Wednesday, July 11, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 14, 2018, I'm not happy about this. Really, if you consider the long term, nobody should be happy about this week, where every single song from Drake's Scorpion impacted the charts. That meant twenty-two new arrivals from that album alone, which broke all kinds of records for Drake and surely cements his dominance in popular culture... but does it really? I've seen more critics pan the record than praise it - and not receive backlash for doing so - and when you hear that Spotify is having to issue refunds to paying customers for the Scorpion spam - I'm sorry, custom graphics package that of course Spotify made out of the goodness of their hearts and premium playlist placement that surely wasn't paid for by the label directly or otherwise we'd have the modern version of payola, right? But the ugly truth is that Drake might be the one who suffers the worst out of this in the long run - cultural overexposure is very much a thing, and considering the goodwill he still had with 'Nice For What', you'd have to wonder if he'd have been better off holding back, especially when the product is overwhelmingly mediocre at best. Hell, even becoming the quintessential silent majority act doesn't look good overexposed.

But we do have the top 10 to deal with... whatever's left of it. Yeah, when seven of your ten songs in the top ten are from Drake and almost entirely are driven off on-demand streaming, it kind of makes you wonder what there even is to say. I will say that I'm not surprised that 'Nice For What' went back to #1 - it's not the strongest on streaming as a whole but it does have solid radio, which does matter enough to keep a song like 'Nonstop' by Drake confined to #2. Then we get a short break from Drake thanks to 'I Like It' by Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J. Balvin at #3 - and make no mistake, even despite not being able to compete in streaming this week it still has huge sales and real radio traction, it'll likely be back at #1 sooner rather than later. And on a similar note, as I predicted 'God's Plan' rebounded to #4, mostly getting as high as it did thanks to lingering radio that even now is dripping away. But again, when the streaming fades I predict 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 and Cardi B to rebound beyond #5 - sales are huge and radio gains are not slowing down! Then we have four more Drake songs that you can rank by their streaming position: 'In My Feelings' at #6, 'I'm Upset' at #7, 'Emotionless' at #8, and 'Don't Matter To Me' with the sample from the late Michael Jackson at #9 rising above streaming deficiencies thanks to decent sales - when the majority of these fall out of the top 10 in the next week or two, I'd put money on this sticking around. Finally, because not even streaming rules changes can stop it, 'SAD!' by XXXTENTACION held on to #10, almost entirely thanks to YouTube and sales - thanks, America!

But as I've always said, the real damage from the album bomb comes lower, so let's take a look at our losers and dropouts... and folks, it was ugly this week. Let me put this in perspective: just this week in the list of established songs that are gone: 'Plug Walk' by Rich The Kid, 'rockstar' by Post Malone and 21 Savage, 'Heaven' by Kane Brown, 'Havana' by Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug, 'New Rules' by Dua Lipa, and 'Wait' by Maroon 5. And then there are the songs likely denied a year-end slot thanks to Drake, like 'Dura' by Daddy Yankee and 'Powerglide' by Rae Sremmurd and Juicy J -  hell, with the dropout of 'Walk It Talk It' with Migos, Drake is literally cannibalizing his own success! And that also happened with our losers - all thirty four of them, but let's just focus on Drake eating himself with 'Look Alive' with Blocboy JB falling to 44 and 'Yes Indeed' with Lil Baby going to 26. Then there are the gains abruptly cut short: 'Tequila' by Dan + Shay to 34, 'Mercy' by Brett Young to 64, and even a return for 'Big Bank' by YG ft. 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Nicki Minaj to 67. Hell, it was a bad week for Nicki Minaj as a whole, with 'Ball For Me' with Post Malone forced to 74, 'Bed' with Ariana Grande continuing down to 81, and 'Chun-Li' forced to 82. Also not a good week for Kanye West, with 'Yikes' continuing down to 92 and 'All Mine' wrenched down to 83, and XXXTENTACION was not spared either, with 'Moonlight' falling to 47, 'changes' going to 55, 'the remedy for a broken heart (why am I so in love)' hitting 98, 'Jocelyn Flores' going to 68, and 'Everybody Dies In Their Nightmares' crashing to 91. But really, it was bad for everyone, and the change to streaming rules didn't make it better, so let's just rattle them off: 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD went to 16, 'Meant To Be' by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line hit 22, 'Better Now' by Post Malone hit 24, 'Perfect' by Ed Sheeran sputtered to 29, 'Friends' by Anne-Marie and Marshmello hit 33, 'Apeshit' by The Carters crashed to 43, 'Be Careful' by Cardi B failed at 48, 'Back To You' by Selena Gomez hit 49, 'This is America' by Childish Gambino crashed to 50, 'I Like Me Better' by Lauv sputtered to 52, 'Te Bote' hit 61, 'All Girls Are The Same' by Juice WRLD hit 60, 'One Number Away' by Luke Combs hit 65, 'Youngblood' by 5 Seconds Of Summer crashed to 66, 'Freaky Friday' by Lil Dicky and Chris Brown went to 72, 'Esskeetit' by Lil Pump hit 88, 'Japan' by Famous Dex hit 96, and 'I Lived I't by Blake Shelton somehow held on at #100.

And yet even with all of that... we still had gains and returning entries. Yeah, that's what happens when you change the streaming rules and have to rebalance them appropriately on the same week as an album bomb, you get 'Me Niego' by Reik ft. Ozuna and Wisin returning to 97, 'Downtown's Dead' by Sam Hunt back at 94, 'Cry Pretty' by Carrie Underwood returning to 87, and most bizarrely, 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' by the Backstreet Boys back at 84! And while we don't have that many gains - and I already talked about 'I'm Upset' - we do have two... and they both come from the more asinine side of country, with 'Take Back Home Girl' by Chris Lane and Tori Kelly rising to 79 and 'Life Changes' by Thomas Rhett up to 75 off the debut - so we all have that to look forward to!

But before we get into the avalanche of new arrivals - twenty seven of them, only five not from Drake, I want to stress that there was a credible number of people who wanted me to avoid Drake entirely this week. Seriously, I took a poll on Twitter and the option that won was for me to skip him entirely - and considering I already spent sixteen minutes reviewing the album, I'm well within my rights to do so... but at the end of the day, it wouldn't feel right if he didn't get his due, even if said due comes through streaming chart manipulation. So for each Drake entry, he'll get it - he'll get one sentence per song, I don't want to put you all through much of what I went through. Right, so let's start with...

99. 'Growing Pains' by Alessia Cara - you know it's not a great sign that the song I was most interested in coming out of this week is from Alessia Cara. Okay, that's not fair, I wish she was known more for 'Here' and 'Wild Things' than 'Scars To Your Beautiful', and she's one of the Lorde-wannabes in which I actually saw a lot of potential for growth... and honestly, I mostly like what she's doing with her lead-off single for her sophomore record, mostly because she's doubling down on the self-awareness and realizing she now has to live in a world where her music and art has had consequences, especially as she acknowledges her own temperamental nature and how there might be lingering notes of hypocrisy in her empowerment messaging, especially as she really can't run away from it. And I appreciate the frank maturity in her messaging, even if I do think the hook feels a shade undercooked overall and the song ends rather abortively. But that ties into my larger issue with the track as a whole: if you just have one pulsating low-end synth and overweight percussion line, it doesn't quite show off a lot of colour and dynamics, no matter how many faded vocal overdubs you layer in. I dunno, it's not bad, but like with most Alessia Cara songs, I find myself wishing I could like it more.

93. 'Hotel Key' by Old Dominion - so we've got a new single from Old Dominion now - the first of three new country tracks to break onto the Hot 100 this week... and look, I've been all that fond of this group. Despite decent hooks their production tends to sound stiff and sterile and their lyrics are average at best - and yet this seems to buck against most those assumptions, and winds up being close to being one of the first Old Dominion songs I can come close to liking. The drums sound more organic, the piano embellishments compliment the rollicking guitar grooves and kind of fit the somewhat seedy vibe off the organ that works for the one night stand in the lyrics, which is left implied more than outright emphasized in the writing, which is a nice touch of restraint I can actually respect. So yeah, this is actually a decent song... yeah, I'll take it.

86. 'Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset' by Luke Bryan - and it looks like we might be two for two when it comes to decent country songs! I remember talking briefly about this song when I reviewed Luke Bryan's album late last year, mostly for highlighting its warm inoffensiveness as a positive, coasting on breezy vibes and Luke Bryan's charisma. And going back to it now, that's mostly true - yeah, the percussion is blockier and clearly came from a drum machine on the verses and the cymbals are really badly layered - seriously, for as much of a Nashville institution Bryan is, his material should be way better mixed - but for the sort of lightweight bro-country storytelling this is that seems weaponized for summer country radio, it's fine - I'll take this over any number of awful Luke Bryan tracks I've covered the past five years, this fine. Next!

76. 'Kiss Somebody' by Morgan Evans - so I've ranted about nepotism in Nashville before, but with 'Kiss Somebody' it seems like we have an inverse of what you'd usually see, because while Morgan Evans' previous few projects have gone absolutely nowhere - seriously, he was putting out records back in 2007, he had a major label deal - I have to wonder if the fact that he's married to Kelsea Ballerini helped goose his career a bit. Hell, he released single in mid-July last year and it's only now charting on the Hot 100! And sadly I can see why - somebody needs to tell me why they mixed the snaps on weird intervals opposite the drums, or drowned the guitar in reverb, or suffocate the vocal line in weirdly synthetic vocal multi-tracking, which only gets more blatant before the bridge! Seriously, the production is shockingly messy, and even if Morgan Evans has real charisma - and I'd argue he does - he's still stuck with an underwhelming post-breakup hookup song with lyrics printed from the Nashville song generator! in other words... yeah, I'll stick with Kelsea Ballerini, thank you very much.

63. 'Karma' by Queen Naija - okay, I'm still a little amazed that Queen Naija is notching a second hit - and look, I get it, YouTube can be weird in what it blows up, but this notched considerable sales as well so I was curious if this was going to be any good before we get an avalanche of Drake... and really, it's a pretty decent refutation to what's coming, given how it's a slick piano-driven R&B tune with a solidly layered trap groove around some much smoother production than she had previously brought. And I mostly like the content too - a kiss-off to a guy who was an unappreciative dick and who was at the very least emotionally abusive, and now he's going to get what's coming to him, and she's smart enough to show enough details to highlight how much his words did touch her, which is a nice touch. As a whole... yeah, this is a good tune, and while I'm not sure how long it'll last, it did break through a tidal wave of mediocre R&B, so that's promising. But on that note...

(it doesn't look like any of the Drake songs are available... this critic is not complaining about that)

57. 'March 14' by Drake - we're starting with one of the better tracks, the confessional moment where Drake finally appears like he's going to take responsibility for his child... and then he blows it by ignoring that child's mother and singing over a Boyz 2 Men sample that reminds me of much better music - next!

56. 'Final Fantasy' by Drake - I'm struggling to comprehend the waste of a song with this title not only not sampling any of the video games, but doubling down on the sort of emotional manipulation that I think would be beyond even most Final Fantasy protagonists - pushing how she should wear no makeup when even after the beat switch you start flexing, I think that's my limit break...

51. 'Ratchet Happy Birthday' by Drake - he wanted to make a pandering birthday song, and the fact that it charted so low thanks to the really slapdash sample layering, gross autotune, embarrassing lyrics, and blocky groove makes it clear 50 Cent still has the hip-hop birthday jam on lock - yes, even fifteen years later.

42. 'Finesse' by Drake - when Bruno Mars and Cardi B gave a song this title, it had groove and was fun; when Drake did it, he saved it for an underwritten, bassy slog where he wants to screw sisters and complain about fashion week in New York - very telling.

41. 'After Dark' by Drake ft. Static Major & Ty Dolla $ign - Ty Dolla $ign is the best part of this song, and Drake somehow manages to sample Maxwell and the late Static Major and make neither of them sensual or appealing - that's a special kind of failure! 

38. 'Peak' by Drake - yes, Drake, you hit your peak - I'd argue three years and too many songs ago; and your passive-aggressive concern trolling for Jorja Smith is creepy and doesn't match that ugly grainy synth you chose, but more on that later...

37. 'That's How You Feel' by Drake - for as much damage as you did to Nicki Minaj's chart positions, she deserved more than the half-hearted samples on this track where you try to isolate a girl from her friends telling her they don't care about her - also, Nicki Minaj brings more personality to this song than most of your entire album.

36. 'Is There More' by Drake - the fact that Drake titled a song like this at the halfway point of the double album, especially when we're not even halfway through the runtime and the melodic sample sounds like a muffled and failing hair dryer... he has to be trolling, right?

32. 'Jaded' by Drake - more ugly grainy synths, more Drake passive-aggressively concern-trolling Jorja Smith and actively drawing attention to their difference in ages... yeah,  not even Ty Dolla $ign can save this, one of the worst tracks on Scorpion - PERIOD.

30. 'Blue Tint' by Drake - never have I looked forward to an uncredited Future feature more, and the fact that he's stuck with a dull refrain as Drake bitches about how a girl is now back in his life and he's contemplating dropping her again... yeah, women who like Drake, how exactly are you going to defend this one?

28. 'Summer Games' by Drake - I'll admit I kind of like this wiry synth choice... which Drake promptly ruins by using the entire song to passive-aggressively concern-troll a girl around her social media usage, which he excuses by saying she said 'I love you' first - and then he chops his voice into fragments to fill out the other half of the song - fun stuff.

27. 'Sandra's Rose' by Drake - it's a good sample from Premo and Drake is riding it pretty well, but I've got three questions: 1. Did you really take shots at Amber Rose's Slutwalk movement, 2. Did you seriously try to call out Charlamagne's skin condition even despite all the promo you've thrown him, and 3. Did you seriously try healing crystals, seriously?

21. '8 Out Of 10' by Drake - I'm really getting sick of Drake sampling Marvin Gaye, saying he's settling into his role as 'the good guy' while taking awkward subliminal shots at Kanye and Pusha-T, and then ending the song with the 'you mad' sample from Plies - we know who's really mad, Drake, you just can't ever admit it.

20. 'Talk Up' by Drake ft. Jay-Z - odd mixing and volume issues aside - likely from the N.W.A. sample Drake is using here - Jay-Z saves this track with his dismissive but effective bragging... but as I said in the review, I question the X and Zimmerman line that ends his verse, and can't help but wonder how that implication might linger going forward...

18. 'Can't Take A Joke' by Drake - yes, Drake's flow is good and I kind of like how the cocking of the gun was integrated into the beat, but Drake, when you try to blow off things by saying folks can't take a joke over this sort of production and with these sorts of veiled threats, it's not them who look insecure.

17. 'Survival' by Drake - honestly not a bad intro - abortive and the synths leads aren't all that impressive, but there's a few hard bars scattered here, even if you get the impression that Drake is chopping out when he really wants to say in the editing room - and yet for some reason he left that Mount Rushmore line in, for some reason...

14. 'Elevate' by Drake - there's one half-sung verse against some admittedly pretty ghostly production, and outside of a modestly catchy hook, what I find most galling is how Drake wants to gaslight the audience into believing it was god playing favourites that got him to this point - not backroom label deals with Spotify... but hey, if you know you know!

13. 'Mob Ties' by Drake - that's a genuinely great Young Thug impression, and the fact that the song manages to still turn out pretty damn good even despite the content of you cowering behind J. Prince and not really ending Kanye like you said you could... well, the Nas sample helps, but it does say a lot.

9. 'Don't Matter To Me' by Drake ft. Michael Jackson - I don't care if the groove is good or Drake is using this song for more gross concern-trolling, at this point the Jackson estate needs to seal up these Paul Anka sessions - the more they're sampled by anyone who can afford them, the worse it gets... but hey, only the second time Drake is graverobbing on this album!

8. 'Emotionless' by Drake - the Mariah Carey sample is really good - the rest of the song is half-measure shots taken at Kanye, guilt-tripping girls for using Instagram, and describing how he wasn't hiding his kid from the world, but hiding the world from his kid - in other words, Mariah deserved better.

6. 'In My Feelings' by Drake - apparently this sloppily mixed and badly scratched song has become a dance meme and has become the sleeper hit from Scorpion on the back of the uncredited duo City Girls and a lot of chopped vocal samples - if that's not a striking indictment of Drake's artistic approach in 2018, I don't know what is.

2. 'Nonstop' by Drake - no jokes here, the fact that the leaden bassline, trap beat, and some sparse whirs is all Drake bothered to include as an instrumental behind this lazy as hell brag rap... look, for the most part I've blamed Drake for the turgid slog of a record, but I doubt even he would have positioned this noting of album filler as the breakout track - and that's not on him, that's on you.

And that's our week - hell, I might do this with future album bombs, practice keeping things brief even though this'll be a living hell to edit and fully assemble. But best and worst... look, I'll give Drake credit where it's due, 'Mob Ties' is probably my favourite cut here, followed by 'Growing Pains' by Alessia Cara - not the best thing she's ever dropped, but I see a lot of potential and layers there. Worst... yeah, no question that's going to 'Jaded' by Drake, with Dishonourable Mention as a tie between 'Ratchet Happy Birthday' and 'Blue Tint' - sorry, Future, you can't save enough of that track, and thank God Big K.R.I.T. didn't take it when he had the chance. Next week... the fallout.


  1. Honestly, I would've rather seen a Florence + The Machine album bomb, they are at least interesting.

    Best Of The Week:Growing Pains
    Honorable Mention:Kiss Somebody
    Dishonorable Mention:Ratchet Happy Birthday
    Worst Of The Week:Finesse

  2. BEST: Growing Pains
    HONORABLE MENTION: i guess Karma?
    WORST: Jaded / Peak (tie)

    1. What do you think of Finesse? Honestly, I'd just stick with Bruno Mars's song