Tuesday, May 7, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 11, 2019

I think the best way to describe this week would be a deflation of expectations - yeah, I knew this week wouldn't quite have the same impact as what happened with album releases, but I was open to the possibility of larger hits from acts like ScHoolboy Q or P!nk or even AJR. Now thankfully for a change we mostly missed this and seemed to walk away with about as good of a result as we could hope for, although with still more quiet weeks ahead it begs the question where the hell the Hot 100 could even go in the next week or two.

And I say all this specifically with an eye for the top 10, because to my surprise, 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus held onto the #1, mostly thanks to streaming and the sort of radio swell that I could have never predicted for this sort of meme. I didn't expect it to hold this kind of momentum and I still think it might be vulnerable, but I have to give it props for fighting back 'ME!' by Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie, which had an even more aggressive radio surge, beat it on sales, and was right behind on streaming. Make no mistake, this is a two horse race and I do think Taylor can take the #1 if sales and radio hold up while Lil Nas X slips. And this leaves a song like 'Wow.' by Post Malone in a tough situation, pushed to #3 even as its radio peaks and its sales and streaming slips - it'll probably wind up getting overtaken by 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers up to #4 as I predicted, given how that song is still utterly dominant on the radio and has had good sales - streaming isn't there, but if the margin's big enough, it won't matter. This pushes over 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee to #5 as it is declining across the board, and it's a similar state of affairs for '7 rings' by Ariana Grande at #6, as even more radio won't hold up for weaker sales and streaming. And also in the same boat we have 'Without Me' by Halsey, which might have slightly better sales and more radio, but the streaming is even worse. Then we have the slight decline for 'Dancing With A Stranger' by Sam Smith and Normani at #8, and I'm not sure how this song will behave over the next few weeks, because radio momentum is still there, but streaming is nonexistent and sales look like they've stalled out. What gives me a little more confidence is that amidst all of this, 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish has remained stable, mostly thanks to rock solid streaming and slight boosts on the radio compensating for weakening sales - for this song, it's not about making the run, but staying stable while everything above it collapses. And finally we've got 'Talk' by Khalid down to #10, but I don't predict for long - it's actually pretty robust in all channels, so unfortunately this might stick around - yay...

Anyway, losers and dropouts, with the non-surprise of 'Pure Cocaine' by Lil Baby gone again along with 'This Is It' by Scotty McCreery, as well as the expected departure of 'Better Now' by Post Malone, which frankly had a way better shelf life than I expected. But it's hard to look at our current crop of losers and say I had much in the way of expectations for any of these - the best is 'you should see me in a crown' by Billie Eilish down at 80, and considering it was only back because of the album bomb, the surprise is that it's stuck around this long! Beyond that, we had the expected continued losses for 'Kill This Love' by BLACKPINK to 100 and 'SOS' by the late Avicii ft. Aloe Blacc to 99, as well as for 'Racks In The Middle' by the late Nipsey Hussle ft. Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy continuing to 63. And beyond that... look, I'm not going to complain that 'Sanguine Paradise' by Lil Uzi Vert finally saw a hit to 42, or that 'Mixed Personalities' by YNW Melly and Kanye went to 76, or that 'I've Been Waiting' by Lil Peep, iLoveMakonnen, and Fall Out Boy went to 78. But the biggest relief came to seeing 'Earth' by Lil Dicky collapse to 41 - an utterly atrocious song, I'm happy that it looks like it's going to tank in a way that 'Freaky Friday' didn't last year.

Now when we go to our gains and returning entries, there seems to be less of a story - which might be the biggest narrative of 2019's Hot 100 thus far - with '24/7' by Meek Mill ft. Ella Mai being pushed as the next single for obvious reasons to 97, and 'Numb Numb Juice' by ScHoolboy Q back at 95 thanks to the album release. And if you go to our gains you also see some of this for P!nk and 'Walk Me Home' up to 49 - yes, I'll be getting to P!nk as soon as I can, I am planning on reviewing the album. Beyond that... well, 'Suge' by DaBaby got another boost to 27, 'Hey Look Ma I Made It' by Panic! At The Disco picked up residual thanks to Taylor Swift with a boost to 66, and 'Shotta Flow' by NLE Choppa got a boost off the debut to 86 because these short-lived, borderline freestyles always do. No, what surprised me was the gain for 'Before I Let Go' by Beyonce to 65 mostly thanks to good sales and a bit of radio, and 'Whiskey Glasses' by Morgen Wallen surging to 33 - and in this case, I honestly had to check to see if this was a mistake, but apparently he's got great radio and solid sales - looks like Nashville is giving this gurgling track a boost of all things before it's inevitably forgotten by everyone.

Anyway, we've got a crop of new arrivals - and given how bad some of these are I hesitate to call any of them healthy - starting with...

98. 'Stop Snitching' by YG - so I'll be honest, I'm surprised that YG is coming out with an album so quickly after his project last year, which yes, I didn't like, but did have a charting hit with 'BIG BANK', so this could either go as striking when the iron's hot or diverting back to a sound that won him more critical acclaim... and honestly, while I have no idea how well it'll move, outside of the collaboration with Nipsey Hussle this is probably the first YG song I've enjoyed in a long time, mostly because it drills into its concept of calling out snitches with an efficiency and energy that stays on topic and winds up catchy as sin. Yeah, it's not quite as groovy as the stuff I've dug from YG in the past with its jittery pianos, but the faster tempo and YG's natural sense of humor lends the song a bounce that's kind of effective, even if it does feel basic as all hell. It also feels a bit short, and I'm not sure the melodic flow quite works on the second verse, but overall, it's brutish but effective. Good stuff, I like it.

96. 'Love Me Anyway' by P!nk ft. Chris Stapleton - I swear, it seems like the mainstream pop acts of the 2000s have realized Chris Stapleton is a hired gun that'll give their material a considerable boost - and the hilarious thing is that they aren't wrong! It worked wonders with 'Say Something' last year, and I'd argue it's really damn effective with P!nk here too. Now I'll talk more about the song directly when I review the album soon, but what's telling is that this is absolutely more of a country song, anchoring the pianos and strings with plenty of pedal steel, as P!nk pleads to ask if she fails time and time again whether he'd love her anyway, and yet what's telling is that Stapleton echoes that same insecurity, and he's got the soul to make it sound convincing. Now again, I do think it's a little short - a bridge could have really put this over the top - and the vocal pickup might be a bit close, but otherwise... yeah, a highlight from the album, great song - happy it's charting!

94. 'Knockin' Boots' by Luke Bryan - the fact that there are now ways for Chris Stapleton to get on the Hot 100 means that we shouldn't need to have Luke Bryan anymore, right? And I say that with the acknowledgement that yes, I actually think this is a step-up from most of what he put on the last album - yeah, the vocals are overproduced and snap and clap percussion is clunky and only highlights the utter lack of good basslines that have crippled so much of bro-country in retrospect, but there's more jaunty energy that might even be organic to this than most of what he's released before. The larger problem, however, remains the lyrics - formless list-making bro-country to which we've heard hundreds of times before, with the most interesting reference coming for 'Fishing In The Dark' by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which might sound just as brittle in its pickups but it's considerably better than this! I have no idea why bro-country acts do this, referencing older country tracks that remind me of something I'd much rather listen to - so yeah, do that, this'll be forgotten pretty quickly.

92. 'Power Is Power' by SZA, The Weeknd & Travis Scott - so here's the thing: I'm not really a Game Of Thrones fan, mostly because I wasn't that fond of the underlying nihilism in the books and it's a petty thematic conceit that's never left the show either. But I understand their popularity... what I don't understand is how they get to the point where they're so popular to demand multiple compilations of pop songs behind them that have a tenuous connection to the show at best and no connection sonically to the fantasy setting inspiring them! But apparently this collaboration between SZA, The Weeknd, and Travis Scott got big enough to chart, and... honestly, it's not bad, but it reminds me of the Black Panther soundtrack songs in that they're more focused on setting a vibe for the original work than standing as songs on their own, between the tagline pulled directly from the show to the hollow, blown-out tones and glitchy bass beat. Hell, the production actually winds up giving The Weeknd the sort of dark gravitas he's been seeking for a while, and SZA fits comfortably enough in the same murk... which leaves Travis Scott. Now in terms of his vocal timbre, it works, and for the most part he stays on topic... but you'd think it wouldn't be hard to avoid referencing the modern world by mentioning bullets. Granted, given the Starbucks cup that wound up in frame on Game Of Thrones a few days ago, maybe it's apropos, but in the mean time... yeah, I kind of dig this. Not really sure how well it'll age or be a hit, but I like it.

90. 'Light It Up' by Marshmello, Chris Brown & Tyga - by now the controversy has long eclipsed any conversation surrounding this song, where CHVRCHES went out on a limb to say that they were disappointed Marshmello was working with perennial pains in my ass Chris Brown and Tyga... and then Chris Brown said he wishes CHVRCHES got hit by a bus, because apparently his cocaine budget has overtaken any public relations spending. Regardless of that, Chris Brown and Tyga have always brought out the worst parts of each other in all of their collaborations, so I had zero expectations for this... which was appropriate. I mean, Marshmello's production minus any sort of consistent drop basically sounds like a watery rip from DJ Mustard from five years ago with an okay g-funk line... which might be another reason why this sounds so damn obnoxious when you consider our vocalists. And it's not even Tyga this time - he's sleazy and basic as a rapper, but for as much as he rhymes words with themselves, he's at least rhyming coherently. Chris Brown, meanwhile, continues to force rhymes as he tells your girl to 'close her mouth' when she's facing him even as his second verse degenerates. Really, this isn't good, the most I can praise here is the production; which isn't the case for...

85. 'CHopstix' by ScHoolboy Q & Travis Scott - I swear, this song was picked clean before CrasH Talk even dropped, the sort of song that the internet collectively decided was trash in record time... and to be fair, while I don't quite think it's terrible, it's not good either. The warping oscillation against the rickety trap beat before Travis Scott delivers one of his laziest ever hooks, it's no surprise this was branded as a cheap commercial sellout in record time. And while I actually mostly like ScHoolboy's flow on this song, there's no getting around how basic and banal his lyrics feel, the sort of hookup where even seems bored - and while that might fit in the larger context of the album, as a single this is utterly inert and lifeless. Not nearly as terrible as it's been advertised, but I can't get behind it as good or even passable either.

69. 'Baila Baila Baila' by Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, J. Balvin, Farruko & Anuel AA - okay seriously, we don't need a 'Te Bote' part two, I have no idea why they thought shoving five reggaeton acts on the same song would be a good idea other than to make another overstuffed posse cut, especially as a remix of an Ozuna song! Now to be fair, this is better than 'Te Bote' - for one, it's not overlong, with a little more upbeat melody courtesy of the piano even if the groove is as colourless as ever. That leaves our artists... and look, I get the point of starting strong with Daddy Yankee, before the monotones of J. Balvin and Farruko click and Anuel AA starts his autotuned braying, but it kind of kills any incentive I have to listen to more of this song, especially when the content collapses into beyond trying to pick up this hot girl who was burned in bad relationships before but any one of these five could fill the void. And if they had much game in any way that'd be one thing, but I'm not hearing the appeal or even much beyond vocal timbre to tell them apart. Ehh, it's not bad, but I don't see it being interesting enough to stick around, which leaves us with...

67. 'Floating' by ScHoolboy Q ft. 21 Savage - so I didn't say much about this song when I reviewed CrasH Talk, mostly because the discordant keys kind of overwhelmed any rational thoughts I might have had about the rest of the track. And yeah, I still really can't stand the production, but it's not like ScHoolboy's verse or hook are all that good in his abrasive flexing, but then we get 21 Savage. And again, I keep trying to give this guy credit... but his verses these days seem to fall in a weird grey zone between genuine improvements and menace and some utterly ridiculous bars that break the mood any mood, and this verse is unfortunately the latter, where he talks about girls putting hickeys on his dick, having her best friend 'nibble' him, and then punching girls if they try to kiss him - classy. So yeah, there might be a little more going on in comparison with 'CHopstix'... but not much, as I still don't think this is good.

So that was our week... and man, the best fall out fast, with 'Love Me Anyway' by P!nk and Chris Stapleton taking that slot and Honourable Mention falling to 'Stop Snitching' by YG - what can I say, I dig the intensity. Now the worst... honestly, for me while I'm inclined to make it a three way tie, I think I'm going with 'CHopstix' by ScHoolboy Q and Travis Scott as the worst with 'Floating' with 21 Savage as the Dishonourable Mention - believe me, I wanted to give this to Chris Brown, but Marshmello's production just saved it. Next up... see, I'm not sure, we've got a week before the possibility of Tyler, the Creator unleashing something on the Hot 100 and the upcoming week of releases seems scant, so we could get a breather....

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