Wednesday, March 20, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 23, 2019

So this week surprised me - a lot. I was gearing up for a Juice WRLD album bomb that would make my life miserable, and to my amazement that didn't happen. In fact, we got a pretty average week on Billboard BREAKDOWN, where Juice WRLD did make an impact but nowhere close to what I was predicting, and that leads me to questions about his label and management I didn't expect I'd have. Hell, I knew the kid had a short shelf-life, but I didn't expect Interscope mismanagement to be the biggest contributing factor, I thought the album just being crap would have done enough!

But okay, back to the top ten, where to the surprise of pretty much nobody '7 rings' by Ariana Grande reclaimed the #1. And this should be no surprise to anyone - even if she's no longer the top in on-demand streaming or YouTube or sales, she's got enough traction across the board in all categories to get there. But 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee isn't that far behind, with better sales and only slightly lagging on streaming... shame the radio seems to be wanting to push this out. Now we also saw a rebound for 'Without Me' by Halsey up to #3, although this seems to be coming more on slight radio gains than anything else, because it's lagging on both streaming and sales, and I predict it'll be overtaken by 'Please Me' by Cardi B and Bruno Mars as soon as that radio margin is narrowed - even if streaming and sales are down, the YouTube is immense and that radio push is happening. But then we have the surprising pickups for 'Wow.' by Post Malone up to #5 - likely boosted off a big remix that saw a rebound across the board - it might not be the full second wind it needs, but it'll be interesting to see how far it goes. Now most of this is helped by 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers falling off the #1 to #6 - as expected - but it's got considerable radio traction and the sales aren't going anywhere, especially given how it does have some modest streaming presence; this might actually stick around. It held up over 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille which actually gained a slot to #7 and seriously? Even the radio is getting sick of this, can we move on? Granted, the pickups for it and 'MIDDLE CHILD' by J. Cole to #8 - which seems to have streaming and finally a bit of radio but little else - are more linked to the collapse of 'Shallow' by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper to #9, which might be ruling sales and seeing a radio revival but is seriously lagging on streaming. And finally, somehow still clinging to #10 against all odds we have 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott - even as the radio bleeds and the sales evaporate, streaming is holding this up.

And while we're in this perilous territory, the losers and dropouts. A few notable ones in the latter category: 'Leave Me Alone' by Flipp Dinero and 'Mo Bamba' by Sheck Wes are both gone having clinched year-end spots, and in a classic example of singles cannibalization, 'Armed And Dangerous' by Juice WRLD is gone too. Then we have our losers... most of which seem all over the place. Again, I'm surprised that 'Girls Need Love' by Summer Walker and Drake sputtered to 52, or that 'Look What God Gave Her' by Thomas Rhett crashed hard to 82, taking 'What Makes You Country' by Luke Bryan down with it to 90. Granted, there are a few that aren't surprising: I predicted that 'Faucet Failure' by Ski Mask The Slump God would have a bad week and I was right as it went to 99, along with 'Always Remember Us This Way' by Lady Gaga continuing down to 100, 'Nights Like This' by Kehlani and Ty Dolla $ign continuing to 95, and 'i' by Lil Skies losing a lot of momentum to 57. That leaves us with 'Ella Quiere Beber' by Anuel AA and Romeo Santos down to 81, but given it has nearly four hundred million views, I can imagine YouTube is the culprit with this one.

Now for the gains and returns... well, the story might seem more interesting than it actually is. For one, Khalid and Kane Brown saw 'Saturday Nights' return at 78 - likely in the buildup to Khalid's album in April - along with the expected return for 'GIRL' by Maren Morris off her album to 61 - but I'm kind of mystified why 'Pure Cocaine' by Lil Baby came back to 72. And our gains have the same mix of predictable and weird, most coming off of debuts! Thanks to the album release I'm not surprised 'Hear Me Calling' by Juice WRLD is up to 38, and the video likely has contributed to 'Pure Water' by DJ Mustard and Migos up to 40. And hell, a similar buildup probably has helped Billie Eilish push 'wish you were gay' to 59, and the memes are apparently making 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X a thing for a minute surging up to 51. And sure, I can even understand why 'Act Up' by City Girls is rising to 63, it's got the streaming... but why is 'Put A Date On It' by Yo Gotti and Lil Baby up to 56? I tracked through every channel and I'm coming up with nothing, folks, I'm not seeing where this song is getting traction!

But now we get to our list of new arrivals... and unfortunately we're starting with...

96. 'I've Been Waiting' by Lil Peep & iLoveMakonnen ft. Fall Out Boy - so I think it's important this is exposed again - I mentioned how iLoveMakonnen has been assembling songs from the scraps of the late Lil Peep's back catalogue last September - yes, this was intended from a collaborative album, but most of it was unfinished and you can definitely tell iLoveMakonnen is milking whatever's left to regain traction, with this being a lead-off single with a Fall Out Boy guest feature. Now it's better than when iLoveMakonnen put the late XXXTENTACION on 'Falling Down' - I could imagine Lil Peep wanting to work with Fall Out Boy at some point - but it still feels icky and exploitative that iLoveMakonnen is still pushing this, and I wish I could believe that Fall Out Boy was better than to participate. And when we get to the actual song... I'm sorry, I can't endorse this, especially with the production. The guitars are perfunctory opposite the sandy handclaps, the runny but compressed vocal delivery from Patrick Stump and Lil Peep feels squished into the song in an unnatural way, the bass groove seems imported from a modern 5 Seconds Of Summer song - not a compliment - hell, the entire song feels like a monogenre pileup that's here most to serve iLoveMakonnen more than anyone! And when the content is all about craving a bad relationship, it unfortunately reminds me of all the reasons I didn't much like Lil Peep in the first place, especially with Fall Out Boy on autopilot. So yeah, not good - next!

92. 'Calma' by Pedro Capo & Farruko - so here's the thing: I remember talking about a Farruko song way back in December of 2017 - it was a collaboration with a bunch of other people called 'Krippy Kush', I guarantee the majority of you forgot it existed or that this guy was on the song opposite 21 Savage and Nicki Minaj. Anyway, that was originally Farruko's song where he was working his reggaeton trap blend of Future and Migos, and now he's back on this remix of Pedro Capo's song. And here's something I'll give Farruko: much of the music he's hopped on tends to have more texture and depth in the production than your standard reggaeton clunker: there's more guitar, the groove has a little more organic punch, and while the hook feels a shade slow with Pedro Capo's crooning, there's still a depth of tone that I can respect with this. Granted, if you're looking at the content, it's hard to avoid the feeling that it might just serve as a slick hookup song merged with a free tourism ad for Puerto Rico - I can see this becoming ubiquitous on certain resorts in record time... but I can't deny that it's a good one. Yeah, I'm okay with this one, certainly more than...

91. 'Flaws And Sins' by Juice WRLD - the first of only four Juice WRLD songs... and honestly, not one that I dislike as vehemently as some that missed the Hot 100. Now, it's still cheaply produced and overcompressed - especially in the vocals and especially with that falsetto he tries on the final chorus - and cribbing from the asinine One Direction 'Little Things' playbook in saying how much he's in love with all this girl's flaws, and that if this girl ever leaves him Juice WRLD is going to gun her down and that this girl awoke him from his 'eternal slumber' so he can 'poke her face like Lady Gaga'... but the creaking guitar at least is trying to pull of a quasi-Post Malone vibe that I could have seen working. Shame the rest of this is pure crap, and it's still derivative as all hell - next!

88. 'Rumor' by Lee Brice - I don't know what to think about Lee Brice these days - apparently this is a late album single from his self-titled album from late 2017 that has mostly failed to leave much of an impact because he's on Curb Records which might be the gold standard for country label mismanagement. Which is a real damn shame, because I can at least see the potential of this! Yeah, there's way too much unnecessary reverb when you already have some well-layered backing vocals and more of a sultry vibe that's somewhat convincing playing off the pedal steel, organ and liquid guitars, and Lee Brice is not the sort of artist who can sell a slicker R&B vibe, but there's an organic timbre, a solid live groove in the percussion, and Lee Brice has just enough hangdog charisma and a good voice to make this connect, lending a certain soul to a hookup song about making rumors of the connection a reality. I'm not saying there's a lot here - for the hook feeling overwritten the song still strangely feels a little lacking in more - but I see the appeal, I wouldn't mind this sticking around.

85. 'Undrunk' by FLETCHER - so I'll be honest, when I saw the name 'FLETCHER' I only had the vaguest clue of who she was until I remember her 2015 single 'War Paint' - yeah, I remember that vaguely being a thing, mostly because the song was notable for nailing a lot of playlist placement and sounding like a total clusterfuck of instrumental ideas while feeling vaguely hollow in the end: there's banjos, cavernous hollow percussion that sounded like it was pulling from African music, acoustic guitars, string sections, and even trap-inspired pieces shoved in. Anyway, she's got an EP coming and this is a single from it... and look, there's potential here, especially in the writing. I like the commitment to the little details to highlighting the little details and angst that keeps her from getting over this guy, especially when he's moved on and she's trying to find empty rebounds. Sadly, while I think there's a decent enough hook in the main, blurred-over melody, the mixing of this track is a mess: blocky backing vocals that aren't blended nearly as well they should be, sloppy volume leveling around the bridge, a roiling bass that blows out the mix, it's a song with real potential but desperately needs some polish around the edges to hit greatness. Honestly, not a bad song at all, but she needs a different mix or remix fast if she wants this to get traction.

77. 'My Bad' by Khalid - so am I the only one a bit concerned about this upcoming Khalid project? I thought 'Better' was a really damn good song and it makes sense it was tacked on off the Suncity EP, but I thought 'Talk was a complete misstep and I was a little nervous to see if 'My Bad' would connect better and play to his strengths... and yeah, this might be better, but I'm still not really liking this as much as I'd hope. For one, the clinking trap percussion has more heft than actual groove over that guitar loop, and once again misses the key point I've always tried to make about Khalid, namely that he should try to bring more organic groove. Granted, the emotional throughline of the song hits a weird note too, where the miscommunications have only worsened and this is more of a weary, dejected kiss-off. Which... okay, he can sell it, but the song just feels kind of inert overall - not bad, but not as good as it should be.

75. 'Here With Me' by Marshmello ft. CHVRCHES - this is not the way I wanted to see CHVRCHES break the Hot 100. I mean, credit to them for finally getting here, even if I didn't love the last album I'd still argue that was more Greg Kurstin's fault than theirs and I still really like this group - they've made my year-end list with songs and albums in multiple years - but did it have to be goddamn Marshmello to put them here? Now let me make this clear, it's hard to dilute the punch of Lauren Mayberry's vocals and the chugging guitars behind her on the first half of the hook are promising... at least until Marshmello delivers a sterile trap drop, but again, there's something, right? Well, that's until you realize the actual tune and content are beyond generic and a far cry from the razor-edged synthpop in writing and production that made CHVRCHES such a powerhouse, placing Mayberry a step away from her strengths for a song that just isn't interesting. So yeah, as much as I love this group, this is bland and undercooked, just like nearly everything that Marshmello puts out - it should be better, but I'm not surprised that it isn't. Still, I'd probably take it over...

66. 'Maze' by Juice WRLD - okay, the last few songs are all from Juice WRLD, so let's get through these quick, and let's start with, again, one that's not quite terrible. But in this case it's more because it barely exists - lumpy grainy trap beat, desaturated guitar, and Juice WRLD's autotuned caterwauling as he talks about converting all of his pain into more money, cars, and drugs. You know, just so we all know how mercenary this whole exercise is... ugh, there's nothing worth caring about here, folks, so let's move on to...

47. 'Fast' by Juice WRLD - folks, here's arguably the best Juice WRLD song we got this week - yeah, the guitar is crushed into mush behind the autotune and trap beat and Juice WRLD sounds lobotomized, but with some of the singing on the verses, I can almost hear a Lil Yachty-esque appeal to the melody. Granted, we still have to deal with the second verse where he's rich, but still sad as a bitch - but hey, don't blame him, he doesn't want to be seen as an asshole, it's just this life and all the drugs he's doing... you know, I'm no Future fan by any means, but he always made his most compelling music when he acknowledged his shittiness and wallowed in the darkest parts of it, but Juice WRLD has no incentive to take responsibility and the melody's way too bright to even try. So yeah, while not being terrible, this isn't all that good either, but at least it's not...

41. 'Empty' by Juice WRLD - when I first heard this song, I thought it had to be a joke. It had to be, right, nobody in their right mind could take this seriously! Let's start with how the production sounds so damn flimsy: the cheap trap beat, the grainy autotune, the faint twinkling pianos, and then Juice WRLD alternating between a bouncy flow and his howling hook that would humiliate Simple Plan! The one good line that I got was 'low key I been looking for the signs / but I can find is a sign of the times', but does that make up for the 'black hole in the place of his soul', or how he's not suicidal, 'only thing suicide is suicide doors', or the rampant drug abuse juxtaposed with flexing that fails to highlight how either has much punch whatsoever. That's probably the biggest consistent problem I have with Juice WRLD's angst: whenever he gets vaguely close to something heartfelt he undercuts it, but he's so overwrought and miserable that there's nothing close to a cohesive vibe that can be created. And in this case... look, it's just humiliating.

But which Juice WRLD song is worst this week... honestly, upon reflection for as asinine as 'Empty' is, the deeper toxicity doesn't quite manifest quite as much as it does on 'Flaws And Sins', which'll get worst of the week with 'Empty' as Dishonourable Mention. Now for the best of the week... yeah, slim pickings, but I think for actually having some distinctive flavour while still sounding like a decent country song 'Rumor' by Lee Brice is getting that, with 'Undrunk' by FLETCHER as Honourable Mention - again, I'm convinced with a good mix that song can be salvaged. Next week... look, given how Interscope has mismanaged things and likely won't pull off a Rich The Kid album bomb, I'm expecting next week to be quiet, but if this week has proven anything, it's that I can be very, very wrong - stay tuned!

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