Tuesday, April 5, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 16, 2016

So as I predicted, this week is indeed busier than last week, with not just more activity within the charts but a slew of new arrivals... and yet my predictions why this happened seem to have mostly gone unanswered. Sure, Zayn's debut album Mind of Mine made an impact, but not with any new arrivals. Instead... well, let's just say that I'd prefer Zayn had gotten traction than Young Thug.

But before we get to that, let's talk about our top ten, where unfortunately I didn't get as clean data as I wanted for radio tracking, so this might be a bit sketchy. Granted, when it comes to our top two not much was happening anyway - 'Work' by Rihanna and Drake holds the top with dominant streaming, strong YouTube, and holding steady on airplay - but it's consistently getting outsold, especially by our number #2 '7 Years' by Lukas Graham, which is only gaining more momentum on radio, streaming, and YouTube, and it's ruling sales. But not far behind it is 'No' by Meghan Trainor, which went up to #3 on serious boosts across the board with especially strong sales. But right behind it is 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn, riding off its album boost to #4 with sizable sales, strong streaming, solid airplay, and picking up traction on YouTube. Now this was enough to push 'Love Yourself' by Justin Bieber down to #5, but that might have happened regardless, because despite ruling airplay, it had losses across the board. And while 'My House' by Flo Rida might have had stronger sales, it still slid down to #6 thanks to weaknesses in airplay and streaming. Similar case for 'Stressed Out' by twenty one pilots at #7 - okay sales and stable YouTube, but airplay looks to be dipping and streaming is already fading. Hell, this even pushed 'Me, Myself & I' by G-Eazy and Bebe Rexha down a slot to #8 - finally - although part of that might have been driven by some unstable streaming. This led to 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' by Mike Posner to pick up a bit of traction to #9 with gains across the board - again, I don't expect this to get much higher, but I'm enjoying how well it's doing right now. What's more concerning is our new top ten entry and easily the worst of them: 'Work From Home' by Fifth Harmony ft. Ty Dolla $ign. And the sad thing is that I don't see any signs of this slowing down - huge YouTube push, solid streaming, big sales, with radio struggling to catch up... not good signs, folks, not good signs.

This takes us to our losers and dropouts, and we have a lot in the latter category this week, with the quality generally being pretty mixed. Sure, we got rid of 'Same OId Love' by Selena Gomez, 'Adventure Of a Lifetime' by Coldplay, and 'Hideaway' by Daya, but if we lose 'Here' by Alessia Cara, 'Ex's And Oh's' by Elle King, and 'In The Night' by The Weeknd, that doesn't seem to be a net positive. Now all of these tracks were on their way out naturally - something I can't say about our two losers this week, which followed off some temporary success to crash hard. The first is 'Make Me Like You' by Gwen Stefani losing its boost to 100, which is at least tolerable compared to 'Team' by Iggy Azalea falling hard to 71 - yikes.

But where our real story picks up is with our returning entries and gains, where our songs for the spring begin to solidify their presence. So on the one hand, 'Victorious' by Panic! At The Disco making a comeback to 94 might strike you as overmixed and a little grating, but compared to most of our gains... Well, one is reasonably predictable, with 'Like I Would' picking up for Zayn to 73. But beyond that, this list is all over the place. I can understand 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia and Sean Paul getting the big boost to 39, mostly thanks to American Idol, but I'm still a little stunned 'Lost Boy' by Ruth B got more momentum to follow its gains last week to 47. Outside of that country music had a considerable list of pickups this week... and it's a shame most of them suck, with 'T-Shirt' by Thomas Rhett going to 63, 'Somewhere On A Beach' by Dierks Bentley up to 43, and 'That Don't Sound Like You' by Lee Brice rising to 64. Hell, even the songs I mostly like are only borderline country songs, with 'Mind Reader' by Dustin Lynch going to 74 and 'Came Here To Forget' by Blake Shelton recovering to 43. Beyond that, our remaining gains don't really make a lot of sense - sure, I guess I could see 'Light It Up' by Major Lazer and Nyla rising to 84, especially going into the summer, but I honestly thought 'Jimmy Choo' by Fetty Wap had stalled out, not jumping up to 69. Or 'Try Anything' by Shakira suddenly regaining traction to 65 - I'm not denying it's good to hear Shakira, but she's capable of so much better than this! And finally - and most bizarrely of all - 'The Sound Of Silence' by Disturbed continues to ride sales up to 51. That's right, Disturbed fans, their biggest crossover hit in the mainstream to date after over fifteen years is a Simon & Garfunkel cover. And as someone who has never really liked Disturbed, I'm kind of perversely amazed by that.

And speaking of perversity, might as well get to our new arrivals, starting with...

99. 'Uber Everywhere' by MadeInTYO - when I saw the title of this song, I made the assumption it was just another commercial that got popular - in this day and age, it's way too common on the Hot 100. Turns out that MadeInTYO is an Atlanta MC who stakes his claim to unique identity for having spent six years in Tokyo - seriously. I mean, it's not like he'd actually try something new or cool like blend j-pop with a modern trap beat, that'd actually be interesting. But this track falls into a weird place regardless - the trap beat might feel generic, but the very distant, warping plucked melody is brighter than you normally hear in this brand of hip-hop. Beyond that, though, we have a MC with a very dreary, boring delivery matching bars where he lazily raps about getting blown in an Uber - classy. But sarcasm aside, that lack of class is probably the reason why this song perplexes me probably more than it should - it has this feel of being completely mundane almost intentionally. Either way, it's nothing I'm going to care about in a day or two, next!

97. 'New Level' by A$AP Ferg ft. Future - I'll admit that when I covered A$AP Ferg nearly three years ago, I came down pretty hard on his debut Trap Lord. I'm still not wild about it, but I did come to see what people liked in A$AP Ferg's aggressive and slightly better lyrical construction against the darkly opulent production, even if I found the content to not nearly be as interesting it should be. And that's pretty much my opinion on 'New Level', the lead-off single to his sophomore record - the jittery strings and horns muted and bouncing off the trap beat, and A$AP Ferg spitting a fiercely triumphant hook and verses about having found success from the grime at the bottom to now being able to provide for the members of his family left alive. And while I wasn't really blown away by any of his bars, he sounded pretty good on the production... and then Future showed up and proved exactly why if Future's going to be on a song, it needs to be on something grimy or that at least lets him stay in his lower range. Here, he's trying to reach for the same hyped tone as A$AP Ferg and man, his voice just sounds shredded, with the Autotune barely able to keep up. He's easily the weakest part of a pretty decent song, and so while I might not be that interested in A$AP Ferg's new record... eh, this is fine, I guess.

95. 'Moolah' by Young Greatness - have to admit, this wasn't what I was expecting. Well, okay, on some level it was - you have a rapper calling himself Young Greatness out of New Orleans spitting over very breezy trap hi-hats and a sparse bassy piano melody, this is something we've all heard before, especially in a week with multiple songs from Young Thug. But for as much as Young Greatness leaps over similar vocal cadences as he raps about slinging cocaine with decent if not particularly interesting enough bars, he reminds me a fair bit more of Fetty Wap, both in his more melodic hook and the oddly cheery vibe to the song. Plus with the odd reggae tone in the backing vocals, it seems far too laid back and free-flowing to be your average cocaine anthem, which does kind of make it stand out in a good way. So yeah, I don't really dislike this - it's fine enough, I'll take it.

93. 'Digits' by Young Thug - I think it's interesting that I got absolutely no requests to cover the newest Slime Season tape from Young Thug. Normally whenever he drops a project I get a few requests, but either you guys have learned I don't really care for him or Young Thug's hype is finally starting to sputter out, mostly because so much of his material is lacking the novelty in the content beyond his off-kilter flow, which I'll admit has moments on this song that aren't bad. And sure, Young Thug's not saying anything he hasn't said hundreds of times before - including the unsettling lines he has about women, that he can control them like a channel and that he's going into her with a ruler, which just sounds painful - with the only truly out there line saying that he feels like was aborted when he snorts cocaine, which barely even tries to make sense. But the telling line is that Young Thug does this when he gets bored - and to some extent, I see his complete disinterest in shoveling out material of middling quality that diehard fans are going to proclaim as genius. And it's not helped by London On Da Track giving him another desaturated organ-touched trap beat, which might have punch but doesn't remotely stand out, at least for me. But in the end, the worst thing that can happen for a rapper like Young Thug is to become boring, and this track seems to be a warning sign.

92. 'Huntin', Fishin', & Lovin' Every Day' by Luke Bryan - I've said a lot of harsh things about Luke Bryan in the past, but I'll admit that he and his managers are shrewd businessmen. They probably saw the country scene tilting away from the bro-country scene and knew they had to hedge their bets with a few tracks that could balance against whatever might come next - hence the reason we got this as the third single, which is handily summed up in its title. And sure, I'll take this over 'Home Alone Tonight' or 'Kick Up The Dust', but it's not like this song avoids the production problems that plagued his last record. Muddy cymbals layered over everything except the overdubbed vocals, compressed edges on the electric guitars, too much reverb on Luke Bryan's vocals in a cheap imitation of what Lee Brice has been doing for years, it might have a decent solo and some good acoustic texture, but I can't help but see this track as a last-ditch attempt to salvage some country credentials from the critical set before bro-country fades away completely. So in other words, I can see this song pleasing nobody and fading away fast - good riddance.

91. 'All The Way Up' by Fat Joe & Remy Ma ft. French Montana - okay, time for a history lesson. For those of you who don't know - which I'm assuming is the majority of you - Fat Joe is a New York rapper and the 'leader' of Terror Squad. If you don't know what that is - and I'd get why, considering the history behind that mess is a convoluted nightmare of bad business in hip-hop - they were a hip-hop group most well-known for associations with one of the late greats of hip-hop, Big Pun... but after he died in 2000, Fat Joe took Terror Squad to new heights with the hit 'Lean Back' in 2004, coasting on a Scott Storch beat and the one Terror Squad member he didn't piss off or fire, that being Remy Ma. His career fizzled out a few years later - 50 Cent has claimed credit for it, but it's more likely his stream of mediocre albums did more damage, along with the shifting hip-hop climate - but now he's back with old friend Remy Ma with a collaboration album and a lead-off single... and I'm honestly a little conflicted about it. On the one hand, the bassy swell backing the horn melody does have personality and French Montana actually sounds pretty decent against it... but eventually we have to have Fat Joe and Remy Ma flossing, treating women like garbage, and Remy Ma bragging about being on Viagra, which is not information anyone needed to know. And reading through their actual bars with so many flubbed or abandoned rhymes, was anyone really looking for a comeback from Fat Joe and Remy Ma - because outside of the instrumentation, this is pretty lousy. Next!

87. 'With Them' by Young Thug - so remember when I said the worst thing that could happen is Young Thug is indifference and boredom? Yeah, 'With Them' is the prime example of how that could happen, because this song is tedious at best, with a brittle rattle of a beat against a chintzy melody that eventually picks up some melodic accents in the piano, but beyond that? It's exactly what you'd expect from Young Thug at this point, without even the excuse of weird vocal inflections to make anything remotely interesting. Young Thug's flow here is very curt and abrupt, and while his enunciation is better, it only serves to highlight he still has nothing all that original to say - brand names, killing people, doing drugs, and treating girls badly for no adequately explained reason. It's not funny, it's barely even clever, the rhyming gets painfully lazy on the end of each verse, and the staccato presentation is even less flattering for him than usual. Definitely not a fan of this, I'd skip it. 

72. 'Noise' by Kenny Chesney - have you ever looked at the title of the song, the performer, and just knew things weren't going to turn out well? That was the case for me with Kenny Chesney and 'Noise', mostly because Kenny Chesney normally makes beach fodder, not social statements. Well, okay, there was 'American Kids', but it worked because of smart framing and ramshackle production, whereas this, his lead-off single for his upcoming album Some Town Somewhere, couldn't be further from that. Let's start with the production, with vocal effects piled on to the muddy guitars, fake drums, and some desperate attempt to drive a groove out of the gleaming films of synth. And that's before we get to the lyrics, where Kenny Chesney rambles about people stuck in a world of constant noise and information with talking heads and kids stuck in their phones and wow, Kenny Chesney, those kids just won't get off your lawn, will they? I do kind of appreciate that he realizes the only way he can cut through is make noise himself... but then again, aren't you exacerbating the problem? Regardless, I wasn't wild about Kenny Chesney's last record when I covered it two years ago, and from the looks of this, that's not about to change any time soon.

27. 'Close' by Nick Jonas ft. Tove Lo - on some level this team-up makes sense. Nick Jonas might have started off on the wrong foot with 'Jealous', but he's evolved to being a tighter, more energetic pop artist with some real lyrical ambition... which is pretty much how I'd describe Tove Lo, except she didn't even have the opening misfire. A pairing between the two makes perfect sense to me. And turns out, they're a pretty solid pair on 'Close', which turns out to be a pretty decent song. Nick Jonas doesn't quite have the tightness he has on his best tracks, and Tove Lo isn't quite as raw, but it works against the skittering rattle of the beat through the thick cushion of reverb that actually forms a pretty solid melodic groove. And this is one of the cases where the duet is absolutely essential - when your most distinctive lyric is 'space was just a word made up by someone who's afraid to get too close', you want it to come across as mutual! But yeah, the two personalities play off well here, and while I'd say this song isn't either of their best, it's still enjoyable enough, I'll take it.

So that was this week, and wow, that was rough. No obvious standouts for best of the week, but I'll give it to 'Close' by Nick Jonas & Tove Lo for probably being the most likable, followed by 'Moolah' by Young Greatness - A$AP Ferg nearly got there, but I preferred the melodies here and Young Greatness didn't have Future to deal with. As for worst... man, there's a lot of junk here this week, but I'm probably giving it to 'With Them' by Young Thug with Dishonourable Mention for 'Noise' by Kenny Chesney for some godawful production and a lyrical concept that doesn't nearly feel as fully fleshed out as it could be, arguably the bigger disappointment than a Fat Joe return nobody's going to care about in a day or two. Okay, I like that the charts got busier, but can we get some quality for next week, please?