Tuesday, June 21, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 2, 2016

So a week or so back I might have said that I was gearing up for one of the worst upcoming album release dates in recent memory... and yet just days after I said that, all of my concerns seemed to drop away. Both Iggy Azalea and Rae Sremmurd pushed back their albums and that just leaves me with Riff Raff, and I can handle him. But apparently the universe was unwilling to let me get off that easy, because from a quick look through the charts, we've got a really bad week ahead of us, folks.

But surely, you say, it can't be that bad, just look at the top ten! And I did - the problem is that it's far from good! 'One Dance' by Drake, Kyla & Wizkid still holds the top spot thanks to streaming, although considerable sales and a narrowing airplay gap do prove it's got staying power even without a video, and while I'm not complaining that Justin Timberlake took 'Can't Stop The Feeling' to #2 on airplay and sales, the continued weakness on streaming means it's not going to last long there. Hell, it only managed to push back 'Panda' by Desiigner to #3 because sales and airplay are finally falling off, and even then it's not fast enough. Now you'd think 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya would be primed to go higher with airplay momentum and decent sales... but there isn't a huge streaming push or YouTube, and I don't really think it's got the traction. That's even more of the case for 'Work From Home' by Fifth Harmony ft. Ty Dolla $ign, which might be holding its streaming and YouTube but is losing airplay and sales hard. This makes it vulnerable to a major challenge from 'This Is What You Came For' by Calvin Harris and Rihanna, which has airplay, sales, and streaming momentum and it's only a matter of time before the video impacts the charts too - it went up to #6 this week but I can see it going higher. Not quite the case for Rihanna's other hit 'Needed Me', which rose to #7 but less on its own strengths - it might have airplay and streaming traction but nobody is buying this song, and you need sales to get you higher. Then you have the Rihanna rip-off from Sia and Sean Paul with 'Cheap Thrills', being our first new entry into the Top 10 at #8, with huge airplay and considerable sales and streaming behind it, even with some YouTube for added momentum. Of course, it was able to get there partially on the weakness of 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' by Mike Posner, which fell to #9 as sales and streaming evaporated, airplay was shaky, and even YouTube took a hit. Then we have our second new top ten entry: 'Don't Mind' by Kent Jones, a track riding airplay and streaming gains and even some sales despite being a mostly lousy song. And that's the overriding problem: if I were to average the scores out of five I'd give the top ten, it'd come out to under a three - which is barely passing.

But fine, that's the top ten, you can't expect quality to always rise to the top, what fell out of the charts this week? Well, of our dropouts, it's more of a mixed bag - I didn't like 'Middle' by DJ Snake and Bipolar Sunshine or 'Snapback' by Old Dominion, but it took out 'Formation' by Beyonce, 'Youth' by Troye Sivan, 'Mind Reader' by Dustin Lynch, and 'My Church' by Maren Morris - that's not a net positive! At least our losing entries were weaker songs, as 'Might Not' by Belly and The Weeknd flops to 96 and 'Messin' Around' by Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias loses momentum to 77, along with two debuts from last week with 'For Free' by DJ Khaled and Drake sliding to 40 and 'Treat You Better' by Shawn Mendes dropping hard to a 63 - good.

But it's a little less good when you consider our returning entries and gains, of which in the former category we got a considerable chunk. And it's not really a good sign when the best of them are probably 'Different For Girls' by Dierks Bentley and Elle King at 99, or 'Hymn For The Weekend' by Coldplay with Beyonce on backing vocals outshining everyone else here at 88. The rest... well, apparently the charts were lacking in acoustic passive aggression so 'We Don't Talk Anymore' by Charlie Puth ft. Selena Gomez came back to 86, Schoolboy Q's lousy choice of lead-off singles with 'That Part' ft. Kanye West went to 76, and - bizarrely - Shakira bounced back to 70 with 'Try Everything'. Shame the song has nearly none of her personality, but what can you expect? And in our gains, the spread of quality is even shakier. On the one hand, I'm not complaining that 'Church Bells' by Carrie Underwood is picking up traction to 48, or that 'Close' by Nick Jonas and Tove Lo recovered up to 14 off of his album release. Hell, even though I'm still not entirely on board with the song I'm okay with 'Never Be Like You' by Flume ft. Kai going to 36. But the rest of our gains are crap, with the least bad being OneRepublic going completely off the rails with 'Wherever I Go', which went to 64. Still better than 'Gold' by Kiiara, because apparently making a YTP masquerading as a mediocre pop song is enough to get you charting to 67. But worst of all, we have the sudden boost for 'Me Too' by Meghan Trainor, rising to 18, because for some reason it now has airplay and sales traction. Can we not have this become a hit, people, I'm starting to run out of space on my prospective worst list and we're only halfway through the year!

But folks, where things look truly awful are in our new arrivals, so might as well start with...

98. 'Toothbrush' by DNCE - it's almost fitting that on the same week Nick Jonas' album impacted the charts, his brother's band also got a boost. And you know, I was willing to give DNCE another chance: sure, 'Cake By The Ocean' is annoying as hell, but one bad song doesn't make a band. And to be fair, 'Toothbrush' is a bit better, but only barely. It still has the problem of a hook that pushes Joe Jonas into his falsetto and trying for sexual innuendo in some of the clumsiest, safest ways possible. I mean, with the bouncy plastic production on the guitars and percussion this song could soundtrack Disney TV movies, it's not like the bass line is actually allowed to cut loose behind the odd muffled film piled over it, and the most explicit it ever gets is describing this girl in her underwear wearing his T-shirt and suddenly I'm getting Thomas Rhett flashbacks. But after listening to a record from the Red Hot Chili Peppers that even toned down still have more funk and punch, it's clear that DNCE still plays in the kiddie pool. Next!

94. 'My PYT' by Wale ft. Sam Sneak - you know, I haven't talked much about Wale on my show, even though I do find him a pretty fascinating but frustrating artist, the sort of guy who has big ideas and ambition but only manages to stick the landing every once and a while. I didn't review The Album About Nothing - mostly because a few listens convinced me that while I appreciated the Seinfeld homage it wasn't going to stick the landing - but I didn't mind that song he did with Usher last year, mostly because Usher ran away with it completely. Now with this being the lead-off single for his next solo album... well, the first thing you'd recognize is a hook, which is a blatant lift from Michael Jackson's 'PYT' which actually has tightness and punch that Wale's drone cannot remotely approach, even as he actually samples Marvin Gaye's 'Sexual Healing'. Seriously, estate of Marvin Gaye, I might understand going after Robin Thicke for 'Blurred Lines', but what is it with giving away sample rights for one of your most iconic song to these below-average R&B tracks? And make no mistake, this is below-average at best, with Sam Sneak doing his best Schoolboy Q Impression plus Autotune - gross - and Wale flubbing rhymes as he lazily croons his way through a standard R&B hookup song. Sorry, Wale, but 'fetish' doesn't rhyme with 'either', 'you' doesn't rhyme with 'shortie', and bragging about giving a girl all of Kylie's lipsticks is still a poor attempt at flattery especially when it takes you until the end of the song to ask her name! It's another vivid excuse that co-opting the music and hooks of better artists doesn't come close to giving you their game, and this is flat-out embarassing. Next!

92. 'Money Longer' by Lil Uzi Vert - oh, I haven't been looking forward to this. I'll admit my exposure to Lil Uzi Vert has been sparse - I heard him on A$AP Ferg's last album on the very worst track there - but apparently he's a Philadelphia MC who has been churning out mixtapes, with this being his first charting single off of his fourth tape. And it's tricky to describe his sound - basically imagine someone hopping on Young Thug's vocal affectations with a more nasal voice and more Autotune, your standard bassy trap beat, and a oily synth line that might be one of the most aggressively headache-inducing melodies I've heard all year! And wow, talk about lazy bars - his verses are some of the laziest connecting rhymes you'll hear and any rapper who feels the need to reference Chris Brown's 'Loyal' and then follow through with a second verse where the only things that aren't lasting are his relationship with this girl and his erection. Seriously, American public, if you wanted a XXL Freshman you could have had Anderson .Paak or Denzel Curry, and you picked this guy? Because this is complete garbage, and knowing all of our luck, it's going to be a hit. Next!

90. 'Sweatshirt' by Jacob Sartorius - and here's the song that I can imagine so many people are going to want me to rip to shreds, the bottom of the barrel when it comes to Vine stars getting famous too fast and too young. So for those of you not in the know, Jacob Sartorius is a 13-year old Vine and Musical.ly star known for lip sync videos and this is his lead-off single. In other words, I wasn't expecting a Justin Bieber situation - as much as Bieber's recent material is devoid of likable vocal personality, you could make the argument that he had real instrumental chops when Scooter Braun signed him. Sartorius on the other hand doesn't even have that, which means we have something closer to a Rebecca Black situation. That also means there's a limit to how angry I can get at Sartorius himself - as much as fame has probably gone straight to this kid's head, it's more appropriate to blame the music and marketing slime who convinced him this was a good idea and who are looking to profit. Because there is no way around how atrocious this track is on every level, especially musically - that acoustic guitar, a horrible squealing synth on the hook, and compression crushing all the instruments into a fuzzy, ear-bleeding cheese grater quality. And of course, Sartorius is out of his depth, as the autotune tries to crowbar his voice on tune, but what about the lyrics? Well, what about them - half are obviously cribbed from Drake and the other half are from far better sweater-related songs, both Weezer and Hedley. But the larger issue is that even on the level of 'so bad it's audio torture', it's not even particularly memetic so that when it's used for enhanced interrogations it won't stick in the brain like 'Friday' did. So here's my suggestion: yeah, this song is horrendous and Jacob Sartorius is far past the point of over-exposure, but can we please not make this a thing? The harder we ignore it, the sooner it all goes away.

87. 'Broccoli' by D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty - so to help you all relax a bit after the arsenic-laced sandpaper that was 'Sweatshirt', here's a song about weed from an artist affiliated with Chance The Rapper and yet another XXL Freshman. Now D.R.A.M. is a Virginia artist who a slightly rougher voice than Chance, and this is also his first charting single. And maybe I'm just scarred by the past few tracks, but I actually found this pretty enjoyable. It's not without problems at all - that bass is way too thick to really balance well with the treble keys and I can't say that flute on the hook is all that impressive - but it does lend this song a certain cheerful vibe that fits D.R.A.M.'s slightly off-kilter flexing on his verse. And I have to admit, despite many of the shallow references and how yet again he's taking someone else's baby mama, there were pieces that I like about the guy: his bridge yelps remind me a bit of Fetty Wap in a good way and his flow leads to the instantly memorable line, 'All I wanted was the fame and every game they made on Sega'. That, along with how this song seems more like a celebration of success and how he seems genuine in asserting how he treats people equally made the track pretty likable - mostly because he's in contrast to Lil Yachty. I've never really been all that fond of his slightly more melodic Future-esque delivery, and when you throw in lines about 'turning this shit to Columbine' or '50 Shades Of Grey, beat the pussy like Hulk Hogan', I'm not exactly on board here! In a better week, this song would not hold up well, but here... the sad fact is that I'd probably take this over everything else, with the exception of...

(because of course it's not on YouTube...)

71. 'Champions' by Kanye West, Gucci Mane, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Travi$ Scott, Yo Gotti, Quavo & Desiigner - so I think I've mentioned in the past that you don't tend to hear posse cuts on the charts, mostly because they tend to run long and aren't especially mainstream friendly, more for hip-hop junkies who are psyched to see a bunch of spitters trying to show each other up. And yet with this being our lead-off for Kanye West's second G.O.O.D. Music compilation Cruel Winter - because Cruel Summer was totally not an underwhelming letdown... and here's my first question, where's the Pusha T feature? Kanye, were you really scared that he'd show up everyone else on your label? And he probably would, because it's a little alarming how many wack lines show up in nearly everyone's verses. Quavo actually starts things off pretty well, and if this song has one huge benefit, it's a fuzzed-out hook from Travi$ Scott and later Desiigner that plays really well against the huge buzzy synths and bass. And hell, even despite Kanye dropping into a staccato flow on the second half of his verse, he's got the sort of wild energy that fits for a track like this... energy that neither Gucci Mane or Big Sean can effectively maintain. And sure, Big Sean's verse is okay, even if I've never liked his verbal pile-up of a flow, but bragging about buying your girl a Honda CRX, a car that's probably twenty-five years old and unlikely to be functional! And 2 Chainz's verse is worse - seriously, 'in that hoe's mouth like a toothpick', it's that small Tity Boi? And why the hell are you wearing pajamas to a steakhouse? At least he had that snowball effect line, which is more than I can say for Yo Gotti - dude, you've been waiting to work with Kanye for years, and you throw in the line 'Way more shit than a pamper'? And then we have Gucci Mane's basic flow to end to the song where he tries to rhyme 'cram' with 'crown' and I'm done with this. 

And yet here's the thing - this week is bad enough that even despite all of that, I'm still giving 'Champions' by Kanye and his posse the best of the week - at least it has a hook and roughly three-and-a-half artists who could pull something together, with Honourable Mention going to 'Broccoli' from D.R.A.M. and Lil Yachty. Dishonourable Mention and Worst, on the other hand... yeah, as much as 'Money Longer' by Lil Uzi Vert makes me angrier, against the minor cataclysm that is 'Sweatshirt' by Jacob Sartorius, he's getting a pass. Please, for the love of everything holy and unholy, can we please get a better week?


  1. Mark is quickly going to wear out "Let's hope for better next week" quick.

  2. Ride can't break into the Top 10 fast enough.

  3. Honestly, the June 25 week was way worse than this. At least with this one, all the songs will most likely miss the year-end list, except Broccoli, which is enjoyable ironically. With the previous week, there was nothing redeeming and two of them are essentially set for the year-end list and very well may make his worst list.