Wednesday, December 12, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 15, 2018 know, I'd call it funny if I was anyone else. See, I predicted last week that Meek Mill would have have something of an album bomb - he's had two already just in the course of me covering the charts, and I expected given the hype there'd be another one here, especially given some of his critical acclaim... but the Spotify numbers didn't seem that huge and it's not like he'd get sales or much radio. So imagine my extreme exasperation when not only did we get fourteen new Meek Mill songs, we also got a mini album bomb from Lil Baby - an artist I thought we could leave behind, preferably by the side of an abandoned road - and a sizable set of new arrivals, bringing our round total up to twenty-seven new songs for this week. All right before the holidays while I still work fulltime in the middle of trying to wrap up multiple year-end lists with a tighter schedule than any other year prior because of real life constraints. So yeah, screw it, album bomb rules are in effect, albeit revised from their original outing from Tha Carter V given that I'm not reviewing Meek Mill's new album formally - as if there'll be much to say - but with the suggestion taken from you all that the only songs I cover are his breakthroughs in the top 40 and any that would wind up as the Best/Worst of the week. That still comfortably gives me over a dozen new entries, and if anyone wants to complain about that, especially given Meek Mill is under Atlantic which is under Warner and that means this video will likely wind up copyright claimed and I won't get a dime from it, you go produce 200+ episodes of a twenty minute weekly series with a day's turnaround time on your own for over four years, and then get back to me. 

So now that I've handled that round of complaints, our top ten, and as I predicted, 'thank u, next' by Ariana Grande is back at #1 - while I personally wasn't a fan of the video and she's not dominant on sales, the streams and frankly disgusting radio traction has cemented this on top... probably until the end of the holidays unless we get a surprise. And as expected, 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott had a steep dropoff this week at #2 - still good on streaming, but the sales dropoff and weakening radio means I can see this taking hits soon, especially against 'Without Me' by Halsey this week up to #3, which despite being garbage has traction in every category, although the margins are too great to make a serious play for the top. It overtook 'Happier' by Marshmello & Bastille down to #4 because despite good radio gains, the sales and streaming both slipped, which are not good signs. Then we have 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco holding #5 with good sales and radio gains that will not die... but it has no comparable streaming, which places it in a precarious position. Granted, I don't think it's too vulnerable to our newest top ten entry, at #6: 'Going Bad' by Meek Mill, featuring Drake. I'll talk more about the song later, but suffice to say I'm not surprised this reunion broke the top ten with a ton of streaming and big sales... although I don't expect it to last long in the top ten. What I think will - and probably will make the most credible run for the top - is 'All I Want For Christmas Is You', reentering the top 10 at #7 with the robust sales and streaming to credibly make a run. And the rest... look, it's hard to care about any of these. 'ZEZE' by Kodak Black ft. Travis Scott and Offset is down to #8 as streaming starts to slip, 'Drip Too Hard' by Lil Baby and Gunna fell to #9 on slightly better on-demand streaming but weaker YouTube and radio, and 'Mo Bamba' by Sheck Wes fell to #10 as the flash in the pan it is for similar weak streaming.

But of course, on any album bomb week we have our losers and dropout list... and look, I think it'd take less time if I listed the stuff that didn't fall out or take losses, it was a bloodbath here. Hell, if you're looking to clean the slate for 2019 this would be the way to do it, as 'In My Feelings' and 'Nonstop' by Drake, 'Boo'd Up' by Ella Mai, 'Tequila' by Dan + Shay, 'Lose It' by Kane Brown, 'I'm A Mess' by Bebe Rexha, 'Hangin' On' by Chris Young, 'Never Recover' by Lil Baby, Gunna and Drake, 'Blue Tacoma' by Russell Dickerson, 'I Love It' by Lil Pump and Kanye, and 'Falling Down' by XXXTENTACION and Lil Peep are all gone. And then we have the losers, and let me just briefly get through the ones that are a bit more interesting first: 'You' by Jacquees fell to 100 off the debut - nice work, 'King of R&B' - losing all their gains we had 'STOOPID' by 6ix9ine and Bobby Shmurda down to 89 and 'Be Alright' by Dean Lewis to 79, and continuing down we had losses for 'Backin' It Up' by Pardison Fontaine and Cardi B to 86, 'That's On Me' by Yella Beezy at 80, and 'BAD!' by XXXTENTACION to 75 - expect a rebound with its album bomb next week. The rest... look, I'm just going to list them from the bottom up, this is nuts otherwise, so... 'Sixteen' by Thomas Rhett fell to 99, 'Ella Quiere Beber' by Anuel AA & Romeo Santos went to 97, 'Good Girl' by Dustin Lynch dropped to 96, 'No Stylist' by French Montana and Drake hit 95, 'Consequences' by Camila Cabello slipped to 94, 'Smile (Living My Best Life)' by Lil Duval, Snoop Dogg & Ball Greezy hit 92, and 'Burning Man' by Dierks Bentley ft. Brothers Osborne flamed out at 90. Then we had 'Fine China' by Future and Juice WRLD breaking at 88, 'Close Friends' by Lil Baby breaking to 84, 'Armed And Dangerous' by Juice WRLD falling to 76, 'Arms Around You' by XXXTENTACION, Lil Pump, Maluma and Swae Lee hitting 74, 'Lost In Japan' by Shawn Mendes and Zedd losing at 71, 'when the party's over' by Billie Eilish fading to 68, 'Lie' by NF sputtering out at 65, 'Best Shot' by Jimmie Allen missing at 59, 'Ring' by Cardi B and Kehlani breaking at 58, and 'FEFE' by 6ix9ine ft. Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz finally hitting 52. And to end things off we had 'Uproar' by Lil Wayne dying at 50, 'god is a woman' by Ariana Grande breaking to 48, 'Taste' by Tyga and Offset losing to 47, 'broken' by lovelytheband shattered at 45, 'I Like It' by Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny & J. Balvin losing to 42, 'Shallow' by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper drying up at 38, and 'Natural' by Imagine Dragons crashing down to 35. 

Now you'd think with that many losers and dropouts, we wouldn't even have gains or returning entries... and that's where you're wrong, because getting the second half of his tracking week gives a big boost to 6ix9ine, where 'WAKA' with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie rose to 51, 'KIKA' with Tory Lanez rising to 44, and 'MAMA' with Kanye and Nicki Minaj up to 43. Now it's not all bad - we don't have any returning entries there, and the boost for 'Dangerous' by Meek Mill, PnB Rock and Jeremih isn't bad at 31, but right now I'm just taking solace in the gains for 'The Christmas Song' by Nat King Cole at 29 - not much, but it's worth it. And before we get to the new arrivals proper that I'm discussing, here's the position of the other Meek Mill songs that hit the Hot 100: 'Pay You Back' by Meek Mill ft. 21 Savage at 78, 'Splash Warning' ft. Roddy Ricch, Future, and Young Thug at 77, 'Almost Slipped' at 73 - although that song has the infinitely quotable line 'relationships turn into situationships' - 'Tic Tac Toe' with Kodak Black at 72, 'Championships' at 70, 'Trauma' at 61, 'Respect The Game' at 57, his 'Intro' at 55 - look, I love Phil Collins too, but there's enough questionable lines to keep from being better - and '24/7' with Ella Mai at 54.

And now onto the new arrivals, starting with...

98. 'Word On The Street' by Lil Baby - you know, I've tried to avoid using 'mumble rap' as a slam against acts over the past few years, I really have, mostly because a lot of artists who get hit with that mushy label aren't really in that lane. But is there any way you can go to this track and call it anything else, with its overblown bass and rinky-dink electric piano amidst the dense trap skitter and autotune? It's not like Lil Baby has anything worthwhile to say with his slapdash flow beyond pointing out it's very unlikely he was literally boxed in and that you probably shouldn't brag about falling asleep while getting head! That said, the flow is better here in comparison with the bars he had on the Gunna collaboration, so I can see this being passable... but it sure as hell is forgettable.

91. 'Global' by Lil Baby - and yet somehow the last song is measurably better than this mess - the snare whir is a mess, the piano is drowned out by the bass knock which swamps everything, and Lil Baby seems to regard a good flow even smothered in autotune as optional! Hell, even on a structural level this is a disaster: the hook barely stands out against the verses, the bragging is utterly forgettable, he's taking your girl to suck him off, and it's a little rich to say that he did it all with no assistance because without the Drake cosign and the bad Young Thug impression he's doing, he'd have no career! So yeah, this is a turd - next!

85. 'Oodles O' Noodles Babies' by Meek Mill - if I'm going to highlight a Meek Mill song I really like this week, it'd probably be this one - and funnily enough, not for the production, which overstuffs the soul sample a bit and doesn't quite have the body it needs to really give Meek the foundation he needs. But when it comes to the content and flows, Meek delivers here, describing his poverty as a kid, the deaths of his father, aunt and cousin, a justice system that is systemically broken to keep people incarcerated, and while when you place this song up against the violence in some of his other songs you can see why a judge might see him as violent, the gross miscarriage of justice surrounding his sentencing does a lot to justify his anger. But Meek's not done, because not only does he take some well-deserved shots at Kanye's ignorance and his slavery comments at TMZ, but he also places himself in the position of having to explain to billionaires the truth about life in the trap where if the father's locked up or dead and the mother has to work, who looks after the kids to prevent the cycle continuing anew? And look, I don't think anyone would call this the most nuanced perspective on the criminal justice system and systemic racism, but the anger is palpable and the points feel well-enough executed to click... so yeah, it's a good song, I'll take it.

82. 'Crush A Lot' by Lil Baby - ...well, it's more competent than 'Global', but is that honestly saying much with this? The flow switches might be competently executed, but it's not like those deeper synth embellishments on that intro are used for much on the actual song, which is all the more forgettable brag rap with no coherent punchlines and less charisma. I think what bugs me the most about Lil Baby is that he's got the same problem as Big Sean in cramming too many syllables into his bars with no consideration for cadence or internal meter, but at least Big Sean can show more effort than this - in other words, mediocre, let's move on.

81. 'Foot Fungus' by Ski Mask The Slump God - so I'll be honest: this is the first time I've ever really had the chance to hear anything from Ski Mask - yeah, I know his hype has been growing for the past while, but there was a part of me that always dropped him into the camp of up-and-comers I wouldn't really need to care about unless they charted, and for him I never expected it to happen. But now we've got a song called 'Foot Fungus' here, and... is this a joke? I mean, from I've understood Ski Mask has always had a goofy side to him, and that certainly comes through on how his hook with the non sequiteur 'coleslaw' line and his slapdash but surprisingly well-structured flow, but I'm not sure how well all of his humor connects. For one, dripping like he just took a shit and clogged the toilet might have just killed the 'drip' in all contexts, but then when he's spooning with your bitch like he just pulled out a yogurt and pair it with the dark, hollow grind of this production... it's hard not to feel like at least some of this joke comes at my expense and that Ski Mask hasn't quite differentiated himself enough from his peers here. Granted, I did enjoy this more than Lil Baby... but that's not saying much.

67. 'Nothing Breaks Like A Heart' by Mark Ronson ft. Miley Cyrus - you know, if I look back on Miley's career over the past five years and see the amount of squandered fame and potential, it's genuinely exasperating - I guess that's how many free passes nepotism gets you, but man alive, some smarter creative decisions could have put in a much better place than this. Anyway, she's teaming up with Mark Ronson here, and... okay, let's get this out of the way now, it's very obvious that Miley's trying to follow in the same country/Americana-adjacent lane that Kesha and Lady Gaga have slipped into in the past few years, which is arguably given her thicker twang where she belongs anyway. And even bringing in Jamie xx for additional production support can't hide how this song just doesn't quite have the same texture or bite as the best songs in this lane... but I can't front, this is Miley Cyrus' best song since 'FU' and absolutely a great song to return with. For one, Miley has always had a fondness for a darker, swaggering groove with a lot of minor key progressions and this is that to a tee - complete with the more lush strings that collapses into the gentle sandy percussion, firmer bass groove, and layers of deeper acoustics and strings. This is Miley in 'Jolene' mold, burned out mid-breakup, and if we're going to get pop country, how about more of this and less of... the majority of what Nashville is shoveling out? Because this is excellent - definitely want to hear more!

66. 'Ready' by Lil Baby ft. Gunna - man, I really wish that Metro Boomin had some quality control on who he gave good production, because if there's something that saves this song from falling off, it is the darker, atmospheric melody and piano-touched smolder of it. It's just a damn shame he gave it to Lil Baby and Gunna, who have no idea what to do with it beyond your standard utterly forgettable brag rap with no real intensity or flair. Seriously, there's not even much in terms of bad lines worth quoting, it's just filler dumped over production that deserves better... so yeah, let's move on.

64. 'Calling My Spirit' by Kodak Black - you know, someone in one of my group chats pointed out that this year might be a high point of Kodak Black's relevance and success - and if that's not a searing indictment of where mainstream rap is right now, I don't know what is. But seriously, even by Kodak standards, what is there to be liked about this? An ugly acoustic line that brings in some tinny additions on the second verse that sound awful, Kodak slurring his way through barely structured flows where he has to reference 'Tunnel Vision', and content that is otherwise completely vacant. And hell, he even references how Cardi might have jacked his flow - and that reminds me, I thought Cardi B was supposed to completely replace Kodak Black and be better in every conceivable way, so why is there still a need for this? Because this sucks - next!

63. 'Nuketown' by Ski Mask The Slump God ft. Juice WRLD - unsurprisingly, the second song Ski Mask gets to chart has Juice WRLD on it, because people apparently can't get enough of his mediocre misogyny... but I will say this isn't quite what I was expecting here. For one, even if Ski Mask's flow is incredibly unstable, he at least can string together some credible and colourful punchlines with enough tenuous structure to work - I like his verses. And then we get the warping scratch of the melody around the bassy trap knock... eh, nothing that special, but it could work... but then we have the hook. And look, I don't mind Ski Mask yelling, but can someone at least pull him a way from the microphone so he doesn't peak in the mix, it doesn't sound hard so much as it sounds badly produced. And I say that because then we get Juice WRLD yelling through the majority of his verse... and I won't like, if he wants to replace 6ix9ine with this delivery, I might be down for it. Granted, this is on a verse where he says he's screwing your mom, and it kind of undercuts the intensity to split your screaming up like he does, but it kind of worked... so yeah, not great by any means, but not bad either? We'll see.

62. 'Time' by Lil Baby ft. Meek Mill - see, this is the sort of team-up that actually makes sense this week and almost feels emblematic of it: production with hints of promise playing off the eerie pianos and darker vibe, handicapped by the rappers who have nothing interesting to say and shakier flows than they really should. Meek's flow in particular just feels weirdly clunky against this groove, especially given how little charisma Lil Baby has as he kind of spreads across this groove. But beyond that... yeah, just nothing to say about it. Next!

60. 'Good Form' by Nicki Minaj ft. Lil Wayne - so let me walk you through this: in the rerelease of Queen, instead of keeping 'FEFE', Nicki has removed it in favour of a remix of a song that I actually used to kind of like from the album with a new verse from Lil Wayne. Shows how loyal she was to 6ix9ine and Treyway here, but whatever, it has to be a step up from 'FEFE', right? Well, the awkward thing is that it's just 'Good Form' with a verse tacked on from Lil Wayne, and as much as I dug the bombastic production, Nicki's verses imitating 6ix9ine's lyrical style really can feel lazy when you're followed by Wayne who actually can follow with some overblown sex references that hit the right spot between stupid and kind of hilarious. Only Lil Wayne would point out how everyone has the juice but no glass to pour it, or how his dick can turn into a pipe bomb. In other words, I can't in good conscience say this is all that good, but it's alright - I'll take it.

46. 'Pure Cocaine' by Lil Baby - so here's the thing: this is probably the Lil Baby song I like the most this week. Yeah, Lil Baby is not saying much of anything that's all that interesting and I'm still not wild about his mushy autotuned flow where he's getting your girl to screw his friends, but at least he sounds a bit tighter on this groove and the glittery keys against the swampy bass and touches of piano are doing a lot of heavy lifting. And you know, for this sort of icy cut, the hook works, which'll be about the only thing anyone remembers from this anyway, so I guess I'll take it.

41. 'Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow' by Dean Martin - so I'll say it, it's just weird to see holiday standards debut on the Hot 100 like this, even if I'm not about to complain about the late Dean Martin slipping an old crooning Christmas song onto the Hot 100. And man, I'll freely admit that there's something about old-school Rat Pack cool against effortlessly bouncy but classy arrangements that just works for me, with no need to overplay and compromise the intimacy. Now the life and legacy of Dean Martin is honestly too overstuffed to include here - he had two different shows that ran for nearly a decade a piece, he had seven top ten hits and entirely too many albums - but if this is a quick snapshot of a Christmas song that holds up, I'll take it.

39. 'Uptown Vibes' by Meek Mill ft. Fabolous & Anuel AA - man, that horn melody is doing some heavy lifting on this thing, especially with how well the bass is sequenced to build up the hook with Meek hollering the way he does. Thankfully Fabolous can step in and modulate the energy a little bit with a good verse... and then we have Anuel AA who perhaps is a little too blunt in his over-the-top bragging when you translate his verse. Honestly, for as much as I really like the production, I wish Meek at least tried for some wordplay beyond the interjections of Spanish - there was potential to this, especially with his energy. Still good, though, I'll take it.

36. 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer' by Gene Autry - so here's the thing with this song in particular: it's topped the charts before. Yes, before Billboard started tracking an amalgamated Hot 100 in 1958, there were distinctive charts that tracked radio and sales, and this song hit the #1 on those charts in late 1949. It would go on to be covered by plenty of crooners throughout the next few decades - my personal favourite is the more lush arrangement Burl Ives brought for the TV special we all know and love - but Gene Autry's version is credible enough... but beyond that, it's a solid kid's song and I get why it's a holiday standard, but it's not quite one of my favourites, to be honest. Still good, though.

30. 'On Me' by Meek Mill ft. Cardi B - so I'll admit I was looking forward to this collaboration, because not only did Cardi prove she could handle an intro as well as Meek could on her album this year with 'Get Up 10', but I thought their bluntness could compliment each other effectively... but the sad fact is that we're stuck with a rubbery groove from Bangladesh that's doesn't feel all that propulsive whatsoever and for as much as Meek is shouting, he's not exactly bringing much here's that's interesting beyond just wanting to get laid. And to be fair, it's not like Cardi B brings that much more, but she at least tries for some punchlines and it becomes clear she's got better structured bars and more charisma than Meek has. I'd argue she got him beat here, but if you want the biggest example of that...

20. 'What's Free' by Meek Mill ft. Rick Ross & Jay-Z - I'm almost at a loss of how to approach a song like this, so let's start with the fact that while it's audacious for them to flip Biggie's 'What's Beef', I was inclined to allow it providing the verses were good... and I think my biggest problem with this song is that for as promising as all the verses are, if you give them a bit of greater thought the song starts falling apart. I get Rick Ross' frustration for a lack of critical acclaim, because while I've given failing scores to two of his albums, he's gotten significantly better in the past few years... but then he takes a load of cheap shots at 6ix9ine, drops a homophobic slur as a punchline, and you're reminded that despite all his jabs, 6ix9ine seems to be rolling harder in these streets than Ross ever did. Then there's Meek's verse... honestly, it's fine enough, I liked it, and I like the message of reforming the system, although that it's coming with the patronage of billionaires raises some eyebrows. And then there's Jay-Z's verse... look, there's a complicated conversation surrounding Jay-Z's goals set more against the current president and Kanye, but for him to rail against gentrification and then to ignore his role in Barclays Center which many residents of Brooklyn protested would make gentrification worse, or for him to take potshots at Billboard hits when they found out you were faking TIDAL streams, especially given how EVERYTHING IS LOVE was marketed as 'The Carters' so when it didn't top the charts you wouldn't lose your Billboard streak, or when you actively start bragging you're living tax free given your billionaire status... yeah, I don't have a lot of patience for that. So yeah, it's not a bad song and I respect some of the intentions... but I seriously question those who are praising this to hell and back, just saying.

6. 'Going Bad' by Meek Mill ft. Drake - and the last of our songs... and while it's far from the worst, I'll definitely put it among the least that we got this week. Seriously, a badly-tuned piano line behind a trap clunker, entirely too much brand name bragging with an underwhelming hook from Drake and weak verses from the both of them... honestly, I'm not surprised that it charted this high thanks to the hype, but it's a reunion that'll be forgotten quickly. Mediocre at best, let's move on.

So that was this week... man, even cutting out a chunk of the album bomb this went long. Worst of the week is 'Global' by Lil Baby, easily, with Dishonourable Mention sliding to 'Calling My Spirit' by Kodak Black. Best of the week... you know, I wanted to give it to Meek, but he's getting Honourable Mention for 'Oodles O' Noodles Babies', while the best goes to Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus for 'Nothing Breaks Like A Heart' - believe me, I'm as surprised as anyone, a really great song and the sort of comeback that deserves to do well. Next week... the fallout from all of this, but who are we all kidding, it's going to be a bunch of posthumous XXXTENTACION, just goddamn wonderful...

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