Tuesday, April 9, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 13, 2019

You can make the argument that this is one of the weeks where the Billboard Hot 100 will attract the MOST attention. Not just because of the expected album bomb from Billie Eilish or the posthumous charting entries from Nipsey Hussle - a damn shame he didn't achieve them when he was alive - but because of our new #1. And I'll be blunt, I'm a little surprised that the Streisand effect delivered so much controversy that we got this #1 - but there's a number of factors that got us to this point, and considering the hot takes and spin we've seen around it, I'll continue the work to set the record straight.

So, our top 10, our new #1... yep, it's 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X. Not the remix with Billy Ray Cyrus just yet - it dropped a little too late for the points to matter, although it'll probably be enough to push it to a second week on #1... but let's be blunt, while the controversy has been utterly misaligned - I'll include a link in the description for my lengthy conversation on Dead End Hip Hop surrounding the song - at the end of the day you still have to consider the raw data behind the song. And from the way it looks right now... yeah, this is not built to last. Good sales, sure, and it's a streaming monster... but more on YouTube driving the meme than on-demand, and the radio gains are not coming fast enough. If anything it reminds me of what happened with T-Wayne four years ago and 'Nasty Freestyle', with more twang and just as many horse references - and I also remember how fast that song crashed and burned when the meme economy had enough of it. Still, it leaped past 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee at #2, which despite the radio trying to push it out had a decent enough week in sales and streaming - there's still traction. I'm honestly a bit surprised that it held over '7 rings' by Ariana Grande, which fell to #3 despite getting the top spot on the radio mostly because her streaming and sales are just tanking and she was losing spins most of the week - more on this problem for Ariana in a bit. What did surprise me was that 'Wow.' by Post Malone couldn't make use of the gains, but it fell to #4 as the radio growth couldn't keep up the momentum and it lost ground in other categories. Then we have 'Without Me' by Halsey - somehow still holding onto radio and more streaming than I expected but also falling to #5. And that pushed back 'Please Me' by Cardi B and Bruno Mars down to #6, where the radio growth seems to be slowing down as people realize there's just not much to this collaboration, especially on streaming and sales. Then we have a debut in the top 10: 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish. Now I've already talked about this song in my review of the album, and of her singles I think she has tracks that'd fit better here, but I'm not going to complain that it's back if it gives her more traction overall - this was an album drop that Interscope didn't mismanage, and I have to give her props for this success... even if, unsurprisingly, the radio has no idea what to do with her. Next we have 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers - again, pushed most by sales and the radio, it picked up major traction this week up to #8, and it'll probably stick around. Then we have 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille down to #9 thanks to losing traction everywhere - finally - and bringing up the rear we have 'MIDDLE CHILD' by J. Cole at #10, which might have streaming but doesn't nearly have the sales or radio traction to get through.

But where I think things get much more interesting are the losers and dropouts, and like with every album bomb, there were a fair few in both categories, including some big ones. Now with dropouts you have the expected mix of long-running songs forced out but still clinching year-end spots - 'I Like It' by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J.Balvin, 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD, 'Taki Taki' by DJ Snake ft. Selena Gomez, Ozuna and Cardi B - and those forced off early, like 'Take It From Me' by Jordan Davis, 'Undecided' by Chris Brown, and 'Calling My Spirit' by Kodak Black, so in general a pretty hefty net positive from Billie around! Now the losers are a bit more complex: 'MIA' by Bad Bunny and Drake falling to 45
and 'ZEZE' by Kodak Black, Travis Scott and Offset going to 49 are on their way out naturally, and lower down the charts I'd say the same for 'This Is It' by Scotty McCreery at 89, 'Millionaire' by Chris Stapleton crashing to 95, 'Girl Like You' by Jason Aldean at 98 and 'Pure Cocaine' by Lil Baby at 99. But then we've got the gains that sputtered out, like 'Miss Me More' by Kelsea Ballerini skidding to 71 and 'Walk Me Home' by P!nk at 80, and then there's the songs that probably should have more traction and are just getting cut short, like 'Girls Need Love' by Summer Walker and Drake at 76, 'Undrunk' by FLETCHER at 77, 'Twerk' by City Girls and Cardi B at 83 and 'Faucet Failure' by Ski Mask The Slump God at 97. The rest... look, 'Tequila' by Dan + Shay should have crashed lower than 50 months ago - expect a rebound given its wins at the ACM Awards - and I've never wanted 'Mixed Personalites' by YNW Melly and Kanye to get big, so I'm happy it's now at 54 - and of course 'Robbery' by Juice WRLD is at 48 and still as terrible as always. The rest... eh, 'Put A Date on It' by Yo Gotti and Lil Baby fell to 57, 'Bad Liar' by Imagine Dragons crashed to 66, and 'Shot Clock' by Ella Mai went to 72 - if she could just release 'Easy' already, I'd be so happy...

But if I want to look at what makes me happy the most, we need to talk about our gains and returning entries, and to nobody's surprise, that comes most from Billie Eilish. For the returns, 'when the party's over', 'you should see me in a crown' and even 'ocean eyes' are back at 29, 41, and 94 respectively, and if we flip to our gains - and ignore 'Old Town Road' taking the #1 - it's all Billie in here, with 'bury a friend' rising to 25, 'wish you were gay' up big to 31, and 'lovely' with Khalid at 85. And since we have enough songs for album bomb rules to be in effect - eight or more new songs from the artist debuting on the Hot 100, so I'm only talking about them at length if they're in the top 40 or are the best/worst of the week - from Billie Eilish we have 'my strange addiction' at 43, 'all the good girls go to hell' at 46, 'ilomilo' hit 62, 'listen before i go' land at 63, and '8' at 79. Definitely a solid drop, and while I'll question how much of these will last until next week, for a debut I definitely see some of these tracks having legs, especially against little competition ahead.

But even besides her, there are a surprising number of new arrivals, sadly starting with...

93. 'Dedication' by Nipsey Hussle ft. Kendrick Lamar - so I feel I have to be honest here: before he passed, I wasn't really familiar with Nipsey Hussle's music. I had heard of what he was doing in his community and from what I could tell I could respect his hustle, but I didn't know him as an artist, so I figured I'd skip making any post and would just try to amplify what I saw elsewhere. But I expected I'd probably cover him at some point on Billboard BREAKDOWN, so let's start with this collaboration with Kendrick Lamar from his Grammy nominated project last year Victory Lap. And... yeah, this is pretty damn solid. I'd struggle to call it great - Nipsey's flow could feel oddly jerky at spots in his rhyme schemes, even if his more braggadocious content is looking higher and feels more aspirational, and Kendrick's verse fits seamlessly into that, the right kind of guest verse that cedes plenty of the spotlight and feels balanced. I guess if I were to highlight what might not work for me is the production: the oily warbles behind the trap skitters and rubbery bass makes sense against the cushion of vocal samples, but it doesn't really provide much momentum, and the hooks feels a little inert. Definitely solid on content alone, though, so check it out.

87. 'Suge' by DaBaby - you know, given how much traction just below the radar I've seen for DaBaby - a North Carolina MC who dropped his debut album about a month ago - I was genuinely curious to delve into what the hell his sound is like, especially given the pileup of mixtapes he's pushed out. And... okay, I see the appeal off the production at least - the deeper tones off the trap hi-hats have drawn comparisons to 'STAR' by BROCKHAMPTON, but DaBaby himself isn't really impressing me. Yeah, he's got some charisma and a decent enough flow, but dig even a little deeper and I'm not really seeing what's all that impressive in his wordplay. For one, in his first verse he's talking about possibly 'buying' a person, and then his second verse is mentioning about not being stupid... because he used to cheat off girls' tests in school - and beyond that, it's a bunch of flexing, shooting people, and stealing your girl. In other words, beyond a decent groove, there's just not much here that's all that interesting - I see the hype, doesn't mean I have to agree.

82. 'Last Time I Checc'd' by Nipsey Hussle ft. YG - okay, second Nipsey Hussle song, this time with YG which does seem like a natural pairing, and... honestly, I'm digging this! Hopping on the sort of minimalist pulsating bassline with trap skitters, flashy synths and traces of flutes is exactly the sort of production that flatters both Nipsey and YG well, and the aspirational flexing is a natural fit for Nipsey here... and then YG shows up, where like Kendrick he plays more of the sidekick mold and while he's a little more aggressive, it does speak to the street logic that underlies Nipsey's message. Hell, I might even like this more than 'Dedication', the production certainly goes harder and YG might be the more natural compliment... yeah, this is really good, I'll take it!

70. 'MONOPOLY' by Ariana Grande & Victoria Monet - okay, let me ask this: why does Ariana Grande think it's a good idea to shell out money for a non-album single and music video when she already has so many songs still charting? I get wanting to have the monopoly on hits - and use this as a cheap way to undercut Billie Eilish, who in pop I'd argue is her only credible competition who can deliver a real album bomb off of streaming? Again, I've said that Ariana runs the risk of saturating the market with songs like this, and as it is... man, this is album filler passed off as a single. That's not saying it's precisely bad: the production has some okay body and groove, even if the vocal production and trap snares sound like they were cutting corners, and lyrics like 'This been buildin' up, I guess this friendship like Home Depot' also should have been pitched, but here's the real issue: I get Ariana wanting to give her cowriter some shine, but she's nowhere close to matching Ariana's vocal talents and expressiveness, especially when Ariana gets her vocals layered with all the multi-tracking! It's not a balanced song, and the flirtations with bisexuality feel so phoned in - not bad, but certainly disposable.

65. 'Double Up' by Nipsey Hussle ft. Belly & Dom Kennedy - so let's not mince words, this sounds like a Drake song. Spare atmospherics and birdsong, very minimal vocal flutters with autotune, hardly any melody, and running way too long with a odd lack of hard-hitting content or bars. And sure, Nipsey sounded better than Dom Kennedy does in his flexing, but it feels weirdly lacking in detail, especially compared to the other songs from Nipsey we covered this week. But I think my real problem is with Belly - I get the switch-up from Nipsey with his follow-through, but why he thought his contribution to the overlong hook was better than his more melodic and layered post-chorus is baffling - it sounds like a scratch tape left in before the proper hook is to fill in the song! So yeah, not sure why this was the popular track to land higher than the others, but it's not precisely bad - probably more disposable than anything.

59. 'God's Country' by Blake Shelton - you know, I was planning to go through this song and say that Blake Shelton was just trend-riding against even as country is sliding towards more of a neotraditional sound... and yet that's very much not what this is. In fact, the close thing I can compare this sound to is what Eric Church was doing circa-2014 on The Outsiders: the swampy heaviness in the production pulling from southern rock, the biblical swell driven off the bells and quasi-gothic flair in the lyrics, Blake Shelton's vocals sounding rougher than they probably ever have... and then you start paying attention to the stiffer percussion and lack of real groove and the fact that the lyrics aren't really that dark or transgressive, instead trying to play for a bluesy ponderousness... and then it clicked why this wasn't hitting as hard as it should. Because yeah, on the surface this should work for me, but it reminds me of how much Rag'n'Bone Man was ripping off Hozier - the broader commercial version of what actually took a chance - but not even that, this is Blake Shelton trying to pull from what Eric Church did five years ago! So while I will not call this precisely bad - although I do question someone as slick as Blake Shelton trying to sell this sort of song, and people tend to forget that The Outsiders was a total mess as a song and album - it rubs me in a weird way I don't think I like, especially given how the cadence on the hook pulls from Brooks & Dunn's 'Brand New Man'. Not bad, but Blake Shelton gets success where Eric Church's weirdness was maligned, I'm gonna be pissed...

48. 'i love you' by Billie Eilish - so again, I've already talked about this in the review, so I'm going to keep this short... this is one of the best possible ways Billie Eilish could have ended the album. The vocal layering is stunning off the guitars especially with her brother's contributions, the subtle touches of the plane behind her on the second verse, the hesitation to be truly vulnerable and admit this is something she wants to pursue even if it's for all the wrong reasons and it can't work, the interpolation of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' that doesn't feel forced or overly polished... look, this is hands down one of the best songs she's ever released, and given her run of singles, that says a ton. Fantastic song, I genuinely hope of the deep cuts, this sticks around.

44. 'Racks In The Middle' by Nipsey Hussle ft. Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy - okay, last of the Nipsey Hussle songs... and why does this sound like damn near nothing off of Victory Lap, with drippy production that has nothing close to his west coast grooves, split by pitched-up squeals? Yes, Nipsey Hussle really does save this song: especially amidst the flexing on the second verse he references the loss of his friends and how he's not afraid to let his grief show on his face, but beyond a decent melody line on the hook, you get the feeling that Roddy Ricch isn't close to giving this song the emotional weight it needed, or that Hit-Boy was actually going to let the production build effectively when Nipsey asked for it! So yeah, I see the appeal from at least a Nipsey Hussle point of view, but the fact it charted the highest is disappointing; okay, but not better.

35. 'xanny' by Billie Eilish - again, I already talked about this song in the review, so let's aim to keep this short - it's great! I love the quivering effects around the vocals and subtle touches of atmospherics that might be one of the better uses of binaural oscillations I've heard in a long time, and while the pianos seem to imply more of a smooth lounge vibe, the lyrics are all about dulling pain through drug abuse in nailing a very interesting noir vibe, which I'm a little surprised Billie can nail so effectively. So yeah, really great song, I'm happy it landed so well, so let's end things off with...

7. 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish - so let's get the issue out of the way first: the drop doesn't work for me. It kills the considerable bass groove momentum that drives 'bad guy' in favour of clunky trap that doesn't match the overall mood of the song. And that mood is tricky to nail down: still a little eerie with the tune on the hook and coursing low-end, but Billie Eilish hits the balance between creepy instability and taking the piss out of all of it that doesn't surprise me why this has become her biggest hit thus far: it's a joke at the expense of herself and pretty much everyone else, and the fact that she steers into it so effectively is one reason why it connects! And that's a tough line to walk... so trying to make it serious after the drop just feels like an unnecessary step, and doesn't quite transition well. Still, good song.

So this week... I'll admit, it was good and the best fell out easier than the worst, which means I'm taking 'i love you' by Billie Eilish as the best and Last Time I Checc'd' by Nipsey Hussle and YG as the Honourable Mention - phenomenal groove and production there, really dug it. Worst... look, I don't think there's any outright bad songs here, and I don't blame Nipsey Hussle entirely for 'Double Up' with Dom Kennedy and Belly, but it goes way too long and feels really sloppily constructed to work, so it's getting Dishonourable Mention, with Worst of the Week going to 'Monopoly' by Ariana Grande and Victoria Monet because it barely exists, feels sloppily produced, does nothing to elevate Monet beyond her presence, and generally feels like the worst possible decision anyone could have made to put this out right now! But next week, the fallout - stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. On Old Town Road- "this is not built to last"

    14 weeks later: