Tuesday, July 31, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 4, 2018

You know, I'm always hesitant about saying the charts are back to 'normal' at any point, especially in 2018 where we have album bombs every other week and especially in comparison to years where we got fewer entries... but outside of one new top ten entry in particular, this week was pretty typical. Not precisely great by any margin, but it doesn't appear to be that bad either...

Well, okay, the top ten doesn't give me a lot of confidence, where for another week Drake is squatting on top with 'In My Feelings' at #1 - and considering its sales, streaming, and airplay, it's not going anywhere. I'd like to say 'I Like It' by Cardi B, J Balvin & Bad Bunny is a serious contender, but it literally got overtaken on the radio and if streaming wasn't as good as it is, it'd likely be unseated... by 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 and Cardi B at #3, which somehow has even more radio and sales traction. But now we have to talk about our big top 5 entry at #4: 'FEFE' by 6ix9ine, featuring Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz. I will have more to say about the song much later on in the show, but it's here mostly because of YouTube and on-demand streaming... although that sales figure is disturbingly higher than I expected. But coming behind it is 'Better Now' by Post Malone at #5, with even better sales, solid streaming, and the sort of steady radio growth that'll probably keep this around. This pushes back 'Nice For What' by Drake to #6 - although given the losses across the board that's not surprising - but also 'Boo'd Up' by Ella Mai to #7 as it seemed to peak in radio and lose a lot of sales, as well as 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD to #8, as good streaming can't be the only thing propping it up. Somehow 'Psycho' by Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign held its position at #9 thanks to a slight streaming recovery holding over airplay and sales losses. Finally, in our newest arrival to the top 10 and one that I'm not surprised whatsoever wound up here because of certain vile chart trends in 2018... 'Taste' by Tyga ft. Offset, which rode a long streaming climb and just enough sales and radio to break in at #10. Charming.

So let's move on to losers and dropouts... really, in the latter category all we get that's worth noting is 'Zombie' by Bad Wolves and 'Everything's Gonna Be Alright' by David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney. And the losers... well, let's rattle through all the Drake again, starting from the bottom with 'Can't Take A Joke' losing to 100, 'Emotionless' at 99, 'Don't Matter To Me' with the late Michael Jackson at 54, 'Mob Ties' hitting 53, and 'I'm Upset' mercifully falling to 38. But it was a tougher week for new arrivals taking hits, with 'Hopeless Romantic' from Wiz Khalifa and Swae Lee falling to 95, 'You Say' by Lauren Daigle crashing to 74, 'Summertime Magic' by Childish Gambino going to 69, 'god is a woman' by Ariana Grande hitting 21, and sadly 'Desperate Man' by Eric Church hitting 94 - sadly, I don't really expect this to stick around, as much as I might want it to. The rest of our losers are pretty scattered - 'Up Down' by Morgan Wallen and Florida Georgia Line went to 70, 'All Mine' by Kanye West took a serious hit to 91, and 'Jumpsuit' by twenty one pilots fell hard to 88 - don't know what to say about that other than I told you so, radio just has not gotten on board in any way.

So if you want to take a look at our gains and returning entries... and honestly, it's a bit of a mess across the board here. I truly wish it didn't take such dire circumstances for 'Sober' by Demi Lovato to return at 56 - thankfully she's recovering and I wish her all the strength she needs - but I'd handily take it over 'Lose It' by Kane Brown at 98 or whatever the hell Weezer did to Toto's 'Africa' back even higher at 86! Now our gains are a collection of continued boosts and new arrivals getting traction, with the only exception to that being 'Big Bank' by YG ft. 2 Chainz, Big Sean, and Nicki Minaj at 28. Of our new arrivals picking up... look, I wasn't nearly as fond of 'Remind Me to Forget' by Kygo and Miguel picking up to 79, but I'd take it over 'I'm A Mess' by Bebe Rexha surging to 64! Similar case for our continued gains: I might not be precisely fond of either 'Medicine' by Queen Naija continuing up to 65 or 'Sin Pijama' by Becky G and Natti Natasha to 72, but I'd take either over that Keith Urban / Julia Michaels thing 'Coming Home' up to 50... I mean, it sounds gross, Nashville, why are you promoting this over Eric Church again?

Anyway, for once we've got a more reasonable list of new arrivals, starting with...

97. 'Lie' by NF - so 'Let You Down' by NF became a hit this year, and I still don't care for it. Look, NF is a competent MC and I would put him above a fair few of his competition, but his wordplay has never impressed me and his brand of angst just tends to set my teeth on edge, so I won't say I was looking forward to hearing this. And after a few listens... I'm sorry, this wannabe Recovery-era Eminem angst does nothing for me, because at least Eminem could conceivably bring charisma and wordplay or at the very least some sense of danger or edge. NF, meanwhile, is an utterly inert presence behind the microphone against dreary piano chords and a blocky drum machine as he tries to call out a girl for lying to him and using him amidst a pileup of flubbed rhymes and increasingly insufferable implications. You call her out for immaturity and yet you make a song like this where it becomes clear you can't read anything close to signals where she might just be looking for friendship at this point. One thing's for sure, after hearing this I can't imagine any girl would want to be near NF for his mediocre brand of bitching, so yeah, next!

93. 'You Should See Me In a Crown' by Billie Eilish - so okay, I haven't quite been won over by Billie Eilish's collaborations with Khalid or Denzel Curry but I haven't been put off by them either, so I was curious where she'd take her lead-off single for her debut record. And to her credit what she described as her inspiration was a line from Moriarty from BBC's Sherlock of all things... and yeah, I can definitely hear it the warping, borderline dubstep tremor in the low-end against the trap skitters, what sounds like a knife scraping against glass and super-hushed delivery, plus a bridge that's giving passing glances to SOPHIE - it's a song that's designed to sound creepy and unsettling and Eilish has the restraint to pull this off well, especially with lyrics just oblique enough to imply something much darker. I'm also reminded a bit of Ultra Red from October, but where she tilted into heavier industrial melodrama that could occasionally feel oversold, Eilish is just unstable and magnetic enough to click into genuine menace, maybe even too subtle to be abused on every teenage melodrama. So yeah, Billie Eilish has me on board with this, I want to hear more - good stuff!

90. 'Nevermind' by Dennis Lloyd - it's hard not to see a pattern with these songs that blow up around the world but only months later pick up traction in the U.S. - they tend to do well for a few weeks, maybe a few months, and then fall off before they have any chance of serious chart impact... and sadly, the quality tends to be all over the place too. Now Dennis Lloyd is a pop/R&B artist from Israel and this is actually a song from 2016 that only now is crossing over worldwide... and the best way to describe this is a Khalid song with hazier diction, more vocal overdubs and a bit more groove, especially when the brighter acoustic touches come around the hook. I will say it's a pretty decent groove and there's an odd hypnotic quality to the guitar loop at the core, but the lyrics maybe play a little too laid back for their own good, asking whether if he left for no reason how she'd handle it for the response to be... pretty lightweight overall. I dunno, kind of undercuts any tension there might be here, that's all I'm saying. So yeah, not precisely a bad song and I can see this getting play in certain chill dance clubs, but beyond that... yeah, no.

81. 'Best Part' by Daniel Caesar ft. H.E.R. - look, it might just me who finds it weird seeing Daniel Caesar on the Hot 100, but I'm not going to complain if and when it happens, this being a collaboration with California R&B singer H.E.R.. And really, this is the sort of R&B duet that wins me over very quickly - great low-key acoustic groove, some subtle bubbling electric guitar, genuine chemistry and subtle harmonies between Caesar and H.E.R., lyrics that might feel a shade underwritten in the love story being told but I do like how the outro implies there might just be a hint of distance to add just enough tension. In other words, it's damn near the definition of a modern quiet storm cut, and frankly, it's a really good one - check it out.

77. 'Level Up' by Ciara - and on the other side of R&B, I'm a little startled to how much I've warmed up to Ciara over the past few years - I think it's at least tied to her ditching Future and her voice developing some real richness with age, or because how much I genuinely love 'I Bet' to this day - man, that song should have been so much bigger. Now this... well, it's not better than Vienna Teng's song of the same name, but it's okay, I guess? The production sounds half pulled from Clean Bandit with the precise drippy fragments behind it and what sounds like a marimba skittering around the faster beat, but then you get slightly grainy touches around the vocal production and the fact that this song is clearly trying to emulate Beyonce's dance hits like 'Formation', especially in the writing. Now said message got controversial as it was partially linked to an Instagram post Ciara made with the song's hashtag linking to a pastor talking about the best way for women to get a man, a conversation I don't feel remotely qualified to touch at all, and really, the song just seems like shallow empowerment cliches... not much to say about it one way or the other.

60. 'I Might Need Security' by Chance The Rapper - am I the only who thinks that Chance The Rapper's buzz might be losing a bit of its luster? Maybe it's just the circles I hang around, but when he released four songs out of nowhere, they seemed to vanish from the conversation really fast... and in this case, I kind of see why. Against a choppy, pitched up sample of Jamie Foxx crooning 'fuck you', Chance unloads at length against anybody who has pissed him off recently, from justified cases like Rahm Emmanuel's questionable behavior as Mayor of Chicago to... tabloid media outlets and people who criticize him on Twitter. Not going to lie, for someone with higher aspirations and what he practically describes as a God-given purpose on this song, the sniping here feels petty and unnecessary, and that's not even getting into the ethical conversations of him buying The Chicagoist paper amidst reports of him getting negative reviews pulled from other outlets, which is far from a good or populist look that you'd think he'd want to cultivate. And when you match it with this oddly humourless and sour song... yeah, can't say I dig this Chance, you're better than this.

37. 'Natural' by Imagine Dragons - can somebody please explain to me what the hell Imagine Dragons are doing with these singles? Sure, they had that collaboration with Kygo I think I liked more than everybody else, but now they're rolling out this and I'm wondering if they're abandoning the EVOLVE release cycle early, because they've already found ways to license this as a college football anthem for ESPN! But since I don't care about college football, let's talk about the song itself... and it basically feels like 'Believer' part 2. Underwhelming acoustic guitar line, oversold percussion, vocals that push into an uncomfortable upper register for Dan Reynolds, and very little actual melody to support a song that's supposed to emphasize developing a callous edge... only to have none of it. For god's sake, twenty-one pilots brought more of an edge than Imagine Dragons do with this, and even if it feels less shrieking and annoying than 'Believer' was, it's not that far removed. So yeah, this might just be a single licensed to ESPN, and let's keep it like that.

4. 'FEFE' by 6ix9ine ft. Nicki Minaj & Murda Beatz - so it's probably not a good thing that when I went to Genius to look up the lyrics for this song, I noticed a news article where 6ix9ine openly admitted in an interview where he just went to the studio, dicked around, didn't even try, and came up with a hit thanks to landing Nicki Minaj and a big viral video. And while I genuinely tried to muster up some contempt for this... at this point it's just not there anymore, if only because hip-hop culture has made most of 2018 an endless string of humiliations for this clown and convicted sex offender, and his utter lack of convincing dimensionality will consign him to the margins of the genre within a year at most. And when even the fans weren't entirely on board with this... yeah, kind of easy to see why, as 6ix9ine in his desaturated, autotuned melodic mold is not what anyone wants, he's such a non-presence in that lane. Granted, the song is all about treating women like disposable sex objects - a 'fefe' is apparently slang for such an object used by prisoners - which makes you wonder why on earth Nicki would stoop to being placed in that position! Granted, her wordplay is marginally better in that it's forgettable brag rap, but even then we're getting a bridge where 6ix9ine is going 'eenie meenie minie moe' and suddenly I'm getting Justin Bieber flashbacks. I can't even praise the production with its watery synth loop and increasingly dour hook... look, for 6ix9ine songs to work at all there needs to be some form of intensity, and him saying how he doesn't want any friends with delivery that screams otherwise... yeah, this is lousy, and I'd put money on it not sticking around for long.

Anyway, 'FEFE' is the obvious worst of the week, but Dishonourable Mention... it's really a toss-up, but I think 'I Might Need Security' by Chance is going to get it, if only because of how pompous and sour it feels, about the worst way he could have conveyed his message. Now for the best... you know, it's close, but I think 'Best Part' by Daniel Caesar and H.E.R. will snag Honourable Mention with 'you should see me in a crown' by Billie Eilish getting Best of the Week - what can I say, the tension and atmosphere really clicked for me there! Next up... honestly, the next disruption might come from Nicki Minaj finally dropping QUEEN, unless we get some sort of surprise drop mid-August, we'll see.

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