Tuesday, March 6, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 10, 2018

So it's pretty rare I get surprised on the Hot 100 - I've been doing this for three and a half years and I have chart records going back to the 2000s, I generally have an expectation what'll land here and be successful, and I've been long conditioned by disappointment to not expect the best. But it seems like this week we got a few welcome surprises that not only met my low expectations for this week, but might have even exceeded them. I'm not saying it was precisely a great week or that any of these new arrivals will last, but some of these are encouraging.

Of course, if you were looking for encouragement the last place I'd look is the top ten, where for another week 'God's Plan' by Drake is squatting at #1. And yes, while it was dethroned on sales and the airplay gains are slowing, it's still getting the sort of obscene streaming and YouTube that I don't see being challenged. That's not saying that some aren't going to try, and this takes us to our first new arrival and a big top 10 debut: 'Psycho' by Post Malone, featuring Ty Dolla $ign. And this is big: it has tremendous on-demand streaming and sales, and really the only reason it didn't hit #1 is because its YouTube is nowhere as big and it doesn't have airplay traction, so this might become a two horse race quickly if its momentum sticks around. And again, it's not like 'Perfect' by Ed Sheeran is going to make a credible play down at #3 - sales might be good and it has big radio, but it's losing traction there and streaming stalled out long ago. I'd like to say that means 'Finesse' by Bruno Mars & Cardi B could make a play, but despite ascending to the top on radio it had an absolutely awful week on streaming and sales, it's not really rising above #4. Similar case for 'Havana' by Camila Cabello and Young Thug down to #5 - if it wasn't for stable YouTube, it'd be losing in all categories even faster! Now at #6 we have 'Look Alive' by BlocBoy JB ft. Drake, and while it has a bit of radio traction, its real strength is on streaming, so we'll see if that'll be enough to hold against more robust tracks like 'Meant To Be' by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line, which might be down on sales but has a real airplay push and might just gain more traction going forward... yay. It held its position over 'rockstar' by Post Malone and 21 Savage, which tumbled to #8 thanks to radio losses, but it kept it above 'Pray For Me' by The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar at #9, which might be down on sales but is surging on radio to hold its slot at #9. Finally, we have the second Black Panther song with 'All The Stars' by SZA and Kendrick down to #10, more off of sales losses and radio it has never quite been able to match.

Now that takes us into losers and dropoouts, and we have some big ones in the latter category: sure, there's small potatoes like 'One Foot' by Walk The Moon and 'End Game' by Taylor Swift, Future and Ed Sheeran and - sadly - 'Let Me Go' by Hailee Steinfeld, Alesso, Florida Georgia Line and Watt, but along with that we also had 'I Get The Bag' by Gucci Mane and Migos, 'Too Good At Goodbyes' by Sam Smith, 'Gucci Gang' by Lil Pump, and finally 'Shape Of You' by Ed Sheeran, which lasted well over a year. On the flip side our losers don't nearly seem as interesting: Black Panther hype faded with 'The Ways' by Khalid and Swae Lee down to 90 and 'Paramedic' by SOB x RBE down to 76, and 'When We' by Tank lost its momentary boost back to 91. Then there's 'River' by Eminem and Ed Sheeran at 46 as the video hype faded, as well as 'Love Lies' by Khalid and Normani just not sticking well off the debut to 58. But hey, at least 'Tell Me You Love Me' by Demi Lovato collapsed to 84, and 'You Broke Up With Me' by Walker Hayes finally took a hit to 74, and it's about damn time too!

Now for our gains and returning entries, things do seem a lot more questionable - I don't know why anyone wanted 'Dark Knight Dummo' by Trippie Redd & Travis Scott to come back at 82, but I'm inclined to think it might be linked to 6ix9ine backlash, even as he got his song 'KOODA' back on the charts at 89. And of course off the release of his tape he got a boost for 'KEKE' with Fetty Wap and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, but beyond that, he's not really the most interesting story here, even as he did land a few singles in new arrivals. I'm more interested in Dua Lipa getting 'IDGAF' up to 78, or how 'Nowadays' by Lil Skies and Landon Cube picked up some traction to 62, both thanks to streaming. Then we have the continued gains for 'Whatever It Takes' by Imagine Dragons to 43 - folks, given its radio and sales, you might as well get used to this one - and much to my amazement 'Candy Paint' by Post Malone got a boost to 71 - I don't expect it to truly get upward momentum this late in its run, but I'd take it over any other Post Malone song he's charted! The rest of our gains really aren't worth mentioning - yeah, 'Rubbin' Off The Paint' by YBN Nahmir is up to 85 after it came back, 'Heaven' by Kane Brown is riding sales and country radio to 44, and 'Plug Walk' by Rich The Kid is up to 55 on streaming because apparently someone is deluded into thinking this song is remotely interesting.

Whatever, let's move onto our new arrivals, and things are immediately more compelling starting off with...

99. 'Make Me Feel' by Janelle Monae - look, I know it was five years ago when I reviewed The Electric Lady - spoilers, it's only gotten better upon every listen - and I know that I was lukewarm at best about 'Yoga' when it dropped a few years later... but goddamn, it's thrilling to see when Janelle Monae rolls out new singles they at least have a chance to hit the Hot 100 proper! And considering this is a rubbery, bass-heavy jam celebrating bisexuality with choppy guitar work and synths contributed by the late Prince, I'm still a little amazed this crossed over at all! Of course it helps that Janelle Monae is such a natural fit for this sort of future funk bombast, enough so you almost don't notice that Julia Michaels of all people contributed backing vocals. But she's such a non-presence that it's much easier to bask in Monae's raw charisma, maybe not quite as potent as Prince's 'Kiss' - the obvious sonic lineage point - but still fun as hell, and I really have to hope this sticks around. Great song, definitely check it out!

98. 'Break Up In The End' by Cole Swindell - you know, even two years after his sophomore album You Should Be Here indicated he was making a pivot way from bro-country towards the neotraditional scene, I was still skeptical Cole Swindell would continue down this path, especially when Nashville continues to prop up interchangeable male acts - and people tend to forget at bro-country's peak, Cole Swindell was one of those guys. But with this... folks, it looks like Cole Swindell is joining Thomas Rhett in those artists making face turns in the best way possible, because this is a great country song, accenting the faint acoustics with deeper piano, echoing electric tones with phenomenal melodic balance. And the content is even better, showing every moment of the doomed relationship which he knows will end, but one where love pushes you on regardless, and there's a quiet, understated sincerity that gives the moment where Swindell lets her come in post-breakup some real melancholy, because even if he's holding a candle for her it ultimately won't work out. It's the sort of composition that knows how to underplay the subtext really damn well amidst the brittle, fragmented production, and one that really is something special. Absolutely excellent, you'll want to hear this.

96. 'She's With Me' by High Valley - so this song was made in 2014, and I thought it was weird when High Valley included this track on their breakthrough album back in late 2016, and the fact that it's charting now kind of blows my mind. But if you remember when I covered Dear Life back in 2016, I thought that was pretty great, and while this would not be my first pick from the project - 'Make You Mine', 'Roads We've Never Taken', the title track, maybe even 'Soldier' or 'I Be U Be' - it's still a fun cut, reminiscent of a Florida Georgia Line song done right with roiling guitar-driven grooves, prominent banjo, tight vocal harmonies, and lyrics that are kind of doofy but in a charming way. I do think the heavy usage of handclaps hasn't aged as well in 2018 as it even did in 2016 or 2014, and I can't help but feel it's a tad too synthetic around the edges, but at the end of the day, High Valley songs hit my joy receptors in a way I can't quite explain, and I enjoyed the hell out of this - it's not for everyone, but it is definitely worth a listen!

81. 'Booty' by Blac Youngsta - another day, another interchangeable trap song, this time from an MC affiliated with Yo Gotti of all people and who got arrested last year in connection with a shooting at Young Dolph. Now apparently that beef has been mostly settled and we've got a song called 'Booty' and even by the low standards of ass anthems, this is pretty mediocre. Despite having a similar flow Blac Youngsta is nowhere close to being as funny or interesting - again, low bar here - with no significant melody in the faint synth whistle against the rumbling bass and trap beat, with the most interesting references is how he wants to go 'Mike Tyson on the booty' and how his girl loves him because she rubs his feet... seriously. Beyond that... look, we haven't an outright ass anthem in a minute, but even with that, this isn't a good one - next!

73. 'RONDO' by 6ix9ine ft. Tory Lanez & Young Thug - so 6ix9ine broke only two songs from his newest tape on the Hot 100, and while I get why Tory Lanez might hop on a track with this scum in the roll-up to his new album, who in Young Thug's management decided this was a good next step for his career while 'Havana' is still in the top 5? Granted, his pause to clear his throat was easily the most enjoyable part of this track, which barely runs two minutes and is more characterized by Tory Lanez's autotuned crooning over a pretty underwhelming trap beat with some glossy synths that don't match with any of the content or much of the vocal production. As for the content... look, the big problem with 6ix9ine is that he's not an interesting enough lyricist to make any of his intensity likable or appealing in comparison to an artist like Lil Jon, and so when you can tell that Young Thug doesn't care to really try, this entire collab feels disposable - like 6ix9ine will be shortly, given the backlash isn't going away. Next!

61. 'Want You Back' by 5 Seconds Of Summer - okay believe it or not, I had some hope for this: it might be easy to rip on 5 Seconds Of Summer for their brand of pop punk that feels fifteen years out of date, but I heard real improvements on their sophomore record and 'Jet Black Heart' is a legitimately great song and showed real potential for them. And hell, with the growing underground swell of pop punk this could be a great return to form... and instead despite not being signed to Fueled By Ramen they hopped on the slick, desaturated pop rock grooves that are more rooted in synth gloss and bass lines that just aren't tight enough to stick the landing and have been lodged in backlash territory for the past year at least! Pair it with the sort of falsetto that puts me in mind of the much better HAIM song of the same name, and I'm left wondering why 5 Seconds Of Summer delivered such a pale facsimile that just feels thin and flimsy in content and presentation. At the end of the day it's still mostly passable - the groove is decent enough - but man, what a disappointment.

60. 'BILLY' by 6ix9ine - okay, if we're now in the situation where a song only needs to have one verse and two choruses and run less than two minutes to chart on the Hot 100, can we call out 6ix9ine for pure laziness at this point? Not only does all the flexing start feeling generic - shooting people, gang shoutouts that seem less and less credible, screwing a girl which he describes as 'dick up in the pussy, bet that shit get gushy gushy'... look, even by the standards of over-the-top masculine power fantasies, who in the Nine Hells can take this seriously, especially combined with the garish synth work and utterly one-dimensional delivery. The only thing that's worth recommending is the delivery, but once you get past that, it's just like the rest of the monotonous trap I cover on a week by week basis, just blown up to a borderline parody of itself. Again, the sooner this guy's fifteenth minute comes, the better!

22. '44 More' by Logic - so I'll admit to being genuinely curious where Logic was going to go after his suicide hotline song was such a huge hit... and yet I get the feeling this song might not be the best representative of that direction, given that it's from his upcoming Bobby Tarantino II mixtape, the sequel nobody asked for to a project that Logic pretty much phoned in two years ago! And considering all we get here is forty-four bars over a reversed, warping mix and twisty trap beat... well, it's passable, I guess. At this point nobody can deny that Logic can flow his ass off, but I can't be the only one who isn't all that impressed by how much repetition and stuttering he brings in as well, and that his content just isn't as memorable as I'd like to be. Yeah, I didn't mind how he was bragging how he sold more than Katy Perry and Harry Styles, and his flip of how he's saving money for his kids to go to college is nice, but at the same time, does that really redeem that 'ring ring ring' line later in the song in what seems to be a really clumsy Kevin Durant reference? Overall... no, it's not bad, but I'm still not at all convinced Logic is living up to his potential, and a song like this only seems to prove it more.

2. 'Psycho' by Post Malone ft. Ty Dolla $ign - granted, I'm fairly certain I'd take Logic's brand of flexing over whatever the hell Post Malone is doing - and can I ask, why is Ty Dolla $ign even here? He and Post Malone have a very similar sound and it's not like he's going to bring interesting content, was his cosign really that big of a deal against these badly tuned, desaturated acoustic plucks against a blubbery trap knock? Granted, when Post Malone is complaining about not being able to shove all his money in his shorts and that his neck and teeth are sore from all the chains and grills, and Ty Dolla $ign follows it by talking about how he's 'sippin on the Panky, chain so stanky' even as he takes your girl, I'm left thinking how neither of these guys gain much from the other than just a wallow in overdone luxury porn. Seriously, the 'AP's that Post Malone reference are expensive watches, so how in the Nine Hells anyone thinks they're 'going psycho' makes any sense is beyond me, although I will give the folks at Genius credit for trying to tenuously sketch a connection between action points in the Fallout games instead of just acknowledging that Post Malone is an incoherent rapper who rarely if ever thinks through his bad metaphors. This... I don't know if I can call it outright awful or the worst thing Post Malone has ever done while 'I Fall Apart' is still charting, but this isn't good at all.

And yet among the worst... yeah, both are going to 6ix9ine here, with 'BILLY' netting the worst of the week and the awful autotuned laziness on 'RONDO' netting Dishonourable Mention. But truth is that this week is actually pretty decent, with the great songs definitely outweighing the bad, with Best of the Week going to Janelle Monae on 'Make Me Feel' and Honourable Mention to Cole Swindell with 'Break Up In The End' - tight race there, but there's just a little more vivacious character that Janelle Monae brings to the table. Coming up next... well, unless all odds are defied and Tory Lanez gets an album bomb, it might end up being pretty light - oh wait, Meghan Trainor released a new song. Okay, this could get rough, stay tuned!

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