Tuesday, March 21, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 1, 2017

So I was hoping this week was going to be where things started to get back to normal. Of course it wasn't all going to get there - Nicki Minaj is working on rolling out her newest record while beefing with Remy Ma, and as such we got the results of that showing up, but otherwise it looks like we have a breather - at least until Drake swamps the chart next week, but we'll get to that.

In the mean time, let's take a look at our top ten! As everyone will predict Ed Sheeran still has the top spot with 'Shape Of You', and I honestly don't see this changing - even though its airplay gains are slowing, it's still gaining and dominant in every other category! Compare to 'That's What I Like' by Bruno Mars, its closest competition at #2 - it's got momentum in every category, but the margins are just too wide at this point to narrow the gap. And what's telling is that it's not dominant in any one category beyond maybe sales, because 'Bad And Boujee' by Migos and Lil Uzi Vert may have fallen to #3, but it's primarily here thanks to its huge streaming... and even if you look into the on-demand category, it's slipping. Go to 'I Don't Wanna Live Forever' by Zayn & Taylor Swift at #4 and you see a similar situation: tremendous radio with momentum, solid sales... but it doesn't have streaming or YouTube in the same way, it's weak there. Then we have our first new song in the top 10: 'I Feel It Coming' by The Weeknd and Daft Punk - and I can't really complain, I like this song a lot! Now it actually seemed to hit a peak on the radio this week, but it picked up big sales gains and even some decent streaming - if it gets any momentum there, it'll stick around. Compare this to 'Tunnel Vision' by Kodak Black, which is only here because of streaming and YouTube - yeah, I got it wrong last week, I was pulling my YouTube numbers from the wrong charts. But again, it's not selling and the radio won't touch it, so I don't see it having more momentum here. This pushed back 'Love On The Brain' by Rihanna to #7, where it seemed like radio momentum finally stalled, and any streaming gains were halted by weakening sales. Now this puts it up against 'Something Just Like This' by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay at #8, which continued to rise on strong sales and some decent airplay momentum, this looks like it's got a shot at being a hit if it gets streaming under control. Certainly more than 'Paris' by The Chainsmokers right now, which fell to #9, which has radio traction but is losing sales and streaming, I'm not sure how viable it is. Finally, we have our second new top ten entry, and one I never expected would get this big: 'iSpy' by KYLE ft. Lil Yachty at #10. It's really here thanks to YouTube and decent enough streaming, but radio and sales seem to be catching on, which actually has some promise, so I'm excited to see where this goes.

And on the opposite note, losers and dropouts! The majority of them were from Ed Sheeran, but we had a couple big dropouts too: 'All Time Low' by Jon Bellion, 'Side To Side' by Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj, 'Used To This' by Future and Drake, 'Star Of The Show' by Thomas Rhett, and 'A Guy With A Girl' by Blake Shelton. And unsurprisingly, Ed Sheeran occupied the majority of our losing slots as well, with 'Castle On The Hill' falling to 52 - not nearly as bad as I was expecting - 'Perfect' fell to 60, 'Galway Girl' went to 63, 'Dive' fell to 85, and 'Happier' went to 94. The rest of our losers... well, bit of a mixed bag. I'm not really surprised to see 'Comin Out Strong' by Future and The Weeknd drop to 96, or 'I Got You' by Bebe Rexha fall to 82, and 'Today' by Brad Paisley seems to have lost traction to fall to 89 - never really had much buzz to begin with, honestly. But then there's 'Green Light' by Lorde... and yeah, apparently the sales fell off hard and it crashed down to 39, but it actually has some radio traction, so I have to hope that'll help stabilize before it's too late.

And speaking of stabilization, our returning entries and gains, in the former case a fair number of songs that had been knocked back by Ed Sheeran and are now climbing back in. The frustrating thing is that outside of 'Scared To Be Lonely' by Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa at 100, I wouldn't consider any of these all that good. I don't need hear more songs from Gucci Mane or Migos, and yet 'Good Drank' with 2 Chainz went up to 93 and 'Slippery' went to 99. Then there's 'Black' by Dierks Bentley returning to 88, but it's been all over the place recently, along with 'El Amante' by Nicky Jam. The surprise was 'You're Welcome' by Dwayne Johnson coming back to 92, but all the Moana songs got a boost this week, with Alessia Cara's version of 'How Far I'll Go' rising to 76 and the original from Auli'i Cravalho up to 46. As for the rest of our gains... it's hard to say any of this is all that good. 'Mask Off' by Future continues its momentum up to 19, as does 'Rolex' by Ayo & Teo up to 34. And the rest of what we got is either run-of-the-mill country like 'In Case You Didn't Know' by Brett Young up to 68 or 'Hometown Girl' by Josh Turner up to 81, or outright crap like 'Play That Song' by Train up to 58 and 'Heavy' by Linkin Park and Kiiara up to 69. The only gain where I'm actually excited is 'Redbone' by Childish Gambino up to 56, mostly thanks to having some traction in on-demand streaming, because there's no way in hell the radio's going to touch it... sadly.

But okay, I'm happy it's getting traction, what about our new arrivals, starting with...

95. 'PRBLMS' by 6LACK - you know, sometimes it feels like new trap MCs just fall out of the woodwork, but it's a little less common these days to see them with a major label push instead of natural buzz. That's the feeling I got for 6lack, an Atlanta MC who dropped a record in late 2016 that I never heard, and now his second single has hit the Hot 100. And while there are a lot of MCs trying to imitate Future's mumbling, I don't think I've heard an MC go for broke in the melancholic foul despair that Future utilizes quite as strongly as 6lack does, from the crushing bass to the fried-out flute melody beneath it. And the situation is ugly too - the relationships are toxic, overloaded with hypocrisy, and while 6lack acknowledges his lifestyle played a part in all of it, it sounds like the girl came in with expectations that he doesn't want to fulfill and ambitions she can't back up. Yeah, it's dark and miserable, but the framing knows it, and honestly, I don't dislike this. I'm not going to see myself returning to it much, but it's not bad in my books.

78. 'Liability' by Lorde - I've been hearing mixed things about this song ever since it dropped. Some people were disappointed that Lorde decided to put out a sparse piano ballad, that it was 'too conventional'... and yeah, the instrumentation is reserved and doesn't do all that much, but that's because the main focus is on Lorde's textured and really expressive delivery. And it's the story she's telling that has weight, not just about the relationship that fell stale but also the relationship she had with her audience. And while I can see this song get appropriated by a lot of girls who want to play to the high melodrama of it all and use it as justification for being hard to handle. But I feel there's a level of nuance here that'll go missed: Lorde isn't so much being dramatic here in her language as she is describing a level of intensity that so few people can reciprocate - 'dancing in her storm', a little 'much' for most people, be they romantic partners or her audience, and that can sting all the further when in order to get away from that intensity they just brush her aside. There's an emotional core to this song that honestly reminds me a little of what we got that Vagabon debut and its closing track, and Lorde's expressiveness easily puts her a cut above here. Great song, and while I have no illusions this'll be a hit, I dig it all the same.

72. 'Chanel' by Frank Ocean - okay, I was surprised that Frank Ocean showed up with Calvin Harris, but it might be even more surprised that he dropped a new track seemingly without warning. And while I came around fast on 'Slide', it might take me a lot longer with 'Chanel'. Don't get me wrong, some of the lyrical ideas in seeing both sides of fame, both reveling in the opulence and success while half-heartedly mocking it, that has potential, but I'm not sure the subtext resonates quite as well as intended, mostly because most of the 'new money' bragging doesn't really go deeper. And when you follow it with delivery that's nowhere near as smooth and feels awkwardly exaggerated at points, especially on the second verse, all against a sparse piano line and pretty basic drums... it's not bad, but he's capable of so much more than this. It honestly feels a bit like an afterthought - and hey, it's cool to see that he's still engaged and might release more music... but as a whole, not a lot to say here.

71. 'Changed It' by Nicki Minaj ft. Lil Wayne - and now our last three songs are from Nicki Minaj, all a part of her rollout for her new record which consists of three distinct tracks. Now I don't think this is a particularly smart idea - you run the risk of crowding out the market and pulling attention from one extremely strong lead-off single, look at what happened with Ed Sheeran releasing both 'Shape Of You' and 'Castle On The Hill'. Of course, that would rely on the songs actually being good, and I'd definitely question that with this track. For one, the instrumental is this warping piece of faded synth behind your standard blocky bass and trap progression - the most real change we get is Lil Wayne crooning through even more autotune than he ever did... which he mostly uses to force rhymes all throughout his second verse. But of course, Nicki's verse is the one that's getting the attention for supposedly targeting Remy Ma... and no, not impressed. For one, the double-entendres often feel like a stretch, the Jay-Z reference at the end of the verse feels incredibly clumsy, and her low prechorus kills any momentum going into the hooks. And Wayne doesn't help - he seems more interested in taking shots at Def Jam records and asserting how much he changed... yeah, guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. And this is not good - next!

61. 'Regret In Your Tears' by Nicki Minaj - and now we have Nicki's pop single: against a desaturated tone against the pattering groove of the bass, this is her breakup song with Meek Mill, the place where she shows him the curb among his increasing irrelevance, memories that she needs to erase. And I guess it's alright - I have no idea why Nicki thought the autotune on the second verse was necessary, or that she continues to flub rhymes for no good reason - but the song does have a little groove and momentum to it, so I guess I can kind of see its appeal. Either way, I've never been all the invested in Meek and Nicki's relationship, and it's not like she's providing many details surrounding what actually went wrong beyond just moving on, so a pass, but nothing I'm going to care about later.

14. 'No Frauds' by Nicki Minaj ft. Drake & Lil Wayne - so here's the reason why this song charted as highly as it did: Nicki Minaj's fanbase literally circulated a way to game the charts, specifically through on-demand streaming. Now this is nothing new, fanbases and labels and artists have been trying to push these tricks for decades - and in this case she probably didn't need it, given her sales numbers - but you know, as someone who at least likes to see some organic growth on the Hot 100 finds the whole practice kind of distasteful and completely antithetical to the idea of rap beef as a whole. Nicki will think she 'won' because her song charted higher, not because the track is actually good, and fans will try to rewrite the historical narrative into that being true, perpetuating the utterly false equivalency of 'popularity = good'. And you know, maybe I'm used to a higher standard of diss record - I remember the original 'Ether', or when Eminem had his feuds - and I'll say it: this is weak. I don't want to hear on a diss track where you reference your success by saying you're friends with Ellen! That's not saying that Nicki doesn't get a few shots in - targeting Remy Ma for going to jail for robbery instead of staying with her kid, showing how Jay Z pulled his verse from Remy Ma's album with Fat Joe, and a slew of her own ghostwriting allegations, so we'll call that a wash. But then Nicki defaults back to her fame and success automatically makes her better with a reference to LeBron's rings... yeah, no, LeBron will be remembered more for his game and stats, not his championships. But I think the larger problem is that Nicki isn't intending this song just to be a diss track, but an actual hit, complete with a hook with too much autotune... and it's not a good sign that I think Drake has the best verse here. Sure, it's a support role, but it's well done, his flow connects, and I like the crescendo he delivers. Then there's Lil Wayne, whose verse isn't bad but it ends abruptly and it's not like any of this is flattered by watery production that can't built a decent melody against your standard cheap trap beat. But overall, I don't hate this - 'SHEther' is a better song and certainly is more vicious - but for what this is trying to do, it certainly showcases how Nicki's brand of bland mediocrity applies to just about everything. Pass.

So this week as a whole... eh, not bad, not great, I can tolerate it. For the best, Lorde runs away with it in 'Liability', and for the worst... I'm giving it to 'Changed It' by Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne, if only for the egregious abuse of autotune and how clumsy it all feels. Next week, we get a whole lot more Drake - yay...

No comments:

Post a Comment