Tuesday, March 26, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 30, 2019

Okay, when I predicted a slow week, I didn't expect it to be this slow - and kind of strange, the more you think about the few new arrivals we got. I'd say it's closer to a holding pattern than anything, but considering how much of 2019 has felt like that when it's come to releases, especially on the Hot 100, you have to wonder if or when a major shakeup will truly hit.

I mean, consider our top 10 for a second, where for another week '7 rings' by Ariana Grande holds the #1... but really, if you want to identify a major indicator of the stasis, it's that nobody has firmly given her much competition beyond a week or two at the top, and given that she's only really dominant on streaming in aggregate and despite some real radio ascendancy, she's still not on top yet. No, that goes to 'Without Me' by Halsey up to #2, because even though sales and streaming are weaker overall, the margins are just close enough to hold close. It did move past 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee down to #3, though - sales and streaming might be better, but radio is in freefall and that doesn't appear to be changing. But it could well be replaced by 'Wow.' by Post Malone up to #4 thanks to good streaming and a major sales push, and while there are inconsistencies in the radio that give me pause, this might have enough traction to push through. Hell, it barreled past 'Please Me' by Cardi B and Bruno Mars down to #5... and again, for as much as the radio is being told to push this, the sales and streaming are suffering, which makes this seem like much more of an artificial label hit than with actual groundswell. And while I'm on that topic, somehow 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille picked up another slot to #6 because it had a good week on streaming and didn't lose that badly on the radio - figures. And while I'm on that surprising topic, 'Shallow' by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper picked up to #7 with big sales and what seems like a genuine radio second wind... I'll admit I'm surprised it's doing this well. I'm not at all surprised that 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers fell off to #8, though - yes, the radio is very much onboard and the sales are good, but those streaming numbers are not promising... in comparison with 'MIDDLE CHILD' by J. Cole down to #9, where pretty much all it has is streaming as the radio seems slow to get onboard. Finally, cracking into the top 10 again much to my surprise we have 'Going Bad' by Meek Mill and Drake... and I'll admit I'm a little befuddled by this one. Yeah, it's always had more radio than you remember and the streaming has always been good... I guess it's just filling a vacuum, because I really don't think anyone cares that much about this song.

And while we're in this territory, let's go to our losers and dropouts, with the biggest being 'Wake Up In The Sky' by Gucci Mane, Bruno Mars and Kodak Black having sealed its spot - and I have to ask, did anyone really care about this song or like it much? For me there's just so little that's interesting or appealing about it - really a lot of the same observation I have for the other dropout with 'What Makes You Country' from Luke Bryan. Oh, and 'when the party's over' by Billie Eilish is also gone, but the second her album bomb hits - and given preorder numbers and some consistent streaming strength, I'd put her in this territory - this'll be back. Hell, when we go to our losers I'd say much of the same for the losses for 'wish you were gay' down to 87, but that one I might okay with losing. Beyond that, I can't say our losers were all that surprising: 'My Bad' by Khalid lost off the debut to 99, 'GIRL' by Maren Morris slipped off the return to 82, and 'i' by Lil Skies continues to plummet down to 71. But the real loser looks to be Juice WRLD, where 'Hear Me Calling' fell to 60, 'Empty' dropped to 67, and 'Fast' slowed to 86 - again, I saw this coming, and if he was facing more competition this week, I predict all of these would have been gone.

But what even is that competition right now, because I'm not seeing a lot out of our gains and returning entries here. Sure, 'Walk Me Home' by P!nk came back to 89 on the video, and 'On My Way To You' by Cody Johnson hit 95, 'Love Wins' by Carrie Underwood hit 100, and 'Let Me Down Slowly' by Alec Benjamin and Alessia Cara is at 97, but the truth about all of these songs is that there's a fragility to these returns - they've dipped on-and-off the Hot 100 and don't seem all that stable. And if we're looking for the gains to fill the slots... I have to be honest, there's not a lot of quality here either. Yes, the 'story' this week is that 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X has even more traction to 32, but it's a borderline joke and I don't see it having a ton of shelf life, and that's not even touching on the songs you can clearly see are here to fill radio time: 'Who Do You Love' by The Chainsmokers and 5 Seconds Of Summer to 54, 'I Can't Get Enough' by Benny Blanco, Selena Gomez, J. Balvin and Tainy at 66, 'I've Been Waiting' by Lil Peep, iLoveMakonnen and Fall Out Boy to 84, and especially 'Bad Liar' by Imagine Dragons at 59. Oh, and there's also 'Pure Cocaine' by Lil Baby at 57, but I'm hoping the less I acknowledge it the faster it'll go away. Really, the only two songs that spur any deeper thought from me here are 'Act Up' by City Girls at 50 - I'm really hoping it's not going to replace 'Twerk' on its chart run, but we'll see - and 'Undrunk' by FLETCHER at 68. I mean, the latter song isn't really all that good, but I'm curious how much traction a decent enough if unrefined pop song picks up.

But you know, given how our list of new arrivals is pretty short right now, why don't we think about another pop song that's currently surging up the UK charts that also has some rough edges and deserves more attention... hell, it was a similar segment that I first discovered her anyway, why not go for two-for-two?

If all of you saw my review of Sigrid's debut album Sucker Punch, you already know that I'm a fan of what she's delivered recently, and I think I like this song even more 'Strangers'! Granted, I'd probably still go for 'Sight Of You' and 'Mine Right Now' as the more obvious singles - mostly because I think both songs are a little better - but this is still great too. More than ever, with the big strings section playing off the keys and trap hi-hat, it has the feel of a modern Jess Glynne song, just with some of the sheen replaced with bigger, rougher tones. And that kind of fits what the song needs: yeah, she should be doubling down on angst and regret and processing her feelings to get over this breakup, but right now she doesn't feel like it so much as having fun and enjoying herself, an interesting pivot especially as she knows the negative emotions aren't going away and she's going to have to deal with them... just not yet, or not right now. So yeah, another damn good song from Sigrid - can we have her cross over at some point, I think her reckless abandon approach to pop music is exactly the shakeup the current Hot 100 would love.

But you know, I think there's still space for something that should have been bigger last week but just missed the cut to break onto the Hot 100, maybe an artist with a ton of potential who I think deserves a real boost even if this song will be on the cusp of charting sooner rather than later...

So one thing that's an absolute net positive with Cardi B's success is how it has emboldened other women to muscle their way toward the Hot 100 with a similar aggressive vibe and just as much lyricism as their male peers in trap, if not moreso. And while we've seen some of this with City Girls already, the name that's been getting the most buzz recently is Megan Thee Stallion, who through a combination of Instagram twerk videos and having a ton of real talent and presence off her album Tina Snow last year has been making a name for herself. And it's tough to put a direct label on what she's doing here that works so well - with this song I'm reminded a little of CupcakKe with its unabashed sexuality, but where her material could feel a bit cartoonish and goofy despite the ruthless flows, Megan Thee Stallion coaxes her trap grooves through an old new jack swing sample and a relaxed, utterly assured charisma that shows not only how much she's enjoying it, but is absolutely in control. So yeah, I won't say this song is reinventing the wheel or anything when it comes to these sorts of sex jams, but if it gets Megan Thee Stallion on the board for people, it's worth talking about.

But now onto our very scant list of new arrivals, starting with...

96. 'Slow Dancing In The Dark' by Joji - ...you know, if you had told me six or seven years ago that we'd get a song from George Miller aka Joji aka Pink Guy aka Filthy Frank on the Hot 100... look, I probably wouldn't have been that surprised, given that his was the biggest video that made the Harlem Shake a thing in 2013, but I wouldn't have expected it'd turn out like this. And I'll be honest, from what I've heard from Joji before this, I've not been impressed - the sort of lo-fi, emotive but generally underwhelming pop-R&B is a pretty saturated scene right now, and I wasn't hearing what stood out. And with this, propelled most by TikTok memes to where it is... well, it's not bad, but I'd struggle to call it great or transcendent either. I certainly hear the Khalid comparison in his vocal delivery, but from a compositional standpoint and songwriting, Joji is a maximalist: garish buzzing keyboards and watery progressions that are just ramshackle enough to feel human, and content that splits the difference between wanting his ex back to reclaim some sort of romance, and the reflexive realization he'll never be good enough for her.  And while I certainly hear the appeal... I dunno, I do wish there was a little more development with a bridge or production that went a little harder, tried for a bit more dynamics, but I do see the appeal - good stuff.

62. 'Sally Walker' by Iggy Azalea - okay, as I said, it's a net positive that Cardi B is emboldening the market to give women the space to seize airplay... and the reason why it's not a gross positive is because Iggy Azalea is nabbing a spot here too. And let's not mince words, this is a blatantly obvious copy cat of Cardi B's 'Money', which I've long held as Cardi's worst hit... and yet if I'm being honest, while I don't like either song, I might actually prefer at least the production from 'Sally Walker' which feels better balanced across its keyboard and bass and has more groove as a whole. But then you have Iggy Azalea relying on the damn nursery-rhyme cadence and content that somehow lacks a lot of even the underwhelming detail Cardi had - I've defended Iggy's rapping before, but her not trying is giving me even less reason to care. So yeah, even if the production might connect a bit better, we've got enough women making better music so that we don't need Iggy Azalea - let's move on.

55. 'Numb Numb Juice' by ScHoolboy Q - so look, we've all been waiting for a new ScHoolboy Q album - his name and presence in the industry has been steadily growing, he's on the cusp of that mainstream crossover - hell, I've long thought he's deserved it before now - and when the internet seemed to get behind this song, I was excited... and then after a few listens, I was left wondering where the hell the rest of it even is. Look, ScHoolboy has always had a ton of visceral personality and would be enough to sound convincing even on a basic flexing and killing song - which is exactly what this is - and with the dark piano chords and grimy rumble of the beat opposite the loud trap snares, I totally see why people would find this effective. But I can't be the only one who thinks that SchoolBoy Q can do more than this? It feels more like an interlude than anything, a fragment of a song that gives us nothing and doesn't really flatter the innate grasp of groove that's made ScHoolboy Q so compelling on earlier projects. So yeah, it might go hard... but yeah, given how long he's been gone, I do consider this a disappointment - I know SchoolBoy can deliver more, and this sort of teaser doesn't really satisfy - sure as hell hope it doesn't foretell what's coming, but we'll have to see.

Anyway, that was a short week... yeah, best and worst fall out easily, with Joji of all people getting the best for 'Slow Dancing In The Dark' and Iggy getting worst for 'Sally Walker' - because duh. Next week... well, apparently some people are trying to make the Nav album a thing, and Logic apparently dropped an alt-rock... thing from out of nowhere that people say is terrible, so we all have that to anticipate!

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