Tuesday, April 2, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - april 6, 2019

...you know, it's probably a good thing that I'm starting new episodes of this series on a new channel this week. Relatively slow and gradual, nothing too crazy or out of the ordinary, the Billie Eilish album bomb just around the corner - and with those consistent streaming numbers, it's absolutely getting there - about the best possible time for a pivot to leave the copyright takedowns behind and start afresh with a channel that's not deprioritized into the dirt. So yeah, welcome onboard, folks - this week we have Nav, Logic, and Bebe Rexha! 

Okay, hang on, don't move away yet, let's start with our top 10 - where to the surprise of no one, '7 rings' by Ariana Grande is at #1. And really, it's not because she's dominant in any format - yeah, a decent rebound on sales, but streaming was weaker and radio looks to be stalling out, so she's vulnerable to a challenge. And from the looks of it, 'Wow.' by Post Malone looks to be getting there up to #2 - better sales, better streaming, better YouTube, and the sooner he narrows the airplay margin, he'll get that top spot - honestly, about time. Hell, it passed over 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee at #3, which might have more streaming but got eclipsed on the radio and sales - again, I'm pretty sure this is on the way out, slowly but surely. But what's even more in that category is 'Without Me' by Halsey down to #4 and in free-fall in every category... granted, I've been saying this'll fall out for weeks, but it might be in its weakest position yet. Then we have 'Please Me' by Cardi B and Bruno Mars stuck at #5 - yeah, the radio might like it, but those weak sales and streaming stats tell a much different story about this song is moving - not a good sign. I wish I could say the same thing about 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille still at #6... but it's where it is because of inertia, it's not falling away all that quickly. I do think 'MIDDLE CHILD' by J. Cole will probably pass it soon, though, rising to #7 thanks to consistent streaming... I just wish that radio would pick up more effectively. Hell, 'Thotiana' by Blueface is back in the top 10 at #8 because its streaming is actually better and it actually seems to have some radio traction, though it's got a long way to close the gap. It even pushed back 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers down to #9, which yes, absolutely has some real radio traction, but the sales are starting to slip and the streaming just isn't consistently there - I think the industry might be happier this is moving units more than having real groundswell, that's all I'm saying. Finally, somehow clinging to #10, 'Shallow' by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, where despite being dominant on sales another week and picking up radio gains, the streaming is nowhere close to being good enough to make this viable going forward - a shame, I still really like the song.

Now to flip over to our losers and dropouts, and we've only got one in the latter category that matters... and even, I find it a stretch to say anyone really cared about 'Elle Quiere Beber' by Anuel AA and Romeo Santos, at least stateside. And the losers aren't that surprising either - as expected, Juice WRLD album cuts like 'Empty' and 'Hear Me Calling' both collapsed to 99 and 86 respectively, 'i' by Lil Skies continues to tank at 82, and the gains for 'Pure Cocaine' by Lil Baby and 'I Can't Get Enough' by Benny Blanco, Tainy, Selena Gomez and J. Balvin evaporated to 70 and 85 respectively. What was a pleasant surprise for me was the hard drop for 'Take It From Me' by Jordan Davis to 79, and then 'Undecided' by Chris Brown sliding to 91. A much less pleasant surprise was the striking dropoff for 'Millionaire' by Chris Stapleton to 64 - I still thought that song had legs, but it wouldn't have been my choice of singles from that project anyway, so it happens.

Now where things might seem to get a bit more interesting comes in our gains and returning entries - well, one returning entry for 'Splashin' by Rich The Kid at 80, but I'm not seeing anyone really caring about that, so let's move on. No, there was a healthy list of gains this week with most of them being in country - which looks to me like the radio rotating out their winter playlist for the spring, so on the one hand we're getting boosts for 'Miss Me More' by Kelsea Ballerini to 60 and 'Down To The Honkytonk' by Jake Owen at 69 - likely a good sign for his recent album release - but on the flipside we also saw boosts for 'Good As You' by Kane Brown at 59 and 'Look What God Gave Her' by Thomas Rhett at 65 and 'One That Got Away' by Michael Ray at 67. As for the rest... look, 'Walk Me Home' by P!nk finally got some traction at 63, and 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X benefited off a lot of stupid controversy to surge to 15 - stay tuned for a video where I'll discuss more of that - but what really shocked me was the jump for 'Here With Me' by Marshmello and CHVRCHES to 53. Apparently picking up a bit of YouTube and radio will get you there, so I'm curious if this'll actually maintain traction - and hoping to God it doesn't influence the sound on CHVRCHES next album.

Anyway, we've got a brisk list of new arrivals, so let's start with...

98. 'Last Hurrah' by Bebe Rexha - well this is... moving on from Expectations faster than I expected. Granted, I've been running with how I've thought the album was bad for months now, but I am surprised that Bebe Rexha isn't trying to force another single - possibly as a factor of her bucketing so many older songs onto it that were singles years earlier, but I guess that happens? Anyway, lead-off single for the new album... and seriously, would it have killed you to hire a decent vocal producer who lets some clear tones through, or are you just such a limited vocal presence that you can't help but gargle the notes? And this is coming from someone who thinks that fried out tone she had on the bridge had potential, but then we get that increasingly shrill final chorus and I have to walk away! Beyond that... ugh, bland percussion-over-melody pop that suffocates the guitar at the back, and content that tries to say this is her last hurrah to go wild to get over her demons... but she's also saying that she's done this time and time again, so why exactly am I supposed to
buy into any of the stakes here? And to think I thought Bebe Rexha had potential, but by this point, she's squandered it - next!

97. 'Don't Call Me Up' by Mabel - so I was originally planning to have this as a World Hit last week thanks to her success on the U.K. charts, but was told it'd likely hit the Hot 100 anyway and why not give some shine to other acts instead. So, quick introduction: Mabel is a R&B singer-songwriter and happens to be the daughter of Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey - so if you want to know how she got on the scene, there's that, with her debut album dropping in 2017 but only getting this song on the charts thanks to a reissue in January of this year. And... man, this should have been better than it is. Again, what is with this tinny vocal layering where the shrillest points are emphasized by the multi-tracking, especially when her alto is perfectly fine - a little like Dua Lipa, but that's a sound that could work. And again, I have to keep blaming the production for going wrong here: what is that blaring tone in that strings pickups slathered over the prechorus, especially when the percussion builds a pretty decent groove and the pitch-shifted drop isn't bad at all. Hell, even the lyrics are very Dua Lipa in their kiss-off - hell, the straightforward and effective writing might be the easiest selling point. So yeah, I'd probably take this over Bebe Rexha, but I'd need to hear more with better production before I'm willing to endorse this.

95. 'Pop Out' by Polo G ft. Lil Tjay - man, it's annoying to see a name like Polo G and then swear that you've talked about him on Billboard BREAKDOWN at one point... but then realize that he's a Chicago MC that seems to be on his come-up right now, backed by this single featuring Lil Tjay, a name that I'm definitely not familiar with. And... ehh, I've heard worse in this sort of trap song? Yeah, the piano melody is still mostly perfunctory compared to the trap beat, but both Polo G and Lil Tjay have distinctive voices and even if the content is pretty by-the-numbers, the writing and hook do punch a little higher than normal mostly thanks to rhymes that all connect, and an undercurrent of melancholy in the grim reality of the violence surrounding their lives, especially through Lil Tjay's verse referencing his brother's death too soon. And as a whole... look, I'm still sticking up for YK Osiris as the most promising new trap artist moving right now on the Hot 100, but this isn't precisely bad either - curious where these two go.

89. 'Tap' by Nav ft. Meek Mill - okay, full disclosure: I was prepared to start this by asking who in the Nine Hells cares about Nav... but truth is that I already got my fill of jabs a week or so back when the album dropped and Nav was running an AMA on Twitter that apparently was getting less mockery than I expected, so I confined my snarkiness to a group chat and moved on. Plus, I heard on this song at least Meek Mill came through, and... well, that was a stretch for Meek Mill sticking his thumb in girl's butts as he's shooting people, but he's at least more interesting than Nav's sad attempt at being interesting. The repeated words on the hook is squawking and oddly doesn't stick, his verse is mostly unstructured flexing, and outside of Meek being apparently the first person who ever showed him love - which I'm fairly certain is Travis Scott so that's kind of bullshit - there's nothing that really makes this stand out, least of all that dry trap production. So yeah, it's not terrible, but I'm fairly certain I'll forget this exists in no time. Which takes us to...

78. 'Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind' by Logic - so Logic put out a pop/alternative rock thing called Supermarket by surprise last week as a soundtrack for a book he just released, and apparently it sucks - book and album. Now I stand by the book being bad - I've seen enough horrible passages to give me the impression it's largely unreadable, and I have zero interest in listening to Supermarket - mostly because in a week where we get new albums from Epic Beard Men, billy woods, Quelle Chris and Yelawolf I've got zero interest in a soundtrack album from Logic - but apparently this is the title track and second single after 'Keanu Reeves' from his next hip-hop album called Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind that is two extended verses and one hook against watery keys, some scratchy percussion, a muted guitar line, and Logic jacking a flow from Kendrick. And here's the thing: I'm okay with Logic making a song where he tries to delve into his insecurities and pain that he's tried to suppress, he's had success with that before... until you start asking questions that he'd prefer you don't. Dude, I get that social media is overwhelming and draining, but people make the comparisons to Kendrick and Drake and J. Cole because the flows and cadence are often a blatant retread, and it's a little hard to feel sorry for you for getting compared to other MCs when you invite the comparisons upon yourself with all the bragging! That's not a free pass for folks to be assholes, but comparisons and critiques are allowed, especially when there's been a noticeable drop-off in quality since Under Pressure and The Incredible True Story. And yeah, it's probably all been amplified by an increased platform, but if your response to all of it is platitudes like 'fuck the haters', 'put ego aside' and 'love yourself', it draws more attention to lines like 'Ain't God, but I'm rich and I think that I am' or 'I feel like a king and my queen is Coretta'. So yeah, I wanted to have some hope for this... but this isn't working for me.

72. 'Price On My Head' by Nav ft. The Weeknd - oh, I was dreading this one. I'm normally a big fan of The Weeknd and when I heard that not only was this more of his song than Nav's, but that he delivers a really bad performance, I was worried... and yeah, this is bad. Did everyone decide to get garbage vocal production this week, because that high-pitched autotune warble for a hook is perhaps the worst possible choice for The Weeknd, especially opposite two verses that sound better, especially opposite those funereal organs and that weirdly tropical trap percussion. Meanwhile, the entire song is drenched in paranoia that has no tension in delivery or production, flexing that doesn't match with any of it especially for The Weeknd with all the girls screwing him for brands, and can I ask who the hell is gunning for either of these two? I mean, with Nav he's at least threatening back - although maybe getting the codeine addict as his shooter was a stupid idea - but again, it's hard for me to sympathize with his paranoia when he's putting all the more money into perpetuating that violence - if he's calling out Rexdale within Toronto, you'd think he'd probably know that. But even beyond my local issues, this is still a pretty lousy song...

And really a pretty lousy week as a whole. The best... I'll say 'Pop Out' by Polo G ft. Lil Tjay, which seems to be punching a bit higher than you'd otherwise expect for that sort of song, with the worst going to 'Price On My head' from Nav and The Weeknd, if only because The Weeknd should sure as hell know better. Thankfully, next week we'll be getting a considerably amount of Billie Eilish, so stay tuned for that - otherwise, welcome to the new home of Billboard BREAKDOWN, and thanks for coming over!

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