Tuesday, April 23, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 27, 2019

I get the funny feeling that a lot of folks are going to forget this week pretty quickly, the sort of Billboard BREAKDOWN probably more notable for what's not happening than what is. No album bomb, no significant chart shakeups that seem like they're going to last - and yes, I know for some either the BTS arrival or Lil Uzi Vert's continued attempts to get something to stick will contradict me, but while I've been wrong predicting what will last, I get the feeling I'm not going to be that wrong with this one.

Of course, a big reason why I'm predicting this stasis comes in our top 10, where for another week 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus holds sway at #1. It's got the streaming and YouTube on lock, the sales remain better than I expected, and while I get the impression the radio might be playing it more out of obligation than anything, it does have more traction there than I was expecting. And while I could say that 'Wow.' by Post Malone has a shot to catch it up to #2, even with a good sales week the streaming lags and the radio push has lost momentum. It puts it above 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee at #3 pretty much on radio alone, where that song is better in streaming and sales but bleeding airplay fast - the decline might be sharper than everyone is predicting. Next we have '7 rings' by Ariana Grande, where I'm comfortable saying it might be on its way out with drops across the board - it has stability in all categories, but it is declining... but not as fast as 'Without Me' by Halsey at #5, which might have a bit more residual radio but is falling there faster and has weaker sales and streaming overall. The song primed to pick up the most from this is probably 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers at #6, which surged to grab the top spot on the radio even as sales and streaming just aren't moving as much - not a good sign for longevity if the radio stalls, we'll have to see - but even it is facing competition from a breakthrough in our top 10 with 'Dancing With A Stranger' by Sam Smith and Normani at #7. And here, we're also dealing with a real radio push in absence of streaming, but I think the slight sales advantage might give this the upper hand going forward. But then we get the real story breaking into the top 10: 'Boy With Luv' by BTS ft. Halsey breaking the top 10 at #8. And here's the thing: while I normally expect k-pop to fall off hard after the first week, this one may have some legs - yeah, most of it is sales and streaming, but BTS has been fighting for the foothold for some time and the Halsey feature might be what they need here. Of course, I'm more interested in the top 10 return for 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish - good sales, great streaming and YouTube, and it looks like someone finally sent the single to the radio, even if she's facing a real uphill battle there. Finally, 'Please Me' by Bruno Mars and Cardi B is holding at #10, but if the radio keeps tanking like it is, it won't be for long.

And while we're on that topic, losers and dropouts... and in the latter category, there's none worth caring about. I'm serious, nothing here with serious traction or strength, and when we're looking at our losers I'm not all that wowed either. Of course Billie Eilish was going to take a few losses - 'wish you were gay' went to 64 and 'my strange addiction' hit 88 - and the expected debut crashes happened as expected, with 'Kill This Love' by BLACKPINK hitting 73 and 'Cool' by the Jonas Brothers at 75. I'd say that it's nice that quality is winning out, but we did see losses for 'Saturday Nights' by Khalid off of his album bomb last week to 86, and 'Last Time That I Checc'ed' by Nipsey Hussle and YG fell to 92 - kind of a shame, that was probably my favourite of the Nipsey Hussle songs I covered. Lastly we have country, with 'There Was This Girl' by Riley Green failing to take off at 98, and 'Tequila' by Dan + Shay losing all of its gains to 49 - frankly, I'd question if it lasts another week.

Now I wish I could say our gains and returns were more interesting... but in truth, the latter category has 'Clout' by Offset & Cardi B at 72 off the video, 'On My Way To You' by Cody Johnson at 100 - good song, but not all that compelling - and 'I'm So Tired...' by Lauv and Troye Sivan at 94 - kind of speaks for itself, doesn't it? Now I will say the gains look promising - yeah, I'm not that wild about 'Suge' by DaBaby up to 51 or 'Don't Call Me Up' by Mabel at 67, but I get the appeal of both songs. And more importantly, while I'm pleased to see 'Pop Out' by Polo G ft. Lil Tjay at 74, what I'm much happier to see is 'Big Ole Freak' by Megan Thee Stallion at 84 - she might have a long climb to the top, but she has more radio than you'd expect and I just hope that'll be the kickstart she needs.

But I will say when we get to our new arrivals... look, there are a couple eclectic surprises this week, starting with...

96. 'Hey Look Ma, I Made It' by Panic! At The Disco - so I remember briefly touching on this song when I reviewed the album last year... and I'm sorry, why does the main synth lead sound imported from an Eric Taxxon album? And that would be fine if it matched any of the attempts at opulence in the strings or that warping horn mix, but the production problems with Panic! At The Disco are still as apparent even before they tack on compression and a trap hi-hat - it's top-heavy, with no body in the mid-range and nothing close to a genuine groove. Hell, I'd probably take 'High Hopes' over this if only for a decent pre-chorus build-up and a consistent sense of emotionality - yeah, I get that it's all tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic about the music industry and hangers-on and how flimsy it all can be, but doesn't that undercut any attempt at a big triumphant hook where the language almost feels a bit childlike? Again, the production issues are worse than any other frustrations I might have with the content as this feels like an underwhelming retread of ideas 'High Hopes' did better - can't you just give a proper push 'Say Amen (Saturday Night)', Brendon Urie? That'd be better than this...

95. 'Make It Right' by BTS - okay, first of two BTS projects, and I've heard word that this album was a little underwhelming in comparison with previous BTS releases so I didn't exactly have high expectations... but apparently this was cowritten with Ed Sheeran and you can kind of tell in the some of the vocal harmonies and generally understated vibe, but isn't most of the appeal of k-pop is the flash and colour? This sounds like an sandy bit of underweight trap pop linked to a muted melodic loop that again sounds like something Eric Taxxon would have put out! Now I'll say this, this is a more balanced song and it generally flows pretty well - and lyrically, it might be an easy move to highlight how all the fame and success doesn't compare to the journey to getting to you - but the rap verses do feel overstated especially opposite the more delicate harmonies, and like all translations I'm stuck feeling that this song might feel kind of hyperbolic. Still, not bad - don't mind it.

81. 'Love Ain't' by the Eli Young Band - so remember when the Eli Young Band was a thing? Kind of a trick question, given that the Eli Young Band are one of those country acts that saw their momentum evaporate trying to chase the bro-country trend, and poor singles choice meant their 2014 album underperformed - seriously, 'What Does' was right there - and their 2017 album went nowhere, so here's a single from their newest Greatest Hits project. And... eh, I guess I can appreciate them trying to stick with the times with the sharper acoustic rollick and what sounds like a mostly organic groove - until the bridge, at least - but I've never been fond of the song that's clearly trying to emulate a cross between Taylor Swift's 'You Belong With Me' and 'Break Up With Him' by Old Dominion, where I'm not convinced our frontman has the charisma to pull this off without sounding sour or pissy. Honestly, this might have gotten more traction thanks to the video than anything else, because while this might be mildly catchy, I'm not sure this is one I'm about to revisit much.

76. 'That's A Rack' by Lil Uzi Vert - it's funny when you keep hearing rumors that Lil Uzi Vert has retired and pretty much nobody buys it - he's trying to secure a better management deal, that's what this is. But I reckon that for all of the loose tracks that Lil Uzi Vert keeps leaking with no sign of Eternal Atake anywhere, he might be in bigger trouble with sustaining an audience that cares for more, especially if he doesn't have another 'XO Tour Llif3'. And the exasperating thing is that if this song wasn't utterly swamped by its bass, the production for this at least has potential: the fractured synth and piano lead off the main, there's a hook here. It's a shame that Lil Uzi Vert seems to be an utterly unlikable turd on this cut, between his fuck-and-done attitude to your girl, the worthless brand name bragging, telling your girl her breathe stinks, and let's not forget the transphobia that came right the hell out of nowhere! Honestly, I have no idea why it's even here - Lil Uzi Vert already has proven with this song he's not counting bars on his verses, all it's building to is a line about his Lucien sunglasses that are the only thing that's 'tran' on him, so it's just pointless bigotry to fill up space. So yeah, once again Lil Uzi Vert proves that he adds little to nothing and probably could have been left behind two years ago, and if his oily crooning won't get him out, this might as well - next!

68. 'SOS' by Avicii ft. Aloe Blacc - so am I the only one kind of skeeved out that we're getting a posthumous Avicii album? I've said this about a lot of the posthumous releases recently and it's all the more true with this, especially when it just so happens to feature Aloe Blacc who saw his biggest success with Avicii. Now granted, apparently Avicii had created the melody and instrumental before he passed and all that was needed was Blacc's vocals, but there's still something that unsettles me with this, especially with the writing being all about ditching drugs to be more than part-time lovers - and given how Avicii passed away, that hits a weird note. Granted, I'm not really crazy about the main plucky melody that plays off the stumbling tropical fizz of the beat and the pianos - I thought the biggest appeal of Avicii's work was how it could soar, so why are we getting this brittle fragment that doesn't even have much of a crescendo or impressive drop? It honestly feels more like a Jack-U instrumental than something from Avicii - not really bad, but I'm not covering the posthumous album and this song didn't change my mind.

66. 'Blue On Black' by Five Finger Death Punch ft. Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brantley Gilbert & Brian May - okay, there's a lot of things that need to be explained in why this is here, and it starts with the fact that this is a cover of a country/blues rock song from 1998. That was released by Kenny Wayne Shepherd and was really his only song that had any mainstream crossover... mostly because it sounds like an also-ran of this sort of bluesy tone that grunge gave some real muscle in the early 90s and was mostly played out by '98. So when I heard that Five Finger Death Punch was teaming up with country also-ran Brantley Gilbert and Brian May of Queen of all people to remake it, I had rock bottom expectations... and that might have been appropriate, because this is a pretty rote cover. Yeah, Five Finger Death Punch add a bit of metal crunch to the hook, but Ivan Moody is stuck trading lines with Brantley Gilbert, whose more guttural tone could have potentially added some real darkness to the song if he had any chemistry with Moody or if he could, you know, actually sing. Yeah, Brian May's solo is good, but it's not elevating this to the level of Queen and it doesn't escape how this song could have genuinely killed if, say, Alice In Chains covered it instead. So yeah, not precisely terrible, but if you've got only an okay song and don't do anything all that interesting with it, you wind up with a boring cover that only got sales thanks to the novelty of the crossover. I don't expect it to stick around, though, and for good riddance.

28. 'Sanguine Paradise' by Lil Uzi Vert - seriously, we've got more of this guy... okay, can someone explain to me what flow he's attempting with these verses, where it's not even like Blueface where he's off beat to be interesting, just incompetent? Yeah, the hook pulls things a little closer together and again, I think the bouncier pianos playing off the synth horn shows some good production even if the bass is overlayered, but we're still stuck with Lil Uzi Vert, a mediocre rapper who just has nothing interesting to say and little actual charisma to say it with! Taking your girl and her eating his dick like a fish stick, a lot of clumsy brand-name flexing, a Geico reference, and a wonky shout-out to an interpolation that I get the feeling I'd enjoy more than this! With this... I mean, it's marginally better than the other one, but I'm not seeing this stick around for long, and I'm just fine with that.

8. 'Boy With Luv' by BTS ft. Halsey - so okay, my general thinking with this song was that it was going to be overstuffed because BTS already have a lot of different voices and throwing Halsey into the mix isn't exactly adding quality... and honestly, the more I listened to this, the more I was convinced Halsey should never have been on this song - her raspier tone doesn't remotely match with the rest of BTS, and the layering doesn't compliment her placement, especially with all the vocal layers they drop over the hook. The frustrating thing is that once you factor her out - and how I still think the switch-ups to trap verses is more clumsy than it should be - this is a pretty slick pop song: the low wiry tones punching into the low-end, the sharper bass groove, the breathy boyish vocals certainly blend better than what the Jonas Brothers were trying to work on 'Sucker', and when paired with the breezy feel of the song... Look, it's insubstantial and bubblegum, but BTS can do it pretty well, and I do think it's a little stickier than their other debut...

Yeah, screw it, 'Boy With Luv' is the Best of the Week with the slim pickings we have, and I guess 'Make It Right' is the Honourable Mention. And for the worst... yeah, 'That's A Rack' by Lil Uzi Vert runs away with that one, but he'll also snag Dishonourable Mention for 'Sanguine Paradise' - yeah, by some miracle Five Finger Death Punch and Brantley Gilbert were saved by just being boring instead of insufferable. Next week... again, few if any mainstream breakthroughs, so we might a little more of a breather before Taylor Swift unleashes her newest single, so stay tuned for that.

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