Wednesday, July 25, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 28, 2018

And here I was thinking this week was going to be easy. Well, okay, all of that has to be put in perspective - we were going to see the continued fallout of Drake songs, but what threw me a bit was how neither Future or Meek Mill could sustain much coming out of last week, which led to a healthy crop of new arrivals that probably makes this chart as interesting as it's been in some time... for better or worse.

Of course, where things don't change nearly as quickly are in our top ten, where for a second week 'In My Feelings' by Drake holds the #1. And look, I don't really like the song, but it's hard to deny how much of a phenomenon it is: holding the top spot on sales, streaming, and YouTube with a considerable margin, and with radio rising fast, it looks like this viral hit isn't going anywhere... or it's going to crash and burn fast, you never know. Now 'I Like It' by Cardi B, J. Balvin and Bad Bunny is not far behind - sales are stable and it's right behind on streaming and YouTube with even better radio traction, but this is a number's game, and I don't see it getting the push to move past #2. And it's a similar case for 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 with Cardi B - sales are actually better and it's got more radio momentum, but the streaming just isn't quite as strong, and I don't see what would give it more of a boost. Then there's 'Nice For What' by Drake coasting on residual airplay and streaming - this will have a long, slow decline but right now it's still at #4 - followed by 'Boo'd Up' by Ella Mai holding at #5, where sales crashed hard but mostly solvent streaming and radio kept it from losing positions. Unfortunately I do see it being vulnerable to 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD up to #6 - its still a major force on streaming, and with radio finally getting on board, I don't see this falling away yet. And that's not even counting this return to the top ten: 'Better Now' by Post Malone at #7 - sales may have slipped, but somehow Post Malone became a safe bet for radio and it's got serious traction in that space. And that places Ariana Grande in an awkward place with 'No Tears Left To Cry' clinging to #8 even despite radio slipping, mostly thanks to decent sales and just enough streaming to hold its own. Hell, it held up above 'Psycho' by Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign at #9, but its radio is in freefall and its sales are even weaker. Finally, just clinging to #10 we have 'God's Plan' by Drake, where if it wasn't for streaming and residual airplay, it'd be gone.

And on the topic of Drake losing, our losers and dropouts! And seriously, the only things falling off the charts that aren't Drake or Future are 'Chun-Li' by Nicki Minaj - which has been suffering over the past few weeks - and 'KOD' by J. Cole, which wasn't even a single... though it probably should have been. And the majority of our losers were Drake too, so let's do this again, from the bottom: 'Talk Up' with Jay-Z fell to 100, '8 Out Of 10' dropped to 98, 'After Dark' with Ty Dolla $ign and the late Static Major fell to 82, 'Blue Tint' faded to 80, 'Elevate' dropped to 67, 'Can't Take A Joke' fell flat to 61, 'Emotionless' drooped to 58, 'Mob Ties' broke down to 43, and 'Don't Matter To Me' with the late Michael Jackson went to 33. Hell, the only non-Drake drops went to Future's '31 Days' going to 99 and - surprisingly - 'Alone' by Halsey ft. Stefflon Don and Big Sean to 86... thought that had more traction.

But where things get interesting come in our gains and returning entries, and let's start with the latter category, where there doesn't seem to be much consistency at all: 'Zombie' by Bad Wolves back to 97, 'Praise The Lord (Da Shine)' by A$AP Rocky and Skepta to 96, 'Narcos' by Migos at 93, and 'Break Up In The End' by Cole Swindell at 91... the last of which kind of makes sense, given that he's got an album coming. But some of our gains are a lot more scattered, and while I'm not surprised that 'Jumpsuit' by twenty one pilots picked up to 50 - radio has been slower to get onboard than you'd hope - I am a little shocked 'Jackie Chan' by Tiesto, Dzeko, Preme and Post Malone surged to 60, especially given the song tried to say the titular character is Japanese instead of Chinese! But really, what I see more of are in the wake of big streaming hits from Drake falling away songs with heavier radio or sales picking up traction... which might be why so much pop country is here, like 'Take Back Home Girl' from Chris Lane and Tori Kelly is up to 57, and 'Coming Home' by Keith Urban and Julia Michaels is up to 62, and 'Hotel Key' by Old Dominion is at 70 and 'Cry Pretty' by Carrie Underwood hit 81. At least Luke Bryan managed to get a boost for 'Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset' to 64, but the surprises aren't over as it looks like Alessia Cara has real traction for 'Growing Pains' up to 65, or how 'OTW' by Khalid, Ty Dolla $ign and 6LACK is up to 75 off its return - as is 'Solo' by Clean Bandit and Demi Lovato to 66! Then you have 'Sin Pijama' by Becky G and Natti Natasha rebounding to 83, and 'Medicine' by Queen Naija up to 78, but the biggest surprise came with 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' by The Backstreet Boys up to 63, because it actually has some radio traction, which is both stunning and a little depressing, because I really wished I liked the song more.

But we've got a sizable list of new arrivals - fifteen to be precise - so let's get started with...

94. 'Remind Me To Forget' by Kygo ft. Miguel - okay, when I first saw this collaboration, it almost felt too obvious - two artists who have built their careers on loosely organic, infectious grooves, on a certain breezy charisma, this seemed almost too good to be true... which it promptly turned out to be, as I don't think this is very good. And it's a little bizarre to contemplate why this works, but in the face of such a personality like Miguel's, Kygo winds up sanding down some of his exuberance by placing him further within the mix against flat synth warbles and an oddly stately main melody line, confining the acoustic guitar to accents. And all of it contributes to a weird vibe when it comes to a song about angst in the face of heartbreak - it's too sweeping and clean, and while the bridge does hit some of that triumph it needs, it's a synthesis that never quite hits the way it should. Hell, it's only thanks to the raw talents of both artists that the song isn't outright bad, unlike, say...

92. 'I'm A Mess' by Bebe Rexha - look, I panned Bebe Rexha's debut for being badly produced, blandly performed, and overloaded with the sort of turgid melodrama that didn't redeem any of it - and if you want exhibit A on how she can go off the rails, here's 'I'm A Mess', complete with the video that's trying way too hard and is undoubtedly the reason it wound up on the Hot 100. And the song is not good at all: really wonky mixing in drowning the guitars in reverb and not coming close to matching the rickety trap accents or her own cleaner vocal fidelity, all amidst a song which whipsaws between overcompensating self love and toxic obsession with a crush, unable to nail any sort of consistent tone. If anything, it reminds me of a really sloppy Melanie Martinez rip-off, but at least Martinez didn't double down on a messy interpolation of Meredith Brooks' 'Bitch' that captures none of the edge or intensity of the original! The only thing remotely compelling about the song are the sloppy backing vocals that I could swear were coming from Nate Ruess, but turns out it's just one of the cowriters doing a Ruess impression - just like how Bebe Rexha does a flailing impression of modern pop and can't stick the landing. So yeah, this is pretty lousy - next!

90. '1942' by G-Eazy ft. Yo Gotti & YBN Nahmir - so I have no idea why G-Eazy is still a thing beyond a vehicle for more interesting artists to get a boost, and given that I don't have the highest opinion of Yo Gotti or YBN Nahmir right now, I wasn't exactly looking forward to hearing this... even less so when I discovered that this song was written pre-breakup with Halsey and it now just seems awkward! Well, more awkward than you'd expect from Yo Gotti flubbing a rhyme in the second line of the song! And that's before you get YBN Nahmir where the fidelity of his verse sounds like it was recorded in a different studio and then just emailed in - or maybe phoned in, given the empty brag rap we're getting here. Yeah, I hate to say it but G-Eazy might actually have the most interesting and stable flow against the underweight flutes and dry trap production... and yet it's already dated by how you could park a bus on Halsey's ass as he describes her as a 'ting'... yeah, not good, let's move on.

87. 'Ocean' by TK Kravitz ft. Jacqueez - and it looks like we're back to the days of forgettable no-name trap MCs, but given I did remember liking Jacqueez when he had some solo chart success, I had the hopes this could be interesting... until I realized that TK Kravitz has the sort of weedy voice that sounds like Lloyd with more autotune against generic atmospheric production riding hard against a Ginuwine reference on an otherwise by-the-numbers trap-R&B sex jam. Seriously, can we just have Jacqueez on this song, who can actually sing... and then swap out that grainy percussion lead for something a bit cleaner that could actually match the more restrained vibe? Because this could have worked... but not like this.

85. 'Hooked' by Dylan Scott - the sooner Nashville realizes that nobody gives two shits about forgettable bro-counry also-rans, the better off we'll be, but in the mean time we've got Dylan Scott, the guy who briefly showed up last year because he liked that his girl could rap to Eminem and then vanished because he's on Curb Records and will likely wind up mismanaged into the ground. But this is his follow-up... and look, I've said before I liked his voice, so I had hopes this could work... instead of getting the sort of overblown clunky production that I thought even Joey Moi left in 2014 with Chase Rice! Handclaps fused into a stuttering blur of guitars, fake kickdrums, all slathered in a fizzy film that kneecaps any any banjo or pedal steel that is trying desperately to cut through it. And when you pair it with writing that might as well have been imported from 2014 bro-country and a song that can barely clock two and a half minutes... yeah, even bro-country has moved past this, next!

84. 'broken' by lovelytheband - I've seen more people pan and make fun of this song than actually say what the hell it is, other than describe it as the sort of laughably misconceived indie pop that is trying for greater depth and complexity and then falls flat on its face. So with those rock-bottom expectations, I checked it out and... look, I get the appeal of the sentiment behind it, finding someone just as damaged as you are and working to grow together away from the pretentious hipsters who would frame everything as a love song... all framed as a peppy, chintzy indie pop cut that sounds like a MGMT rip-off from eight to ten years ago! Yeah, if there's a problem with this track it's the production - there's no significant groove, the vocal delivery has no personality or edge, and playing the song so damn upbeat doesn't remotely fit the lyrical sentiment or pass the irony smell test, like the band came up with a clever conceit for the hook but had nowhere to take it more deeply. So while I do appreciate the idea and I don't precisely think it's terrible, I have a hard time calling it good.

79. 'Nico And The Niners' by twenty one pilots - I will admit I'm a bit surprised to see the other song twenty one pilots dropped hit the charts, especially as 'Jumpsuit' was the one that got the video rollout and all the attention whereas this... did not. And yet there's a part of me that feels this track might actually have more of a shot at pop radio than 'Jumpsuit' will - the turgid bassy reggae progression with the faded guitars midway back, the off-kilter backing tones, the reversed warping tones behind the second verse, the fact that it's less of a rock song. But then you get into the lyrics and... look, it's not really much of a single, is it? With the increased level of oblique references to the internal mythos that twenty one pilots is creating for Trench, you have to wonder whether this record will have the songs that'll fit for radio crossover at all or can only be understood in the context of the album. I dunno, I don't really think this is bad, but it feels like an album deepcut shoved to radio rather than a strong single cut - but when you consider how twenty one pilots' single choice has always been kind of crap, I guess we'll see where this goes.

73. 'Fr Fr' by Wiz Khalifa ft. Lil Skies - so now we get the first of two Wiz Khalifa songs from his newest project, and I'll admit to being a little interested given as Wiz Khalifa has become a better rapper over the past few years as his popularity has ebbed away. Shame he doesn't really show it off here at all with that awkward as hell flow on his verse and a hook where he's doing his best Quavo impression against a lumpy, overweight trap beat with what sounds like a drowned out horn line. And even if you tack the autotune onto everything, it's hard to ignore how Lil Skies drops only an okay verse and then runs away with the entire damn song. And really, if the name Wiz Khalifa wasn't attached to this, it'd just be another forgettable trap banger - so let's move onto the other one!

72. 'Hopeless Romantic' by Wiz Khalifa ft. Swae Lee - and really, I'd argue this is more of a Swae Lee song than a Wiz Khalifa cut - seriously, all Wiz has is a verse, Swae's got the rest where he drops into his lower register to autotune-croon with a surprisingly lack of energy or pathos against these drained and slow guitar touches around the hazy mix and generic trap beat. And I'm not sure what I can even add to this one - I guess it's trying to paint Swae Lee and Wiz as 'hopeless romantics', but the production doesn't make it sound romantic so much as dreary and incredibly draining... which might be true but doesn't really vibe with the rest of the content. I dunno, this isn't bad per se, but it sure as hell feels mediocre - next!

71. 'Desperate Man' by Eric Church - alright, so it's been three years since we got a new Eric Church album, especially coming after Church released Mr. Misunderstood to win back fans and critics and what wound up being his best record to date... which he proceeded to push relentlessly for well over two years! And given that the buzz behind this single has been really positive, I did have some high hopes Church would deliver... but man, this was not what I was expecting from Church. Well, okay, the lyrics don't feel too far afield - referencing classic rock from the 80s and cowritten by Americana legend Ray Wylie Hubbard, soaked in southern gothic machismo but just subversive enough to give a middle finger to superstition and undercut the posturing in the face of the woman he's chasing - he might have no clear fortune, but he's desperate enough to make his own. But what drew me in a lot more was the production and instrumentation, which shows Church going into the Muscle Shoals sound popularized in the indie scene by acts like Anderson East and Sturgill but opting for a very distinctive tone, shunning the horns for swells of organ, some great guitar pickups, saloon piano, and an absolutely fantastic groove that honestly reminds me a bit of The Unforgettable Fire-era U2 - ironic considering he references The Joshua Tree in the first line, or maybe a bit of Rolling Stones. And yeah, I wouldn't call this country, but slot it into Americana and Church's increasingly welcome desire to go left and push radio into weird places, and I can definitely get behind this - kickass tune, definitely recommended!

68. 'Wasted' by Juice WRLD ft. Lil Uzi Vert - ...can I just go back to listening to Eric Church? Seriously, I'm utterly sick of his desaturated Post Malone-adjacent schtick with dreary pianos and constantly comparing women to all sorts of demonic figures who drain him of his money and drugs. Now to his dubious credit, this might be the first track where I can buy his antipathy because this girl is now lacing his drugs... but he saw her do so and he didn't stop her, so I'm honestly not all that sympathetic. But then we get Lil Uzi Vert against a vocal filter that almost sounds like there's a scuzzy guitar right behind his voice that I thought sounded okay... until you realize he's just going to use it as an excuse to drop rhymes or how he's going to 'jacuzzi that booty' and reference both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Lion King... which kind of cuts in on the druggy, menacing vibe, don't you think? All of that being said, of the Juice WRLD songs I've covered it's not the worst of them, but I can't really call it good either - sorry.

56. 'Eastside' by Benny Blanco, Halsey & Khalid - I've never understood why Benny Blanco gets lead artist credits under his own name - at least Calvin Harris had to develop personality as a producer before that happened, but Blanco has never been all that impressive for all the years I've covered him, especially when Halsey and Khalid would be the much bigger draws on this track. And even then, Blanco's not the only producer on this cut, and with the desaturated guitars and minimalist pattering beat, I'm not all that convinced the producer is what anyone is caring about here. But fine, we've got Khalid and Halsey making an autotuned reunion song when they try to revive a teenage passion and take to the road again from old responsibilities and am I the only one kind of reminded of 'Closer' but leaning into the earnest romantic sentiments? And I'm treating that as a compliment, because for the most part I think this is pretty good... but I'm not sure Khalid and Halsey have a lot of chemistry and the song seems missing that takeoff moment from all the hushed restraint to really drive it home. Don't get me wrong, it's actually a pretty good pop tune... but I get the feeling this should be great, and it's just not quite there.

53. 'You Say' by Lauren Daigle - so I know what some of you are thinking, that I'd be shocked that for the first time in years we've got a Christian song crossing over to the Hot 100... and really, I'm not. Hell, I'm surprised more radio stations haven't gotten on board with a cut like this and it still seems mostly marginalized to Christian radio as an obvious attempt to placate a more conservative demographic, especially in the face of all the trap debauchery. But no, this debut single from Lauren Daigle got the huge sales to impact the Hot 100, playing in gentle, reverb-touched piano ballad territory in a clear attempt to win over the Adele dollars... and then the heavenly strings and backing vocals come to accent the odd gospel flourishes and I know exactly what we're getting here. And look, it's pleasant enough, but there's nothing in the lyrics or delivery or better-than-expected production to make this really resonant... and yet knowing how the pop market eats up self-esteem anthems, even if God is in brackets the entire time, I'd put some money on this sticking around. Not unlistenable, but if I want a song with this title, I'll stick to the one from Dori Freeman - look it up!

44. 'Summertime Magic' by Childish Gambino - I'll be blunt, of all the singles that Childish Gambino could release to follow 'This Is America', this is not what I was expecting... but then again, for as much as I liked 'This Is America', it wasn't really reflective of where Gambino has taken his art in recent years, especially opposite projects like Kauai that have gone for a breezier tone. And this... I'm not sure it gets there, to be honest? The wiry synth bounce playing against the breezier sound effects, the underweight lyrics, even Gambino's delivery doesn't seem to have the magnetism or wild joy to play to this sort of steel-drums accented tone with all of those rattling cascades and shifting vocal layers. It just feels a bit forced - not precisely bad, but stiff and oddly flat for a summer vibe, the sort of thing you'd think Gambino could nail in his sleep. So again, not bad, but I wouldn't call it great either.

11. 'God Is A Woman' by Ariana Grande - so I won't lie, I've been really intrigued where Ariana might be taking Sweetener - 'No Tears Left To Cry' grew on me as a pretty solid pop tune, and the weirdness of 'the light is coming' has only grown on me with every listen, even despite Nicki Minaj not understanding Chun-Li was a good character. But 'god is a woman' is the sort of move that I never thought Ariana would make, although I won't say I'm surprised Madonna contributed a monologue to the music video, because of course she did. But really, all she's doing with the concept is playing up her sex as so good you'll believe 'god is a woman' amidst multi-tracked cooing, bassy trap skitters, and triplet flows, even as for the final few seconds of the hook, she leans into a more convincing gospel passage than Lauren Daigle had! But as a whole... it falls into a weird grey zone where I think she should have either underplayed for more sensual subtlety or gone for pure sacrilegious bombast like Madonna did with 'Like A Prayer', beyond at least some of the cute references. I dunno, it's not bad and I like how Ariana is treading into more trasngressive pop, but this production is not doing her a lot of favors, that's all.

So yeah, busy week... and yet the best and worst fall out pretty easily. For the worst, it has to go to 'I'm a Mess' by Bebe Rexha with '1942' by G-Eazy, Yo Gotti and YBN Nahmir for Dishonourable Mention - it's just an incompetent song, especially now. And in a fun twist, I'm giving Honourable Mention to his ex for 'Eastside' by Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid, with the best obviously going to 'Desperate Man' by Eric Church, and it's not even close. Next week... well, I don't see another album bomb incoming, so let's just see how much of this winds up lasting.

1 comment:

  1. Best Of The Week:Eastside
    Honorable Mention(tie):Nico And The Niners
    Honorable Mention(tie):Remind Me To Forget
    WORST OF THE WEEK:god is a woman

    You know Ari's hit rock bottom when she has to make a sex song with god in the title to make it sell