Tuesday, April 4, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 15, 2017

So this is the sort of week on the charts that I like. Not just that it's a cooldown week and we got a pretty small list of new arrivals, but also because it's the sort of delayed reaction to a big smash that will often tell you a lot more about what songs actually have momentum. Plus, the majority of this week was watching Drake songs lose, and I can't say that's entirely a bad thing either!

So let's start with the top ten, and yes, 'Shape Of You' by Ed Sheeran is still at #1. And at this point - and I feel like I'm saying this regularly - I don't know what stops it, given that it's still gaining radio and dominant in every other category. Sure, 'That's What I Like' by Bruno Mars is still gaining on it - it's got even more radio momentum, it's surging on streaming and YouTube... but again, it's second best in this fight, and I don't see it cutting more deeply into the margin. And it's facing competition from 'Something Just Like This' by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay rising up to #3 on momentum in nearly every category except YouTube... but again, it's a margins game, and it might just be too far back right now. Then we have 'I Feel It Coming' by The Weeknd and Daft Punk up to #4, which may have peaked at the radio and spent the week slipping in sales and streaming... probably went up less on its own merits. Contrast to 'iSpy' by KYLE and Lil Yachty up to #5, which isn't strong in sales and its taking its time rising up on airplay, but strong streaming and great YouTube is more than enough to compensate, this'll probably have some staying power. Part of all of this, of course, is linked to the losses for 'Bad And Boujee' by Migos & Lil Uzi Vert to #6, which spent the week bleeding in all categories, especially YouTube and streaming, where it took considerably losses. And that's not all: 'I Don't Wanna Live Forever' by Zayn and Taylor Swift fell hard to #7 as sales evaporated and airplay started dropping hard. And 'Tunnel Vision' by Kodak Black might even be worse off at #8 - yeah, it's still solid on streaming and YouTube, but dig deeper into the numbers and they are dropping off... and that's all it has! This leaves a song like 'Paris' by The Chainsmokers as somewhat viable up to #9 - sure, it peaked on airplay and sales aren't great, but it feels a little more stable overall. Then to round us out, we have Drake's 'Passionfruit' at #10, which is here because of streaming but it looks like there's a hint of a radio push, so it didn't fall quite as badly.

No, if you want to see that, we need to go to our losers and dropouts. What surprised me is that overall, Drake's songs did not all fall out en masse. A few did, but the more notable losers are 'Let Me Love You' by DJ Snake and Justin Bieber, 'Goosebumps' by Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar, 'Kill A Word' by Eric Church and Rhiannon Giddens, and - finally - 'Make Me (Cry)' by Noah Cyrus and Labrinth. But then, the onslaught begins. The only non-Drake loser this week was 'Everyday' by Ariana Grande and Future to 94 - the rest? 'Portland' with Quavo and Travis Scott down to 21, 'Fake Love' mercifully fades to 27, 'Free Smoke' evaporates to 40, 'Gyalchester' is beaten to 43, 'Blem' loses to 48, 'Teenager Fever' goes down to 53, 'Sacrifices' with 2 Chainz and Young Thug slips to 56, 'Get It Together' with Jorja Smith and Black Coffee doesn't hold up at 68, 'No Long Talk' with Giggs stops at 76, 'KMT' with Giggs crashes to 79, 'Jorja Interlude' with Jorja Smith goes to 83, 'Madiba Riddim' loses to 84, 'Ice Melts' with Young Thug dribbles down to 85, 'Do Not Disturb' slides to 86, 'Glow' with Kanye fades to 89, 'Can't Have Everything' goes to 97, and 'Nothings Into Somethings' hits 99. 

But again, we all expected this. Where things get interesting are in our returning entries and gains, where it's a full pack indeed. Let's start with the latter category, where outside of 'You're Welcome' by Dwayne Johnson scraping onto 100, the rest have been hovering on the margins for some time. 'Black' by Dierks Bentley back to 87, 'Yeah Boy' by Kelsea Ballerini back at 88, 'Prblmns' by 6LACK at 96, 'Good Drank' by 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane and Quavo at 95, and especially 'Scared To Be Lonely' by Martin Garrix & Dua Lipa back to 92. But where things are picking up more are in our gains, and let's start with the genre that always pushes back whenever we get a big hit: country. Lots of recovery here, with 'In Case You Didn't Know' by Brett Young up to 51, 'Hurricane' by Luke Combs up to 55, 'Any Ol' Barstool' by Jason Aldean up to 62, 'Road Less Traveled' by Lauren Alaina up big to 69, 'Hometown Girl' by Josh Turner recovering up to 72, and even 'The Weekend' by Brantley Gilbert up to 81. But what's also worth considering are the songs that recovered from getting hit, from 'Call On Me' by Starley to 80, 'Losin Control' by Russ up to 77, 'Selfish' by Future and Rihanna to 73, 'Moves' by Big Sean picking up to 71, 'Shining' by DJ Khaled, Jay Z and Beyonce up to 64, and amazingly, 'Redbone' by Childish Gambino back to 54. Unfortunately, outside of 'Slide' by Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean and Migos back to 45, a significant chunk of these gains are pretty awful - 'Heavy' by Linkin Park and Kiiara to 57, 'Play That Song' by Train up to 67, 'Deja Vu' by J. Cole rebounding to 70, and finally 'Look At Me!' by XXXTENTACION surging up to 42... just lovely. The only gain that picked up traction off debuting last week was 'Swalla' by Jason Derulo with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign up to 65, but how long any Jason Derulo song lasts these days can be a bit of a crapshoot, so we'll see how much higher it goes.

But now we're on to our pretty small list of new arrivals... and after last week and a look through the world charts onto to discover they currently look a lot like songs I've already covered, I might as well keep this pretty brief, so let's start with...

66. 'Still Got Time' by Zayn ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR - I can't be the only one that's surprised that Zayn still has charting presence. Yes, I know his big collaboration with Taylor Swift boosted his profile and he didn't sound bad there, but post-One Direction I've got no gauge on how much staying power he has, especially as 'Pillowtalk' wasn't exactly a single that seemed to have staying power outside of 2016. And wow, I thought we'd at least get a month or two before we get the obvious Drake ripoffs... because yeah, even though I'm no big fan of 'Passionfruit' or Drake's more tropical-flavored R&B tunes, I know when I hear the barely genuine article, and I know when I hear a wannabe. The guitar melodies are weedy and buried, the percussion is blocky and has none of the organic texture it needs to anchor a tropical progression, and beyond some multi-tracking, he gets no use out of his falsetto, easily his biggest asset! It's not a good sign when he's only a step above PARTYNEXTDOOR instead of several flights of stairs, and they don't so much have chemistry as a blend of autotune. As for the content... eh, it's telling girls to not waste their lives falling in love because they're still young and thus they should hook up with them, which isn't precisely bad - at least it's honest that it's just a hookup - but it's also nothing I haven't heard before out of these two, and probably nothing I'll remember much.

61. 'Speak To A Girl' by Tim McGraw & Faith Hill - so if you've been following the recent label upheaval in country music - and I can't imagine why you would, as this sort of politics can get into dry hearsay territory fast - you'd have heard that Tim McGraw has opted not to re-sign with Big Machine and instead join Sony. Now at first this might ring as surprising, given that Big Machine got him out of the living nightmare that was Curb Records, but when you hear that his wife Faith Hill has also signed with Sony and they're now touring and recording a collaborative album together, things make a lot more sense. And it's worth considering that while Tim McGraw can still produce viable hits, Faith Hill's career seemed to stall out in the mid-2000s, even despite her tremendous success in the 90s and early 2000s, which included several top 10 hits on the Hot 100, not just the country charts! So okay, you have a powerhouse country couple who is known to have solid chemistry, teaming up for another big single... and well, I can see it absolutely killing on adult contemporary radio, but I'm not exactly wild about it. And it's pretty much across the board here too - I get the point behind Faith Hill's quiet, trembling and raw tones, but it seems like the sort of production choice that might work better with a song that at least opted for personal focus instead of almost entirely being in the third person. And when you pair it with the ebbing cloud of electric tones that can feel a tad more synthetic than they need, especially on the second hook with the filmy backing vocals and the song never really building to a crescendo or climax, it can feel a little cooler and more distant than it should. But part of that is tied into the content - I can appreciate the message of being kind and straightforward with girls, but with the lack of greater detail it can't help but feel detached from the whole scene, playing too broadly in its poetry to connect more deeply. I dunno, it's not bad, but if this underperforms... well, I won't be surprised.

49. 'XO Tour Llif3' by Lil Uzi Vert - okay, I get why this song is here on the charts. Apparently, there was some controversy surrounding a remastering of this song that pissed off fans and had to get replaced, but what surprised me is that there is that much interest in a rapper that I don't think anyone actually likes. Seriously, I do not see where and why Lil Uzi Vert has a fanbase, basically following the exact same path as your average trap rapper, but worse! Anyway, this song... you know, something I've noticed with too many of these guys is that they can't stay on topic to save their lives, which on a song that actively references suicidal themes in both him and his ex really makes it hard to get pulled into the story or emotive throughline of the track! But really, between his consistent failure to rhyme words or stay on flow, references to stealing your girl, and scattered shots on wannabes who I'm not sure you can convince me exist, I've long ago stopped caring about his nasal screech-singing. Hell, the production isn't even worth caring about either: from the sound of a muffled keyboard click against your standard bassy trap beat and a weedy little melody all supplementing a grainy brand of autotune that certainly doesn't make Lil Uzi Vert sound listenable, let alone good. So yeah, this is trash, it's only here thanks to a moment of controversy everyone has already forgotten about and for some reason getting a bit of YouTube traction. Let's pray it hits a brick wall.

22. 'The Heart Part 4' by Kendrick Lamar - and now the big one, the opening salvo leading into another song and video that I'm almost certain will have major impact next week, and all before what many are predicting are an album release set to blow April wide open. And like with records before him, he's preceding it with another staple of 'The Heart' series, where Kendrick takes on everything in his path... although primarily you can make the argument that he's targeting Big Sean and Drake through references plain enough to make it abundantly clear. Now let me get this out of the way - while Kendrick doesn't have to say names I would prefer if he had... but again, it's more of a slow-burning prelude, with a cooing vocal sample from Khalid as the song coasts off a thicker bass and steady cymbal beat. From the first verse he implies the upheaval is coming, not just in the rap game but in society as well as inequality stretches longer and deeper... and then the beat switches to a gentle guitar... before it gets into a piano-touched sinuous bass that intensifies that darkness. He slaps at Trump before highlighting how America's electoral system probably needs some vestige of reform, but the implication runs more on how it's only a matter of time before that happens. Kendrick is rising out of the contradictions and the ever increasing confusion as the trap snare kicks in. And while he's letting his foes celebrate now, the tension is rising even further and even further magnified as he tosses aside bars that would probably shred any of his targets. And then he drops the date - April 7, three days away, far sooner than anyone would expect a project from Kendrick... And honestly, I'm not going to hop aboard the hype train just yet. Timelines are always a tricky thing in hip-hop, and note that he never said a year - but still... it could happen, and people are already getting ready.

And yeah, it shouldn't even be a surprise who gets best and worst here. Kendrick gets best for 'The Heart Part 4', Lil Uzi Vert gets worst for 'XO Tour Llif3', and we'll see where things go from here.

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