Thursday, December 27, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 29, 2018

So look, I didn't expect this week to be that busy. We're in the middle of the holiday season, most people are settling and relaxing, and I didn't expect much activity within the Hot 100. Hell, I didn't even expect it to drop yesterday on Tuesday because normally they skip over holidays, but not only did it come out, but it was actually a pretty busy week... in a manner of speaking, because while some of this I predicted, any changes felt kind of blocky and misshapen all over, as if they weren't really supposed to happen... but did anyway.

And part of that revolves around the top 10, where, yes, 'thank u, next' by Ariana Grande still holds at #1 - and again, I'm not sure what challenges it. It's not quite dominant on sales or the radio, but it's got strong enough totals across streaming to hold its own against pretty much everyone, and if you want to see where that margin is most defined, look at 'Without Me' by Halsey at #2. It might be a sales leader and is marginally ahead of Ariana, but she lags in on-demand streaming, which keeps that song back. This places 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott in an awkward place, as it has stable streaming... but the sales aren't there and airplay was inconsistent all week, it's not rising above #3. And it's got real competition in the form of 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee continuing to ride the newest Spider-Man movie up to #4 across the board, although I will say radio seems a little slow here. Hell, it pushed back 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille to #5, but you could have seen that coming as it's down across the board, and right behind it was 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco, as it looks like the sales and radio traction hit a hard speed bump at #6. What surprised me is that 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' by Mariah Carey also took a hit in position down to #7 - great on-demand streaming, sure, but maybe just not enough elsewhere to keep up. Then we saw a small gain for 'ZEZE' by Kodak Black ft. Travis Scott and Offset to #8 - credit to the album doing well on streaming, I guess - and it actually overtook 'Drip Too Hard' by Lil Baby and Gunna at #9, even as its streaming starts to look shakier. Finally, re-entering the top ten for the first time in decades, we have 'It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year' by Andy Williams at #10 - hey, when the streaming is as good as it is, you can't be that surprised. 

Now that takes us to our losers and dropouts, and what might have contributed to the slightly busier week than you'd expect is that we did have some sizable songs leave the charts along with album bomb remains. 'broken' by lovelytheband, 'god is a woman' by Ariana Grande, 'Taste' by Tyga ft. Offset, 'Lie' by NF, and 'That's On Me' by Yella Beezy are all gone, and if you go to losers... well, most are as a result of album bombs fading away. From XXXTENTACION we had 'BAD!' fall to 52 and 'whoa (mind in awe)' go to 79, from 6ix9ine we had 'KIKA' with Tory Lanez fall to 76 and 'MAMA' with Kanye and Nicki Minaj go to 100, and with Meek Mill we had '24/7' with Ella Mai fall to 97 and 'Uptown Vibes' with Fabolous and Anuel AA fade to 98. The only other losers we had were 'Pure Cocaine' by Lil Baby at 70 - from what I can tell it was streaming losses - and 'Lost In Japan' by Shawn Mendes and Zedd falling hard off its gains to 83, which looks like sales that didn't have a lot of staying power.

But then we go to our gains and returning entries... and the key word here is scattered, because when we go to the latter category, the only Christmas song that came back was 'White Christmas' by Bing Crosby at 48. The rest are just songs that I never thought had much traction to begin with, like 'lovely' by Billie Eilish and Khalid at 89, or 'Electricity' by Silk City, Dua Lipa, Diplo and Mark Ronson at 93, or 'Millionaire' by Chris Stapleton at 95. And the gains are even more all over the place. For one, off the debut we had 'This Is It' by Scotty McCreery go up to 84, and off the return 'Beautiful Crazy' by Luke Combs rose to 81, but then we had a continued boost for 'No Stylist' by French Montana and Drake up to 73 - why, I have no idea. What's even weirder are the boosts for 'Ella Quiere Beber' by Anuel AA and Romeo Santos up to 80, or 'TAlk tO Me' by Tory Lanez and Rich The Kid to 61, but at least along the way we saw a big revival for 'Nothing Breaks Like A Heart' by Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus - it's a great song, I'm happy to see the sales boost put it at 56, let's just see if that radio traction holds up.

But here's where things get strange: we have thirteen new songs this week - and yet while there's a few from Kodak Black here, it's not all of them, which places this list in strange territory. Want proof? Let's start with...

91. 'Envy Me' by Calboy - ...I guess we might as well end out this year with another generally forgettable trap artist with slightly sloppy diction, a cheap trap beat, and a little too much autotune on the hook? Seriously, there's just not much to really say about a song like this, especially as it feels like I've heard so many of them - the content's underwhelming, the hook has no power, and I'm just stuck with a pretty forgettable song overall from this upcoming Chicago MC. And honestly, even though this is his breakthrough and I can see why folks will envy him for that at the very least, I can't see myself remembering or caring about this - next?

90. 'The Christmas Song' by Lauren Daigle - so look, I'll be the first to say I'm a little surprised that Lauren Daigle has stuck around as long as she has, and the Christmas single follow-up is a pretty obvious one. And I'll be honest, the more soulful take Daigle has with the song is pretty good - she's always had a good voice and the brushed cymbals playing off the organ and piano adds a pretty good soulful vibe... but just on the Hot 100 with versions of this song, she's stuck competing with Nat King Cole, and I just don't get the same sense of warmth or ready charisma. It's fine, it's pleasant enough, but I'm not hearing the follow-up to 'You Say' and its success coming with this, just saying.

88. 'Gnarly' by Kodak Black ft. Lil Pump - so we only have three Kodak Black songs to deal with here, and this is his crossover with Lil Pump. And... seriously, we are opening up with the song about how he's popping a Cialis and saying how he wants to get gnarly, what middle-aged burnout from the mid-90s wrote this? And yeah, it gets worse from there: Kodak outright lies to his girl saying he doesn't have money as he rhymes 'I ain't got it' three times with itself and references the 'Dutty Wine', a bad dance name that should have been left in the 2000s with Sean Paul, and then Lil Pump outright insults the girl he's screwing and says she's getting deported in between his flexing. Yeah, the levels of class and taste are just off the charts with this... sadly likely to be overlooked by a halfway decent wiry melody playing off the denser percussion. Still not quite enough to ignore how much these guys' dicks don't work, so let's move on.

87. 'Sweet But Psycho' by Ava Max - so it's a little weird that I'm talking about Ava Max here - she's normally the sort of pop act that is far bigger in Europe that I'd normally cover as a world hit if ever talking about her on the Hot 100, but here we are... and honestly, I've heard a lot of folks calling this bad, but I don't mind this. Yeah, it always heads into sketchy territory when the girl actively calls herself psycho and seems to be actively glorifying how this guy is attracted to it, but the solid low-end synth playing off the layered handclaps have potential and I like how Ava Max actually seems to have some charisma... at least until the trap breakdown on the bridge that kind of completely kills the momentum. But here's the thing: even if I don't quite have a full grasp on her personality just yet, this song is catchy enough to show if Ava Max gets some traction, this could be a hit - in other words, this could stick around, might as well be prepared for it.

74. 'Testimony' by Kodak Black - let it be known that in the year of our lord 2018, Kodak Black opened this song with a comparison that didn't even try to make sense... to demon semen. Honestly, that promises a far more potent song than this ugly dirge, with the hideous autotune on the hook and second verse, the percussion way too close to the front of the mix and Kodak Black continuing to prove how he's one of the least talented rappers working today as he barely even tries to stay close to the beat. Seriously, I'm not against rapping off-beat or flipping it up for a point, but Kodak's not trying to be weird, he's trying to warble through verses talking about being sent by God and people hate because God keeps blessing him and not for him 'not being able to help himself' as he tore off her clothes, bit her repeatedly, and raped a woman while she screamed for help in 2016 - but there I go quoting the court transcripts again! And yeah, I'm going to bring this up because the entire song is trying to frame him as a religious martyr even though on his second verse, he outright says he's shooting more people and then getting washed off with bleach by his friends so he can flex on Instagram. So, uh... well, I made a statement back in my worst hit songs list of 2017 that I didn't think he'd have a career, so I'll ask again, what's worth keeping around here in favour of any slew of artists who could use his promotion? Because right now, I'm not seeing it - and this is trash.

(no version on YouTube... huh)

68. 'Cozy Little Christmas' by Katy Perry - you know, it's not a good thing when I have the hope that a Katy Perry song will make me feel better - especially as since the disaster that was Witness it feels like it's been years since we got quality from Katy Perry, but she put out a Christmas song and... I'm really not wowed by it? Look, I've said in the past that modern Christmas pop songs just don't click with me - they're too plastic and chintzy - and when it's delivered by Katy Perry sticking in her lower register and highlighting just how little distinctive and attractive vocal flair she has against big brassy horns and sleigh bells that can't quite disguise how the brand names are clumsily shoved in... yeah, I know Katy's had a bad couple of years, but this isn't a return we needed. Next!

58. 'MoshPit' by Kodak Black ft. Juice WRLD - as a pairing it's almost too obvious, and between the rest of my videos or even just the first half of this one you know where I stand on them, so what did we get? Honestly... it's not terrible, mostly because I think Juice WRLD's verse is actually pretty decent in terms of punchlines, until he highlights how he's old enough to fuck your mom... yeah. But the real problem is that the song is just not remotely mosh-worthy, especially with Kodak whining about how people are bitter and how he's scared to jump out into a crowd. And pair it with pretty weak production and a bass that swamps out damn near everything... you know, I don't like Juice WRLD that much, but he's better than Kodak - if we have to have one of these guys, I'll take him instead.

50. 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' by Darlene Love - okay, the last six songs here are arguably being called Christmas songs and I want to blow through them pretty quickly, especially as I don't think we're dealing with the upper tier of songs here. This one... okay, Darlene Love has kind of slipped out of music history because her biggest success either came with The Crystals or on compilations from Phil Spector, where this song actually got its success. And... eh, I don't mind it, mostly thanks to Phil Spector's production, but if you didn't have a huge powerhouse behind the singer people tended to get bowled over by his walls of sound, and sadly Darlene Love just doesn't grab me in the same way no matter how hard she's trying. It's a fine enough song, but I personally prefer U2's version, that's all.

47. 'Wonderful Christmastime' by Paul McCartney - and now we've got two songs coming up from members of the Beatles, the first from my favourite Beatle, Paul McCartney... and I'll say it right now, it's easily one of his worst songs. This song originally came out in the late 70s which was a really bad time for Paul, and his attempt to embrace that flat blaring synth that's throwing up over everything against a blocky hook that never goddamn evolves - hell, even Paul sounds like he's phoning this in! Yeah, let's call it like it is, even despite the better covers, this is a bad song - it's stiff, the original mix is kitschy in the worst possible way, and the writing is utterly insipid - can it get worse? Well...

45. 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' by John & Yoko, The Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir - so look, I'm not one of the those guys who claims Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles - she probably didn't help matters, but I'd prefer the Beatles break up and move on than the string of phoned in or outright garbage albums that afflicted many 60s acts in the 70s - ask the Beach Boys. That said, a lot of music by John and Yoko is kind of hard to like if you're not a diehard fan, and this is coming from someone who respects what they did for avant-garde music and who is always surprised how much of John's solo music he actually likes. That said, I've never really liked this one - the inclusion of the Harlem Community Choir has always felt hamfisted, the song has always felt a bit out of John's natural range, and it's really hard to ignore the unsubtle political jabs - when you open the song with 'so this is Christmas, and what have you done', you kind of lose all of that populist spirit you need to inspire people! So yeah, this is a bit of a headache too, if I'm being brutally honest - if I want something that works a bit better...

42. 'It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas' by Perry Como & The Fontane Sisters - so as I've said before, there's a wealth of Christmas songs that charted before the Hot 100 ever was created, and given this first hit the charts in 1951, it's one of them - and it's also one I tend to like. Perry Como tends to be underrated when it comes to crooners of that era - mostly because, like Sinatra, he made it look so damn easy - but he plays off the The Fontane Sisters well and it helps that songwriter Meredith Wilson, who you might recognize for writing musicals like The Unsinkable Molly Brown and The Music Man, gave him a damn great song to work with. I like the production, I like the low-key charm of the harmonies, I like the easy chemistry of all of it, and I like how obviously indebted it is to the golden age of Hollywood musicals. So yeah, it's a standard - but if I want to highlight one I like a bit more...

41. '(There's No Place Like) Home For The Holidays' by Perry Como - and again, we have another hit that charted before the Billboard Hot 100, this time in 1954. And honestly, I like it for many of the same reasons I like the last song - Como's incredible low-key charisma and surprising range, the great harmonies, the golden age of musicals callbacks, it's just an incredibly charming song that perfectly captures the holiday mood for me. And while I can see why some might find the production switch-up midway through a little too zany, I like how it completes the vibe. In other words... yeah, it's old-fashioned, but for Christmas for me, it works.

24. 'Imagine' by Ariana Grande - okay, I was expecting from the title alone that we'd be getting Ariana Grande covering John Lennon's 'Imagine' and I was prepared to go on at length about my complicated feelings on that song and how some have recontextualized it as a Christmas song... but no, we have an original composition here! And apparently it's all about imagining a world where something could have worked with Mac Miller as a referencing his tattoos, more of a fantasy built off of willful denial on her part... and you know, that could work, even if the writing feels a little too willing to indulge in modern cliches with the drip and the 'skrrt'. But I think my bigger issue comes with the production - it feels leaden and clunky by letting the beats swamp the mix, there's no grace or subtlety to it, even if Ariana's vocals sound pretty with those whistle notes. But as a whole... sorry, like with 'thank u, next', this isn't doing it for me.

So that was this week... yeah, it was pretty bad, but what's more exasperating is that I generally don't like giving the best of the week to Christmas songs that'll be gone so damn fast or are holiday standards. But really, they're the best things here, as '(There's No Place Like) Home For The Holidays' by Perry Como will snag the best and Honourable Mention goes to 'It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas' with the Fontane Sisters. The worst... yeah, 'Testimony' by Kodak Black probably pisses me off the most because it's at least trying to be serious. But Dishonourable Mention is going to 'Wonderful Christmastime' by Paul McCartney, mostly because it's a bad song that's stuck around entirely too long and that synth work is atrocious from an artist who should know far better. Next week... hell, it's probably going to be 21 Savage plugging all the holes these Christmas songs will leave, so stay tuned for that.

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