Tuesday, June 20, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 1, 2017

This week surprised me. In more ways than one actually, and for the most part they seem to be good surprises, where songs I was not looking forward to didn't show up, and a few that I never dared to dream would chart actually cracked through. To me, this is the sort of good news I've been conditioned not to expect going into the summer slowdown, and considering next week we'll probably get a big push for Lorde... yeah, maybe things are looking up?

Well, let's start off with the top ten, and to nobody's surprise 'Despacito' by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber has a lock on #1, as it is quite literally dominant in nearly every category... hell, give it a few weeks and it'll have the top airplay spot too, its momentum isn't slowing there! And yet right behind it on the radio is 'I'm The One' by DJ Khaled and his posse, rising up to #2 on continued airplay traction, solid sales, and really potent YouTube - really, the both are continuing to rise in tandem. It overtook 'That's What I Like' by Bruno Mars down to #3, but that's not surprising given its sharper losses on the radio, even despite better than expected weeks in sales and streaming. Not quite the same case for 'Shape Of You' by Ed Sheeran, though - it might be bleeding airplay a little slower, but it didn't really recover this week in other categories, it's just taking its time dying. Compare to 'HUMBLE.' by Kendrick Lamar holding to #5, mostly thanks to streaming and a decent sales week compensating for wavering airplay - which is also a similar case for 'Mask Off' by Future at #6, except its sales were just lousy. Then we had the surprising slight recovery for 'Something Just Like This' by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay up to #7, which if you look at its sales or radio data might not make a lot of sense... which is similar for 'Stay' by Alessia Cara and Zedd up to #8 on good radio despite weak sales, or 'Congratulations' by Post Malone ft. Quavo up to #9, which had good streaming but that's pretty much it. What more likely triggered this is the loss for 'XO Tour Llif3' by Lil Uzi Vert down to #10, mostly thanks to a collapse on YouTube taking a sizable chunk out of its streaming. And while I'm not going to say it's enough to kill the track - I've been trying to predict this for weeks now - it is promising.

And on that note, losers and dropouts, and the only two in the latter category that are worth mentioning are 'Scared To Be Lonely' by Martin Garrix & Dua Lipa - which is sadly not surprising - and 'Rockabye' by Clean Bandit ft. Sean Paul and Anne-Marie, and I don't actually have any complaints with this, it had a solid chart run and was a decent enough song. Where things get a little more interesting comes in our losers this week, and let's get the obvious cases out of the way first. First we have 'Black' by Dierks Bentley continuing to fade to 86, and the expected drops after debut for 'Know No Better' by Major Lazer, Travis Scott, Camila Cabello, and Quavo down to 99, 'Down' by Fifth Harmony and Gucci Mane hard to 71, and '4 AM' by 2 Chainz and Travis Scott... actually, that last one is surprising given the release of the album, so maybe it'll recover next week - hell, given the loss of 'Good Drank' by 2 Chainz, Quavo, and Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz is not having a great week. Oh, and then there's 'Heavy' by Linkin Park and Kiiara down to 83 as it sputters out of momentum, but that should surprise nobody. The other losses... well, 'In Case You Didn't Know' by Brett Young seems to be fading gracefully to 31 after doing way better than anybody expected, 'Passionfruit' by Drake goes down to 45 - given how strong of a summer song this could be, I'm surprised by this - and finally 'Slide' by Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean and Migos down to 46... again, summer song, expected a little more longevity, but it's got enough points to make the year-end list so I'm generally pretty happy with it. Oh, and to end on a good note, 'Swang' by Rae Sremmurd hit 50 - the sooner it's gone, the better.

So to continue on that, what about our returning entries and gains? Well, 'Reminder' by The Weeknd is back at 97 - apparently there's word circulating it's going to be an upcoming single - but I wish we had more good news in our gains. For one, I do not understand why 'Everyday We Lit' by YFN Lucci and PnB Rock is back up to 37 - it's got streaming, so maybe there's some meme going on with this that I don't know, I can't tell. Then we have the revival of 'Bad Liar' by Selena Gomez up to 23, probably thanks to the video, and 'Butterfly Effect' by Travis Scott gaining some traction up to 81. And, thanks ot the album, Katy Perry picked up some gains this week, with 'Swish Swish' with Nicki Minaj up to 62 and 'Bon Appetit' with Migos up to 85. 

But here's the interesting surprise: outside of those gains, not a single Katy Perry song from the album debuted on the Hot 100 this week! I don't know if it was a question of Taylor Swift's streaming strategy paying dues, or the fact that bad word of mouth killed any expanded potential, or that the album just sucked... but in replacement, we got this...

100. 'It Ain't My Fault' by Brothers Osborne - the more I listen to Brothers Osborne, the more I'm convinced that they should be big, and yet am constantly surprised that they actually gaining traction, winning awards and crawling up tooth and nail up the radio. And this is their best song yet - and if you all saw my list of my top 50 songs of 2016, you all know that already. I've loved this song since it dropped over a year ago - the scuzzy guitar line, the persistent melodic groove, the reliance on aggressive bass vocals that you just don't hear in modern country the same way anymore, that actually can back up a certain wry swagger that makes for the best sort of party track where things are just about to get wild - bro-country wishes it had this sort of southern rock muscle! And that's not to neglect the video, which might just be one of my favourite videos of 2017 just for the sheer balls of the political commentary shoved in, seemingly hitting every hot button just because they can - I'm stunned it has not sparked more controversy, especially from country! Look, I have no expectations that this is going to be a hit - their biggest crossover hit 'Stay A Little Longer' got screwed by poor timing around the end of 2015, and a song with this much of a raucous edge probably doesn't have a chance... but I'd love to see it happen anyway. Folks, I highly recommend you check this out, you will not regret it!

95. 'It's A Vibe' by 2 Chainz ft. Ty Dolla $ign, Trey Songz, Jhene Aiko - so apparently 2 Chainz's newest record Pretty Girls Like Trap Music is getting frankly shockingly good reviews, and while as of now it's not on my schedule, this song did intrigue me, most notably for the presence of Jhene Aiko and Trey Songz on it... which kind of makes Ty Dolla $ign redundant, but he's probably used to that by now. But that's the weird thing: the song feels a little overstuffed with its guest stars - Ty Dolla $ign's verse isn't that far removed from a pretty barebones hook that 2 Chainz contributes with an oddly flat delivery, which feels especially awkward opposite Trey Songz and Jhene Aiko, who are just riding this groove a lot better with the supple bassline, guitar, and piano playing against a trap beat that honestly might be more languid than 2 Chainz is used to! And his verse isn't bad - the rhymes all connect pretty well, even if he's not delivering a lot of energy... but it's an odd fit for him, arguably stronger for his guest stars than him as a whole, which you don't often see. Overall, I like this groove a lot, but as for the song... you know what, it's pretty damn likable, I'll take it.

93. 'What Ifs' by Kane Brown ft. Lauren Alaina - you know, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually feel a little sorry for Kane Brown, because from a mainstream country industry standpoint he seemed to be doing everything right. He had ground-level buzz thanks to his Facebook and YouTube push, he wasn't a bad singer, and while I didn't like any of his godawful production, you'd think he'd be perfectly primed for country radio... and it didn't really happen. Sure, his debut album sold well last December - mostly cowritten by Florida Georgia Line - but his singles while selling okay haven't really crossed over. So in a way it made sense he connected with Lauren Alaina, who is actually a high school acquaintance of his and who has been managing her pop country career arguably better for this song... which nearly didn't make the album except for fan pressure. And after giving it a lot of listens... honestly, I'm conflicted. On the one hand, this is a poor use of Lauren Alaina as she's pretty much relegated to backing vocals and frankly her exuberance would have been a much better fit than Kane Brown's flatter drawl. And the lyrics don't help, because it's not like the 'what if' questions don't have weight, and Kane Brown's counterpoint feels like its treading water in its message of hope, barely even engaging the reality of the questions. And it's not like the too-synthetic production issues with the fake handclaps and backbeat or the fast-paced faux-rapping have gone away... and yet with that choppy guitar and banjo going into that hook... I haven't been this conflicted about a monster pop country hook with so many problems since Chris Lane's 'Fix'! So yeah... even though I think I'm supposed to on some level, I can't hate this song, it's probably the best thing I've heard from Kane Brown yet. That's not saying much, but yeah...

89. 'Escapate Conmigo' by Wisin ft. Ozuna - so thanks to 'Despacito's popularity, we're seeing all manner of Latin artists hitting the Hot 100, but at least with Wisin I knew he had some charting success before, both back in 2014 and with Enrique Iglesias last year. So now there's this new track, which is apparently the big single for his upcoming record Victory... here's the thing, I'm not denying that Wisin and Ozuna have some decent intensity for this late night hookup and there's more going on in the melody between the watery guitar tone and some subtle backing tones behind the blockier beat, but I keep finding myself wishing that the song picked up more organic groove and didn't default to a very rubbery, very blocky beat. It's just clunky and not all that interesting for me, although it does fit Wisin's more broadly sketched delivery. Beyond that... look, as you all clearly can tell I don't speak Spanish, but from what I translated the sex references are okay and not as embarrassing as they could have been - but on that same note it's not like the song caters to anything smooth or sensual, and despite Ozuna's efforts, it's not all that sexy. I dunno folks, I've been trying to give more of this reggaeton style a chance in recent months but as it is... this isn't doing much for me. Sorry.

79. 'Do I Make You Wanna' by Billy Currington - okay, I thought the name of this song looked familiar... seriously, are we getting a new single from Billy Currington from an album that dropped two years ago and was pretty damn forgettable at that? That said, when I covered Summer Forever this was the song I flagged as my favourite off that record... and returning to it now, I can see why. It's got a good gentle melodic groove, plays with the more spacious guitar tones especially on the bridge, and the slapdash questions about what she wants to do are pretty endearing in a way that matches Currington's hangdog delivery. The song is not perfect - the production definitely shows some seams where the budget didn't quite come through, and at the end of the day this isn't that far removed from most bro-country, but as I've always said, I like Billy Currington's approach to it, and this is a damn good song - I guess i'm happy to finally see it here after all.

70. 'Love Galore' by SZA ft. Travis Scott - the fact that this song charted blows my mind. Seriously, Katy Perry can't break a single album track and yet SZA comes through? Look, I'm still surprised that my review of the album has done as well as it has, but still, this is a mainstream crossover, and you can only give Travis Scott so much credit here, especially considering he toned back considerably to fit with the atmosphere of the song. And here's the thing: I didn't really talk much about 'Love Galore' in the review, but I actually quite dig the song. Yeah, the more textured beat doesn't do much for me against the firmer bass, but the gentle swells of muted horns and synth actually click pretty well for SZA, and I really like a lot of the content, whereas she's kind of bemused that after a pretty vicious fight and what she assumed was a breakup this guy is coming back to her, even though he's got a new girlfriend. I do wish Travis Scott was a little more of a lyricist to play into that scene, and again, that tropical beat feels a tad too close to the front of the mix - as I said in the review, the guitar-driven tracks tended to pick up better percussion than the hip-hop ones - but honestly, there's still significant groove to this track, although I question how well this'll fare as a single outside of the context of the record, where I think it might actually be better. But still, it's pretty good, I like it.

16. '2U' by David Guetta ft. Justin Bieber - I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before David Guetta made his comeback, but people forget that it's been two years since 'Hey Mama' broke the top ten, and the trends in pop and electronic music have mutated considerably since then - hell, look at what his peer Calvin Harris is putting out right now! So I was curious if this was going to be any good... and look, this isn't precisely bad so much as it's just not all that interesting. Basically, it's David Guetta trying to split the difference between Zedd and DJ Snake, in the former case with the pileup of instrumental styles and low thrumming buildup which I like, in the latter with the drop that's more a pileup of buzzy synth, hollowed vocal samples, and an anticlimatic ending. And here's the thing: I get that Justin Bieber might seem like an obvious choice thanks to his work with DJ Snake on songs like 'Let Me Love You', but DJ Snake doesn't overplay the drops, especially considering that Bieber seemed to phone in his vocals entirely. It doesn't help that the lyrics feel very thin and lacking any distinctive personality, and when you consider there's no real bridge or surprising change-up, it shows that David Guetta is trying to imitate current trends but is instead falling on bad habits. I don't think there's anything aggressively wrong with this track, but it's also not interesting.

And as such... yeah, '2U' by David Guetta and Bieber is getting the worst of the week, but the truth is that this week was really strong, so much so that I'm dropping the Dishonourable Mention and giving out two Honourable Mentions! Obviously 'It Ain't My Fault' by Brothers Osborne is the best, but the Honourable Mentions are going to 'Do I Make You Wanna' by Billy Currington and 'It's A Vibe' by 2 Chainz, Ty Dolla $ign, Trey Songz and Jhene Aiko - what can I say, the groove grew on me, and it's pretty damn likable, it just edged out SZA and Travis Scott. And with Lorde hopefully making a big impact next week... things seem to be looking up!

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