Tuesday, June 28, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 9, 2016

So last week was one of the worst I'd seen on the Billboard Hot 100 in a long time - it was genuinely disheartening trying to put that episode together, pretty painful all things considered. But the good thing about hitting rock bottom is that you can always recover, and while I wouldn't say everything clicked on the Hot 100 here, I do see signs of improvement that should definitely be called out.

Of course, if we're looking at the Top 10, those signs are pretty sparse indeed. Of course 'One Dance' by Drake, Kyla & Wizkid has the top spot thanks to steadily increasing airplay, strong sales and dominant streaming - and at this point, if we don't get a major debut and soon, I'm not sure what will stop this song from running into the summer lull. I certainly don't see 'Can't Stop The Feeling' by Justin Timberlake as able to unseat it from #2 - it might be dominant on sales, but it seemed to peak in airplay this week and streaming has never been strong. Still enough to keep 'Panda' by Desiigner' back to #3, which also peaked in airplay and has far weaker sales, only where it is thanks to streaming strength that isn't going away. The question becomes whether its margins are enough to hold back 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya for much longer, because with both stronger airplay and sales, you'd think it was a contender... except that it actually lost streaming this week, so never mind. The real challenger will probably be 'This Is What You Came For' by Calvin Harris and Rihanna rising to #5, which is now dominating YouTube, gaining on streaming, and with major traction on airplay and sales - really, just a matter of time here before it gets higher. Then we have the Rihanna knockoff 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia and Sean Paul rising to #6, which picked up major airplay traction to match the sales and even a streaming boost, which was promptly offset by a slip on YouTube, go figure. Still was probably going to jump 'Work From Home' by Fifth Harmony ft. Ty Dolla $ign anyways, which fell to #7 as it hemorrhages airplay, slips on streaming, bleeds sales, and loses that top spot on YouTube - my suspicion is that this'll be out of the top ten quite soon. It did push back 'Needed Me' by Rihanna to #8, which has airplay and streaming traction, but weaknesses in sales mean it probably won't get much higher. Then we have 'Don't Mind' by Kent Jones picking up to #9, which has traction with everything except YouTube and I really can't be bothered because thank the Heavens 'Ride' by twenty one pilots finally cracked the top 10! Now I don't want to overstate its staying power - it picked up huge airplay traction this week and has good sales, but its streaming is nowhere near strong and it has no YouTube for an added boost, so its success will be entirely driven radio momentum as of now. And with another twenty one pilots song debuting this week... let's just say we want to avoid oversaturation, because this is a damn great song - still not quite one of my favourites from the album, but hey, you can't get everything.

Granted, when you take a look at our losers and dropouts, it's clear you can still get something worthwhile. I'm not complaining that we lost 'Exchange' by Bryson Tiller, 'Somewhere On A Beach' by Dierks Bentley, 'Might Not' by Belly and The Weeknd, and 'Sweatshirt' by Jacob Sartorius, that's a net positive! And to continue our positives, our losers and dropouts... okay, a little more of a mixed bag. Drake, thankfully, continues to lose with 'Grammys' ft. Future to 93 and 'Still Here' proving itself wrong to 91, and then Shakira's bland Zootopia song 'Try Everything' fell to 87 after the DVD release fell out. Beyond that, though... we have the best of our charting Rihanna songs 'Kiss It Better' falling to 99, we have 'Body' by Dreezy ft. Jeremih slipping to 76 even despite being a decent track, 'Humble And Kind' by Tim McGraw making a graceful dip down to 52 - it should be out next week - and oddly 'Unsteady' by X Ambassadors took a major loss to 60. I thought the alt-rock band might have more traction, but turns out they aren't so lucky.

Unfortunately, our gains and returning entries are a lot less promising, mostly because in the latter category we have no returning entries. Let's get this out of the way, the majority of these songs are pretty bad, with 'My PYT' by Wale and Sam Sneak rising to 80, 'We Don't Talk Anymore' by Charlie Puth and Selena Gomez boring us to 61, and, worst of all, 'Treat You Better' by Shawn Mendes rising to 50. The best thing I can say about our gains is that 'Broccoli' by D.R.A.M. and Lil Yachty went up to 65 off its debut, but again, it's only a decent song - Lil Yachty's verse should have been cut and just like most records coming from the Chance The Rapper camp, it desperately needed someone to fix the mix balance. But hey, I'll take what we can get here.

But that brings us to our list of new arrivals, so let's hope there's more quality there, starting with...

100. 'Night's On Fire' by David Nail - okay, let me start with a question for you all: how many of you know that David Nail is releasing an album in a month? Better question, how many of you remember that David Nail actually exists? And yeah, I know that's not particularly fair, but he's always struck me as one of those pop country stars that might have decent intentions but lacked the personality or skill to be better. And this song... well, it pretty much fits the majority of that description. For one, while this has been a rising problem in country for some time, whoever pairs a banjo with a drum machine is in for problems, especially when the mix is so badly blended... except in this case where the chorus is completely gutless and is almost completely lacking in dynamics. And you won't care about the lyrics - it's by-the-numbers bro country banality that we've all heard hundreds of times before at this point, and with an oddly muted chorus, David Nail can bring even less personality to bear. In other words, I'm only going to cover this new album if there's nothing else, because otherwise I'm going to forget this exists.

92. 'Why You Always Hatin' by YG ft. Drake & Kamaiyah - okay, so much to nearly everyone's surprise I actually quite liked YG's sophomore release - it wasn't a great record, but it definitely was a step into making better material. I'm just a little dispirited that this is the single that got a push and not 'Twist My Fingaz', which is way catchier and has one of the slickest g-funk instrumentals I've heard in a while. This... it's not quite as good because it pulls YG more into Drake's lane than the other way around, but it is still good. It's a little distracting how much YG sounds like 50 Cent on his first verse and there are a few dropped rhymes, but overall I think my issue is how much YG is out of his natural comfort zone. Flexing does not come naturally to him, which he even references on his third verse... although you could make the argument driving around an expensive car is flexing in its own right. But really, Drake is probably the best part of this song - his verse is solid, he plays off the beat well, and he's more comfortable on this material than YG is. Overall, not a bad track, but again, there were better choices for singles.

88. 'Ain't No Stopping Us Now' by Kane Brown - can someone please tell Kane Brown that with the release of Cole Swindell's sophomore album You Should Be Here that bro-country is dead? It's over, the wave is done, and going viral on Facebook isn't going to change that! But apparently this guy has enough social media buzz that we're getting this reportedly lead-off single from an upcoming debut album... and I'll give Kane Brown this, he doesn't have a bad voice, and it'll be enough to deceive a lot of people into thinking this song is good, because with the overdone fake percussion that's borderline trap, gutless guitar, extraneous backing vocals and whistles, and the choppy mix on the final chorus, this is a bro-country redux that's some of the most overproduced trash I've heard in a while. Want proof? This song has the lyrics, 'Gonna get the guns out, all about rocking that farmer's tan' - throw in a mention of a 'dad bod' and you'd have one of the most shamelessly meat-headed bro anthems I've heard in months! I'd take Chris Lane's 'Fix' over this, you know, the song where he bragged about his girl's 'Walter White high' which is goddamn asinine but still is more likable than this. Kane Brown, your career is being propped by dead trends, smart marketing, and Facebook videos - gross.

86. 'What The World Needs Is Love' by Broadway For Orlando - there's no way around discussing this song without mentioning the horrible tragedy that happened in an Orlando gay nightclub, which has become the largest mass shooting in US history. And yeah, to get political here, this appears to be an act of self-hating bigotry that was enabled by religious confusion, a law enforcement that didn't act quickly enough, and US gun laws that are woefully inadequate because the NRA wants to keep a large segment of your population scared enough to want to buy more. Keep in mind, folks, the NRA is a lobby for the gun manufacturing industry and the military-industrial complex, not the people, so when they urge politicians to vote against a majority of sensible gun owners when it comes to regulations and even studying the effects of gun violence, they're doing it because they're manipulative hucksters trying to speak for a base that deserves better. But we're getting off track - one thing that happened just hours later was the Tony Awards, Broadway's awards for theater which was rededicated as a tribute to Orlando... but that wasn't enough. And so with the star power that most charity singles can't draw these days, they basically got everyone who is anyone on Broadway right now and put together a song - and it's one of the best examples. A long while back near the beginning of this show I've said I don't tend to like charity singles for being bloated, over-produced, and often overwrought and a little self-satisfied. And it worked, because this is a pretty good song, a cover of a 1965 Burt Bacharach-written jazz standard. And what I kind of like is that the arrangement is tastefully done and it avoids the overproduction that tends to cripple many of these tracks to level the vocal playing field, whereas with a set of Broadway stars it can play to an analogous range and vocal type. I won't say it quite reaches the same high points as the best charity singles can, but if you're a Broadway fan and you'd like to hear a ton of major names contribute with nobody sounding bad, pick this up.

78. 'All In My Head (Flex)' by Fifth Harmony ft. Fetty Wap - so I've been asked to justify why I like Fetty Wap a couple of times, and I think this guest appearance is one of the big reasons why, because I can see him becoming a go-to rapper for guest verses and he'd probably be a pretty damn great one. He's not one to add cred like was the case for Ludacris or Lil Wayne back in their heydays - he just sounds like he's so happy to be here that he immediately elevates the energy and vibe. He's not a particularly good singer or rapper, but he's got enough energy and enthusiasm that when placed in contrast with Fifth Harmony trying to be sexy, he ends up helping make the best song off of Fifth Harmony's sophomore album. And yet while I'm inclined to give all of the credit to Fetty Wap for running away with this song, there are good decision made across the song, the easiest being that Camila is barely on it and is easily the worst part when she is. It's much more of Dinah and Normani's song, which is only a positive, and when you anchor it in a pretty decent guitar sample and synth pairing that features Lauren doing a solid prechorus, this is quite likable. Hell, even the lyrics aren't bad - it's a mutual ego trip that plays into a decent hookup. And look, Fifth Harmony are not my thing, but this is a good song, and if they want to move into more of a pop direction like this, I'd be on board.

67. 'Dark Necessities' by Red Hot Chili Peppers - on some level, this isn't even fair, because you can have good pop and terrible pop country, and then a veteran funk rock group drops one of the best songs from their most recent album and it's not even a contest. And yeah, 'Dark Necessities' is awesome, hands down - the piano builds great melody into a killer bass slap with a sharp plucky guitar line, the interlude has some great organ accents to flesh out the dreamlike vibe, and it ends with a tightly controlled guitar solo that does exactly what it's designed to do before breaking into a melancholic that's damn near perfect. Even the lyrics work, highlighting the grimy, unsettled darkness that might be ugly but is needed to feed into good art, the sort of twisted and yet hollow feeling that gives the song a chilly edge. Look, I was not wild about The Getaway as an album, but I like what the Chili Peppers did with this - kickass song!

14. 'Heathens' by twenty one pilots - okay, remember when I mentioned about twenty one pilots breaking into the top ten and how I was uncertain they'd last? It ties into a trend you often see with radio listeners, which tend to be skeptical of newer, weirder sounds - if they do tolerate them, it doesn't tend to be for long. And it leads to one of two scenarios: the band cuts off some of their more interesting edges to placate the mainstream, or they find themselves muscled off the charts. Now the buzz was suggesting 'Heathens' fell into the former category, especially as it's a soundtrack hit for the Suicide Squad movie... and I'd be lying if I said that wasn't true, as this is not very good. And it's not because of the writing - twenty one pilots are pretty damn good songwriters and this is no exception, as they call out the Clique for pouncing on who they consider are 'fake fans' - even if the critic has given their two most recent albums very high scores - since the band has blown up, given that you can't always tell why someone might go to their music for solace. My issues comes in the instrumentation and production, the first being the godawful vocal layering, which takes both pitched-up and pitched-down vocals over Tyler Joseph and it gets distracting. The larger issue comes in that you're waiting for this song to really explode on the final choruses, take all the desaturated pianos and ominous chugging noises... and yet since twenty one pilots doesn't have a guitarist, we don't get the hammering explosion to pay everything off, or even heavier blasts of synth. It's planting, but we don't get much of a payoff. And while the bridge tries, it feels turgid and lacking in punch.

So okay, not the greatest note to go out on, but overall this wasn't a bad week. Best is easy: 'Dark Necessities' by Red Hot Chili Peppers runs away with it, and I'm giving Honourable Mention to 'What The World Needs Is Love' by Broadway For Orlando - if it wasn't for Camila's verse, Fifth Harmony would have gotten it. Worst are both going to 'country' tracks, with 'Ain't Nobody Stoppin' Us Now' by Kane Brown for the worst and 'Night's On Fire' by David Nail for a completely forgettable Dishonourable Mention. Okay, looks like we're back on the right track, let's keep it up.


  1. Thanks for putting into words exactly why Heathens hasn't really been doing it for me, Mark.

  2. Everyone seems to love Heathens and you wouldn't belive the dirty looks I got when I said it was meh.