Tuesday, September 25, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 29, 2018

This week feels more transitional than I think it actually is. Sure, we have a new #1 and a sizable number of new arrivals and it's not an album bomb week and we are indeed changing seasons... but I dunno, what we're getting on the Hot 100 doesn't exactly seem built to last, which means while I won't call this precisely bad, I don't think it's all that good either.

But of course, the big story here starts with our new #1, of which I've been predicting for the past several weeks: 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B. And let's be blunt: the only reason it is at #1 is because it's on top on the radio and it had a mostly stable week propped up on other categories. It is absolutely a weak #1 and I can see being very vulnerable going forward... although not to 'In My Feelings' by Drake, sliding to #2 as it loses in all categories, especially on the radio. And this opens up our first new top ten entry and one I never thought would break this high: 'Killshot' by Eminem. Yeah, the YouTube was record-breaking and it got pretty impressive sales, but it doesn't have on-demand streaming and radio doesn't touch diss tracks like this. So in other words, it will drop out of the top 10 very quickly, but it still was a disruption. And then other things started getting weird, like 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD rising up to #4 thanks to a good week on the radio and solid streaming, which apparently 'Better Now' by Post Malone didn't have as both sales and radio softened and it's never had great streaming down to #5. This shoves back 'I Like It' by Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny and J. Balvin at #6, but given how much it's bleeding across the board, that's not that surprising. Hell, I expect it to be overtaken by 'I Love It' by Kanye West and Lil Pump, which only fell one slot to #7 thanks to insane on-demand streaming... and little else. Kept it above 'FEFE' by 6ix9ine ft. Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz, though, as it fell to #8 because despite good streaming, the radio is not on-board and the sales are falling away. Then we have 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott at #9 - not a good week on sales, but the streaming is strong and radio has gotten onboard, so I'd predict this holding out a bit longer. Finally - and to my astonishment that they actually broke the top 10 after a long climb to the top - 'Youngblood' by 5 Seconds Of Summer is at #10, thanks to a great sales week and radio giving this a major push... and that means I expect this to actually stick around, thank God it actually grew on me!

On the flipside, we do need to talk about losers and dropouts, and we do have a few big ones in the latter category, with 'Mine' by Bazzi finally making its exit along with 'Te Bote' from Casper Magico, Nio Garcia, Darell, Nicky Jam, Ozuna, and Bad Bunny - both will make the year end list, and will make the opposite year-end lists from me, so stay tuned for that. Also, 'I'm Upset' by Drake made an early exit just shy of the points it'll need for the year-end list and I'm not going to complain about that whatsoever! But really, if you're looking at the losers, there are a fair few songs that appear compromised right now, like 'Apeshit' by The Carters falling to 83 and 'Mercy' by Brett Young going to 78. Granted, country didn't have a good week as a whole, as the season shift means that 'Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset' by Luke Bryan fell to 51, 'Hooked' by Dylan Scott lost all his gains to 58, 'Drowns The Whiskey' by Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert slid to 72, and 'Life Changes' by Thomas Rhett fell to 71. The rest... well, let's get the remnants of Eminem's album bomb out of the way as 'Fall' dropped to 46, 'The Ringer' hit 59, 'Not Alike' with Royce dropped to 94 and 'Kamikaze' crashed at 99. And then you had gains losing traction, like 'Barbie Dreams' by Nicki Minaj sputtering at 57 and 'You Say' by Lauren Daigle falling back to 64, as well as 'Self Care' by Mac Miller losing off the debut last week to 66. The last few are scattered: 'Side Effects' by The Chainsmokers and Emily Warren crashed at 88, 'Solo' by Clean Bandit and Demi Lovato hit 91, and 'BEBE' by 6ix9ine and Anuel AA continues to flop at 86, showing that 6ix9ine's wave of hype might be hitting the rocks... again.

But what's awkward is that I'm not seeing what's replacing all of this. Yes, 'Cry Pretty' by Carrie Underwood came back at 90 - yes, the album isn't flopping like I expected but she's not getting that radio push here - and we only had three gains this week. One is 'That's On Me' by Yella Beezy at 69 - which just seems to be taking up space - and the latter two are riding gains from last week, with 'Thunderclouds' by Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo at 67 and 'Mo Bamba' by Sheck Wes rising to 42... can we not make this incompetence a thing, please?

But fine, not a lot of gains, but we do have a healthy list of new arrivals, starting with...

100. 'Noticed' by Lil Mosey - another week, another Soundcloud rapper who in this case isn't even out of high school but somehow netted a record deal through Interscope and Universal - does that not seem somewhat desperate to you, regardless of whether the song is good or not? And it'd be one thing if the sound or content or delivery was interesting but nope... another by-the-numbers trap song with mushy vocals, by-the-numbers content, and admittedly some decent synth work utterly crushed by the fact this song is completely unbelievable. You don't have all the guns, you probably don't even have a license, and there's no way in hell you're capable of taking my girl! So yeah, not buying this, and I get the feeling that the label won't be able to push it that far - next!

97. 'Best Shot' by Jimmie Allen - so I'll freely admit I wasn't familiar with Jimmie Allen before hearing this song and upon my first few listens I wasn't seeing a lot that really differentiated it from any number of lightweight bro-country adjacent love songs that can have pop crossover potential... but digging deeper I found Jimmie Allen to be more interesting than I expected. For one, he's been in Nashville for over a decade working as a songwriter behind the scenes, and now with his solo breakthrough single, there's a level of refinement and poise that reflects someone who has been working a long time to get here, including production emphasizing stronger acoustic tones and not overselling the backbeat in an expansive mix. And yeah, the lyrics aren't all that special for this sort of love song, but Allen is a better-than-average singer and the melodic focus stuck with me more than I thought. So yeah, this is pretty good - I'll be keeping my eye out for more from Jimmie Allen, nice work.

96. 'Leave Me Alone' by Flipp Dinero - so apparently this song is taking off because it got cosigns from a bunch of NBA players and Drake cited it as an influence behind Scorpion... which given how that album turned out, I wouldn't really say that's a good thing... mostly because this is not very good at all. Don't get me wrong, Flipp Dinero does have a way around a hook and the actual structure of this song is surprisingly decent - he can ride a flow and connect bars - but the actual content is a really petulant kiss-off to a girl who won't stop calling him that he repeatedly stresses was someone he actually liked. And I don't know if its the overweight beat, pile-up of vocal effects, or how Flipp Dinero sounds like his voice is shredded singing the hook and just doesn't have the body to sell it, but despite being catchy it can get grating very quickly, especially when you try to dig a bit deeper into the content. So yeah, not good - next!

76. 'Pretty Little Fears' by 6LACK ft. J. Cole - I was expecting more 6LACK songs to chart this week - his album just dropped and did seem to be doing decent numbers, but it looks like the only crossover song we're getting is the one with J. Cole, which was not one of the singles being prepped. One could make the argument that this was the popular highlight... and look, I see the appeal for this brand of love song, but I'm not exactly wowed by it either. 6LACK has never brought a ton of charisma or clever wordplay to the table - the second verse here is alright and the hook isn't bad but it's nothing extraordinary or all that special, and honestly I wouldn't say J. Cole's verse is all that either, especially with that flubbed rhyme right in the middle for no good reason. Pair it with the very minimalist patter of the drippy keys production and it just feels undercooked - not terrible, but not exactly exceptional or noteworthy either.

47. 'Falling Down' by Lil Peep & XXXTENTACION - this feels wrong - and no, this doesn't have to do with me not being a fan of either artist, this goes back to the whole issue of posthumous releases I've been bringing up for years. But this, if possible, is even more gross because Lil Peep was not at all a fan of XXXTENTACION and actually refused to work with him given the allegations and charges, and considering this alternative version was put together after Lil Peep's death and against the wishes of friends and family, put together and released by ILOVEMAKONNEN of all people who took off his own feature on the original version of the song for X! And you can tell this was assembled in post from fragments, as the bass and muddy guitars sound like a Lil Peep instrumental, as does his hook, but all the verse and interlude content is pulled from unformed verses and samples from other studio sessions from X, using vague contextual elements to pull together a sense of grief in retrospect when in reality this was done to drive up cheap buzz off name recognition. It's cheap, it's blatantly exploitative, and you know someone is getting a cheque off this, blood money that'll likely never be repaid. It's a lousy song, absolutely gross and adds nothing to the artistic legacy of both acts, let this be forgotten as soon as possible. 

45. 'Better' by Khalid - so I'll admit to being intrigued by what Khalid is trying to push with his sophomore project, because I liked 'OTW' and this is apparently the follow-up... and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Khalid leaning into a more lethargic and autotuned lane in his delivery might be the trendy thing to do but it doesn't make the song any more interesting, especially with the underwhelming content, especially if he's trying to sell this as a 'better' moment. And when you factor in the desaturated pianos, misty swell of arranged instrumentation... it's trying for a quiet opulence that it doesn't quite nail, and while I kind of liked the Daft Punk-esque synthetic vocal layers on the outro, it feels like an undercooked idea tacked on, and I think if Khalid wanted to sell a more visceral outro, he could have done it in a better way. Not a bad song, but not great either.

38. 'New Patek' by Lil Uzi Vert - at this point I feel like the publicity around some of Lil Uzi Vert's antics have attracted more attention than his actual music and content, and since I haven't liked any of his music or content, I'm a little shocked this debuted as high as it did. Granted, I would say I was surprised it broke this high because it's also a pretty lousy song, where we get Lil Uzi Vert's nasal yammer about all of his flexing and brand names, saying the bad bitch needs to go take a shower because she stinks, how he doesn't wake up in the morning for cereal, how he is an octopus who ices out his tentacles, an attempt at telling a story that only reminds me how sloppy his flow is, which he then says people are trying to steal even despite the fact he jacked most of his flow from Migos, says people from Toronto treat him like Drake which is emphatically not the case, and then tacks on a fourth verse that's basically recycling of the second because apparently he wanted to make a song that was nearly six minutes saying fuck all! Seriously, this is utterly worthless, with maybe only a token Naruto reference to boot - skip it.

30. 'Wake Up In The Sky' by Gucci Mane, Bruno Mars & Kodak Black - am I the only one who is a little weirded out by this combination of artists? I know Gucci Mane is trying for more of a respectable image these days, but seeing him recruit Bruno Mars for a hook is odd, especially as this isn't really a retro-throwback, and then to see any of them working with Kodak Black given his reputation... yeah, I wasn't sure how well this would come together. And it really doesn't - if I was Gucci Mane who shelled out a lot of money for a Bruno Mars hook I would have asked for my money back, but Bruno does not sound like he remotely cares about this song, and even though it's trying for a lethargic flexing vibe, the melodic structure is awkward and bleary, with no momentum. And yeah, Gucci's not really bringing much in terms of content, but at least the opulence would work until you get Kodak Black who is trying to bring a much rougher vibe and not only does his crooning continue to sound awful, he's talking about the smell of his piss! So yeah, this didn't work, let's move on.

28. 'Drip Too Hard' by Lil Baby & Gunna - on the flip side, this is the sort of collaboration you almost expect, mostly because I'm fairly certain neither of them have the personality to carry even another by-the-numbers trap song, which is what this is. Yeah, there might be something kind of interesting going on with the busier production and I don't think Lil Baby has a bad flow here, but why is he referencing how he doesn't read comments as if he's a YouTuber, and then we get Gunna with a line about how he feels 'like a child, I got boogers in the face' - I know he's talking about his watch, but can we stop using boogers as sling for jewels, it sounds really stupid! And on that note, why are you bragging that you can't spell the names of your designers? But beyond that and somewhat catchy flows - this might wind up as one of the more tolerable trap songs here - it's not interesting, and I can't see myself going back to it - next!

3. 'Killshot' by Eminem - so there's a lot to unpack with this, especially when I said on Twitter that by the standards of diss tracks, I consider this decent - enough of a knockout blow to handle Machine Gun Kelly but beyond that I wasn't blown away, especially in comparison to what we got from Pusha-T and Drake earlier this year. But here's the thing: we've been spoiled with some great diss tracks and I'm more knowledgeable about Eminem's history in this department than most. See, I grew up on a few diss compilations that were independently put together that tried to make sense of Eminem's feuds, so not only do I remember cuts like 'Nail In The Coffin' but also songs like 'The Sauce', 'Can-I-Bitch', 'Quitter Hit Em Up' and my personal favourite 'Bully' - but the reason why I liked that so much was because not only it felt like a well-structured, genuinely catchy song, but also because Eminem exposed all the industry drivers behind Ja Rule and Benzino at the time, which in laying out the crossfire was way more compelling. That's why while I can appreciate the MGK takedown, what was way more interesting to me from 'Killshot' were the jabs taken at Puff - who, incidentally, is also the biggest backer behind Joe Budden right now. That said, a diss track doesn't technically need great production or the sheer level of layered insight that Pusha-T delivered on 'The Story Of Adidon', and in terms of pure wordplay Eminem is in a different ballpark on 'Killshot', and he's enough of a scientist to utterly dismantle Machine Gun Kelly, between Em giving him a career to then destroy it to the Halsey shots to just the brusque irritation with having to smack him down. So yeah, is it a diss track I'd put among Eminem's best... honestly, it's debatable, but it did what it had to do and was clever enough to get around the structural limitations that come with diss tracks.

And on that note... yeah, this was a rough week, but 'Killshot' is head-and-shoulders above everything here as the best, and I'm giving Honourable Mention to 'Best Shot' by Jimmie Allen - nice surprise with that song, hoping to hear more. Worst... yeah, 'Falling Down' by the late Lil Peep and XXXTENTACION runs away with that, but Dishonourable Mention is going to 'New Patek' by Lil Uzi Vert, mostly for being overlong and generally excruciating. Next week... honestly, no idea, we're heading into the last two months of the Billboard year, we'll have to see.

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