Wednesday, May 29, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 1, 2019

So I'll admit I didn't quite predict this. I knew that Tyler, The Creator would have his album bomb - and with just enough songs to squeak into my qualifying rules, for the record - but I'll admit I did not expect DJ Khaled to do as well as he did. Now part of that is the suspicion that DJ Khaled didn't have the blowout single ready to hit beyond a song like 'No Brainer' - which was released last year, packaged on the album, and didn't re-enter the Hot 100 here - but he did see enough measurable chart success that I have to pay attention... even if I have less than zero interest in reviewing the album and it'll probably wind up on the Trailing Edge at best.

Of course, none of this means much to our current top 10, where 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus continues to cement its hold on the Hot 100 thanks to its video, holding its own on sales, and radio that despite wavering actually picked up momentum. And while I'd like to say 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber can make a run beyond #2, it's lagging on sales and streaming and while it's making one hell of a radio run, it's getting outstripped on YouTube by a ridiculous margin, and I'm not seeing enough momentum to break through. What's more interesting is 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish picking up a slot to #3 with the streaming that will not die and while sales is down, the radio run is actually holding its own, it might actually sustain its position with more organic presence than I was expecting. Hell, compare that to 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers down at #4, which might have just barely secured the top spot on the radio, but the sales are actually weaker and the streaming is way worse - not sure if its on its way out, but its position is precarious. And what could easily challenge him is 'Talk' by Khalid rising to #5 - yeah, the sales might be weaker, but the streaming is more robust and airplay seems to have more momentum - even if the song is worse, I can see it holding its own. But it did elbow past 'Wow.' by Post Malone down to #6 - better streaming but worse sales and radio stumbling - and 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee down to #7 - even better streaming but even worse everywhere else. Then we saw a stumble for 'Dancing With A Stranger' by Sam Smith and Normani to #8 - kind of to be expected with the radio finally starting to slip with everything else in the can - but I'll admit I'm still surprised that 'ME!' by Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie slid to #9, not just because sales and streaming are unstable, but because radio may have already peaked. And look, I'm not saying this song has tanked altogether, but I'm already seeing headlines where it implies the song has underperformed, which is probably news that Taylor Swift isn't used to hearing, especially getting blocked by 'Old Town Road' of all things. Finally, entering the top 10 for the first time off a radio push that seems to have come out of nowhere and has nothing else, 'Sweet But Psycho' by Ava Max - now again, I don't expect it to last long especially given its long run on the radio charts, but it could hold in the top 10 for a little longer given all the songs falling above it.

And while we're on that note, our losers and dropouts, and there are a fair few in the latter category: first, the songs that nabbed their year-end spot, 'Be Alright' by Dean Lewis, 'Drip Too Hard' by Lil Baby and Gunna, 'Baby Shark' by Pinkfong, and to my surprise, 'thank u, next' by Ariana Grande; and then the songs that'll miss like 'Make It Sweet' by Old Dominion and 'Mixed Personalities' by YNW Melly & Kanye West - good. And given that we got two albums this week, we had a lot of losers across the board here. Yeah, 'Shallow' by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper is finally slowing down at 36 though it'll comfortably make the year end list, but then we have the continued losers like 'Homicide' by Logic and Eminem to 53, 'Boy With Luv' by BTS and Halsey to 71, and 'Night Shift' by Jon Pardi to 90. And then you had the loss of the debut for 'Triggered' by Jhene Aiko at 94 - which makes sense, it's not really much of a single - but I will say I'm a little surprised that 'Beer Never Broke My Heart' by Luke Combs suffered a setback to 41 and 'Love Ain't' by Eli Young Band faltered to 66. And from there... honestly, it's all over the place. 'Here With Me' by Marshmello ft. CHVRCHES sliding to 48, 'Who Do You Love' by The Chainsmokers ft. 5 Seconds Of Summer to 73, 'Don't Call Me Up' by Mabel to 79, 'Girls Need Love' by Summer Walker & Drake to 82, 'Talk You Out Of It' by Florida Georgia Line at 89, 'Go Loko' by YG, Tyga, and Jon Z at 92... why are most of these songs okay at best and all look like they probably should have done better and show real signs of weakness? YG might recover if his streaming numbers are better, but I'd honestly prefer 'Go Loko' fail hard. Beyond that... eh, the expected losses in reggaeton for 'Calma' by Pedro Capo & Farruko to 96 and 'Baila Baila Baila' by Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, J. Balvin, Farruko, and Anuel AA at 99, and then there's the slump for 'Here Tonight' by Brett Young at 98, and given that it's hit its last week, it'll be gone next week.

And yet what might be more interesting is that thanks to two album bombs, there are no gains this week. No re-entries either... but since album bomb rules are in effect for Tyler, I will list the songs that debuted this week that I already discussed in some detail in my review on Spectrum Pulse: 'I THINK' at 51, 'RUNNING OUT OF TIME' at 65, 'IGOR'S THEME' at 67, 'NEW MAGIC WAND' at 70, 'WHAT'S GOOD' at 85, and 'PUPPET' at 88.

Now for our new arrivals, let's start with...

91. 'Weather The Storm' by DJ Khaled ft. Meek Mill & Lil Baby - so unfortunately DJ Khaled didn't quite get enough songs to qualify for an album bomb, but I'd also make the argument that term isn't quite appropriate when it comes to DJ Khaled anyway, because he doesn't so much make albums as curated singles/posse cut compilations, which is also why individual cuts charted higher than Tyler on aggregate, but just less of them. Anyway, we've got a team up between Meek Mill and Lil Baby... and you know, for the first half of the song, it works! Meek gets his operatic backdrop for him to holler over, and while I'm still never been quite impressed with his vocal tone to carry real power, his flows are better and his long fight to get here adds some desperation I do appreciate... and then Lil Baby comes on to short-circuit all the momentum. Rhymes are dropped, the beat mutates into a gurgle and can't even stay with it, and Lil Baby can't remotely match the energy with a very Lil Wayne-esque melody which doesn't fit anything else here - possibly because he's never been in Meek's shoes, the only people he references in similar dire straits are family or friends, not himself, but it doesn't help the song at all. Maybe it needed a third verse from Meek to ramp things up again, but yeah, this should be better.

86. 'What If I Never Get Over You' by Lady Antebellum - so here's the problem with me and Lady Antebellum: if they choose to make a midtempo, downbeat heartbreak song, they're immediately stuck with the comparison to 'Need You Now' and specifically for me some of the tunes Charles Kelley put out solo. Granted, the group can have some good instincts picking songs... and look, I'm not going to say this is better than any of that, but this is still good. Yeah, the synth accents don't need to be there and I'd be a fan of the guitars getting more texture and the mix feels a little oversold, especially on the bridge, but Lady Antebellum have always been more of an adult contemporary act than many want to admit so none of this is all that surprising. And I do like this song regardless - it's got the same formula as Marianas Trench's 'One Love' in questioning whether you'll ever truly get over someone post-breakup, and while the obvious answer is 'of course, it just takes time', it's a solid underlying idea for this sort of song, and the writing gives it weight, if feeling a little abstract at points. So yeah, for a Lady Antebellum lead-off single, I really like this - hope it sticks around.

74. 'A BOY IS A GUN' by Tyler, The Creator - my rule is that if a song can make my best or worst of a week, I cover it here, and this is easily one of Tyler's best songs from IGOR, hands down. It's the turning point of the album, where the breakup has to happen and it continues the extended metaphor of boys being both magic wands and guns - phallic as all hell playing off the Ponderosa Twins sample off coursing waves of synth, but in highlighting how said partners can bring both love and pain where the compliments come as much as the insults, where they can be dangerous but also keep him safe... but then the moment hits where he tells him to stay away as he has to end it and the guitar and cascading pianos break through, it's a powerful moment. Easily one of two major highlights on IGOR, and considering the other one didn't chart... yeah, great song.

57. 'Jealous' by DJ Khaled ft. Chris Brown, Lil Wayne & Big Sean - okay, I'll be blunt: when I saw this lineup for a song with this title, I was bracing myself for the worst. And look, it's an ugly hook with Chris Brown's autotuned stab at hip-hop against the fat synth line and trap snares, it's not setting itself up well, but at least the guys are setting it up so that he and their partners are inspiring jealousy, not being jealous themselves. On top of that, Lil Wayne's verse is really well-structured and pretty strong, and I'm not against DJ Khaled just shouting 'fuck em!' across the song... which leaves Big Sean. Maybe it's just me, but it's hard not to see some of the veiled references as angling towards Jhene on an otherwise good verse... but if he's looking for that smoke beyond 'Triggered', he could be in more trouble than he realizes. Otherwise... look, this is nowhere close to as bad as I was expecting - not good with that repetitive hook and entirely too much Chris Brown, but I've heard worse, it's fine. 

52. 'Celebrate' by DJ Khaled ft. Travis Scott & Post Malone - am I the only one who saw this collaboration and thought it strange? Travis and Post Malone make sense, they've got that autotuned grit and will pull from a similar weed-saturated murk, so how on earth would DJ Khaled's gaudy opulence fit with that? Well, not well, and this is mostly an issue of production - the trap snares and autotune layering around Travis' voice sounds way cleaner than it should, especially with the flute and blocky beat trying to cut through, and even with the guitars trying to add some smolder on the bridge, none of it really merges well together for an effective hook. Maybe if Post Malone and Travis Scott actually had some real interplay it'd add up to more, but for a song called 'Celebrate', it's awfully curdled, both trying to highlight those who are lost and how you're not them celebrating in the same way... and yet from the sounds of the song, I'm not sure I'd want to be. Yeah, this has been highlighted as a dud across the project, and it absolutely is - not good, next!

44. 'You Stay' by DJ Khaled ft. Meek Mill, J. Balvin, Lil Baby & Jeremih - okay, another team up between Meek Mill and Lil Baby, this time with J. Balvin and Jeremih thrown into the mix... and I'm honestly not sure that's a net positive. Firstly the song starts with a significant R&B sample from 'No Me Conviene' by India, but then only uses the vocal line and none of its texture against a barebone pulsating synth with some faint twinkling keys around it until the lumpy percussion groove tries to capture some groove. Pile in Jeremih's multi-tracking and I'm left feeling that the mix is stuffed with too many elements that don't compliment each other or feel natural, especially with Meek Mill and Lil Baby playing the 'other man' trying to coax a distraught girl over to either cheat or hook up after dumping the ex. And look, Meek Mill has nothing close to groove in his delivery to make this work, so he just comes across as stilted and threatening, both Jeremih and Lil Baby are underwhelming, and J. Balvin is just given an outro - that's it. So yeah, not sure it's worse than 'Celebrate', but it's absolutely a mess, and not good.

43. 'Just Us' by DJ Khaled ft. SZA - ah look, the rare DJ Khaled song that only has a single guest - and again, given how organic SZA's material tends to be, I was curious how well she'd fit against DJ Khaled's mix. And the answer is I don't care, he just sampled 'Ms. Jackson' by OutKast, and that's the sort of classic that you should know better than to ever touch, especially when you blast away the stormy texture and grit that made that instrumental so striking! Hell, SZA might have actually sounded better against the original than this sterile recreation, but even the writing feels awkward here - forget Ms. Jackson's intricacy that was built on a plainly fractured relationship and messy family dynamic and how SZA is now stuck trying to sell a pretty generic 'us against the world' message, what it feels more reminiscent of are songs like 'All The Stars' that play for broad, general platitudes instead of the specific complexities that SZA built into Ctrl. So yeah, the crime here isn't that this is bad, per se - it's just that it utterly squanders a real talent in R&B against a classic tune that should never have been touched for an utterly banal remake, the 'Feel This Moment' of 2019. So yeah, skip it.

21. 'Higher' by DJ Khaled ft. Nipsey Hussle & John Legend - I can make the argument that this was the song that prompted the release of the entire Father Of Asahd project - the big name recognition with Nipsey Hussle both before and after his passing with a video, that's a recognizable draw. And it also helps that DJ Khaled picked a beat with real gospel opulence and had John Legend sell it with a lot of soul, which gives Nipsey the space to speak briefly about his birth and family and then as the trap elements creep in his work to make his violent street work legit, left all the more cryptic with the final line of 'and look at my fate'. Honestly, there's little criticize here - I'm still not crazy about Nipsey Hussle's flow and you'd think with a song with this much swell you'd get a bridge or at the least a third verse... but what we get is something special. Great song, genuinely like this.

19. 'Wish Wish' by DJ Khaled ft. Cardi B & 21 Savage - see, now this makes sense as a team-up - even if I like everyone was lukewarm on 'Bartier Cardi', a reunion might be the sort of cut to give Cardi some fire and intensity she's been missing the past six months, especially off an eerie, keyboard-driven Tay Keith beat... and I dunno, I feel like I should like this more than I do. Yeah, Cardi gets off some decent bars, but I can't be the only one who finds the rhyming phrases with themselves to get a little tired and I'm left thinking she could have gone harder. And for 21 Savage... well, putting aside how the fidelity doesn't quite match with Cardi's he tries for a wordier flow that only seems to highlight his clumsiness in not quite riding the beat as well as he could - which is probably a bad idea when you mention on your second bar that you think you're the best coming out of the south, even when a few bars later he's talking about shooting rappers and to put aside any wordplay. Yeah, that's telling, but probably not in a way it should be, which again, kind of leaves me mixed on this song. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, but again, it definitely should be better.

15. 'Nightmare' by Halsey - so I've been waiting to hear how the hell Halsey would follow 'Without Me', a song that again I only found tolerable when Juice WRLD was on it. So to see her bring out a song called 'Nightmare', which is implying a darker pivot possibly to compete and lose in a similar lane Billie Eilish, I was intrigued... and I bring up Billie Eilish because it seems obvious to me that she's taking the same slightly hushed, minimal approach and spare pitch-shifting for at least the first verse and the prechoruses and bridge... at least until she starts squawking over some of the ugliest distortion I've heard in a while on the hook, and not in a good way - it's flat, it's grinding, there's no palpable sense of menace or restraint, it sounds like it's forcing an imitation that's the furthest thing from natural. Now some would likely point to Rated R-era Rihanna and say that's a better paralle, and fair enough, and how it's an indictment of Halsey's whole career in chasing sounds that other acts do better - because it is - but I will say the writing at least feels more detailed and the idea of owning your negative impulses, especially as she puts so much of it in her music... but then she chases it with the line 'I'm no sweet dream, but I'm a hell of a night' - which is a good turn of phrase and might work if you were making a dark, sensual song, but here comes across as the sort of enticing plea to reinforce her value that she herself shouldn't need! And hold on, how are you keeping your 'exes in the basement' when on the very last single you said specifically on the hook how he's above you? If anything, this song highlights my biggest problem with Halsey's music for years now: overthought detail that only detracts from the pathos she tries to sell at the core and in her delivery - only this time she brought along one of the worst hooks of her career. So yeah, this is pretty bad - next!

13. 'EARFQUAKE' by Tyler, The Creator - it looks like we've got Tyler, The Creator's biggest solo hit by a considerable margin - well, solo because he didn't credit Playboi Carti or Charlie Wilson, but it does feel like more of a Tyler creation exclusively. And yeah, it is pretty good, but there are significant problems - Tyler's weedy upper register, even if it's supported by pitch-shifting doesn't sound anything close to good, trying to split the difference between BROCKHAMPTON and Awaken, My Love era Childish Gambino, and I've never had any fondness for Playboi Carti's weirdly chewy delivery and utter absence of content. But aside from that, Charlie Wilson does give the song some soul to work opposite the beeping synths and detailed piano cascades, and I am a bit of a sucker for those g-funk touches in both the tonal choice and the lumpy groove, which kind of works for the sort of awkward pleading meshed with flimsy ego that's the core of this song's emotion. So yeah, it's fine enough... but if I'm being honest, I'm not sure I'm seeing the crossover appeal that'll give this traction outside of early sales and streaming - I know Tyler's got his diehard fans who'll keep this around for longer than the crossovers from Flower Boy, but I'd put money on this lasting less than some of the DJ Khaled cuts.

And it's not the Tyler, The Creator song I'd highlight as my favourite this week - that's going to 'A BOY IS A GUN' as my best of the week, with 'Higher' by DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle, and John Legend just edging out Lady Antebellum here. Now for the worst of the week... see, I've got a three way race between utterly missed potential, a horrible idea that should never have seen the light of day but ultimately leads to more blandly forgettable that bad, and one of the worst hooks on a pop song I've heard this year. And on that note 'Nightmare' by Halsey is the worst of the week, with Dishonourable Mention going to 'Celebrate' by DJ Khaled ft. Post Malone and Travis Scott, because I remembered that Post Malone brought in more of that stupid yodel he does, and it still somehow didn't wind up being the worst part of that song, so much wasted potential. Anyway, next week there's the fallout, and the unlikely possibility of a YG album bomb - stay tuned for that!

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