Tuesday, February 7, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 18, 2017

To say I have some mixed feelings about this week would be understating it. On the one hand, I'm reasonably happy with a few shifts in our top ten - we've got a returning #1 I actually like and it looks like it'll have some staying power. On the other hand... this was the week Migos came in force, and nearly half of our new arrivals involved them - and that's not counting another song that seemed destined to even further sink my regards for the artist into the earth's crust, but we'll get to that in a bit.

In the mean time, the top ten! Yes, as I already alluded to, 'Shape Of You' by Ed Sheeran is back at #1. And while it is a pretty close race - it's not quite as dominant in YouTube as it was, it lags in streaming, and it lost the sales lead - it's still such an airplay powerhouse that nothing's beating it right now. But 'Bad And Boujee' held up strong too at #2 - boosted by the release of CULTURE, dominant in streaming... if only it had a little more radio and sales traction, it could have done better. But this discounts the third major competitor 'I Don't Wanna Live Forever' by Zayn and Taylor Swift, which rose to #3 on airplay, huge sales, considerable streaming, and YouTube... although not quite at the level to push it higher, which I thought was interesting. Now all of this activity leaves 'Bad Things' by Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello in an awkward place - it's got airplay and sales, which got it to #4, but its momentum is sputtering and streaming is not getting better here, I don't see this going higher. Then we have the slip for 'Closer' by The Chainsmokers and Halsey to #5 - yes, it tied the record for the most weeks ever spent in the top 5, but it's probably not staying there. It's bleeding in every category, especially airplay, unless there's serious weakness beneath it it's dropping hard. And that might be possible - 'Don't Wanna Know' by Maroon 5 and Kendrick Lamar started to slip in airplay - which is all it has - and though it rose to #6, that's more because another song lost harder. Same case for 'Starboy' by The Weeknd and Daft Punk - yes, it regained to #7 on generally being a healthier song across the board, but it's still losing airplay. Then we have 'Fake Love' by Drake at #8... which is kind of in a weird place, because the radio was wavering and sales and streaming aren't solid right now. It only rose because 'Black Beatles' by Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane utterly collapsed at #9 - it's bleeding in every category, especially on the radio, and the shift to Pandora streams has definitely not helped here. It's almost anticlimatic that 'Scars To Your Beautiful' by Alessia Cara held #10 - yes, it was losing airplay too and the sales and streaming are miserable... but it's got enough radio presence that it's not going away any time soon unless it starts really slipping.

Granted, when we take a look at our losers and dropouts, that could very well be possible, because this week was wild across the board. The dropouts aren't all that surprising here - 'Chill Bill' by Rob $tone, J.Davis and Spooks really did better than I ever expected, 'Cold Water' by Major Lazer, Justin Bieber, and M0 had a solid run, and I'm not complaining that 'Sneakin' by Drake & 21 Savage or 'Song For Another Time' by Old Dominion took serious hits. But our losers... well, let's start with our cases of continued lost momentum, with 'Castle On A Hill' by Ed Sheeran falling to 50, 'Redbone' by Childish Gambino down to 94, and on a slightly better note 'No Heart' by 21 Savage and Metro Boomin at 73. And hip-hop continued to not have a good week here, with all the gains for 'Goosebumps' by Travis Scott and Kendrick evaporating at 67, 'Selfish' by PnB Rock dipping to 78, and 'OTW' by Luke Nasty falling to 92. But if country thought it got a boost last week it got a rude awakening here: 'A Guy With A Girl' by Blake Shelton drops early to 52, along with '80s Mercedes' by Maren Morris to 89, and then expected losses for 'Wanna Be That Song' by Brett Eldredge to 85 and 'Dirty Laundry' by Carrie Underwood to 90. The rest of our losses are more on the pop side that seem to be rotating out or just naturally losing more stream: 'How Far I'll Go' by Auli'i Cravalho to 75, 'Fresh Eyes' by Andy Grammer dropping back to 91, and 'Sex With Me' by Rihanna going to 96.

Of course, then we cut to our gains... and wow, the majority of these just suck! I'll give points to 'Despacito' by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee continuing to 61 - missed the gains last week here, my apologies - along with 'Down' by Marian Hill surging to 37, but the rest of these? Okay, maybe a few points for Bruno Mars on 'That's What I Like', but when the only gain getting traction is 'Issues' by Julia Michaels, that's not a good sign. Nor is 'Congratulations' by Post Malone and Quavo going to 39 with another big boost, or 'The Weekend' by Brantley Gilbert getting the only country boost to 69, or 'T-Shirt' by Migos cracking the top 20 at 19! In that case I might give it a slight pass - the album dropped, we've got a lot more Migos to talk about, but I'm not giving a pass to utter crap like 'Make Me (Cry)' by Noah Cyrus and Labrinth - at least her sister was interestingly bad instead of just incompetent - or 'Play That Song' by Train up big to 41, a song that gets all the more nauseating every time I hear it! I'd say we have returning entries to blunt some of these... except we have no returning entries this week, so let's just go to the new arrivals, starting with...

100. 'Some Kind Of Drug' by G-Eazy ft. Marc E. Bassy - so here's the truth: I have no idea why G-Eazy has stuck around. Hell, I think you could make a compelling argument that he doesn't really have the prominence he did for the first half of 2016, especially when it seems like so many more boring white rappers flooded in to show how little he stood out. So for his fourth single from When It's Dark Out, he teamed up Marc E. Bassy - you might remember their last collaboration 'You & Me', a lousy slice of obnoxious reggae that is exactly as bad as you don't remember it - for this... it doesn't irritate me as much as 'You & Me' did, but I get the stark feeling this is nowhere near as sexy as either of these men seem to think it is. I'm not going to deny that G-Eazy's flow here is good and the gentle sandy bounce of this beat with the waves of synth do have potential, but what loses me here is a lack of imagination. The love as drugs metaphor has so thoroughly been driven into the ground that to see G-Eazy use it for such a basic sex jam that it can't help but ring as generic, and Marc E. Bassy's nasal squawk on the hook does nothing for the vibe. It's not precisely bad, but there's a reason I forgot these guys' last song together, and I'll probably forget this one too.

99. 'El Amante' by Nicky Jam - I keep finding myself thinking that I should care more about NIcky Jam than I do. His smash hit in 2015 'El Perdon' didn't get higher than 56 on the Hot 100 yet it somehow made the year-end list, and while I didn't really care for his follow-up, apparently he got enough traction to make YouTube's Rewind video in 2016. So I'm not exactly surprised he's got a new song on the Hot 100 off of his album Fenix which dropped a few weeks back... but I'm also not entirely surprised that it's not doing it for me. I didn't mind the production: the rubbery bounce of the beat off the piano melody is catchy enough, and Nicky Jam does have charisma to anchor a song like this... but man, you do not want to translate what he's saying into English. Once again, it's another song about stealing a girl from her boyfriend, this time purposely full of dissing this guy and saying he now owns this girl... which is more than a little obnoxious when you realize the first verse opens with Nicky Jam saying he was tired of love and is more looking just to rub this in her boyfriend's face. It's sour in a way that doesn't match the instrumental tone, which for me... yeah, I might be missing something in translation, but this isn't doing it for me.

93. 'Culture' by Migos ft. DJ Khaled - and so our adventures with Migos begins, starting off with a song that was rumored to land on DJ Khaled's Major Key album last year - otherwise, given that DJ Khaled neither produced or has much to say on this song, why else would he be here? But even he is starting to feel like a parody of himself as he references his own Snapchat meme before Migos break into your standard stealing of girls, huge wealth, killing people, etcetera. And sure, Quavo's bars had a bit of wit, but when you follow it with Takeoff talking about breaking the girl's back that he's screwing, I'm left more than a little ambivalent to the rest of the content. But fine, hyperbolic brag rap has its place if the delivery is energetic - which it isn't - or the beats go hard. And here... yeah, I can't say I'm feeling this, the trap snares and bass swamps out the tinny little fragment of melody with extended autotuned drones around it. And when you consider how so many of Migos' flows just start to run together... yeah, I'm not really into this.

88. 'Scared To Be Lonely' by Martin Garrix & Dua Lipa - of the songs that came out this week, I'd argue this is the one I was looking forward to the most. And the hilarious thing is that I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of either artist. I've always found Martin Garrix makes EDM that's good without ever being great, and while I featured Dua Lipa on my World Hit before so many found out about her, she's had an inconsistent track record for me - I still don't think she's ever really been able to top 'Be The One' in 2015, and 'Blow Your Mind' was not the way to do it. Thankfully, 'Scared To Be Lonely' is the former's ballpark, as Garrix is smart enough to Dua Lipa's deeper tones a lot more room to breathe against the choppy waves of squealing synth against the sharper trap snares. Hell, one of the reasons that Garrix has tended to work for me in recent months is that he's got a little more taste to hold back, and with the deeper strings and bass on this song, it definitely pays off. And hell, even through the lyrics play in your bad relationship song territory that's so damn common these days, Dua Lipa goes past the angst and straight to the question of why they keep doing this, be it reckless passion or just a fear of loneliness. That anchors the drama, and honestly puts it head-and-shoulders above most of its contemporaries. In other words... looks like expectations paid off for once, damn good song!

72. 'Get Right Witcha' by Migos - okay, here's a question: I know that Migos are generally considered over-the-top with their drug dealer/violent criminal/nailing your chick rhetoric, but I'm really having a hard time getting a handle on the mood here. If it's trying to be dark or imposing... the main backing tones are flattened breathy flutes, piano and overly compressed vocals against a clunky bass, none of this is anything I haven't heard from these guys and repetition does a number on any sense of menace - and again, it goes nowhere near as hard as a lot of hip-hop I cover. Unlike Run The Jewels it sounds like none of their criminal behavior is fun despite all the bragging, and as for content... Quavo is using racist slurs for Chinese people, Offset is rhyming words with themselves, and all of them are using hashtag rap as if it's 2010. There's no intensity like the best of crunk, and the wordplay is bargain barrel at best - pass!

71. 'I'm Better' by Missy Elliott ft. Lamb - seriously, is Missy Elliott ever going to release an actual album again? Just like 'Where They From' with Pharrell in 2015, I'm not seeing any album announcement since she dropped The Cookbook twelve years ago! Now I wasn't hugely fond of that last song, mostly because of the production, and here...well, it's pretty much everything. Not only is Missy Elliott hopping on the Migos flow, somehow we got production that's even more bare-bones and basic than their material, with a clunky bass, barebones burbles of synth, and all at a tempo that does nothing to flatter any of them or add any intensity. And that's before we get to the content... and sorry, Missy, you're not ranting like you're Kanye, and 'watching my body like he's watching Scandal'? What, with general disinterest as the plot continues to get more and more asinine? The song doesn't just sound bad and a tremendous disappointment compared to Missy's best, it sounds unfinished, going for a popular flow and style in a way than she never needed to do before. So yeah, definitely not a fan of this.

66. 'Run Up' by Major Lazer ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR & Nicki Minaj - this is the sort of collaboration where I had no idea what to expect - Major Lazer has been generally tolerable over the past few years, and while Nicki Minaj is inconsistent, she at least has charisma, something PARTYNEXTDOOR has never had. So with this... well, it's certainly distinct, I can say that! For one, the production feels oddly cluttered in a way that seems to be going for an afrobeat vibe with the louder, eclectic percussion lines, but what is with all of the burbling squeals and noises that comprise what I think is the main melody clashing with the stuttered clap on the hook? And of course PARTYNEXTDOOR's droning and underwritten bars aren't engaging, the entire song really does feel like a warmup for Nicki's verse, and... okay, when she's rapping, on board, but her flat patois and singing midway through her verse just kills any momentum. No outwardly bad lines, though, but the switch back to PARTYNEXTDOOR for the outro does not help - really, Nicki should have handled the entire song. As a whole... I don't dislike it, but if I'm looking at collaborations that Nicki made with EDM producers, I'll stick to 'Hey Mama' any day of the week.

62. 'Call Casting' by Migos - well, of the Migos songs I've covered thus far, this is probably the one I like the most. The melody feels more developed in the piano and organ and deeper squonks anchoring the trap beat, although I will say it's a little weird how the vocals are overlaid over the verses in order to sound more imposing. As for content... well, outside of the string of fried chicken and BBQ references that are just making me hungry, Takeoff proving he knows the correct denominations of currency when buying weed, Offset buying things for his girl, and Quavo actually connecting a few decent punchlines, the content is exactly what you'd expect - although I will say all this annoyed impatience about too many girls from Migos might not be the best idea when you're not making it all that funny or interesting. Still, at least this has bombast, it's better.

58. 'Kelly Price' by Migos ft. Travis Scott - so remember how I mentioned tonal problems on 'Get Right Witcha'? Well here is where we get the opposite case to that song: this is a song that reeks of autotuned druggie incoherence, drenching Quavo, Takeoff, and Travis Scott to dead-eyed dreariness that of course doesn't sound remotely fun. And sure, if this was meant to reflect on previous hustling that might have been a bleaker time, but that's definitely not anchored in the hook or Quavo rapping about Popeyes and oatmeal or Takeoff too high to drive. So remind me again why you want arguably the darkest trap beat to date with atonal rattles punctuated by women's screams? Coupled with the slower cadence, it ends up trying to sound so much creepier than it actually is, and it's not like Migos' flow or content can sustain it in that territory. And that's before we get Travis Scott thinking the cocaine in his hair is lice... nope, I'm not doing this.

48. 'Slippery' by Migos ft. Gucci Mane - so I talked about five Migos songs this week, and having already heard 'Bad And Boujee' and 'T-Shirt', at this point any desire for me to actually cover the album is gone. Seriously, what more is there to say about this? The production is painfully underwhelming - especially here, with this minimalist burble and piano beyond your standard clunky beat with droning vocals overlaid onto the verses, the usage of more adlibs than actual rhymes to fill up the flows, and the same boring luxury rap that's devoid of any actual connecting tissue or storytelling. And with Gucci Mane barely able to keep up - he adds nothing to this song on his verse, his flows just aren't on the same level - I'm left wondering why on earth anyone enjoys this stuff. The tonal dissonance between production and content and the lack of vocal passion kills it for me, but at the end of the day all Migos have are flows and occasional moments of wit. At least crunk at its best had beats and rappers with energy, and when you look at rappers who are known more for flows than actual content, at least Flo Rida knows his way around a decent hook. 

38. 'Body Like A Backroad' by Sam Hunt - this was one of the most highest selling tracks in the United States last week. Seriously, it outsold most of what's in the top ten, it got to the top on sales. If you want any more evidence of steep cultural decline... well, it'd be that Sam Hunt gets a pass at all, but this song is one of the worst examples yet. Seriously, let's break down the fundamental idea here: because Sam Hunt knows all of his girl's curves thanks to going down them so many times, he knows her body like a backroad. This is at the level of Pat Monahan from Train comparing his love to garbage on 'Drive By', why in the Nine Hells would you ever think it is sexy to compare your fiance's body to a road that is likely in poor repair, riddled with cracks, sand and potholes, and more often than not gets no action... oh god, the subtext makes me want to hurl here. And that's before we even consider the production - I swear, the opening nasal guitar line on Uncle Kracker's 'Follow Me' had more depth, and at least that song took its beyond basic composition and put it with production that was dated but at least had groove. This brings in unbelievably fake, skeletal percussion to match the gang vocals, overdubs that try to add a leering party vibe that makes my skin crawl, and an attempt at a funkier guitar line and organ with no bass support on the bridge. Add in lines about driving down it going 15 in a 30 zone with his eyes closed - enjoy your ticket, dumbass - and of course it takes a swipe at city girls who don't have curves like her - which doesn't even begin to makes sense but he had to stretch his godawful metaphor somewhere - and says that he can turn his girl's jeans inside out, he doesn't need any help! But of course, the line that tells me exactly what this song is - beyond just being one of the worst ass anthems and dubiously defined "country songs" ever written - is 'I'ma take it slow just as fast as I can", implies he's trying to get through his foreplay as fast as possible so the rest of this meatheaded encounter can continue. So in the pantheon of horrendous Sam Hunt partial-birth abortions, where does this come in? Whoo, it's up there... you know, I might loathe 'X2C' and 'Drinkin' Too Much' more, but this is easily the stupidest song to show up on the Hot 100 in a while - and yes, that's counting when Daddy Yankee made 'Shaky Shaky', another sleazy ass anthem that at least had a groove, it was better than this!

In short, while Migos is netting a Dishonourable Mention for 'Get Right Witcha', nothing they've ever released is quite on the level of awful that is 'Body Like A Backroad' by Sam Hunt. Now for the best... man, this week sucked for new arrivals, but I'm giving it to 'Scared to Be Lonely' by Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa and Honourable Mention... hell, 'Call Casting' by Migos was actually pretty decent, it gets it. Man, you've got to hope the charts improve after this!

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