Tuesday, March 29, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 9, 2016

So one thing I've noticed is that Billboard BREAKDOWN has tended to attract the most conversation and arguments of my material, mostly because it refers to the mainstream and songs that everyone knows and hears day by day. So when I looked at the the majority of our new arrivals and our new top ten entries, I almost threw up my hands. I mean, Meghan Trainor is back in the top ten and Iggy Azalea has returned to the charts, I should tell you all to have fun, keep it as civil as possible, get up, and walk away, especially considering I've had... let's say controversial opinions about both artists that'll leave nobody happy.

But you'll all expecting a show this week regardless, and it's not like there's much else to talk about this week, so let's start off with our Top 10, shall we? Of course 'Work' by Rihanna and Drake remains atop the charts thanks to ruling streaming, big YouTube, and held steady on airplay... even as the sales continue to dip. It's holding its own, but for how long against the rising tide of '7 Years' by Lukas Graham, which rose up to #2 on gains across the board, especially on airplay - at this point, it might just be a matter of time. It pushes back 'Love Yourself' by Justin Bieber, which did rally a bit on YouTube and still has the peak on airplay, but it's unsteady at the top and sales are falling off, its days are numbered. Then we have 'My House' by Flo Rida of all things gaining a slot to #4, which sure, it did get some streaming and airplay boosts and sales have always been strong, but not quite enough to rise without the weaknesses of another track. And that would be 'Stressed Out' by twenty one pilots slipping down to #5 - yes, it recovered a bit on streaming and YouTube, but the sales are not great and airplay is now falling quick enough to be a concern. This leaves it vulnerable to a challenge from our new Top Ten arrival, 'No' by Meghan Trainor at #6. Look, I get why people like this song, I've accepted it's not for me thanks to incoherent messaging and a mediocre stab at late 90s pop sounds, but the general public doesn't appear to agree, as it absolutely ruled sales and spent the week picking up sales and streaming. But hey, if it means that trends in late 90s pop like a refocus on melody and tightness can return to the spotlight, I'll treat it as a net positive and move onto 'Me, Myself & I' by G-Eazy & Bebe Rexha that just isn't going anywhere! Seriously, it's been at #7 for weeks now and even despite losing streaming, only okay sales, and slowing airplay gains, it's not moving! What is shifting is 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn, which collapsed down to #8 thanks to a slip of YouTube and a sudden slowdown on airplay gains - yeah, it still has huge streaming and decent sales, but expect the real revival to be triggered next week after his album smashes through. Then we have 'Cake By The Ocean' by DNCE holding steady at #9 - and honestly, I'm not sure about its progress. Slipping streaming and decent enough sales, but it gained a lot of airplay this week, and you have to wonder whether that'll be enough. And finally, we have the gain that put a smile on my face immediately: 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' by Mike Posner returning to the Top 10. And look, I don't have any illusions that this song'll be huge - the sales are only decent, airplay's taking a while to gain traction, it's mostly reliant on streaming... but it actually is getting a bit of YouTube now, so who knows, it could get bigger!

And now on the opposite note, losers and dropouts! Only a few in the latter category, with both 'We Went' by Randy Houser and 'Break On Me' by Keith Urban showing country's shift with the seasons - along with the long overdue exit of 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd. But our losers... well, might as well characterize them as good to great songs not holding enough traction to do better. 'Youth' by Troye Sivan falling off its sales boost to 36, 'When We Were Young' by Adele continuing to underperform at 50, 'Sugar' by Robin Schulz and Francesco Yates stalling out at 63, and 'Something In The Way You Move' by Ellie Goulding flopping hard to 87 - talk about disappointing! Then there's country, which continued to have a busy week as it rotates 'Heartbeat' by Carrie Underwood towards the exit early at 75, along with shoving 'Came Here To Forget' by Blake Shelton to 61 and 'Beautiful Drug' by the Zac Brown Band to 72, although in those cases it's more likely because they aren't really country songs. Beyond that... okay, the rest of the pop getting shoved out the door deserves it, with 'Stand By You' by Rachel Platten probably being the best of them at 77. But I'm not exactly complaining that 'Adventure of a Lifetime' by Coldplay continues downhill to 76, or 'Try Everything' by Shakira skids down to 86, or 'Like I Would' by Zayn sputtered out completely after its debut to 93.

But really, that's the most action any debut from last week had - hell, if we look at our gains, the only real pickup from last week was 'Make Me Like You' by Gwen Stefani rising to 80. Beyond that... man, compared to our losers, our gains are an underwhelming bunch, especially going into the spring. On the one hand you have 'Think Of You' by Chris Young and Cassadee Pope at 57 for some new country, but it's not good that it comes with 'I Like The Sound Of That' by Rascal Flatts from an album that dropped nearly two years ago! Then there's 'Panda' by Desiigner continuing to exploit how people think he's Future rising up to 21, and Justin Bieber actually gaining some traction with 'Company', which is thankfully pretty tolerable. But the odd low-key nature of the gains continues with the surprising boost for 'Lost Boy' by Ruth B - don't get me wrong, not a bad song, but as a piano ballad there wasn't really much to it. Then there's 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia and Sean Paul going to 71... I get it, given how popular Rihanna is right now, but it's still far from a good song. And finally, there's 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya... eh, no complaints here, it's a good song, although I'm a little startled how much momentum it picked up to 31, especially as I'm not convinced that drop is particularly impressive, even if the bridge and final chorus hits with some impact.

And now since we've got such a sparse list of new arrivals and no re-entries, might as well do another World Hit! Now the one that I've seen a number of requests for is to discuss 'Faded', the worldwide hit from Norwegian DJ Alan Walker, but honestly, the vocals from Iselin Solheim are my favourite part of that song, that synth tone does not click with me at all. So instead, let's switch over my home turf to find something building momentum here that really should be bigger down south - that's right, it's the Canadian Hot 100, which as you all should know is always better!

It's always a little weird shouting out other YouTube talent on a show like this - unless, of course, they absolutely deserve it, and Dan Talevski certainly does with 'Knock Me Off My Feet'. Now I've highlighted this guy before when I covered all the great Canadian songs that the States missed back in 2015 for his hit 'Guilty As Sin', and I'll probably do something similar this summer when things slow down, so let me restate that 'Guilty As Sin' is a goddamn great track, anchoring itself in such incredibly tight percussion and synths as it lets the acoustic guitar flesh out the melody and his voice just coasts over it effortlessly. A similar set of strengths play in 'Knock Me Off My Feet' - incredibly tight synthesizers and percussion with a great bass groove, and Dan's liquid vocals cascading over the mix. Sure, the song doesn't quite have the lyrical edge that 'Guilty As Sin' had - probably my favourite of the two - but that doesn't mean this isn't a great, incredibly tight pop song, and I'm looking forward to this song gaining major traction on the Canadian charts this year.

Now onto our regularly scheduled programming, starting with...

98. 'Body' by Dreezy ft. Jeremih - okay, bit of backstory here. If you remember Common's album from 2014 Nobody's Smiling, you might recognize this Chicago MC who has been building a bit of hype thanks to an EP she dropped last Christmas. Now I remember liking her more authoritative style and bars and I was curious how this would click as a lead-off single for her coming debut album. And yet I shouldn't be surprised that her lead-off single would be a sex jam with Jeremih delivering one of his least impressive vocal performances in a while. Now in a sense this could work - Dreezy's half-sung flow does place her to the forefront, especially how the rougher backing vocals support her, and she has no outright wack lines - hell, with her taking the Mike Tyson reference to having that knock out, it's honestly more tolerable than when many male rappers use a similar reference. If I take issues with this song, it comes with the beat switch-up for Jeremih's final verse, swamping out an already pretty bleak synth and trap beat with bass that can't help but feel a bit like a discount DJ Mustard product with a pretty barebones melody. In short, the song is fine enough and Dreezy reminds me a bit of Jhene Aiko with her quiet confidence, but I'm not sure it's going to be the huge hit she'll need to really get traction.

43. 'Be Alright' by Ariana Grande - so this was the song that was paired with 'Dangerous Woman' as the new rollout for Ariana's upcoming album... and man, this is a lot less impressive. And I don't blame Ariana entirely for this - the writing for a song about hoping that the relationship works out a good fit for her optimism, and the vocal layering actually sounds quite pretty in emulating Mariah Carey's style. What really lets me down here is the instrumentation and production - seriously, for as good as the groove was on 'Dangerous Woman', for this to sound so dinky and cheap is inexcusable! The chintzy marimba that leads into the muted piano and clicking beat before we get the warping synth and bass hits that just feel so thin, and that's before we get the incoherent pitch-shifted vocals slathered through the chorus that serve no purpose at all. And given how it just kind of wheedles out, it feels more unfinished than anything else. Again, this isn't precisely bad, but talk about a step down!

42. 'Team' by Iggy Azalea - ...I don't hate Iggy Azalea - and believe me, she's really easy to hate. She's arrogant and obnoxious, her content can be just as empty as her peers, and there's an exaggerated stench of phoniness that hangs around her fake southern drawl that's pretty hard to stomach. And yet if I'm being brutally honest with myself, I don't  hate her debut album The New Classic. I probably overrated it when I covered it two years ago, but she does have good flows and some bars that connect, she occasionally picks some decent production, and she does have personality and stage presence - and besides, if we're going to take rappers to task for being arrogant, obnoxious, and phony, you might as well throw out a big chunk of mainstream hip-hop. Iggy Azelea is the most obvious target given her outright refusal to apologize or own any of her phoniness... which might as well be the tagline of her sophomore lead-off single, where the only team she's got is... herself. And man, that might have been a mistake, because while I respect her bravado and her bars connect more than you'd expect on the verses - which is about 60% of the time - Iggy has no business handling a hook like this.  as the pitch-correction struggles to keep her on key as her nasal tone blares through everything, and not in a good way. And who told it was a good idea to not just double down on the phony accent but hop on the Migos flow and a thick Jamaican patois as well on the second verse, they do nothing to make her delivery sound good! Iggy is at her best when her flow has swagger and momentum, and if you want something that puts a poleaxe to momentum, it's this production. I thought the more ragged metallic synth might work against the thicker percussion, but then when you push in twinkling elements and pitch-shifted vocals and the flushing sound that reminds me of the worst part of Baauer's 'Harlem Shake', it sounds overmixed and clumsy and completely undercutting the bombast it's struggling to achieve, with only the trap bridge coming close to working. But the most telling line came with the Kylie Jenner reference in the second verse - decent bit of wordplay, but completely transparent as a desperate play for relevance now that hers is running out. Good that you're comfortable being your own team, Iggy Azalea, because with catastrophes like this, you'll want to get used to it.

So that was our week, and wow, can I just pick Dan Talevski's World Hit as the best here, because it's head and shoulders over the rest! 'Team' by Iggy Azalea is running away with the worst, but if I'm going to be fair here... the music was probably the least objectionable on 'Body' by Dreezy and Jeremih, and the rhymes were probably the most on-point. Sidenote, it also had a Kardashian reference, but Dreezy's bars at least had more groove than Iggy's, and didn't have production that was trying to be abrasive and succeeded far more than she could have possibly intended. At this point, I'm just hoping for a busier week on the Hot 100, law of averages means we've got more of a chance of quality!

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