Tuesday, June 13, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 24, 2017

Do you ever have the feeling looking at the Hot 100 that no matter what happens, it's not going to be a good week? Yeah, that was my gut feel going through the Hot 100 this week - which yes, did slow down a bit as things settle in for the summer with no major releases, but at the same time, looking at some of these new arrivals... well, we'll get to it.

But let's not forget about our top ten, where again, 'Despacito' by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and the remix from Bieber holds #1. And this is no surprise - uniformly strong in streaming and sales, with traction on YouTube and the radio, right now I don't see what's challenging this. Certainly not 'That's What I Like' by Bruno Mars, which despite losses on airplay, sales and on-demand streaming is still holding #2, its margin is that thick. Granted, 'I'm The One' by DJ Khaled and his posse is cutting into that margin thanks to a streaming boost and consistent airplay gains, but it's not quite there yet, so it's at #3. Then, somehow making another gain back to #4, we have 'Shape Of You' by Ed Sheeran, and seriously, even though I still do like this song, even I'm starting to get exasperated by its longevity despite a better than expected sales week. It was still losing, but its existing airplay fat managed to push back 'HUMBLE.' by Kendrick Lamar to #5, not exactly helped by weaker sales either. Then we have 'Mask Off' by Future, where it actually took streaming and sales losses as it struggles to retain airplay... but YouTube is enough to hold it to #6. That's also probably the explanation for 'XO Tour Llif3' by Lil Uzi Vert is up to #7, which held just enough YouTube and streaming to compensate and seriously, can this just die already, it's an incoherent, incompetent mess! Now to be fair, some of this has to do with the sustained losses taken by 'Something Just Like This' by The Chainsmokers, holding at #8 thanks to sales gains even as it bleeds airplay and streaming. The surprise loss for me came to 'Stay' by Zedd and Alessia Cara down to #9, which must have had a discount last week because sales crashed hard and airplay seemed to peak. Finally, sticking around another week despite expectations: 'Congratulations' by Post Malone and Quavo - it's got no real airplay, but it did have a good week on sales and streaming and nothing below it can really challenge, so fine, it can stay at #10 for now.

But on a better now, our losers and dropouts. Not a lot to really care about in the latter category besides all of the Bryson Tiller falling out - the only other considerable songs were 'Paris' by The Chainsmokers and 'ELEMENT.' by Kendrick Lamar. As for our losses... eh, bit of a mixed bag. I'm not complaining that 'Gyalchester' by Drake dropped sharply back to 91, or that 'Cold' by Maroon 5 and Future is on its way out at 58, or that 'Everyday We Lit' by YFN Lucci and PnB Rock dipped back to 62, or even that 'Black' by Dierks Bentley took a hit to 71 or 'Most Girls' by Hailee Steinfeld lost traction to 86. Nah, the only real loser I'm surprised about is 'Scared To Be Lonely' by Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa fell to 95 - I had hoped her debut might have landed some traction, but the US charts have always seemed a little reticent, so you never know.

But then we get our even smaller list of gains and returning entries, in the latter case only getting 'Subeme La Radio' by Enrique Iglesias with Descemer Bueno and Zion & Lennox at 96. The only two gains... well, I'm not surprised that 'No Such Thing As A Broken Heart' by Old Dominion went to 78, but that doesn't mean I'm pleased about it. The other gain making a recovery is 'Strip That Down' by Liam Payne and Quavo, and I'm actually a little surprised by this: I thought bad word of mouth killed this, but it actually picked up in all categories this week, including the radio, so this might actually have something, believe it or not!

But now onto a list of new arrivals that alternates between mediocre, bizarre, and outright crap, starting with...

99. 'Nobody Else But You' by Trey Songz - so here's the funny thing: I know Trey Songz released an album this year. It had the misfortune debuting behind Drake and Ed Sheeran, so there was a limit of how much it'd gain traction, but in comparison to his other records it seems to have been a complete non-starter, with this being the first single to crossover. And honestly, I'm a bit surprised this hasn't crossed over yet, because this is a pretty decent song. The gentle hollow rattle of percussion against the muted melodies with hints of organ swell behind the hook has a pretty decent bounce, and unlike so many modern R&B singers, Trey Songz isn't entirely dependent on autotune, although I do wish he opened up his range a little more here - he can aim higher than proving he can do a Chris Brown or Jeremih-tier song. Where this song actually surprised me a bit was in the lyrics - he's giving his girlfriend some space and it's never quite clear if they break up, but the interesting thing is how Trey Songz is coming to reconcile with the fact that she's the only girl for him, and now realizing he's got an uphill battle to make it work, despite some reasonable confidence that it's possible. It's an interesting balance of confident swagger and vulnerability that's a tough line to walk, but I think he actually sticks the landing... so yeah, good song, I'm actually curious to hear more now.

97. 'Somebody Else Will' by Justin Moore - so Justin Moore released an album last year - and I didn't care at all. Look, 'You Look Like I Need A Drink' was passable, but I don't tend to have a lot of luck with Justin Moore records and frankly, I had a busy enough schedule in August, with the whole international travel and all that. So this is his second single... and wow, from the Justin Moore fans I know, I'm imagining most of them are pretty peeved with this. The underweight verse with the obvious drum machine, bassline and faint flutter of guitar before until a hook that forces Moore into his upper register for belting he can't pull off... hell, the entire song feels stretching for something that feels uncomfortable for Moore. And sure, I get stepping out of one's comfort zone is also thematically appropriate in the song: Moore is working up the courage to talk to this girl at the bar because if he doesn't, somebody else will, but as a whole it just feels awkward and uncomfortable and not in a way that's endearing - more desperate, and not in a good way. So yeah, not all that inclined to seek out that album, because I'm not a fan of this.

94. 'It's Everyday Bro' by Jake Paul ft. Team 10 - can I just copypaste Pewdiepie's reaction to this and just leave? Do I really have to subject myself to a hip-hop single from a Vine and Disney channel star - that somehow thinks both are selling points for his rap career? Do I really have to analyze one of the sloppiest, most amateurish viral 'hits' in recent memory that features a mostly failed diss towards his ex-girlfriend - classy - and is also for some reason a posse cut, featuring a guy who thinks England is a city, two Spanish kids who make Pitbull's flows look good, a girl who sounds completely tuned out, and another guy who is completely unmemorable? Do I have to highlight how all of their rhyming - when they even bother - is basic as hell, and how they have no really expressive intensity or punch, or how their beat is a flattened stock piece that your average nu-crunk or trap MC would reject? Do I even need to imply that I could probably best these braying kids in terms of bars - hell, I heard Ricegum's diss, it was better than this! And is anybody fooled by how Paul throws in references to brands like Quicken Loans as if its not obvious that he's getting paid for the namedrop, despite it not making any sense in context? Because that's the thing: these may be kids acting obnoxious, but from every mention of merch selling like a god church and the callouts of YouTube stats, it reveals itself as cynical, basic marketing, catering to the absolute lowest common denominator of sloppy hip-hop. I've heard a lot of awful vine-associated hits, but this... yeah, it's down there. NEXT!

87. 'Know No Better' by Major Lazer ft. Travis Scott, Camila Cabello & Quavo - you ever have those collaborations that on one level don't seem to make much sense and yet on another seem almost inevitable, that you're surprised you didn't hear about it before now? Yeah, that was my reaction going into 'Know No Better', which brings together Major Lazer, Travis Scott, and Camila Cabello, which is bizarre but I can at least see some intersection points in their progression - plus Quavo is here, but he's reaching Ludacris-in-club-boom mold, where he's just on everything and not trying at all. In fact, I'd easily say his verse is the worst thing about this track, as the production slows down, washes out, and he says nothing remotely interesting. Granted, the entire song feels pretty washed out to me - desaturated pianos, hints of a tropical bounce but nothing with a lot of color, and the weedy synth that comprises the breakdown just doesn't do much all that interesting. Hell, the entire song is basically Travis Scott and Camila Cabello bragging that we know no other artists better than them, which at least for me is demonstrably false! Eh, honestly I find it pretty inoffensive, too nondescript to be interesting one way or the other - next!

85. 'Small Town Boy' by Dustin Lynch - there's a odd part of me that's inclined to give Dustin Lynch a pass whenever he comes up on the radio, and I'm seriously starting to wonder why. It's not like he's that much more distinctive that the rest of the b-list bro-country crowd that survived the collapse, but he does have a little more of a rock impulse that I wish he exercised more, and I do see a little potential. Unfortunately his last single 'Seein' Red' did nothing for me and this... honestly, not better. Lynch has always been too slick for his own good, and the echoed backing vocals next to all the whooshing synths and too clean drums don't help, even if he is going to open up four bars of guitar solo. And the writing - honestly, it feels a little self-serving, basically another checklist bro-country about all the ways this girl loves a small town boy like him. Well, good for you, I guess, but I'm going to forget this song exists in less than an hour, and for you going forward, that's not good.

82. 'Whatever You Need' by Meek Mill ft. Chris Brown & Ty Dolla $ign - okay, why are we still getting Meek Mill singles? From all the bragging he does about it, I thought Drake ethered his career, so why are we getting a new single, and why is being produced by DJ Mustard of all people? Actually, to be fair, the heavier wiry synth opposite the piano isn't a bad fit, even if the trap snares feel a little dry, even if it is all sampled from Tony! Toni! Tone!'s 'Whatever You Want' and we're stuck with Chris Brown crooning over the hook, with Ty Dolla $ign serving as the completely unnecessary backup. But really, instead of Meek Mill bragging about all the things he has that you don't, he's bragging about all the things he can give his girl. And... look, for Meek Mill this is pretty soft stuff, so while he's not precisely yelling, it's not like he's melodic or all that interesting of a rapper to make this sort of song feel inviting or interesting the same way T.I. did with 'Whatever You Like' nearly ten years ago. Chris Brown is probably the only one who delivers consistently, but even then, beyond a good melodic sample there's not a lot here. Good sample, though.

73. '4 AM' by 2 Chainz ft. Travis Scott - I'm a little amazed that 2 Chainz has lasted as long as he has - he's such a goofy, wildly uneven MC when it comes to his bars that I'm amazed he's managed to cling to relevance, even dropping a new album later this week! So after 'Good Drank' picked up a little traction, this actually charted higher. And I'm not sure if it's better - the beat and flow switch midway through the first verse feels incredibly clunky, the guitar melody keeps falling off key, the autotune on Travis Scott's voice sounds sloppier than usual, and at the end of the day, 2 Chainz isn't exactly a good rapper, rhyming words with themselves when he's not forcing them, rarely able to stay on topic, and not all that funny here either. Hell, his second verse feels uncharacteristically reserved, and the funniest line is on the third verse where he hopes his girl has a clean vagina - seriously, that's it. Otherwise... nah, I'm not seeing much worth caring about here, pass.

53. 'To The Max' by DJ Khaled ft. Drake - okay, the last time Drake and DJ Khaled had a big collaboration single it wound up on my list of the worst hits of 2016, so I'd like to think it could only get better from there, right? Actually, I think it does, but it's more because this song features a lot less Drake rapping and more a collage of various samples against the thin trap hi-hats, the bass beat, and a piano that dissolves quickly into a filmy synth. And look, I appreciate something that's actually uptempo, even if you can tell that's Drake's a little checked out here, but considering you brought together three samples and didn't really get something with more distinctive melody... in a bizarre way the collage reminds me a bit of a plunderphonics song, but whereas the best of those make their samples add to more, here for a song about going to the max it's lukewarm at best. Not precisely bad, but again, I'm not sure how much I'll remember it going forward.

42. 'Down' by Fifth Harmony ft. Gucci Mane - so this is the big test for Fifth Harmony going forward: can they survive as a foursome having lost their worst member, or are they destined to fade away like when so many boy and girl groups lose members and fall apart soon afterwards? Well, to prop things up they brought on Gucci Mane for support, but I'd probably argue that's a hedge that can backfire... and yet I don't really think that happens here, but that's more because there isn't much to this song. Sparse rubbery tropical synth with hints of distant melody on the hook, all of which bottoms for Gucci to rattle off an utterly generic verse about supporting one's partner. But really, the bigger problem here is the tempo - the song feels like it's trying to replicate the 'Work From Home' barebones template, but while they got rid of the embarrassing lyrics, they didn't swap them for much that's interesting, and they slowed down the tempo, likely because Gucci Mane would never have been able to keep up! But really, I guess I can kind of appreciate Fifth Harmony trying to support their partner - or each other as a group staying together, it can operate as both and reinforce the whole quasi-submissive thing they've been trying - but if I'm comparing them to the other four-person girl group who can bring more unique personality and richer harmonies and stronger hooks... yeah, I'm sticking with them. 

Still, not bad though.... actually not bad enough that it's getting the Honourable Mention to 'Nobody Else But You' by Trey Songz. Worst... come on, is it even a contest for 'It's Everyday Bro' by Jake Paul and his posse of forgettable non-stars, with the Dishonourable Mention going to '4 AM' by 2 Chainz and Travis Scott - I didn't like the production, and 2 Chainz is certainly capable of better. Okay, next week I expect there to be some actual movement thanks to the Katy Perry record... lovely.

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