Wednesday, June 1, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 11, 2016

So it seems like things have finally gotten back to normal on the Hot 100. Well, as normal as you can expect in the aftermath of Drake and Beyonce laying waste to most of the past month, but for now things seem to have fallen back into their established momentum, where even major album releases don't hit with the same impact. I was expecting another week of chaos thanks to Ariana Grande, but outside of one returning entry, the biggest story of this week is the finale of The Voice - seriously.

Hell, even the top ten isn't all that interesting this week. 'One Dance' by Drake, Kyla & Wizkid holds the number #1 thanks to dominance on streaming and airplay - even if it's not holding sales or have YouTube, at this point it might not need it. Desiigner's 'Panda', on the other hand, could do with whatever it could get, because airplay peaked, and great streaming and solid sales can only hold it up for so long. I would say that 'Can't Stop The Feeling' by Justin Timberlake would be a significant challenge, but despite ruling sales and huge airplay gains, it doesn't really have the streaming to get higher, and I can't see this retaking #1. And that's not factoring in 'Work From Home' by Fifth Harmony ft. Ty Dolla $ign, which rose up to #4 on modest airplay gains, decent sales, and YouTube dominance - if only streaming was stronger, it'd have a real shot in crushing its competition. And then there's 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya rising up to #5, which might have stronger streaming and sales and comparable airplay... but it's got no YouTube for that extra boost to get higher. But it didn't need it to rise above '7 Years' by Lukas Graham, which despite okay sales took heavy losses in all categories - especially airplay - to slide down to #6. It managed to cling above 'I Took A Pill In Ibiza' by Mike Posner holding at #7 which had even weaker sales and is also losing airplay - but it's got YouTube and that might keep its losses from getting worse. But now we have our first returning entry to the top 10: 'Dangerous Woman' by Ariana Grande at #8. And I'll admit to being a little surprised that Ariana didn't make more impact on the charts, considering how many videos she pushed in order to play every angle. And it does show, with 'Dangerous Woman' finally getting some streaming traction to match good sales and stronger airplay, but it might have been too little, too late. The last two spots on the top ten belong to Rihanna: 'Needed Me' rising up to #9 on inexplicable streaming traction that is only barely echoed on the radio; and 'Work' with Drake sliding to #10 as it loses in all categories yet again - I'd predict this being gone very soon.

And on that topic, losers and dropouts! Not many in the latter category this week, and all fairly easy to explain: 'Promise' by Kid Ink ft. Fetty Wap ends its unsteady chart run and 'Stitches' by Shawn Mendes, 'Roses' by The Chainsmokers ft. ROZES, and 'Don't' by Bryson Tiller all end runs that probably ran longer than they should have in the first place. And hell, most of the losers are fairly easy to predict too, mostly because of Drake's second wind driven by Spotify starting to sputter out. 'Hype' went to 45, '9' fell to 72, 'U With Me?' slid to 82, 'Fire & Desire' skidded down to 85, and 'Redemption' drooped to 95. And hell, if he managed to take 'No' by Meghan Trainor down hard to 35 thanks to a total collapse on airplay and 'Wherever I Go' by OneRepublic down off its debut to 81, that's only a good thing! Granted, it can't all be good news, because Beyonce took additional hits with 'Hold Up' sliding to 93 and 'Formation' continuing down to 75, and not only that, 'Kiss It Better' by Rihanna continued its downward trajectory to 91. I'd say I was okay with that given that Rihanna did debut a new single this week that we'll be discussing in a bit...but it's not 'Desperado', so I'm still a little irked by it.

But where the charts got the most traffic was in returning entries and gains, and let's start with the latter category, because it really was a mixed bag. For starters, I have no idea what the hell is happening with country, because while I understand 'Church Bells' by Carrie Underwood rising back to 67, the sudden boost for 'Head Over Boots' by Jon Pardi to 71 late in its run coupled with another resurgence for 'Lights Come On' by Jason Aldean up to 77... country radio, make up your damn mind with what you want here! Now I say all of that because in comparison with pop... yikes, there's a lot of bland mediocrity here. 'Just Like Fire' by Pink continues a meteoric rise to 16 for no adequately explained reason, 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia and Sean Paul recovers again to 24 on basically being off-brand Rihanna, and 'Messin' Around' by Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias is only up to 66 because of the hook ripped off from REO Speedwagon and not because anyone bothered to read through this clumsy mess of a track. Granted, when you look at hip-hop it somehow gets worse, with 'i hate u i love u' by gnash and Olivia O'Brien somehow being more boring than G-Eazy at 59, 'Uber Everywhere' by MadeInTYO being forgettable dreck up to 61, and 'All The Way Up' by Fat Joe, Remy Ma and French Montana being the revival that remotely nobody asked for at 38. Then there's 'Faded' by Alan Walker... it recovered to 80, and that's really all I have to say, the song has never really stuck with me. Where things seem the most interesting, of all places, is from rock, because 'Unsteady' by X Ambassadors picked up to 86 and 'The Sound Of Silence' cover from Disturbed picked up again to 49. I'm not saying either of these songs represent a rock revival that I still think is coming sooner rather than later, but it is interesting to see. And hell, you could even argue that the return of 'Ophelia' by the Lumineers to the charts at 97 could tie into that, but outside of 'Wake Up' by Fetty Wap coming back and being forgettable at 99 and 'Youth' by Troye Sivan making its newest comeback to 87, those aren't the returning entries I care about this week. The first of those is 'Into You' by Ariana Grande, the only other song from her new album to gain any sort of traction - and considering it's one of the best, I'm not complaining, I like seeing it back at 51. But the bigger story is 'Send My Love (To Your New Lover)' by Adele riding considerable sales and a ton of YouTube all the way to 26. And I'm going to repeat what I said when I covered 25, this song just doesn't do it for me. The lyrics aren't close to Adele's best, I don't like the chord progression on the hook, and I can't help but feel that this is a step to a much less interesting and emotionally compelling sound from the dramatic heights that Adele has reached in the past.

But moving past that, let's talk about our list of new arrivals, starting with:

100. 'Down That Road' by Alisan Porter - so here's something peculiar I've noticed with The Voice: in the absence of a clear dominating talent, the finale of the show can be a bit surprising with who's ultimately chosen, especially if it's not the 'crowd favourite'. This was the case with Craig Wayne Boyd a few seasons back, and looks to be the case here as well with Alisan Porter, who despite winning had the lowest charting song. And really, I kind of see why, because this is only okay at best. I've got my usual gripes against production from The Voice - it's rushed, completely lacking in texture, and this sort of "inspirational" major chord-heavy pop-country ballad is an easy sell here. The odd thing with this track is that it seems to hit its climax point midway through and then meander back to a hook that doesn't quite have the same bombast. As for our singer... eh, I'm not all that impressed: potent voice, but man she seems pitchy and nasal on the high notes. In other words, I don't expect to see or hear anything from her any time soon - next!

98. 'Hasta El Amanecer' by Nicky Jam - there's a part of me who still finds it weird that Nicky Jam is on the Hot 100 again. Odds are if you don't follow the Spanish charts or remember his brief moment of popularity thanks to Daddy Yankee in the mid-2000s, the most you'll remember him for is a team-up with Enrique Iglesias for 'El Perdon' last year, which despite never cracking the top 50 managed to scrape onto the very bottom of the year-end Hot 100. In any case, I originally said that single was part of a comeback album... and that never actually happened, so I'm not making that mistake again with his follow-up, which has topped the Latin charts and has a huge YouTube presence, but only now is breaking onto the Hot 100. And... eh, again, it's okay. I can't say I'm entirely won over by Nicky Jam's autotuned crooning against these stiff reggae-inspired synths that only switch up in the music video for a buzzy breakdown that's got hints of a trap vibe. As for lyrics... well, from what I found translated, it's honestly not all that attractive, as Nicky Jam seems to disregard knowing even the most basic things about her in favour of hooking up, which she seems kind of ambivalent to as she tells him on the second verse to back off. As it is... eh, it's not immediately bad, but I'm not really hooked by this either.

96. 'Gold' by Kiiara - so I've said in the past that you can occasionally spot upcoming hits by keeping an eye on the international charts - and as such, I've seen this song floating around a couple places, most specifically in Australia where it cracked the top five. And I have no idea why, because I can't say I like this at all. A big factor is the production: I've said in the past that trap production doesn't really do luxury rap a lot of favours as it always feels too dour and dark, and that's even more true for by the numbers pop music. Granted, Kiiara's taking more than just the hollow, minimalist production from hip-hop - she also brought the disaffected bragging and casual infidelity, although in this case I have no idea why she doesn't just dump the guy if she's so much better off hooking up with his brother - she doesn't need him to let her go. But with the casual grills reference - a fashion statement I will never understand, for the record - pitch-shifting, and choppy sampling, this song seems to be trying for a modern flexing anthem... and yet it's so sparse and lacking any sort of investment that it becomes remarkably easy to tune out. So yeah, can't say I'm a fan, I'd skip it.

94. 'Every Breath You Take' by Hannah Huston - before we get into this song in detail, let's talk about the original, widely hailed as The Police's biggest song and one of the best songs of all time. And yet I can't really call it one of my favourites, mostly because the framing is wonky as hell - sure, great bass rollick, sweet guitar, Sting sounds great on it, and you can tell from interviews that he was trying to write a song delving into the complicated obsessive love that comes for an ex that he's now stalking. And yet the song doesn't really capture that element of danger that would match the lyrical intent - which is something that this cover from The Voice attempts. Sure, the groove is non-existent, but by switching the piano melody into minor chords and by Hannah Huston playing things
with a little more raw intensity, she gets closer to the darkness Sting never quite captures. I do wish this song actually had more of the iconic groove instead of playing things more classy - and again, production from The Voice does nobody any favours - but I actually liked this interpretation, nice work.

90. 'From The Ground Up' by Dan + Shay - I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Dan + Shay, the pop country duo who have a reputation for writing very breezy songs that are more lyrically interesting than they have any right to be, even if the production isn't always on their side. This is the lead-off single for their sophomore album... and honestly, it's pretty much what I expected, and is surprisingly likable. Sure, it's as a straightforward of a love song that you'll find anywhere and seems destined to become a country wedding song staple, but all the strengths that highlighted Dan + Shay's debut are present here. Real vocal harmonies, a melodic hook in the guitars that's gracefully accented by strings and even some steel guitar, and even when the percussion is a little too processed at the beginning, it still manages to change to real drums by the second verse. If I were to nitpick, I do think the vocal runs on the bridge with the thin electric guitar are a reach for the duo, and understatement might have landed more impact, but overall, there's a heartfelt sincerity to this track that manages to make even the slightly corny nature of the song connect all the same. I like this, I'll take it.

83. 'Love On The Brain' by Rihanna - uh, Rihanna, this isn't 'Desperado' - okay, I'll stop, but when you have a legitimately great song and instead choose to release a stab at soulful doo-wop with this... well, it's not bad. Most of the credit I'm going to give to the guitar-touched organ and deeper drums more than Rihanna herself, mostly because she doesn't really deliver the raw presence to completely pull off a track like this - either that or she just doesn't have the pipes to really deliver, with the incredibly thin melisma on the second verse as proof of that. But the larger issue comes in the lyrics, where Rihanna describes a love that throws her against the wall and beats her black and blue but fucks her so good... and then combined with backing vocals that sound like they're from Chris Brown himself, it can't help but draw attention to that incident eight years ago! And sure, I get that was the point in the context of the album, but it's genuinely unsettling to hear outside of it and really an uncomfortable track to revisit. Not precisely bad, but she's definitely released better, and of the singles she has out right now, 'Kiss It Better' is a lot stronger.

73. 'Lonesome Broken And Blue' by Adam Wakefield - and now we have the final song from The Voice... and this might be the most country track you'd have heard outside of Chris Stapleton on the Hot 100 in years. Prominent banjo and fiddles to drive the melody, even a hint of what sounds like pedal steel around the edges, and Adam Wakefield trying to get over a breakup, even though he knows it hurts like hell. And yet for as much as you'd think this would be my easy favourite this week... I dunno, it isn't really clicking the way I'd like. Maybe it's the unneeded female backing vocal track, which doesn't remotely fit a breakup song like this, maybe it's that hint of organ or a composition that plays in more major chords, or maybe it's how Adam Wakefield just isn't as expressive of a singer as I keep hoping he'd be. Hell, if you give this to Alan Jackson or Jason Eady or Chris Young or even Chris Stapleton himself, I think this might have more impact, but as it is... eh, pretty good, but it should be better.

So that was our week... and honestly, it was a pretty decent one. Not a lot of standouts for the Worst - I'm giving it to 'Gold' by Kiiara, but it's more bland than outright awful, with Dishonourable Mention going to 'Down That Road' by Alisan Porter for the exact same reason. Best... okay, 'From The Ground Up' by Dan + Shay runs away with it, but Honourable Mention is tricky between the two Voice contestants... I'm ultimately giving it to 'Lonesome Broken And Blue' for instrumentation that's such an organic and refreshing take on the charts, even though I definitely appreciate what Hannah Huston tried with that Police cover. Overall, now that things have settled back into their rhythm, it'll be interesting to see come up next with no big releases in the immediate horizon.

1 comment:

  1. Gold seems to be a very love it or hate it song. I personally love it for that chopped chorus and its production being in a similar vein to Lorde's Royals. And Kiiara's actually an interesting presence behind the mic, at least for me.