Tuesday, September 20, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - october 1, 2016

So we live in uncertain times. The economy seems shaky, the effects of climate change are becoming more prevalent, the United States is on the precipice thanks to a bullshit horserace media narrative that's eons more dishonest than anything Hillary Clinton has said and about on par with the lies the Trump family spews daily, and now Brad and Angelina are splitting up. Now thankfully, I live in Canada, where things are a fair bit more stable all around, but that doesn't mean this instability isn't impacting the Hot 100 - albeit probably less driven by the election and more because we're now transitioning into the fall months and this happens nearly every year.

Now the place with the most stability is, for once, our top ten, where once again 'Closer' by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey is dominant at the top. And again, given how huge its streaming, YouTube, sales, and airplay momentum are compared to its competition, I don't really see that changing. Sure, 'Heathens' by twenty one pilots might have momentum on the radio and streaming and solid YouTube and sales...but solid isn't competitive, so it's at #2. Its bigger competition is 'Cold Water' by Major Lazer, Justin Bieber & M0, which has more radio, streaming, and YouTube overall... but is getting edged out on sales, so it's stuck at #3. Next we have 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia ft. Sean Paul, and given how much radio and streaming it lost this week - to say nothing of weak sales - my suspicion is that it'll drop out fast... but then we have 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya, which might have stable streaming but even weaker sales and airplay, so it's at #5. This takes us to our first new top ten entry: 'Let Me Love You' by DJ Snake ft. Justin Bieber at #6. It's a song I barely remember but it's gotten enough consistent stats across all categories to be competitive and capitalize on weaknesses - hell, it's why it jumped over 'This Is What You Came For' by Calvin Harris & Rihanna slipping to #7, mainly this high because it's clinging to some remarkably solid YouTube and airplay but little else. But then we have our unwelcome return to the top ten: 'Treat You Better' by Shawn Mendes at #8, which despite losses in streaming still has enough radio momentum to hold this spot. Granted, I think part of it is because 'Ride' by twenty one pilots lost hard to #9, losing airplay and without any YouTube buffer to add support for weaker sales. And finally, we've got 'Send My Love (To Your New Lover)' by Adele, clinging to #10 thanks to airplay that's already slipping away... because at this point it's got nothing else.

And on that promising note, losers and dropouts - and man, we had a lot this week. Bit smaller list in the latter category: 'Sorry' by Beyonce exits gracefully, along with long-time losers like 'From The Ground Up' by Dan + Shay, 'Kill Em With Kindness' by Selena Gomez, and 'Famous' by Kanye West & Rihanna - and hell, they took out the non-starter 'Lockjaw' by French Montana and Kodak Black, so no complaints there! Where things get more complex are our losers, and we have a massive week of them here. Let's get the easy ones out of the way: first, the Suicide Squad losses for 'Gangsta' by Kehlani to 74 and 'You Don't Own Me' by Grace & G-Eazy to 100, although you could also group that song with the expected drops for 'Hasta El Amanecer' by Nicky Jam to 92 and 'American Country Love Song' by Jake Owen to 90. We also have premature losses, like the simultaneous flops for 'Rise' by Katy Perry down to 72 and the massive drop for 'Make Me' by Britney Spears ft. G-Eazy to 76 to go along with 'My PYT' by Wale, which fell to 84. Then we have the non-starters: 'May We All' by Florida Georgia Line ft. Tim McGraw burning out at 86, 'Child's Play' by Drake thankfully dropping hard to 87, and - sadly - 'Hold Up' by Beyonce sliding to 88. That leaves 'No Shopping' by French Montana and Drake, which continued its descent to 97 - again, no complaints.

But where things get a little more wonky are in our gains and returning entries. Sure, I get that 'A Little More Summertime' by Jason Aldean was going to come back off the big album release to 69, but our gains are a little less explainable. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining 'No Problem' by Chance The Rapper ft. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne surged up to 63, but the song has been charting for 17 weeks - you'd think the summer would have been an ideal time to push it, it's probably going to be gone soon! I'd take it over Sia's collaboration with Kendrick on 'The Greatest' which roared up to 24 on being bland and generic, or over either of our mediocre trap hits from the past few weeks that somehow got traction, like 'Caroline' by Amine going to 70 and 'OOOUUU' by Young M.A. rising to 67. Thankfully, the rest of our gains are a little more tolerable: 'It Don't Hurt Like It Used To' by Billy Currington rising to 55 because something needs to fill country radio, 'Scars To Your Beautiful' by Alessia Cara continuing to gain momentum up to 62, and - most surprisingly - 'Fade' by Kanye West, Ty Dolla $ign and Post Malone leaped up to 47. Not really complaining - it's an interesting song and the video is great, but I'm just surprised it's gotten this much momentum, especially compared to other tracks from The Life Of Pablo. 

Of course, when we look at our list of new arrivals... brace yourselves, folks, it's going to be a rough list, starting with...

98. 'X' by 21 Savage & Metro Boomin ft. Future - you know, for as many of the XXL Freshmen that I've talked about on the charts this year, I've mostly avoided talking about 21 Savage. Oh, I've heard of the guy - he was on Travis Scott's last record for a verse that wasn't bad - but like most of the Freshmen this year, I haven't been remotely impressed by what he was bringing to the table, and it seems like major labels have agreed, as all of his EPs and mixtapes are self-released. But since he managed to get Future on a track for his collaborative EP with Metro Boomin, it just managed to scrape onto the Hot 100... and wow, this is bleak. Bare-bones bassy trap beat, desaturated synth tones, hints of what sounds like woodwinds in the background on the verses that becomes chiptune, and Future and 21 Savage rapping with the flat cadence of two people who are just bored by all of the jewelry and sex they get. It's an ugly track, not helped by all of the 'flexing on exes' that is cribbed from Rae Sremmurd's 'My Ex' - you know, their worst song - and such a casual disregard for everything else that I'm inspired - to not remotely care about this whatsoever. It's not precisely wack, but it sure as hell isn't interesting... but speaking of Rae Sremmurd 

96. 'Black Beatles' by Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane - okay, time to blow your mind: this is easily Rae Sremmurd's best song so far, and nearly all of it has to do with the production. The glossy dark synths that transition into darker keys and the fast-paced gallop in the lower tones layered with the trap beat, it almost has a darkwave vibe and that's something I can definitely get behind. Granted, that's mostly where my praises stop, as Swae Lee croon-raps through a lazy flexing verse and hook, Gucci Mane drops a drug-overloaded verse that's not particularly interesting... and Slim Jimmi follows suit. What I find significantly more exasperating is that they refer to themselves as the 'black Beatles', which proves that not only that they can't count, but aren't remotely familiar with the Beatles or the sort of music they make. And that begs the question - if they're both so stupefyingly rich, why couldn't they afford a Beatles sample or interpolation to fit the rest of the song? Eh, whatever, that's nitpicking... really, outside of the production this track is completely empty and lacking in anything interesting. Good production, though.

89. 'Sleep Without You' by Brett Young - I swear, these male country stars with completely forgettable names keep on coming and going, don't they - it seems like between trap bangers and interchangeable guys who play a rough approximation of country music, none of them are really sticking around. So considering this'll probably be the first and last time anyone cares about Brett Young, he's from California, signed to Republic, and this is a single of his EP released back in February. And... eh, it's not bad. Brett Young's vocal reminds me of many of the acoustic singer-songwriters who briefly snagged some success in the 2000s and who I'm probably more forgiving of that I should, and the lyrical sentiment is kind of cute, waiting for his girl to come home from her night out because he can't sleep without her. And the funny thing is that this song doesn't ring as douchey to me, mostly because Brett Young seems more bemused and surprised at his own earnest affection. If I were to nitpick... well, there's no need to use drum machines, but they're also light and sandy enough to blur with the real drums and more staccato acoustic strums so they're not that noticeable. Honestly, this song might have taken its time getting here, but it's pretty decent, maybe a sign that even pop country is starting to improve with the rest of the genre. As it is, I'll take it.

(video not available - hopefully never will be...)

75. 'Deja Vu' by Post Malone ft. Justin Bieber - apologies for lack of a trigger warning, but seriously folks, we need to have a talk about continuing to give Post Malone a career. It's bad enough that 'Fade' could well give him a second hit, but now that he's hooked up with Justin Bieber, we as a society might have to deal with the fact that he's not going away. And that's a problem because despite the good 'vibes' - which on this track just feel awkward with the generic popping beat, funereal organ, ghostly coos, and watery keys trying so hard to imitate 'Hotline Bling' he remains a remarkably lousy artist, both as a singer and songwriter. This is a guy who in the hook tells the girl to leave her 'shits at the door', in this case referring to her panties and invoking all manner of brown stains. Who says that he's trying to see her from 'his own perspective', as if there is any other perspective he can use. And then there's the bigger picture: these two are wondering if it's deja vu that he wants to be with this girl given how many times it's happened before with the bitches and hoes in the past - now maybe it's just me, but it doesn't seem all that romantic when the foundation of your song is that you've banged so many women in this exact same scenario in the past that you now casually disregard! And it's made even worse by Bieber, who implies even as he points this girl in the 'right direction', it's all new - so how can it be deja vu, Bieber? Look, I get it, you're not supposed to think about the fine details and just embrace the vibes, but when both of these guys are layered so close to the front of the mix with Post Malone's warbling, you can't ignore such obvious incompetence. So yeah, this blows, Post Malone continues to suck, and Bieber remains as overexposed as ever - next!

73. 'Blue Ain't Your Color' by Keith Urban - okay, seriously, can the Ripcord-era of Keith Urban just be over already? It hasn't charted or sold as well as Fuse and it's a markedly worse record, so can we just forget this part of Keith Urban's pop experience ever happened and just move on? Well, until that happens we've got the fourth single 'Blue Ain't Your Color', that drops into a very sparse waltz cadence built off a painfully thin drum machine and desaturated strum as the mix swirls around a completely drained and distant guitar line that might have some smoky sizzle on the brief solo, but really doesn't do enough to really jump out at me. But as when I covered Ripcord, my issue was the lyrics - he meets a girl at a bar who is sad, he jumps to the assumption that her boyfriend isn't treating her right, and then tries to make her smile even as he professes he's not trying to take her home... sure. Now to his credit, Keith Urban at least does sound mostly sincere, but what this song reminds me of so much more is 'The One You're Waiting On' by Alan Jackson, which aside from having far better production that actually sounds like country has subtlety, greater detail, fantastic harmonies... wait, why aren't I listening to that instead? Oh, Keith Urban? Eh, the guitarwork is salvageable, but the rest of the song I'll forget in a day - sorry.

15. 'Perfect Illusion' by Lady Gaga - and now the big one that so many of you have been asking me to talk about... and the song, if we're being brutally honest, will probably sink hard just like the rest of the big comeback singles from pop divas we've heard lately. Now Lady Gaga falls into a different sort of lane than most - namely that ARTPOP did some damage to her brand that was arguably unwarranted, as the record really isn't bad, but she has managed to keep enough of a profile outside of music to remain relevant - but her radio deal and sales are already dipping hard, so is this a real flop? Honestly... I can't really say this is a great song, especially by Gaga standards. Now it's not bad by any stretch - Gaga is singing her lungs out, the electro-rock synths lead to a solid hook, even if I do feel the track is percussion-heavy over melody, the lyrics reflecting the frustrated disappointment of falling and breaking apart within the fakeness of social media culture are well-framed, and that key change... well yeah, I'm onboard with that. And yet this is not a song that excites me or has real bite to it, and I'm placing nearly all the blame on the production, specifically around the guitar. This is a track that could have had rock's explosive force to match Gaga's singing - hell, it was almost promised by the riffs that opened the song - and yet it doesn't explode. It's too clean and pristine, especially after the key change, and considering how much Gaga idolizes Queen, she could have easily amped things up and I'd have been on board. As it is, it feels oddly safe, and despite being a pretty good tune, from Lady Gaga I tend to expect more.

Granted, considering the week we had here it is still going to snatch the Best of the Week - Brett Young gets close, but not quite there. As for the worst... I'm giving it to Post Malone and Justin Bieber for 'Deja Vu' - questionably good vibes can't redeem awful writing, I'm sorry. So this was a pretty tumultuous week and I can't say there was a lot of quality here - let's hope we get better soon.

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