Wednesday, January 9, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 12, 2019

So this is one of those weeks on Billboard BREAKDOWN that can be draining to talk about, mostly because it's easy but time-consuming to explain at length. To put it simply, if you look at the Hot 100 a full half of it advanced ten positions or more, we have a ton of returning entries, and a full slate of fourteen new arrivals - and no, there wasn't an album bomb. No, as I said, I can explain this fairly easily: along with the album bomb from 21 Savage drying up, all the Christmas music exited the chart and a lot of older music this week picked up radio spins thanks to year-end countdowns, and given that there was no big releases to plug in the gap, the flood of music to replace it is all over the damn place and really shows no indication of what could last long term.

And on top of that, in what will seem like to many the biggest story, we've got a new #1: 'Without Me' by Halsey. And look, I get why it's here: it's consistently strong across the board although never quite dominant in any category, and its momentum doesn't seem to be slowing down... shame that it's terrible! Yeah, increased exposure to Halsey's dreck hasn't made it any better, as I think she's somehow hit the sweet spot of actually justifying a criticism often made at the expense of Taylor Swift: strip-mining personal drama for points regardless of self-awareness, and with limited charisma and vocal chops to boot! I didn't even like 'thank u, next' by Ariana Grande that much, which fell off to #2 this week on sales and not enough radio gains despite stronger streaming, but I'd take it over this. Now what'll likely have a bigger shot for the next #1 is 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee up to #3, which is dominant on sales with big streams and real radio traction, and given how well the new Spider-Man movie is doing in awards season, it could well make a play here. Hell, it jumped over 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott holding at #4, which might still be dominant on streaming but spent the week wavering on the radio and lost sales, it could likely be on the way out. Then at #5, defying all my expectations, 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco picked up a slot on solid sales and radio that just will not die - and along those exact lines except just slightly behind, 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille rose to #6. But of course, since Christmas songs are gone something has to rise to replace them in the top 10, so we got the entirely unwelcome return of 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B at #7, mostly due to a tremendous second wind on the radio that only started to sputter out by the end of the week - I don't expect it to last, and thank god for that. And really, the last three songs are also returns to the top 10 that we probably could have left behind in 2018, mostly thanks to streaming: 'Drip Too Hard' by Lil Baby and Gunna up to #8, 'ZEZE' by Kodak Black ft. Offset and Travis Scott up to #9, and riding its dying airplay we have 'Better Now' by Post Malone at #10 - and really, as soon as we get any real competition, all of this will be gone, and for good riddance.

But really, the top 10 isn't the big story this week - nope, we need to look at our gains and returning entries. We can knock out losses and dropouts fast - it's all Christmas music and 21 Savage, with the only real loss for him of significance coming with 'All My Friends' down to 97 - but with the rest... okay, let's get the returning entries out of the way first, most of which I don't expect will last in the face of the next album bomb, but we'll see where things go. So... 'ocean eyes' by Billie Eilish is back at 99, 'whoa (mind in awe)' by XXXTENTACION hit 96, 'Lucky You' by Eminem ft. Joyner Lucas somehow is back at 94 - awesome - 'Good Form' by Nicki Minaj ft. Lil Wayne rose to 89, 'Dip' by Nicki and Tyga hit 88, 'Nuketown' by Ski Mask The Slump God and Juice WRLD crashed back at 85, 'KIKA' by 6ix9ine and Tory Lanez is back at 84 - WHY! - 'Close Friends' by Lil Baby returned to 81, 'Blue Tacoma' by Russell Dickerson hit 79 - seriously, we couldn't have left this guy in 2018 too! - 'YOSEMITE' by Travis Scott hit 77 - again, why - 'Pure Cocaine' by Lil Baby slid back at 72, 'Millionaire' by Chris Stapleton surged to 69 - huh, did not see that coming - 'Smile (Living My Best Life)' by Lil Duval, Snoop Dogg and Ball Greezy came back to 67, and finally, 'Electricity' by Silk City, Dua Lipa, Diplo and Mark Ronson made a big return to 62.

And now, the gains... folks, there are fifty of them, I could save time by listing all the songs that didn't gain, but I do want to set the scene from where we're going now, so let's rattle through these! Let's start with gains off the debuts from last week, where we did see 'Wow.' by Post Malone rise to 13 - told you it'd be a hit - but also 'Swervin' by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and 6ix9ine rise to 38. And on the topic of A Boogie, he also saw a continued gain for 'Look Back At It' up to 54 - wish that song actually said something interesting, really. Then all the gains we saw off of so many losers last week: 'Fine China' by Juice WRLD and Future to 74, 'Lost In Japan' by Shawn Mendes and Zedd up to 71, 'Ella Quiere Beber' by Anuel AA and Romeo Santos to 64, 'No Stylist' by French Montana and Drake to 60, 'You' by Jacquees to 59, 'Calling My Spirit' by Kodak Black to 58, 'This Is It' by Scotty McCreery making huge gains to 57, 'Armed And Dangerous' by Juice WRLD rebounding to 56, and 'Arms Around You' by XXXTENTACION, Lil Pump, Maluma and Swae Lee to 55. And then we had 'Last Shot' by Kip Moore to 53, 'Girl Like You' by Jason Aldean to 52, 'This Feeling' by The Chainsmokers and Kelsea Ballerini to 50, 'Nothing Breaks Like A Heart' by Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus to 49 - it's got radio traction, PLEASE make this a hit - 'Good Girl' by Dustin Lynch surging to 47 - ugh - 'Burning Man' by Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osborne to 45, 'TAlk tO Me' by Tory Lanez and Rich The Kid up to 43, 'Sixteen' by Thomas Rhett to 42, 'Drunk Me' by Mitchell Tenpenny to 39 - yuck - 'Better' by Khalid up to 30, 'Beautiful' by Bazzi ft. Camila Cabello up to 28, 'Love Lies' by Normani and Khalid at 27, and finally 'Going Bad' by Meek Mill and Drake hit 21. But we're still not done here, as 'lovely' by Billie Eilish and Khalid rose to 73, 'when the party's over' by Billie Eilish rose up to 68 - please make this her year - 'Envy Me' by Calboy rose to 66, 'Consequences' by Camila Cabello went to 51, 'Beautiful Crazy' by Luke Combs spiked to 48, ''Dangerous' by Meek Mill, PnB Rock and Jeremih rose to 46, 'Backin' It Up' by Pardison Fontaine and Cardi B bumped to 46, 'Sweet But Psycho' by Ava Max surged to 41 - this'll be a hit, folks, put money on it - 'Be Alright' by Dean Lewis rose 40, and 'Best Shot' by Jimmie Allen rose to 37. Then 'Uproar' by Lil Wayne hit 35, 'You Say' by Lauren Daigle spiked to 34, 'Close To Me' by Ellie Goulding, Diplo and Swae Lee rose to 33, 'She Got The Best Of Me' by Luke Combs moved to 31 - good week for him here too - 'I Like It' by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J. Balvin rebounded to 26, 'Natural' by Imagine Dragons hit 25, and 'Speechless' by Dan + Shay hit 24. And then 'Trip' by Ella Mai stumbled up to 23, 'Leave Me Alone' by Flipp Dinero hit 22, 'MIA' by Bad Bunny and Drake rose to 20 - he might have gotten some of the album boost, but more on that later - 'Taki Taki' by DJ Snake ft. Selena Gomez, Ozuna and Cardi B rose to 19, 'Youngblood' by 5 Seconds Of Summer hit 14, 'Eastside' by Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid spiked to 11, I've already talked about 'Better Now', and finally, 'Shallow' by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper rose to 29 - and honestly, I'd love to see this stick around just long enough to become a hit, can we make that happen?

But now, we've got fourteen new arrivals - well, really thirteen songs and one... thing that we'll have to address appropriately. But before we get to that...

100. 'idontwannabeyouanymore' by Billie Eilish - so if you've noticed a trend in the past few months of Billboard BREAKDOWN, it's that I've become a pretty big booster for Billie Eilish, and I'm going to be paying a lot of attention to how this debut album rolls out. In the mean time, we're getting yet another old single from her 2017 EP, and... honestly, while I like this, it has the same problem as older Billie Eilish songs have in that while it sounds well-composed and layered and fairly well-written in an exploration of her insecurities with a prominent Lana Del Rey influence in the 3/4 cadence and her cooing delivery, it just doesn't have that unstable, glassy bite that gives her newest songs real cutting power. Definitely a good song, for sure, and definitely the right sort of track that'll convince label executives to throw piles of money behind her development... but it's not quite one of my favourites. Still good, though.

98. 'Make It Sweet' by Old Dominion - so look, when I first covered the breakthrough of Old Dominion years back, I couldn't stand this band. Sure, they could write a hook, but the lyrics and production stank to high heavens and while they've been steadily getting better, I've yet to be all that impressed. And then we get this... well, I'll say this, the production has gotten markedly better since their first two albums and that bouncy, more organic groove playing off the prominent guitar lines and produced by Shane McAnally is exactly the right sort of pivot for this band... but I dunno, something's not quite clicking with this for me. For one, the lyrics still feel overwritten and yet increasingly empty beyond, 'hey, don't waste your time, let's just make out', but I think the problem might lie more with frontman Matthew Ramsey, in that he's a serviceable singer... but just doesn't have that same sort of magnetism to match the brighter production and hook. You need a lot of natural warmth and charisma to make such airheaded songs rise to quality, and I'm not sure I'm getting that here. Still, the band is continuing to improve... I'll keep listening.

95. 'Roses' by Benny Blanco & Juice WRLD ft. Brendon Urie - the response I've seen among my peers to this song seems to be universal mockery - I mean, who the hell told Brendon Urie it would be a good idea to team up with Benny Blanco and Juice WRLD, that just seems like a wrongheaded decision in every possible direction! Granted, Benny Blanco did manage to put together quality with 'Eastside', so I did want to give this a chance... and that was a mistake. First off, if Benny Blanco thought it was a good idea to swamp out the bass that badly, he was wrong, especially against the weak melody and cheap trap percussion, and for another, who the hell thinks Juice WRLD and Brendon Urie have chemistry here? The best way I can describe Urie's performance - which Blanco seems to swamp out for no good reason - is phoned in, which means the biggest personality becomes Juice WRLD on another gross breakup song filled either with cliches or lines that undercut the entire song. If you're so brokenhearted, why are you bragging about getting head in the second line of your verse or saying you want this new girl to 'pop it like a zit' - gross! Again, I'm not pulling back on this kid having a lot of ugly and gross attitudes about women expressed in a really slapdash way, and the fact that Urie felt this was worth his time... no, this is trash in every way, let's move on.

93. 'Solo de Mi' by Bad Bunny - so I mentioned that Bad Bunny may have gotten a boost thanks to his album dropping around the holidays, which also happens to be getting suspiciously good reviews. So I'll admit a bit of cautious optimism going into this... and I'll give him a bit of credit for having a bit more going on with this song, with the more restrained opening hooks and verse playing off the muted pianos before doing a sharp transition into a sharper, clinking reggaeton trap vibe, showing a progression of a breakup from melancholic regret to contempt and anger. The big problem is that Bad Bunny might be one of the least likable reggaeton acts in his content I've ever covered on this show, and between the sullen finger-pointing of his first verse and how he says he'll shit on the mother that bore you on the second... look, I could be wrong with the translation, but even from a position of a sullen breakup, this just looks ugly as hell! So yeah, I see what this song was at least trying, but I can't vibe to this - next!

92. 'Burn Out' by Midland - so do any of you remember that lengthy Special Comment I made surrounding Midland way back in 2017 and how it seemed like their buzz evaporated not long after? Look, I can't claim any responsibility for that, but it is a little surprising that they notched another single here, especially as it's from that 2017 album! But hey, as a country group their production approach was at least going in the right direction, so how is this? Honestly, as a country song I'm inclined to like this - it's got the feel of a mid-90s neotraditional cut with plentiful pedal steel sinking into the drained exhaustion of getting strung along in a relationship with a lot of cigarettes and alcohol... but it doesn't really seem to take the next step to really click more. And hell, that might be my continuous issue with Midland as a whole - pretty likable in tone and texture, but not much meat beneath it, and if this was playing twenty five years ago instead of now, I'm not sure anyone in country would be praising it. Still, it's likable enough - neotraditional country is something I gravitate towards, so I guess if this sticks around for a bit, I wouldn't complain.

91. 'Here Tonight' by Brett Young - so honest question: did anyone really notice that Brett Young put out his second album about a month back? I don't say that to be snide, as this guy has had some respectable hits, but the buzz seemed pretty muted and even though I had reason to hope that 'Here Tonight' would be decent - it was cowritten by Charles Kelley, for god's sake - I didn't expect much. And sadly I don't think I got all that much here, especially lyrically as a pretty by-the-numbers love song. I guess the hook has some solid enough rollick and when the choppier acoustic guitars come in on the back half of the hook I can't complain much - at least most of the percussion feels organic - but it also sounds way flimsier than it should and those backing vocals don't match well with Brett Young at all. But I think the larger problem is that without the warmer, organic tones backing Brett Young's vocals, there's very little to distinguish his husky tone from the rest of the mainstream Nashville dudes - yeah, he's got a bit more organic groove, but beyond that there's just not much to this, and I honestly think Charles Kelley could have at least made this feel a bit more distinctive. As it is... eh, not bad, but pretty forgettable.

87. 'Body' by Loud Luxury ft. Brando - well, sure as hell didn't expect to see this on the Hot 100. I'm going to keep this short as long-time followers of Billboard BREAKDOWN probably remember me talking about this song as a World Hit about three months ago with a distinctive Canadian flavor in its lyrics and piano-driven, honking EDM bounce - and keep in mind it was huge up here - but I will admit there's not quite enough to really make it stand out beyond that, especially given how clipped it can feel. But hey, I can still groove to it - decent tune, I dig it.

86. 'Ruin My Life' by Zara Larsson - you know, it's funny, I've been stuck on the side of defending Zara Larsson more often than not - mostly because her debut album was great and definitely underrated, and she's had a string of singles and collaborations in recent years that I like a fair bit like 'Never Forget You' and 'Lush Life' and 'Symphony'. But she's struggled to pick up traction stateside and this leadoff single is her newest attempt to get there... and man, I hope this doesn't catch on. Look, the biggest problem with Zara Larsson's writing is a lack of restraint in the right places, and maybe it's a bad thing to frame wanting to go back to an old flame as 'ruining her life', especially when the entire song is playing it very straight. It's the same damn issue I had with 'Ain't My Fault' in how it can feel oversold, a frustrating sentiment when on a compositional level, I actually like most of this. The trap elements on the hook are well-integrated, the wispy guitar touches add good texture, and I like the melody - this song is impressively catchy. Shame it's not put to a better-executed sentiment, which holds back a song that should be better.

83. 'Love Wins' by Carrie Underwood - well, about time this hit the Hot 100! And me expressing that sentiment might be surprising because I was really hard on Carrie Underwood's last album, but there were good songs there and this is one of them - mostly, as it's hard to avoid the feeling this is the sort of Christian-inflected pop country that can toe the line of being hard to take seriously. Seriously, Carrie, you're bringing out one of your best hooks in recent years complete with a full backing choir and some real sweeping power for a 'give peace a chance' message because you believe love wins in the end, even as on the opening verse you're referencing school shootings? It just feels really damn trite, completely unable or unwilling to grapple with a root cause in favor of overblown sentiments that can't help but ring a little hollow coming in recent years. I mean, if you're looking for big, swelling anthems Carrie Underwood can certainly deliver that, but let's not pretend that this is saying anything meaningful on any of the subjects it's approaching, that's all I'm saying.

82. 'Love Someone' by Lukas Graham - ...well, I didn't expect this guy to be making a comeback anytime soon? For those of you who've forgotten, Lukas Graham was the singer-songwriter behind the song '7 Years' from 2016 that I mostly liked - I went back to it and I still mostly do - but pretty much nobody else did, and if you went back into his band's album... look, it didn't get better than that, especially when Ed Sheeran made 'Castle On The Hill' and basically replaced '7 Years' altogether. He also seemed like the sort of singer-songwriter who wouldn't have much staying power - not from an American market, and with songwriting that could hit bizarre notes that might have gotten traction ten years ago but certainly not now. And yet he and his self-titled band are back with this... and look, the biggest issue with Lukas Graham is his sense of egotism, which could play into the bombast of '7 Years' but absolutely does not work here, which is a song directed at his girlfriend and mother of his child, but then flips to look at the audience and says 'if you're not afraid to lose them, you probably never loved someone like I do'. I mean, I get the sentiment but god, man, talk about a jarring flip in the mood that's trying to be intimate and sensitive! And that's where the song really doesn't work - not only are the vocals oversold and can get really shrill, but with the cheap clunky percussion and thin guitarwork it has the underweight, sterile feel of a Shawn Mendes reject. Yeah, not a good sign - I get why this took so long to chart, and I have no need to see it stick around.

80. 'Down To The Honkytonk' by Jake Owen - look, I'm trying to be supportive of Jake Owen here - the guy has more charisma than pretty much everyone else in his subgenre of country and while that flip of 'Jack & Diane' tested everyone's patience, I was still mostly on-board... even though I probably shouldn't have been. But now we have this and... look, there's a limit to how annoyed I can be with this, because this is the definition of lightweight and goofy, and Jake Owen is more committed to loose organic groove and prominent pedal steel than more, even if the bridge slips in some drum machines when it doesn't need to - I see what you're doing, Joey Moi, the song is already overmixed, exercise some restraint for once in your career! But look, beyond that, there's some hilarious goofball detail for a song that is the definition of low stakes, and for as doofy as it can feel, I can't complain much about it. Impressive likability keeps this passable, but I don't see this being the jumpstart Jake Owen's been searching for the past few singles - not a good sign.

76. 'What Makes You Country' by Luke Bryan - so I'll make this very clear; I've never liked this song. I didn't like the album, and this song was one of the reasons why: I didn't like the weird defensive stiffness in the groove, I didn't like how Luke Bryan was trying to define what country 'is' by relying so heavily on clunky checklist bro-country songwriting that even in 2017 was sounding stale, and I really didn't like the utter failure of self-awareness that it was Luke Bryan and his ilk that helped propel the beat-driven meat-headed monogenre gunk that's currently clogging up Nashville. And so just over a year later... yeah, nothing's changed, this is still mediocre at best, and even if Luke Bryan manages to smuggle in another hit with this, I can't support it. You know goddamn well what country is, Luke Bryan - why don't you come back when you've made some?

75. 'Take It From Me' by Jordan Davis - but on the flip side, if we're going to be stuck with this instead... look, I thought we as a society had left Jordan Davis and 'Singles You Up' in 2018, an impressively irritating trap-country fusion that also had the gall to assert someone was 'too city' and that it wasn't him! So I expected this to suck - and yeah, for the most it really does! For one, Jordan Davis is trying to marry the limp vocal presence of Walker Hayes with the over-synthesized groove of Chris Lane with nothing close to organic percussion or a good groove, with entirely too much in the way of gurgling synth accents and oily vocal production off a choppy guitar line - it sounds like a Chase Rice song more than anything, and when was the last time you heard that! This doesn't even sound like the Nashville songwriting machine in 2019, it sounds like a bad Disney channel pop knockoff from 2013! I guess the only thing I can positive is that the lyrics are bland and not totally grating, but because they're so nondescript you wind up focusing on the godawful production! Make no mistake, this is exactly the sort of pop "country" playlist bait that could blow up in 2019 and the fact it debuted this high is the warning shot, so if we don't want to see 'Meant To Be' again but sounding worse on every level, we should shut this shit down.

32. 'Baby Shark' by Pinkfong - I guess we're doing this? We're doing this now instead of three years ago? Fine, if this is going to become a thing, might as well do it right. SO, as all of you undoubtedly know thanks to your vigorous consumption of children's content, 'Baby Shark' was a song first uploaded in February of 2016 on the Pinkfong channel on YouTube, where thanks to the algorithm it accrued billions of views and became the sort of - pardon the slander - monstrously catchy meme that only YouTube Kids can generate. And much attention should be paid to the meme's illustrious pedigree, given the opening chords of the song owe a great deal to Jaws before shifting into a bouncy tune, and Jaws has been a meme staple for the needing of boats and the bigger thereof. But what's truly alarming about this meme's breakthrough is Billboard suddenly deciding that this is actually a song worth placing on the Hot 100, and thanks to an uncommonly good sales week, 'Baby Shark' has hatched into the top 40, a spread of new, verdant wildlife that doesn't shy away from the culturally relevant importance of strong family dynamics and rampant bloodshed. And yet while I must give 'Baby Shark' its acclaim as a meme that has held the test of time, highlighting their vaunted prehistoric beasts in the vein of dinosaur yeets and Spongar, I must be highly critical of Billboard's failure to recognize this in a more timely fashion - or to put it bluntly, it's been three goddamn years why in the Nine Hells has this meme not died I thought YouTube Rewind thoroughly euthanized and aborted this thing... But nevertheless, let's rate this thing! Five points for being a good animal meme, five more points for featuring five marine animals, one hundred and sixty two points for each enunciation of the word 'doo' and eighty one humour points for having eighty one distinctive 'doo doo' pairs, as a 'doo' should always be rightly paired with another 'doo' - you know, as you do. However, I must subtract twenty-eight points for each of the twenty-eight percent of shark species at risk of extinction, and then another two hundred points because of YouTube Rewind contamination - need to shut that shit down - and then a further twenty because at this point, the meme is stale or at the very least out of date. That said, this is a meme that can extend both forward and backwards in time, so I do say it is a semi-quality meme that remains catchy as sin, even if I hear it playing again I may strangle all those children I do not have-

And that was this week! A surprising amount of junk here, but really it's hard to deny that anything besides 'Roses' by Benny Blanco, Juice WRLD, and Brendon Urie is the worst, although with Dishonourable Mention going to 'Take It From Me' by Jordan Davis. Now for the best... you know, I'd prefer not to keep giving this to Billie Eilish, but 'idontwannabeyouanymore' really is the best thing here, with Honourable Mention... I'm going to make it a tie between 'Burn Out' by Midland for being pretty uniformly solid but not great, and 'Love Wins' by Carrie Underwood for annoying me with its lyrical content but having a truly great hook. Next week, let's see how much of this actually sticks around.

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