Tuesday, November 13, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 17, 2018

Okay, so I've been predicting that the top ten and the Hot 100 would likely face one more disruption before the end of the Billboard year - but man, I can't quite say I was expecting this! Sure, the success of a small Metro Boomin album bomb might make sense - and given that I didn't review it, I'll be covering all the tracks in full, no worries here - but the song that seized the #1 spot, even running up against a weak track on top, that did catch me by surprise.

But here we are: starting with our top ten, Ariana Grande's 'thank u, next' has debuted at #1. And honestly, while I'll get into my opinions on the song in a bit, I will say that I'm surprised that of all the Ariana Grande singles that have broken through in the 2010s, I'm a little shocked it was this one that hit #1. But the numbers aren't lying: record-breaking streaming numbers, huge sales, solid YouTube, and while the radio is not a factor at the momentum, it's not a non-starter there. So it's one of those cases where its success will be very dependent on the traction for surrounding singles... and to me, 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B is finally out of that conversation. Yeah, it might still be on top on the radio, but that margin shrank all week and really all that is holding it afloat is the YouTube that'll never die. Then there's 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott at #3... and I'll be honest, I'm a little unsure about its prospects right now - down across the board except its wobbling position on the radio, I'm not sure if its got the lifeblood to get higher. Make no mistake, it's vulnerable to 'Happier' by Bastille and Marshmello at #4, which rose on sales, picked up a bit of YouTube to offset a loss in on-demand streaming, and kept hacking away at the radio margins - if there's a song to challenge Ariana, it'll probably be this one. Then there's 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD forced back to #5, but again, we could have predicted this - yeah, there's still radio traction, but it's losing in all other quarter, it could be out pretty fast. Granted, I'm not exactly thrilled about what'll be overtaking it: 'Without Me' by Halsey, up to #6 with strength across the board - man, I remember when it was just the radio pushing this dreck, why did streaming playlists have to get onboard too... Anyway, at #7 we have 'Better Now' by Post Malone - basically only this high thanks to radio inertia, and even that has slipped into freefall, which means that I can see it being overtaken by 'ZEZE' by Kodak Black ft. Travis Scott and Offset at #8, which is getting a music video and while radio and sales aren't getting onboard, the streaming numbers are not slowing down. And on that topic, we've got 'Mo Bamba' by Sheck Wes up to #9 - again, it's the streaming keeping this afloat, and it even pushed back 'Drip Too Hard' by Lil Baby and Gunna down to #10, which might have slightly better streaming totals but got edged back on the count of having pretty much no sales presence whatsoever - good.

And on that pleasing note, our losers and dropouts. In the latter category, the only ones really worth recognizing are longstanding losers like 'Drowns The Whiskey' by Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert, 'Break Up In The End' by Cole Swindell, the abortive failure of Lil Uzi Vert's 'New Patek', and the long-overdue exit of 'The Middle' by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey - finally. But there was a pretty sizable list of losers this week regardless, and let's start with the one I'm most pleased with: 'Money' by Cardi B fell to 24, which hopefully will teach Atlantic to not release bad and pointless singles without an album coming. And really, a lot of bad songs had bad weeks here: 'Arms Around You' by XXXTENTACION, Lil Pump, Maluma and Swae Lee fell to 56 off the debut, along with 'I Love It' by Kanye West and Lil Pump continuing down 60 and 'Fine China' by Future and Juice WRLD breaking to 64. Hell, tack on the losses for 'Drew Barrymore' by Bryce Vine to 76, 'STOOPID' by 6ix9ine and Bobby Shmurda to 80, and 'No Brainer' by DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Chance The Rapper and Quavo to 94 and it'd look pretty promising here! The rest of our losers feel like a mixed bag, though: 'Big Bank' by YG ft. 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Nicki Minaj faded to 44 along with 'Back To You' by Selena Gomez - two songs that have their year-end slots secure - and off the debut 'Last Memory' by Takeoff fell to 68 and 'Topanga' by Trippie Redd went to 90. Then there's mediocrity like 'Jackie Chan' by Tiesto, Dzeko, Post Malone and Preme hitting 87, and then finally we get the good songs: 'Mona Lisa' by Lil Wayne and Kendrick continued to fall off gracefully to 82 - seriously, if there's a song where a video could go over the top in a great way, it's this one - 'I'll Never Love Again' by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper down to 85, and 'Killshot' by Eminem at 98 - frankly, I'm amazed it's lasted this long.

Then we have our gains and returning entries, and let's get the easy return out of the way with 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen making an exultant return at 33... and it's only here thanks to the movie, sales, and more streams than you'd expect, it'll be gone soon, more's the pity. I'm sure as hell not enthused by our gains here, though: 'Wake Up In The Sky' by Gucci Mane, Bruno Mars and Kodak Black is up to 14, 'Leave Me Alone' by Flipp Dinero is proving the staying power of that obnoxious hook to take it to 41, and 'Dip' by Tyga and Nicki Minaj picked up gains off the debut to 63. The only song I'm even somewhat positive on here is 'breathin' by Ariana Grande up to 21, mostly thanks to the video and residual traction... not sure it'll wind up a hit, but we'll see.

But now, what you've all come here to see: a whole lot of Metro Boomin, starting off with...

100. 'Up To Something' by Metro Boomin ft. Travis Scott & Young Thug - okay, so we're starting off with a Young Thug cut - yeah, the credits put Travis first because he's the bigger name right now, but Travis mostly contributes crooning adlibs and backing vocals against the squealing sirens, odd tumbling clank of the beat, and rickety trap beat... And if some of you think you've already heard this song, it turns out an old demo of this leaked back about three years ago and was only finished for this. And honestly, I'm kind of glad they did - the groove is off-kilter, but it's a good fit for Young Thug's wonky flow, and while the content is empty as always, there's enough weirdness to twist the track without breaking it. Why he shouts out Patrick Swayze, says that he's going to shoot precisely while indoors, and then says he's screwing a girl who likes his riddles - a girl who, for the record, isn't implied to be yours - coupled with that hook... yeah, I kind of like this, not bad at all.

99. 'Casper' by Takeoff - so I'll admit to being a little surprised we're getting a solo Takeoff song a week after the album songs were supposed to break, but I will say this is better than the one from last week. The whirring skitter of the trap groove, the subtle flute atmospherics, and Takeoff ambling through a pretty straightforward joyriding brag rap. And again, I'm kind of grooving to this - yeah, the cumshot on the hook doesn't exactly sell it well, and I'd struggle to say Takeoff's doing much here that's all that different than your average Migos song beyond the overextended ghost metaphor, but even though he's talking about the roof of his car, there's a part of me that kind of likes the image of him looking up at stars and reflecting on a peaceful joyride. Especially with these melodies... I'm not going to say it's innocent, but it reminds me in a strange way of 'Candy Paint' from Post Malone, and that's only a plus. So yeah, I can groove to this too - nice work.

97. 'Consequences' by Camila Cabello - so we have a new single from Camila Cabello, seemingly months after it'd make sense for her to release another single, with this being her drippy, restrained piano ballad - otherwise known as the obvious late album single. And look, I'll repeat what I said almost a year ago: while I can appreciate Camila trying to sell this sort of breathy, messy post-breakup song, she really doesn't have the upper register to pull off that bridge, and there's absolutely no excuse for the production to push the piano and vocal tracks so close to the mic that they're actively peaking, it sounds amateurish and not in the good way. I guess the one thing I can appreciate is the songwriting, which isn't bad in capturing the mingled blur of emotions, but none of the writing is all that distinct or interesting so... yeah, outside of the fans, I don't see this moving that far.

86. 'Ella Quiere Beber' by Anuel AA & Romeo Santos - okay, the only place I know Anuel AA is from that 6ix9ine song a while back and I've talked about Romeo Santos before... but look, at this point I've covered so much forgettable reggaeton that the song needs to bring something special to the table to stand out, and this just doesn't have much. Anuel AA sounds drained of personality thanks to all the autotune, the trap-inflected watery groove probably belongs in 2016, and considering the entire song is about helping a girl get drunk and forget about her ex... look, I'm not going to say all of these songs can feel predatory, but some of the devil metaphors Anuel AA shoves in sure as hell don't help. But in the end, like most of these tracks, I'm going to forget it exists in a day or less - next!

79. 'No More' by Metro Boomin ft. Travis Scott, Kodak Black & 21 Savage - okay, the next six songs are Metro Boomin cuts, so might as well try to keep these brief... and let's start with a considerable downgrade from the last one. And it started off pretty promising, too: the guitar oscillations fit with Travis Scott's autotuned crooning disturibingly well, and even though the beat wasn't quite as cavernous or hard-hitting as it could be, for this sort of melancholic 'more money more problems' song, it could work... but then you get Kodak Black's increasingly clumsy flow and forced rhymes, and then 21 Savage just giving up on the rhyme scheme midway through his verse for no apparent reason, and for songs that are all about the vibe, you really can't get away with this! So yeah, not terrible - I've certainly heard worse trap songs and I like the main melody, but not all that good either.

72. 'Dreamcatcher' by Metro Boomin ft. Swae Lee & Travis Scott - okay, can The Weeknd just put out a full album at some point, because it's so obvious that Swae Lee is trying to snatch his lane and I'm just not remotely buying it, especially when it's followed by Travis Scott in his completely underwhelming upper register, even if Metro Boomin can provide a ghostly bass knock with the hollowed melodies. Come on, Swae Lee is trying to get this girl to go 'night night' before he flubs the last rhymes of his verse, and while Travis' verse is better, he does talk about being on his 'Fred Durst', of which cannot be healthy in any way, shape and form! But overall, again, the production is the selling point here more than any artist on it... shame they couldn't do more.

62. 'Overdue' by Metro Boomin ft. Travis Scott - okay, just Travis this time, with Metro Boomin taking a muddy Annie sample and warping it into a thicker trap roil with some really nice piano accents and a really striking strings piece for the outro... honestly, the vibe on this song is really striking and it's damn near perfect for the Travis Scott in his brooding, burned out vibe. Shame the content doesn't add a little more meat to the song... hell, if I have a criticism of the track as a whole, it just feels a little undercooked - a hook and sample flipped this well could have really used a killer third verse to ratchet things up, but as it is, I guess I can appreciate it. Nice stuff.

51. 'Space Cadet' by Metro Boomin ft. Gunna - okay folks, we need to really stop giving Lil Baby and Gunna features, neither of them are all that good! And again, this is a pretty solid groove from Metro Boomin - the drippy echo of the melody, the more dense trap percussion, give this to Young Thug and he could flip this into something pretty cool! But instead we've got the wannabe who proceeds to try and rhyme 'tag' with 'sex', 'bean bag' with 'cool rack', and 'happy' with 'automatic' - seriously, the only reason he's getting a pass is that people aren't paying attention to anything this dude is actually saying because they know it's empty luxury rap flexing that means nothing! So yeah, good groove, utterly wasted on this guy. Next!

42. '10 Freaky Girls' by Metro Boomin ft. 21 Savage - okay, the last two Metro Boomin cuts both have 21 Savage, and I'll admit that their record working together tends to be pretty decent... especially given how they opened up this song sampling Selena and a song with Whitney Houston on it! Of course it drops back into a minimalist trap skitter with 21 Savage's cold monotone behind it, but there's potential here, especially given those faint horns they slip behind the hook and the deeper melodic elements they infuse into the second verse. Granted, this is all reliant on whether 21 Savage can deliver - and look, I know the majority of his content is hardcore gangsta bars juxtaposed with flexing, but then you get weird references like the RIP to Harriet Tubman or how the girl he's pimping has a bar code on her vagina and it's the sort of thing that completely throws you out of the song. I will say that little outro snippet where he encounters someone he robbed in the past who is now happy to see him was pretty cool, especially against the R&B production, but beyond that... eh, not really feeling this one.

38. 'Don't Come Out The House' by Metro Boomin ft. 21 Savage - okay, this seems a little more consistent for 21 Savage, more grim minimalist that switches the piano up a few times that actually has 21 whisper half of each verses and the song actually builds some ominous presence... until, of course, you actually start listening to what he's saying, where he's using homophobic slurs because you're a bitch and he's taking her from you, you get the cheap wordplay. And from there, the rest is undercooked flexing that can't seem to keep a consistent mood and honestly feels like it's missing a third verse or another hook to really click. Won't say this didn't have potential.. but no, I won't cosign this either.

1. 'thank u, next' by Ariana Grande - and now we've got our newest #1, Ariana Grande's first, a kiss-off song where she put names on wax surrounding the guys she wants to gently leave behind... and am I the only one who's just a little underwhelmed by it? Look, I already sounded off on Twitter how I think this manages to thread the needle in moving past the guys and landing on a self-love trajectory without coming across as haughty or petty or messy, mostly because of how breezy it all feels, but that might also be the big reason why I feel a bit distant from it. It's not bad by any stretch - the mid-tempo groove is certainly pleasant and restrained and Ariana sounds damn near effortless on this, staying more with restrained cooing which is absolutely the right lane for her... but I'm also just a little distant from it. The entire song by design feels tossed off, not exactly a hit - hell, I even said so on Twitter, and this going to #1 just feels odd. Again, not bad, but not something I'm all that excited about either.

But this leaves our week in a bit of a weird place - no outright standouts on either side, but I think I like 'Casper' by Takeoff enough to give it best of the week, with 'Up To Something' from Metro Boomin, Travis Scott and Young Thug for the Honourable Mention - sorry, Ariana. Now the worst... yeah, 'Space Cadet' from Metro Boomin and Gunna gets that, with 'No More' from Metro Boomin, Travis Scott, Kodak Black and 21 Savage getting the Dishonourable Mention. Next week: the fallout, because maintaining the #1 is a different conversation and I sure as hell am not expecting an Imagine Dragons album bomb. We'll just have to see what happens...

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