Tuesday, July 26, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 6, 2016

And just like that, the summer lull gets burst wide open, and there's a part of me that couldn't be happier. Yeah, I could definitely raise questions about why - to say nothing of the viability of both the new songs and the new #1 that did it - but I have to admit, the past few weeks have been so stagnant that there's a part of me that's thrilled there's change at all!

Of course, the second I start thinking that, I look at our new #1 and deflate a little bit, mostly because it's 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia ft. Sean Paul. This is Sia's first ever #1 hit, and she got it with an only decent song that was intended for Rihanna and definitely sounds the part, only salvaged from truly atrocious production choices thanks to a guest verse from Sean Paul, with this being his biggest hit in nearly a decade. But hell, sounding like Rihanna has been big this year for a number of artists, and Sia has been the most successful, holding onto big sales - partially thanks to a well-timed discount - heavy airplay momentum, and just enough YouTube and streaming to take the top spot. It was all enough to push 'One Dance' by Drake ft. Kyla & Wizkid down to #2 as airplay and sales seem to be shrinking, but huge streaming means we're still going to be stuck with this for a while. But it has competition from 'This Is What You Came For' by Calvin Harris & Rihanna, which rose up to #3 on dominant YouTube, good streaming and sales, and real airplay momentum - all of which 'Can't Stop The Feeling' by Justin Timberlake doesn't seem to have, especially with significant sales and airplay losses. And yet I can still see it holding steady over 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya, which also took airplay and sales losses but managed to cling to #5. I do see it facing competition from 'Ride' by twenty one pilots, though, which may have slipped a bit on sales but still has enough airplay and streaming momentum to keep it at #6. Then there's 'Needed Me' by Rihanna at #7, which is all airplay and bigger streaming to compensate for its awful sales... although those airplay gains are leveling off. Then we have 'Don't Mind' by Kent Jones, which actually picked up a slot thanks to airplay losses dropping off enough to stabilize - certainly more than 'Panda' by Desiigner did, which fell in all categories down to #9. And with 'Send My Love (To Your New Lover)' by Adele holding at #10 with potent airplay momentum and some decent enough streaming and sales, I can predict it'll be out of the top ten soon.

And on that note, losers and dropouts. Big week in the latter category, mostly characterized by songs that ended their chart run naturally like 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn, 'Me, Myself & I' by G-Eazy ft. Bebe Rexha, 'Came Here To Forget' by Blake Shelton, and - thankfully - 'T-Shirt' by Thomas Rhett. And yeah, 'You Don't Own Me' by Grace ft. G-Eazy also dropped out prematurely, but it took 'Noise' by Kenny Chesney with it, so I'm not complaining that much. And I'm mostly positive on our losers too, most of which fall into the category of dropping out gracefully like 'Dangerous Woman' by Ariana Grande falling to 36, 'Close' by Nick Jonas & Tove Lo at 41, 'Lost Boy' by Ruth B at 43, and mercifully 'Let It Go' by James Bay at 32. And that's not counting the songs that outright suck, like 'Toothbrush' by DNCE at 54, 'Uber Everywhere' by MadeinTYO down to 69, and 'Wake Up' by Fetty Wap at 70, with probably 'Wasted Time' by Keith Urban being the best of them at 76. The only weird case is 'Unsteady' by X Ambassadors falling off its gains a few weeks ago and living up to its title at 61, but I'm not all that surprised - it's an awkward track for both the band and mainstream radio, it's not a surprise it's struggling.

Where things seem to get a bit weirder are our gains and re-entries, with the only returning song being 'Come And See Me' by PARTYNEXTDOOR ft. Drake - look, at this point I've long given up trying to find the appeal of PARTYNEXTDOOR when there are so many other heavily autotuned acts who do his schtick better, so I have no idea why he's back at 98. Other tracks make a little more sense: 'i hate u i love u' by gnash ft. Olivia O'Brien picks up traction to 35 despite being boring as tar, 'Famous' by Kanye West ft. Rihanna makes a considerable recovery to 71 - called it - 'From The Ground Up' by Dan + Shay remains the inevitable wedding song that even my little sister thinks is too saccharine rising up to 48, and 'You & Me' by Marc E. Bassy ft. G-Eazy gains momentum to 80 because of course crap like this will pick up momentum, joy.

But really, the shifts on the charts aren't where things got interesting this week. No, that comes in our ten arrivals, starting with...

97. 'Sex With Me' by Rihanna - okay, to start this off... yes. But seriously, are we now at this point with Rihanna's singles that she's going to her bonus tracks for singles now - did you just forget that 'Desperado' might be one of the best songs you've made in years that actually had something of an edge? This... well, I get why it's the obvious candidate for release, it's got that twinkling gloss against your standard trap beat and enough autotune to smooth away the rough edges and Rihanna bragging about 'sex with her is so amazing', and spending the rest of the song with half connected booze and sex references that thanks to the overdone vocal production just isn't all that sexy. And look, I get what's considered sexy is entirely up to debate, but there's no thrill or edge to this song compared to other songs I should probably stop mentioning at this point. I'm not going to say this is bad - it goes down easy enough, there's no egregious problems, but it's also not particularly interesting, and for Rihanna, that's the last thing she needs.

96. 'Wat U Mean (Aye, Aye, Aye)' by Dae Dae - okay, how to explain this guy... well, honestly there's not a lot to say: Atlanta MC, signed with 300, dropped a mixtape that went nowhere, got one song remixed by Young Dro that somehow went viral, and here we are. And yet... yeah, I don't really hate this. I mean, it's not particularly good - Dae Dae reminds me a bit of a cross between 2 Chainz and Future with his voice, the cheap oily organ squeal and vocal samples of the production barely has enough momentum or swell to back this guy, and instead of pushing harder on his second verse or hook he falls back into autotuned crooning that completely kills his momentum. But his first verse had a decent flow and he has personality, even if the content leaves a fair bit to be desired. I dunno, if you give this guy some meatier production or something that could balance against his louder tones, he could have potential, but given how many other Atlanta MCs are fighting for the spotlight, I don't expect to hear much more from him.

(no video - which is weird, you'd think Aldean would put one out...)

90. 'A Little More Summertime' by Jason Aldean - so I didn't exactly mind Jason Aldean's lead-off single from his upcoming album They Don't Know, which is dropping in early September this year, but when he followed it up with such an obvious play for summer radio play almost a month too late for it to really matter... well, I was skeptical, especially as Aldean doesn't really bring a lot of emotional range to what you'd expect from a lighthearted summer party jam. And turns out, he didn't make that, instead falling in line with a similar sort of wistful longing at a lost summer fling like what Luke Bryan did with 'Roller Coaster'. And while I wouldn't say it's as good as that song - the stiff popping beat and very muted keys that open the song didn't need to be there, especially when real drums were going to come in anyway, and for some reason that sandy rustle ran through the entire song and felt at the same volume as the guitars - it's not a bad track. Aldean plays melancholy fairly well into some decent lyrics, and I actually didn't mind the more watery guitar tones that filled up some of the background on the hook. No, it's not better than 'Roller Coaster', and I still think Scotty McCreery's tremendously underrated 'Feel Good Summer Song' is the gold standard for this sort of track, but I don't mind this, I'll take it.

(no video - again)

89. 'No Shopping' by French Montana ft. Drake - okay, so remember how a few weeks ago I discussed how nobody in Toronto really cares that Tory Lanez keeps going at Drake? Well truly nobody cares with how much Joe Budden is going at Drake, a member of Slaughterhouse and widely known as a potent MC in his own right. And it's a damn shame, because his diss track 'Wake' was easily better than anything that the Drake/Meek Mill beef produced. So you'd think that Drake would probably just ignore it, but he actually did throw a punch back - on a guest verse on this French Montana song, which puts Drake in negative numbers because he can't even put his own song together to handle this. And that's before we get to how painfully weak this song is! French Montana drops his standard party verse against very muted melodies and a punchier bass until the clapping trap beat drops around the edges, but the story is Drake's shots back at Budden... and wow, I'm not impressed. For one, given that I run down Bloor at least once a week, I can say right out that Drake could afford to go more upscale if he wants to make an impression - and even with that, most of his lines are just bragging about the possibility that his crew could come harder - well, Drake, I heard Views and most of your last projects, if there's firepower there I'm not seeing it! And when you throw in lines about you being 'Baby Boy', and reaffirming a commitment to Birdman... yeah no, I'm not impressed. If you're going to fight back, Drake, throw some real bars out there, because right now, you're letting our city down.

84. 'Body Say' by Demi Lovato - so when I heard that Demi Lovato wasn't going to be releasing any more singles from Confident, I was actually okay with that - she got the two legitimately great songs out, might as well avoid generic songs and refocus. I was a little more skeptical when I heard she was going towards more of a sexy R&B direction, which might not take the best advantage of her raw firepower, but she's also plenty capable of underplaying when she needs to, so I had hopes this song would turn out. And... well, it's not better than 'Confident' or 'Cool For The Summer', and you can definitely tell that she recorded this with Nick Jonas' production team with the cavernous mix, rougher snap, and thick bass hits, but this is still a solid song. Unlike most of her Disney peers, Demi Lovato actually understands subtlety and sensuality which definitely come through in her vocals, but what makes this song actually click is the tension in the lyrics. Demi's mind has a firm hold on the situation, but you can tell her body is aching for something deeper - perhaps just a fantasy, but it's plenty - and implied well enough to leave more up to the imagination. In other words, it's actually sexy as hell, and shows a fully mature side of Demi Lovato that displays a lot of versatility as a performer. I might prefer her rougher, more rock side, but if she wants to push in this direction for a bit and away from the sterile pop that unfortunately filled up too much of Confident... well damn, I'm on board.

81. 'Mama Said' by Lukas Graham - and now on the completely opposite note, let's talk about a song that's not remotely sexy at all, and the sort of follow-up from Lukas Graham that I expected. Let's get real, no self-respecting manager would ever let them follow up '7 Years' with the abysmal 'Strip No More', so let's go with the one that interpolates Annie and hope to God nobody remembers when Jay Z did this sample way better with 'Hard Knock Life' eighteen years ago! But really, this isn't bad - the bouncy twinkle of the piano, the same sort of come-up lyrical focus that again undercuts the drama when in the second verse they reassure us it wasn't really all that bad. Where I think this song loses me is on the final chorus - sorry, but that child choir is already grating enough and when you pile in our frontman squealing his way through a harmony that has no bass or sane counterbalance to it, it's just grating as hell. Again, I don't quite dislike this, but without the bombast and greater sentiment that made '7 Years' connect, I can't see it doing nearly as well.

68. 'Girls Talk Boys' by 5 Seconds Of Summer - so let me briefly talk about movies for a second, because just over a week ago, I saw the Ghostbusters remake. Let's aim to keep this pretty short, because I honestly don't have a lot to say: there are a fair share of good jokes, Lesley Jones and Kristen Wiig do a remarkable job, Chris Hemsworth is a riot and I'd expect to see him in a lot of comedies over the next few years, and yet the entire film felt a little overlit, lacking in meatier/sharper comedy and satire, and desperately needing those slower moments to let the characters breathe. I was mostly ambivalent about Kate McKinnon's manic energy - the real downer for me was Melissa McCartney of all people, who seemed to be underplaying the attitude - but as a summer romp it was better than I expected and will probably go over great with the kids, not better than the original Ghostbusters but stronger than the cartoon and especially Ghostbusters II. I say all of this because if I was looking for a glaring weakpoint, it'd come in most of the soundtrack, which frequently came across as garish and far weaker than the original theme. This is 5 Seconds Of Summer's contribution to the soundtrack... and look, I've softened on these kids, mostly because they've shown the aptitude to write rougher, more interesting music. They didn't write this, and as such, it barely sounds like a 5SOS song at all... but I wouldn't say this is bad so much as it is very different. For one, it has the distinctive feel of 5 Seconds Of Summer trying to be Maroon 5 circa the mid-2000s with the thicker bass and choppy stabs at funk, but it's not a type of funk that I think stands out all that much, especially considering how sleek and tight it's trying to be, which might work with the pretty decent falsetto but doesn't really take advantage of the loose firepower that 5SOS can bring to the table. And sure, the lyrics mostly fit in their mold, wondering if the girls are gossiping about them and yeah, it's all so high school but it definitely feels like the band is trying to conform to a sound that's an awkward fit - not precisely bad and I'd take the slightly sharper grooves over the gutless DNCE any day, but 5SOS is much better at punk than funk, so I'd stick there.

47. 'Vice' by Miranda Lambert - well, this is awkward. For the longest time I've been talking about the much-anticipated return of Miranda Lambert to give her side of the story in the much-publicized divorce from Blake Shelton, and I remember thinking that even if she was the one guilty and if all of the foul rumours were true, she'd still be able to make a hell of a song out of it. And believe me, when I heard that her newest song was delving into the messy dark aftermath where she owned all of it and framed it properly, I was excited as hell... and man, I wish I could like this a lot more than I do. I mean, I get the understatement, the curdled numb self-loathing as her reputation rots, and Miranda delivers the song perfectly - but there's no way around it, the production here is a disaster. The limp echoing guitars over the oily gurgle of synths slathered over the hook, the gutless organ, the slapdash melodies with the deeper percussion trying and failing to add any foundation, it doesn't even have any solid groove to drive the squealing four bars of solo. I really hoped this could connect, but man, it falls flat hard, and I sure as hell this isn't the direction in production Miranda's going to be taking for the next album, because she's way better than this.

17. 'Make Me' by Britney Spears ft. G-Eazy - you know, it's been a long time since I've talked about Britney Spears, an artist whose career both will.i.am and Iggy Azalea couldn't kill. Third time's the charm, so this time she teamed up with one of 2016's most boring breakout artists for her new lead-off single... and you know, I'm so happy that Demi Lovato's 'Body Say' also came out this week, because it's a prime example of how little Britney has evolved as a performer over the past several years. Like Demi, Britney's trying to play coy and entice the guy over, but her innuendo feels even more vague and nowhere as pointed, not helped by a cooing chorus where we got all the warbling autotune desperately needed to keep Britney on tune as the sandy trap percussion swamps out the rattling guitar and synthetic voices squealing through the mix. There's nothing sleek or tight about this song, with whatever melody on the hook is being carried in a fuzzy mess of grinding synth. And then there's G-Eazy, and while I could go on how he 'always wanted what was off-limits' and seems to be trying to make Britney seem like a 'dangerous woman' which I don't remotely buy... and then you realize that with the rattling guitar, glitchy effects and cavernous mix, it's a song that's trying to play as a glossier version of Ariana's title track from earlier this year. Well, that's another pop princess who handily outstrips Britney, because this is the sort of phoned in revival that has none of the tightness in delivery or production to be another hit. I've made excuses for Britney before and I do admit she has some songs I really like but this... it's not one of them.

11. 'Rise' by Katy Perry - and come to think of it, while it's been a while since I've talked about Britney Spears, it might be even longer since I've talked about Katy Perry - which is bizarre, considering how thoroughly she dominated pop for the first few years of this decade. And like with Prism and 'Roar', she's making her big return with yet another self-esteem anthem - which for the record, has always been one of the most tedious sides of Katy Perry's pop persona - and... well, say what you will about 'Roar', at least it had a melody. Seriously, are we going to do this again, drown Katy's voice and the rest of the mix in so much reverb and pitch-correction that any fragments of melody are so gutless and thin they have no power whatsoever, and that's not even counting one of the most brittle trap snares I've heard all year? I'm not going to deny there's a certain ominous swell as Katy rises out of the mix on the first verse, but the chorus is a classic example of a song getting louder instead of building to any sort of real groove or melodic impact! I thought you understood this, Max Martin, don't you remember 'Larger Than Life' and 'Since You've Been Gone' and 'So What', 'My Life Would Suck Without You', 'Hold It Against Me' and 'Blow', and that's not even touching on the songs you cowrote for Katy Perry like 'Teenage Dream' and 'Last Friday Night' and 'Wide Awake' - even 'Roar' hit harder than this! Not only is this a complete failure of a pump-up song, it's a colossal misfire for a return single for Katy Perry, with production that only seems to highlight her limitations and created by a writer/producer who is so much better than this. PASS!

So yeah, that was our week, and well, up until the end it was actually a pretty interesting week. Not all good - 'Rise' by Katy Perry is easily getting the worst, with 'No Shopping' by French Montana and Drake sliding in for Dishonourable Mention, but there were some decent tracks here. 'Body Say' by Demi Lovato just runs away with Best of the Week, and I think I'm giving Honourable Mention to 'A Little More Summertime' by Jason Aldean - he pleasantly surprised me, I have to say. Let's hope the quality stabilizes a little by next week.

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