Wednesday, September 14, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 24, 2016

Do you ever have those weeks where you were expecting a lot to happen... only for very little to actually materialize? I was expecting Lady Gaga to debut, for Travis Scott's album to make a major splash, for some pretty significant shakeups... and yet I didn't really see that, as we otherwise had a pretty quiet week, with a sparse number of debuts, a few returning entries, and overall very little to complain about. 

So okay, let's not waste any of your time, let's talk about the top 10, where for yet another week 'Closer' by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey holds the #1. And really, there's nothing close to it at this point: dominating streaming, YouTube, enormous sales, and airplay momentum that is not slowing down at all. It's to the point that while 'Heathens' by twenty one pilots went up to #2 with even more airplay momentum and strong sales, its slip on streaming and YouTube will keep it out of contention to go higher. It pushed past 'Cold Water' by Major Lazer, Justin Bieber & M0, which also slipped on YouTube but made up for it with gains in sales, streaming, and airplay... just not enough to hold its spot. It does remain above 'Cheap Thrills' by Sia & Sean Paul at #4, but I question for how much longer - it wavers at the top in airplay, it's lost sales, and the streaming/YouTube have long faded back. Contrast this to 'Don't Let Me Down' by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya - consistent airplay bleeding and miserable sales, but it's got a bit more presence on streaming and YouTube and at least isn't fading as fast at #5. Hell, it's likely here because 'Ride' by twenty one pilots is fading faster, which spent the week flailing on the radio with abysmal sales... and yet somehow it actually picked up streaming. And even though its position seems precarious to me, it still beat 'This Is What You Came For' by Calvin Harris & Rihanna, which fell to #7 as it clearly peaked on the radio and holds onto YouTube to compensate for its nonexistent sales. Next we have a song hitting a new peak in the top ten at #8: 'Send Your Love (To Your New Lover)' by Adele, and I have to admit I'm a little impressed how well the song has done on good airplay and pretty much nothing else, because sales are miserable and streaming is nonexistent. And right below it - somehow still hanging on - is 'Needed Me' by Rihanna at #9, which is clinging to its airplay and streaming because it sure as hell isn't selling anymore. And finally, we've got a new top ten entry: 'We Don't Talk Anymore' by Charlie Puth & Selena Gomez, a track with a guitar recorded off an iPhone and man, you can tell. Still, it's got good sales and better than expected YouTube, and even picked up a light streaming boost to match its mostly stable airplay - as much as I'm ambivalent to negative on the song, it'll probably end up sticking around.

And on that promising note, losers and dropouts! And in the latter category while I'm a little annoyed that 'Record Year' by Eric Church and 'Church Bells' by Carrie Underwood are both gone, they managed to take with them 'Cake By The Ocean' by DNCE and 'Wicked' by Future - overall, hard to complain about that! And hell, I don't object to most of our losers either: you're not going to catch me complaining that 'Grass Ain't Greener' by Chris Brown fell off its debut to 90, or that 'No Shopping' by French Montana and Drake collapsed to 85, or that 'Purple Lamborghini' by Skrillex and Rick Ross fell to 72, or that Britney Spears and G-Eazy's 'Make Me' lost a huge chunk of their boost to 33. And as for the rest... well, 'You Don't Own Me' by Grace & G-Eazy went to 87, but I didn't expect it to stay long, and 'From The Ground Up' by Dan + Shay falling to 75 makes sense, it was on its way out anyway. Then there's 'Famous' by Kanye West & Rihanna going to 100 off of its return - no surprises there - and 'Kill Em With Kindness' by Selena Gomez making a graceful exit, on which I'm ambivalent - the groove of that track did grow a bit on me, its had its time in the spotlight.

Where things get more mixed are our returning entries and gains, and let's start with the former. Yes, I'm happy that 'Hold Up' by Beyonce is back at 69 - it's not my favourite song from Lemonade by a longshot and I'd prefer to see 'Sandcastles' or 'Freedom' or '6 Inch', but those singles are probably coming. But along with it, we got 'Sex With Me' by Rihanna - and at this point I'd probably pass - and her new paramour Drake with one of his worst ever songs: 'Child's Play', which for some ungodly reason he looks to be pushing as one of his next hits - lovely. At least I don't have any issues with the majority of our gains: yeah, 'Vice' by Miranda Lambert is a bit of a trainwreck up to 54, 'Starving' by Hailee Steinfeld, Grey, and Zedd remains frustrating at 39, and 'Unsteady' by X Ambassadors is somehow living up to its title bouncing up to 29, but outside of those? 'Pick Up The Phone' by Young Thug, Travis Scott and Quavo gets the added boost of Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight to push it up to 43, and the song somehow is still growing on me. Same with 'Chill Bill' by Rob $tone, J. Davi$ & Spooks continuing up to 51, really beating my expectations there. Then 'Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1' by Kanye West and Kid Cudi continues to outperform expectations up to 59... maybe it'll end up being a hit? Finally, we've got our debuts from last week that I liked picking up traction: 'Scars To Your Beautiful' by Alessia Cara boosted to 79, and more interestingly, 'Side To Side' by Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj up to 18 - I dunno about you, but if this continues, I can see it breaking the top 10, and I think I'd be okay with that.

But before we get to our very sparse list of new arrivals - seriously, we only have four this week - let's bring back our world hit. And this time, let's go up north to Finland to the song that just went to #1 in her home country last week - her debut single that as of yet has not crossed over... but man, I hope it does.

It seems like on World Hit I cover a lot of husky-voiced female pop starlets - even more than are already flooding the Hot 100 - but I have to say, Alma is one of the more promising that I've heard. Coming up on the Finnish equivalent of American Idol where she finished fifth - and in the proud tradition of those shows, she landed a record contract anyway and released 'Karma' as her debut single. And look, you don't need to make the comparisons to an already crowded field of modern pop artists who sing like her, but there are few that I've found this convincing or showing the possibility of a real edge. Granted, her production is doing some heavy lifting with that tight low synth groove, sparse piano, and misty backing melodies, but Alma has a certain intensity to her delivery that I did find appealing - although I will say some of the breathy vocal runs she tried didn't really work. And it helps the lyrics have a certain direct punch that does hit with some impact - this guy did her wrong and then tried to dump her, and now she's promising karmic retribution... what she's about to do is a little less certain, but I like the implication left hanging. There are a few production choices I might do without - the pitch shifted vocals are intended to add menace but at this point they really feel perfunctory, and I think the bridge could have afforded to go a tad darker - but overall, this is a pretty damn solid pop song, and with the right push behind her, I could see Alma doing pretty damn well for herself.

But moving beyond that, let's come back stateside and deal with our new arrivals, starting with...

98. 'Fade' by Kanye West ft. Post Malone & Ty Dolla $ign - of the songs that Kanye has pushed from The Life Of Pablo, this is the one I wasn't expecting. Sure, unlike a fair few critics I liked the track - and I was totally onto Teyana Taylor before she was in this video, check out the review of her debut from 2014 - but it's not one where I expected the push. For one, the very sparse rapping we get from Kanye is under effects he doesn't need, and he could have easily handled the howling 'second verse' we get from Post Malone - although yes, this is easily the best he's ever sounded. And that's before the otherwise solid bounce of the bassline gets cut up by an awkwardly chosen female vocal fragment from Barbara Tucker when she was on Hardrive's 1993 single 'Deep Inside'. Again, I do appreciate the gospel touches around the edge and it's a good way to end the record, but as a whole, I'm left feeling the song is more of a fragment than a fully formed piece... which is a criticism I'd have of the entire Life Of Pablo record. Good fragment, though.

96. 'Caroline' by Amine - another week, another mediocre hip-hop song from a complete unknown that'll be gone by next week - hell, I feel I need to have a new feature, given how often this keeps happening! This time is from Amine - which will always sound weird to me - a Portland MC who has been pushing out mixtapes for a few years now with this being his breakout hit. And man, I hope it doesn't stick around, because this is the sort of disjointed mess that seems destined to stick around longer than it should - synth chopped to ribbons, gutless watery snares, entirely too much clattering percussion, and a rapper who seems to jump from singing to rapping with a clumsiness that proves he isn't great at either. Not good at picking up girls, either, with this song awkwardly balanced between One Direction's 'Little Things' in complementing the girl by negging her - including a 98 Degrees reference that came out of nowhere - to your standard trap bars, including telling this girl to get 'gory like a Tarantino movie' and for her to keep shutting up about the future - you'd think if this Caroline is the girl you want forever, you'd be more complimentary! But then again, this is a guy who says he's a 'tall thug, guess I'm a g-raffe'... if I wasn't certain this was seriously, I'd call it a really bad joke and move on. As it is... yeah, it's bad, but it'll probably be gone by next week, can't care too much.

92. 'goosebumps' by Travis Scott ft. Kendrick Lamar - so outside of 'Pick Up The Phone' getting a big boost, this was the other Travis Scott song to pick up traction on the Hot 100, and I'm honestly a little baffled why. You'd think 'Through The Late Night' with Kid Cudi would be the automatic choice given the hook, but it's more likely here because of Kendrick Lamar, where it's starting to reach the point where even the mention of his feature could kick a song into heavier rotation. Now there are things to like about this song beyond Kendrick: the off-kilter blur of guitar and fuzzed out bass, Travis Scott's mostly forgettable but decent flow... but let's get real, people care about this song because of Kendrick and he doesn't really disappoint. Sure, the verse is hedonistic and as I said in the review that high falsetto he uses certainly is interesting, but Kendrick on cruise control when he cares about the vibe of the song is markedly better than so many other rappers out these days. I don't really think 'goosebumps' will stick around - like most of the untitled, unmastered. project it's too offkilter to see getting radio play - but I'll enjoy while it's here, that's for sure.

52. 'The Greatest' by Sia ft. Kendrick Lamar - this was a song where, again, I heard about the controversy before actually hearing about the song. Not only was it a song dedicated to the victims of the shooting of the gay nightclub in Orlando, but that it featured Kendrick... and one of his worst verses to date. Now that raised concern for me, mostly because - and this is important to remember - that Kendrick has dropped subpar verses in the past. Think back to 'Fucking Problems' or 'Give It 2 U' with Robin Thicke or 'Bad Blood' - while a bad Kendrick verse is bound to be competent, what it won't be is interesting. And yeah, that's exactly the case here - but let's get real, it's not like the rest of the song is remotely interesting either. Sia continues on the trend of blending trap percussion with desaturated, plinking reggae on yet another self-esteem anthem with a big hook - at least Kendrick's verse tried for a little more wordplay! But overall, the biggest crime for this song is that it feels played out, completely lacking anything interesting from Sia or Kendrick - hate to say it, but they're both capable of better.

So yeah, short week, but it doesn't mean there weren't clear winners or losers. For the best, I'm giving it to 'goosebumps' by Travis Scott and Kendrick, if only because it's got the most personality and shows what happens when Kendrick cares enough to get into the debauched vibe of the song. Worst... yeah, it's 'Caroline' by Amine - too sloppy, choppy, and derivative to be remotely likable, but if we're lucky, it'll be gone by next week.

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