Tuesday, April 30, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 4, 2019

So this week was... weird. I had the suspicion it'd be more transitional because the big album drop that made my life a lot more hectic occurred last Friday - seriously, eight albums that I'd otherwise want to cover, a situation not helped by me getting sick and what's depressing is that most of them aren't close to good - and for the most part, it is. But I get the impression this is a week that buries its biggest lead, and the sharper changes will take effect next week based off of what happens here.

And note that we're not explicitly talking about the top 10 right now, although it is relevant here. Sure, 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus is at #1 still, thanks to the sales, streaming, YouTube and a terrific radio run, but it's going to be hitting a behemoth next week that we'll be talking about later that might stymie some of that momentum, for better or worse. For now it's head-and-shoulders above 'Wow.' by Post Malone at #2, which might have okay sales but lagged in streaming and has wavered on the radio all week, only above 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee at #3 because that song's airplay is in freefall - it actually has better sales and streaming this week. Then we have '7 rings' by Ariana Grande at #4, which actually got a bit of a streaming recovering to compensate for radio and sales taking a serious downturn, which I would say makes it vulnerable to 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers up to #5, but beyond really strong radio and okay sales, I have no idea where its momentum is going to come from. Still rose above 'Without Me' by Halsey at #6, which also saw a bit of a streaming rebound despite losing in other categories, which means I still think it's vulnerable to 'Dancing With A Stranger' by Sam Smith and Normani holding firm at #7... although not by much, given how it only really has consistent airplay. What's more of the story is our new entry into the top 10, one I certainly did not expect: 'Talk' by Khalid at #8. Yeah, outside of the week of his album bomb, without much sales he's had streaming and radio traction... shame the song's kind of lousy, but this might actually have the groundswell to stick around. Hell, it got past 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish at #9, where the sales are alright and the streaming is huge, but the radio is lagging so badly that when its momentum dries up, it could be in real trouble. Finally, for a song that actually has radio in a similar situation we have 'MIDDLE CHILD' by J. Cole at #10, which still has airplay traction and okay streaming... but the sales are nonexistent, go figure.

Now that takes us to our losers and dropouts... which is one of those cases where I think there should be more of a story, but there just isn't. As I predicted 'Tequila' by Dan + Shay is gone again, but let me ask: does anyone really care that much that 'MIA' by Bad Bunny and Drake is gone, or that 'Money' by Cardi B is out - maybe it's just the group I hang around, but neither song seems to have been all that compelling, for good or bad reasons. And when you look at our losers... again, it's hard to care that much. We have our debuts falling off naturally - 'SOS' by the late Avicii and Aloe Blacc falling to 87 and 'Boy With Luv' by BTS and Halsey sliding to 40, which I honestly thought would have a bit more traction - and our continued collapse for BLACKPINK's 'Kill This Love' to 86. Beyond that... eh, 'Racks In The Middle' by the late Nipsey Hussle ft. Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy fell to 51 and 'One That Got Away' by Michael Ray slid to 99 - good.

Now for our gains and returns... the weird feelings is that this feels like a reset to an equilibrium that's never existed. Why else when you look at our returns are we getting 'Calma' by Pedro Capo and Farruko back at 71 or 'Secreto' by Anuel AA and Karol G at 83 or especially 'Pure Cocaine' by Lil Baby at 96? Hell, even our returns from last week rebounded: 'Clout' by Offset and Cardi B surged to 39, 'I'm So Tired...' by Lauv and Troye Sivan rose to 81, and 'On My Way To You' by Cody Johnson hit 89! Beyond that... well, I already mentioned Khalid's 'Talk', and we had debuts like 'Love Ain't' by the Eli Young Band rise to 68 and 'Hey Look Ma, I Made It' by Panic! At The Disco up to 80 - as well as continued gains for 'Pop Out' by Polo G ft. Lil Tjay to 60, but the rest don't give me much to be excited about. Sure, I still like 'Pure Water' by DJ Mustard and Migos up to 23, and I'm not going to complain much about 'Con Calma' by Daddy Yankee and Snow up to 34, but does anyone want to see Florida Georgia Line get another crack at success with 'Talk You Out Of It' rising to 78? That album already tanked pretty hard, let's not see them get another wind.

Now thankfully we only have six new arrivals this week, but we're starting with one literally so big that it landed its chart entry early...

100. 'ME!' by Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie - okay, I'll be honest: this was not what I was expecting to come from Taylor Swift post-reputation era. Maybe it was just me, but you'd think the 'back-to-your-roots' pivot would could come easy... not a team-up with Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco for a song that seems rooted in the broad theatricality that informed more of his last album than anything Taylor has ever done! Well, okay, with the marching band snares and cringe-worthy talking on the hook it does remind me way more of 'Shake It Off' than it should, but at least the embrace of theatricality is a natural fit for both artists? But that might be part of the problem: there's an old-fashioned plasticity to this song that feels like a shell of the organic detail and edge that gave even Taylor Swift's bad songs presence in pop music, and yet the production isn't lush or saturated enough to emulate those old big-band tones. Even the horn melody sounds suffocated and airless, and placing the vocals squeaks of repeated syllables right at the front of the mix doesn't match with anything that's characterized the writing of Swift or Urie in recent years! I could have sworn this was a studio creation intended for Katy Perry or something, but no, outside of producer Joel Little, this was written by Urie and Swift themselves... and somehow has wound up the most sterile and garish thing I've heard from them to date. It's not offensive, but I kind of wish it was - at least that would be interesting. 

96. 'Shotta Flow' by NLE Choppa - okay, previously unknown artist who is from Memphis and isn't yet out of his teens, I think I've heard this before... hell, I think the surprise here is that this isn't really a trap song. No, with that spare piano line and lumpy bass beat, it's more reminiscent of 'No Flex Zone' by Rae Sremmurd, with NLE Choppa barking over a song that doesn't really have a hook. It almost feels like an extended freestyle, which might explain lines like 'I'm super hot, like a frying pan' or 'your bitch suckin' dick like a Kool-Aid pickle' - actually, everything he rhymes with this in his second verse I'm torn on being genuinely cringey or just hilarious. I guess if there was something beyond aggression and a few flow change-ups to make me think there's more to this it'd be one thing, but when you realize the content isn't all that distinctive or compelling, even despite not being your standard trap song it's just not that interesting. Not terrible, but not good or memorable either.

93. 'Love Someone' by Brett Eldredge - okay, honest question, why is Brett Eldredge still releasing songs from his self-titled album that dropped in 2017? Don't get me wrong, I tend to like this guy more than I probably should because he's got a keen ear for melody and a real sense of humor and can seem more genuine when he has his vulnerable side, but that album never seemed to have the sticking power it should have, and his choice of singles did seem questionable. Granted, he got a little bit of virality for making a goofy soft-focus faux-romantic video dedicating this song to his dog - which makes the third verse a little awkward - but this is a better cut from the album, even if I think the percussion is overproduced with the handclaps. The acoustic guitars and pedal steel add some genuine warmth and I appreciate how he goes for a big hook - hell, on some level in the composition this isn't that far removed with an Old Dominion song, which makes think I'd probably like them more if they had an organic groove every once and a while. Now let me make this clear, this is not better than 'Somethin' I'm Good At' or even 'Haven't Met You' or 'Cycles', but it might do okay and I'm fine with that.

90. 'Slide' by French Montana ft. Blueface & Lil Tjay - I mean, there's a limit to how annoyed I can be about French Montana somehow getting another song to chart: if he's going to keep snagging guest appearances to nab him hits, so long as the song is okay I'm not going to complain too much. And I still remember mostly liking 'Unforgettable' for everything that wasn't French Montana, so can Blueface and Lil Tjay do the same thing here? Honestly, I'm not sure that'd be possible, because there's a lot more of French Montana trying and failing to be interesting over a gratuitous sample of Snoop Dogg's 'Serial Killa' to the point where he handled the entire hook... which yeah, isn't bad, but it's not like French Montana is a force of personality. And sadly, with Lil Tjay drowning in autotune and Blueface sadly reminding me that an offbeat flow is only interesting if you're going to do something with it, and the content not rising about generic bragging and attempts to hook up, I just want to go back and listen to vintage Snoop Dogg. So yeah, if French Montana is expecting this to be 'Unforgettable Pt.2', he might be in for a rude awakening.

75. 'Before I Let Go (Homecoming Live)' by Beyonce - so look, Lemonade won me over on Beyonce to the point where I absolutely get her appeal and I can respect what she delivers, and I also know that her commitment to her live shows deserves a ton of attention and respect as well. That said, I wasn't really interested in covering the Beyonce live album, for the same reason I rarely if ever cover live cuts: if I'm reviewing a live mix, I actually want to experience it live, not just a recording. But this goes further: it's actually a studio mix of a loose cover of a Maze song from 1981 with added production from Tay Keith and a rap verse. And look, I've said before that Beyonce seems a little less engaged whenever she makes this brand of dance song, and for as perfunctory as her verse feels on this, it's hard to avoid that, especially with how flat the horn and guitar pickups sound against the trap groove. Now granted, if this was the live recording at the end of a performance, the fact that she sounds as clear and tight as she does here would be a credit to her skills, but as it is - look, I went back to the original Maze song with some pretty slick early 80s funk and R&B vibes, and the mixing of the guitar and bass just has way more groove to me, and I wish Beyonce had been able to capture that. Don't get me wrong, for her fanbase I think this'll work for them, but to me I'm not as impressed. But if you want to talk about a song where everything went off the rails...

17. 'Earth' by Lil DIcky - you know, at some point you need to confront the fact that most of the celebrities you might idolize have terrible goddamn taste, both in music and people, as that is pretty much the only reason I can see why anyone here involved themselves with this. Either that or Lil Dicky has the sort of blackmail material that could embarrass the KGB, but we just need to start with the conceptual failure right out of the gate: a big, environmentally-conscious charity single intended to raise money for Leonardo DiCaprio's foundation all about loving the earth and all of its creatures. And when I say 'loving', Lil Dicky appeared to take this as a cavalcade of the most juvenile animal sex references and little else about environmental consciousness - we didn't even get a cheap line about telling kids to recycle! If anything, it's worse, because in between all the animal sex references Lil Dicky drops one of his most confused and badly structured verses to date where he hopes reality isn't a simulation - which would undercut the entire premise of his song - and how the few problems he lists we should all just 'chill'; he has more lines referencing his dick and the types of orgasms people can get than focused on the topic of the song! And then we have the guests playing all of humanity's creatures, and while I might get a bemused smirk at seeing Hailee Steinfeld describe herself as a common fungus, Adam Levine describe himself as a vulture, Lil Yachty describe himself as HPV, and Kevin Hart say he's Kanye West - because apparently Kanye had enough dignity to say 'no' to this - then we get weird lines like Lil Dicky 'forgiving' Germany as if the Nazi problem hasn't emigrated stateside! Oh, and the production's crap too: a rinkydink tropical mix that sounds like a 2016 leftover with Lil Dicky trying to autotune croon over it with too much reverb slapped over everyone's voice because that's how these 'We Are The World' rip-offs are always produced! But say what you will about that self-obsessed trainwreck of a song, there was at least a hook with some power - this treats everything including its cause like a bad joke, which is pretty much the opposite of how causes like this should be treated! At least 'Freaky Friday' on some level knew it was a novelty song - with this, you can tell Lil Dicky thinks he's making a statement, and considering this abortion of epic proportions, it only reveals how much of a hack he truly is.

So yeah, worst song of the week by a mile, probably one of the worst hits of the year if it sticks around, without question. The best... there isn't much here, but I'm giving it to Brett Eldredge and 'Love Someone', which yes might be partially due to the video but in comparison with most of the rest of these videos, there's credit where it's due. Next week... see, I dunno, I'm not sure how much chart impact is going to be driven by the album releases, and outside of Taylor Swift making a run at #1, I'm not sure what else is confirmed. We'll have to see...

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