Tuesday, February 23, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 5, 2016

I was expecting this week to be busier than it is. I mean sure, it wasn't exactly a quiet week - new number one, a bunch of new arrivals and some considerable jumps around the chart - but I was oddly expecting more. Turns out one of the biggest factors that I was expecting - Kanye's big release - actually made no impact, because he kept it TIDAL exclusive, which Billboard doesn't count. And as for the Grammys... well, maybe it's just me, but with a few exceptions, it actually seemed more reasonable.

And as with last week, some of the biggest news might have come in the Top 10, where before the video even dropped, Rihanna and Drake leaped to the top of the charts with 'Work'. I still don't get why people like this track, especially when there were far better songs on the album, but it took the top in streaming, picked up big sales, and grabbed a huge radio push to boot. And the second the video hits YouTube - assuming it's not a TIDAL exclusive - she's probably got that slot sewn up for the next few weeks. Granted, she's also got the benefit of some surprising weaknesses, the first being 'Love Yourself' by Justin Bieber pushed to #2, which might still rule airplay and is about even in sales... but it slipped on streaming enough to push it back. 'Stressed Out' by twenty-one pilots falls into a similar issue: gains on streaming, strong airplay and sales, but its lack of YouTube holds it back here. Then we have 'Sorry' by Justin Bieber at #4, but this would have fallen regardless of Rihanna, as despite YouTube dominance it's losing airplay and sales are getting weaker. Then we have our continued sales leader at #5: 'My House' by Flo Rida, which spent the week gaining streaming and major airplay - it's going to be a contender in coming weeks, trust me on that. Then we have the slight recovery for 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn moving to #6, which recovered YouTube, sales, and even a bit of airplay to show that it might actually have some legs behind it. It was enough to push back 'Hello' by Adele to #7, but again, that would have happened anyway thanks to hemorrhaging airplay and streaming, with only good sales and dominant YouTube keeping it up. Then we have two releases that haven't moved: 'Me, Myself & I' by G-Eazy ft. Bebe Rexha at #8 thanks to strong streaming and sales to compensate for no airplay; and 'Roses' by the Chainsmokers ft. ROZES, which seems to be wavering on sales and streaming as airplay begins to slow. And finally, we have a new top ten entry: 'Cake By The Ocean' by DNCE. Now I can't tell you how much this song irritates the piss out of me, but what I find intriguing is that the public seems a little gunshy on the song too - big streaming, sure, but sales have been slow and airplay is only incremental. It got up this high, but I'm not sure whether it'll last.

And on that topic, losers and dropouts! Only three in the latter category worth mentioning: 'The Fix' by Nelly & Jeremih, which was on its way out anyway; 'WTF' by Missy Elliott and Pharrell, which I'm amazed held on as long as it did, and finally 'Watch Me' by Silento is gone! And honestly I have no real complaints about our losers either: as expected 'Adventure of a Lifetime' by Coldplay tumbled back to 28, 'Watch Out' by 2 Chainz stumbled back down to 91, and 'Bang My Head' by David Guetta, Sia, and Fetty Wap skids back to 93, all songs that had brief spurts of momentum before running out completely.

Of course, then you have the songs that never die, the biggest being 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars actually returning to the charts at 22, in this case thanks to the Grammys. I don't expect it to really stick around another week, but it's still not a bad song to come back. And of course country radio got a bit of a bump with 'Humble And Kind' by Tim McGraw going back to 88... but of course, the real news is our gains, most of which you can point to the Grammys and walk away. The Weeknd got two big ones, with 'Can't Feel My Face' getting another wind to 32 and 'Acquainted' jumping up to 82, but by far the biggest boost went to James Bay and 'Let It Go', which vaulted up to 38 despite probably being one of my least favourite songs from that debut album. Hell, it also probably helped Tori Kelly push 'Hollow' up to 68, or Carrie Underwood's 'Heartbeat' up to 42, but then again country had a pretty busy week regardless, with 'Little Bit Of You' by Chase Bryant rising off its debut to 89 and 'Somewhere On A Beach' by Dierks Bentley boosted to 87. Our last two gains are following off of momentum I'm amazed they have in the first place: '7 Years' by Lukas Graham for being pretty damn great, and 'Needed Me' by Rihanna for having a hook that gets more grating every time I hear it. Seriously, 'Desperado' would have played just fine to mainstream radio, you could have released that instead, that song's awesome!

But enough of me complaining about what might have been, let's instead focus on what's here now with our new arrivals, starting with...

98. 'That Don't Sound Like You' by Lee Brice - so on the topic of country songs that dropped months ago and only are now catching fire on the radio now, we've got Lee Brice, an artist who I've always struggled to like more. Like Kip Moore, he tends to play on the rougher side of guitar-driven country rock, but I've always found his vocals a little oversold, which can rub me the wrong way when the lyrics aren't quite as sharp as they should be. And in this case, while I definitely like the more spacious mix and a pretty slick guitar melody that plays off that piano and stuttering drumline, the jerky flow of the track doesn't help the lyrics come across any better, basically getting a call from an ex where she doesn't sound like she used to, having changed to satisfy her current partner. In other words, this is Lee Brice taking a crack at writing 'Hotline Bling' and honestly doing it a little better than Drake... but I can't help but feel Brice should mind his own damn business. Yeah, it sucks if someone is compromising their happiness with a partner, but since she's framed as his ex, it's hard not see the ulterior motive. So as it is, while I don't hate this, I also get the feeling some sharper writing could have saved it.

92. 'Promise' by Kid Ink ft. Fetty Wap - oh perfect, two of the most limited writers in modern hip-hp teaming up... and really, it's better than it has any right to be. I'm definitely not wild about the production, with the very brittle synth tones and the odd hollowness over the entire mix which doesn't flatter anyone, but the content is surprisingly endearing, mostly as Fetty Wap anchors a hook where he promises to stick with his girl - sure, it borrows from 'My Way', which is probably the better song, but Fetty Wap fits much better in this zone. As for Kid Ink, I did kind of like how Kid Ink slides into a similar commitment, directed at his real life fiancee, although I suspect half of it is out of convenience - he just doesn't have time for a side bitch - and half is out of fear, if this girl is going Kill Bill on a rival. Granted, Kid Ink doing his best slurred over Fetty Wap impression on the bridge with too much autotune was pretty awful, but overall... eh, it's okay, I guess.

86. 'Think Of You' by Chris Young ft. Cassadee Pope - so I'm sure that just like me, you all forgot Chris Young dropped a country record last year. It wasn't a bad album, but generic production and writing held it back from actually connecting on any level - but that being said, this is probably the best track from it. Here, Chris Young teams up with Cassadee Pope - who you probably remember most from The Voice - to play against a pop country rollick that's honestly a little too chipper to carry melancholy all that well. And honestly, that melancholy in the lyrics that comes with going back to meet old friends at a bar who remember you best as a couple, that's where the most pathos of the track comes... but even then, Jake Owen did this far better with 'Life Of The Party' three years ago. 'Think Of You' is cute, but it's also lighter than it should be, and doesn't really give me enough to invest in either character - good, but overall it's no surprise I forgot it.

85. 'Might Be' by Luke Nasty - okay, if you're like me, you probably picked up the most recent album from Anderson .Paak back in January and spent most of that month enjoying the hell out of it - it's great, genre-bending music with a ton of groove that only gets better every time I hear it, and in a better world it'd be all over the charts. Instead, a Carolina-based DJ that nobody's ever heard of sampled one of his earlier songs and it's now blown up enough to land on the Hot 100. And let me stress this - the Anderson .Paak version runs circles around this, mostly because he's got a ton more groove and vocal personality, but setting the great sample aside, this is only just okay at best. The flow is barebones, the content is as basic as weed songs go - really, the only reason to care about this song is the sample, and Anderson .Paak did way more with it! So yeah, listen to that over this... although with my luck, this is going to become a huge hit and screw one of the most promising talents of the past few years. Go figure...

83. 'Never Forget You' by Zara Larsson & MNEK - ever since I started World Hit, I've been getting requests to cover this track in detail, but I knew that given how huge it was all over the world, it was only a matter of time before it crossed over to the Hot 100, even if it was months late. So, introductions: Zara Larsson is a young Swedish pop singer, MNEK is a British electronic pop music singer and producer, and this is a crossover hit the rest of the world has had for the past several months. And yeah, this is definitely a good song - Zara and MNEK have great chemistry, the underlying piano does a ton to anchor this track melodically, the lyrics do a solid job capturing the complicated emotions that come when a relationship falls through for the right reasons and then gets pulled back together... but I dunno, the drop on this song feels a little thin to me, especially when both are belting their lungs out - that tapping skitter of a beat and rattling beat just feels underweight to me, trying to capitalize on a sound that doesn't fit them as well as it could. I definitely like this, but it might take a while for this to really grow on me.

81. 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia ft. Sean Paul - so of course after Sia releases her best song from This Is Acting, she follows it with one of the worst - and of all the people she could have brought on for support, she got... Sean Paul. Okay, for those of you who have no idea who this guy is, he was huge about a decade ago, his last relevant song in the US was probably five years ago... and he's the reason I don't dislike this song. Yeah, I'm actually a little astounded how well this works - I still think Sia's attempt at Caribbean flavour falls flat and the vocal production does her zero favours, but Sean Paul's got a certain effortless charisma to his delivery that allows you to skip over the fact he's not saying all that much. So yeah, if this is the remix that gets popular... I can tolerate this, it's okay.

77. 'All I Ask' by Adele - look, I like Adele, and I like it when she makes piano ballads... but for everyone who says that Adele can occasionally recycle a formula, this is that song. The piano melody doesn't evolve much beyond that three note progression until a really nice progression at the very end, the lyrics feel a little tepid as she pleads for one last night together before they end things - I can't help but feel Marianas Trench nailed the underlying sentiment way better on 'One Love' - and honestly, if you give this song to Bruno Mars who cowrote it, not much changes. Yes, key changes are wonderful, but Adele has more interesting tracks than this on 25, and I sincerely hope this isn't being positioned as her next single, because I don't get a lot out of this.

54. 'Make Me Like You' by Gwen Stefani - okay, am I the only one who thinks Gwen Stefani's solo revival feels a little weird? Look, I liked a lot of her solo work in the 2000s, but 'Used To Love You' fell really flat for me, and while she goes in this direction, No Doubt replaced her with the frontman of AFI... okay. So do we get anything from this? Well, let me start by saying Gwen Stefani is a naturally gifted performer and she can easily vamp like nobody else... it's just that everything else about this song frustrates me. The lyrics, for one, don't really do much - Gwen Stefani is one of the few who can walk the line between exasperated and truly lovestruck, she's got that vintage flair, but outside of that the writing is pretty barebones. And that's before we get to a lumpy retro-disco groove that I actually dug on the verses before we get a really gummy synth line slathered all over what could have been a lot tighter... and it keeps coming back. Now a lot of Gwen Stefani songs can be garish and overmixed, but this is one of the times where it compromises the groove, and that's what pushes it away for me towards mediocrity. In other words, while I don't hate this, I can see myself getting sick of it in record time.

So that was this week, and for the most part there wasn't anything that terrible. Even arguably the worst song, 'Might Be' by Luke Nasty is still built on some solid production, with Dishonourable Mention going to 'Make Me Like You' by Gwen Stefani by not being as well-produced or written as it should be. As for the best... that's tricky too, because I didn't see any real standout, so I'm giving Best to 'Never Forget You' by Zara Larsson and MNEK and Honourable Mention to 'Think Of You' by Chris Young and Cassadee Pop. I dunno folks, I feel like I'm grasping at straws a bit here, not a lot really impressed me. Let's hope for more variety next week!


  1. Might wanna change the script slightly towards the beginning. The Work video is already on YouTube, and has been for about a day.

  2. Do you have plans on reviewing the Hands Like Houses album "Dissonants" coming out on Friday? They've been getting a lot of attention in the rock scene, and it has a chance of breaking the Billboard 200. Plus, their singles out right now seem really good.