Wednesday, September 5, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 8, 2018 couldn't have saved the cooldown week for when I was on vacation? Seriously? Not that i'm complaining much - there wasn't much happening this chart week and we'll have the aftermath of whatever the hell happens with Eminem next week, so I appreciate the breather.

Not that it makes the top ten interesting, because once again 'In My Feelings' by Drake is squatting at #1... but how much longer? Sales are down, on-demand streaming is down, it's long peaked on YouTube and it's bleeding on the radio, and that makes it seriously vulnerable to 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B... which is what I would say if it didn't hit its own radio peak and seems to be wavering behind Drake in all other categories, so whether it holds is an open question. Then we have 'I Like It' by Cardi B ft. J Balvin and Bad Bunny at #3 with better sales, but weaker streaming and radio that's slipping into freefall, so it's vulnerable to a track like 'Better Now' by Post Malone, up a slot on consistent strength across the board - it'll probably rise past #4. Hell, it rose past 'FEFE' by 6ix9ine ft. Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz down to #5, as streaming can only compensate for lagging radio and soft sales for so long. Compare to 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD still at #6... which yes, has even weaker sales and is behind on streams, but it still somehow got radio traction, so it might last a bit longer. Then we have 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott rising on the on-demand streaming that will not die and even some radio traction up to #7, and coming with it we have 'Taste' by Tyga and Offset at #8, which seems more consistently strong across formats, I do expect this to last a bit longer. Then we've got a new arrival to the top 10, the sleeper hit I would never have expected: 'Love Lies' by Normani and Khalid. The answer to its success is straightforward: despite only okay streaming and sales, the radio loves this song and it still has real traction there. Hell, it put it above 'god is a woman' by Ariana Grande at #10, clinging on with big radio traction of its own to balance even more consistent stats across the board - this will not go away any time soon... hell, I just wish 'the light is coming' got the same treatment.

But on that note, losers and dropouts... pretty quiet week overall, with the album bombs from Nicki and Ariana both fading with the only major dropout being Shawn Mendes' 'In My Blood', which had a respectable run of its own. Now the losers were more scattered: yeah, we got the expected loss for 'breathin' by Ariana Grande to 37, and I knew the album boost for 'Break Up In The End' by Cole Swindell wouldn't last as it fell to 62, but the rest are still interesting. 'Level Up' by Ciara lost all momentum to 91, 'Taking A Walk' by Trippie Redd faded to 92 - guess folks aren't into rip-offs THAT obvious - 'Promises' by Calvin Harris and Sam Smith faded to 93 because apparently folks don't like decent dance tracks off the debut, and 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' by the Backstreet Boys went to 94... frankly, I'm amazed it lasted that long.

Of course, what's rushing to fill the gap of the album bombs are more interesting, and we had a lot of returning entries this week, mostly thanks to residual streaming traction. How else would you explain 'Dangerous' by Meek Mill ft. PnB Rock and Jeremih back at 88, or 'Narcos' by Migos back at 89, or 'Mob Ties' by Drake at 95, or 'Hopeless Romantic' by Wiz Khalifa and Swae Lee at 96, or 'Wasted' by Juice WRLD and Lil Uzi Vert at 97, or 'OTW' by Khalid, Ty Dolla $ign and 6LACK at 98? All are streaming cuts that don't have quite enough to get bigger on their own, and when we flip to our gains, some fall in the same territory. Why else is 'W O R K I N M E' by Quavo back at 52, or 'Trip' by Ella Mai at 54, or that wonky Bryce Vine song 'Drew Barrymore' surging up to 46! The rest... I'm inclined to say radio traction or late singles getting pushed - 'Ring' by Cardi B and Kehlani up to 67 is definitely in that territory, as is 'Side Effects' by The Chainsmokers and Emily Warren at 66 and 'Lie' by NF at 80. And finally, 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco is at 76 because they had a good sales week - with radio not really on board, I don't expect this boost to last.

And even with that, we've got a reasonably sized list of new arrivals, starting with...

90. 'Happy Now' by Zedd & Elley Duhe - so I'll freely admit I haven't exactly been on-board with Zedd much in the past year, mostly because his production approach to electronic music seems to be throwing the aesthetic of a half dozen more interesting producers at the wall with a ticking clock sound and a female singer who nearly always sounds better elsewhere. 'Stay' was tolerable, 'The Middle' grated on my nerves, and now this... honestly, I might like the most of all three. Yeah, I'm as surprised as anyone, but between the liquid guitar line anchoring the melody playing off the sharper whirs and Elley Duhe's remarkably expressive delivery, there's a fair amount of tightness that contrasts really well with her synthetic vocal layers. Now I will say I wish I liked the lyrics more - she doesn't exactly project strength in this breakup, with this track basically being an extended breakdown how this guy still has his tendrils in her despite being dumped - but with the production elements intending to emphasize rigidity or programming, it kind of fits in a peculiar way. So yeah, not sure this is a great song, but it is a good one.

87. 'The Way I Am' by Charlie Puth - you know, I think I've been more than charitable with Charlie Puth this album cycle, and deservedly so for him, as there are genuinely great songs scattered across Voicenotes that deserve a lot of credit. This... okay, it wouldn't have been my choice when you have 'If You Leave Me Now' or 'Slow It Down' or even 'Somebody Told Me', but it's fine enough. That's a sharp guitar rollick anchoring the groove, and while the production still feels a shade underweight - my usual problem with Charlie Puth's production - him actually projecting a bit of anti-social reserve in the face of a world that might know him for something different is an interesting lane for him. Granted, it still plays a little too slick and reserved to really hit for me, but I can see how and where this sourness would connect, and the groove is tight enough to connect. So in the end... eh, it's decent, but he's got better songs for singles than this.

86. 'Drunk Girl' by Chris Janson - you know, I feel like the country music press keeps trying to give Chris Janson a chance when I'm not sure he's ever totally earned it. Yeah, he's got a few promising deep cuts and he's proven that he at least respects country institutions like the Opry by putting his time in, but the sad fact is that he's never pushed material that would help distinguish him from the empty dreck like 'Buy Me A Boat' and 'Fix A Drink'. Now 'Drunk Girl' was one of his more polarizing songs to be pushed, specifically because of its subject matter in discussing sexual misconduct - apparently written before the #MeToo movement but likely a factor of its marketing now - and going for a stripped back piano ballad means that he's taking a real chance with this content... and honestly, I really want to like this song. The instrumentation is tasteful, and I appreciate Janson being a decent person and letting the girl sleep it off and not taking advantage of her - that's real, and I'll admit to having been in that situation myself. But then you get the final chorus where she comes back because he was a nice guy and it twists the framing in a way that not only feels unrealistic, but also condescending - you don't need to pick her life even if she is wasting it, and the lack of comments on his sobriety raises even more questions. I'm reminded of when Dessa put out 'Ride' earlier this year, where she at least gets that if the girl is making the wrong choice, she's not looking to be saved by her or anyone, and I think this could have had more realistic power by framing it as a good deed that's never reciprocated... because in reality, that's what happens. So yeah, not bad intentions with this, but he unfortunately missed the mark, at least to me.

83. 'Smile Bitch (Living My Best Life)' by Lil' Duval ft. Snoop Dogg & Ball Greezy - okay, help me out here: I thought we all learned our lesson with Lil Dicky, why are we giving comedians chart positions and hip-hop guest placements? Now to be fair, this is a lot better than 'Freaky Friday' was, and I'd take Snoop Dogg and Ball Greezy over Chris Brown any day on a goofy song where they're basically telling folks to smile and enjoy themselves, and Lil Duval plays into the goofy hook and adlibs effectively. If I do have a nitpick, it might come with some of the production - it's a pretty great low-end synth groove, sampled from Midnight Star - but if this song had tacked on some slightly breezier elements or an acoustic guitar, it might wind up as being a pretty terrific summer song and less of a joke. But still, it's a good joke that made me smile, so I'll endorse this - check it out.

82. 'Mo Bamba' by Sheck Wes - you know, it's actually a little bit refreshing to recognize the relatively unknown MC breaking onto the charts ahead of time than just here, and I'll admit having a little bit of excitement with Sheck Wes - he brought the most energy and intensity of any guest on Astroworld with Travis Scott, and I was hoping at least some of that would translate here, and... sadly, outside of the ad-libs and this dreary trap clunker of a beat, it doesn't get there. Who the hell told Sheck Wes that his offkey singing sounded remotely good on the hook of this, especially with utterly empty content, because it sounds amateurish as hell, especially against so many others who do smother themselves in autotune to at least stay on key. But this... no matter how many studio effects you drop on your voice on the final hook, it still sounds clumsy and about the furthest thing from prime time - skip it.

72. 'Unica' by Ozuna - on the other hand, I don't know who if anyone is actually looking forward to a new solo joint from Ozuna, who easily remains the most grating reggaeton act I've covered multiple times on this show. So I wasn't happy to see him with yet another single... and honestly, I'm not fond of this at all either. Ozuna's biggest problem is his inability to convey any significant tightness or groove in his voice beyond the utterly pedestrian reggaeton beat, and it's no exception here with the muted burbles of synth and Ozuna bragging about a girl that he describes as unique but really seems like any other woman he's dropped in his self-serving, half-negging songs and wants to nail. It's not remotely interesting or potent... really, like the majority of Ozuna songs, it's just kind of lifeless, so let's just move on.

69. 'I Am Who They Say I Am' by Youngboy Never Broke Again ft. Kevin Gates & Quando Rondo - not going to lie, the only reason I could even pretend to care about this is Kevin Gates dropping a guest verse, because Youngboy Never Broke Again has at most been passable and he's still got the same problems here - cramming too many words into awkward flows with empty flexing, and trying to magnanimous in victory and owning himself in response. Sorry dude, I get the humble brag, but it loses some of its lustre when you say it like 'I'm are who you say I am' and say you're looking for your mother when you look inside your girl! And no, Quando Rondo and Kevin Gates don't really rise much to the occasion either - okay verses, but not exceptional - which leaves the production riding off an Ashanti sample that's way better than everyone else here. So yeah, that's my recommendation: listen to 'Rain On Me' by Ashanti, and skip this.

11. 'IDOL' by BTS - and now we've got the big BTS breakthrough single, nearly in the top 10 thanks to huge sales and... look, BTS army, we've been down this road before, and I have zero expectations that this will stick around, just like the last few BTS singles that have faded away fairly quickly, especially when this likely hit the Hot 100 thanks to Nicki Minaj leaping on a remix. And between the k-pop vocals and big blaring synthlines and sax sample and whistles opposite a by-the-numbers verse from Nicki, this can't help but feel like it was imported straight from the early 2010s club hits that let Nicki have her pop crossover... and look, I won't deny that there's a part of me that misses those years, but it's hard not to feel like the problems I have with BTS haven't gone away. The vocal delivery and production is all over the place and seems to be trying way too hard to sell the self-love angle, and for as many whiplash turns as the song takes, it doesn't quite hit any crescendos that stick for me. Catchy? Sure, but BTS hasn't won me over yet and I'm not sure this gets there either, to be honest. Not bad, but not exactly great either.

And that concludes a week that really did feel all over the place. Best... I can't believe I'm doing this, but the song I probably enjoyed the most was 'Smile Bitch' from Lil Duval featuring Snoop Dogg and Ball Greezy, with Zedd and Elley Duhe getting Honourable Mention with 'Happy Now'. Worst of the week... yeah, 'Mo Bamba' by Sheck Wes is a mess and getting that, with Dishonourable Mention for 'Unica' by Ozuna - shocker. Next week... my guess is a lot of Eminem, but we'll see.

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