Tuesday, September 18, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 22, 2018

I've said before that certain weeks can seem deceptive on the Hot 100, and this is one of those weeks, where both more and less than you'd expect happened. On the surface, it just looks like a regular cooldown week, but dig between the margins and you'll see a fair amount of movement coming out of the summer... but whether that movement matters is a different question altogether.

Want the biggest example of this? Top 10, where for yet another week 'In My Feelings' by Drake is holding at #1 - but if there's a time it looks precarious and likely to be replaced, it's now. Radio is in freefall, unseated in all other categories, it's only holding onto the top spot because nothing has quite amassed enough traction in all other categories to best it. Case in point, 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B at #2 - still dominant on radio with good sales, but without a heavier bit of streaming traction, it's just not getting any higher. And 'I Like It' by Cardi B ft. J Balvin and Bad Bunny isn't getting higher, period: a good sales week can't stop freefall in other categories, so I expect it to fall below #3 very soon. Next up is 'Better Now' by Post Malone making a play at #4, which I'd say is consistent enough to rise higher... but radio looks to have peaked, and that was arguably its strongest asset at the moment. Then you have 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD at #5, which has better streaming and radio traction... but without stronger sales, I'm not sure if it'll get higher faster, especially when we face our first top ten entry: 'I Love It' by Kanye West and Lil Pump at #6. Now I'll have a lot more to say about this song when we get to new arrivals, but for now, it's the streaming and sales that got it where it is, because the radio sure as hell is not getting involved. This forces back 'FEFE' by 6ix9ine ft. Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz to #7, which might have stable sales and huge streaming, but it was a nonstarter on the radio, and that might be a handicap to keep it from rising any higher. Compare this to 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott up to #8, which actually has a bit of radio momentum to support its streaming - and reportedly with a video already filmed, this could get a spike in the near future. Next up is 'Taste' by Tyga ft. Offset - which is consistent across the board but did seem to hit its radio peak, which'll keep it at #9 - and then reentering the top 10 we have 'Love Lies' by Khalid and Normani, which is relying on radio to prop it up over all other categories... and even that seems to be sputtering.

And on that note, losers and dropouts! No considerable dropouts this week, but the losing songs were an interesting bunch. Let's blow through the remnants of Eminem's album bomb fairly quickly: 'Lucky You' with Joyner Lucas fell to 18 - expect a rebound thanks to the video - 'Fall' went to 34, 'The Ringer' slipped to 39, 'Not Alike' with Royce da 5'9'' went to 64, 'Kamikaze' crashed to 77, and 'Greatest' fell to 84. But what surprised me were how many other songs that took considerable hits - off the debut we had 'BEBE' by 6ix9ine and Anuel AA going to 53 and 'Feels Like Summer' by Childish Gambino dropping to 93, but beyond that the other losers are continuing their fall started last week, with 'Drowns The Whiskey' by Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert at 55, 'Mercy' by Brett Young slipping to 65, 'STARGAZING' by Travis Scott slipping to 71, and 'IDOL' by BTS and Nicki Minaj continuing down to 91. Hell, the only one not in those categories is 'Apeshit' by The Carters, and that's dropping off faster than I expected, placing its year-end list spot in serious jeopardy as it hits 73.

Of course, the larger story is always the returning entries and gains, and once we handle the return for 'OTW' by Khalid, Ty Dolla $ign and 6LACK back at 99, the gains are an interesting bunch... for the most part. The only gain off the debuts from last week was for 'Thunderclouds' by Labrinth, Sia and Diplo to 78, and the only gain that seems to have any momentum is 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille to 35, which is ironically making me a lot less happier, but that's a different story. Then we have the sharp rebounds for 'Barbie Dreams' by Nicki Minaj to 45 thanks to the video and 'You Say' by Lauren Daigle to 44 thanks to her album's release, but the rest of our gains... yikes. Look, I'm never going to be all that happy that 'Hooked' by Dylan Scott rose to 48, or that 'Mo Bamba' by Sheck Wes is up to 54, or that 'Lose It' by Kane Brown got up to 67, but thankfully the rest aren't precisely bad. I don't mind 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco picking up traction to 62, or 'The Way I Am' by Charlie Puth up to 69, but what I find more intriguing are the pickups for 'Smile (Living My Best Life)' by Lil Duval, Snoop Dogg and Ball Greezy up to 66 - it's a joke, but apparently people are liking it. And to my pleasant surprise, 'Promises' by Calvin Harris and Sam Smith looks to be getting traction at 72 - about time!

But now onto our list of new arrivals - pretty standard week, but it does get complicated, thankfully not right at the beginning though as we're starting with...

96. 'Electricity' by Silk City & Dua Lipa - so look, I've been a Dua Lipa fan for some time now, going back to even before her debut album broke and she started racking up hits, and seeing her live at Reading Festival only impressed me further. But there is a part of me that thinks she might be at a crossroads when it comes to where she takes her music from here to build momentum, and part of that comes from not being overexposed on producer-driven songs that just happen to have her voice. And that's before you dig into the liner notes of this song to see credits from Mark Ronson, Diplo, Romy of The xx and even Florence Welch - with such a pedigree, you'd think they could come up with more than just a pretty rote if lush slice of piano-driven house. Now it's not bad - Dua Lipa is still a great vocal presence and she fits beneath the vocal filters on the hook pretty damn well... but I can't help but think that with the pedigree behind a song like this, it should connect more than it is - almost makes me wonder if Jamie xx had remixed it, it would hit harder. Certainly very likable, but also pretty safe for everyone involved, and I think more could have been done with this. Still, pretty good.

95. 'Speechless' by Dan + Shay - I'll admit to being a little surprised it took this long for Dan + Shay to issue a follow-up to 'Tequila', which has easily been their biggest hit thus far this year. I'll also add that this was not among any of the songs I remember especially liking or disliking when I covered the album a few months back, so I had to refresh my memory here and... look, this is just about as poppy as anything I covered from Carrie Underwood's last record, especially with the R&B cadence and gentle snaps, but the production leans into the organic acoustics and gentleness without feeling overly polished or clean, and it picks up a certain low-key charm. Sure, it's basically a mid-tier boy band pop country song, but it's a decent one, and if there's going to be pop country crossovers on the Hot 100, this is a better one.

94. 'Vaina Loca' by Ozuna & Manuel Turizo - I am so sick of Ozuna at this point - and look, I don't claim to be an expert in Latin music or reggaeton, but how in the Nine Hells is this guy the most frequent crossover act with his canned production, limp songwriting, and consistently mediocre delivery? Anyway, this time he teamed up with Manuel Turizo for a duet and outside of more plucky, tinny elements to jarringly contrast with the autotune, you could throw this alongside any number of his past minor hits and most people would never be able to tell the difference. Somehow Manuel Turizo has less distinctive presence and charisma, and then we get to the lyrics... maybe for your seductive hookup jam, you don't default to how she's all alone and you're following behind her? Dude, that's creepy - but really, beyond that, it's mid-tier Ozuna at best... which means it's completely forgettable. Next!

91. 'Come Back To Earth' by Mac Miller - ...so this is awkward. And if you remember the last time I made Billboard BREAKDOWN and spoke on an artist who passed away, it didn't exactly go over well. Now I had my reasons for what I said, less related to any animosity and mostly tied into some particularly gross historical revisionism carried out by the fanbase of said artist surrounding what he did and to whom that I wasn't about to see expunged from the record, but when it comes to Mac Miller... look, I was even less a fan of his music, but his passing was just so achingly sad and tragic that I was hoping just to keep quiet on the matter. But now we have a trio of songs from Swimming that made the Hot 100, so I'll aim to keep this pretty brief. Yeah, the guitar work and bass has a languid flow that's generally likable, and while I'm not really a fan of the offkey synths that drizzle over the track, it's fine enough... but Mac Miller's lethargic delivery and undercooked, meandering lyrics never really sold the song and this is no exception. Again, he wasn't for me... which makes things difficult, because next up...

70. 'Hurt Feelings' by Mac Miller - you know, when I reviewed this record I forgot to note that this song was produced by J. Cole... and honestly, from the limp guitar work and forced pitch-shifting, it kind of fits the awkward vibe I didn't like on previous J. Cole records. And honestly, I'm not much of a fan of this either - I get how it fits the discomfort in seeing success and knowing there's change that's weighing heavy on his mind, which fits the coping themes that run through the record, but beyond that... it's empty flexing and it doesn't exactly go deeper into unpacking those emotions, which leads to a song that just feels leaden. Again, I get there's an audience for this - and I reckon there's a lot of overlap between Mac Miller and J. Cole fanbases - but again, it's not for me, sorry.

33. 'Self Care' by Mac Miller - look guys, I'm trying... but this isn't working for me at all. The slapdash autotune, the watery melody, the by-the-numbers trap beat, the tacked on vocals from J.I.D. and Devonte Hynes that feel perfunctory, and then we get to the content where Mac Miller talked about spiraling out of control and how it was seen by everyone around him as he struggles to coast through with really undercooked details... and yeah, the beat switch was okay as he drifts through sloshed oblivion against the prettier accents, it saves the song for me... but beyond that, Mac Miller's delivery just doesn't connect for me. The song just falls into an inert space where I get what emotions he was trying to evoke, but it just doesn't resonate, even with the added sense of melancholy at his passing. Probably the best of the three songs of his this week, and as someone who was not a fan, I can still wish his family and friends the best... but beyond that, let's move on.

13. 'Rap Devil' by Machine Gun Kelly - it's a funny thing with rap beef, you so rarely remember the shots taken by the loser that might have stung more than the winner ever admits. And such I think will be the case with 'Rap Devil', the viral response that Machine Gun Kelly released to combat what was said on 'Not Alike', which prompted Eminem to fire back with 'Killshot' that I'll likely wind up talking about next week. But as it is, this is... fine, I guess? Here's the thing: Machine Gun Kelly, like me, is a longtime fan of Em, and about the worst thing you can ever do is face down a fan who knows your material as well as you do. So I get his contempt at Eminem's frustration and boredom and writer's block and his inability to accept his laurels, and he had some legitimate gripes in the roadblocks that Em and his team took to stymie MGK's career - probably not as big as the ones MGK himself took when he released bloom, but still. But here's the thing: like it or not, MGK is not a better rapper than Eminem, and while I didn't mind the production or hook here beyond the autotune, his actual wordplay targeting Em only felt like glancing blows, and nothing I'd otherwise care much about. And like it or not, for as much as MGK can play with Em not being able to take a joke so he's calling your management to force your to apologize, you still said his daughter's name and instigated this. And at the end of the day, why do I feel like I brought more actual intensity and hard-hitting references in my review of Kamikaze than MGK did on the entire song? Just something to think about...

6. 'I Love It' by Kanye West & Lil Pump - ...you know, at some points it's hard not to just throw your hands up and walk away. Kanye West and Lil Pump... it would seem like a bad joke if it wasn't a meme, and a bad meme if it wasn't just a craven attempt for Kanye to get back with the kids on the rebrand and suck as much cheap hype as he can after ye failed to hold any traction this year. And as such, as a song there's just not much I can say about it - aside from taking the title of a much better Icona Pop / Charli XCX hit from five years ago, the production is a pretty basic bassy trap clunker with Lil Pump bringing a melodic daze to his flexing and Kanye delivering his most basic and trashy set of bars to date. And that's about it - there's no significant wordplay, no wit beyond a vague sense that this is a borderline parody of this sort of song but with no real joke - hell, it almost seems like the song is more to fit the goofy video in its idolatry of actual sex and presenting the guys as blocky observers. And again, if I thought that Kanye was capable of any deeper sophistication anymore I'd say it could work as parodic commentary on pornography - hell, the video was rolled out at the PornHub awards - but I'm not hearing that so much as an once-respected artist whose flailing attempts at chasing relevance and clout have come at the cost of any sophistication or good taste. So yeah, not precisely terrible, but not good either.

And that makes assembling a best and worst of this week awkward because... man, there's little to work with here. I guess for the best I'll go with 'Speechless' by Dan + Shay for sheer competence, with Honourable Mention to 'Electricity' by Silk City and Dua Lipa - again, more competent than outright great, but I'll take what I can get. Worst of the week... look, there's no good case here, because I'm stuck between squandered potential and possibly speaking ill of the dead... and with that, I don't intend any disrespect when I give 'Hurt Feelings' by Mac Miller the worst of the week - I can still pay tribute to a man while not liking his art, and I have to be honest here. Dishonourable Mention goes to Kanye and Lil Pump for 'I Love It', though - again, total waste of a song, not good in the slightest. Next week... hmm, I'm honestly not sure what'll hit beyond the killshot, we'll have to see.

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