Wednesday, July 4, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 7, 2018

Not gonna lie, I needed an easy cooldown week. There's a couple big releases on the docket that I'm working towards and I'm coming up on my fifth anniversary on YouTube so there are other things I'd rather focus on, so just a moment to catch my breath before the avalanche of Drake... yeah, that's very welcome.

And it's nice to see that some of my predictions paid off, starting with the top 10, where 'I Like It' by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J. Balvin finally took the #1. Everyone, including myself, called this as a hit the second we heard the album in full, and I can't deny that I'm happy it's here, although for how long is in question, because it's not yet dominant on sales or streaming - where YouTube is doing a lot of heavy lifting - and while it is surging on airplay, will it be enough? It was enough to outstrip 'SAD!' by XXXTENTACION slipping to #2 despite the video - and given the Drake album bomb coming and the charts rules changing next week, I wouldn't put money on even massive streaming bringing it back. And it's a similar case for 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD up to #3 - when all you have is streaming, you become a lot more susceptible to major shifts. It's one reason why 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 and Cardi B will probably stick around a bit more - great sales, solid enough streaming, and plenty of its own radio traction, easily enough to take it to #4. Then there's 'Psycho' by Post Malone ft. Ty Dolla $ign pushed to #5 - yeah, sales were okay and streaming is up, but it's losing radio and I'd say its position is tenuous - something I won't say about 'Nice For What' by Drake down at #6 - yeah, for now its streaming and sales are a bit soft and the radio is near its peak, but with Scorpion coming, I predict a big rebound for this. Then there's 'Boo'd Up' by Ella Mai still at #7, finally having a good sales week... even as the radio and streaming seem unstable, not a good sign. Now this could be good for 'No Tears Left To Cry' by Ariana Grande up to #8 - sales are rebounding and radio growth is steady... yeah, streaming isn't good, but it'll likely weather the impact better than many songs above it next week. What'll likely be more interesting is 'God's Plan' by Drake to #9, the slow YouTube streaming beast that'll never die - even as its radio and streaming are both weakening, Scorpion will likely give it another boost. Finally, getting its own boost thanks to the album, 'Meant To Be' by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line is back at #10, with good sales compensating for weaknesses pretty much everywhere else.

And on that topic, our losers and dropouts! Only a few big ones this week - 'Pray For Me' by The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar comfortably making the year end list, and 'IDGAF' by Dua Lipa just missing it - also, there's 'Dame Tu Cosita' by El Chombo, but I'd prefer not to acknowledge that song exists. Now our losers are a pretty big mixed bag, but it looks like that outside of Drake's coming rebound with 'I'm Upset' falling to 26, the big loser was Nicki Minaj, with 'Chun-Li' falling to 62 and 'Bed' with Ariana Grande going to 67 - not a good sign for that album coming, especially with Drake coming shortly. The rest of our losses are more scattered: 'Fake Love' by BTS sliding to 76, 'Yikes' by Kanye West continuing down to 77, 'I Lived it' by Blake Shelton losing any short boost to 85, 'Praise The Lord (Da Shine)' by A$AP Rocky and Skepta dropped to 92, 'Born to Be Yours' by Kygo and Imagine Dragons fell off the debut to 94, and 'Boss' by Jay-Z and Beyonce hit 99 - for an album bomb, it did not really have much staying power.

Now our returning entries and gains make slighly more sense, with 'Big Bank' by YG ft. 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Nicki Minaj returning to 56 off the video and 'Say Amen (Saturday Night)' and 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco returning thanks to the album to 61 and 84 respectively. The last two... honestly, I've got no clue why 'Sin Pijama' by Becky G and Natti Natasha returned to 83, or why anybody would want 'Take Back Home Girl' by Chris Lane and Tori Kelly back at 98. But the gains seem just as scattered, with country in particular doing better than expected with 'I Was Jack (You Were Diane)' by Jake Owen surging to 75, 'Drowns The Whiskey' by Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert to 73 off the debut, 'Mercy' by Brett Young up to 48, and 'Tequila' by Dan + Shay getting an album bump to 21. Then there's 'Plug Walk' by Rich The Kid getting a boost off a remix to 15 - why anyone thinks this is interesting, I have no idea - but more strangely we got a sharp rebound for 'Dura' by Daddy Yankee up to 57, one more weird bounce for a song that's had surprising longevity. It's not all good news: 'Hope' by XXXTENTACION actually picked up to 70, and 'I Know You' by Lil Skies ft. Yung Pinch went to 79, although I reckon Drake's arrival will do a serious number on all of these. The one legit surprise for me was 'Medicine' by Queen Naija up to 81... and I can't quite tell why, so it'll be interesting if this actually can maintain momentum.

Anyway, we've got a pretty small list of new arrivals, so let's start with...

97. 'Solo' by Clean Bandit ft. Demi Lovato - there's a part of me that openly questions why I'm still much of a fan of Demi Lovato, because if I'm being brutally honest with myself, all the potential she shows is often compromised by her going in the exact opposite direction that could flatter her style and delivery, and few places get more frustrating for me with her than electronic producers. Quite simply, she's too big and raw of a presence to fit with many of them, so they wind up sanding back her natural presence for unexceptional songs. And thus a collaboration with Clean Bandit - known most for hyper-polished, delicate grooves - seemed like another misstep for Demi... and while that's still mostly true with this song, the issues with this song are surprisingly distinct! For one, who the hell thought it would be a good idea to erase the swears on the hook by using 'whoop-whoop-whoop', did Kanye sneak in a cowriting credit here? And that's before you get into the rubbery groove that seems to owe more to reggaeton and clash rather oddly with the strings shoved midway to the back and jittery acoustic guitar - the song just feels more awkward and clunky that you'd expect from Clean Bandit, especially with the lyrics as undercooked as they are. So yeah... I don't hate this, but I sure as hell don't like it either.

95. 'The Light Is Coming' by Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj - so as I said last week, I'm usually a big fan of when Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj team up - it brings out the best in Ariana and given how underwhelming 'Bed' wound up being, I hoped this would be better. And... well, it's certainly different, that's for damn sure. You might think Nicki would be more of a presence, but her verse ends pretty quickly and the much more dominant aesthetic comes from Pharrell's production, which is built in a foundation of a sample from a 2009 town hall against burbling synths, a quicker 808 bass groove, and lots of tapping fizzy percussion. It's certainly an interesting groove, and you can tell that Nicki is having a difficult time structuring her verse to it - Ariana's flow is better, but it's also a more structured and developed sound by the time she gets on it for this passive-aggressive breakup kiss-off. And honestly, I kind of dig it - she's relying on her more restrained register, the groove is surprisingly sticky, and while this really does remind me of a mid-2000s Neptunes beat, it's well-structured and catchy enough to click. Not sure it'll be a crossover hit as it really is less melodic, but I am interested to see what happens.

92. 'Life Changes' by Thomas Rhett - so look, Thomas Rhett got back into my good graces with 'Marry Me' - it's a genuinely great song, I'm so thrilled it's going to make the year-end list in 2018. And yet since I heard the rest of that record I knew that everything that was going to be downhill from there, and thus we got the title track. And look, even by the standards of doofy pop country, this is starting to reach Andy Grammer-levels of cornball whiteness - he's bragging about marrying his girl at twenty-two, said girl getting verified on Instagram, that Wal-Mart is now stocking his CDs, that he adopted a child from Africa and WHOOPS, now there's another child on the way and isn't that swell? And when you pair it with the jaunty pianos and blocky fake percussion and guitars and tubas used as more of an accent than anything else... look, this is on the cusp of being excruciatingly schmaltzy, only saved from being worse next to, well...

88. 'Coming Home' by Keith Urban ft. Julia Michaels - can somebody explain to me why Nashville keeps snubbing all the actual women in country to bring on one of the least talented pop artists in the 2010s to get famous, against even more desaturated pianos, a squeaky guitar fragment that's openly cribbed from Merle Haggard paired with fake handclaps and a rap cadence from Keith Urban that does none of it justice? Seriously, I panned Keith Urban's Graffiti U and while I didn't expect that'd be enough to keep this clunker from being sent to radio, but my god this should never have charted and it's damn near offensive to all standards of decency. Hell, I guess the one thing I could say is that Julia Michaels is confined to the bridge where she can't do much damage and the lyrics aren't actively awful... but yeah, this blows. And on that topic...

65. 'Legends' by Juice WRLD - the fact that Juice WRLD has risen with a real charting hit so damn fast is genuinely unsettling - a black Post Malone who is doubling down on cliched misogynistic angst against a cushion of sloppily mixed and muted synthesizers and plucky guitars, charming. So now we've got his third charting single... which is a tribute song to XXXTENTACION and Lil Peep, who he cites as legends gone too soon, a status he now questions whether he wants. Now I could question exactly how much either artist should be considered as 'legends' - forget any personal baggage, nothing either artist made was close to passable and would have been forgotten within two years if they hadn't died - but if Juice WRLD thinks they were legends to him... well, let's just say it's very telling that by the bridge he's already switched to talking about stealing your girl and flexing against reverb-drowned keys and guitars. So yeah, even treating this with some reservations like you'd expect on a tribute song, this isn't good - next.

58. 'Sober' by Demi Lovato - okay, second time's the charm Demi, the lead-off single to a new solo record that seems to be coming abruptly fast after Tell Me You Love Me, but if you're looking to replace it with something better I'm definitely on-board... and wow, I didn't expect this, a barren piano ballad where Demi Lovato flat out admits that after so many years not sober, she's relapsed and is now apologizing to family, friends, and fans who trusted and believed in her - hell, she outright admits that she wants to be a role model and yet she failed. And while I'm inclined to nitpick how the pre-chorus feels clumsy and the song could maybe have used a bridge, it still packs one hell of a punch because she doesn't mince words describing how she fell off the wagon, and her choice to use a more restrained, hushed delivery makes that hit so much harder than oversold belting. Frankly, I'm a little stunned how this crossed over at all - it reminds me of 'Praying' by Kesha in how raw and blunt it is, just swapping out the massive build-up of that song for something more restrained and pain-stricken. And yeah, it really clicks - not sure if it's a song I will revisit often, but it's excellent - definitely worth more attention.

So yeah, not really a good cooldown week, but I'll take 'Sober' from Demi Lovato as the easy standout and 'Coming Home' by Keith Urban and Julia Michaels as the easy dud - god, the production on that track is atrocious, Keith Urban used to be good, folks, I swear. Anyway, next week the streaming rules change and Drake unleashes Scorpion - you've been warned.

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