Tuesday, May 17, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 28, 2016

And now... the cooldown week. After the past several weeks of instability, this is the return to the 'status quo' that is characterized by songs returning to old positions of strength and a ton of returning entries. So while to the outside viewer it might appear that there were a lot of shifts this week - and there were, let's not kid ourselves - most are just resets to a form of equilibrium as Drake and Beyonce's big debuts continue to fade away. As such, you'd think it'd be a quieter week, and for the most part it was...

And then Justin Timberlake showed up. Might as well jump straight to our top ten, because from out of nowhere, Justin Timberlake dropped a single - from the Trolls soundtrack, if you can believe that - and for the first time in a decade, he grabbed a solo #1 on the Hot 100 with 'Can't Stop The Feeling!'. And there's a lot to appreciate about his timing and execution here: the past two #1s have taken the top more on the weaknesses of other songs and not consistent strength across the board, there's always a market for huge summer songs around this time of year, it's a long-awaited return single, and he dropped the video that even despite outselling his closest competition 2-1 and with seismic airplay gains, he picked up enough of a streaming edge to get there. And this has to sting for Drake, as 'One Dance' with Kyla & Wizkid is shoved back to #2 even despite dominating streaming and considerable airplay traction - but again, no video. 'Panda' by Desiigner actually does have a video - even if it is only on TIDAL - but even with that it doesn't have JT's airplay traction to match solid sales and streaming. This pushes back '7 Years' by Lukas Graham as well to #4 even despite airplay dominance, pretty good sales and even some gains on YouTube, but it's an open question how long it'll stay at the top on the radio, because it has been wavering. This also pushed back 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' by Mike Posner to #5, which had slightly weaker sales, and looks to have peaked in airplay despite strong YouTube - and really, I'm fine with that, it did far better than I think anyone could have expected. What's stronger in YouTube is 'Work From Home' by Fifth Harmony & Ty Dolla $ign, which is actually stronger than Posner is streaming... but it's behind both on airplay and sales, I don't quite see it jumping head just yet. What might hold more traction is 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya, which has held #7 thanks to airplay traction and very solid sales and streaming... but without YouTube, I'm not quite sure whether it'll get much higher. Granted, it did jump past 'Work' by Rihanna and Drake', which went to #8 on hard losses in airplay and YouTube - it's basically only where it is on streaming at this point. Next up is 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn at #9, which may have recovered a bit on streaming but peaked this week on the radio and started losing traction fast - against competition, I'd expect this to have a quick exit from the top 10. And on the topic of competition, we've got our second new top ten entry: 'Needed Me' by Rihanna. Frankly, I do not understand the appeal of this stodgy DJ Mustard cut, and it appears the radio agrees, because sales and airplay are non-existent... but it's got a ton of streaming, so it might just be a matter of time before it gets more traction. Going into the summer, though... yeah, I doubt it.

And on that promising note, losers and dropouts! Very little to talk about in the latter category, the majority being Drake and Beyonce songs destined to fall out anyway with the only major one being Drake's 'Summer Sixteen', a song crippled by oversaturation. And the losses were not kind of either of them this week either, so let's start with Beyonce. 'Sorry' fell to 31, 'Formation' slipped to 47, 'Hold Up' dropped to 48, and exasperatingly '6 Inch' ft. The Weeknd slid down to 82. But it was even worse for Drake: 'Hype' collapsed to 49, 'Still Here' went to 56, 'Grammys' with Future drooped to 63, 'Child's Play' thankfully went to 66, 'With You' ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR went to 71, '9' flipped down to 73, 'Feel No Ways' slid to 74, 'U With Me?' dropped to 80, and 'Fire & Desire' sputtered out to 93. The only loss this week that wasn't for Drake or Beyonce went to - surprise, surprise - Iggy Azalea, as 'Team' continued to flop hard to 99 - if this is your lead-off single for that sophomore album next month, that's a really bad sign.

But really, the action this week was in the gains and returning entries, and we have a lot to cover this week. Of particular note is country music regaining impressive traction as streaming dropped off and solid radio held over, which meant that a whole load of country tracks of dubious quality returned this week stronger than ever: 'Noise' by Kenny Chesney jumped to 93, 'Lights Come On' by Jason Aldean roared back to 81, 'Wasted Time' by Keith Urban moved to 64, and - thankfully - 'Record Year' by Eric Church is back at 85. The rest of the recoveries are really a mixed bag: 'Ain't Your Mama' by Jennifer Lopez picked up from the video to hit 76, 'You Don't Own Me' by Grace & G-Eazy snapped back to 86, 'Messin' Around' by Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias takes 98 running, 'Faded' by Alan Walker slides in at 96, and 'Ophelia' by The Lumineers manages to jump in at 100. Bizarrely, we also have 'Moolah' by Young Greatness, but if the gains this week were characterized by anything it would be mediocre hip-hop and R&B regaining traction. Let's run through the massive list, shall we: 'i hate u i love u' by gnash and Olivia O'Brien picks up to 78, 'Might Not' by Belly ft. The Weeknd staggers up to 69, 'Uber Everywhere' by MadeInTYO picks up to 68, 'Wicked' by Future goes to 65, 'Really Really' by Kevin Gates catches a second wind at 61, 'Cut It' by O.T. Genasis ft. Young Dolph picks up big gains to 37, and the collaboration between Fat Joe, Remy Ma, and French Montana goes 'All The Way Up' to 52. Granted, it's not all bad: 'Law' by Yo Gott ft. E-40 went to 79, 'Body' by Dreezy ft. Jeremih picked up to 72, 'If It Ain't Love' by Jason Derulo outperformed my expectations to 67, and 'Kiss It Better' by Rihanna got back up to 62, but if I'm being honest, most of our gains don't impress me much here. Country especially: yeah, it's nice seeing 'Head Over Boots' by Jon Pardi recover to 77, 'Mind Reader' by Dustin Lynch rising to 58, and 'My Church' by Maren Morris making a striking turnaround to 57, but that also meant 'Came Here To Forget' by Blake Shelton surged back up to 54, and 'T-Shirt' by Thomas Rhett went back to 50 - joy. And when we get to the pop side of things... well, Pink's exercise in blandness 'Just Like Fire' surged up to 30 and 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia ft. Sean Paul was boosted to 38, but at least 'Light It Up' by Major Lazer and Nyla went to 75 and 'Never Be Like You' by Flume & Kai rose to 59. Most encouraging is the continued success of 'Ride' by twenty-one pilots going to 45 as it's set to be a solid summer hit. And that leaves us with our two new arrivals last week that got traction: sure, Drake and Rihanna picked up with 'Too Good' to 41, but the bigger story is 'Don't Mind' by Kent Jones surging up to 36 - sure, I get a good hook, but the song is obnoxious as hell, and definitely not one I can see myself revisiting any time soon.

So with that - and the acknowledgement that after the past two weeks, I need a bit of a shorter week - let's get to our new arrivals, starting with...

90. 'Church Bells' by Carrie Underwood - so as I mentioned last week, there's a rising trend in country music of utilizing more religious imagery for topics that aren't quite religious. And as such, I knew it was a matter of time before Carrie Underwood delivered the song from her most recent album that could easily slot into that trend while still fitting into your expectations of a darker Carrie Underwood single, the first half cribbed from Reba McEntire's 'Fancy' while the second is from any Carrie Underwood revenge fantasy. And really, 'fantasy' is the word to be emphasized here, because the focus on details paints the song in a certain stylized tone that I'll admit has some flair but doesn't quite disguise the fact that this is ground Carrie Underwood has walked before. And the production doesn't really help her much: the stomping percussion, the banjo trying to carry a melody before being sanded away into an incredibly thin, blurry mix that never picks up enough bite, not helped by the synth drizzled over the second verse. I don't mind Carrie Underwood in this lane of pop country, but I also can't help but feel her production could use a little more of an edge to really hammer this home. But at the end of the day... it's not better than 'Blown Away' or 'Two Black Cadillacs' in terms of murder ballads, but it's still pretty good and how often do we hear murder ballads on the Hot 100 these days - so yeah, I'll take it!

83. 'Into You' by Ariana Grande - okay, I can't be the only one who's kind of worried about Ariana Grande's upcoming album, am I? Yeah, I'll be covering it in a few days, but from every lead-off single I've had the sinking feeling it's not going to measure up to her best material - yes, even 'Dangerous Woman', a song I like but it's really not on the same level as 'Love Me Harder'. This track... well, I'm not quite certain it's on that level either, but it is promising. For one, it's a track that leans towards restraint with the muted grind of the low synth snap and Ariana cooing rather than belting, even against the sharper edges of the hook. Hell, even the lyrics don't come across as much of a pose as usual, coyly sexy without feeling out of her depth. But really, this song hits its mark on the bridge, with the much heavier cloud of synth that almost seems to swallow Ariana's voice but really just makes the song feel that much bigger. So yeah, I'm a fan of this, pretty solid tune.

70. 'Go Ahead And Break My Heart' by Blake Shelton ft. Gwen Stefani - so I've talked in the past how I really don't care much for celebrity gossip, but it's an unfortunate fact of life when you talk about pop music, especially when you get songs actively addressing it from two of the high-profile musicians involved. In this case, it almost seemed like the song was baiting controversy, featuring Blake Shelton's new paramour Gwen Stefani, titled 'Go Ahead And Break My Heart', and actually written by Blake Shelton himself - which is probably the most surprising, given that on his recent greatest hits release, he didn't write a single song there. So what about this track? Oddly... it's actually pretty good. Stronger prominent guitar melody that actually has some smoky presence, especially on Gwen Stefani's verse and the solo, real drums that kick in after the stiffer tapping percussion, it's the sort of neotraditional duet that Blake Shelton could pull off in his sleep and he and Gwen Stefani have decent chemistry. If I were to criticize it, I'd probably focus on the lyrics, which almost seem like they're talking past each other in this on-again-off-again relationship, especially as Gwen tries to confess her insecurities and Blake Shelton just seems to think on the bridge that it's destined to fail. It's a weirdly pessimistic view that's played straight, and I get the impression that Blake's verse is more targeted at his ex-wife Miranda Lambert than Gwen, which is just kind of wonky. I dunno, I want to like this more than I do, but as it is, it's a tough song to gauge, even if instrumentally Blake Shelton looks like he's on the right track.

1. 'Can't Stop The Feeling!' by Justin Timberlake - and now we have the big #1, the big comeback from Justin Timberlake, where he recruited Max Martin and Shellback for that big, flashy hit song. And... this is it? Seriously, this is all we get? Maybe it's coming from expectations set by The 20/20 Experience, but in terms of production and instrumentation, this is as flat and forgettable as it comes! Sure, the bubbly bassis catchy, but it's playing off a keyboard fragment that reminds me way too much of 'Feel Too Close' by Calvin Harris, and that's before we break into the retro-disco of the pre-chorus that plays into a hook that has far more handclaps and percussion than any actual instrumental melody! Yeah we get horn and guitar accents, and it's clear that JT is having a great time with some excellent falsetto - and sometimes, that can be enough, but then we run into the second major problem: it's a soundtrack hit, and thus the lyrics do absolutely nothing interesting. Now granted, it's a dance jam, lyrics are essentially forgettable regardless, but without much of a melodic foundation, I can't see this sticking with me. 

So that was this week - a fair bit shorter than last week, thankfully, but it also means picking the best and worst is trickier. For best, it really is a toss-up between Ariana Grande and Carrie Underwood, but I'm going to give the slightest possible edge to Ariana for the production on 'Into You'. As for worst... well, it's not a bad song, but I'm giving it to Justin Timberlake's 'Can't Stop The Feeling' more because it should be better. There's no flair or bombast to the track that previous hits have had, and he really is capable of something with so much more punch than this. Eh, it happens, and we'll see how long it really lasts.

1 comment:

  1. You know you've got a good week when the worst thing you say about a new entry is, "It just needs a little more flair."