Tuesday, September 27, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - october 8, 2016

So this was an interesting week. I'm hesitating to call it a great one - the fall turbulence is continuing and I'm not sure all the results of that are good... but the more I think about the trends here, the more I'm seeing things start to recover a bit, especially in terms of the songs rotating in and out. And while there are a few trouble spots - we'll get to them - overall this didn't seem all that bad, right?

Well, let's find out more and start off with our top ten. Once again 'Closer' by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey is at the top - but that's not changing, because even though the radio gains are starting to even off a bit, it's got so much sales and streaming traction that it barely matters. Unless we get a serious smash, I don't see it getting unseated either, particularly not by 'Heathens' by twenty one pilots, which remains at #2 because merely being good across the board isn't enough to get higher. Again, its closer competition is 'Cold Water' by Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber & M0, which continues to pick up a lot of airplay and streaming... but it slipped on YouTube and sales weren't great this week, so it might remain stuck at #3. And it has to face off with the other song featuring Justin Bieber in the top 10: 'Let Me Love You', by DJ Snake, which rose to #4 on a lot of airplay momentum and good streaming and sales... a little stalled on YouTube, but that'll probably change with a solid video. Now it pushed back 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia & Sean Paul to #5, but that's not surprising - unsteady losses despite being at the top on airplay, and weakening in all other categories. The only reason that it's currently above 'Treat You Better' by Shawn Mendes, which rose up to #6 this week, is airplay inertia and the grace of a loving god, because it's getting soundly beaten on streaming by this junk and matched on sales. Now Mendes also jumped past 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya, and I'm choosing to believe it's more because of weaknesses here than the 'strengths' of 'Treat You Better', mostly because sales have continued to drop and good streaming can't compensate for weak airplay forever. But this takes us to our new Top Ten entry and arguably one of the most bizarre: 'Broccoli' by D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty. Yes, it's basically the bargain barrel version of a Chance The Rapper song and Lil Yachty remains the weakest element of the track, but I'm sorry, I can't hate this, especially given that hook and that 2016 has been generally lousy for mainstream hip-hop, even if it's only here thanks to streaming. I'll sure as hell take this over 'We Don't Talk Anymore' by Charlie Puth and Selena Gomez, which reentered the top 10 at #9 basically on mediocre radio and better than expected sales - joy. Finally, we've got the lingering gasps of 'This Is What You Came For' by Calvin Harris & Rihanna, as it burns off its remaining airplay with enough YouTube to cling to 10 even as sales and streaming evaporate - it'll be gone soon, no worries.

And on that pleasant note, losers and dropouts! And I have to say, I'm pretty damn pleased with our dropouts: 'Rise' by Katy Perry, 'Make Me' by Britney Spears & G-Eazy, 'Child's Play' by Drake, 'Don't Mind' by Kent Jones, 'She's Got A Way With Words' by Blake Shelton, and proving that the American public might have some taste after all, 'Deja Vu' by Post Malone and Justin Bieber had no staying power whatsover! Sure, along the way we also lost 'American Country Love Song' by Jake Owen and 'Stressed Out' by twenty one pilots, but the former was near the end of its run and the latter's been around nearly all year, so I'm not complaining. And truth be told, I'm not fussed at a lot of our losers either. I'm not going to complain 'I Got The Keys' by DJ Khaled with Jay-Z and Future is dying at 78, or 'Make You Miss Me' by Sam Hunt flopped to 72, or 'Wat U Mean (Aye Aye Aye)' by Dae Dae was mostly forgotten to 83, or 'Purple Lamborghini' by Skrillex and Rick Ross slid to 90, or 'The Greatest' by Sia and Kendrick lost all of its momentum from last week and can be forgettable at 34, or that 'Me Too' by Meghan Trainor is finally on its way out at 66! Now I'm not going to say it's all great news: 'THat Part' by Schoolboy Q and Kanye went to 83 after a respectable run and 'Fade' by Kanye West ft. Ty Dolla $ign and Post Malone fell to 62 - another bad week for Kanye here. And 'Peter Pan' by Kelsea Ballerini slid off of its gains and sales discount to 54, which isn't a great sign, especially seventeen weeks in. Similar case for 'All In My Head (Flex)' by Fifth Harmony and Fetty Wap falling to 63 at fourteen weeks, which is earlier than I had hoped. And finally, as I predicted, Lady Gaga's 'Perfect Illusion' fell hard to 42 even despite the release of the video - it's got no radio momentum, and that's a killer to tracks like this - not a good sign leading up to the album next month, which of course I'll be covering.

Now this takes us to our gains and returning entries, arguably the biggest mixed bag we have here. On the one hand, I'm not happy that 'Lockjaw' by French Montana and Kodak Black came back, but it's only at 100 and got beaten by 'Goosebumps' by Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar back at 97. As for our gains... look, it's not a good sign at all when the best of them is either 'You Look Like I Need A Drink' by Justin Moore up to 80, the clunky but okay 'May We All' by Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw up to 74, or 'Black Beatles' by Rae Sremmurd & Gucci Mane up to 77, but the rest of these come with a bit of perspective. Yes, it's not good that garbage like '1Night' by Lil Yachty is up to 70, or 'X' by 21 Savage, Metro Boomin & Future is up to 84, or that country is pushing junk like 'Move' by Luke Bryan up to 71, or the increasingly sterile 'Blue Ain't Your Color' by Keith Urban up to 60. With the exception of the latter, I don't see any crossover potential, so I really don't see any of them becoming consistent hits with traction. The only song that concerns me here is 'OOOUUU' by Young M.A. continuing to rise up to 52... but I suspect it's only here because of the residual beef between Meek Mill and The Game and getting remixed into the diss tracks. And since that's mostly dying down - it really was something watching The Game destroy Meek Mill more effectively than Drake ever could - I can see that song fading as a result.

But now we've got to dig into the new arrivals, and ooh boy, we've got an interesting pack today, starting with...

91. 'Cancer' by twenty one pilots - okay, you're going to have to follow me on this one. As I'm sure so many of you know, this is a cover of a My Chemical Romance song originally released as a part of their big mainstream breakthrough The Black Parade - yes, MCR fans, I know Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge netted some crossover success with 'Helena' and did go platinum, but 'Welcome To The Black Parade' was the song that broke the top 10 and helped push emo towards the forefront of pop culture in the mid-2000s. And yes, I know MCR never considered themselves emo in the traditional sense, but they sure as hell rode the trend and fashion - and on some level it makes perfect sense that twenty one pilots would cover them, given both bands started on the outskirts of their respective genres, got dangerously overexposed despite some real critical acclaim, and feature some of the most possessive fanbases in modern music. Anyway, this was a deep cut from midway through that album, a song I liked but never quite loved the same way as 'The Sharpest Lives' or 'Teenagers', a theatrical piano ballad that honestly always felt a little broad but fit the garish tones of The Black Parade. twenty one pilots... well, they play it straight and more reserved, stripping things down to a sparse tapping bit of atmosphere glitch with more pitch-shifted vocals and none of the bombast, reworking parts of the lyrics into a fragmented chorus that honestly didn't do a lot for me... which I can probably say for the cover as a whole. Hate to say it, but I think opting to play this more tastefully was probably the wrong strategy, not just because the gothic bombast of My Chemical Romance had more personality beyond Tyler Joseph's very willowy tones, but the sparse brittle atmospherics also remind me a bit of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' 'Skeleton Tree', and in that comparison Nick Cave decimates twenty one pilots, it's not even a contest. Not a bad cover, but I get the impression twenty one pilots could have done this better.

87. 'Key To The Streets' by YFN Lucci ft. Migos & Trouble - okay, so some of you might think my semi-recurring feature surrounding your generic trap anthem might apply here - half because outside of Atlanta YFN Lucci doesn't really have a lot of buzz that I've heard and half because we've got two thirds of Migos on the track - but believe it or not there's a little more going on here. For one, the sparse pianos punctuated with some distant echoing screams set a pretty solid atmosphere especially with the drill-like hi-hats, and the added synth layering isn't bad here either. And sure, Quavo saying on the hook he has your girl on a leash is all sorts of questionable - even on a song about dealing cocaine - but I actually liked the subtle shifts in flow that he had on his verse, and while YFN Lucci is playing to the melodic flows that are popular now, he's not bad at it. I think my biggest issue is that Trouble - an MC who has worked with Lupe Fiasco and cleaned house - is stuck sharing a verse with Takeoff, and unfortunately the two don't have a lot of chemistry. Overall, though... yeah, it's got problems, but I don't hate this. Not bad.

57. 'Juju On Dat Beat (TZ Anthem)' by Zay Hilfigerr ft. Zayion McCall - no, if you want the track that belongs as the 'shallow viral trap song of the week', it's this - and for starters, it feels like I'm dealing with a relic from 2015, because these sorts of Vine dance songs haven't been nearly as prominent this year and that's one of the few good things I can say about 2016! That said, I can't really say this song infuriates me as much as 'Watch Me' or 'Hit The Quan' did, mostly because of the underlying sample from a minor Crime Mob hit from twelve years ago that actually is a shade more interesting melodically than it has any right to be. But outside of that scant praise - and the fact that neither of these two are remotely as annoying as Silento or ILoveMemphis were - there's nothing to this song. The production sounds painfully cheap even with the sample, it's yet another dance song that steals dances from other mediocre dance tracks, it opens with two of the worst vocal introductions I've heard all year, one with the chipmunk voice effect, and at the end of both the verses and chorus insults the listener - charming. But again, I don't hate this - neither of these two have the presence to match their more irritating counterparts, and given how short this track is I don't see it having extended staying power. Still is pretty lousy though, skip it.

(the video is apparently dropping tomorrow, because of course it is)

40. 'Starboy' by The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk - this is the collaboration I've been looking forward to covering - and no, not just because it's Daft Punk, but more because outside of Lana Del Rey I have a hard time imagining anyone who could match The Weeknd's retro-leaning impulses better, especially coming after the end of Beauty Behind The Madness. And 'Starboy'... isn't really what I was expecting. Granted, I'm not sure what I could expect at this point from The Weeknd - it's easily one of the most sleek and polished songs he's ever released, even with the oily bass bounce and sandy clap of the percussion and minor piano keys, mostly courtesy of the eerie synths creeping around the edges, and that's not counting The Weeknd sticking in his smoother upper range, especially with that hook. But lyrically... this is a tough song to evaluate, mostly because I'm not sure opulence and bragging is a great look for The Weeknd, even if the chorus drips with sarcasm targeted at his audience. After all, we made him a star, enabled his rampant drug abuse and debauchery, so why not own it all? Okay, that's definitely workable... but maybe it's just me, but The Weeknd has always been most interesting when he's stewing in his own emotions and darkness, with only snapshots of people around him experiencing it secondhand - he's got the knack for detail that makes him an interesting storyteller. This... hate to say it, but even despite the sarcasm I don't really find this sort of bragging compelling, even so many do - and sure, the entire point is that The Weeknd doesn't intend for it to be compelling, but I'm not sure the intent translates completely. In any case, it's definitely a good song and it seems like the sort that'll grow on me, but I'm on the fence whether it's a great one, or up to the level of his best. We'll see.

24. 'My Way' by Calvin Harris - on the flip side, this is the song I had no interest in covering whatsoever, mostly because even post-Taylor Swift breakup I just don't care about Calvin Harris, especially on a solo track where it's clear he's brooding over it with his voice that isn't anything close to being ready for prime time. And when the track started with a minor key shift on piano chords that opened 'Feel So Close', I set myself up for a tedious listen... but it turns out this isn't bad. It's not great by any stretch - it's painfully underwritten, and if the strings were intended to add bombast for the final hook, layering the synth over top did not help whatsoever - but the rattling percussion does add a little groove that translates pretty well into the brighter, slightly clipped guitar line that drives the majority of the song, to the point where you wish the bass had a little more texture to match the rest of the tropical touches in the percussion to really give this thing some groove. It's not close to Calvin Harris' best - that'll probably still be 'Outside' with Ellie Goulding - but it's decent enough, and if this is what passes for emotional depth from him... eh, could be promising.

21. 'Forever Country' by 'Artists Of Then, Now & Forever' - and now for the big one, the sort of track where if I had a show like Todd In The Shadows, I could easily fill an episode about this song. Because as much as the general public might adore these sorts of songs - and make no mistake, people loved this and bought it in droves, to make it only the third song in the history of the country charts to debut at the top, and it'll probably stick around - music critics love to talk about and riff on them. Now in case you don't know, this is a mash-up of three country tracks: John Denver's 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' from 1971, 'On The Road Again' by Willie Nelson from 1980, and Dolly Parton's 'I Will Always Love You' from 1973 - yes, I know the Whitney Houston song has kind of eclipsed it in the popular conscious, but Dolly did write it and it went to #1 twice on the country charts once in '74 and once in '82. And this... well, let me give this song a little credit outside of the absolutely hilarious greenscreen-heavy video because the song itself actually has some decent production with gentle acoustic touches, real pedal steel, and some pretty lush strings and piano behind it - it doesn't sound synthetic or forced, which is probably the reason why Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, and Thomas Rhett are nowhere near this thing. That said, if you know your country history and are pissed that, say, Chris Stapleton or any modern indie country star isn't close, I'm not surprised at all - people tend to forget how much the countrypolitan sound that Dolly and John Denver lived in was loathed by the outlaws, which is why Chris Stapleton isn't here but Brett Eldredge of all people is. At least he sounds like he's having fun, which is a hell of a lot more than either Kacey Musgraves or Eric Church sound, both who are the most obvious outcasts and of course were paired together on their verse - although the pairing that's driven the most surprise was Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert, who actually sound fairly decent together almost completely by accident. Of course, you parallel that with Jason Aldean sounding like a castrated hamster opposite Willie Nelson and Blake Shelton looking less like Johnny Cash and more like a mob boss from a mid-2000s exploitation movie, and Carrie Underwood clearly arriving from the year 3016, and the fact that Darius Rucker made this song before Garth Brooks, but let me give this some credit and say there are a few things they got right. For one, getting Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, George Strait and Alabama brought a smile to my face, and then following with both Alan Jackson and Reba was a powerful moment - both who sounded fantastic by the way, and far better than Rascal Flatts or Little Big Town, the latter fresh of their pop failure with Pharrell. But it's very telling the most powerful moment in the entire video came less through any of the music and the fact that even though he didn't sing, Randy Travis showed up, a sign that even if its on a superficial level, country still pays tribute to those who came before in a way so many genres won't. And that's the funny thing: even though it really is a glorified commercial for the 50th anniversary of CMAs with one of the most hilarious music videos I've seen in years, there's enough good performances and production to save it from being outright laughable crap that'll age poorly in comparison to 'We Are The World' or 'Do They Know It's Christmas'. Ridiculous, absolutely, but there's a certain charm to it that I'll admit gets under my skin.

And that means, when we consider the best and worst of this week... I'm going to give 'Forever Country' a tie with 'Starboy' by The Weeknd and Daft Punk. After all, both are over-the-top with slick instrumentation and tremendous ego - and where The Weeknd embraces and then satirizes it, 'Forever Country' tempers it with heartfelt affection that on some level feels real. As for the worst... it's not even a contest, 'Juju On Dat Beat' by those two Zs that'll I forget in a day takes that. But overall... no, not complaining about this week, it wasn't bad. Let's hope for more soon.

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