Wednesday, February 14, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - february 17, 2018

So I've often said that the most interesting weeks on Billboard BREAKDOWN aren't the album bombs themselves, but the weeks right after them, where you see what survives, what continues on the downwards spiral, and what rushes in to fill the gaps when so much falls away. Now up until a few weeks ago I was certain that Justin Timberlake would be the one to fill much of what Migos spewed in with Culture II, but with an underwhelming Super Bowl performance and Man Of The Woods being panned as hard as it has been, that didn't really happen. As such, we're stuck with a pretty wild assortment... at least until the Black Panther soundtrack has a mini album bomb of its own in a week or two. But hey, if that means a mildly short week for me on the Hot 100, considering how much catchup I have to do after being laid up with food poisoning, I'll take what I can get!

Right, so top ten, where... oh, come on, Drake is still at the top with 'God's Plan'? I mean, I get it - the sales and streaming and YouTube numbers are huge, and I can't deny how fast it's gaining on the radio, but it is not a song I have thought or cared about at all since I heard it, and I can imagine to most I've talked to, they'd feel the same. At least 'Perfect' by Ed Sheeran, which is lodged at #2 thanks to good sales and a solid radio lead even despite spins bleeding away, it at least tried to be kind of tepidly interesting with all the remixes... okay, I can't say that with a straight face. At least 'Finesse' by Bruno Mars and Cardi B is a really good tune, surging on the radio and with really solid YouTube and streaming... it's just that the sales aren't where they need to be to get higher yet, which is really damn frustrating! Then you have our next two which held their position but seem to be fading fairly steadily, 'Havana' by Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug at #4 thanks to YouTube and airplay, and 'rockstar' by Post Malone ft. 21 Savage at #5 thanks a lot more to streaming. And I can see one or both of them vulnerable to 'New Rules' by Dua Lipa, actually up a slot to #6... or at least I would say that if I didn't feel that the airplay is wavering and that's really all it has at this point. And this takes us to our first new arrival in the top ten: 'Pray For Me' by The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar at #7, getting the push that 'Sidewalks' never did! And while I'll be talking more about the song's actual quality later on, it's got the sales, streaming, and airplay traction to be a possible hit in its own right, so it'll be interesting to see whether it sticks around. Then we have our next new entry to the top ten, and one I'm actually pretty pleased to see: 'Stir Fry' by Migos at #8. And even though it's only here thanks to streaming, I'd be curious to see how long that momentum lasts to keep it in the top 10. Unfortunately, our next new entry I'm nowhere close to as happy to see here: 'Meant To Be' by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line at #9. And I want to make this abundantly clear for those in the back: this is a pop song promoted by desperate country radio programmers and playlist makers who have no idea what a country track is, and bringing together a c-list pop artist with a washed up bro-country duo to produce this stale bit of emptiness only denigrates the strengths of both pop and country - a fusion of genres with absolutely zero flavor. And yet given that its sales and radio are good, it's probably sticking around, fan-fucking-tastic. Finally we have' Bad At Love' by Halsey... and considering how bad it's hemorrhaging airplay, it's no surprise it's at #10. 

Now moving onto our losers and dropouts, this is where the week after the album bomb becomes intriguing, because while you lose the expected swathe of Migos tracks, what also falls out with them can be intriguing - and there were a surprising number of them! 'MIC Drop' by BTS and Desiigner, 'Rubbin Off The Pain' by YBN Nahmir, 'Round Here Buzz' by Eric Church, 'The Way Life Goes' by Lil Uzi Vert, Nicki Minaj, and Oh Wonder, and finally 'Believer' by Imagine Dragons, all of them are out! Now granted, we didn't lose every Migos tune, there were a fair few losers in this category too: 'Bad Bitches Only' with 21 Savage to 89, 'Notice Me' with Post Malone to 72, 'Narcos' to 50 and 'Walk It Talk It' with Drake to 48. And hell, Drake also took another hit for 'Diplomatic Immunity' to 83, that song will be gone and gone fast. Then there's the natural fallout for 'Gucci Gang' by Lil Pump as it seems people finally got sick of it to 36, and then we have some expected fades in country: 'Losing Sleep' by Chris Young to 71 - it'll be gone next week at the end of its natural run - and 'You Make It Easy' by Jason Aldean off the debut to 52, although I expect country radio to keep this around.

And now we have what rushed in to fill the gap, the gains and returning entries... and we had a bunch of the latter, so let's blow through these quickly. Some you expect to fill the vacuum like 'Rock' by Plies at 99, and of course Justin Timberlake was going to get 'Supplies' back at 100, and with the Super Bowl Carrie Underwood and Ludacris got 'The Champion' back at 56 - folks, you don't need to worry about this being a country crossover, it's got nowhere close to the radio it needs to be relevant there so they're doing something right at least. But it's our last two returning entries that sparked some confusion from me: 'Whatever It Takes' by Imagine Dragons as their newest single at 87 - which I actually don't mind, it's probably the best of their single releases thus far - and 'Criminal' by Natti Natasha and Ozuna at 95, which I would put money on it being because for some reason the Hot 100 is trying to make Ozuna a thing! Why else would that awful song 'El Farsante' getting a remix with Romeo Santos launching this up to 49 off the debut be a thing? And yes, we're onto our gains, and really, the only consistent one is 'Mine' by Bazzi, which looks like it's a smash in the making, and as it's a pretty good tune, I'm okay with that. The others... well, Kendrick notched a few successes with the Black Panther soundtrack, with 'All The Stars' with SZA riding the video to 31 and 'King's Dead' with Jay Rock, Future, and James Blake to 69 - plus that mess of a song 'New Freezer' with Rich The Kid to 60 on streaming traction - and even Justin Timberlake managed to get 'Filthy' a little more traction to 34. And then we have a mixed scattering for the rest: 'Most People Are Good' by Luke Bryan gets a little momentum up to 84 and 'Beautiful Trauma' by P!nk had a decent sales week up to 78... don't expect the latter to last, but you never know.

But now onto our list of new arrivals, and man, it's all over the place with this, but let's start with...

98. 'A Girl Like You' by Easton Corbin - man, there's a part of me that just kind of feels bad for Easton Corbin. He played closer to neotraditional country with a good voice and a solid tone that could easily fit onto the radio... but when I last talked about him in 2015, he just wound up falling through the cracks. So there's a part of me that doesn't blame him for hopping on a song that's obviously more synthetic with some of the gurgling synths trying to blend with the pedal steel or the obviously fake drum machine clashing with the real drums and the backing vocals with the higher timbre that don't quite match with his richer baritone, or lyrics from the bro-country songwriting crew that slip into the unfortunate trap of referencing those cliches in contrast but still winding up just as cliched themselves... And if you can't tell by now, this song is a bit of a mess overall. It's not precisely bad: there's some groove in it and Corbin can sell sincerity and I do like his dogged commitment to wedge some fuller country tones in... but it feels more awkward than it should, and that's a tad disappointment. Not bad, but not exactly great either.

94. 'Singles You Up' by Jordan Davis - you know it wasn't that long ago that it felt like every other week we were getting a new, fresh-faced guy from mainstream country where you literally could not tell them apart. That kind of went away with bro-country's collapse to be replaced with a new trap artist every other week, but seeing Jordan Davis' debut sparked some of those old feelings. He comes from a family of country songwriters and singers, but you sure as hell wouldn't be able to tell with all of that fake percussion and trap hi-hats that's layered over the guitars on the hook - guitars that again might be the only damn concession this has to being a country song! But then we get the lyrics... okay, the phrase 'singles you up' is not something anyone uses to describe getting dumped, and then we get the meat of things, where we get a song where if this other guy ever dumps her, Jordan Davis is just there to step in because they've got so much more chemistry and he's just too city anyhow. And am the only one who finds it screamingly disingenuous when you're calling him too city even despite this being a half step away from Sam Hunt? And yeah, I can kind of appreciate that he's at least trying to paint a lyrical picture where this could work... but no, this doesn't work, next!

93. 'The Long Way' by Brett Eldredge - really, America, you skipped on 'Somethin' I'm Good At', one of Brett Eldredge's most wild and utterly infectious songs for this? Granted, that song may have been a tricky sell for country radio at any time - it is pretty damn quirky - but Eldredge is at his best when he tilts into his off-kilter weirdness, especially if Nashville has decided nobody wants to hear Brad Paisley on the radio anymore. Sadly, 'The Long Way' isn't quite that, but that's also because it's a bit of a bait-and-switch, opening with the sort of pop country synth that would immediately push me away... and then burying it behind pedal steel, a gentle bass-and-percussion groove, and deep reverb-touched guitars, and then the synth almost starts reminding me of the accents you'd hear off that last War On Drugs album, and that's only a compliment! And yeah, the content's not exactly deep - it's just a deeply earnest love song where Brett Eldredge wants to get to know this girl better - but he sells it so damn well, especially when he dips into his surprisingly effective lower range on the bridge. So yeah, it's not really better than 'Somethin' I'm Good At', but it's still pretty damn good, I'll definitely take it.

92. 'At The Club' by Jacquees & DeJ Loaf - so I've come around on DeJ Loaf a bit since she broke out, especially as it seems like she's tilting closer to more subtle R&B instead of hip-hop tones that she could never quite convincingly sell. So when she teamed up with Jacquees, who was putting in some decent work but still finding his footing, for a collaborative mixtape called - no joke - Fuck A Friend Zone, I was intrigued, especially if they could nab a chart spot... and man, I wish I liked this more. Jacquees is sounding more comfortable even if I'm still waiting for him to cut loose in his upper register and I like the glossy interpolations of the production from 'The Boy Is Mine', especially juxtaposed against the sharper, wiry bass synths... but DeJ Loaf, would it kill you to even try to rhyme on your verse? I'm not saying Jacquees is much better, but when you have a song this low-key and steamy, that sort of thing kind of kills the flow. Again, it's not really bad, but I really wish I could have liked this more.

90. 'Hardaway' by Derez De'Shon - you know it's not really a good thing when the first things you discover researching an artist you've never heard of is that he is part of Rich Gang - the posse that Birdman rotates through every year or so - and that he doesn't actually write down his bars, leaving the actual content to be found in editing. So yeah, not a lot of confidence going in here... and honestly, I should probably be a lot harsher on this than I will be. Part of this is the production: the piano line behind that hook is solid especially off that thicker trap beat, and Derez De'Shon does have some emotive charisma behind the microphone, mostly because you can tell he's a little more honest and will actually admit not really knowing what he was doing selling drugs or being too fat to fit in a coupe. But at the same time... man alive, if I'm being harsh on DeJ Loaf for not rhyming, I have to be just as harsh when he's rhyming words with themselves, it just feels awkward and basic. Beyond that... I kind of get why it's blown up with that production, it's not bad, almost endearing in a clumsy sort of way, but I can see myself getting tired of this pretty quickly.

81. 'Dura' by Daddy Yankee - am I the only one finds it weird that suddenly Daddy Yankee is suddenly a charting presence now - and Pitbull isn't? They came up in the same wave, Pitbull had a bizarrely long run, but where you'd think he'd be able to capitalize on reggaeton, Daddy Yankee swooped in to take his spot. I say all of this more of an observation than anything, mostly because while Daddy Yankee may be sleazier than your average reggaeton singer, he at least can make the songs more interesting, and 'Dura' is a prime example. Take the spikes of horns, thicker synth warbles, the more textured burbles around the percussion, it does a wonderful job accenting how Daddy Yankee keeps calling his girl 'hard' and how he outright admits there'll be other women but she's special, or that even though he doesn't know her recipe he's going to eat her out well and then out come the handcuffs. And seriously, no judgement here, at least Daddy Yankee can sell this sort of hookup better than Ozuna can, but a song like this does play a tad broader than it probably should, at least for me. Still, not bad though.

73. 'Man Of The Woods' by Justin Timberlake - okay, there weren't that many good songs off of Man Of The Woods, so why in the Nine Hells did anybody decide the title track was one to check out with that keening atonal Moog oscillation against the blubbery bass snap and sharper guitar rollick? And then when you tack on how Justin Timberlake is going to take it too far but 'that's okay because you know the making up's fun' - yeah, despite the synth and guitar having no momentum whatsoever, this is trying to frame itself as a sex song because Timberlake is a 'man of the woods' and its his pride, as if that has absolutely anything to do with it... seriously, I kind of see the dick joke if you squint at it, but it feels so forced and quickly stops making sense. Take the reference to the 'faucet' on the prechorus - obviously he's talking about a dick, but her fingers are gliding down her legs, not his, so unless there's something about Jessica Biel none of us knew about, this is just bad songwriting! Yeah, easily one of the worst tracks off a pretty damn mediocre record, pass!

7. 'Pray For Me' by The Weeknd & Kendrick Lamar - so look, I'm excited for Black Panther to come out - the movie is on my schedule, I'll be seeing it within a week - but I'm still not hearing the hype around this soundtrack, as the songs that have landed on the Hot 100 haven't really impressed me much - they're just okay to pretty good, not great, and while Kendrick is curating this project, part of all of this comes with the expectation that Marvel and Disney wouldn't let them get that transgressive. And on some level, this isn't really transgressive or challenging either, but it probably gets closer to a sound and groove that works for me than the other Black Panther songs thus far. The bass beat melody is odd opposite those warping, 80s-inspired synths, and some of the odd shuddering vocal warbles don't really click, especially against the flutes, and it's hard to feel like Kendrick isn't just on autopilot again... but the darker, nihilistic themes balanced against the ideas of self-sacrifice are probably the most natural continuation of the themes both artists have explored on previous records, and it's a pretty natural synthesis. Coupled with a pretty damn good groove... yeah, I don't mind this, pretty solid song, wasn't expecting to like this as much as I do.

So as a whole... man, this week was all over the place in terms of new arrivals, but I'm giving the best to Brett Eldredge for 'The Long Way'... it's got its issues, but at the end of the day it connects the most and feels the least flawed in comparison with 'Pray For Me' at Honourable Mention. Worst... yeah, 'Man Of The Woods' by Justin Timberlake annoys the hell out of me, it gets that slot, with Dishonourable Mention going to 'Singles You Up' by Jordan Davis - if you're going to call someone out on being too 'city', maybe make the damn effort to actually sound like a country song and not an acoustic trap leftover! Anyway, next week we might just see an album bomb from the Black Panther soundtrack, which considering I don't review movie soundtracks would give me a chance to cover it here... eh, we'll see what happens, stay tuned for that!

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