Tuesday, October 30, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 3, 2018

So this wasn't what I was expecting. I mean, sure, I knew there'd be some traction coming from Juice WRLD and Future's collaboration, but beyond that I'll freely admit that I wasn't expecting the same level of success from Khalid and Lil Yachty, or that none of them would result in the biggest new arrival this week! Again, it's impossible to see how much of this will last, but it does make for a slightly busier week than I was expecting.

And yet if we look to our top ten, none of it was enough to beat out 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B, and I'll be honest, I'm pretty damn annoyed that this is still at #1 - it's not dominant on sales or streaming, mostly getting propped up by residual YouTube and the top airplay spot, and even that is diminishing. Hell, I thought 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott had a serious shot to unseat it as it surged to #2 thanks to YouTube and even better streaming and real airplay momentum... but it lags on sales and it's losing the margins on the radio, so it doesn't quite have enough. Still blew past 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD, which spent the week wavering on the radio despite strong streaming to hold at #3, but it's got competition now coming from 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille rising to #4 on big sales and even bigger airplay - yeah, streaming is behind, but it might not be enough to hold this back just yet. Hell, it broke past 'Better Now' by Post Malone at #5, but that might have happened anyway as all categories are slowing, especially radio. Then you had 'ZEZE' by Kodak Black ft. Travis Scott and Offset lose off the debut, but only down to #6 - streaming has held steady on all accounts, much to my amazement, I thought this would fall off a bit harder. But if you compare this to the growth of 'Youngblood' by 5 Seconds Of Summer up to #7... see, it's tough to say with this one, because sales might be good and radio growth is still there, but I'm not sure how much longer it'll hold on at this rate. Then we have 'Drip Too Hard' by Lil Baby and Gunna somehow holding at #8 - again, all it has is streaming, and that's not dying as quickly as it should... but I will say it could be overtaken by our new top ten entry: 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee at #9. As usual I'll be talking more about the song later on, but it's got surprising traction on streaming and sales and even a bit of radio momentum - it'll probably fall off next week, but still, I'd watch this one. Finally, returning to the top 10 we have 'Love Lies' by Khalid and Normani up to #10... I'd like to say it's coincidental thanks to the EP release, but it's not falling on the radio and it's got enough inertia to hold there if nowhere else.

And on that topic, our losers and dropouts - and in the latter category, we had some big ones: sure, you might expect to see 'Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset' by Luke Bryan and 'Medicine' by Queen Naija drop off naturally, and I could have predicted that 'Simple' by Florida Georgia Line was going away, but the biggest exit is 'Meant To Be' by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line after spending a full year on the Hot 100 - about damn time! And really, I have a hard time complaining about most of our losers here - yeah, I'm a bit dispirited that 'Mona Lisa' by Lil Wayne and Kendrick dropped to 55 and that 'Break Up In The End' by Cole Swindell lost all of its gains to 76, but the rest don't really bother me. Of particular note are the losses for Lil Baby and Gunna, with 'Close Friends' sliding to 42 and 'Never Recover' with Drake going to 49, and again, I'm not going to complain about 'Falling Down' by Lil Peep and XXXTENTACION going to 66, 'No Brainer' by DJ Khaled ft. Justin Bieber, Chance The Rapper and Quavo dropping to 73, 'Venom' by Eminem spurting to 74, 'New Patek' by Lil Uzi Vert breaking at 90, and 'Africa' by Weezer finally hitting 96. Finally there's 'I'll Never Love Again' by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper going to 67, but given that the video dropped, I can see this rebounding in a big way.

Sadly, I can't really say our gains and returning entries are filling the slot well here: I might not mind 'Backin' It Up' by Pardison Fontaine and Cardi B back at 95 - although I have no expectations it'll stick around - but to see 'Noticed' by Lil Mosey up to 80, 'Lose It' by Kane Brown rise to 56, and 'Without Me' by Halsey surge to 12... yeah, no, not a fan. And then there's 'Leave Me Alone' by Flipp Dinero up to 53 - I'll say it again, a hook that annoying will make this a hit - but thankfully the rest of the gains are mostly tolerable: 'breathin' by Ariana Grande up to 41, 'Speechless' by Dan + Shay rising to 52, and 'Better' by Khalid riding the release of the EP up to 34.

And leading from that, we've got a pretty hefty list of new arrivals, starting off with something I did not expect at all...

100. 'Burning Man' by Dierks Bentley ft. Brothers Osborne - so I'll be honest, I'm surprised that Dierks Bentley hasn't been pushing The Mountain harder - it was a really good album, it's sold reasonably well, and if he pushed the right singles, I think it could have some traction... and for as much as I like Brothers Osborne, I'm not sure this would have been my choice for the second single. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the heavier focus on low acoustics and Dierks Bentley has good interplay with Brothers Osborne and the song has a certain haggard, windswept quality that fits for a song using Burning Man as a metaphor... but I dunno, the tone of the guitar on the solos sounds weedy and the lyrics feel a little more scattered than they need to be, you'd think the hook would soar a little higher given how much momentum this song has. Still a good track, but I'm not sure it'll stick around.

98. 'Get Dripped' by Lil Yachty ft. Playboi Carti - okay, I'm just going to say it: I get why the 'drip' has been embraced by hip-hop a lot this year as slang, but for me it's had the unintended consequences of reminding me that when something drips, it falls away and is very quickly gone - and on that note, Lil Yachty. Yeah, in 2018 the greater draw might wind up being Playboi Carti, but given that he has absolutely nothing interesting to say against this burbling chiptune melody and his hook blends in with his verse and the lumpy knock of the bass, I wind up trying to pay more attention to Lil Yachty. And that might have been a mistake, because it's become abundantly clear he's not trying anymore, with incredibly basic triplet flows and forgettable brand name porn. And while I've said a lot of harsh things about Yachty before, hearing him become boring on this fragment of a song somehow winds up a disappointment.

93. 'Kiss And Make Up' by Dua Lipa & BLACKPINK - seeing Dua Lipa collaborate with the k-pop group BLACKPINK on the rerelease of her debut makes so much sense I'm honestly a little surprised I didn't think of the possibility sooner - she's a straightforward pop artist, so why not work with one of the genres that can deliver in that territory? And yet I'm a little underwhelmed by this - I don't deny that Dua Lipa and BLACKPINK have decent chemistry, but given that they both have such strident personalities and that the warping, pitch-shifted tones seem to oddly diminish vocal presence, it gives me the weird feeling that this collaboration should have more color and clash than it does. And that's before you get to the content, a song where they're looking to make up with a partner and reunite, and it feels weird that they didn't make much of their distinctive roles within the song - just a missed writing opportunity. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, but I'm not quite as grabbed by it as I want to be.

92. 'Make It Back' by Juice WRLD - so like with all of these trap collaboration albums, we wind up getting a few solo cuts from each artist, and given that Juice WRLD has the most mainstream attention, he got the charting entry. And... it exists? Seriously, the song is less than two minutes, Juice WRLD seems to think having a decent flow is optional, the bass mastering is sloppy, the melody barely exists, and Juice WRLD talking about taking your girl with a barely concealed contempt for women that isn't really obscured by generic brand name bragging. So yeah, this is pointless and pretty bad, next!

91. 'Yacht Club' by Lil Yachty ft. Juice WRLD - so we're apparently not getting rid of Juice WRLD that easily, as now he's on the second song with Lil Yachty here... and I'll say this, even if the fragmented, plucky melody is barely audible, it's not terrible and Juice WRLD and Lil Yachty have a certain lazy chemistry. The problem is that while Yachty is just increasingly lethargic in his bragging and somehow accidentally getting a girl pregnant that he then lets screw his entire crew, Juice WRLD is just increasingly unlikable, sounding a little bit more aware of what's going on but then dropping lines like 'No games but I XBOX control here' - yes, I get the metaphor, it's still creepy! And beyond that... look, neither of these guys are great rappers or writers, and given the implication they're taking 'your bitch', I just like to think they're talking about the girls between the two of them and not about the audience - still gross, though.

89. 'Vertigo' by Khalid - so we now have three Khalid songs in a row here, all off an EP he released that's done surprising well, and for our first cut... and honestly, I'm kind of digging this. I'll freely admit that Khalid's hazy brand of melancholy can be hit and miss for me, especially if there isn't much momentum, but by bringing in more dreamy guitars and strings he adds a little more warmth to the song in a way that kind of reminds me of 'Bittersweet Symphony' - which kind of makes sense, given that the song is interpolating Coldplay's 'Viva La Vida'. But what I think I like more is the content, where Khalid forces the sharp question of whether his problems are driven off of his own insecurities or something he can't control given the chaos of his life, and while he's been tumbling through so much of it, there seems like there's a bit more of a core of strength to this even in the face of worse to come, which has a little more resonance to it. So yeah, solid tune, I dig it.

88. 'Suncity' by Khalid ft. Empress Of - so let's just tackle this right now: Empress Of was on my schedule proper for reviews, but in revisiting her back catalog and given the mountain of work I otherwise had, I chose to back off given I wasn't all that impressed with what I heard. That said, this title track with her on it... it's pretty decent, a reggaeton pivot with more brittle guitars, a thicker sense of atmosphere, and Khalid and Empress Of have some decent chemistry. I do wish the lyrics had a bit more detail and that the hook brought a little more intensity and edge, but for this sort of smoky hookup... yeah, this is solid stuff, I dig it.

83. 'Saturday Nights' by Khalid - okay, I'll freely admit there's a lot to like about this song: the rickety guitar that still has a bit of depth against the echoing snap, although I do wish the beat that came in had managed to balance out some of that atmosphere, the faint jingle of sleigh bells on the hook, and the main melody line is pretty damn solid. Hell, I like the verses too as they bring that sort of detail I appreciate and Khalid slipping into his liquid upper register for the final hook sounds great... but am I the only one who thinks he might be working the 'your parents don't know or care as much as I do' line a little too hard? Look, I know his demographic and I know exactly how well this'll play for young love, and I can respect that, but the fact that it monopolizes the hook throws me off more than it should. Still, it's a good song, I dig it.

82. 'Astronauts' by Future & Juice WRLD - am I the only one who gets the impression that Future and Juice WRLD don't have a lot of chemistry here? There's nothing wrong with trading off verses and the hook, but we only get that hook at the beginning and end with nothing splitting the verses, and that doesn't do a lot to build rhythm between the two of them. And that's before you realize that the pianos and wispy backing vocals don't add as much atmosphere as they could and that Future's trying to rely more on his singing voice to meet Juice WLRD in the middle... which only winds up making his flows seem more awkward. And the content... look, it's brand names, drug abuse, and forgettable nihilism, although I did think it was funny that Juice WRLD called himself an 'a-hole' which doesn't even make the rhyme - found a lot less funny when Future referenced back to it, though.

72. 'Jet Lag' by Future & Juice WRLD ft. Young Scooter - okay, at least this song feels competently structured... but again, I don't think our frontmen have a lot of chemistry, as it feels like all of Future's adlibs were dropped in post and hit against Juice WRLD's hook in weird ways. Which is kind of a shame, because while the verse are empty brand name porn and screwing your girl, I kind of like the oily low-end synths that almost pick up something of a darkwave vibe with how they pulse against what sounds like a guitar. It's got some swagger and atmosphere to it, kind of reminiscent to what Rae Sremmurd had with 'Powerglide'... and just like that song, it feels like the MCs just can't do it justice. Shame.

65. 'when the party's over' by Billie Eilish - so I'll admit to being really intrigued with where Billie Eilish is taking her music, more than I typically am for pop starlets. She seems to have a better command of her atmosphere, the songwriting is above average, she's got some genuine intensity and can play to nastier impulses, and I'll freely admit to being a little surprised how consistent she's been on guest performances and on her own. So in the lead-up to her debut which is apparently coming in 2019, she put this out... and I won't mince words, this is excellent. I love that she's got the confidence to rely on restraint but bring in just enough swell from the backing vocals that can almost feel a capella, I love the intricacy of the piano that takes some subtle melodic turns if you pay attention, I really love how the bass is just allowed to simmer and add that undercurrent of tension - she's described the song as more angry than sad and I hear it - and I like the songwriting, capturing that infuriating moment when people keep shoving each other away for the wrong reasons and how sometimes the loneliness might wind up better, even if it sucks to get there. So yeah, I'm entirely on board - this is a genuinely great song, the sooner the album comes, the better!

54. 'Money' by Cardi B - so here's a question: why is Cardi B releasing this single? I know she's had a great run in 2018, but if there's a point to take a breath and let herself take a break, it'd be now, it's not like she isn't still a major culture presence, will still get called for guest verses, and the only reason to listen to the current #1 hit on the Hot 100! But really, I think the larger problem is that 'Money' isn't that good - putting aside the comparison to 'Money Bag', which I think I'm the only person who really likes, this is blocky and minimalist but in the wrong way, with the abortive piano chords and trap knock that doesn't compliment Cardi's flow and odd lack of intensity. And when most of the song's repetitive punchlines feel increasingly forgettable... yeah, this isn't fun. Or good - next!

26. 'Fine China' by Future & Juice WRLD - okay, honest question: who finds anything here attractive or interesting? There's no coherent melody outside of the vocal line and utterly by the numbers trap beat, Juice WRLD and Future continue to have no chemistry, Future phones in his verse rattling about all the planets he wants to take his girl to, and Juice WRLD's hook... okay, there's been a lot of attention how he frames the second half in wanting to kill the girl if she leaves with an absolute refusal to compromise, but am I the only one a little disgusted with the line 'I jump in the pussy like a lake, I'm a diver' followed by the accusation of the last guy being a pussy and having a vagina, which he croons out with all of his strength. And while I could say more here - what if she was into that at one point, why is nobody talking about the masculine pussy - the truth is that everything Juice WRLD says reflects very believable immaturity and really ugly songwriting - let's hope this winds up forgotten sooner rather than later.

9. 'Sunflower' by Post Malone & Swae Lee - so this is a song associated with the upcoming animated Spider-Man movie Into the Spider-Verse, and in a world where soundtrack hits are back to being a thing again, this broke in the top 10. And I'm a little stunned why... I mean, by the standards of Post Malone and Swae Lee, I think this is above average, coasting on a pretty solid, muted synth groove with hints of guitar and a beeping beat, and neither artist indulges in vocal warbles that annoy me, but dig beneath that and you're just not given all that much beyond a pretty basic undercooked hookup where both partners seem to be a mess. What any of this has to do with Spider-Man, I have no idea, but otherwise, this is pretty forgettable, and while it's set up to do well, I doubt it'll have staying power.

And that was this week... kind of messy, but there are standouts on both ends here! 'Fine China' by Juice WRLD and Future easily nabs worst of the week, but 'Make It Back' just edges out 'Yacht Club' for the Dishonourable Mention. Now for the best... we do have some good options, but I think 'when the party's over' by Billie Eilish takes this handily, with 'Vertigo' by Khalid right behind her as Honourable Mention. Next week... I'm not sure, to be honest, there doesn't seem to be a massive release that's got everyone talking in the mainstream, so it could get interesting.

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