Tuesday, April 16, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 20, 2019

And here I was making the assumption that this was going to be a pretty mild week on the Hot 100... and maybe in comparison to a regular album bomb it is, but I'll admit I completely forgot that Khalid put out a project that did spark some significant shifts on the Hot 100 for his surprising number of charting singles. I'd still argue it doesn't quite move the needle that much and this still does feel like a post-album bomb week, but it's worth mentioning at least, even if the album will wind up being a perennial occupant of the Trailing Edge.

But let's get to the top 10, where to the surprise of absolutely nobody, 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus on the remix holds the #1. And outside of airplay, it's just dominant across the board - and you'd be surprised how quickly it's getting radio presence too - which sparked some predictions that this'll be dominant for weeks or even months... yeah, no. Don't get me wrong, with Billy Ray Cyrus it's a better song, but the fastest way to kill this type of meme is overexpose it, and once the controversy dries up, I can see this falling off, especially when serious competition rears up - not to disparage his success, but the top 10 has been at a real point of weakness for months now, and while I applaud his ability to capitalize on that, it won't last. What it means for now is that 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee has zero chance to break past #2, though I doubt that would have happened anyway given how sales and radio are both down despite stable streaming. Then we have 'Wow.' by Post Malone up to #3 - streaming is stable, and it does seem to have some radio traction, but sales are shrinking - sadly, it might have lost its chance. And while we're on that topic, '7 rings' by Ariana Grande is down to #4 and bleeding in all categories - except, bizarrely, on-demand streaming, so I'm curious where that traction is coming from. What doesn't have traction is 'Without Me' by Halsey at #5, which is only where it is because of radio inertia as it's bleeding everywhere else - hell, what'll probably take its place across the board is 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers up to #6, which seized the top spot on the radio and have good sales to match - a little more streaming and it could have traction. It forced back 'Please Me' by Cardi B and Bruno Mars to #7, but given that it looks like they've finally yanked radio support, I can see this falling off given how much it's fallen everywhere else. But now we have the first real beneficiary of the Khalid album bomb: 'Better', up to #8. And hell, I liked this song when it was on the Suncity EP, and if he's got the stable streaming to hold his position - it looked like he peaked on the radio this week - I'm okay with this being in the top 10, at least for now. Then we have 'MIDDLE CHILD' by J. Cole up a slot to #9 on streaming - unsurprising - and to end things off 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille is still in the top 10 at the very bottom and I can only thank god that the radio keeping this afloat is finally falling away.

And on that pleasing subject, our losers and dropouts, and there were a few big ones in the latter category. Sure, they were all pretty much losers last week and I won't say I'm happy that 'Twerk' by City Girls and Cardi B is gone or that 'ZEZE' by Kodak Black, Travis Scott and Offset clinched its year-end spot, but the dropouts for 'Millionaire' by Chris Stapleton, 'Girl Like You' by Jason Aldean, and 'Pure Cocaine' are all to be expected. Now for our losers... yeah, Billie Eilish lost a considerable amount of her album bomb, and I'm not sure how much long term traction even the high placing songs will have, but let's go through them all at once: 'all the good girls go to hell' hit 92, 'xanny' crashed at 86, 'my strange addiction' withdrew to 71, 'you should see me in a crown' toppled to 68, 'wish you were gay' faded to 51, and 'when the party's over' hit 39. Also they continued to take Juice WRLD's 'Robbery' to 59, which looks to be flopping even harder than I expected. Beyond that... I'm not surprised that 'Double Up' by the late Nipsey Hussle ft. Dom Kennedy and Belly went to 75, or that 'One That Got Away' by Michael Ray crashed to 88, but I am surprised at the abrupt losses for 'Put A Date On It' by Yo Gotti and Lil Baby to 83 - it rose so quickly, and now it looks like it's leaving just as fast.

Now where things get a little weird comes in our gains and returning entries... well, not really the latter ones, where 'My Bad' by Khalid returned at 55 and 'Let Me Down Slowly' by Alec Benjamin and Alessia Cara hit 98 because the radio needs to fill time somehow. And sure, Khalid saw some gains as well - 'Talk' was up to 18 and 'Saturday Nights' is up to 57 - but what caught me off-guard were all the country pickups. I predicted 'Tequila' by Dan + Shay would rebound to 38, sure, but I didn't expect the non-country of 'Look What God Gave Her' by Thomas Rhett would surge to 48, or that 'Good As You' by Kane Brown would hit 53, or that 'Make It Sweet' by Old Dominion would rise up to 60, or that even 'Rumor' by Lee Brice would make 78. Hell, I'm even a little surprised that 'God's Country' by Blake Shelton rode great sales off the debut to 49 - it seems like it's got legs, and I can only hope that at some point beyond the hook it actually grows on me. Now beyond the country, we saw some pickups for 'Suge' by DaBaby to 63 and 'Racks In The Middle' by Nipsey Hussle, Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy to 26 - kind of surprised both of these have traction - but what continues to alarm me are the gains for 'I've Been Waiting' by the late Lil Peep, iLoveMakonnen and Fall Out Boy to 67; seriously, this left a bad taste in my mouth a month ago, I've got no desire to see this become a hit! On a slightly better note, though, 'Don't Call Me Up' by Mabel got a mild boost to 80 and 'Pop Out' by Polo G and Lil Tjay went to 89, so... look, they're both disposable, I'm just curious to see what happens.

But again, we do have a few more new arrivals than I expected, starting with...

100. 'Victory Lap' by Nipsey Hussle ft. Stacy Barthe - so I'll admit I am a bit surprised the wave of chart support for Nipsey Hussle has continued as much as it has - it's rare we get multiple weeks of posthumous new arrivals, but here we are. Now this, being the title track and opener from his last album... and it's solid? In a way, there's not really much I can say about it, as it falls into a similar lane as other Nipsey Hussle songs for me: the content and flow is solid but not precisely gripping for me in its flexing, and while I like the blend of Stacy Barthe's vocals with the knocking handclap, piano, and synths, it doesn't really do too much beyond that. Maybe some of it has to do with the mix blending - the fidelity of the production doesn't quite match cleanly with the vocal line - but overall, I think it just falls among music I can respect but for which I'm just not that much of a fan. Not a bad opener though, I'll take it.

99. 'Big Ole Freak' by Megan Thee Stallion - okay, of the songs I that I've covered on Ideal Hit that I had no expectations would cross over, this is certainly one of them! I mean, I knew she had some traction, but Megan Thee Stallion has the sort of charisma and verve that for me seems to embody artists who should be outright stars but wind up just outside the mainstream to the utter exasperation of her fans. But it looks like she's here now and in a just world I think she'll be able to build some momentum off a solid trap groove and a ton of charisma and presence - she can knock this sort of sex song out of the park, and I'm happy she's finally ready to introduce some serious competition to the scene. As it is, this is a great, sensual trap song, looking forward to that followthrough.

95. 'Inmortal' by Aventura - not going to lie, when I first saw the name of this act and song, I was convinced that by some miracle we had gotten some power metal or rock act on the Hot 100 and that could have been kickass... but no, Aventura is actually the original group of Romeo Santos known for bachata music, and who had a run of modest success in the 2000s. And normally I wouldn't want to say 'modest' for an act that had a decade-long run, but they had one hit that barely broke the Hot 100 in 2005 and while they had a string of hits on the Latin charts, worldwide they don't seem to have the same ubiquity as so many Spanish-speaking acts have had. But whatever, they're now on their second reunion and back with this single... and you know, I can see the appeal to the sound, at least. I like the plucky organic flutters of percussion, more developed bass and guitar lines, and how effectively the transitions punch through for a pretty organic mix... but then we go to our frontman Romeo Santos and these lyrics... look, I might be losing something in translation, but for how much as he wants to call upon science to fail and explain his love, which he frequently equates to madness, you'd think you'd get a little more tension or intensity than the languid vibes we get right now! Again, not precisely saying it's bad - I'd probably prefer this to most clunky and formulaic reggaeton - but I doubt this'll have staying power, for me or the public at large.

93. 'Right Back' by Khalid - so we've got four Khalid songs to get through, and let's actually start with what is probably my favourite from his album. The muted, bassy synth well that almost seems to capture an old-school 90s R&B melody off the thin snap, and while you can tell Khalid doesn't really to be bringing a ton of soul or presence to this, I can't deny that Stargate gives him probably one of his catchiest hooks to date. And that kind of works for an intimate moment where he's trying to resuscitate a fading relationship, and that tight framing works for something this small and effective. So yeah, it's not a great cut, but it's a really nice little song, compared to... 

87. 'Bad Luck' by Khalid - okay, so I've gone on the record saying that I tend to like Khalid with a little more guitar and liquid groove, which you'd think he's get with that lumpy bass, but did they have to pick one of the thinnest wheedles of guitar tone to back him up here, especially with that underwhelming falsetto vocal arrangement on the hook? But that's the root of the problem: I've always thought if Khalid's going to bring a richer timbre to bear, you need production that can match him, and this just sounds undercooked, with reverb trying to fill in the tonal body that isn't there. It doesn't help that the lyrics play to a lot of self-flagellating platitudes about how he's in love with 'bad luck' and he's only getting more self-destructive thanks to more money, more problems. And here's the thing: even if that's true, it gets really irksome how powerless Khalid frames himself while demanding she take all the responsibility for engaging with him, which is a level of self-pity that can get pretty damn intolerable especially with the soul and sincerity he's trying to bring here. So yeah, not really a fan of this - next!

84. 'Don't Pretend' by Khalid ft. Safe - okay, so apparently the issue with the guitars before is that we need to make them acoustic and more brittle than ever against a crackling background mix with even less developed atmosphere beyond some faint synth flutes. And while Khalid might really like Safe's wispy vocal tone, I sure as hell don't - it sounds like a thinner, less-impressive version of what Khalid can already deliver, not a good sign for an already undercooked song. Because then we get to the content, which is basically placing Khalid in a clingy situation where he knows he never had her beyond his own thoughts online and that he has to move on... but the hook is all about him wanting her to show something and not 'pretend'... honestly, I think the only pretensions are coming from him wanting something that's not gonna work. Again, just a really unflattering song, and not in the good way - let's move on.

58. 'Outta My Head' by Khalid ft. John Mayer - okay, so now we get the big John Mayer crossover single... and I can barely complete that sentence with a straight face. Seriously, you'd think that Khalid would want to avoid associations with John Mayer at all costs - he at least has a groove and soul that Mayer never had at his peak - but for mellow, milquetoast writing it kind of makes sense he wants to work with Mayer this time around, but all that Mayer really contributes is a slow, languid solo midway back in the mix that doesn't really match the groove... or much of anything! Kind of a shame, because this song does have a bit of tightness and Khalid is okay over it for a Charlie Puth-esque vibe on this driving song where he wants to something more to materialize. In other words, I could see some potential to this groove... but I keep feeling like this should be more than the sum of its parts, that's all. Not bad, but not great either.

41. 'Kill This Love' by BLACKPINK - you know, if k-pop acts BLACKPINK and BTS are going to keep making inroads into the Hot 100, I really wish I could find a way to like more of it, because I've been underwhelmed by their crossover efforts with American acts and while this song broke all kinds of YouTube records, I'm not sure what if any staying power will keep this visible outside the diehard fans. Granted, I've tended to like BLACKPINK on their own a little more, and I can see some of the appeal: the girls have a bit more natural strident charisma and while the flips from Korean to English still feel as clumsy as ever, there's at least an attempt at an edge with that marching band horn section you can't convince me didn't come from a synthesizer. And even the lyrics seem like they could work in terms of a hyperbolic breakup anthem... but what always hurts my enjoyment in so much k-pop is a lack of structured transitions - the blaring horns that feel imported from four years ago, the trap passages, the more traditional pop pieces, not even the cadence of the groove can feel consistent, which means we're stuck flipping across ideas that don't coalesce. So yeah, of course I can see the appeal of a song like this - a lot of flash and garish ideas, but until these bands discover cohesion or realize the value of flow, I'm just not going to be as interested as I want to be.

27. 'Cool' by the Jonas Brothers - oh, I heard bad things about this one. Not just that it sucked, but even that it could be compared to the whitebread adult-alternative that you'd hope the Jonas Brothers' brand of pop would be able to sidestep. But no, this might wind up among one of the most embarrassing things the Jonas Brothers have ever released, and I'm honestly not even sure where to start with this. I mean, I could focus on how so much of the melodic cadence of the verses are a straight rip-off of Lady Gaga's 'You & I' with Jordin Sparks' 'No Air' for the hook with a slice of Taylor Swift's 'Shake It Off', and yet somehow seems to have pitched all the groove that was the biggest redeeming factor to 'Sucker' for a clunker that has none of the impact! For as much as the Jonas Brothers are obviously trying to reference 80s flair, at least Duran Duran knew how to add some genuine flash and groove, none of which is helped here by a tinny guitar solo that seems like it's giving up midway through! In fact, the production as a whole is a garbage fire - why do all the vocals sound canned against the lumpy beat and gutless acoustics where its fuzz is clashing with the falsetto vocals - Ryan Tedder apparently produced this, and I know for a fact he's mixed better songs than this! But then we have the lyrics... maybe it's a really stupid idea to brag about being like Post Malone when you get home, or winning like Game Of Thrones when said winning is almost guaranteed to lead to bloody losses, or cramming in a bunch of references to a 2016 Nick Jonas album that almost nobody remembers? But I think my biggest issue might be with the central premise: if you're going to make a song about how damn cool you are, maybe consider adding lyrics that talk about doing something cool or interesting, or make it feel infectious instead of like a strand of gonorrhea sweeping through the frathouse, or at the very least add some sort of groove or punch to it - even Thomas Rhett can remember to get this right! I've heard people compare this to a Train song, but say what you will about Pat Monahan, he at least used to bring an eccentricity to his writing and try harder than this, which reminds me a lot more of Bruno Mars' 'The Lazy Song' pumped up on steroids. In other words, yeah, this blows and I can't imagine a universe where this doesn't work without irony.

And yeah, without a doubt 'Cool' by the Jonas Brothers the worst of this week, closely followed by 'Don't Pretend' by Khalid and Safe as the Dishonourable Mention - hell, I think Mike Posner might be cooler than that Jonas Brothers song! Best of the week... you know, it's close, but I think I'm going to give it to 'Big Ole Freak' by Megan Thee Stallion just edging out 'Right Back' by Khalid, mostly because Khalid doing better than normal is not going to be overshadowed by the breakthrough of a genuine superstar. Next up... honestly, these next few weeks seem pretty thin outside of a BTS album bomb I'm not sure is going to happen... well, we'll see.

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