adele falling to #5, with decent sales and very solid YouTube holding up faltering airplay and streaming. It did, however, do enough to hold off our second new top entry: 'Summer Sixteen' by Drake... and let me walk you through how they screwed this up again. Quite frankly, it needed to do what Zayn did in terms of video and streaming release to support the huge sales... and yet because he had no video ready and streaming confined to Apple Music, which Billboard doesn't count, he didn't get any higher. Now on the one hand, it's another diss track, and typically diss tracks don't get huge promotional rollout...but it's also billed as the lead-off single for Views From The 6, which means that either someone in Drake's management screwed up twice or this is deliberate sabotage to prevent Drake from snatching that #1. Regardless, Drake has long ago stopped interesting me, so let's move onto the rest of the top 10 - where Drake shows up again with Rihanna on 'Work' going up to #7. And this isn't surprising, given the big sales and finally debuting on streaming, but what's interesting is that airplay hasn't quite picked up the big jump that it would need to sustain much more momentum, it'll be curious to see if it sticks around. After that, we've got 'My House' by Flo Rida falling to #8, but that's more because it's been jumped over because it's gaining in airplay, sales, and streaming. Similar case for 'Roses' by The Chainsmokers ft. ROZES, which might not have the same sales but is solid in streaming and is picking more airplay. And finally, we've got our third new top ten entry, one I did not expect to prove as popular as it did: 'Me, Myself & I' by G-Eazy ft. Bebe Rexha at #10. Now I'm fairly certain it's here because of the hook and nothing else - because lord knows nothing G-Eazy says on that track is compelling - but it's got huge streaming and sales, and that's enough to keep it afloat even if YouTube and airplay are pretty much nonexistent. Not sure how long it'll last, but it's interesting that it's this high.

And on a completely different note, let's discuss our losers and drop-outs, because it was another busy week here. As we expected, there were a fair few dropouts that were long in coming, like 'Gonna Know We Were Here' by Jason Aldean, 'Focus' by Ariana Grande, and 'I Got The Boy' by Jana Kramer, and yet for some reason we also lost 'Mr. Misunderstood' by Eric Church, which seems to have sadly already worn out its welcome on country radio. Damn shame too, it's a great song. And the unfortunate losses kept coming, as Demi Lovato had a particularly rough week with both 'Confident' going to 67 and her collaboration with Fall Out Boy sliding to 64. And that's not even counting the odd evaporation of momentum that happened for 'Watch Out' by 2 Chainz falling back to 74 and 'Good To Be Alive' by Andy Grammer sliding to 84. 'Walking On A Dream' by Empire Of The Sun saw that too as it fell to 89, but the real surprise is that it got any traction in the first place. Beyond that, we saw a few continuing losses with 'Back Up' by DeJ Loaf and Big Sean sliding to 96 and 'Bet You Can't Do It Like Me' by DLOW continuing down to 90. Beyond that, most of our remaining losers are starting to near the end of their chart runs naturally: 'WTF' by Missy Elliott and Pharrell going to 95, 'The Fix' by Nelly & Jeremih dropping to 87, 'Stay A Little Longer' by the Brothers Osborne riding off the last of their debut to 65, and 'Perfect' by One Direction sliding down to 54.

Now I wouldn't be too sad for One Direction, because they actually made a return to the charts with 'History' coming off the back of the video to 92. Same with Sia coming back to 99, but in this case it's being driven by her album, and at least in this case we got the best song. Not exactly the case for some of our other gains, though, as Kevin Gates' debut propelled both 'Really Really' to 59 and '2 Phones' to 46 respectively, and neither which gave me a lot of desire to check out the record. Beyond that, I actually like the majority of the gains we got here: sure, Old Dominion's 'Snapback' picked up to 88 despite being generically awful, but Maren Morris charted a bigger gain with 'My Church' rising to 71 off her debut, with Ellie Goulding only slightly edging her own as she rose to 70 with 'Something In The Way You Move'. And while it seems 'Sugar' by Robin Schulz and Francesco Yates seems to have stalled out for no good reason, '7 Years' by Lukas Graham picking up to 43 and 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' by Mike Posner continuing up to 48 are a sign of real positive momentum going forward.

And from the looks of our coming entries, we're going to need some quality to hold the line, because we're starting with...

97. 'Jam' by Kevin Gates ft. Trey Songz, Ty Dolla $ign & Jamie Foxx - okay, that's not quite far, because of Kevin Gates' singles to hit the charts thus far, this is probably his best - not quite as catchy as '2 Phones', but also probably having the fewest lyrical problems. Also, the extended features list is kind of a misnomer - Jamie Foxx is sampled repeatedly and Ty Dolla $ign shows up on a bridge that really contributes nothing, this is more of a Trey Songz/Kevin Gates song where they sing about making love - with a girl, not each other, obviously. And on that basis... eh, the instrumentation isn't bad, with the deep bubbling bass and sparse guitar playing off a sandy hi-hat. The problem is that Kevin Gates isn't exactly a great technical writer - breast does not rhyme with nipple, no matter how you slur it - and as for content... the most noticeable line is when Kevin Gates sticks a finger in this girl's booty, which I can't imagine she finds all that pleasant. Beyond that and Trey Songz pulling a lyrical element from a 2011 Kanye and Jay-Z song, there's just not much to it, a little too clumsy to be sexy.

(no video because Rihanna thinks for some godawful reason TIDAL is enough...)

91. 'Needed Me' by Rihanna - granted, at least Kevin Gates and his posse are trying harder than this. And I didn't talk much about 'Needed Me' when I reviewed ANTI, mostly because there's barely anything to it - a swamped out bass that barely has any groove against that thin, oscillating synth and vocal fragment, and Rihanna trying to ride a beat that nothing close to the momentum or power to really support her. She sounds fine enough on the song and I don't mind the subject matter blasting a guy who needed her for cred more than the other way around - hell, I appreciate that she doesn't want or need to be saved - but beyond that, the instrumentation kind of renders this song really flat for me. If she was looking for additional singles, there weren't many tracks from ANTI that would work, but they definitely weren't that.

85. 'Youth' by Troye Sivan - so when I covered Troye Sivan's full-length debut album, I remember liking it a bit, but it hasn't really stuck in the memory beyond a few choice cuts like 'SUBURBIA' or 'HEAVEN'. But this isn't a bad song either - yeah, I don't really like the pitch-shifted part after the hook, and it's not like the instrumentation has much deeper melody beyond the twinkle that seems to be put aside for wiry low synth and bass, but the hook sticks in the brain pretty well and Sivan's quiet presence does have a certain understated charisma to it. The lyrics don't really do much for me - it's basically nothing that Boys Like Girls didn't do a hundred times better on 'The Great Escape' ten years ago that had a ton more propulsive momentum, but on a week like this... yeah, I don't mind it, I'll take it.

78. 'We Don't Talk Anymore' by Charlie Puth ft. Selena Gomez - so when I teamed up with Jon from ARTV to review Charlie Puth's debut album, we had a few specific points to make about his little collaboration with Selena Gomez. Basically, the guitar was painfully thin - mostly because it was recorded on an iPhone before being put into the mix - and that I didn't think Puth and Gomez had a lot of chemistry. The immediate comparison we both made was 'Somebody That I Used To Know' by Gotye and Kimbra, but the difference there came in the framing and presentation - it showed the aftermath of the breakup in much more human and balanced terms. Puth tries for a similar conflicted tone, but the writing is nowhere near balanced enough, mostly because it'd made clear that Selena is still into him even when she's with her new guy. As such, the chorus of 'we don't talk anymore' is kind of pissy, especially if you're both seeing other people, you're not going to talk in the same way! Points for effort, but this song reminds me way too much of 'Lips Of An Angel', only just a shade less meat-heated. In other words, not a fan in the slightest.

68. 'Hymn For The Weekend' by Coldplay - so, did you know that Beyonce showed up on the most recent Coldplay record, and was so badly layered that she was treated as a glorified background singer? Yeah, when you have Beyonce's powerhouse vocals, to barely give her presence is incredibly wasteful, especially when Chris Martin's crooning is trying to give the song the same punch. Honestly, put aside the waste and the track isn't bad - the piano line and horns leading into the chorus stick in the memory even if it can feel a more tinny than it should and never really carries that groove through the intro into the rest of the song, but the lyrics aren't bad in capturing the heavenly exaltation. But that video... considering the song didn't really have an Indian feel, it's just a weird fit before touching on any of the cultural elements that don't match. Overall, kind of amazed they didn't play it at the Super Bowl, but considering Beyonce pretty much stole the show there anyway, I'm not really surprised.

6. 'Summer Sixteen' by Drake - ...can I just say I don't care? Is that enough at this point? I've covered Drake probably more than any other artist on Billboard BREAKDOWN, and at this point, watching him lay down a not particularly imaginative diss joint doesn't do it for me. Sure, it's not really bad - I like the beat change up to a darker twinkle against the punchier percussion, he's got a few bars and shots at Meek Mill and Tory Lanez that connect, but this bragging does nothing for me because I feel like I've heard it before. There's not enough unique detail to really land a killing blow, his warbling hook is far from impressive, and at the end of the day, Drake, this beef should be done six months ago, smashing on him again just looks weak. So yeah, I don't hate this, but again, I don't care about it either.

1. 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn - so this is the sort of music that Zayn Malik wants to make, the stuff that he left One Direction to create. And you know, on a stronger week I'd say this doesn't really do much for me - I like the darker guitar that builds atmosphere against the ebbing waves of muted synth and deeper beats, and Zayn's got the belting power to match the huge drums and scratchy percussion... but there isn't much of a groove to this. It's lumbering and thick, hammering the broad dichotomies between erotic and perverse so hard that it doesn't really feel all that sexy - and for a song about sex, that's kind of a problem. I appreciate the celebratory mood of the song - Zayn seems to be reveling in not having to censor himself for an audience - but give this song to Chris Brown or especially Usher or Miguel and I can imagine something that's got a little more subtlety and flow to it. This is just kind of over-the-top, and honestly, I'm not sure if there's enough unique material here to make it last beyond that.

But look, this was not a good week, so take me giving 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn the best and 'Youth' by Troye Sivan the honourable mention with a grain of salt, because neither are all that great. The worst of the week, I wouldn't say there was anything outright terrible, but I'd probably give it to 'We Don't Talk Anymore' for grating on my nerves and 'Needed Me' by Rihanna for Dishonourable Mention for just being more tedious than it should be. Please let's get some better stuff for next week!

1 comment:

  1. You didn't get an Indian feeling from Hymn For The Weekend? In hindsight I think I do. But it was my least favorite song from Head Full Of Dreams, so maybe that doesn't mean all that much.