Tuesday, September 11, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 15, 2018

I think you all might be expecting me to be more angry about this album bomb than I am - given the review and how much vitriol I spewed, you'd probably think seeing it all show up here would piss me off all the more... and yet if I'm being brutally honest, in viewing the songs outside of the larger, slightly nauseating context of the record, I reckon some of them might hold up better on their own, and given that it's an album I covered at length, I'm definitely going to streamline the coverage here.

But before then, the top ten, where once again 'In My Feelings' by Drake is holding onto the #1 and it's shakier than ever - off the top in every category and in airplay freefall, it's only a margin's question that keeps it above 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B, which I expected would take the #1 thanks to dominant sales and better radio... but it loses that margin on streaming, which keeps it at #2. 'I Like It' by Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny and J. Balvin might be in worse shape at #3, as again, it might be better on radio overall but it's losing in all categories and is vulnerable. Unfortunately, it's vulnerable to 'FEFE' by 6ix9ine ft. Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz at #4, which despite radio refusing to touch it is holding onto passable sales and the streaming and YouTube that will not die. Hell, it rose above 'Better Now' by Post Malone at #5, which was wavering in all categories all week and is showing weakness across the board. And this takes us to our first new top ten entry and not one I expected would smash through at all: 'Lucky You' by Eminem ft. Joyner Lucas at #6. The streaming is massive, the sales are good, and while the radio is not interested whatsoever, it's Eminem's biggest debut since 2013. And that's not all, because while 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD holds #7 on weak streaming and radio that's too little, too late, we've got a second Eminem cut with 'The Ringer' smashing in at #8, with the sales and streaming to match. I don't really expect them to last, but those sales numbers do reflect longevity streaming breakthroughs rarely get. This muscles 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott down to #9 despite the foothold on streaming, and even if its a little more versatile and had a good week on sales and the radio, 'Taste' by Tyga and Offset got pushed to #10.

And when we get to our losers and dropouts... folks, it's been a while since I've seen so many otherwise stable songs knocked out. 'Friends' by Anne-Marie and Marshmello, 'Never Be The Same' by Camila Cabello, 'One Kiss' by Dua Lipa and Calvin Harris, 'Get Along' by Kenny Chesney, those seem mostly confirmed for the year-end list, but both 'Moonlight' and 'changes' by XXXTENTACION weren't, and now both are gone. And the losers list was considerable too. From debuts we saw 'IDOL' by BTS crash to 81 and 'I Am Who They Say I Am' by Youngboy Never Broke Again ft. Kevin Gates and Quando Rondo down to 87, but big gains for Quavo on 'W O R K I N M E' and 'Side Effects' by The Chainsmokers were erased, down to 64 and 77 respectively. Then we see songs that lasted a bit longer seeing year-end positions in jeopardy: sure, 'Psycho' by Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign is safe at 28 and 'Mine' by Bazzi is safe at 43, but 'Mercy' by Brett Young forced to 55, 'All Girls Are The Same' by Juice WRLD down to 75, and 'I'm Upset' by Drake down to 95 wasn't a good sign. And no genres were spared here either: country saw losses with 'Drowns The Whiskey' by Jason Aldean and Miranda Lamber to 45 and 'Life Changes' by Thomas Rhett to 51, pop saw 'breathin' by Ariana Grande slide to 56, 'You Say' by Lauren Daigle to 72, and 'Solo' by Clean Bandit and Demi Lovato to 76, hip-hop had 'Lean Wit Me' by Juice WRLD to 84, 'Barbie Dreams' by Nicki Minaj go to 63 - expect a rebound with the video - and '1942' by G-Eazy ft. Yo Gotti & YBN Nahmir to 96, and in particular Travis Scott had a rough week with 'STARGAZING' falling to 61 and 'YOSEMITE' going to 79.

And as expected, the gains and returning entries were generally pitiful. Yes, Childish Gambino saw a return for 'Summertime Magic' thanks to his EP release - to 100. And the only two gains we got were 'Happier' by Marshmello & Bastille to 46 - because apparently the world can't be without one mediocre Marshmello song charting highly - and 'Trip' by Ella Mai to 32, showing the sort of growth that actually seems somewhat organic; hell, I just wish I liked the songs more.

But now onto a stacked week of new arrivals - and like all album bomb weeks, I'm keeping the entries brief - but instead of starting with Eminem we have...

97. 'Hangin' On' by Chris Young - I won't mince words: it was covering Chris Young's last album in 2017 that convinced me I needed to create the Trailing Edge, for projects in which I just don't have enough say, plain and simple. And I'll freely admit I forgot this song existed and after relistening to it four or five more times... nothing's changed. Chris Young sounds like he's on autopilot through a painfully basic love song that feels painfully basic that seems to have forgotten any sense of groove or punch, and let's not forget the trap progressions smuggled into the tinny percussion. Sloppily produced, forgettable lyrics, a good singer wasting his time... it's sad that for Chris Young, that could refer to a lot of singles - next!

94. 'Thunderclouds' by Labrinth, Sia & Diplo - this is one of those collaboration projects I've seen pick up traction in the U.K. but I've been a little leery about addressing it properly - mostly because the combination doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, and I wasn't sure what sort of song would be an apt fit for all three artists. Turns out what we get is a slice of retro-60s soul coasting with touches of doo-wop that seems a shade thinner than it probably should, especially in the bass, and then Sia and Labrinth having shockingly little chemistry with each other before hitting a non-ending. Now admittedly I think both Sia and Labrinth can sell this material on their own - a post-fight song trying to rebuild something of the relationship and not to be afraid of potential conflict in the future - but the fusion feels awkward and strangely underwhelming, which is what happens when you throw three artists with little overlapping territory in the same quasi-supergroup. Not bad, not exactly great either.

67. 'Good Guy' by Eminem ft. Jessie Reyez - let's blow through the Jessie Reyez tracks quickly, shall we? This is arguably the better one, thanks to the slightly quirky JRPG sample and a decent percussion groove, but Eminem returning to the toxic relationship well runs dry very quickly, and Jessie Reyez's abortive outro makes the song feel like a fragment - because that's what it is - next!

65. 'Nice Guy' by Eminem ft. Jessie Reyez - desaturated pianos, Jessie Reyez contorting her shrieky vocal tone through added pitch-shifting and utterly worthless lyrics from Em... hell, you could convincingly make the argument it's more Reyez's track than his - and considering it also feels like an undercooked fragment, that's very telling. It also sucks, next!

54. 'Feels Like Summer' by Childish Gambino - I'm starting to get the feeling that Childish Gambino is outgrowing the Hot 100, at least in its current form - because the chart is for songs more than videos, and more than ever I'm convinced that Gambino and his team are much more compelling visual stylists than they are in writing coherent songs. This was an issue with 'This Is America' in losing the gunshots from the video, and the more times I go over 'Feels Like Summer', it feels like the same case. And the funny thing is that I actually like the song here a fair bit - it's got the rattling, listless vibe with sandy percussion and dreamy acoustics that makes me think Frank Ocean might have grounds to sue, and the content falls into the sort of wistful territory that Gambino can sell effortlessly... but the song gets a weird brand of poignancy with the video overloaded with references to hip-hop and black culture, and yet even that feels fleeting... which you expect for summer songs. I dunno, I wish I liked this a bit more than I do - not bad by any stretch, but it's very telling that it took the video going viral for this to gain traction when it was released along with 'Summertime Magic', just saying.

49. 'Venom' by Eminem - we get a song that is about as hilariously stupid as every trailer for the Venom movie thus far, with overblown drums, flattened guitars, and Eminem's pushing his empty posturing through one of the goofiest hooks he's ever used, along with an awkward amount of stuttered lines in his bars. It feels clumsy, and the fact that Eminem ended his record with this... yeah, not good.

42. 'Stepping Stone' by Eminem - look, I was on the cusp of really liking this - from the elegant shimmer behind the blocky beat and how Eminem tiredly peeled through old grievances, it reminded me a lot of 'Like Toy Soldiers', a song from Encore I genuinely like to this day. But from the female vocals on the hook trying for some brand of lo-fi production that just feels sloppy to how Eminem can only excuse so much when it comes his and his labels' failure to elevate D12 or even just perpetuate their momentum... yeah, there's a limit to how many excuses I can tolerate.

39. 'Normal' by Eminem - you know, this song would have been tolerable if it wasn't for the fact that I'm fairly certain it was a leftover from Revival that doesn't remotely fit here, or that hideous tinny sample that apparently was taken from Little Dragon, or the fact that Eminem has retread this ground on both his own songs and guest appearances, and no, the beat switch and attempt to make it quirky doesn't excuse how in the final lines he's saying folks slept on Revival. Uh, no Em, we really didn't.

30. 'BEBE' by 6ix9ine ft. Anuel AA - the more new singles I listen to from 6ix9ine, the less I have any clue what he's doing. I guess he's going for a more sanitized, pop-friendly crossover image, to be more positive and draw attention away from the charges and the gang trouble he's been in, but I'm not remotely convinced he's got the versatility to pull that off. And while 'FEFE' was the warning shot, this is the most blatant example to date, teaming up with Anuel AA for a cheap reggaeton song that I'm fairly certain steals the rebrand the late XXXTENTACION was going to try if he had released 'i don't even speak spanish lol'. Now to 6ix9ine's credit, with the entire song being in Spanish the godawful writing doesn't quite jump out in the same way - you translate it and 6ix9ine is still taking your girl who he literally describes as a demon in the sack - but it's not like 6ix9ine or Anuel AA project presence, slathered in autotune against this rinky-dink production. In other words, it's mediocre more than outright awful, and even despite the consistent success of reggaeton crossovers, this one I can only pray won't stick around.

24. 'Not Alike' by Eminem ft. Royce Da 5'9'' - ah, it's nice to actually get one of the few goods songs from Kamikaze here, and while there's a part of me that would love to give all the credit to Royce stepping up and dropping a pretty damn solid verse even if his flow can make some weird turns, there's a lot to like about this song as a whole. For once Eminem actually sounds comfortable on a triplet flow, and the fusion of the BlocBloy JB 'Look Alive' sample with the heavier production that you'd typically hear from someone like 6ix9ine after the beat switch is solid and contemporary. And honestly, for as goofy and over-the-top as the verse devolves into, the Machine Gun Kelly shots were well-structured, even if the rest of the song feels kind of clumsy. And on that topic...

23. 'Greatest' by Eminem - you know, Em, if you want to convince me you're really the greatest rapper in the world, maybe it's not a good idea to spend a song over the gross, oily production with a really badly mixed hook talking about your mistakes and then interpolating artists like Kendrick who have a more credible claim to that crown! Also, if you're too big to respond, why are you responding to rappers and critics in this song and constantly referencing old victories... which really, just going off the third verse of this song which is genuinely great, you shouldn't have to.

16. 'Kamikaze' by Eminem - okay, I want names: who in the Nine Hells told Eminem that using an interpolation of 'Fack', wildly held by Eminem fans to be the worst thing he's ever done, was a good idea? I get the metaphor, the suicidal nature of kamikaze pilots and how he's going to shove his worst mistakes in our faces, but does anyone want to hear that along with some of Eminem's most forced and pointless references to his ass? At least when he was trolling his audience on Encore it wasn't this excruciating. So yeah, worst song on Kamikaze - I stand by that.

12. 'Fall' by Eminem - okay, why the hell is this the lead single? Justin Vernon has already disowned the hook he contributed, and the song feels increasingly petulant as Eminem takes aim at critics, radio personalities, and more interesting rappers who panned his last album. And there are literally so many questionable bars here beyond the ones pointed at Tyler that blew up - the Joe Budden domestic abuse lines, the pointless lines at Akademiks and Charlamagne and Pitchfork and this is coming from a guy who can barely tolerate any of them, the claim that he 'discovered' 50 Cent in an era where 50 could have gone to anyone, the list of the artists he's inspired where you could drop all sorts of asterisks... but the shots at the Grammys did irk me - because you've won fifteen of them and while you've never gotten album of the year and in both 2000 and 2002 there's a credible argument you should have - although 2000 had him against Radiohead's Kid A - his anger seems most directed at the act nobody's heard of for the loss in 2010. That act was Arcade Fire and the album was The Suburbs - Em, that album is better than Recovery, get over yourself.

8. 'The Ringer' by Eminem - I wish I liked this. I don't disagree with Eminem's criticism of mumble rappers, I like his flow against the minimalist beat, but from there... Em, if you yourself say that it's a lose-lose situation to reference people by name, why do you do it on this song? Why do still claim critics didn't 'get' Revival when so many of the same mistakes are strewn across Kamikaze? And do you not get that your fury at the current president rather clashes with your disdain for the media that calls you on your shit, almost like a certain Agent Orange who doesn't hesitate to call out 'fake news'? No matter how good the flows are, stuff like that poisons the well... thankfully, we end off with...

6. 'Lucky You' by Eminem ft. Joyner Lucas - it's the best song on Kamikaze and for damn good reason. You could point to Joyner Lucas for some of that - the flow is great, the flexing is on-point, and he's got a level of comfort with the beat from Boi-1da that's thrilling to see, the natural lyrical evolution of what someone like Drake could deliver on that production if he tried. And honestly I don't have an issue with Em flipping a beat that Drake could have used to diss him and then going at the mumble rap crowd again, and I like the references to genuine discomfort with being on top - kind of undercuts the flexing but for a rap nerd looking to come back from behind it's something that Eminem can credibly sell... and also rap his ass off, because his flow on this song is nuts and nearly devoid of anything that'd piss me off. Yeah, just a killer hip-hop song, I'm thrilled it was the biggest one with Joyner Lucas, let's pray it sticks around...

And yeah, obviously 'Lucky You' is the best of the week... but Honourable Mention is tricky... yeah, sorry Royce but I think I'm going to wind up returning to 'Feels Like Summer' by Childish Gambino just a bit more than 'Not Alike'. Now the worst of the week is 'Kamikaze', hands down, with Dishonourable Mention going to 'Nice Guy' - you get a reprieve this week, 6ix9ine, don't expect it to last. Next week, the fallout.

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