Wednesday, October 25, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 4, 2017

So I'm not saying this week was crazy busy or anything - it really wasn't, and outside of some notable shifts, most of our new arrivals feel pretty minor. But for the first time in some time I have the feeling that the charts are actively starting to shift in response to major releases, and I expect with weeks to come we'll probably see even more of it...

Outside of the Top 10, that is, especially with our #1 as 'rockstar' by Post Malone and 21 Savage solidifies its hold at the top with strong sales, streaming, and consistent airplay gains. Frankly, I'm not seeing any weaknesses for it in sight, and when it comes to competition... well, 'Bodak Yellow' by Cardi B might be dominant on YouTube, but it seems to have unsteady airplay and lags in every other category. And it's a similar case for '1-800-273-8255' by Logic ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid at #3: more airplay traction than ever and good streaming and YouTube, but it still lags behind, especially on sales. I'd actually probably put more money on 'Feel It Still' by Portugal. The Man, which utterly rules radio and has solid sales... really, if the streaming picks up faster, I can see it rising higher than #4. But it has competition from 'Thunder' by Imagine Dragons at #5, which is surging on the radio with even stronger sales, and its streaming might actually have more traction. Hell, it managed to leap over 'Mi Gente' by J. Balvin, Willy William and Beyonce at #6, where radio traction is also considerable and sales did recover... but streaming took a hit, particularly in on-demand, so it seems a little stalled out. Compare this to 'Sorry Not Sorry' by Demi Lovato, rising to #7 thanks to a surge across the board that doesn't seem to be slowing down - not enough to be a major player, but it'll have longevity in the top ten I reckon. It jumped past 'Too Good At Goodbyes' by Sam Smith, which seemed to falter a bit down to #8 as it just got outstripped in radio momentum - although the dip in sales didn't help matters either. Then we got something strange: 'Unforgettable' by French Montana and Swae Lee actually rose to #9 despite losses across the board, how the hell does that work? Well, it ties into the real story of this week: the complete collapse of 'Look What You Made Me Do' by Taylor Swift, falling to #10 as it bleeds in every category but nowhere worse than the radio. Seriously, if you take a look at its statistics on the radio charts, it fell fifteen places this week, nearly out of the top 20! Now why this happened is a much more fascinating question: the most likely response is that its radio callout scores showing audience reception were some of the most negative in recent memory, but for a drop this sudden, you have to wonder if Big Machine just stopped the cash flow and radio programmers yanked it in response. Fascinating stuff, and it'll be telling how much harder it falls in the next week.

And here's the thing: it's really the only serious loser we've got on the Hot 100. Seriously, the only dropout that was worth noting was 'LOYALTY' by Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna, and the majority of the losers you could have predicted from last week: 'They Don't Know' by Jason Aldean continues to 99, 'Friends' by Justin Bieber and BloodPop continues down to 88, and 'Feels' by Calvin Harris, Pharrell, Katy Perry and Big Sean is at 94. The only new loser we have is 'All The Pretty Girls' by Kenny Chesney to 79, and it's probably getting rotated out with the season.

No, where things get interesting are in our gains and returning entries... well, really just gains because the only returning entry is 'Curve' by Gucci Mane and The Weeknd to 71, and that's thanks to the album, which also translated to a considerable boost for 'I Get The Bag' with Migos at 11. And speaking of album boosts, that's probably contributing to the pickups for 'What About Us' by Pink up to 13 and 'Losing Sleep' by Chris Young to 80, although the bigger boost will probably come more next week. But country as a whole had a few solid pickups: 'I'll Name The Dogs' by Blake Shelton rose to 70, 'More Girls Like You' by Kip Moore went up to 66, and 'Every Little Thing' by Carly Pearce surged up to 50. And on the topic of gains I otherwise like, 'Let Me Go' by Hailee Steinfeld, Alesso, Florida Georgia Line and Watt also went up to 74, even though I don't really have any expectations of long-term success. Unfortunately, they can't all be winners: 'Plain Jane' by A$AP Ferg continues its surge in momentum up to 61, 'Go Flex' by Post Malone picked up to 76 likely thanks to our current #1, and more exasperatingly 'Love So Soft' by Kelly Clarkson went to 59, probably thanks to the upcoming album providing traction, but it doesn't make the song any better. Finally we have, seemingly out of nowhere, 'Silence' by Marshmello ft. Khalid went up to 44 - apparently it had a modestly good sales week and thanks to already good on-demand streaming, it got a bit of traction to compensate for non-existent radio!

But things only seem to get stranger when we look at our new arrivals, especially starting off with...

 (no video because Garth Brooks - GAH)

98. 'Ask Me How I Know' by Garth Brooks - ...okay, what is this? Look, I'm a Garth Brooks fan, I've seen him live and he puts on an absolutely terrific show, but I got no real requests to cover his latest album released in late November last year and this single which was released last March! But here's the thing: Garth Brooks has a good enough ear for quality that this was going to have a leg up right out of the gate, and as it is turns out to be a pretty solid country song. The thicker simmer of the bass balances out pretty well against the very late-90s/early 2000s country strings sections that never overwhelm the main melody. And while Brooks has always been a potent singer, I dig a lot of the content as well - speaking to the standoffish, hard living guys who never really work to understand their emotions, and when they actually do fall in love and are left behind because they behave like pricks in the relationship, it'll hurt even more - and Brooks is canny enough to very much include himself in that framing. If I were to have any issues with this... eh, I'm not really wild about the writing style - Brooks himself didn't write this, and I've always thought he's better with songs that give him a little bit more room, whereas the hook here feels a bit cluttered. But overall... hey, there's a reason he's as big as he is, and there's quality here, I'll take it.

97. 'Mayores' by Becky G ft. Bad Bunny - okay, those of you who have been watching for a while might be surprised to see Becky G back at all, given that after her breakthrough single 'Shower' which was absolutely huge three years ago, she pretty much fell off the face of the earth. Well, turns out that's not quite true - she's done some acting work, most notably as the Yellow Ranger in the most recent Power Rangers movie you all forgot about, but with her music she made the transition to Latin pop, and has been opening for Fifth Harmony on their South American tour. And she's arguably been even more successful in that lane than she ever was in English, notching #1 hits on charts around the world, but thanks to the boom in the US, we now have a new crossover single... and I can't be the only one who thinks it'd be nice if those horns and guitars didn't sound so flimsy and synthetic to match with how flat the vocal production feels! There might be some bounce courtesy of the big blubbery beat and the blurring of the guitar, but the rubbery feel of all of it doesn't exactly help it stand out. Then there's the content... which is all about Becky G liking older guys where it's too big to fit in her mouth, with Bad Bunny trying to step up and not proving all that convincing. But honestly, putting aside some of the obvious double entendres and naked sexuality, it's not exactly like Becky G's delivery has gotten any more refined, and that's what makes this song fall kind of limp for me - pardon the pun. It's not precisely annoying like 'Mi Gente' is, but it's no 'Shower' either, sorry.

96. 'You Broke Up With Me' by Walker Hayes - I've been hearing bad buzz about this guy for months now, a fair bit more than any actual music, with rumblings suggesting under a push from producer Shane McAnally he was somehow making even stupider songs than Sam Hunt. But here's the thing: Hayes has actually been around Nashville for some time, releasing a record in 2011 that only produced a few very low-charting tracks before getting some odd cowriting jobs and finally landing a little traction as a flagship artist for McAnally's revival of Monument Records, now in his mid-to-late 30s. And look, I don't begrudge the guy for finally getting his break - probably feels like a dream finally coming true after over a decade of slogging it out... but if the song is lousy, I'm going to call him on it, and this isn't good. For one, he's trying to go with this low, oddly breathy baritone for his half-rap delivery, and along with that whistle it just feels painfully weak. Hell, all of the production feels flimsy, a blend of blocky percussion and thin guitars that are trying to sound breezy but feels more like a sloppily produced demo than anything else. And then we get to the content, which according to Hayes is not about a breakup but instead about being rejected by the Nashville scene and nope, I'm not buying this one damn bit. Not only does the content make more sense to be framed around a breakup, there's little to no subtext to make an alternate meeting make sense, especially when you're now affiliated with one of the biggest producers working on Music Row! It's cheap, limp, and again, barely even close to what you'd consider country - this sucks, next!

95. 'Stunting Ain't Nuthin' by Gucci Mane ft. Slim Jxmmi & Young Dolph - so right now Gucci Mane's new album hasn't been added to my schedule, and from the sounds of it while his flow has improved he's not exactly adding anything new to the scene... which doesn't remotely surprise me, to be honest. Granted, I actually mostly liked 'I Get The Bag', so I was curious about this... and wow, this is not good. For starters, I get why Slim Jxmmi is trying to replicate Swae Lee's solo success, but at least Swae Lee is melodic and can roughly stay on rhythm, whereas Slim Jxmmi is just sloppy here, more reliant on a clunky, swamped-out beat and a plucked tone that barely even fits against that! And considering he handles both the first verse and the hook, it almost becomes more of his song than Gucci's - which isn't good, because apparently he can't even reference the right developer of the NBA 2K franchise in between all the flubbed rhymes! To be fair, Gucci is better, but he's got the shortest verse, and Young Dolph then manages to step in with a simpler flow that somehow flubs even more rhymes! It's a complete mess of a song, I can't endorse this, pass!

87. 'Let You Down' by NF - I knew this was coming. Hell, given the rising success of artists like Lecrae, I knew it would only be a matter of time before Christian rap hit the Hot 100, especially if the marketing was primed enough to tone back that side for crossover. Enter NF - and let's make this clear, he debuted at the top of the Billboard 200, even if I've avoided this subgenre like the plague he clearly has an audience. And I can see why he's got an audience - with the fast flows and production that feels like a dreary blend of Eminem circa-Recovery and Post Malone, the warbling he does on the hook really doesn't help in the latter case - but I'm not sure I'd include myself in that group, so let's get to the content. Reportedly this is a track about issues he had with his father, feelings of rejection as he tries to reconcile complicated emotions years later - and note that the lack of most distinctive details means you can plug God in for that father figure, but since that raises even more issues let's just stick with the family scene and... well, I'm not really all that impressed, mostly because the father figure really sounds like a total condescending ass on this track and seems completely lacking in self-awareness. And look, I can empathize with feeling like you let someone down, and it's hard to outright reject a family member, but if you were looking for a textbook case of emotional abuse this is damn close to it, and the self-flagellation of the hook really hits a sour note for me. So yeah, I get why a track like this exists, but sorry, definitely not a fan.

84. 'Yours' by Russell Dickerson - so we're back to pop country with this... and a song that was originally released back in 2015! If you don't know this guy, Russell Dickerson has been a supporting act for a number of b-list country acts like David Nail and Canaan Smith throughout the 2010s, only landing a serious deal with Triple Tigers last year, which is a weird partnership label between the indie stalwart Thirty Tigers, the Texas-based Triple 8 Management, and Sony Music. Anyway, this song was originally released in 2015 as an early single, but then rereleased back in March of this year for a record that came out a few weeks back and has only now impacted radio... and well, I think I get why it took so long to chart, because this would have done nothing in 2015. Now granted, it's not bad now - I have no idea why we have another drum machine opening up the first verse before the real drums come in, but the richer electric tones are at least closer to pedal steel, and for a simple love song, Dickerson is at least modestly convincing at selling it with decent lyrical detail, and his belting on the final hook actually did catch me off guard in a good way. But let's get real, there's no short supply of artists who can deliver songs just like this, and while the lyrical detail might hold a little longer, the overall tone and sound is pretty forgettable. Tolerable, but I'm not going to remember it.

82. 'High End' by Chris Brown ft. Future & Young Thug - I want to make something abundantly clear to the people who keep asking for this dreck: just because Chris Brown is continuing to release new singles doesn't mean I have any desire or obligation to review that upcoming double album. To some extent that's out of my hands - Patreon votes drive the schedule more than anything - but you can be damn certain that I'm going to be voting for literally anything else. But that doesn't mean songs aren't going to show up here, and so we have his collaboration with Future and Young Thug and who the hell told Chris Brown that he should try to mumble rap in his absolutely gross Autotune-backed nasal voice? But that's really all this song is - one verse apiece from each artists, with Future sounding more drained of ideas than ever as much as he repeats lines and Young Thug stuck against production that gives him nothing to really work with in delivery or content! Now to be fair the production is actually pretty decent - I like the hollow wiriness of the main synthesizers against the thicker rumble of the bass - but it can't disguise the fact that it'd probably sound better against an artist who could take the darker tones in twisted or violent directions, not the vapid luxury rap flexing that can't even fake that subtext! This song is saved from being worse by that production, but still, it should be so much better, with a lot less Chris Brown on it!

So that was this week... and wow, this sucked. 'Ask Me How I Know' by Garth Brooks might not be a great song, but it runs away with the best of the week, and the worst... honestly, I can't decide and they both deserve it, so it's going to be a tie for 'You Broke Up With Me' by Walker Hayes and 'Stunting Ain't Nuthin' by Gucci Mane, Slim Jxmmi and Young Dolph. Let's pray this chaff is swept away with whatever comes next week, because I don't want to hear any more of this...

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