Wednesday, August 17, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 27, 2016

So let me tell you a bit about my previous weekend. Had a party with friends on Friday, went to a bachelor party on Saturday, and most of Sunday recovering and working my way through a bunch of records in my backlog to cover my schedule this week... all of which meant that I have not yet had a chance to see Suicide Squad. Which, if you're judging by its second week numbers, if you didn't see it opening weekend you likely didn't see it at all - and yet it doesn't mean I'm not talking about the movie, because it was the biggest impact to the charts, with considerable gains, a few new arrivals, one returning entry, and even a new top five track! Frankly, I'm a little bewildered the soundtrack has had so much staying power, but popular phenomenon pop up all the time - I just wished I liked more of it.

So let's talk about that top ten, shall we? Sia's 'Cheap Thrills' with Sean Paul holds the top for another week, and frankly I'm a little surprised it's held up this well - it has a ton of airplay, sure, but sales, streaming, and YouTube are continuing to fall off and I can see it running into trouble. And a lot of that competition comes from the big rebound for 'Cold Water' by Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber & M0, which came back to #2 on solid streaming, YouTube, and solid airplay momentum, even if it wasn't quite as dominant in sales as before. You'd think that would be an issue... except when you see the miserable sales for 'This Is What You Came For' by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna - and sure, it's got so much YouTube and airplay it hardly matters, but streaming has been slipping and it's not really gaining any more radio presence. What did get momentum this week was 'Heathens' by twenty one pilots, our new top ten entry and one of the songs picking up the biggest gains from Suicide Squad. Huge streaming and sales with considerable YouTube... and yet the radio couldn't care less about it, it picked up zero traction there. Then we've got the drop for 'One Dance' by Drake ft. Kyla & Wizkid, which took a considerable hit to #5 as it fell off the top on streaming, had lousy sales, and spent the week bleeding airplay - it's still got a considerable presence, but it's dropping fast. And that's good news for 'Closer' by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey, which is not a song I like rising up to #6 but it does have considerable YouTube, dominant streaming, big sales, and even the start of real airplay momentum. It managed to overtake 'Ride' by twenty one pilots, which somehow held onto #7 thanks to a small airplay rebound and basically holding the line on sales and streaming - it's not getting any higher, but I am a little amazed it's lasted this long. That takes us to 'Don't Let Me Down', the other Chainsmokers song with Daya that slipped to #8 as it loses airplay, sales, streaming, and a lot of YouTube, which is not a good sign. This takes us to 'Can't Stop The Feeling' by Justin Timberlake at #9, which somehow lost harder as sales slipped along with its airplay to match its consistently weak streaming. And then at #10, we've got 'Needed Me' by Rihanna clinging on to its shaky airplay and weakening streaming, especially as the sales get ever weaker. Against stronger competition, I don't see it lasting.

And on that note, our losers and dropouts! Not many big ones this week: 'Dangerous Woman' by Ariana Grande and 'My House' by Flo Rida both finish their respectable runs, and 'Famous' by Kanye West with Rihanna and 'Wherever I Go' by OneRepublic finish theirs without much of anything beyond cheap controversy or mediocrity. And on that note, we can rejoice a little because 'No Shopping' by French Montana and Drake crashed hard to 61 off of its gains - not a good sign going into the album - and hell, it took 'Wake Up' by Fetty Wap with it to 92, so I'm not complaining there. Outside of that, it was a really bad week for country music, with only 'Lights Come On' by Jason Aldean falling to 87 and 'Huntin', Fishin', Lovin' Every Day' by Luke Bryan sliding to 95 having the excuse of longevity. Kenny Chesney's big debut with Pink 'Set The World On Fire' collapsed down to 69 - mostly because it's barely a country song and pretty mediocre at that - and 'American Country Love Song' by Jake Owen lost a little steam to 67. Finally, we've got 'Sorry' by Beyonce slipping to 55 - look, it's a damn good song and it's a crime that it was really the only Beyonce track that stuck from Lemonade, but it should have enough points to land on the year-end list, and that's enough for me. 

Unfortunately, when we look at our gains and returning entries this week, the big story becomes Suicide Squad, and overall I'm not sure that's a net positive. Yes, I'm happy that 'You Don't Own Me' by Grace ft. G-Eazy came back yet again to 60, but we also saw huge boosts for 'Sucker For Pain' by Lil Wayne's posse up to 15, and 'Purple Lamborghini' by Skrillex & Rick Ross roaring up to 33. And it doesn't help that most of our gains are mediocre to outright crap: 'Come And See Me' by PARTYNEXTDOOR and Drake up to 88 off the album, 'Make Me' by Britney Spears ft. G-Eazy rising because of 'hype' up to 43, 'Rise' by Katy Perry up to 29 I assume because of the Olympics, 'Starving' by Hailee Steinfeld, Grey and Zedd up to 81 off the debut, 'No Limit' by Usher ft. Young Thug to 37 because of the video and even Usher at his worst is still Usher, and 'Unsteady' by X Ambassadors up to 47... I have no idea, that song hasn't had any consistent chart progression since it arrived. The best stuff we have here are 'Chill Bill' by Rob $tone ft. J.Davi$ and Sppoks rising to 85 - not a great track, but it does stick in the brain - and 'This Girl' by Kungs & Cookin' On 3 Burners up to 65... look, it's got momentum, but we've been down this road before, I don't really have high expectations it's going to hold momentum unless it gets radio traction... which it actually has, so okay, let's not give up hope here!

So okay, bit of a promising note... let's take a look at our new arrivals, starting with...

100. 'You Look Like I Need A Drink' by Justin Moore - you know, for as much hate as he used to inspire from me for his godawful writing and obvious Southern pandering, Justin Moore doesn't really get under my skin like he did in 2013. He kind of got elbowed off the stage by the tide of bro-country, and while he definitely has his fair share of turds coming out of that - I don't think everyone can ever forgive 'Small Town Throwdown' with Brantley Gilbert and Thomas Rhett - I haven't really heard much from him. And yet he's got a new record called Kinda Don't Care that I've gotten some requests to review... and honestly, I might cover it, because this isn't bad at all. Maybe it's because I've heard how low mainstream country can sink, but the guitars have some decent bite and it at least sounds a little more organic. And hell, while I think the uptempo vibe is a little awkward for the subject matter - he's watching his girlfriend on the cusp of breaking up with him and he needs a good stiff drink - it kind of fits the awkwardness of the song, which really is all deflection. I'm still not really a fan of Justin Moore's voice - the guy has no subtlety whatsoever, and a singer with a little more nuance might have made this connect more deeply - but honestly, this is probably a step up for him, and even if it did take nine months to crack the charts, I don't mind that it's here. So yeah, not bad.

94. 'Do You Mind' by DJ Khaled ft. Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, August Alsina, Jeremih, Future & Rick Ross - I have to be honest: for as much as I praised 'Holy Key' last week, this is the DJ Khaled song I see having staying power into later this year. And I kind of hope it does, because I've come to really like this track! And I'm trying to figure out why it works so well for me - part of it coasts of Nicki Minaj holding the center with pure charisma as the woman enticing all of these guys; part of it is how it never needs to get explicit, part of it is that it picks up a really good melodic sample that was once used by Lil Jon, Usher and Ludacris for 'Lovers And Friends' in 2004. And wow, it's telling you need at least three R&B singers to match the charisma Usher brought and two rappers to match Ludacris, but 'Do You Mind' does manage to sidestep some of the really questionable lyrics - and all of Lil Jon's presence, because wow, he does not belong there - and bring in a faster groove that might actually contribute to a better hook as a whole. And between a great piano groove and the sheer number of names attached to this... if they get a video going, this song is going to get huge, and frankly, the charts will be better for it.

84. 'Cool Girl' by Tove Lo - so I'll confess I've been a little worried about Tove Lo's follow-up to her pretty solid debut album Queen Of The Clouds, a modern pop record that was sleek, likable, and suggested the sort of ambition I've missed in pop, especially this year. I may have cooled a little on her singles thanks to a bit of over-exposure, but her team-up with Nick Jonas 'Close' was pretty solid and I was looking forward to the lead-off single for her sophomore album Lady Wood, an album title that I guarantee I'll never be able to take seriously. And this song... hmm, it's interesting, that's for sure. Playing into Tove Lo's reckless party girl persona, I like the delivery and the idea behind the lyrics - reportedly inspired by the 'cool girl' speech in Gone Girl, which delves into the complicated dynamic of how girls can change their behavior to win over guys to fit a male definition of cool while not seeing the same compromise - playing a part that's not really her. And lyrically it falls along a similar sentiment - Tove Lo is keeping things casual, playing the cool girl, but right below the surface she wants something more real and intense, which she doesn't shy away from painting as darker and harder to handle. It takes a skilled performer to handle that balance, and she gets there... and I just wish the production worked as well. It's what you'd expect from Tove Lo - minimalist dark synths touching the sides of cavernous techno with the breezy snap, but then you add the odd nasal midrange synth that starts to bleed over the vocals on the second chorus, and it's just an addition that's not needed. But outside of that... I might respect the execution of this song more than I outright like it, but I can see this growing on me a fair bit - well done.

64. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Panic! At The Disco - okay, let me get this out of the way now: nobody should ever remake 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. As much as I've heard that song butchered hundreds if not thousands of times at karaoke, it's still a gloriously indulgent Queen classic that transcends camp into something timeless and powerful - and it's so defiantly Queen that you're better off leaving it alone. But if anyone was going to remake it... well, I can definitely see the appeal for Brandon Urie to try. I'm not wild about a mix that feels too cleanly arranged - those strings should never have been there at all, and some of the exaggerated vocals on the mid-section could have been handled better, and don't get me started about how heavy the percussion felt on the metal segment, but it ties into an issue I've seen crop up before when 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is redone: it doesn't feel raw enough. Queen in the 70s was rough and had a wild grandeur that few could match, and not only can Urie not match Freddie Mercury's insane upper register, he's just a shade too stiff and dignified to really match Mercury's charisma. I will give him points for trying so faithfully to recapture every moment and melodic flourish, but in doing so he made a version that feeds oddly lifeless, not having that same spark. Not a bad track - again, for most people it'll be plenty serviceable and the underlying composition holds up regardless - but as a long-time Queen fan... nope, not for me.

62. 'Gangsta' by Kehlani - this is the first time a Kehlani song has shown up on the Hot 100 - and that kind of blows my mind, because she's had hype for a few years now, self-releasing critically adored mixtapes and with some great guest appearances opposite Zayn and Pusha T. So I guess if I were to give Suicide Squad any credit at all, it'd be for giving Kehlani a chance to push a solo song to a strong chart debut... and man, I wish it was any good. Look, I get that it's supposed to be unsettling, a 'love' song between Harley Quinn and the new godawful incarnation of the Joker - it allows me to excuse more of the uncomfortable lyrics - but that whining synth running through too much of the song doesn't sound dangerous so much as it is obnoxious, especially on the first verse and with the flattened bass and sparse trap beat. Of course, the larger issue is that it's written by Skylar Grey, who has a bad reputation for writing some of the most colourless and flat ballads over the past few years, and this is yet another example, none of which really flatters Kehlani's tones. I've heard her sound better against brighter or more liquid production, and this for the most part leaves her high and dry. In other words... yeah, can't say I'm not disappointed here.

12. 'Let Me Love You' by DJ Snake ft. Justin Bieber - when I covered DJ Snake's Encore, I knew that this song was going to be pushed as the next single - and I immediately had a bad feeling about it. Not because this song is bad - it's really not, the wiry synth that plays off the sharper beat in a cavernous mix that does eventually build a pretty decent groove, and Justin Bieber doesn't sound bad here, especially in his falsetto. The problem is that it's a collaboration with no surprises or much reason to exist: the instrumental features DJ Snake on autopilot before his post-chorus Woody Woodpecker-esque solo, the lyrics where Bieber is pleading for this girl not to leave or fall asleep at the wheel of their relationship so he can love her, how the song feels like it's missing a solo or something to really add some punch to it. Like so much of charting songs in 2016, it feels ephemeral in the least interesting way, not good, not bad, and not really worth caring about.

And yet putting that song and Kehlani aside, I actually didn't mind a lot of this week. 'Gangsta' by Kehlani is getting the worst of the week, but it's honestly more mediocre than aggressively bad, and yet compared to how good DJ Khaled's 'Do You Mind' is, I don't really care all that much. I don't expect much of the Suicide Squad songs to stick around coming next week though, so we could be in for a busy end to our summer.


  1. I think Todd In The Shadows was the first to make the "DJ Snake - Woody Woodpecker" joke with Lean On. :P Funny to mention it again here.

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