Tuesday, January 15, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 19, 2019

...well, okay, I can't say I didn't predict this would happen. I knew that eventually the drought on mainstream album releases would start to impact the Hot 100 directly which would lead to a short week... but man, I didn't expect I'd be handed one of the slowest weeks in recent memory! Now I'm not complaining - gives me that much more time to get ahead on other work and plans, and, you know, take care of myself - but I will say it was a bit of a pleasant surprise. Less so when I saw the new arrivals, but sadly you have to take what you can get.

So, top 10 - and look, I won't say I exactly predicted this new #1 this week, but I did say it was likely: 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee. And really, given its strength across the board, it is credible here - it might lag a bit on the radio, but it's got the sort of momentum to ensure a pretty strong charting presence... although I would caution anyone saying that it'll stick around long, especially given how much I'd link its success to the legs of Into The Spider-Verse. What it means for now is that it overthrew 'Without Me' by Halsey down to #2, which is also consistently strong in every category and is doing even better on the radio... just not enough to compensate. Hell, you could say the same thing about 'thank u, next' by Ariana Grande down at #3, especially given its radio traction... except that its sales and streaming are both starting to slip, which isn't a good sign. And none of this seems to be good news for 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott at #4, which is still huge on streaming but radio showed a lot of inconsistencies. And on that topic, while 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco held its own at #5, the sales are slipping and that radio momentum seems to have finally run out - maybe not next week, but very soon I can see this taking a nose dive. Then there's 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille, which seems to have a slightly better streaming position, but it's also slipping on the radio and while it might last a bit longer, I still think this is on its way out. What should have been on the way out yesterday was 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B still at #7, but thanks to radio inertia and a bizarrely strong YouTube week, it's still here! Then we have 'Drip Too Hard' by Lil Baby and Gunna at #8 - good streaming, that's about it - but now we actually have a story with a new top ten entry that's long overdue: 'Eastside' by Benny Blanco, Khalid, and Halsey, a song that had a credible shot at my year-end list a few weeks back but got edged out by better songs. And even then I'm not sure this'll last in the top ten, as it was wavering in all categories... but hey, if the weakness of 'ZEZE' by Kodak Black ft. Offset and Travis Scott going to #10 on sales shortfalls and weak radio allowed it, I'll take it!

Now for the losers and dropouts... see, this is what happens when you have such a massive reset to equilibrium, there's just not much to really say about what we have here. Yeah, both 'Drunk Me' by Mitchell Tenpenny and 'Dangerous' by Meek Mill ft. PnB Rock and Jeremih both dropped out, but you could argue they both overstayed their welcome anyway. And for our losers... well, it's a variety of factors. The big returns for 'Smile (Living My Best Life)' by Lil Duval, Snoop Dogg and Ball Greezy, 'Dip' by Tyga and Nicki Minaj, and 'KIKA' by 6ix9ine ft. Tory Lanez were always going to be short-lived, as they fell to 78, 99, and 96 respectively. But Tory Lanez didn't have a good week as a whole, as the momentum of 'TAlk tO Me' with Rich The Kid evaporated down to 57, which I'd also argue happened to 'Lost In Japan' by Shawn Mendes and Zedd at 84. Then you have 'monster' by 21 Savage fading away after the album bomb to 90, and 'imagine' by Ariana Grande looking to a non-starter as a promotional single for whatever she's looking to drop - not all that surprising, to be honest.

But if we go to our gains and returning entries... look, there's nothing to say about 'Ruin My Life' by Zara Larsson rising to 76 off a good hook, and even less to say about 'Space Cadet' by Metro Boomin and Gunna returning to 83. And given that we only have four new songs for the Hot 100... okay, it's early in the year so Ideal Hit lists might run a little thin for now, but let's try this...

So the truth about Ideal Hit right now is that I've got slim pickings of songs that could have been hits in the mainstream this past week if given the right promotion. I mean, I could just plug in the newest Randy Houser single and call it a day, but they could well chart next week, so I'm going to be cautious and put up this remix instead. And the thing is, I kind of understand why this might not have caught traction as of yet: Alec Benjamin has been building traction just below the mainstream with mixtapes and work with Jon Bellion, but I'll admit to not being all that impressed by his timid, boyish vocals and restrained presentation. So when Alessia Cara hopped on a remix to bring her more expressive brand of vulnerability to the table it improved the song by a considerable margin... and even then I'd struggle to call it great. The more developed groove has some rollick, I really like how the backing vocals build off the swells of strings, and I like the irony in the hesitation from both partners in ending things - but at the same time, it's a shade short to really stick the landing and I think a bit more lyrical detail and bombast could have nailed the melodramatic contrast more effectively. And none of that gets around how Alessia Cara just has so much more presence than Alec Benjamin - that kid desperately needs to get some bass in his voice and fast. But hey, this is a good enough song - I'll take it.

But now - unfortunately - our new arrivals, starting with...

87. 'Valuable Pain' by YoungBoy Never Broke Again - folks, help me out here: why are we keeping this guy around? What does he add to the trap conversation besides one mostly distinctive hook on 'Outside Today'? His flow is mediocre and sloppy, he can barely stay on beat - especially here on the damn hook of all things which feels really misshapen - and that's before we get to the content that's trying - and failing - to fuse bargain-barrel post-breakup angst with lazy flexing and a murderous intent that feels more slapdash than usual - you'd think for as many of your brothers have died you wouldn't be so quick to instigate violence, even if you are going to do it 'from the heart'. I guess if I'm going to praise anything it'd be the R&B sample bouncing off the cheap trap snares, piano and harmonica, which actually sounds pretty lush and likable, but it's production that deserves a much better rapper riding it. So yeah, mediocre, and on that topic...

81. 'Butterfly Doors' by Lil Pump - speaking of artists who seem to be running out the clock on relevance, we've got Lil Pump... and seriously, even after the controversy where Lil Pump had to yank the caricatured Asian ad-lib and partially censor the hook, this is still charting? With a flattened, offkey synth and an overweight trap beat, I'd probably have thrown this to the curve on mediocre production alone, but when you factor in the controversy and the flexing that feels increasingly hollow as he switches from a weak Migos impression to an even weaker Gucci Mane impression, this is utterly disposable and barely worth its two minute runtime - next!

46. 'Crushed Up' by Future - so I'll say it: I've got a bad feeling about this next Future album. Yeah, folks are predicting he'll get an album bomb off of streams and a lack of real competition, but between his one-dimensional nihilistic flexing and just how many projects he's flooded the market with in recent years, if he doesn't have a smash like 'Mask Off' coming off of this album he's in real trouble. That said, this is his lead-off single... and yeah, my concerns haven't been settled, because this is pretty mediocre. Yeah, the production has some twinkling density and Future is avoiding his horrible crooning, but we still have to deal with that flat blaring synth that adds nothing to the mix and luxury porn content that's utterly forgettable. More to the point, it's derivative of other luxury rap Future has put out before, and if this is what he thinks will get his hive onboard... yeah, The WIZRD might be in for a rough time ahead.

35. 'Undecided' by Chris Brown - you know, in the aftermath of Surviving R. Kelly, I had to look away from just him and see the other abusers enabled by the music industry - and with Chris Brown I didn't have to look far! And it feels like we've had this conversation every other year whenever Chris Brown decides to release new music and it has never seemed to stick despite his unrepentant ass continuing to rack up indictments and restraining orders. And even now I'm seeing the response of 'well, the past is the past, the music is still good' - but that's the thing, the music has never been that good, certainly not good enough to excuse this, if that's even a thing! Those of you who are only now feeling the tainted rancor of R. Kelly's catalog have to realize I've felt that for Chris Brown for a solid decade, but when it comes to pure talent R. Kelly could at least construct albums of musical quality if you never knew the context of what he did. Whereas between Grafitti, Fortune, and Heartbreak On A Full Moon Chris Brown has three albums I could credibly describe as terrible, and it wouldn't be hard for me to throw Fan Of A Fan, F.A.M.E., and X into that pile as well. And yet since #TeamBreezy will not stop enabling abusers and have apparently gotten better at gaming the streaming algorithm since 2017, we have 'Undecided', which takes a very recognizable Shanice sample for its pan flutes and plays it for a song where he's deliberating whether he wants to get serious with this girl with all the underwhelming emotion grainy Autotune can provide. And here's the thing: there's only two reasons why this has any appeal: the sample of 'I Like Your Smile' by Shanice, which Chris Brown doesn't elevate through his performance, and the audience who wants to play wish fulfillment about being the one Chris Brown contemplates wifing, and since I don't care for either... no, I'm not supporting this.

And with that acknowledged... god, there's so little to pick from, folks, I'm sorry. So while I cannot endorse the slapdash rapping by any extent, I'm giving the best to 'Valuable Pain' by YoungBoy Never Broke Again for good production, that's it. For the worst... yeah, Lil Pump gets this one, mostly because 'Butterfly Doors' feels like the sort of abortive disaster that could well deal more damage to his career than he expected, and I don't see it being a hit. Next week... let's hope for Randy Houser, I guess.

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