Wednesday, June 6, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 9, 2018

...well, I can't say that the Hot 100 doesn't surprise me occasionally. I was expecting some fallout from the Pusha-T and Drake beef, but the most we got was the worst song to come out of it and half of Pusha-T's album! And when you pair it with all the rest of the scattered entries, this week wound up feeling surprisingly busy...

With the pretty considerable exception of the top 10, of course, as for another week 'Nice For What' by Drake holds the top spot. And again, this is a margins game - good enough sales, strong streaming, mostly stable radio growth, it was just enough to hold over 'Psycho' by Post Malone ft. Ty Dolla $ign, which with a discount made a serious run for the top but got stranded at #2 thanks to on-demand streaming not quite bridging the gap to match strong airplay and sales. It did hold up over 'God's Plan' at #3, which is holding onto pure inertia across the board to hold its spot... something that 'This Is America' by Childish Gambino can't quite cite here as it fell to #4, muscled back on streaming, sales and YouTube as radio is coming way too slow to catch up. Still enough to keep it above 'The Middle' by Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey at #5, but considering its radio and sales weaknesses, it'll probably be overtaken by 'Yes Indeed' by Lil Baby and Drake at #6, given how huge its streaming is - which is indeed all it has right now. But what I think is a much more serious challenger is our new top ten entry: 'I Like It' by Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny and J. Balvin at #7. Now it's early in the run here, but with every metric on the upswing, especially YouTube and radio, this has 'song of the summer' potential splattered all over it, I'd put money on this sticking around or getting even bigger. Hell, it blew right past 'Boo'd Up' by Ella Mai at #8, which has huge YouTube and solid radio... but the sales just aren't really there yet to push it higher. Kept it above 'Meant To Be' by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line bleeding in all categories at #9 and 'No Tears Left To Cry' by Ariana Grande down to #10, but at least the latter has some radio traction that might just keep it around a bit longer.

But what doesn't are our lists of dropouts and losers this week, and really there weren't that many big ones in the former category: 'Red Roses' by Lil Skies and Landon Cube holding a full twenty weeks, 'No Excuses' flopping for Meghan Trainor, and 'Outside Today' by YoungBoy Never Broke Again looking like it'll just miss the cut-off for year-end lists. Now the losers list is a lot bigger, so let's start with the expected losses for Post Malone: 'Ball For Me' with Nicki Minaj at #62, 'Rich & Sad' to 79, 'Paranoid' to 83, and 'Spoil My Night' with Swae Lee to 97. Then there's the gains abruptly reversing, like 'Overdose' by YoungBoy Never Broken Again sputtering to 52 and 'For The First Time' by Darius Rucker sliding back down to 81. Then there's all the other trap songs losing momentum: 'SAD!' by XXXTENTACION falling to 43, 'KOD' by J. Cole to 59, 'Watch' by Travis Scott, Lil Uzi Vert and Kanye West to 84, 'Shoota' by Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert to 88, and 'New Freezer' by Rich The Kid and Kendrick Lamar to 90. Then there are a few scattered country losses for long-running singles like 'Singles You Up' by Jordan Davis to 91 and 'Most People Are Good' by Luke Bryan to 92. And finally you have two songs that don't really fit a defined mold of loss: 'Call Out My Name' by The Weeknd seems to be fading naturally to 40, and 'Fake Love' by BTS crashed hard off the debut down to 51 - and like with most k-pop in the states, I imagine that downward trajectory will continue.

Now there weren't nearly as many gains or returning entries this week, and they can all be pretty easily explained. 'Youth' by Shawn Mendes and Khalid returned to 76 thanks to the self-titled album, 'A$AP Forever' by A$AP Rocky and Moby came back to 63 thanks to his album, 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD surged to 15 thanks to huge streaming and his newest project, and since we already talked about 'I Like It', the last big gain came for 'One Kiss' by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa, which is quietly racking up the airplay and sales, I can imagine this'll stick around for a fair bit longer.

But we have a pretty sizable list of new arrivals, so let's get started with...

100. 'The Games We Play' by Pusha-T - I'm legitimately surprised we got as many Pusha-T songs as we did on the Hot 100 this week, four out of the seven on the album... and sadly we missed my biggest favourites from that project, but I'd probably argue this is the closest one to really nailing it for me. The blocky soul sample with the blasts of textured horns and sharp plucky guitars, and Pusha-T just flexing with ruthless efficiency... but tempering all of his wild bragging with real taste and the confidence to know when not to be flashy about it, and even with that, it's tempered by the ugly underlying truth of how that opulence was attained, taken by ruthless men who have done horrific things to move that weight. And what I like is the framing - Pusha-T doesn't step around the horror and what it does to a man who walks this road, and while there might be decadence, the cool eyes and stomach is a different question altogether. So yeah, absolutely excellent track, and if more trap came close to this territory, I'd probably like the subgenre a lot more.

98. 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco - I have to be honest, I wish I was more hyped for this Panic! At The Disco record. I haven't really disliked any of the singles released thus far and they certainly have a charting presence... but they haven't been songs that have stuck around, either on the Hot 100 or in my mind. So with this new single... honestly, it's pretty decent, but I have concerns. For one, I can't help but feel that Brendon Urie's voice sounds even more flat and squawking on the hook, not helped by the increasingly dense stuttered snares and blasts of horns, which don't really play off the elegance of the strings on the verses and pre-chorus as well as you'd hope, especially when you tack on pitch-shifted vocals for no good reason. And with the more prominent percussion skitters, it makes the song feel way more rickety and lacking in groove to really push this over the top, not helped by lyrics that feel undercooked in their aspirational focus. Still, I won't deny that Urie can sell a song like this and I'm a sucker for this sort of bombast, so... eh, I'll take it.

94. 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B - so here's my big concern with this remix, and it's the same damn concern that I have whenever Maroon 5 collaborates with someone: they seem to suck all the personality out of their collaborator. Hey, it happened to Kendrick and SZA before, I didn't want to see it happen to someone as vibrant as Cardi B... and really, she's the best part of this song by a mile, especially with Adam Levine's increasingly underwhelming vocals and that oddly gummy acoustic pickup that feels appropriated from a Shawn Mendes song! Granted, the content is just a pretty standard trap-pop love song that's too damn watery for its own good, and even Cardi B isn't all that impressive in her verse, and it'd be incredibly disappointing if this is the Cardi B track that picks up traction in the top 10... but eh, it's inoffensive and passable, let's move on.

93. 'I Was Jack (You Were Diane)' by Jake Owen - so, context: the original song 'Jack & Diane' was written by John Mellencamp for his album American Fool in 1982, his only #1 hit likely driven there by one of the most recognizable guitar phrases in heartland rock - seriously, I had forgotten about his song until I heard that guitar line and then it came back instantly... even if the percussion feels kind of chintzy and spare. But there was a nervy tension that worked in that song in the early 80s that feels utterly missed by Jake Owen taking that riff thirty six years later, especially considering how Owen takes the melodic foundation and converts it to another by-the-numbers bro-country love song. And look, I've stuck up for Jake Owen a lot, and I am prepared to defend parts of this song - the production is more organic and country, the drums actually sound better than the original, and even if Owen is sticking to his sing-talking verses... but the foundation is a classic riff with content that can't help but pale in comparison to the original - so yeah, it's tolerable, but the original is better.

89. 'Lovely' by Billie Ellish & Khalid - you know, it seems like I've been seeing Billie Ellish's name for years behind the scenes and could never quite put a face to her - apparently she had a single that went viral two years ago, but this is the first on that's landed on the Hot 100 proper, courtesy of a boost from the 13 Reasons Why soundtrack. And to my surprise, I actually liked this more than I thought I would, mostly because Khalid and Billie Ellish have surprisingly strong chemistry in its dreary, strings-and-piano-drenched melancholy against that deep, grainy pulsating beat, both trying to get over a deeper depression they can't quite escape. So yeah, it's bleak, but the intimate focus, the bitter sarcasm against the delicate hook, and especially the vocal arrangement manages to capture some tremulous tragedy in a really effective way without feeling oversold. So yeah, this is really damn solid, I'll take it.

82. 'Taste' by Tyga ft. Offset - okay folks, if you're going to declare somebody cancelled, can you at least stick to it? I kind of get it with Kanye, because at least he has talent, but I don't think at any point of his career Tyga has been impressive or interesting beyond obnoxious creeping on underage girls and an inability to rhyme consistently. But thanks to Offset, he's got a new charting single... and I'm actually annoyed that there's actually some quality here. Granted, we're still dealing with Tyga trying to build a transitional rhyme between 'name' and 'Instagram' and his content is brand name porn and Offset is so hushed on his verse you'd think he recorded it while Cardi B was asleep in the room, but I actually really like this groove. The rumbling low end beat, the sparse tapping trap groove, the soulful vocal fragment, it reminds me of a better version of what Tyga did with 'Rack City' six years ago... but then I'm thinking what the rest of Migos or Cardi B could do with this groove and forget Tyga ever existed, and it's a lot better. But as it is... yeah, it's fine, next?

80. 'Dinero' by Jennifer Lopez ft. Cardi B & DJ Khaled - and speaking of Cardi B, this is the sort of collaboration that makes almost too much sense - J.Lo has always coasted more on personality and flair even in her heyday, and pairing her with Cardi B on a song where they can both flex seems almost seems inspired... and also DJ Khaled is here to shout more ad-libs and contribute more than on the majority of the songs he pushed in the past two years. And honestly, I kind of like this too - the trap whirs and skitters juxtaposed against distorted vocal shouts and what sounds like a guitar buried in choppy whirs, it has a streamy groove that kind of connects for the brashness of the content... even if I were to point to a weak point, it'd be here. Not that it's bad, but for both J.Lo and Cardi B it feels a little by-the-numbers and lacking smarter punchlines. Not precisely bad, don't get me wrong, but with how staccato Cardi B's flow is here, it doesn't quite show the imagination I was hoping. Still a decent song, but it should be better.

75. 'What Would Meek Do?' by Pusha-T ft. Kanye West - the second of our Pusha-T songs for this week... and sadly, the weakest cut from the record. Look, I like the wheedling melody against the sandy, spare percussion, and Pusha-T interpolating Tupac as he asserts his single-minded dominance is impressive, especially as he keeps in mind the darker balance that he has to maintain to hold that wealth... but then Kanye shows up. And again, he sounds fine on this darker production and his flows are sharper than ever as he accentuates his provocative instability... but let's not convince ourselves his reference to 'Make America Great Again' hats just serves as a cheap way to affiliate oneself with an organization that will only exploit that affiliation. That's not complexity, and when Kanye later references 'Million Dollar Baby', it's an open question whether he missed the rest of that movie with the title character suffering a crippling injury, a horrible slow decay, and then is euthanized by her creator. Don't get me wrong, Pusha-T saves this from mediocrity, it is a good song... but man, this should be better.

73. 'If You Know You Know' by Pusha-T - another song I wish I liked a little more from DAYTONA than I do... and yet unlike the last it's a little tougher to evaluate why that is. I like the choppy vocal sample and sweet hook, I really dig how Pusha-T once again highlights the darker risks and isolating choices made in his lane that prevent him from being quite as corporate as others in the game, where even his biggest moments of success were outside of the flash of the scene, all amidst a pile-up of bars that I can't help but respect. But maybe it's the first verse with its increased reliance on 'boy' for rhymes or how the hook doesn't quite coalesce as much as I'd like - a fine picture painted, sure, but you'd think Pusha would use the space for a bit more. Overall, though, solid as hell song, definitely recommended.

66. 'Big Bank' by YG ft. 2 Chainz, Big Sean & Nicki Minaj - honest question: why is this song called 'Big Bank' charting instead of the T.I. and Big K.R.I.T. collaboration from last year? I know the answer to that question, of course, and if YG is going to be releasing singles for his next record that chart, I'm definitely curious given how much I liked Still Brazy. Unfortunately, given that he got DJ Mustard back for this, it looks like we're getting the minimalist YG approach in comparison with the killer g-funk vibes that made his last project so interesting, and even by that standard all this mix is undercooked - a faint melodic tinkle, leaden fizzes against a lumpy beat... and that's about it. Now to be fair YG can ride this sort of production fine and enough and his content and flow is shallow but tolerable, and 2 Chainz is definitely likable following him - although why on earth he's talking about dinosaur shits is beyond me - but then Big Sean shows up sounding awkward as hell, utterly incapable of projecting charisma or a stable flow to ride this production. Thankfully Nicki Minaj shows up and her verse is fine... she seems to add validity to the rumor she's dating Eminem, which kind of threw me off-guard, but beyond that... again, why couldn't this have been the Big K.R.I.T. and T.I. joint, it was a lot better...

65. 'Infrared' by Pusha-T - and now the song that really reignited the beef... only to be squashed as Pusha-T rolled over Drake and upon J. Prince's advice Drake decided to call everything off. Yeah, take the L and keep moving Drake, we'll deal with you in a minute, but in the mean time we have 'Infrared', another legitimately great song from Pusha-T as he strings through a series of observations about a broken and corrupt rap game with some great seething contempt, taking broad potshots at Baby, Lil Wayne, and especially Drake. And to be fair to Drake they're nothing that hard or truly cutting - repeated references to ghostwriting, he's more collateral damage in Pusha-T cutting a bloody swathe on an industry with no integrity that has called his into question. And when you pair it with a bleak soul sample and bass guitar thrumming off the deeper beat... yeah, killer track, definitely like this!

46. 'TATI' by 6ix9ine ft. DJ SPINKING - hey, remember a few weeks ago when 6ix9ine left the charts and it felt nice like absolutely nothing was lost? Well, he's back again with a new single... and here's the thing, for as hard as he's shouting about how bitches suck his dick because he's fly like Aladdin and his repeated assertions that he's not stupid even as he talks about 'licky on his blicky' and then rhyming YouTube with YouTube as he talks about spanking somebody... is anybody intimidated or impressed by this? Pusha-T at least has class and genuine venom and some actual talent - 6ix9ine's braying over this undercooked atonal melody and trap beat has none of that with no modulation. In other words, this is incredibly one-dimensional and fails to be remotely convincing in that dimension - next!

45. 'Praise The Lord (Da Shine)' by A$AP Rocky ft. Skepta - so I'm probably not going to be covering A$AP Rocky's newest record Testing - nobody has added the record to my schedule, and frankly, there has been enough other albums that are genuinely interesting and competently structured than what Rocky has been churning out, especially when you know that the content would never be all that interesting. And this... look, I don't deny the flutes sound okay and I'm happy Skepta is getting more airtime, but him hopping on a very blocky DMX flow is nowhere close to the best use of his talents especially with an utter lack of interesting wordplay or presence, especially when A$AP Rocky's first verse at least showed some potential where to take this production! As it is... fine, it's tolerable and it's catchy, but the groove is poorly utilized and I'd appreciate there something remotely interesting being said here - and how is it when the flow is this basic, rhymes are still getting flubbed?

19. 'I'm Upset' by Drake - is it that the absolute worst song to come out of this Drake and Pusha-T beef charted the highest? I know it's because of streaming and that it's always a longshot when it comes to diss tracks charting, but the fact that neither 'Duppy Freestyle' or 'The Story Of Adidon' didn't chart but this did is flat out embarrassing. If I were to guess, this likely has most to do with streaming, and with Drake getting all that prime playlist placement, this is what we get. And it sucks - Drake brings absolutely no intensity against this desaturated murk, and when you have a song that's called 'I'm Upset', that's a huge problem! But the content might be even worse, the sort of meandering bitching that involves not paying for women, never shooting below the neck unless he's with a woman - ugh - and only able to accept a bounty of half a million on his head. I mean come on, Drake, are you expecting me to feel any sympathy for your petulant whining here about girls supposedly coming for you when Pusha-T outed your own deadbeat tendencies and the child you're neglecting? Yeah, I'm not hearing an explanation for that here, and I think with that fact now lingering in the public consciousness, Drake's days of making dreck like this are long over.

And yeah, it's the worst of the week, full stop - 'TATI' by 6ix9ine and DJ SPINKING might be embarrassing and one-dimensional, but it's better than this. And Pusha-T is easily getting the best two of the week, with 'The Games We Play' slightly edging out 'Infrared', although they're both great songs. Next week, we've likely got a Kanye album bomb ahead, so stay tuned for that...

1 comment:

  1. BEST OF THE WEEK(tie): lovely
    BEST OF THE WEEK (tie):I Was Jack(You Were Diane)
    HM(tie):The Games We Play
    I'm not sure if I want to choose a worst, but I guess it'd go to TATI because it really wasn't the best. And this is coming from someone who doesn't mind him!