Tuesday, November 1, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 12, 2016

This was a weird week on the Hot 100. All of a sudden the chart shifting momentum seemed to dry up, and yet we got a whole pile of new arrivals and returning entries spanning every genre except country. It was a lumpy, misshapen sort of week that would normally be fascinating to talk about...

Except that would be ignoring the elephant in the room, or more specifically, the elephant sitting in the top 10 at #1. That's right, folks, 'Closer' by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey is now the longest running #1 of 2016, more than 'Work' or 'One Dance' - and it's easily the worst of all of them. I have to ask, who are the people who are continuing to keep this song as the sales leader on the Hot 100, or the people so captivated by that basic as hell music video that already has twenty two million hits? At least it slipped on streaming and airplay gains are drying up, but it still has a convincing lead. And as much as I don't want it coming anywhere close to 'One Sweet Day's record - and it probably won't, it would need to last five more weeks at the top to tie it - we now have to raise that for consideration. Thankfully, 'Starboy' by The Weeknd is making one hell of a case, continuing to surge on airplay, strong sales, good YouTube, and taking the top spot on streaming... not precisely close yet, but it's coming at #2. That's not the case for 'Heathens' by twenty one pilots at #3, which might still have good sales, huge airplay, and a better than expected week on YouTube... but man, it had a big streaming loss, and that's not a good sign. Probably good for 'Let Me Love You' by DJ Snake ft. Justin Bieber at #4, though - airplay momentum might have slowed along with streaming, but it still has enough here to compensate for its weak sales. 'Broccoli' by D.R.A.M. and Lil Yachty might actually be in a better position at #5: sure, it's not really going anywhere on radio and sales aren't great, but it does have streaming momentum, so we'll see what happens. Almost the opposite case for '24 K Magic' by Bruno Mars at #6 - huge airplay momentum and good sales, but its streaming is lagging hard, and that's not a good sign if it wants to get higher. Compared to 'Side To Side' by Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, which is respectable healthy across the board, especially on YouTube... it's no surprise it's up to #7. Especially if it's beating 'Cold Water' by Major Lazer, Justin Bieber & M0, which just had an awful week as it bled in every category - it's only still in the top 10 because of leftover airplay, and that's fading fast. Then we have a song that doesn't belong anywhere near the top ten, from two guys that combined have four times less Twitter followers than I do: 'Juju On Dat Beat (TZ Anthem)' by Zayion McCall And Zay Hilfigerrr. And I'd like to say that the death of Vine means we'll see less of this, but that's not really the case, people are buying this song enough to put it at #9. And on the note of songs that belong nowhere near a top ten: 'I hate u i love you' by gnash & Olivia O'Brien is back at #10, except it actually has radio traction to go with the sales... again, who wants to listen to this boring, sloppily written junk?

Ugh, whatever, let's get to our list of losers and dropouts, and we had a lot of the latter category. The big ones shouldn't be surprising here: 'For Free' by DJ Khaled and Drake is finally out, along with 'Different For Girls' by Dierks Bentley & Elle King and 'That Part' by ScHoolboy Q and Kanye West. And Fifth Harmony had a particularly rough week, with 'Work From Home' exiting along with 'All In My Head (Flex)' with Fetty Wap leaving a few weeks early. And also in the list of early leavers, we've got 'Gangsta' by Kehlani as its second wind evaporates, 'Rock On' by Tucker Beathard, and unfortunately 'I Met A Girl' by William Michael Morgan. As for losses we only had two this week: 'This Girl' by Kungs & Cookin' On 3 Burners continues to collapse down to 88, and 'All We Know' by The Chainsmokers ft. Phoebe Ryan drops to 55 because such an obvious bland clone of 'Closer' shouldn't be charting in the first place.

And our gains and returning entries list is even smaller. First the latter category, because the release of Lady Gaga's Joanne did lead to a fair number of comebacks, with 'Million Reasons' hitting 57 and 'Perfect Illusion' hitting 78. But we also go 'Say It' by Flume & Tove Lo at 79, possibly off associated word of mouth surrounding her newest album, and 'Love On The Brain' by Rihanna, which has officially been chosen as the lead single and not 'Desperado' so what is even the hell. But we only had one real gain this week and that was for 'How I'll Always Be' by Tim McGraw off its debut last week... no complaints, it's a good song, and picking up to 89 is decent progress, I'll take it. 

But as I said, the real activity this week came from new arrivals, and we've got a bunch of them, starting with...

100. 'Say You Won't Let Go' by James Arthur - so here's the thing: I was actually planning on using this song as a World Hit a couple of weeks back, but ultimately chose to avoid it... more because James Arthur was the sort of performer where the controversy was a lot more interesting than his music. He blew up in the UK thanks to X Factor, and after a debut album managed to crater his momentum thanks to a slew of homophobic and borderline racist lyrics in a few diss tracks that were bad enough that Simon Cowell kicked him off Syco Records. But after a few years out of the spotlight, he signed to Columbia and released this as his lead-off single, which promptly went to #1 in the UK... and look, there's barely anything to this. It's a straightforward acoustic love song with piano accents where after a night of partying and holding her hair as she pukes he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. And outside of the fact that he's obviously trying to run in Ed Sheeran's lane and that James Arthur's slightly slurred and sloppy delivery isn't nearly as endearing as it's supposed to be, this is fine enough, I guess. But again, going back to it there was a reason it wasn't a World Hit, and I can't say I'll remember this in a week or even a day - just saying.

99. 'What They Want' by Russ - I'm surprised this is here. On the one hand, I shouldn't be - welcome to the semi-regular where mediocre trap songs creep onto the charts, and Russ is even from Atlanta - but the content does differentiate it a little. For one, Russ' more melodic flow and rough-edged intensity does show a split from similar sounds out of Young Thug, but after the first verse of bragging Russ spends the next two snapping back at major labels trying to take advantage of his money and success. And sure, I was digging this for its intensity and reasonably well-constructed bars... until you realize that the only reason this is charting is because he actually did sign to Columbia - even if he wrote, produced and mixed it all himself, the song loses a lot of weight when you discover that unfortunate fact. And even with that, I'm not wild about this production either - the warbling synth loop, blocky beat, and sparse hi-hat is pretty basic all things considered, there's very little to keep me interested. So yeah, between the hypocrisy and basic production, I can't really get behind this.

95. 'Greenlight' by Pitbull ft. Flo Rida & LunchMoney Lewis - you know, I made a negative comparison to Pitbull in that Kenny Chesney review yesterday and I kind of feel bad for that. Look, Pitbull is far from a great rapper, but there's a part of me that doesn't mind this guy at all: at least he has flow and charisma and he clearly wants to make party jams that have energy and fire. And so a team-up with his late-2000s contemporary Flo Rida for a hit makes all kinds of sense, and they even brought along LunchMoney Lewis for the hook, so I was set to like this. And overall, I'm digging this, even if the central premise is half pulled from John Legend and Andre 3000's underrated 2009 hit of the same name matched with a game of 'Red Light, Green Light'. Now I'm not saying the content is stellar here: Pitbull, I'm not sure it's a good thing to reference the late Left Eye and OJ Da Juice Man in our sex anthem, although I do appreciate the string of Miami references, but Flo Rida definitely holds his own with a more melodic verse even if I do think his bars can feel a tad disconnected. If I were to criticize this, I will say that the sparse muted textures on the hook don't really flatter LunchMoney Lewis' hook, and the minor progression chosen for the vocal line doesn't quite bring the bright energy to match the funk of the bass and the squealing horns, but outside of that the song has real groove and punch, and I can definitely see this gaining some traction. Can't believe I'm saying this, but Flo Rida, Pitbull, I actually don't mind having you back, especially if you're putting out fun songs like this.

85. 'No Heart' by 21 Savage & Metro Boomin - okay, you want an easy reason why I'd give a pass to Pitbull and Flo Rida? Because for a large part the alternative is this dreck. This is the first of two 21 Savage songs on the Hot 100... and by the Nine Hells, who finds this interesting? 21 Savage is an MC with slightly less charisma than a bowl of soggy oatmeal, and listening to him rattle through trap cliches against a dead-eyed beat complete with squealing effects cribbed from Future's 'Commas'. And here's the thing that irks me: for as much as 21 Savage says that he's a hard street gangsta who grew up at the bottom and wants real beef outside of Twitter, why then is he confronting someone over beef on Instagram? And if you're such a hard-edged killer, why then are you wasting your second verses bragging about brand names? Ugh, this is just unpleasant on all counts, and while there is a sinister edge to this guy that does make him preferable to a Lil Uzi Vert, at the end of the day I'm just not all that interested.

69. 'Shout Out To My Ex' by Little Mix - so now we come to the other act who has gone to #1 in the UK, and up until now the biggest charting success for Little Mix in the Hot 100. Now I've actually been looking forward to their upcoming fourth album - still on Syco, so not a lot of high hopes the production will get better, but maybe they'd be able to give Fifth Harmony some stiff competition? Well, stiff was definitely the world I'd use to describe the first verse of this song, with that clunky grinding tone paired with the popping tone, but by the time the acoustic guitar slammed into the hook, the song started growing on me significantly, almost having the feel of a folk-pop song. And man, isn't it nice to hear a girl group who are all consistently strong singers and aren't having to compensate for the significant weaknesses of one member, or who can actually harmonize on the hook, or who are willing to open up with some great belting? Of course, most of the credit here I'm giving to Perrie, especially when it comes to the writing - as a giant middle finger to Zayn I have to admit I enjoyed the hell out of not just the assertion that she was faking it the entire time, but also that the girl he's now with is actually getting it better - hey, why deprive her? So yeah, as a kiss-off in the teen pop mold, Little Mix prove that they're head and shoulders above the competition yet again, and have me looking forward to the record... even if it's got a guest appearance from Charlie Puth. Eh, we'll burn that bridge when we get to it, next!

66. 'A-YO' by Lady Gaga - oh boy, the song I liked the least from Lady Gaga's Joanne is for some reason her next single... seriously, 'Diamond Heart' had potential, why not release that instead? Now to be fair, just because I liked it least doesn't mean 'A-YO' is bad - I don't really like that thin snakey tone that creeps throughout the entire song instead of that noisier guitar, which feels even peripheral compared to the compressed hornline and bass that dominates, but there is some melody to it, even if, again, it doesn't nearly feel as organic and rough as it thinks it is. And sure, Gaga's vocals do plenty to compensate, especially on the final hook, but then we have the actual content which is trying for this trashy hate-sex vibe full of cigarette smoke and spit and it kind of misses the mark when it comes to any sort of actual titillation. Of course, the subtext is Gaga directing this song at the music industry that I'm sure she'd love to hate-fuck, give them the pleasure of her music before tossing them aside... but again, as I said when I covered Joanne there's a method to making this sort of song not feel like a staged burlesque and actually have edge, and of the songs on that album to make it work, 'A-YO' connects the least. Still a decent track, though. 

(no vid or song because Drake)

38. 'Sneakin' by Drake ft. 21 Savage - I think it's starting to become memetic of this series that I've long been sick of Drake, but the truth is that months after his biggest success from Views has faded, the annoyance has mostly faded. Of course, all of that could come back if he chose to throw his star power to rappers who don't otherwise deserve it... which takes us to 'Sneakin'. Man, remember when Drake actually used to sound like he cared, because instead of injecting some life and fire into this track he drops to 21 Savage's level for a relentlessly monotone song. And I mean monotone beyond just the tone of their voices: Drake sounds so world-weary that the most he brags about is beating other people's finances, faking Spanish, and being so relentlessly under fire that he has to call up his team... and if your team is just 21 Savage, you're in trouble, because his generic bragging has zero impact for me. And the production doesn't help: it's trying to convey menace with the desaturated siren, blocky beat, glassy synth effects, and trap snare, but this is not new or interesting for Drake, so again, it becomes very easy to just tune out. It's not precisely bad, but it's definitely mediocre... next?

32. 'Hallelujah' by Pentatonix - so do you think it's just coincidental that Pentatonix decided to cover Leonard Cohen's biggest song right when he released a new album? Granted, this is from Pentatonix's Christmas album and features handclaps and what sounds like some sort of echoing beat in the background which is pushing the definition of a capella to the limit, but it sure screams as awfully coincidental, don't you think? In any case, while I do like the vocal arrangement here on a conceptual level - it looks like the rest of the group is finally getting more to do, with everyone but Kevin getting a verse - and yeah, it's a song that definitely has held the test of time... but Cohen's has cast a very long shadow, and there's a part of me that wishes Pentatonix could have underplayed the song to fit more in that mold, instead of twice cranking up the bombast... hell, even Rufus Wainwright's sanitized version got that right! Look, the song is still a classic and you can tell Pentatonix are trying, but I can't really get behind this arrangement, especially when it feels like the overall mood was missed.

(again, missing because Drake)

24. 'Fake Love' by Drake - And now we get a big new hit single from Drake, the lead for the big compilation album/playlist/whatever the hell he's releasing in December. And... are you serious? Is Drake still for some ungodly reason doing this popping tropical sound with the most gutless glassy synths possible, coupled with a trap beat that sounds painfully half-assed? And that's not the only thing: Drake is going off at people showing him 'fake love', and outside of the line 'I've been down so long it look like up to me', which was originally pulled from an old blues song and has been reused in dozens of other tracks, it's really underwritten and nondescript on a lyrical level. But by far the worst element is Drake's vocals - I can't tell if this is a Young Thug impression with him reaching into his upper range, but the complete lack of any refinement in the production means that on the prechorus it sounds like a bad demo. It's not smooth, it's not textured, it's not even fascinatingly awkward like 'Hotline Bling', it's just unpolished in a way that doesn't flatter him at all. At least on 'Sneakin' the vocal line had a little refinement or control, but this is just ugly and sloppy - skip it.

So yeah, this week was kind of all over the place, but we do have a defined spectrum of winners and losers. Best are easy: 'Shout Out To My Ex' from Little Mix takes the top spot, with Honourable Mention going to 'Greenlight' by Pitbull, Flo Rida, and LunchMoney Lewis. At least those songs were fun and impassioned, whereas our worst... yeah, 'Fake Love' takes the Worst of the Week, with 'No Heart' by 21 Savage snagging Dishonourable Mention for just being ugly and unpleasant in a way that doesn't even bother to be interesting. I really don't know how much of this will end up lasting, but we only have two weeks left of the Billboard year, and anything could happen.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank you very much for this script. Your video is blocked in my country and I'm happy that I could at least read the content of it now. Keep it up!