Tuesday, August 2, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 13, 2016

You know, there's an adage I have on this show that the Canadian charts are always better, mostly because we didn't get rid of rock radio and we at least try to cultivate more unique Canadian acts. And yet if we look at the 2016 Hot 100, which many critics are already claiming is one of the worst years on record for this decade, it's been dominated by two Canadian artists coasting more off production than any sort of lyrical or vocal personality. Now I could make the argument that we as Canadians tend to manufacture some distance with our stars - Drake and Bieber have both been bigger south of the border than they have here - but on the other hand, we did let Bieber debut at #1 where he only landed #2 this week, so take it as you will.

Granted, he didn't get there alone, but I'm getting ahead of myself so let's talk about the Top 10. At the top for the second week in a row is 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia and Sean Paul - which yes, still feels weird to say even though the song continues to have big sales, gains on YouTube and streaming, and ever-so-slowly shrinking airplay momentum. The big news this week came from our brand new #2: 'Cold Water' by Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber and M0. And let's make it clear, this song had a real shot for #1 - huge airplay momentum, dominant streaming and sales, and even a well-timed YouTube smash - I think it might have just missed the top thanks to Major Lazer being the main name on the track, not quite having the same immediate name recognition that Bieber has, at least not in the US. It'll be curious to see if the airplay momentum can hold up against sales that will inevitably slip a bit, but for the mean time it shoved back 'One Dance' by Drake & Kyla to #3 - which again, might have happened anyway, because even despite dominant streaming, it's been slipping on airplay and sales, and I'm not sure how much longer it'll hold, especially considering the rumor there'll be no video at all. And considering 'This Is What You Came For' by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna is still holding steady at #4 with strong YouTube, consistent airplay momentum, and solid streaming - if shaky sales - it might fall harder. Granted, it's not as bad as 'Can't Stop The Feeling' by Justin Timberlake, which slid to #5 despite having the sales thanks to airplay freefall and consistently rough streaming. And that pushed back 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya to #6, which also might have happened anyway with even weaker sales and collapsing airplay and streaming. Now 'Ride' by twenty one pilots is not falling apart at #7 - it still has airplay momentum and not precisely healthy sales or streaming, but it's holding together. And that might as well be a similar story for 'Needed Me' by Rihanna, which is clinging to strong streaming and a surprising amount of airplay to make up for its weak sales, and even then it was pushed back to #8. Then there's 'Send My Love (To Your New Lover)' by Adele, which actually picked up position thanks to consistent airplay and sales - without streaming I don't really see it getting higher, but with so much weakness above it, who can tell? And, following my predictions, at #10 we have 'Panda' by Desiigner, where lousy sales and ever-shrinking airplay means it'll be gone probably as early as next week.

And on that note, losers and dropouts! Lot of the latter category this week, but most you could predict: 'Lost Boy' by Ruth B, 'Never Forget You' by Zara Larsson and MNEK, 'Body' by Dreezy, and 'No' by Meghan Trainor all exited at the end of their run, with both 'Ophelia' by The Lumineers and 'Child's Play' by Drake exiting prematurely. Knowing the Lumineers, 'Ophelia' will rebound, and we can all hope that a just God will ensure 'Child's Play' will not. And on that fortunate note, most of our big arrivals from last week lost hard: 'Rise' by Katy Perry fell to 43, 'Make Me' by Britney Spears & G-Eazy fell even harder to 52, and the disappointing 'Vice' by Miranda Lambert stumbled back to 61. The other two drops are a little tougher to explain: 'Lights Come On' by Jason Aldean slid back to 69, a shade early than you'd expect to see it drop off; and 'Wherever I Go' by OneRepublic just collapsed altogether down to 73, which I can only assume happened because the song isn't all that good, but you never know.

Our gains and returning arrivals, on the other hand, make a fair bit more sense. In the latter category, 'Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1' by Kanye West and Kid Cudi rebounds yet again to 94, bringing with it 'No Money' by Galantis to #93, a song that I really wish I liked more than I do but really should be a bigger summer song regardless. Instead, our gains in that category are 'Luv' by Tory Lanez continuing up to 50, 'Wat U Mean (Aye, Aye, Aye)' by Dae Dae getting some traction off a debut to 84, and 'Sucker For Pain' by Lil Wayne's associated posse rising to 64, likely picking up some traction off of the hype lead-up to Suicide Squad that frankly has had more staying power than I would have ever expected. We'll talk more about this a bit later - hell, considering how much it's impacted the charts I might even review the movie - but until we get to that point, let's talk about our new arrivals, starting with...

100. 'Castaway' by Zac Brown Band - well, I could have predicted this release, especially right in the middle of the summer... although there's a part of me that questions why. I may have liked the Zac Brown Band's genre experiment Jekyll + Hyde far more than most, but this was not one of the reasons why, mostly because its territory this band has gone into far too many times before. Now let me stress that I'd take this over, say, Thomas Rhett's abomination 'Vacation' - at least 'Castaway plays primarily in ramshackle territory with loose acoustics, organ, reggae-inspired guitarwork that's frankly better than it has any right to be, and even some fiddle there. Hell, compared to so much of the reggae that has clogged up the charts this year, the Zac Brown Band's brand of it is pretty damn likable - at least it sounds organic! The issue comes that in terms of content, it's extremely lightweight - a bit better than 'Knee Deep' but not better than either 'Jump Right In' or 'Toes' - and there's a part of me that wishes they could have released 'Dress Blues' if they wanted to play to more organic country or even 'Tomorrow Never Comes' if they want the single that 'Beautiful Drug' never was. But if I'm being completely honest... nah, I can't hate this, it's pretty likable, I'll take it.

98. 'Middle Of A Memory' by Cole Swindell - and speaking of artists who don't know good singles that are staring them right in the face... well, at least Cole Swindell released the title track of his sophomore album, but he could have followed it with 'Broke Down' for an easy radio win, or maybe 'No Can Left Behind' if he wanted to pivot. Instead, 'Middle Of A Memory' plays it safe, long languid guitar and steel guitar tones blended with a beat that's probably thinner and more synthetic than it should be, especially when the backing vocals come through. And yet, as I said when I reviewed You Should Be Here, the surprising strength of that record was how it really should be considered the 'last' bro-country memory, and the song works by playing to those missed connections and unfinished stories. And while I don't think Swindell can emote as well as he needs to make this song have real impact, I like that this song doesn't have anger or frustration - just melancholic that the hookup didn't materialize, which actually gives the writing a bit of weight. Again, not a great song and not better than the title track, but on most days, I'll take this.

97. 'It Don't Hurt Like It Used To' by Billy Currington - it has taken six months since Billy Currington released this as a single for it to reach the Hot 100... which doesn't particularly surprise me, given how utterly forgettable the majority of his last album Summer Forever was, a record I barely remembered after I reviewed it last year and one I don't remember now. Now to be fair, this is one of the better songs from that record, with a solid breezy groove with buzzy guitars and sandy live drums, but as when I reviewed the album, I've always found the content a little questionable, specifically the mood. It's a song about getting over an ex and while he's not totally there, it doesn't hurt like it used to, and that's reason to celebrate. I dunno, to me having gone through a breakup recently it comes across a little lacking in class to play everything so broad, but then again, Billy Currington has never been one for subtlety. I can see the need this song fills, and while I do mostly like it, I'm not entirely on board.

91. 'This Girl' by Kungs & Cookin' On 3 Burners - ah, another World Hit finally crossing over to the Hot 100, and for good reason, as the song is great. The big horns playing off the steady bass and guitar rollick with touches of organ, and while I feel it might not have the same groove on the instrumental interludes, it's still ridiculously catchy and the blurred over yet soulful vocals from Kylie Auldist are incredibly solid, giving the song some solid pathos as she deflects the gifts and the attempts to buy her love when she's just looking for real affection. Yeah, can't say it's entirely unique, but Kungs' remix of the original Cookin' On 3 Burners song works really well, so I can dig this - damn good song.

89. 'Pussy Print' by Gucci Mane ft. Kanye West - and right from that, we get a song where Gucci Mane brags his pants are so tight from so much cash that they make a bulge like a vagina, or as Gucci Mane so eloquently calls it, a 'pussy print'. And if that was the only thing wrong with this song, that'd be plenty, but then you put in the bass-swamped out minimalist synth against your standard trap beat from Mike Will Made It that's way too dark to be likable, how Gucci Mane uses mispronunciation and still makes lazy bars that rhyme with themselves to talk about nothing beyond your bargain barrel luxury rap, and how Kanye drops one of his laziest and least creative verses in a while that's barely worth mentioning. This can't even be interestingly sleazy beyond just ugly and soulless, the sort of song that makes you wonder why the hell anyone wanted this guy back in the first place. Next!

88. '1Night' by Lil Yachty - then again, at least Gucci Mane and Kanye can bring something of an edge to their material, something where Lil Yachty falls embarrassingly flat. Hell, when it comes to this autotune mumbling, at least Future has the excuse of pitch-black production, occasionally hard-hitting beats, and nihilism. Lil Yachty can't even take it that far, with flat glossy synth and your standard trap beat not having anything close to atmosphere with ugly autotuned multi-tracking that somehow makes Yachty sound even worse! And of course the content is completely empty - standard hookup and then trying to push the girl away once she wants a commitment, even though on the first verse it's implied he spent two years with this girl at hotels! Now apparently the girl screwed his entire crew, so I would kind of understand why he might not want her around, but here's my question: why in the nine hells would she want to be with him? Again, the laziness here is pathetic - the vocal layering is godawful, there's no passion or edge, and the lyrics and attitudes are completely unattractive - skip it!

81. 'Back On Road' by Gucci Mane & Drake - and now we get our second Gucci Mane debut... and honestly, it's barely better than the last one. You get Drake on the hook and you don't let him have a verse on a song that barely lasts two and a half minutes? You have a woodwind melody on your hook that's so thin and barely followed by anything in the verses except an ugly nasal film running through everything? At least Gucci is trying a little harder here on the verses, mostly through your standard brag verses that really aren't anything all that special. The entire song feels thin, more of an abbreviated announcement that Gucci Mane is out of jail and willing to plug up the radio with forgettable mediocrity than anything else. Again, why did anyone like this guy in the first place?

72. 'Hit Or Miss' by Jacob Sartorius - there's a part of me that sees irony that with all of the 'hype' behind Gucci Mane's big comeback, he still charted behind Musical.ly 'star' Jacob Sartorius and his second 'single'. Now truth be told, I thought this kid's charting career was over with 'Sweatshirt', given how much it got panned for godawful production and the fact this kid was clearly shoved out without any sort of vocal training. But now he has a single that's even bigger... and to be completely honest, it's not terrible. Now it's not good, either - the autotune is gratuitous,whoever told this kid he should rap needs to be flogged, especially with such childish lyrics, the stuttered syllables on the post-chorus are annoying as hell, and the trend of hitting on someone before you even know their name needs to stop as well - but it's at least listenable, mostly thanks to the production. Hell, with the choppy horn-like squonk of the synth playing against the percussion, you might even mistake Sartorius for the very poor man's Jon Bellion. And I'll say this about Sartorius, at least he sounds like he gives a damn about the music he's making, which is more than Lil Yachty could ever say. But in the end... eh, it's not like this is going to stick around, so I could really care less.

67. 'Purple Lamborghini' by Skrillex & Rick Ross - the more I think about this combination the less sense it makes. Sure, both picked up mainstream popularity around the turn of the decade to real diminishing returns around 2014 before starting to repair their reputations, but they play in very different lanes. Say what you will about Rick Ross, at least he would typically choose beats with some opulence and bombast, which seems to run contrary to everything Skrillex has ever done, even in his Justin Bieber-backing sellout years. But for the Suicide Squad movie they have teamed up for a bombastic anthem... and the weird thing is that I simultaneously like and dislike this song more than I should. Say what you will about Rick Ross' content - which in the second verse really falls back into his overblown drug kingpin material - but he at least tries to reference the characters of the movie in the first verse with bars that actually connect. But here's the thing: for as much as this song is referring to The Joker's car, it's not actually a purple Lamborghini, but a Vaydor G35, and the mismatch is kind of hard to overlook! But what about the production, where Skrillex actually brought the huge horns and hard-hitting howls that careen off the trap beat surprisingly well... well, at least until you realize that most of the low end in the mix is completely empty, almost unfinished, and that makes the already thin-sounding horns feel even more chintzy and plastic. Look, I appreciate the energy and bombast - Rick Ross certainly is trying harder than most of the hip-hop that has charted this summer... but as it is, this reminds me way too much of that 'Hungry Ham' song Skrillex produced for A$AP Ferg, and while this is better, it's only decent and should have been great.

46. 'Tiimmy Turner' by Desiigner - so let's establish right out of the gate that whoever is managing Desiigner's career is doing it badly. Let's put aside the obvious copycat of all of this - at least Desiigner isn't as relentlessly nihilistic as Future can be - and focus on the rollout over the past few months: the XXL Freshman list with an incomprehensible freestyle, the mixtape New English that might as well have been an album sampler that could barely compose a coherent thought, and now this, his next big single for an upcoming debut album that was adapted from that incomprehensible freestyle. And if I'm being brutally honest... I don't hate this at all. In fact, I might like this more than 'Panda'. That distant swell, the gothic bombast of the piano, if he had kept that shrill squealing synth off the track I'd have endorsed this instrumental easily, especially when it switches into the major key for the final chorus with that thicker synth. And yeah, again, the big drawback to this is Desiigner, who isn't saying anything remotely interesting in his mumbling Future-esque blur of autotune and sloppy bars, but decode his bars and you'll hear a rapper under tremendous pressure to do anything for the fame, especially when that path is taking him straight to hell. Hell, if Desiigner actually had a little more narrative ambition or technical writing skill he could have taken this in an interesting direction... until you realize that at the end of the day he got there by continuing to bite another rapper's flow and voice, with only visceral adlibs adding any sort of distinction. Not terrible, but man, he's got a ways to go until he wins me over.

2. 'Cold Water' by Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber & M0 - and now we have the big one, the big hit that my guess will be Justin Bieber's newest ticket to a #1 hit, bringing the proven combination of Major Lazer and M0 along with him... which, if you remember last year on Billboard BREAKDOWN, wasn't exactly a song I liked. Yes, 'Lean On' has grown on me since, but I never really liked M0's inflection, and the rattling blur of synth wasn't really enough to hook me in until DJ Snake's solo smashed through and made the song work. So switch out DJ Snake for Justin Bieber and you get... honestly, I'm not quite sure. I like the liquid guitar anchoring the melody courtesy of Ed Sheeran, but follow it with those buzzy blocks of synth and Major Lazer's standard skitter of percussion to match the choppier beat and I'm not quite sure it comes together as well as well as it could, especially considering the warbling layers over Bieber and M0's vocals trying to blur it all together, especially with that drum sample before the chorus. The lyrics... eh, they're fine when it focuses on two people supporting each other in a rough spot, but I'm also left feeling that M0 could have afforded more to do on the song beyond a bridge where she plays that damsel in distress. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad song, but it's missing that killer element for me to really drive it home the same way DJ Snake's solo worked on 'Lean On', and the song never really hits that crescendo and build up effectively, especially in comparison with what Kungs did with 'This Girl', which is considerably stronger. Not bad, but not really great either.

So overall... eh, I want to rate this week higher than it probably deserves because of some decent country near the bottom, but there was a lot of crap here. For the worst '1Night' by Lil Yachty will take that, with Gucci Mane and Kanye snagging Dishonourable Mention for 'Pussy Print'. As for the best... you know, I'm not saying it's substantial, but between some great vocal harmonies and solid organic instrumentation, I'm giving the best to 'Castaway' by Zac Brown Band, with 'This Girl' by Kungs & Cookin' On 3 Burners snagging Honourable Mention for just having some real groove to it. Either way, the second half of this summer has gotten interesting, so let's see where we're going next.

1 comment:

  1. I think you would be surprised with Mø new single,pretty damn good.