Wednesday, March 29, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 8, 2017

You know, it didn't use to be like this. Oh sure, make no mistake, there were times where artists could have multiple singles on the Hot 100 at once, and I remember distinctly how much some chart watchers hated how Glee would get a few charting entries every single week to eventually accrue the most Hot 100 entries of all time. But do you want to know the big distinction between Glee and Drake, who thanks to streaming got all twenty-four of his album/playlist/background noise to debut on the Hot 100 this week? Glee may have had cheap, watered down production and attempted to appropriate styles they didn't understand, but there was at least color and passion and diversity in the sounds and styles they were trying to cover! Whereas with Drake it seems like we get all of that, plus refocused into a hazy hall of mirrors that all circle back on this Canadian, minus the existential horror that could potentially make any of this interesting!

Eh, whatever, let's get to the top ten, where of course Drake shows up but not nearly as dominant. Part of this is because of 'Shape Of You' by Ed Sheeran, which is still impressively dominant as it rules sales, YouTube, and is somehow still gaining on airplay, is holding that #1. And again, it's not like it's got competition: 'That's What I Like' by Bruno Mars is holding #2 thanks to even bigger momentum on the radio, strong sales, good YouTube... but the margin it's trying to cross is just too large at this point. Then we have 'I Don't Wanna Live Forever' by Zayn and Taylor Swift up to #3, less out of its own strengths in airplay inertia or sales, where it lost on both, and more because 'Bad And Boujee' by Migos & Lil Uzi Vert lost harder down to #4. And sure, it still have streaming, particularly on YouTube, but when streaming and sales aren't uniformly strong, it's vulnerable to challenges on its main channel. Compare to 'I Feel It Coming' by The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk, holding to #5 - thanks to good sales and strong airplay, it seems pretty comfortable holding its spot. What surprised me was 'Tunnel Vision' by Kodak Black holding onto #6 - but consider while radio and sales won't touch it and it did lose on-demand streaming, YouTube is still huge enough to hold it where it is... lovely. Then we have the gains for 'Something Just Like This' by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay - again, it's not dependent on streaming, and with good sales and airplay, it's picking up momentum to #7. But now we have two new arrivals to the top ten, only the second time in history a single artist has debuted two brand new songs in the Top 10, and you all know what they are. Yep, folks, it's 'Passionfruit' by Drake at #8 and 'Portland' by Drake ft. Quavo and Travis Scott and #9 - and again, while there's a sick part of me that's impressed Drake's streaming was so good they got this high, that's all they have. Sure, they got a little sales, but not enough to significantly make a run at the top 5, especially if the radio is slow to adopt - which it is. And finally, we have 'Paris' by The Chainsmokers - and in this case, it just looks like it was overtaken, because outside of getting muscled back on streaming it held steady on sales and actually gained on the radio.

But let's compare to the much bigger issue: losses and dropouts. And just like any week with so many new arrivals, it cuts a killing swath through the charts. Notable dropouts include 'Slippery' by Migos & Gucci Mane, 'Chantaje' by Shakira and Maluma, 'Selfish' by PnB Rock, 'Today' by Brad Paisley, 'Sober Saturday Night' by Chris Young and Vince Gill, 'I Got You' by Bebe Rexha, 'Better Man' by Little Big Town, 'Caroline' by Amine, 'Heathens' by twenty one pilots, and 'Black Beatles' by Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane. Some died gracefully, others were cut off earlier than expected and might revive, but odds are most will never come back. And when you look at our losers... damn, there are more losers than dropouts or new arrivals here! Let's start with the ones already suffering, like Ed Sheeran's three entries of 'Perfect' down to 94, 'Galway Girl' down to 89, and 'Castle On The Hill' down to 72. And on the topic of great songs getting hit hard, 'Kill A Word' by Eric Church and Rhiannon Giddens down to 96, 'Redbone' by Childish Gambino lost its gains to 71, 'Green Light' by Lorde fell to 65 despite picking up airplay, and 'Water Under The Bridge' by Adele fell to 53, yet just eking out enough points to probably make the year-end list! Of course, a lot of crap lost out too: 'Cold' by Maroon 5 and Future fell to 31, 'Bad Things' by Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello dropped to 39 - finally - 'Party' by Chris Brown, Usher, and Gucci Mane fell to 56, 'Make Me (Cry)' by Noah Cyrus and Labrinth went to 73, 'Play That Song' by Train slid to 77, 'Deja Vu' by J. Cole dropped to 80, 'Heavy' by Linkin Park and Kiiara dropped to 79, and 'Think A Little Less' by Michael Ray fell to 81. Beyond that, we had a mixed bag: 'How Far I'll Go' by Auli'i Cravalho fell to 63 and hte cover by Alessia Cara went to 100, 'Believer' by Imagine Dragons fell to 57, 'Everyday' by Ariana Grande and Future slid to 75, 'Moves' by Big Sean went to 83, 'Selfish' and 'Draco' by Future fell to 85 with Rihanna and 96 respectively, 'Shining' by DJ Khaled ft. Jay Z and Beyonce dropped to 86, 'Call On Me' by Starley shot to 90, 'Losin Control' by Russ dropped to 91, 'Hometown Girl' by Josh Turner' drifted to 92, and 'Party Monster' by The Weeknd went to 99. Oh, and we also had 'No Frauds' by Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Lil Wayne falling to 84, which shows Nicki's attempt to turn a diss into a hit blown by one of her own collaborators.

And we might as well get to that collaborator, because 'Fake Love' by Drake went up to 15 and it was the only gain. No returning entries either, no room for them. And look, I've already reviewed this damn album, and there are twenty four new arrivals this week - forgive me that when it comes to Drake songs I've already heard, I'll be chopping it back to the bare minimum with plenty of snark, especially as I've done this Drake show nonsense at least two times before, probably three if you factor in his collab with Future. But that rule will not apply to our first three new arrivals, none of which came from Drake, so let's start this show with...

98. 'Swalla' by Jason Derulo ft. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign - I'll say it: I don't nearly have the same sort of disgust or dislike for Jason Derulo as I used to. That's not an excuse for the many terrible songs he's made, but for as much as that points to issues of talent, he at least tries new things. He takes risks, he goes in weird directions, he challenges the pop status quo more than so many in his position would ever dare, and most importantly, he actually seems like he's having fun most of the time! And given the week I have ahead of me, I was kind of looking forward to this song... and it is something, I'll give it that. Let's put aside the Ol' Dirty Bastard interpolation or how Derulo continues to try for a falsetto that really just isn't in his wheelhouse, or how so much of the sparse bassy synth, flattened percussion, and whooping vocals aren't that far removed from a DJ Mustard track, or how Ty Dolla $ign is completely pointless here. No, this song is distinctive for a few reasons: an above average verse from Nicki where for some reason she references LeBron's nuts - because of course she does - a ridiculously catchy little post-chorus synth loop, and Jason Derulo making an entire song about swallowing. And given that he otherwise avoids asinine lyrical choices... I have to admit, I can tolerate this, even though I'm left thinking Usher would pull this off far better - just saying.

97. 'Trap Trap Trap' by Rick Ross ft. Young Thug & Wale - so apparently Rick Ross' new album is not bad at all, actually showing a long-awaited improvement and getting decent reviews. Now I'm probably not going to cover it - my schedule is overloaded as it is and Rick Ross has rarely ever interested me, but I figured this song might be a good signpost to its quality... and, well, it's not bad, per se? I dunno, while Rick Ross can construct his verses a little better, I don't find his gangsta bragging all that interesting, even if the overloaded ornate swell of his production does match his harsher delivery pretty well. The surprise for me was Young Thug - yeah, his rhyming is beyond basic here and his content isn't all that colourful, but the flow and intensity that opens up his verse is decent... and then you follow it with Wale, who seems like he's constantly slipping off the beat and at least admits that he's not living the trap life, but then references Black Lives Matter, probably not what you want tied with this sort of naked drug dealing bombast! Look, it's not bad, but I would have cut Wale and maybe given Ross another verse to flesh things out a bit more - in other words, it's not enough for me to seek out that album, I'm busy enough as it is.

88. 'At My Best' by Machine Gun Kelly ft. Hailee Steinfeld - you know, I was curious how Machine Gun Kelly would follow up 'Bad Things' becoming bigger than you'd expect, so why not repeat the formula with another young female singer, maybe one who can actually sing? Well... it's better than 'Bad Things', but I think at this point I'm about done with vaguely defined angst on these sorts of self-esteem anthems, and Machine Gun Kelly going to perhaps the most tired well possible does not inspire or enthuse me. People tend to blame Eminem for popularizing this sort of song for white rappers with stuff like 'Not Afraid' or 'Sing For The Moment', but go back through either of those songs, the writing actually had detail and flow and intensity, for which Machine Gun Kelly relies on Hailee Steinfeld on the hook, where she delivers a line straight from the Hot Topic printing press: 'if you can't take me at my worst you don't deserve me at my best'. At least the guitar line is interesting enough, but if anything, it only highlights for me the songs that Eminem also did in this vein with similar instrumentation that hold up far more effectively than this forgettable dreck ever will - next!

(yeah, sadly there are no new Drake tracks available on YouTube, so no additional videos here... :( )

82. 'Can't Have Everything' by Drake - and to begin our exploration of Drake, we have him failing to learn lessons we all learned in high school. Open question: given all of Drake's success, what more can he still want? And more importantly, why does he want it against some of the dreariest music and flows possible? 

76. 'Skepta Interlude' by Skepta - so I'm actually giving credit to Skepta here for a pretty solid set of grime verses where it's very clear what he wants and the bloody challenges he actually still faces. I'm giving him credit here because Drake won't, which says a lot more about him than it does Skepta, who thanklessly puts in real work.

70. 'Since Way Back' by Drake ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR - this is not the first time the city of Portland is referenced on this record. I say this because it's the most interesting thing about this song, or indeed the majority of PARTYNEXTDOOR's career. In the mean time, Drake tries to be sexy, which can be difficult when there's no significant tune until the switch. By then, I've stopped listening.

64. 'Lose You' by Drake - this is probably the most limp song to reference biker culture, probably ever, and yet it raises questions. Why is Drake running from something he won't describe? Why does he reference R. Kelly again for no apparent reason, as this is not a remix? Why does he reference graceful losing and then not do it at the end of the first verse, or spend the second kicking Meek Mill while he's down? And why do you think you continuing to whine about any of this will make me care?

62. 'Ice Melts' by Drake ft. Young Thug - this is another song that raises a lot of questions. Why are there distant women's screams punctuating your bouncy hookup song that is effective stolen by Young Thug not saying anything? Why is Drake's vocal production crap, and why does he want this girl to do 9/11, which might be the worst considered car reference in recent memory? And most importantly, what does it say about this project that this is one of the few songs I like on this album?

61. 'Nothings Into Somethings' by Drake - at least 'Marvin's Room' and 'Madonna' had a vestige of self-awareness. This is bitchy concern trolling that your ex decided to get married and not invite you - and I don't blame her. This sucks royally, doesn't have the writing to justify itself, and you provably know better.

60. 'Do Not Disturb' by Drake - ah, the long-suffering closing track where Drake rambles again through his past and current paranoia, and instead of actually resolving anything like his faded relationships with old friends or dropping any of that tension against a faded vocal sample, he says he's taking the rest of the year off and retreating back into the OVO bubble as the song takes its sweet time ending. So Drake stans, people who for some ungodly reason are invested in this guy's progression... are you a little pissed about this cliffhanger that resolves nothing. Because really, you should be.

54. 'Glow' by Drake ft. Kanye West - you know, for as much as Drake pulled from Kanye early on in his style and cadence and honesty, it's telling in a bizarre way they have no artistic chemistry on a song that promises a great deal of glow but never pays it off. The most we get is an Earth Wind & Fire sample from 1974, before Drake or Kanye were even born - which you could make a credible argument is better than this entire project.

51. 'Madiba Riddim' by Drake - you know, for such an obvious attempt to copy the 'One Dance' formula, it's a little amazing we actually got a decent song out of it. Yeah, between the misty guitar line and a good prechorus melody and Drake actually taking steps to try and trust people, it has promise, it's a good slice of Afrobeat-inspired R&B. Shame the rest of the album lets it down.

50. '4422' by Sampha - so yeah, I'm not done bitching about how Drake decided instead of giving Skepta - or in this case, Sampha - even a featuring credit on songs where he does not contribute at all. He likely did this because he recognized the talent of two promising acts just outside the mainstream and wanted to bring it onto his project without giving them the name exposure or financial compensation of a proper featuring credit like P.Diddy or DJ Khaled would do, despite being two of the best songs here. Hey Drake, as a fellow Canadian I'm going to say this as politely as possible: fuck you.

49. 'Jorja Interlude' by Drake ft. Jorja Smith - okay, so for this interlude, Jorja Smith gets a credit on a song that's even shorter, and neither Skepta or Sampha do? It's not like Drake's contribution is interesting - hell, if I'm being honest, the most compelling piece is Stevie Wonder's sampled harmonica. And on a fragment like this... well, it's more excusable, but not by much.

48. 'KMT' by Drake ft. Giggs - and on the topic of Drake stealing from other artists, we here have him jacking the flow of XXXTENTACION while he's currently in prison - class act. Otherwise, it's a grime track that samples an instrumental from Sonic 2006 - you know, the Sonic game nobody liked and if they thought they did they are wrong - and yet somehow Giggs manages with a few of his references to make that even cornier. That's almost impressive in the worst way possible.

45. 'Get It Together' by Drake ft. Jorja Smith & Black Coffee - it's very telling that the best songs on Drake's newest album have the least amount of Drake in them, in this case giving space to a blocky hip-house groove from Black Coffee with plenty of piano and Jorja Smith's actually good delivery when she's not smothered in reverb. In other words, this is another song from this project I actually like - go figure.

40. 'No Long Talk' by Drake ft Giggs - I think Anthony Fantano already said it at length and he said it better: when you're not being yourself, you can sound corny, especially if you can't believably pull it off. I used to live within walking distance of Drake's old hood - none of the West Indian guys out there sounded like what he tries here, and it sounds fake as hell, especially opposite a grime instrumental and Giggs sticking the landing. So American public, why are you buying this again? I'm waiting...

38. 'Blem' by Drake - of course, Drake isn't about neglect his opportunity to slip into his West Indian accent either against this fizzy production. Shame again he has nothing to say, or can't utilize Lil Wayne for anything beyond an outro shoutout - and again, the most interesting thing about this is that he's interpolating Lionel Ritchie... and the fact I'm calling Lionel Ritchie interesting is dire indeed!

36. 'Sacrifices' by Drake ft. 2 Chainz & Young Thug - didn't I go through this same nonsense with Big Sean about a month ago - if you don't actually describe anything you've lost and you're clearly in a far better state now, you can't make us feel sorry for your sacrifices! And it should be a crime to have 2 Chainz and Young Thug and me not laugh once at a single punchline - and yes, Drake, that's your fault.

35. 'Teenage Fever 'by Drake - only on a 2017 Drake album will we get a sample of a middle-of-the-road late 90s Jennifer Lopez track being the most interesting thing about the track - and yet the production pitches it down, pairs it a discordant fart of a synth, and makes it about Drake hooking up with the modern day J. Lo. Somehow, this doesn't seem like a good tribute!

29. 'Gyalchester' by Drake - to Drake's credit, when he's showing homage to grime here, he's not putting on any ridiculously phony accents against an otherwise ominous instrumental. Instead he's talking about not taking naps and referencing a switch up of his flow that doesn't happen and otherwise nothing beyond the luxury porn that Drake raps about with the enthusiasm of damp socks. Again, I ask the question: if doesn't care, why the hell should I?

18. 'Free Smoke' by Drake - ah, the opener, with an unimpressive opening verse from Nai Palm who is of course uncredited and then Drake rambles about his current state which includes drunk texting J.Lo, dissing Meek Mill, and acknowledging that he's got so much money he really can't complain all that much like he does later on the album... wait-

9. 'Portland' by Drake ft. Quavo & Travis Scott - this is the second song that references Portland on this album, and again, Drake's not the one to do it. Instead, this time it comes from Travis Scott who wants to go snorkeling there with his girl before sex - I wish I was kidding! But again, Travis Scott seems to be the only one who is trying for something in his content that we haven't heard dozens - or in the case of Quavo, thousands - of times before! All against a melody primarily composed by recorder - so, does anyone think they've gotten their time and money's worth yet?

8. 'Passionfruit' by Drake - so no joking around here, I actually considered going to the grocery store and getting a passion fruit to come back here and make some extended riff on fruit analogous to Monty Python's Flying Circus? But really, that would be elevating even any comparison to this project to something far better than it's worth - Monty Python had energy and verve and insight and wit and diverse ideas and showed the care of master craftsmen building genius piece-by-piece. To compare to this slice of whitewashed, cynical dancehall crossed with easy listening blandness that can't even start properly... no, I won't do that. And it's not even that this song is bad in comparison with this list - it really isn't, there's worse here - but it adds nothing to the musical conversation beyond desaturated blandness that ambient composers would consider an insult to background noise.

But folks, that was our entire week... and I'd be lying if I said there were any real standouts one way or the other, but if I was to choose the best... eh, '4422' by Sampha gets it, followed by 'Madiba Riddim' by Drake, even if it is a rehash. As for the worst... yeah, 'Nothings Into Somethings' easily takes that, followed by 'Since Way Back' with PARTYNEXTDOOR, just an utterly worthless little tune. In the mean time, next week will be the fallout to see how much of this lasts - hopefully, not much.

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