Tuesday, November 15, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 26, 2016

Seems like the end of a Billboard year can still surprise you, eh? If you had asked me six months or a year ago if I had wanted 2016's godawful year on the Hot 100 to end like this, I would have justifiably called you crazy. But here we are... seems like a lot of things have changed in this past week, and this Hot 100 is a prime example - the sort of week with a lot of change, including a new #1... and yet we had more returning entries than new arrivals. The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Well, enough nebulous connections, we know how we all got here, let's dig into our top ten and our new #1: 'Black Beatles' by Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane, the first #1 hit for both artists. Now there's a lot to deconstruct why this happened... and why for the most part I'm okay with it. It's crushing any competition in its path on streaming and sales, and while radio has a long way to catch up, the margin is so wide that it'll easily hold #1. And again, this isn't that surprising either: it's arguably Rae Sremmurd's best song - in that it's okay, not bad or great - it actually is more of a song than just a meme, but also is tied to the mannequin challenge and thus has all the more virality. I certainly prefer it being on the top to 'Closer' by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey, which despite airplay and YouTube dominance slid to #2, and even then that airplay is shaky as hell, this might have been the breaking point. When you look at 'Starboy' by The Weeknd and Daft Punk also pushed back to #3, though... see, I don't know. Airplay momentum didn't actually break this week, and even if the sales discount didn't give it enough traction, it actually gained on YouTube and held steady on streaming, it might hold up well. What won't is 'Heathens' by twenty one pilots down to #4 - it's losing airplay and streaming, sales are weakening, it's definitely vulnerable to a challenge from 'Let Me Love You' by DJ Snake & Justin Bieber, which also slipped to #5 but might still challenge... even though every other category looks shaky. This takes us to '24k Magic' by Bruno Mars, which rose to #6 basically thanks to good sales and airplay, with streaming actually getting a bit of a boost this week that it desperately needed. This puts it above 'Side To Side' by Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj at #7, which slipped despite great airplay and huge YouTube it doesn't quite have the sales or streaming to hold more traction. It did stay above 'Juju On Dat Beat' by Zay Hilfigerrr and Zayion McCall, who are only at #8 thanks to streaming and sales, because the radio sure as hell aren't catching on - and why would they, when 'Black Beatles' basically fills their role except better? Unfortunately, all of this led to a rough week for 'Broccoli' by D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty, elbowed back to #9 despite a good week on streaming as sales and airplay took hits. And finally, re-entering the top 10 despite the fact I haven't heard anyone anywhere who likes this but is getting crowbarred down the radio regardless... 'Don't Wanna Know' by Maroon 5 and Kendrick Lamar. Okay, someone's buying it, because the sales are decent, but this is really getting pushed by the radio and nobody else, because streaming and YouTube are absolutely miserable here.

And on that note, losers and dropouts! On the one hand, I'm not displeased that nearly all of Meek Mill's songs are off the charts... but they took with it 'Hymn For The Weekend' by Coldplay, which actually did grow on me a fair bit. Beyond that, we've got a healthy crop of losers this week, most of them leaning towards country. 'Setting The World On Fire' by Kenny Chesney and Pink tanked after gains last week to 48, 'I Know Somebody' by LoCash continued down to 92, 'Vice' by Miranda Lambert sputtered down to 70 - not good signs as your leadoff single for that big double album coming out soon - and 'Million Reasons' by Lady Gaga lost hard down to 96... not really a country song, but the principle applies. Beyond that, the one Meek Mill song that did stick around - 'Litty' with Tory Lanez - crashed to 79, 'My Way' by Calvin Harris faded down to 55, and 'Sneakin' by Drake and 21 Savage got a welcome cut off its gains down to 43.

Granted, 21 Savage still came out of this week stronger overall, and for that we need to take a look at our gains and reentries, where in the former category he had two big ones: 'X' with Metro Boomin and Future up to 37 and 'No Heart' with Metro Boomin up to 57 - joy. Beyond that, our gains are all kind of a mixed bag: yes, it's a good thing to see 'All TIme Low' by Jon Bellion surge up to 42, and 'Love Me Now' by John Legend picking up off the video, that's not bad at 66. Hell, I don't even mind that 'Mercy' by Shawn Mendes went up to 58, it's the best song off that album. But beyond that, 'What They Want' by Russ rising to 84 isn't precisely great, and 'May We All' by Florida Georgia Line ft. Tim McGraw isn't good either! Where things look significantly stranger are in our returning entries, because we got a lot of these! The biggest two are by far the worst: 'Bad Things' by Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello back to 73 and 'Look Alive' by Rae Sremmurd up to 76, but beyond that? I'm more confused that 'Gangsta' by Kehlani is back to 100, or that 'Hold Up' by Beyonce is back at 99 - still a damn good song, but can someone tell me what the hell Beyonce is waiting for if she's going to release more singles, '6 Inch' or 'Freedom' or 'Sandcastles' or 'All Night' would clean up right now! And sure, I'm happy Pitbull brought back Flo Rida and LunchMoney Lewis with 'Greenlight' to 97, but beyond that... 'Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen' is back at 82 - why?

Whatever - I can't see memes having much staying power on the Hot 100 as it is, and as such, let's refocus on our sparse list of new arrivals, starting with...

98. 'Kill A Word' by Eric Church ft. Rhiannon Giddens - so it turns out record low ratings for the CMAs meant that it didn't really impact the charts nearly as much as I expected, just managing to sneak this song near the very bottom, and even that was overshadowed by the overblown and overwhelming stupid controversy surrounding the Beyonce performance - which of course meant 'Daddy Lessons' didn't rechart, so this was asinine all around. But there was one pernicious and toxic element that came out of this conversation that needs to be burned out now, and that is whether country music is racist and backwards. Speaking definitively on the audience... well, only about as much as the rest of rural America and the past week has given you plenty of answers to that question, but when you look to the artists and industry, the answer is a lot more complicated. It's definitely true there aren't many black artists in country, but they definitely exist and some have been incredibly successful - look at Darius Rucker or especially Charley Pride, the latter who had 29 #1 hits on the country charts, both were at the CMAs! But we don't even need to look that far: seemingly beneath so many people's notice, Eric Church rolled out his newest single and teamed up with Rhiannon Giddens to do it, continuing his grand tradition of pushing criminally underrated artists regardless of who they are. And no, it would not be my personal choice - 'Mistress Named Music' is a better song and there's a strange dichotomy to all the violence Church would deliver on words and language in the spirit of improving discourse... but the core of his message has real power. Like it or not words do matter, and given how much sane conversation has been burned out of American culture thanks to echo chambers and polarization and social media, the message has a lot of power. And while the track has always been a tad more staccato than I'd prefer, the solid interweaving electric and acoustic melodies, the more defined bass melodies playing off hints of organ, and the fact that both Church and Giddens have good chemistry and intensity makes this definitely worth it. Great song, and man, we've needed something like this for a while.

87. 'Selfish' by PnB Rock - ooh boy, this is awkward. See, when I see an artist I don't recognize on the Hot 100, my first response is to google who the hell they are. And so I discover that he's a Philadelphia rapper who has been building local buzz for the past few years... and that he apparently got a 15-year old pregnant back in April when he was in his early 20s, and in Pennsylvania that's statutory. I say all of this because he now has his first ever debut on the Hot 100... and look, I might not be the biggest fan of Ty Dolla $ign or August Alsina, but I can tell when somebody's trying to jump on their style, and PnB Rock is definitely in that lane. And that wouldn't be a bad thing if PnB Rock was more consistent as a singer, but for every point where he reaches into his decent upper range or steps into different melodic progressions, he drops into this nasal flatter range that's just not as interesting, and that's not counting the pitched up voice on the final hook. And the lyrics don't help - forget the constant assertions of being selfish, but while I don't mean to judge, if you're talking about the guys on your girl's dick, I'm going to have questions. If anything, the song just feels underwritten, and thus it wasn't even a surprise to see this guy is loosely affiliated with Fetty Wap. The best thing I can say about it is the production is actually pretty decent - the main tones carry a lot of melody even if the scraping percussion can't do much with it - almost makes you happy when the trap beat and brighter piano accents come in. Overall... honestly, I don't hate this, but I've also heard a lot better.

71. 'Setting Fires' by The Chainsmokers ft. XYLO - so as I think it's been well-established, I've got no use for The Chainsmokers, and I covered this track pretty thoroughly when I reviewed their last EP a week or so back. The melody on the prechorus is blatantly ripped off from 'No ID' by Frankmusik and Colette Carr, that vocal flourish XYLO does at the end of each verse isn't nearly as sexy as she thinks it is, the lyrics are all kinds of questionable and about sacrificing oneself to bring warmth to a guy who is cold and distant and pretty plainly undeserving for no solid reason, all reiterating a 'these guys can be saved' narrative feels hollow and disingenuous when The Chainsmokers are pushing it. Coupled with the overlayered vocal effects against the rubbery main synth, fake snaps, and a synth drop cribbed generously from DJ Snake, it's not the worst song on that Collage EP... but it's close. Next!

61. 'Bounce Back' by Big Sean - there's a part of me that actually does want to give Big Sean some credit for trying. He may have had a quiet year in 2016 but there have been improvements in his content, either on the collaboration EP he did with Jhene Aiko or some sparse guest appearances where he had the bad luck to get outshone by artists like Kendrick. So in a strange way it makes sense that his newest single is called 'Bounce Back', an attempt to leap back into the public consciousness... and his way of doing this is hopping on Drake's flows and style? Seriously? Well, to be fair, it requires he play to his lower register and that's not bad when he kicks up into a quicker flow, and while there are points on the second verse where things get a little rough, this is probably one of the better Big Sean songs I've heard, and there's actually some solid wordplay here and there: 'if you fuck with my glory I'm going to drop the L and get gory' - that's a good line. And it helps that Big Sean at least admits that he can take a loss - that's more compelling that bland invincibility. His voice still isn't very commanding, and it's not like this empty production with flattened buzzy synths and trap snares that carry no melody give him much help... but in terms of Drake impressions and Big Sean songs, this is actually pretty decent, all things considered. And speaking of Drake...

14. 'Used To This' by Future ft. Drake - you know, it's kind of fitting that the last song I'll be covering for this year of Billboard BREAKDOWN comes from Future and Drake, my perpetual frustrations on this show. Hell, in comparison with previous years, this was actually a pretty restrained one for Future - either that or he's just overexposed and I've gotten way better at tuning him out - but this is apparently the lead-off single off Beast Mode 16 a mixtape he's supposed to drop with Zaytoven at some point. And wow, that's not a good sign - when Future was at his best he was dark, moody, and went against beats that could either match him with bombast or went pitch-black. This is neither - in fact it's kind of a mess with that sloppy-sounding piano line against the drippy snares, tapping beat, and the awkwardly layered autotune, nothing that makes Future sound good! And that's before we get to the content, where now Future is complaining that he's gotten used to his wealth and you can't understand how it took to get there and wow, I really don't care. At least Drake tries to sing in his more passionate range in the first half of his verse, but again, are we supposed to feel bad that Drake and Future got used to this lifestyle because they exploited a public who didn't care how creatively bankrupt they both are? Nope, they're not getting a pass here, and with an instrumental that sounds this clumsy, I'm definitely skipping this.

So that was our last week of the Billboard year... and again, kind of a weird week overall. For the best... it's obvious, 'Kill A Word' by Eric Church and Rhiannon Giddens is taking this, although 'Bounce Back' by Big Sean did end up working for me. As for the worst... see, 'Used To This' was the primary contender, but Drake and Future are just whiny and sloppy on that song, whereas with The Chainsmokers and XYLO the sloppy framing and outright copycat nature of the instrumentation - to say nothing of the content that turns my stomach... yeah, they're getting Worst of the Week. See you all next week for Year 3 of Billboard BREAKDOWN... that is, if you want to keep the series going, because I've got some ideas going forward.

1 comment:

  1. I have an idea for a Billboard Breakdown segment: "Songs in Danger". It's where you can bring up songs that are in danger of falling off the chart next week. It can be songs below the top 50 with 20 weeks, songs in the 40s with more than 20 weeks, or songs that have been consistently been losing hard for a few week. I think it would be a interesting addition.