Tuesday, February 26, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 2, 2019

...so okay, I was wrong. I made the assumption that given its heavy reliance on streaming I expected Ariana Grande to suffer some major losses... and while nearly every song lost by a considerable margin, she didn't actually have any dropouts this week. And yet beyond that, this week did seem to go through a pretty standard rotation, and given what they turned out to be, it implies that Ariana didn't exactly see huge competition this week and may be in more dicey territory when we get impact from Lil Pump, Gunna, and especially Offset next week - again, we'll see.

But in the mean time, she's still a major factor in the top 10, so let's start with that and how for another week '7 rings' by Ariana Grande is squatting at #1... and it's not really a surprise. Huge radio momentum, a good sales week, still dominant on streaming, as of now as much as I don't want to admit it, I'm not sure I'm seeing the competition to take it out, at least not soon. I certainly don't see 'Without Me' by Halsey rising to #2 being a credible challenger - radio finally stalled out and streaming and sales are starting to dip, and I'd probably still put more money on 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee rising to #3, because while radio and sales are weaker, it's got a bit more streaming momentum on aggregate. Hell, they both went past 'thank u, next' by Ariana Grande, which slipped to #4 as streaming and radio have started to drop hard - but what I can see being a real competitor is our new debut in the top #5: 'Please Me' by Cardi B and Bruno Mars at #5. Now I'll be talking about the song more later on, but with huge sales and some frankly absurd radio growth - mostly because it seems like radio has decided 'Finesse' part 2 is a really safe bet - I do see this holding up... even if streaming looks a fair bit lower than it should be, which might imply more industry hype than natural groundswell. Then we have 'Happier' by Bastille and Marshmello at #6 - I keep predicting this'll fall off but while it is losing everywhere it's just not losing as fast as 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott at #7, which might have better streams but is falling a fair bit faster on the radio. Then off its big debut last week we have 'break up with your girlfriend, i'm bored' by Ariana Grande tumbling to #8 - to be expected, because even despite huge YouTube the sales and streaming are slipping and the radio is not nearly getting onboard as fast. Finally we've got 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco still somehow clinging to its radio peak as it falls to #9, and 'Wow.' by Post Malone narrowing the margins on radio and sales, but just not having the streaming it needs so it fell to #10.

So now we have the story of our losers and dropouts - and again, I think the interesting story here is that Ariana wasn't in the latter category. Instead, we saw long-running cuts fizzle out like 'Uproar' by Lil Wayne, 'Burning Man' by Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osborne, 'You' by Jacquees, and 'TAlk tO Me' by Rich The Kid and Tory Lanez - shame, I thought Wayne would have more traction with that one. Now make no mistake, Ariana Grande did take hits with a lot of songs this week: 'NASA' went to 46, 'needy' fell to 48, 'bloodline' slid to 53, 'bad idea' dropped to 55, 'fake smile' faded to 57, 'imagine' dropped to 58, 'ghostin' faded to 62, 'in my head' fell to 74, and 'make up' faded to 95. Outside of that... look, I'm not going to complain that 'Who Do You Love' by The Chainsmokers and 5 Seconds Of Summer went to 85 off the debut, 'Good Girl' by Dustin Lynch continued down to 97, 'Make It Sweet' by Old Dominion fell to 96, and 'Arms Around You' by XXXTENTACION, Lil Pump, Maluma and Swae Lee fell to 98. The only one I'm a little dispirited about is 'when the party's over' by Billie Eilish going to 88, but it looks like 'bury a friend' is holding steady, so I'll take what I can get.

Now given we didn't have any returning entries this week, let's consider our gains... but given that Ariana Grande didn't suffer the cataclysmic drops I was expecting, there are fewer rebounds than I expected. Of course the big story is how 'Murder On My Mind' by YNW Melly surged up to 14 - unfortunately taking 'Mixed Personalities' with Kanye up to 60 along the way - but in the margins there are some surprises here. For one, even though Kehlani's got a new album coming I am surprised she's got enough presence to get 'Nights Like This' with Ty Dolla $ign to rebound to 72, or that anyone gave a shit enough for 'Be Alright' by Dean Lewis to have it rise to 30! And along the list of surprises, I certainly didn't expect 'Beautiful Crazy' by Luke Combs to surge to 23, or 'What Makes You Country' by Luke Bryan to pick up to 54, or 'Here Tonight' by Brett Young to leap to 67 or even 'Miss Me More' by Kelsea Ballerini rise to 81 - not the only shifts in country to make moves this week, but we'll get to those. Outside of that... eh, 'I Like It' by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J. Balvin rose to 33 and 'Baby Shark' by Pinkfong went to 38 - yes, it's back in your head for the next day or so, you're welcome.

But where things get a bit messier come in our new arrivals, starting with...

100. 'One That Got Away' by Michael Ray - so let me get this straight: Nashville radio decided instead of pushing Kacey Musgraves off the strength of winning album of the year for all genres, they send this out instead? Now if you forgot Michael Ray existed... well, congratulations, so did everywhere else, but he actually had a single break through back in 2015 that I covered on this show. Nobody cared about it then, and nobody will care about this now. Cheap fake percussion, a gutless groove, filmy guitars, weird tacked on synth effects that don't match the overdubs cribbed from Old Dominion, and while we're on that topic, the lyrics grabbing up song references are something Old Dominion a few years ago as well! But really, how Michael Ray seemed to double down on the 'women as trophies' comparison is sleazy in a way that doesn't remotely match the production - he says she's going to be 'decorating' his car! And all of this for a song where it's very clear he's not going to be holding onto this girl for long with a lot of skeevy metaphors - maybe things have changed, but I thought you actually got to keep the trophies! So yeah, this sucks - next!

91. 'There Was This Girl' by Riley Green - so let's move on to the country artist I've never heard of. Apparently Riley Green was a contestant on CMT's Redneck Island, and after some self-released projects touted for more of a neotraditional sound, he signed to Big Machine. And it appears a fair amount of that has gone out the window, as this sounds like a tune cribbing from what Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan were making before the bro-country wave with the chunky guitars and little coherent groove... but I will say it's markedly better than whatever Michael Ray shat out, even if I do find the production a little underweight and underwhelming, which I'd also say about his vocals. If there's anything I'd give any credit, it might come with the writing: yeah, it's a similar arc that goes from going wild to performing to getting married and settling down, but the framing of the hook is that there's a different girl in each scene dragging him along the way that's got a certain charm to it. In other words... no, it wasn't worth pushing Kacey off the Hot 100, but it's at least passable - I'll take it.

87. 'Worth It' by YK Osiris - switching from country artist I've never heard of to a trap act I've never heard of... and to my surprise, this is actually pretty solid! Yeah, it's pretty disposable - he's a new Def Jam signee who blew up off Instagram videos and you can tell they weren't giving him much to work with, given the cheap rattling trap beat sounds pretty rickety and we're only getting a single verse. But YK Osiris has a bite and force to his delivery that I can definitely groove with and his choice to tack on a guitar solo to flesh out the song is the sort of move I'm honestly stunned more trap acts haven't tried - hell, why hasn't Post Malone done it, it would be obvious coming from him! In a strange way he kind of reminds me a bit of Fetty Wap in having a solid melodic sensibility and keeping his hustle for this girl relatively clean. Let's hope his career actually holds more than Fetty Wap, because I'm digging this - check it out!

86. '365' by Zedd & Katy Perry - honest question: who the hell is managing Katy Perry right now? I get that after the disaster that was Witness she needed to think outside the box to find a new lane, but Zedd is the sort of producer who eats the voices of his singers alive, rarely flattering them in a way that Katy Perry needed in the best of times. And with this... okay, I want to give her a bit of credit, the vocal melody she's working with is actually pretty decent and when we get the spare keyboards leading into the very gentle bounce of the hook, it's not bad - yeah, her voice is so obviously manipulated that it's tough to see much personality she's bringing, but I can hear the appeal. But how much is Zedd going to recycle that ticking clock, or really highlight how much his production is pulling from his competition - in this case, I can't be the only one who thinks that Diplo or Skrillex could have made this same production more interesting three years ago, right? As for the content... man, this feels thin, the sort of love song so infatuated with the concept of time that you'd think there's be some sort of punchline on how fleeting it all feels, and that never happens. Eh, from the looks of things not even many Katy Perry fans were onboard with this one - just kind of forgettable - but if we want to head into an area where quality evaporates...

84. 'Eyes On You' by Chase Rice - let me make this clear: I've known this was coming for some time. Ever since he rode the very bottom of the bro-country wave to very minor success in 2014, I knew Chase Rice would finding whatever possible opportunity to make a comeback, and here we are: a single from his 2017 album that nobody cared about that got popular in country right now because he's got a snap beat and was one of the few guys who hopped on the half-talked delivery before it was "cool". But say what you will about Kane Brown, he at least had better taste for production than this - what is that gummy synthetic touch around the post-chorus and muddy melody, it sounds gross! Now to give this song the slightest credit, Chase Rice is not a terrible singer and the content seems innocent enough... until you realize for as much as this guy is staring, he never actually engages with this girl no matter where around the world they are, which is just goddamn creepy! So again, just like five years ago I can tell the genuine article from a wannabe, and this is exactly the latter - and it sucks. But speaking of awful production...

80. 'Talk You Out Of It' by Florida Georgia Line - I remember getting comments before I reviewed Florida Georgia Line's last album that this was one of the worst songs on the project. And while I'd argue there's a few that are absolutely worse, this is by no means good, mostly because it highlights the painful limitations of this duo and a complete misunderstanding of their strengths. And like with Chase Rice, part of the big issue is production: yeah, I don't dislike the prominent pedal steel, but what the hell is that fizzy filter dropped over the painfully synthetic percussion that's more prominent in the mix than any consistent melody! But the larger problem is that Tyler Hubbard is trying to sell a slick R&B-inflected tune with some limp pickup lines and this is a brand of game that he just doesn't have. And look, I've already torn this duo a new one over the whole "can't say they ain't country" question, but would it have killed you to, instead of referencing Luther Vandross, actually mention a country act? Just seems like the obvious move to make, that's all I'm saying.

49. 'Red Room' by Offset - so look, I have zero interest in reviewing a solo Offset album - more than ever I'm convinced that Migos needs the whole crew to make decent music and even then it's conditional on production and how many bad lines there are. So with the expectation we're about to see a bunch more Offset next week, what does this song say? Honestly, not much - mostly because it sounds like a Quavo song doing a Travis Scott impression! Seriously, I thought we all figured this out on Without Warning, Offset works best with aggressive and dark beats, not autotuned warbling, and it's not like the production adds much here. Hell, on the first few bars of the opening verse, Offset sounds so sleepy he's slipping off the beat, and his inability to stay on topic consistently isn't exactly engrossing either. More egregiously, if you're going to bitch at violent police injustice, maybe it's not the best idea to frame your own violence and gunslinging so casually alongside flexing bars, it can kind of undercut your message! But that is nitpicking... in truth, I can't see this doing all that well, as it's just kind of dreary and lifeless, approaching potent ideas but not executing them. Eh, let's move on.

27. 'Robbery' by Juice WRLD - so okay, let's provide some context to this: apparently an old version of this track was leaked last year before Juice WRLD had even blown up, and now it's been repackaged as the lead-off single for his sophomore project. Probably not what I'd do if I was a label executive, but I guess his handlers are assuming his fans are clueless enough to not hear the original, but fine, is it at least tolerable? Well I think some of that is entirely dependent on Juice WRLD's singing, which is about as bad as your below-average pop emo band from the mid-2000s... and man, I can't take this seriously at all! It sounds like he tried to make a Post Malone song and failed, especially when he goes into his upper register against these delicate pianos and this leaden trap beat, it's some of the most humiliating caterwauling I've heard in a long time - Simple Plan would laugh at this! And when you couple it with some of his most asinine writing in a long time - she robbed him of his heart, you see, and his dad said never to let your woman know you're insecure, but now when she left him behind and after all he has to flex on a woman any time they're insecure... honestly, I could make a whole essay out of the toxic masculinity in this song, but it being this hilariously atrocious kind of makes my argument for me! So thank you, Juice WRLD - you've given us the bitchfest anthem of 2019 early and have thoroughly killed any desire I might have to hear your next album - enjoy being a punchline, because if this doesn't smother your momentum in the crib, I don't know what will.

5. 'Please Me' by Cardi B & Bruno Mars - so I'll freely admit I had low expectations for this - mostly because it felt like a very rushed label move to make this song. 'Finesse' was a huge pop-crossover smash on a retro-R&B groove, Bruno Mars is looking to yank his trajectory more into the 90s, and seemingly everything Cardi B puts out makes bank regardless of quality. And so we get 'Please Me'... and let me stress, I like this more than 'Money', but not by much. The vocal production around Bruno's voice sounds really thin and cheap - alarming, given that Bruno is credited as a co-producer - the tinny klaxon running through the melody doesn't really click off the trap skitter, and as much as I like the idea of the Jodeci sample, the groove is just nowhere near as good. Yeah, Cardi B has a few good quotables opposite Bruno Mars, but she's not a great singer and I'd prefer she gets on more organic production that can flatter her more flamboyant style. Don't get me wrong, this'll be a hit... but it's not really clicking. Not bad by any means, but not really good either.

So yeah, pretty bad week, but there were a few highlights - best is going to 'Worth It' by YK Osiris for a pretty solid surprise... and I'm sorry, I can't give an Honourable Mention in good faith, there's nothing that good here. Whereas for the worst of the week, 'Robbery' by Juice WRLD just steals it away for being the sort of song left-wing Twitter & YouTube should flip into a meme ASAP, and Dishonourable Mention going to 'Eyes On You' by Chase Rice - I'm sparing Florida Georgia Line here because at least with the pedal steel they were trying a little harder than this! But next week... hey, we've got Lil Pump, Gunna, and Offset coming, so stay tuned!

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