Wednesday, November 7, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 10, 2018

I'm just going to say this right now, this is the second time I'm putting together an episode of Billboard BREAKDOWN on an election evening and I'm just not a fan of it - somehow the songs just don't wind up feeling very good... even if, instead of dealing with a Meek Mill album bomb we've just got a pileup of assorted, forgettable cuts. Hell, in most cases I'll treat that like a net positive.

Of course, it's not exactly good when we take a look at our top ten, where for some ungodly reason, 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 and Cardi B is still at #1. And the problem is easy to identify: it's still on the top on the radio with just enough of a margin propped up on sales and YouTube that it can hold its own against other songs that don't have traction in other categories. Compare this to 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott still holding at #2 - not on the top spot on streaming or YouTube, but despite good position there it lags on sales and doesn't have the radio to get higher. Honestly - and believe me, I'm not thrilled to say this - 'Happier' by Bastille and Marshmello might have a better shot, rising up to #3 on better stats across the board and the sort of upward momentum that at least puts it in the conversation. Hell, it rose past 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD, but that might have happened anyway, as the song fell to #4 on weakening streaming and airplay, and the only reason it's above 'Better Now' by Post Malone at #5 is because it slipped into radio freefall and streaming has always been worse there. Now this could be fortuitous for 'ZEZE' by Kodak Black ft. Travis Scott and Offset holding #6... but despite being dominant on streaming, the sales and radio aren't rising enough to back it up, so it might stall out. Then there's 'Youngblood' by 5 Seconds Of Summer holding at #7, but its good luck might have run out as sales dropped and airplay hit a sharp peak this week - I'd expect this to fall back soon... but that makes it vulnerable to 'Drip Too Hard' by Lil Baby and Gunna remaining an on-demand streaming giant at #8, which might be all it has, but that might be enough. Our last two entries are breaking into the top ten for the first time, and I can't exactly say I'm happy about either of them: 'Without Me' by Halsey up to #9 on good sales and frankly better streaming than she deserves, and 'Mo Bamba' by Sheck Wes up to #10 becoming the sort of streaming creature that I don't see going away any time soon... and if you can't tell, I'm not exactly pleased by it.

So on that topic, losers and dropouts! Not much to mention in the latter category, as 'no tears left to cry' by Ariana Grande makes a respectable exit and takes out 'Africa' by Weezer along with it - good - and really, when you look at our losers, there's not much that feels all that surprising. Off the debuts both 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee and 'Fine China' by Future and Juice WRLD took losses down to 24 and 49 respectively, and 'Better' by Khalid lost the EP boost down to 56, and from there, the losers seem to be following trends. 'Never Recover' by Lil Baby, Gunna and Drake slid to 60, 'Mona Lisa' by Lil Wayne and Kendrick continued down to 70, 'Venom' by Eminem continued to spurt out down at 92, and 'Break Up In The End' by Cole Swindell is exiting earlier than I'd prefer at 95. But our last three losses are interesting if only because they reflect cuts you'd expect a bit more momentum - well, okay, 'Always Remember Us This Way' by Lady Gaga was always going to lose some as A Star Is Born slips further from memory at 74, and 'STOOPID' by 6ix9ine and Bobby Shmurda proved that his fifteen minutes might be fading again, but what was most amusing is seeing 'I Love It' by Kanye West and Lil Pump sputter at 47. And while I think it's still got a shot to make the year-end list depending on how Billboard leverages their formula, it'll likely wind up caught between years and I'm just fine with that!

Now we've got our returning entries and gains... let's blow through the latter quickly because 'Thriller' by Michael Jackson came back to 31 thanks to Halloween and 'This Feeling' by The Chainsmokers and Kelsea Ballerini is back at 98 because... honestly, who cares. And while I'd like to say the gains are a bit more surprising - I certainly didn't expect that 'Backin' It Up' by Pardison Fontaine and Cardi B would rise to 81 or 'That's On Me' by Yella Beezy would get a spike to 62 - in reality most of these you could see coming. 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco has genuine radio traction to rise to 11 - this might just break the top ten the way it's going - 'Money' by Cardi B rose to 13 on the hard combination of streams and sales, 'Lost In Japan' by Shawn Mendes and Zedd still has upward momentum at 48, and 'Wake Up In The Sky' by Gucci Mane, Bruno Mars, and Kodak Black got a video to put it at 26... lovely. Look, most of these aren't giving me a lot of confidence for the next few months, but we'll see what sticks around.

And on the topic of no confidence, might as well start with our new arrivals, beginning with...

97. 'Kamikaze' by Lil Mosey - look, I have no idea why we've given this kid a career, especially in this genre where you'd think with this content you'd need to be at least somewhat believable... but what I've observed with Lil Mosey is that we have one of the most forgettable non-personalities in this genre coasting off of decent production, which he sure as hell doesn't really have here, given the foundation of his backing vocals is a chipmunk voice clashing with the delicate acoustics and lumpy trap beat. And again, the biggest problem is that none of this remotely credible - this kid is sixteen, he's not taking my girl, I have serious doubts that he's got a gun, and his hook even professes that he knows he can't keep this girl and he just wants to be the backup - which kind of clashes with the dominance posturing of the second verse. Yeah, no, I can't take this seriously and somehow it's even worse than 'Noticed', so let's move on.

94. 'Be Alright' by Dean Lewis - I could have sworn with that name I was dealing with a bro-country artist, but it turns out that this guy is from Australia and is playing in more of the singer-songwriter vein, with this being his first big breakout single outside of his home country. But no, the more apt comparison is Ed Sheeran, because from the quivering willowy delivery, slightly halting word choices and cadence, and sterile guitars playing off of increasingly smooth percussion, it's an alarmingly close imitation of his style. Hell, even the content feels close, with the focus on innocuous details and getting drunk to get over all of the misspent relationship, with only a few characteristically Aussie word choices to make it fit in that lane. And with all of that... look, I feel nothing from this, if you're going to rip off Ed Sheeran, why not try to get his groove or his occasional blast of raw intensity, instead going to the most formulaic territory possible? Don't get me wrong, it's competent, but I'm going to forget this exists in a day - if not less.

90. 'A Million Dreams' by P!nk - look, I was not a fan of The Greatest Showman whatsoever, and the fact that it's continued to have so much staying power worldwide is kind of mystifying, especially given that A Star Is Born for all of its flaws had stronger music. And yet they decided to rerelease The Greatest Showman soundtrack with various artists covering the songs from the musical, and this one from P!nk charted. Now I didn't talk about the original, given it missed the Hot 100... honestly, it's kind of forgettable, which has always been my most scathing indictment of even the good songs from The Greatest Showman, and for P!nk, this is much of the same. And I can't be the only one who thinks this was a missed opportunity - when Lin-Manuel Miranda put together The Hamilton Mixtape, he included pretty significant rearrangements, whereas what P!nk has is a pretty straightforward, generally inessential cover that brings none of her rawness or attitude to bear. Now at the end of the day it's still P!nk, so there's a part of me that'll listen to this and not mind... but I wish she had been allowed to do more with this.

89. 'Waste It On Me' by Steve Aoki ft. BTS - I remember getting tweets saying that this song had a shot for #1 - folks, you really need to consider going to #1 on the iTunes charts is no guarantee of position, especially if it's not for long and you don't have support in other channels, which was exactly the case for this song, which features BTS making an entirely English song for crossover. And am I the only one who's just underwhelmed as a whole? Both Steve Aoki and BTS normally bring more brash personality to the table than this desaturated piano and guitar, gutless snares, and horn-synths with entirely too much pitch-shifting. And the content - eh, it's a girl who's jaded from a bad relationship, so if she considers love a waste of time, he wants that waste, and seriously, what is it with these guys trying and mostly failing to be coy with this, which just feels awkward coming from a group with so much flash like BTS? So yeah, again, this isn't bad, but I'll forget this pretty quick, and you'd like to think given their reputation, BTS would sound more memorable here.

83. 'Dip' by Tyga ft. Nicki Minaj - so Tyga's 'Taste' was a good song - yeah, I said it on Billboard BREAKDOWN and I stand by it months later, the groove is pretty great and while we're stuck with the charisma vacuum that Tyga is, Offset's verse mostly connected even if you can tell he didn't care that much. So in the grand tradition of recycling, Tyga decided to recycle the basic formula for his new hit with Nicki Minaj, swapping out a pitched-down Aaliyah sample for a cello loop and a hook that is just as repetitive but somehow a lot more annoying. Part of this is the vibe - 'Taste' managed to slip into a relaxed groove where not trying worked, but with the slightly more upbeat 'Dip', especially with Nicki's verse, makes you pay more attention to the content - with the first verse all about how Tyga is having sex in graphic detail, Nicki rhyming issues with itself four times in a row, and with all the repetition it's impossible not to notice how increasingly empty and bereft of real punchlines this is. So yeah, it's not terrible, but while Nicki's now in the position of referencing past hits, that might be as clear of a sign as any this won't do as well.

80. 'Topanga' by Trippie Redd - so Trippie Redd put out a third mixtape, and can I say that it's hilariously ironic that despite all of the hype Nicki's throwing behind her guest appearances that she got beaten out by this? And let me get something straight, I was actually looking forward to praising this production - the knocking clap playing off the more developed piano sounds good and Trippie Redd embracing a lighter sung flow could work... but then we get the caterwauling chipmunk sample dominating the production and I come to the sharp realization that for as pretty as this production is, it doesn't remotely work with lyrics all about saving some girl by shooting people! At least when Post Malone made 'Candy Paint' he tried to focus most on the car, not gunning people down, it just leads to a really dissonant feeling, especially with that abortive ending. So yeah, this at least had potential, but given how underdeveloped it feels - not surprising coming from Trippie Redd - it doesn't connect.

76. 'TAlk tO Me' by Tory Lanez & Rich The Kid - seriously, is this going to be the week of underdeveloped, forgettable personalities breaking onto the Hot 100 - look, I live in Toronto, and as much as I've wanted to give Tory Lanez a chance, nobody really cares what he's dropping, and I don't think anyone anywhere has ever cared about Rich The Kid - talk about a waste of a Kendrick cosign. So we get this cut, where Tory Lanez describes his girl as a 'prissy little missy' even as he's drowned in autotune amidst an overweight trap beat and rinky-dink keys. But at least he's better than Rich The Kid, who continues to showcase a painfully weak flow, rhyme 'pillow' with 'kiss you', and talk about a girl who eats her cornbread. Seriously, that might be the most interesting part of this otherwise painfully forgettable song, the cornbread and a 'prissy little missy'. We might be in trouble here, folks, even though I have no illusions this'll stick around, and thank god for that.

54. 'Last Memory' by Takeoff - so, in the chain of Migos members releasing solo albums and probably not regretting it as much as they should, we now have Takeoff dropping his first solo project with this as the lead-off single... one verse with an extended hook on both ends, that's it. Now I'll be honest, I tend to stick up for Takeoff more than the other members of Migos because I think he's a competent rapper and he has a more distinctive, gruff voice. But seriously, what is with trap artists this week picking shrill and grating production, with that thin synthetic vocal melody playing off faint bubbles, hi-hats flooding the mix, and a bass with no groove or momentum? And then for some reason Takeoff sounds increasingly forgettable and disinterested on the hook... and for the first half of the verse. And then you get to the content... and look, I'll give Takeoff a bit of credit for a bit more structure in his flows and a little more connective tissue between bars, but beyond that, what is Takeoff delivering distinct that we haven't heard hundreds of times from Migos? A solo project is supposed to project what makes you different and special while reminding of the familiar, whereas the biggest reminder I'm getting here is that man, Migos really needs to stick together.

28. 'Arms Around You' by XXXTENTACION & Lil Pump ft. Maluma & Swae Lee - so originally, this was a song put together as a collaboration between XXTENTACION and upcoming artist Rio Santana... but then X died, Lil Pump got co-headlining credits, and then Rio Santana was outright replaced by Maluma and Swae Lee - and you all wonder why I think the labels cravenly monopolizing every element of X's leftover recordings with as many other names tacked on for traffic is kind of gross - hell, Skrillex coproduced this, so why not tack his name on too! And yeah, this is no exception - seriously, the production sounds locked in an offbrand mix from 2016 with its runny atmospherics, snap, and desaturated piano drained of any significant melody. And look, of the guest stars, at least Maluma sounds somewhat comfortable over this tropical groove, but Swae Lee's performance is utterly forgettable, and you'd think for more of a sensitive love song, Lil Pump wouldn't spend his verse trying to take your wife and shove his dick right down her throat amidst a haze of drugs and strippers. In other words, it's another shambling mess of a song stitched together from spare parts, and it's not even coherent - gross.

So yeah, this week sucked - let's throw the best to P!nk with 'A Million Dreams', but when you go to the worst... yeah, 'Arms Around You' is snagging that because on top of the gross nature of its construction it still winds up forgettable and dated, with a tie for Dishonourable Mention going to 'Kamikaze' by Lil Mosey and 'TAlk tO Me' by Tory Lanez and Rich The Kid, two utterly worthless songs. Can we please get something at least somewhat better with some staying power, please?

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