Wednesday, September 13, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 23, 2017

So comedown weeks are weird. Sometimes they lead to a massive chart rebalance that drives an entire paradigm shift as the album smash leaves a few scattered recoveries and a whole lot of damage. Other weeks... well, they're like this, where we get a few recoveries, a couple new arrivals peeking through, but overall a quiet week where the fallout seems to be slowly ebbing back rather than outright falling away... and given that said album bombs were from Lil Uzi Vert and XXXTENTACION, I think I might have preferred the former case.

And yet all of that takes away from real turbulence in our top ten, where for a second week 'Look What You Made Me Do' by Taylor Swift holds #1 and shows no signs of slowing down. Dominance in streaming, sales, YouTube, surging airplay, it looks like it's a lock for these slots... but there's a part of me that can't help but feel with its YouTube streams dipping back that it might be more vulnerable than expected. Yes, 'Bodak Yellow' by Cardi B does not have the sales to be a challenger yet, but given its base strength is in streaming, and it's gaining on YouTube and airplay, I wouldn't count it out just yet. Sadly that means we are counting out 'Despacito' by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Bieber down to #3, because even despite still massive sales and YouTube, the radio is burning it off ridiculously fast... as you'd might expect for a big summer song. But then we have our big debut in the top 5 at #4: '...Ready For It?' by Taylor Swift. Now I'll get more into the song's dubious quality at the end of our show, but suffice to say that I can't help but see its release so close to 'Look What You Made Me Do' as risky, as it pulls away sales attention, and despite nowhere close to the same airplay or YouTube traction, could split the market early. Then we have the massive traction behind '1-800-273-8255' by Logic ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid, and while the radio is still taking its time, YouTube, sales and especially streaming are not - I would put money on this sticking around. Now what this means is that the rest of our top ten are all being driven back: 'Wild Thoughts' by DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller down to #6 thanks to a radio peak, 'Attention' by Charlie Puth holding steady at the top of radio but losing everywhere else to #7, 'Believer' by Imagine Dragons making a too little too late recovery on streaming as it falls to #8, 'Unforgettable' by French Montana ft. Swae Lee sputtering back to #9 thanks to steady losses in all categories, and 'There's Nothing Holding Me Back' by Shawn Mendes down to #10 with similar behavior to 'Believer' - minor streaming gains, real losses everywhere else.

And on that note, losers and dropouts! Can't say I'm exactly pleased with our three major dropouts, given that I'm a fan of all three songs: 'It Ain't Me' by Kygo and Selena Gomez, and 'DNA.' and 'LOVE.' by Kendrick Lamar, in the latter case featuring Zacari. Thankfully our losses are all pretty agreeable: both 'Revenge' and 'Everybody Dies In Their Nightmares' from XXXTENTACION down to 96 and 70 respectively, and from Lil Uzi Vert, we had '444+222' to 79, 'X' to 93, and 'Neon Guts' with Pharrell to 94. And hell, the only other loser is 'No Such Thing As A Broken Heart' by Old Dominion to 59, and I was never a fan of that to begin with!

But that's unfortunately where our good news ends, because then we get to our new arrivals and gains and it's a much rougher list. No, I'm not going to complain that 'Reminder' by The Weeknd made yet another return at 99, and 'I Can Use A Love Song' by Maren Morris is a fine enough play for country radio at 92, but did we really need 'Somebody Else will' by Justin Moore back at 98, or 'Fix A Drink' by Chris Janson back to 95. Hell, forget country: why is Chris Brown's 'Questions' back at 89, or 'Relationship' by Young Thug and Future back to 90 - which again, is more of a question than anything Chris Brown asks on his song! It's the gains that are a more confusing mess, though, with the only real debut picking up steam coming from 'What Lovers Do' by Maroon 5 and SZA at 27 - no surprise, given its sales. But then you have the sharp recoveries, which on the one hand can be good with 'It Ain't My Fault' rebounding to 83 and 'Wish I Knew You' by The Revivalists up to 84, but then you have 'The Race' by Tay-K somehow rebounding to 44, proving that I really can't tell when a meme is properly dead. Beyond that, Jacquees' 'B.E.D.' up to 69 was the only other real reversal, with the rest not being all that surprising. 'I Get The Bag' by Gucci Mane and Migos up to 31 on being a halfway decent song with good streaming, 'Havana' by Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug continues up to 73 - it'll be a hit, I can nearly guarantee it - and then we get three country songs: 'Every Little Thing' by Carly Pearce, otherwise known as the good one up to 78, 'More Girls Like You' by Kip Moore, otherwise known as passable at 82, and 'They Don't Know' by Jason Aldean, the sort of pandering garbage that really doesn't need to hit 76. 

But now, for a short week for a change, let's get through our new arrivals starting with...

100. 'No Fear' by DeJ Loaf - I'll be honest, I've never really known what to make of DeJ Loaf. From Detroit, you'd expect that she'd focus on spitting bars, but she's never been impressive as a rapper in terms of flows or content or delivery or even basic rhyme construction - hell, I always thought her breakthrough single 'Try Me' was closer to R&B than straightforward hip-hop. None of it was precisely bad, sure, but it was never something I'd seek out. And yet since that song, a featuring credit with Kid Ink and her big 2015 follow-up with Big Sean 'Back Up' - which yes, that last one was better - we're only now getting a crossover single for an album projected to be dropped in Q4 this year! And this single only gives me the impression that's likely going to be winding up closer to R&B - and that's a good thing, because this song is pretty damn great. Now I could say that this is really playing in territory than Jhene Aiko charted three years ago, especially in the delivery, but there's a world-weary quiet sincerity that compliments the gentle guitar-driven melodic groove that doesn't feel nearly as cutting, and it works for this sort of love song. It's low-key, sure, but there's a great misty vibe that compliments the song well - I'm definitely interested in hearing more, this is really good.

97. 'Sky Walker' by Miguel ft. Travis Scott - and on the topic of R&B-leaning artists I haven't heard from in some time, we have the lead-off single from Miguel, teaming up with Travis Scott for a chilled out flex anthem... and look, we were spoiled in 2015 with 'Coffee', the sort of relentlessly tight R&B that Miguel really doesn't touch as often as he should. But that's not saying this doesn't have promise - the guitar tone that lingers against the thicker bass and glittery flashes of synth certainly gives the track some potent atmosphere, and Miguel's got the easy going confidence to coast on this production easily, even if Travis Scott's verse feels pretty perfunctory overall. But some of the references and double entendres can feel a bit goofy: 'sky walkin' on them haters', 'she vegan but want the steak tonight', 'higher up than Canada', and most amusingly given the subtext in the film, 'Top Gun, on my Tom Cruise'. Look, this is enjoyable enough - if anything, I wish we could have had this charting at the beginning of the summer, not the end of it - but he has made better, and it'll be interesting to see what inevitably shows up on the album. Still, good song.

86. 'Greatest Love Story' by LANco - so yes, despite the weird capitalization - it's an acronym that stands for Lancaster & Company, which frankly strikes me as a better band name - this is actually a new country group signed to Arista Nashville, the label behind Brad Paisley. And given the direction he took on his last record that makes a lot of sense, and not just because Jay Joyce has further refined his production chops to delivery a primarily acoustic neotraditional ballad with plenty of steel guitar and windswept electric texture. And while the lyrics can feel a tad hyperbolic at points - this really isn't the greatest love story probably even their town has ever seen - I do like that it's actually focused on telling a story of a high school love that fizzled, she went off to college, and after coming back the old sparks rekindled. So yeah, nothing all that out of the ordinary for a neotraditional country love song, but it's a damn fine example of that and yet another example of a tone that seems to be finally picking up more mainstream traction, which can only be a good thing. Damn solid song, I approve.

81. 'Bad At Love' by Halsey - why, Halsey? You had 'Strangers' with Lauren from Fifth Harmony waiting in the wings, a pretty damn good duet and the timing to coincide with their most recent album for a crossover boost... and yet you go with this? Let's get the main issue out of the way first: that flat synth tune dragging over the bass beat and trap beat is incredibly grating, especially opposite those faint offkey tinkles that owe more to Melanie Martinez than anyone else! But like always, my issue comes with the lyrics, as Halsey rattles off a string of guys and girls as evidence that she's 'bad at love', especially in the aftermath of another breakup. But in all of these situations, the list nature of the song and increasingly flimsy reasoning for their breakups makes them feel disposable, and with the mention of Halsey's jealousy it feels all the more capricious, which makes me feel a lot less sorry for her. If feelings fade away or the partner keeps trying to fix her... look, that's not being 'bad at love', it's just not connecting with the right person, which is a fact of life, and it's just grating that Halsey can't make that connection. Look, she's made worse, but this doesn't rise past mediocre, and all the more reason I didn't go back to that last album.

77. 'These Heaux' by Bhad Bhabie - this is the second time this girl - otherwise known as Danielle Bregoli, otherwise known as the #CashMeOutside girl from Dr. Phil - has wound up on the Hot 100 - and this point, it's not even a meme anymore but a girl finding a way to stretch her fifteen minutes into the second half of 2017. And at this point i don't really know who to blame for this: Kodak Black for plugging her first after the meme took off, her producers and managers that gave her a rinkydink set of shallow synths and rickety trap percussion to work with, the fact that for some ungodly reason Jake Paul saw fit to give this girl a cosign because of course he did. But really, the larger issue is that this song blows chunks: Bregoli's voice rivals Kreayshawn's in pure annoyance and yet with none of the satirical edge, and her content is the sort of ugly, by-the-numbers flexing that forces rhymes and offers absolutely nothing interesting. The most I'll say is that she can at least connect some of her rhymes, but if there's a song that's trying to pick up all the swagger of 'Bodak Yellow' and failing, it's this one. And yet it's got competition for the worst of week...

4. '... Ready For It?' by Taylor Swift - let me get this out of the way: this is at least marginally more tolerable than 'Look What You Made Me Do', but that's because it's also a lot less interesting. Jacking the gurgling bass from 'The Hills' that can't be bothered to blend well with the cymbal and some hollow keys, we get Taylor's vocals clumsily inserted, but she has neither the right vocal tone or multi-tracking to convincingly hold her own here. Maybe she needed to be a little more to the front or a bit louder, but right now, she just sounds too wispy and insubstantial. But then we get to the content, which seems to be about bringing this new, hard-edged guy into her world, and the narrative feels utterly confused - first you're some phantom hanging over him that wants to keep him forever like a vendetta - because of course that's her attitude towards that - then a thief that steals hearts that she invites on the heist... but then you say you'll let him be your jailer and that you're so very tame now, when on your hook you're all about challenging him whether he's ready for it! And I'll say it: if you gender flip the lyrics about dreaming about some girl that she knows she's going to be with, it could very easily play to questionable territory, especially with this framing! In other words, the song screams of incompetence across the board, wrong creative decision after another... and yet I can't say it attracts more than just casual distaste. It feels like album filler, and for a second single, that might be even more telling about what we'll get on Reputation.

Regardless of that, this week was a pretty even split - three good, three bad. For the best, easily that's going to 'No Fear' by DeJ Loaf with Honourable Mention to 'Greatest Love Story' by Lancaster And Company - I'm going with the full name in the hopes it'll stick more than LANco. Worst... yeah, it's 'These Heaux' by Bhad Bhabie, the sort of splitting headache of a song that only just edges out '...Ready For It?' at Dishonourable Mention. Next week, I expect more of the fallout to continue, so stay tuned for that!

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