Tuesday, June 26, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 30, 2018

...you know, it's funny, people were reaching out to me for my reaction when XXXTENTACION posthumously went to #1 this week and all I tweeted was '...'. That was it, and people assumed or projected so many emotions upon that tweet... when reality I just did not care. And I still don't - I've said my piece on XXXTENTACION a number of times, my review of ? was over fifteen minutes long, and to see this response... well, it's very telling to say the least, that in the dumpster fire of the Hot 100 in 2018, instead of any of his other songs American audiences chose to send the one where he's guilt-tripping a significant other by threatening suicide to the #1. 

And what's refreshing to see is the culpability here, because you can't blame this on the radio - 'SAD!' went to #1 on streaming, pure and simple, and that comes from you - you have to own that. If you want to commemorate an artist who openly bragged about nearly beating a gay man to death in jail - and you can't exactly separate art from the artist in performative art forms and when it's said artist's cult of personality that intrinsically defines his appeal - you have to own that, even if it is just in passing. But I've already said too much here, let's move on what will likely be #1 next week: 'I Like It' by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J. Balvin. Big sales, good streaming, consistent YouTube, huge airplay momentum, she's going to #1, and I'm not really seeing what has the strength across the board to stop it. 'Nice For What' by Drake would be a contender, but the margins have shrunk and the airplay momentum is sporadic, I don't see it reclaiming the top - even when Scorpion drops, the chart rules are changing and that uncertainty doesn't help Drake. Nor would it help 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD, who is up to #4 thanks to streaming and nothing else. It jumped over 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 and Cardi B at #5, which is absolutely huge in sales and rising on the radio, but despite better than expected streaming it's just not big enough just yet. Hell, it shoved past 'Psycho' by Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign down to #6, mostly thanks to it getting overtaken in just about every category, it's definitely on its way out, albeit slowly. I'd like to say that 'Boo'd Up' by Ella Mai will overtake it, but it's still at #7 because as much as radio and YouTube like it, the sales and on-demand streams are just not there. It did hold above 'God's Plan' by Drake down to #8 - also losing in all categories but thanks to YouTube not fast enough - and the last two are pretty self-explanatory: 'No Tears Left To Cry' by Ariana Grande is at #9 because despite good radio and sales she doesn't really have the streaming; and 'The Middle' by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey at #10 on its way out because all it has is radio and that's in freefall.

And on that promising note, losers and dropouts - and let's not mince words, it was a bloodbath this week, with Kanye taking the brunt of it across the board but the bigger dropouts are all mostly to be expected: 'You Make It Easy' by Jason Aldean hitting the end of his chart run, and 'El Farsante' by Ozuna & Romeo Santos, 'Singles You Up' by Jordan Davis, and 'Drip' by Cardi B and Migos hitting their runs mostly naturally. But across the board it was a rough week, and let's start with Kanye: 'All Mine' fell to 48 and 'Yikes' dropped to 67. In fact, let's deal with all of hip-hop right now, because thanks to their reliance on streaming they were going to suffer this week: 'Walk It Talk It' by Migos and Drake to 24, 'Pray For Me' by The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar to 61, 'TATI' by 6ix9ine and DJ SPINKING to 68, 'Call Out My Name' by The Weeknd continuing to crash to 73, and 'Overdose' by YoungBoy Never Broke Again to 90. But it's hard to avoid the feeling that the losses here were broader, with big hits to pretty big songs like 'Havana' by Camila Cabello and Young Thug to 39, and 'Wait' by Maroon 5 to 44, or songs that seem hit prematurely like 'Back To You' by Selena Gomez forced to 33 or 'Done For Me' by Charlie Puth and Kehlani to 66. Then you had Dierks Bentley losing all of his momentum for 'Woman Amen' falling to 88, but country wasn't out of the woods with 'One Number Away' by Luke Combs going to 57. And that doesn't even account for the rest: 'X' by Nicky Jam and J Balvin falling to 69, 'Zombie' by Bad Wolves going to 93, 'OTW' by Khalid, Ty Dolla $ign and 6LACK dropping to 97, and 'Sativa' by Jhene Aiko and Swae Lee hitting 98.

And you already know what triggered this - that's right, seven returning entries for XXXTENTACION. And I've already talked about all of them, so let's blow through this list quickly: 'Moonlight' hit 16, 'changes' hit 18, 'Jocelyn Flores' hit 19, 'Fuck Love' with Trippie Redd hit 28, 'Everybody Dies In Their Nightmares' hit 42, 'the remedy for a broken heart (why am i so in love)' hit 58, 'Numb' hit 82, and XXXTENTACION hit gay people and his girlfriend - I'm not sure there's a need to let that go as a point of historical record, so I won't. The odd returning entry is 'Medicine' by Queen Naija, which came back 100 and I honestly forgot this existed, so I don't expect it to last. Now our list of gains is a lot smaller and more explainable. I've already talked about 'SAD!', but the biggest behind it is 'I'm Upset' by Drake, getting a boost to 15 off the video that doesn't disguise how thuddingly mediocre the song really is. Then off the album bomb 'Youngblood' by 5 Seconds Of Summer got a huge boost to 49 - not sure if it'll last, but it has streaming of all things, so you never know. Then there's 'I Lived It' by Blake Shelton getting a nice boost to 63 - it had a good week on radio - and then the second rebound for 'Welcome to the Party' by Diplo, French Montana, Lil Pump and Zhavia Ward to 87, and for the life of me I couldn't tell you why.

But of course we have another busy week of new arrivals, so let's kick things off with...

99. 'Friends' by The Carters - so we had a minor album bomb from Jay-Z and Beyonce this week under the couple name The Carters - likely under that designation because their album didn't blow up quite as big as they were hoping and I get the impression they both want to keep their individual streaks of #1s intact. Anyway, I already reviewed the album at length, so I'll aim to keep this short: it's got one legitimately great line from Jay-Z: 'Tight circles, no squares, I'm geometrically opposed to you'. But beyond that, do we really want to hear Beyonce's autotuned triplet flows against a rejected beat from Nav and bragging about how her friends are better than yours? That's not something I'm into, sorry.

96. 'Cops Shot The Kid' by Nas ft. Kanye West - so, if you're wondering where the Nas album review is... well, nobody added it to my schedule and I wasn't really in a hurry to do so myself, especially when the reviews came in citing some of the content from Nas himself. And since my schedule is as jammed up as it is, all I've got is what many folks have called the best song on the record - and wow, this is really damn strong. I wouldn't say it's the most layered or refined verse from either man - Nas in particular sounds like he could have thrown slightly tighter wordplay in - and you can tell the song is relying heavily on that chopped-up Slick Rick sample, but when it comes to the right sort of blunt efficiency in talking about unnecessary police brutality, it hits hard, especially with those howls punctuating the samples and the deep, angry wells of darkness that come through on the hook. So yeah, even if the rest of Nas' record wasn't great, this hits hard - really damn good stuff.

95. 'Nice' by The Carters - yeah, this is one of the cuts from EVERYTHING IS LOVE I don't have much time for - leaden beat, faint twinkles, skittering hi-hats, Jay-Z complaining about government agencies going after him now for business issues despite never doing so when he was talking about drug trafficking - which sounds like it could have been an interesting point but doesn't quite get there - and then he hops on triplet flows and it's about the last thing I want to hear from Jay. And on that topic, who wants to hear Beyonce bragging about not putting her music on Spotify - it's the sort of boast that doesn't make you look good or populist. Also, Pharrell is here and doesn't quite embarrass himself lyrically as much as you'd expect. But still... no, not a fan.

85. 'Drowns The Whiskey' by Jason Aldean ft. Miranda Lambert - so I reviewed Jason Aldean's record on the Trailing Edge and I remember distinctly calling this song out because if you get Miranda Lambert on a song, you can do better than just consigning her to backing vocals, especially against that fake sandy percussion! And the frustrating thing is that this song could have had some deeper pathos if it actually used Lambert as more than just Aldean's memory of an ex he's trying to drown in whiskey - it just feels like lazy songwriting, especially when the track actually has a decent prominent guitar melody and a lot of pedal steel. I dunno, it's probably one of the better songs on the record, but I cannot say it's more than decent.

84. 'Summer' by The Carters - ah nice, we got one of the songs I actually like from EVERYTHING IS LOVE - a low soulful bass groove with nice flourishes of guitar and arranged instrumentation, Beyonce leaning into her sensuality, and while Jay-Z's verse is not all that interesting, it's a nice point of reconciliation especially against Beyonce's implication he should really just back down instead of playing the game, and he seems accepting of that. And for a chill, languid track, even if it is interpolating a song from Jay-Z's own Magna Carta Holy Grail... eh, it's pretty good, I'll take it.

80. 'Hope' by XXXTENTACION - look, I'm going to drop the snide remarks with this one, because from people I've heard who were close to X they were saying that he was trying to get his life back on track, and while in context of the rest of the album this song feels incredibly misguided, on its own in the context of his death there is a sliver of tragedy. Yeah, the production is rickety and X is leaning into autotuned mumble rap that doesn't sound good and the entire song feels like an undercooked fragment and he can't help but mention in the hook how he's stacking money, but there seems to be good intentions. It doesn't make this good by any means - it's mediocre at best - but it's not worth getting angry about, so let's move on.

78. 'Ocean' by Martin Garrix ft. Khalid - so I've generally been pretty open to whenever Khalid works with electronic producers, as they tend to provide him the momentum he rarely has in his own work, so I had some expectations this could be good... and it's okay, I guess. Much to my surprise Martin Garrix doesn't really give Khalid production with any sense of greater momentum, instead relying on drippy, reverb-saturated guitars, strings, and then a pitch-shifted breakdown with slight melodic embellishments that really does not have a lot of impact. And yeah, Khalid sounds fine enough when you claw him out of the autotune, but given that this is supposedly a love song, it's really melancholic and dreary - not precisely bad, but not all that memorable either if we're being honest.

77. 'Boss' by The Carters - okay, this is one of the songs I cited as having a possibility of marrying the trap vibe to Jay and Beyonce's style thanks to the fat horn leads and the slightly more opulent vocal samples fleshing out the backing tones. But for that to have impact it would have to have Beyonce sound like she cares beyond just more flexing, and even then, beyond concepts of generational wealth that both artists have done better on previous records, it just feels thin and underwhelming, especially with how flat Beyonce sounds on the hook. It's not terrible by any stretch, but I'm still not a fan.

74. 'Born To Be Yours' by Kygo & Imagine Dragons - so I like Kygo, and while I was reticent to see him teaming up with Imagine Dragons, he'd probably be the first person to give them any sort of groove in years, and that had a lot of promise for me. And look, it's a significant step away from Kygo's best - the sandy flute breakdown didn't really have a lot of impact especially with the pretty conventional cymbal-saturated percussion, and someone needs to tell Dan Reynolds to get out of his upper register, especially with that elongated syllable thing he's doing. But everything else around that really works for me - the acoustic guitars build well into the hook, even when the arranged elements slip behind the second verse, there's some actual low-end bounce in the second hook, and how Kygo gently coaxes a more earnest yearning feeling out of the production and Reynolds is a natural fit for this brand of love song. Again, it's far from Kygo's best - 'It Ain't Me' is just in a different ballpark - but it's still good and almost reminds me a bit of Imagine Dragons back in 2012, when they were still good... can we go back to that?

55. 'DDU-DU DDU-DU' by BLACKPINK - so okay, I think we all just have to accept big k-pop debuts are going to be a thing on the Billboard Hot 100, so let's talk about BLACKPINK. They're a k-pop girl group, this is their first breakthrough single on the Hot 100... and honestly, I don't feel like I have a lot to say about it. I found the translation to the lyrics and the triplet flows and flexing are very by-the-numbers, the flute behind the jingling trap beat is catchy, and while BLACKPINK seems to have a lot of vocal personality, I wasn't really wowed by the pop hook with a little too much reverb. And at the end of the day, it's not doing anything that so many other trap-pop artists haven't already done - just this time it's in Korean and produced with more of a budget. So yeah, it's fine - I'd probably prefer this over any number of mediocre MCs with less personality - but again, it's not especially memorable or interesting.

53. 'Bigger Than You' by 2 Chainz, Drake & Quavo - okay, somebody needs to explain to these guys how the '>' symbol works, because right now the title of this song is nonsensical. But on the topic of utterly forgettable trap, here we have a song where the hook with Quavo is longer than every verse, and Drake might as well have phoned his verse in against that flat oscillation midway to the back. I guess the only reason you'd come to a song like this is to hear 2 Chainz flexing, but while he's got a few decent lines on the third verse, none of the production really does much to make him sound interesting or make the over-the-top bragging click - hell, it seems to actively drop out to draw emphasis but just winds up feeling more murky and lacking distinct personality. And really, considering all of this is flexing on you, why would I endorse this?

43. 'Bed' by Nicki Minaj ft. Ariana Grande - I'm not going to speak on the Nicki Minaj controversies over the past week or so - I'm not surprised by any of it, more just observing how it feels like the rollout of QUEEN has been utterly botched, because what happened to that Lil Wayne song, Nicki? On the plus side, Nicki Minaj does have good chemistry with Ariana Grande, so I hoped this would be good... and I actually think this is. Mostly because Nicki coaxes the more restrained, sensual side of Ariana with the hazy, tropical vibe and her hook is the biggest reason this song works at all, certainly connecting more than Nicki's sexual entreaties that can feel increasingly blunt, not helped by the autotune on the bridge and rhyming words with themselves. And when you couple it with a groove that feels a bit choppier than it should, and the only verse where I'd argue Nicki gets even close to working is the third verse - and even that has a reference to ZAYN in the delusion that anybody thinks that's sexy... well, again, Ariana sounds great and that's enough for this to be passable, at least for me.

13. 'Apeshit' by The Carters - okay, look, I'm not too much of a snob to dismiss a hard-hitting banger when I get it, and Beyonce and Jay-Z make the best of it with 'Apeshit', basically using Migos for accents against that wiry, kind of smoky beeping synth groove... even if it's hard to see Beyonce's verse as anything beyond brand-name porn and the sort of phoned-in bragging that does not impress me. And again, the issue is her delivery - she might get Jay for the ad-libs on the third verse where she drops into her lowest register, but there's no intensity, and that's distracting! Now Jay fares better if only because he sounds like he gives a shit and his bragging is more distinctive - acknowledging how much more the Grammys and NFL need him than the other way around - but even then he's trying to ram more syllables into the triplet flows and it feels awkward, reminding us he doesn't need to do this! But beyond that, for what this is it's fine and will probably play great live, but there's just not enough here in the content or production to pull me back - good, not great.

And that was our week... and really, for as much as The Carters dominated, I'm giving the best to Nas and Kanye with 'Cops Shot The Kid' - it's dark as hell, just as hard-hitting if not moreso, and actually has some meat in the content, even if Nas has done more lyrically in the past. Honourable Mention... yeah, Kygo and Imagine Dragons with 'Born To Be Yours', a really solid if flawed little tune. Worst... see, it's hard to pinpoint anything outright awful here, but 'NICE' by The Carters is probably the song I like the least, with 'Hope' by XXXTENTACION snagging Dishonourable Mention - good intentions, very poor execution. Next week... well, Scorpion doesn't land its impact just yet, so I'm praying for a breather, we'll have to see.


  1. Best Of The Week:Born To Be Yours
    Worst Of The Week:Bed

    1. I meant to put Ocean as Best Of The Week, not Born To Be Yours. Sorry.

  2. So I'm going to try something. I'm ranking all the tracks, best to worst.
    Born To Be Yours(HM)
    Du-Du-Du ( i am not bothering to figure out how to spell it)
    Drowns The Whiskey
    Cops Shot The Kid
    Crap stuff:
    Every other track from The Carters ( why did i like Apeshit? lol)
    Bigger Than You
    Bed (WOTW)