Tuesday, April 26, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 7, 2016

So, you all wanted turbulence? You definitely got it this week - and yes, while too much of it was triggered by the far-too-soon and tragic death of Prince, a fair amount of it was driven by the past weeks of instability. And with the new Beyonce release and Drake's new album on the way, you all better buckle up, because I don't see the Hot 100 quieting for a good month, at least.

And where the turbulence was most felt was in our Top 10... and I don't even know where to start with this. The new #1 would make it easy... but seriously, it seems wrong on some level that 'Panda' by Desiigner got to #1. Keep in mind that this is a song by a Future ripoff in every way that has charted higher than any other Future song, that got famous because Kanye gratuitously sampled it on a song that's currently dropping off the charts right now! Regardless of that, I have the feeling that 'Panda' won't stick around long - it might hold streaming and sales and it's gaining on airplay and YouTube, but it's facing some stiff competition. '7 Years' by Lukas Graham is right behind on sales and streaming, and while its YouTube has shrunk, it's got so much airplay dominance that if 'Panda' slips on sales or streaming, '7 Years' will easily take the top. And yet we have our new top ten entry with 'One Dance' by Drake ft. WizKid and Kyla, which surged up to #3 on big streaming gains, considerable airplay traction, and solid sales - this looks like Drake's newest attempt to snag #1, and if he drops the video at the right time, he'll probably get there... shame it's with one of his worst ever songs. All of this was enough to shove back 'Work' by Rihanna and Drake off the #1, but that probably would have happened anyway, as it spent the week losing in all categories, especially airplay, sales, and getting dethroned on streaming. This all led to Mike Posner's 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' to ride to #5 on stability alone - consistent gains across the board, I'm kind of thrilled it's doing so well. A little less thrilled that 'Work From Home' by Fifth Harmony and Ty Dolla $ign went up with it to #6, mostly thanks to absolutely monstrous YouTube, strong streaming, and stronger sales... but airplay is lagging, so it'll be interesting if it can leapfrog its competition. Part of this is the sudden weakness of 'No' by Meghan Trainor sliding to #7 - it may have picked up YouTube and has always had good sales, but airplay looked to have peaked this week, which is not a good sign for future viability. Almost the opposite case for 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn - slip on YouTube despite good streaming, spent the week picking up airplay traction despite weaker sales... and yet in the face of stable competition, it slides to #8. Then we have 'Love Yourself' by Justin Bieber sliding to #9 - for me, the surprise is that it's not dropping faster, but it still manages to hold the top spot in airplay and isn't descending that fast. That leaves us with 'Me, Myself & I' by G-Eazy ft. Bebe Rexha holding #10 - and yet considering it peaked hard on airplay this week and is losing whatever streaming it has left, it's here because of inertia and little else - in other words, the story of how this song has stuck around.

But on the topic of songs less lucky, our losers and dropouts - and again, we had a bunch of them this week. Now to be fair, the dropouts worth caring about, most you could have seen coming: 'Die A Happy Man' by Thomas Rhett, 'Nobody To Blame' by Chris Stapleton, both of these were nearing the end of their run, along with - sadly - 'Sugar' by Robin Schulz ft. Francesco Yates. And yet when you look at the losers, they're all over the place. So let's start with Kanye's losses, as they're the easiest to predict: 'Famous' dropped to 62, 'Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1' fell to 64, and 'Pt.2' slid down to 97. And just like last week, country fared just as badly, in this case with a lot of songs that seem cut prematurely short. Sure, even though I really like the song I can understand country radio pulling 'You Should Be Here' by Cole Swindell to 55, but beyond that, 'That Don't Sound Like You' by Lee Brice down to 81, 'Drunk On Your Love' by Brett Eldredge to 83, and 'Little Bit Of You' by Chase Bryant falling to 88 feels a little premature, especially with no obvious replacements. Granted, when you look at pop radio it's almost just as rough. Of course I would expect 'Hands To Myself' by Selena Gomez to fall to 35 or 'Back To Sleep' by Chris Brown to slip to 57, but I'll admit being surprised how hard 'Summer Sixteen' by Drake continues to fall, especially as the lead-off single for Views From The 6. Then we get the cases of evaporating momentum, with Taylor Swift's 'New Romantics' losing all of its gains to collapse down to 78 and 'Ophelia' by The Lumineers falling hard to 89 after returning last week. Finally we have two songs that have never had a lot of consistency - 'Piece by Piece' by Kelly Clarkson skidding down to 82, and 'Might Be' by Luke Nasty going to 92 - and in the latter case, given how blatantly he sampled from Anderson .Paak's much better song, I'm entirely okay with that.

But now we need to talk about gains and returning entries, and before we deal with the purple elephant in the room, let's get through the gains quickly. I've already mentioned 'One Dance' by Drake rising to #3, but really the big winner this week was Rihanna, as 'Kiss It Better' recovered up to 70 and 'Needed Me' continued its rise up to 23. We also saw 'if It Ain't Love' by Jason Derulo pick up a bit of traction to 84, but as I said last week, I don't see that lasting. But when we get to returning entries and immediately discard that pointless Keith Urban track 'Wasted Time' back at 90... we have six songs recharting after the tragic loss of one of the greatest musicians of all time, Prince. And I'll be completely honest: while I know and love much of Prince's music, David Bowie's death hit a lot harder for me in terms of music that resonated on a more primal level. And yet I can't deny that the artistic legacy Prince left, shattering boundaries of genre, sexuality, and label cooperation even as he left albums and songs that are untouchable to this day. So even though I know they're only going to be here for a week or two, to see six Prince classics rechart with huge sales this week is a great thing. The wonderfully dated '1999' smashing through at 41, the razor-edged hard rock of 'Let's Go Crazy' cracking down on 39, the soaring classic of 'Little Red Corvette' coming through at 29, the incredibly tight funk of 'Kiss' hitting 28, the sparse and surprisingly eclectic 'When Doves Cry' at 20 - did you know the song doesn't even have a bassline and somehow doesn't need it - and finally, the power ballad classic 'Purple Rain' at 17. Funny story about that song, Prince actually reached out to the keyboardist of Journey Jonathan Cain about 'Purple Rain' as he was concerned it was too similar to 'Faithfully', another power ballad classic, and while I do hear a bit of it, 'Purple Rain' has an edge in the vocals and the sizzling guitar that makes it undeniable. We don't hear classics driven by virtuoso talents like this on the radio anymore, much less become massive hits, so to see so much of Prince's best return to the Hot 100... it's fantastic to see it back, if only for a moment.

And at this point, do I really need to talk about our new arrivals, it's not like anything here is going to measure up to Prince? Well, let's give them their fair chance, starting with...

99. 'Let Me Love You' by Ariana Grande ft. Lil Wayne - I can't be the only one who has noticed that the launch of Ariana's third album has felt shaky, can I? 'Focus' sank like a stone, 'Be Alright' vanished after a week, and while 'Dangerous Woman' is holding on, it only barely cracked the top ten. And now with a new single featuring Lil Wayne debuting so low... well, there's a reason, it's not very good. And there are problems across the board - the hollow pitch-shifted fragments against the melancholic synth and dreary bass before an oddly shrill trap beat comes in, this is tipping the balance towards creepy more than sexy, no matter how hard Ariana is trying. And Lil Wayne is not helping: maybe it's because I've heard I Am Not A Human Being 2 one too many times - and by that I mean once - but listening to Lil Wayne drop into Svengali mode with Ariana after her breakup when she's vulnerable sets my nerves on edge. Coupled with the stuttered hook, it reflects the sort of clumsiness I've seen in too many Ariana Grande songs recently, and it's pretty far from being remotely fun. I'd pass.

95. 'You Don't Own Me' by Grace ft. G-Eazy - so, funny fact, I've already talked about this song at length a few months back for World Hit, mostly because while it was big in the UK, I wasn't sure it'd cross over to the States, even with the non-presence of G-Eazy providing guest verses. But for those of you who missed that episode, Grace is an Australian singer with this being her lead single for her breakout EP, but this is actually a remake of a 1963 song by Lesley Gore, who is most well-known for 'It's My Party'. Keep in mind this was a feminist anthem in the 60s that nearly topped the charts, which is boundary-pushing in and of itself, but Grace's update does enough to make it more than just an update. For one, she actually got Quincy Jones who produced the original to work on the remake - which is why the production maintains its old-school bombast and melody while still feeling modern - and that she grabbed G-Eazy, who plays opposite her. And for as much as I find G-Eazy supremely uninteresting, him reasserting the attraction to equality intensifies the song's edge. So yeah, it's retro done right, and while I kind of doubt it'll take off in the US, I'd like to see it happen - it's a damn great song.

93. 'I Hate U I Love U' by gnash ft. Olivia O'Brien - so on the topic of male/female team-ups that also went to #1 in Australia, we have this track from up-and-coming hip-hop artist gnash. And... well, here's the thing, I get this sort of deeply melancholic situation, where the couple were friends with benefits where things went south - gnash's single verse seems to imply he wanted something more serious than she did, and when that wasn't reciprocated - she thought she was being used or maybe they were just a lousy match - he moved on and now she's frustrated with it. So okay, I get the emotional context, but there's very little to the execution here. Instrumentally, we have a very dreary piano, a hint of bass, and a handclap, and gnash's bars are well structured, but he's biting from Drake hard, especially in his vocal tone. Otherwise, there's just very little to this that I find interesting or powerful, especially considering the thick atmosphere of non-action that permeates the track. So in other words... eh, I don't really care for this.

73. 'Wicked' by Future - okay, if I was Future right now, I'd be pretty annoyed at not just getting ripped off, but by that rip-off going to #1 really by doing nothing Future hasn't already done. Maybe it's just a case of market saturation, because here we have another track about Future wallowing in his worst impulses - and no, I'm not talking about 'Low Life' or the majority of his recorded output for the past two years. Though at this point, can you really tell the lyrical difference between these tracks, where Future spews out a list of brand names, takes shots at Ciara for effectively calling you on your nonsense, and continues to emphasize his wickedness by comparing his gang to that of the Taliban... which no, that's not cool in the slightest. I'd say the production is okay, with the sparse bombastic synth, and deeper bass beat to play off the trap beat, but this is nothing I haven't heard dozens of times before from Future. It's not new or interesting, and at this point I'm going to bring up my rule when it comes to nihilistic artwork: if you don't change it up eventually, being a self-loathing asshole stops being compelling and starts getting tedious - next!

42. 'Just Like Fire' by Pink - you know, it's been three years since a Pink song has actually charted on the radio. And that's to be expected - her project with City And Colour was low-key folk music that was not going to get radio traction in 2014, and she's been pretty quiet for a while. And as a fan, I've missed Pink a lot - throughout the 2000s she was one of my favourite pop rock singers in the mainstream, with tons of personality, explosive lyrics, and normally some killer songs behind her. So to see her back on a soundtrack single gave the same sinking feeling I had with Shakira and 'Try Everything' - and sadly, this isn't much better. It's not a bad song - the acoustic foundation is solid and Pink still sounds great, even if it's considerably less raw than her best work, but the production succumbs to the percussion-over-melody template and the lyrics are really thin, even for a self-esteem anthem. Sure, I didn't mind the pseudo-rap breakdown on the third verse, but there is so little to this track that's worth remembering, and Pink is a lot better than this. I almost didn't believe she wrote it, but turns out she, Max Martin, and Shellback just delivered a slice of soundtrack album filler that's bland as hell. I'd say skip it, but you'd probably forget it.

So that was this week, and if I had my way Prince would run away with everything here. But since that's not really fair... Best of the Week goes to the last World Hit with 'You Don't Owe Me', and Worst of the Week goes to Future with 'Wicked' because at this point I'm just getting sick of the formula. Next week we're probably going to get a ton of Beyonce, which given how much I liked her last album is only a positive!

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