Tuesday, May 3, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 14, 2016

So remember when I said last week the turbulence wasn't going away any time soon? Yeah, this week proved that in spades, because not only did Beyonce's Lemonade hit like a ship from Heaven, Prince's tracks only picked up more traction on the Hot 100 and holy shit, somehow the charts got kind of amazing this week! And I mean that beyond just the new arrivals: this sort of shakeup I suspect will have longer lasting impacts than many might think.

Now I'll explain that when we get to the losers and dropouts, but let's start off with our top ten, where the chart turbulence definitely took more shape... except where I wanted it to. Let's be honest, I've never been more convinced that the place at the top for 'Panda' by Desiigner is short-lived than I am today, because while it's got strong streaming and is picking up some airplay and YouTube, it was handily outsold this week and the numbers are not exceptional. The only reason that 'One Dance' by Drake ft. Kyla & Wizkid didn't go to #1 is the fact that it doesn't have YouTube yet, because it's handily beating 'Panda' in every other category even at #2 - so Drake, what's the hold-up? Didn't you learn your lesson from last time with 'Hotline Bling', or are you just that confident the Views boost will be enough, because I sure as hell am not. What this ultimately means is that '7 Years' by Lukas Graham was muscled back to #3 despite having bigger airplay than both, mostly because it had slightly weaker sales and was outmatched on streaming. And yet I'd argue it's mostly stable against its competition for now, the first being the huge gains for 'Purple Rain' by Prince. I'll talk more about the massive sales gains that every Prince song got this week a bit later, but suffice to say that pushed it #4 - and yet I wouldn't expect this to last, because it's not like the songs are picking up huge airplay to match and deflation will push them out quickly. Not quite the case for 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' by Mike Posner, which actually held to #5 despite being outmatched on streaming - solid sales and streaming and it actually gained on YouTube. And it held steady as 'Work' by Rihanna and Drake fell to #6, losing across the board especially with rough sales - it might pick up positions when Prince loses, but that would be conditional on Beyonce not gaining steam, and I'm not going to make that bet. This takes us to 'Work From Home' by Fifth Harmony & Ty Dolla $ign, which only went down to #7 thanks to getting outsold, because YouTube is massive, streaming is considerable, sales were respectable, and it has airplay momentum and is simply playing catchup. This takes us to our second Prince top ten entry: 'When Doves Cry' at #8, which again, is here because of the gigantic sales and little else. It was just enough to shove back 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn to #9, which is still picking up considerable airplay - just not enough to compensate for weakening stats in other categories. And this leads us to our final new top ten entry: 'Formation' by Beyonce. Guess it took the album to finally vault it here, and while it's not my favourite song from Lemonade, I still don't have a problem with it being here on huge sales and streaming - unlike the Prince songs, expect this to stick around.

But now to the main event: losers and dropouts. Let's make this clear, when you have a full album's worth of songs hit the Hot 100 all at once, the majority above 50, you're going to trigger major shifts, and the dropout list is the place to start. Because while you had songs like 'Might Be' by Luke Nasty, 'Jimmy Choo' by Fetty Wap, 'Little Bit Of You' by Chase Bryant, 'Drunk On Your Love' by Brett Eldredge, and 'Hands To Myself' by Selena Gomez closer to exiting anyway, tracks like 'The Hills' by The Weeknd, 'Down In The DM' by Yo Gotti, and 'Hello' by Adele might have lasted a little longer - now, they're gone completely. And that's the considerable impact when you consider our huge list of losers this week: prematurely crippling momentum or forcing songs off that might have had more longevity. So while it's not surprising that, say, 'That Don't Sound Like You' by Lee Brice fell to 98, 'Piece By Piece' by Kelly Clarkson slid to 93, 'Famous' and 'Father Stretch My Hands' from Kanye West fell to 83 and 82 respectively, 'You Should Be Here' by Cole Swindell fell to 72, and 'Back To Sleep' by Chris Brown went to 70, there are plenty of other songs that might have their losses jump-started. For example, even though I don't like Bryson Tiller, you can bet 'Don't' going to 50 and 'Exchange' falling to 44 is ahead of schedule. Or take songs that are now very much in danger from sudden losses, like 'Jumpman' by Drake and Future falling to 49 or 'Roses' by The Chainsmokers ft. ROZES going to 48, or 'Stitches' by Shawn Mendes sliding to 45, or 'Let It Go' by James Bay skidding back to 42, or 'One Call Away' by Charlie Puth going to 46. Then consider the songs that still have a fair amount of life but could have their downward slide escalated, like 'Cake By The Ocean' by DNCE falling to 24 or 'Sorry' by Justin Bieber going to 31 or '2 Phones' by Kevin Gates falling to 32 or 'Middle' by DJ Snake & Bipolar Sunshine falling to 34. Then you have the cases of halting upward momentum or at least consistency, like 'Never Forget You' by MNEK and Zara Larsson falling to 26 or 'Low Life' by Future and The Weeknd at 29 or 'Close' by Nick Jonas and Tove Lo at 36. And that's not even counting the songs that will completely lose momentum in the lower reaches of the charts that'll be blocked from getting higher, like 'Somewhere On A Beach' by Dierks Bentley at 51 or 'The Sound Of Silence' by Disturbed at 59 or 'Cut It' by OT Genasis & Young Dolph at 56 or 'Promise' by Kid Ink & Fetty Wap sliding to 77. And when we get to country it gets even worse: yeah, 'Confession' by Florida Georgia Line might be on its way out anyway at 81, but 'I Like The Sound Of That' by Rascal Flatts going to 78, or Jon Pardi's 'Head Over Boots' going to 89 is still not good. The harshest loss might have gone to Justin Bieber's 'Company', though, plummeting down to 91 along with 'Acquainted' by The Weeknd to reside with non-starters like 'Moolah' by Young Greatness at 97 or 'Light It Up' by Major Lazer and Nyla at 88. The only two songs I can see having real hope of recovering are 'Just Like Fire' by Pink - it fell off its debut to 75, but it's generic enough to get a bit of airplay - and 'Pop Style' by Drake, and the latter case only because Views will be impacting the chart next week!

Now here's the thing: you'd think I'd be concerned with the biggest list of losses I think I've ever covered on Billboard BREAKDOWN... but the truth is we need to consider what's replacing them, which takes us to our gains and returning entries. And in both categories, I'd easily stack them all as better than the vast majority of what's getting pushed out! When the worst track out of our returning entries is 'New Level' by A$AP Ferg and Future at 90, that's not bad - and considering 'Record Year' by Eric Church came back with it at 100, that's a major positive! But really, both gains and returning entries were just owned by Prince, and it's time to explain why. See, in comparison with other major celebrity deaths like David Bowie or even Michael Jackson, my theory is that many people took the opportunity to pick up Prince songs or albums they might have forgotten - most people already had a Michael Jackson compilation or were a little too young to really get into Bowie's weirdness, but Prince had a run of killer, accessible singles that were fondly remembered, which is why the sales runs were tremendous. So on that note we got two returning entries that I'd personally consider lesser entries among Prince's classic singles but still great songs regardless: the razor sharp synthpop of 'I Would Die 4 U' at 39 and 'Raspberry Beret' at 33, a song I've always found a little perplexing thanks to that slightly weird strings arrangement. And when we look to our gains, they're all Prince tracks - I've already talked about 'When Doves Cry' and 'Purple Rain' breaking into the Top 10, but '1999' also jumped up to 27 and 'Let's Go Crazy' went up to 25. And look, while I don't expect them to last for long, especially where they're currently at, but I'm going to enjoy these tracks landing real impact for now - maybe it'll inspire our current hitmakers to up their game, or the audience to demand better.

And on that note, let's talk about our new arrivals, and I have to say, I was genuinely worried that when Beyonce broke the record for number of new debuts in one week with twelve that I'd have to give one of them 'Worst of the Week'. Thankfully, it wasn't just Beyonce - oh, and trigger warning, because we're starting with...

94. 'Go Flex' by Post Malone - okay, bad jokes aside, I have no idea who can groove this even ironically. Somehow even less catchy than 'White Iverson' and combining the breezy nothingness of a terrible white-guy-with-acoustic-guitar song with the lyrics of a trap banger, how is this remotely attractive? At least Rae Sremmurd had energy - Post Malone's lifeless drone might fit the sparse acoustic guitar and limp trap beat, but does it remotely fit a hook about flexing, or Post Malone saying he's coming with 'heat' which I don't remotely buy? And it sure as hell doesn't make his whining about his girl who I'm fairly certain he cheats on in the second verse even close to workable - you say you're never switching up, Post Malone, but have you ever considered it? Because this is godawful, the whitest approximation of a trap beat I've heard in a while that alternates between being incompetent and insufferable. Next!

84. 'Wake Up' by Fetty Wap - am I the only one who finds this disappointing? Sure, I expected Fetty Wap to make some form of a weed anthem eventually, but this isn't much more of a song than 'Go Flex' was, with a hook droning about getting 'Wiz Khalifa high' that has that shrill piercing sound at the back of the hook that gets surprisingly grating against a very barebones piano melody. And sure, the verse is fine enough - Fetty Wap rapping about trying to be an inspiration for his son and wishing that science could catch up so he could get his vision repaired, but it's only one verse and it feels oddly too aggressive to fit well with the production or the hook. And for Fetty Wap, even though I'll acknowledge the hook has the childlike writing to fit for a teen stoner anthem... this doesn't interest me, and Fetty Wap has done a lot better. Sorry.

(yeah, you're not going to find any of these videos on YouTube... I wish, it'd make editing this a hell of a lot easier)...

63. 'Forward' by Beyonce ft. James Blake - not a lot of time to say much here beyond welcoming James Blake to his first - and unfortunately likely last - time on the charts. I wasn't particularly wild about this song when I covered Lemonade, even if I found the piano composition pretty and James Blake delivering the sort of emotive performance you'd expect - probably the closest equivalent in the mainstream to his vocals is Sam Smith, but I've always found James Blake so much more emotive. Shame the track breaks into this pitch-shifted, echoing choppy fragment at the end that I didn't exactly mind, but isn't really my thing either. More of an interlude than anything, I'm surprised to see it here, but I'll still take it.

47. 'Love Drought' by Beyonce - okay, because I really didn't have much time on the last song, I'm going to endeavor to keep these Beyonce song reviews fairly short - half because there are twelve of them and this episode will go long regardless, and partially because I already reviewed this record at length. So here we have 'Love Drought', with Beyonce getting her FKA Twigs on as she tries to be fair to Jay-Z and brings her own insecurities to the forefront as she hopes to rebuild the relationship. And it really is a gorgeous track with the gleaming plucky synth against the low buzzy foundation before that theremin accent comes in for the hook, and with just enough multi-tracking to support Beyonce's breathier tone... yeah, no complaints from me, this song is beautiful, next!

43. 'Sandcastles' by Beyonce - and here's the follow-up to it, an piano ballad that is stunning in its simplicity and its raw beauty. It's a song in the wreckage of the marriage Beyonce dearly wishes she could cast aside, a promise she swore she'd never be back... and yet here she is, willing to give it a chance. This is easily one of Beyonce's most gripping performances, particularly on the second verse where you can tell the words are tearing at her voice, and she completely kills this track. Easily one of the best on the album, and Beyonce has a stripped down piano ballad to give Adele some serious competition, 'Sandcastles' is it.

41. 'Daddy Lessons' by Beyonce - so what's the odds they start playing this on country stations? I'm not kidding here, because even though this song isn't a full traditional country ballad and probably owes more of its competition to acoustic blues or soul, especially with the horns, it's still more country than most of the garbage than you'd hear on country radio these days! We gave Sturgill Simpson a pass, why not give Beyonce a chance, especially when the writing is as sharp as it is, delving into the complicated relationship she has with her father and how he drove her to be more of a fighter, warning her away from men like himself - which might as well include Jay-Z. So yeah, coupled with Beyonce giving another fearsome performance that sounds plenty visceral, this song is awesome - and if country radio is looking for something on their summer lineup, I'd be fine seeing it there.

38. 'All Night' by Beyonce - so in terms of the relationship narrative of Lemonade, many people would regard 'All Night' as the finale track with 'Formation' tacked on as a coda. I'm not sure I quite buy that - 'Formation' shows Beyonce back at the top in a way that 'All Night' doesn't quite show in the same way, more of an ascending soulful swell, especially in her hook that's pushed higher through the horns, sharp staccato guitar line, bassline sampled from OutKast, and lyrics that show Beyonce accepting her husband's moment of vulnerability as a chance to try again. It'll take time to truly repair things in full for sure, and Beyonce makes it very clear it'll take time before she fully trusts him again, but this is a step to polishing that flawed diamond to something beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous song, definitely a favourite.

37. 'Pray You Catch Me' by Beyonce - we now have the opening song of this album - man, it's weird going through them in this order instead of they way they're sequenced on the album - but this is the track where Beyonce first gets the clue that something is terribly wrong. As the vocals layer in against the very muted beat, mournful pianos, and strings, Beyonce hopes she can push away the insecurity and her own doubts to pray she captures him whispering the truth - and yet she also prays that he sees her listening, that he'll realize what he's done and confess, not lie to him again... and yet as we've seen going through the album, that isn't going to be the case. Powerful, low-key opening that manages to pull you in regardless, it might not be among my list of absolute favourites, but still a great tune.

35. 'Freedom' by Beyonce ft. Kendrick Lamar - now if we're looking for a track that hits like an atom bomb of righteous rage that you'd never expect to see chart in today's day and age, it's this one. Part anthem where Beyonce screams for the freedom of black women against sizzling organs, sharp drumwork, and a collage of furious samples, the inclusion of Kendrick's incisive verse paints the song in both a populist and personal light, speaking more than just freedom from systemic racism but from the barrage of distrust and self-loathing that has fueled Beyonce's insecurities throughout this record - to quote her directly, she's gotta keep running 'cause a winner don't quit on themselves'. It's anthemic, massive, layered against one of Just Blaze's career-best beats, it's a titan of a song. Shame it's probably not going to stick around.

28. 'Don't Hurt Yourself' by Beyonce ft. Jack White - and here's another one that's probably not going to stick around for long, mostly because it's a blues rock song that features Jack White's harsh tones on the chorus with the organ flutters mirrored in the guitars before the bass gurgles beneath the symphonic swell. And it's easily one of Beyonce's most furious songs, the moment where she pitches restraint out the window and tears into Jay-Z with the righteous fury of a woman scorned, showing just how easy it would be for her to move on and throw him aside - after all, everything he does to her reflects on him as well. And coupled with Beyonce delivering the sort of furious and raw performance howling through the grimy filter of which I didn't know she was capable, it's one of the biggest standouts of Lemonade and easily one of my favourites. Absolutely awesome, killer song.

18. '6 Inch' by Beyonce ft. The Weeknd - and yet even with Jack White and Kendrick Lamar, there's a part of me that might just love this song a little more - and unlike those two, it has The Weeknd and a bombastic sound that might have a chance in hell of lasting on the charts. Granted, The Weeknd's presence is pretty perfunctory - he handles an opening verse opening the track for Beyonce as a hype man before Beyonce anchors the symphonic bombast of the track against the odd horn sample behind the hook before the trap beat kicks into gear. And yet even then it's going to switch into an interpolation of an Animal Collective sample on the bridge that fits ridiculously well in supporting the razor sharp work anthem, balancing the hard grind with opulence that gives the song impressive swell and real weight. I can't recommend this highly enough, and I sincerely hope it sticks around - amazingly good.

13. 'Hold Up' by Beyonce - okay, I'm not surprised this charted as high as it did, but I do wish I liked this track a lot better... mostly while the bubbly tropical vibe has a certain charm to it with the guitars - minus that airhorn, of course - the lyrics feel like a bit of a patchwork. The hook is an interpolation of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's 'Maps', the outro pulls from Soulja Boy of all people, and the verses are riding a line of instability in and of themselves, as Beyonce second guesses herself and races through his phone, trying to find answers behind the opulent mask. She knows it looks jealous or crazy, but she'd prefer to find the truth and damn the impression instead of getting walked over. And when she finds that truth, the fact that she never quite explodes on this song heightens the tension all the further. And yet, while I appreciate the balancing act this song achieves... I'm sorry, I can't get past that airhorn and Soulja Boy lyrical snippet, they drag me completely out of the song. Good track, but it should have been great.

11. 'Sorry' by Beyonce - I'll admit I was a little surprised to see this as the second-heightest charting song after 'Formation' - sure, it's got the most mainstream accessible sound with the bright buzzy synths and trap beat, plus containing that 'Becky with the good hair' line that made people lose their minds - but it doesn't quite have the bombast that I loved about most of this record. Now don't get me wrong, it's still great, especially Beyonce's performance balancing between kiss-off and the real sadness beneath the surface as she takes off, especially on the final verse where she leaves the note and leaves with Blue... but I wouldn't quite call this my favourite, especially the clanking outro that seems to dissipate with a bit of a chintzy synth line. Again, still a great song, but not quite in the upper tier, at least for me.

10. 'Formation' by Beyonce - well, guess it took till the album dropped for this to shop up properly. 'Formation' has been bubbling beneath the Hot 100 for months now, and now it's finally got the swell it needed to smash all the way in the top 10... and I'll admit it's not really my favourite from this record. Beyonce's ratchet side doesn't really do it for me, but this is probably the case where she sticks it the most, certainly better than the sloppiness of '7/11', playing off an oddly hollow springy synth until the horns add more actual melody to it. And the lyrics... well, they do pretty much you'd expect a gender-flipped trap anthem to do - floss, rep for your hometown, emphasize dominant sexuality, and emphasize independence. In other words, it's Beyonce doing what Beyonce does best, and even know it's defiantly not for me, I can still respect it, if only because enough of the lyrics run the line between ridiculous and kind of awesome regardless. Not a favourite of mine, but it's still pretty good.

So that was this week, and wow, the worst is easy: 'Go Flex' by Post Malone runs away with that, with 'Wake Up' by Fetty Wap snagging Dishonourable Mention. But the Best... well, I can't have a six-way tie, but I will opt for a few ties, the first at the top between '6 Inch' ft. The Weeknd and 'Freedom' ft. Kendrick Lamar, with Honourable Mention tied between 'Don't Hurt Yourself' ft. Jack White and 'Sandcastles'. Okay, even though I get the sinking feeling that Drake is going to smash a whole chunk of these songs away, can we please keep most of these around, because the charts will be a lot more awesome with Beyonce than more interchangeable Drake, okay?

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