Tuesday, May 14, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 18, 2019

...so yeah, there are weeks where I'm wrong, and then there's this week, where I might have been expecting a slowdown - which in some categories we did get - only for a few big singles to disrupt the top 10 from out of nowhere and force me to re-evaluate where the chart could be going in the next few weeks. Now granted, one of those singles is coming from an album that's also out of nowhere - and boy oh boy, I can't tell you how much I don't want to cover it - but still, this is one of those cases where I feel I should have seen this coming, and I'm kicking myself that I didn't.

So fine, let's start off with the top 10, where to some mild surprise 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus is still on top thanks to great sales, streaming that has not slowed down, and a shocking amount of radio traction. And really, I'm not sure what challenges it, and this time we've got evidence of real challengers, so let's start with our new song at #2: 'If I Can't Have You' by Shawn Mendes. Now we'll get to the song's actual quality much later on, but color me surprised that he got as much momentum as he did with a lot less fanfare than Taylor Swift when she made her run - consistently strong across the board, particularly in streaming where I didn't expect a ton of presence, it could be a contender if Lil Nas X sputters at some point. Now granted, it'll face pop competition with 'ME!' by Taylor Swift and Brendon Urie only forced back to #3 - sure, it slipped on sales and the streaming isn't stellar, but the radio is backing this song with a ton of gains, I can see it entrenching its position. Now this leaves 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers in a tough situation at #4, as it still has consistent sales, streaming, and radio traction but just lost the top spot, so it runs the risk of other songs making marginal runs around it. But if we're looking at the cut that is probably the most likely to fall off even with an album bomb incoming, it's our second new top 10 entry: 'Homicide' by Logic ft. Eminem. Yes, Eminem's name guaranteed a big sales draw to match Logic's streaming... but the radio is refusing to touch it, so if Logic wants to brag about how he doesn't play nice with that system - which is more disingenuous marketing than anything - he might have self-sabotaged his chance for a big hit. Now all of this disrupts 'Wow.' by Post Malone down to #6, but that could have been expected as it drops in all categories except the wavering radio, but is probably more true for 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee down at #7, which might still have a little better streaming but has considerably weaker radio. Then we have 'Without Me' by Halsey forced back to #8 - again, it makes sense as it's losing in all categories except streaming this week - which takes us to 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish at #9. Now props to stability here, with streaming being stable and sales actually up... but as much as I really like how she finally has radio momentum with this song, I don't know if it'll be too little, too late. Finally, facing drops across the board we've got '7 rings' by Ariana Grande - and for good riddance.

Now when we get to our losers - the only dropout worth caring about is 'Youngblood' by 5 Seconds Of Summer making its respectable exit - the list is a bit more intriguing. The only debut that's seeing serious losses is 'Baila Baila Baila' by Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, J. Balvin, Farruko, and Anuel AA to 88, and then we're getting the expected continued losses for 'I've Been Waiting' by Lil Peep, iLoveMakonnen ft. Fall Out Boy to 95, 'Racks In The Middle' by Nipsey Hussle ft. Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy at 73, and 'Earth' by Lil Dicky at 61 - thank GOD. But it's some of our losses that surprise me a little more: yeah, I'm not surprised that 'wish you were gay' by Billie Eilish is fading at 94 - it was a promo single that didn't stick because it wasn't very good - but I'm a bit surprised that 'Boy With Luv' by BTS and Halsey has continued to fade to 51 when I thought that had pop traction. On the flip side, while I'm not surprised that the moment for 'Thotiana' by Blueface seems to be over with it down at 36, I'm a little surprised that songs like 'Make It Sweet' by Old Dominion tumbled to 76 and 'Here Tonight' by Brett Young seems stymied at 66. Finally we've got 'Be Alright' by Dean Lewis down at 37, and while I'm not going to say it's now falling because Ed Sheeran is starting to make his return, I won't say I'm surprised that might be the case.

And given that we didn't have any returns this week, let's go through our gains pretty quickly, given that they are few and far between - if you're looking for an area where the chart didn't move that much, it's here. Off the debut, 'Knockin' Boots' by Luke Bryan saw more success than I expected at 84, and the return for '24/7' by Meek Mill and Ella Mai was considerable at 85, but what proved to be a better pleasant surprise was the pickup for 'Pop Out' by Polo G and Lil Tjay at 39 - again, like most of the songs in this lane, I don't expect it to have that much staying power, but I'm still pretty fond of it, generally pleased it's getting some modest success.

But now for our gains, where outside of our big top 10 entries the stories aren't that big, starting with...

99. 'Die Young' by Roddy Ricch - so look, I know Roddy Ricch has been on the cusp of breaking through for a while now - his mixtape dropped last year, this being a cut from it, he had a big feature with the late Nipsey Hussle, also from California... and seriously, we're doing this with another melodic trap clunker with Roddy Ricch showing one of the sloppiest flows in recent memory? And yeah, this is a rough listen: the trap whir sounds really spare and cheap, and while the melodic interplay isn't bad, we're stuck with Roddy Ricch utterly failing to ride it effectively. But I think it's the content that annoys me the most: you try to make a song saying how you don't want to die young like your legends - which he outright admits includes XXXTENTACION - but then makes the content of the song all about the same weightless flexing and increasingly sloppy rhyming? Yeah, I'll say it, this kid's not ready for prime time, and this isn't good - next!

98. 'Paradise' by Bazzi - all right, so given that I'm one of the few critics who actually gave Bazzi a chance last year, I was curious how he'd follow up the mild success he had, with this being a single for the next album and already positioned for some romantic comedy dropping this year. And... honestly, while I wouldn't put it in the same category as a song like 'Mine', I still think this is decent. For one, outside some of the faded backing vocals that don't quite mesh, I think Bazzi has some genuine charisma and placing him opposite that sharper pulsating synth groove with just enough blurry elegance around him and some melodic flourishes on the outro does maintain a decent and relatively distinctive atmosphere. Granted, the triplet structure of the verses and reverb does give me a hint of a Post Malone vibe - along with how he opens the song about grabbing her ass - but by the rougher hook and cascades of melody it's all Bazzi as the song sinks into the vibe of getting hammered and burning it all down for a magic moment. Again, with Bazzi it's more about capturing an increasingly brief flicker of ramshackle energy than building a song with a ton of depth - which tends to make his material pretty disposable - but at least it's honest about it, and it leads to a good song. So yeah, good track - check it out.

96. 'All To Myself' by Dan + Shay - so I think given how well Dan + Shay have hit the commercial intersection between mainstream pop and country that we should expect them to squat here for a little while with another single from their self-titled album... and surprise surprise, that's exactly what they did, with a song that's not among the worst of that project... but not the best either. They've got generally organic pickups and richer harmonies including real pedal steel, so why anchor the verses in a snap beat and cadence across percussion that always sounds more polished and thin than it should? Well, you know the answer, for the exact same reason you have a song that defaults to drippy lyrics all about wanting one person to themselves - it almost seems like it's checking off every box for modern pop country marketability, and with the hook feeling so tepid, it's just kind of underwhelming. Not bad by any means - the vocal harmonies and tone is still pleasant, but underwhelming - in other words, I'd put money on this being a hit, so watch out for that.

91. 'Middle Child' by PnB Rock & XXXTENTACION - okay, I don't want to be crass with this, but I'll say it: can we be done with the posthumous collaborations here? It's been nearly a year since X died, and I was sick of acts taking whatever scattered fragments of him for cheap featuring credits a good six months ago! Anyway, now PnB Rock is doing it for whatever flimsy hype he has, even copying the title of J. Cole's current hit, and... honestly, why does anyone want to elevate X's flexing side, which remained by far his least interesting or compelling side? But that's all we get from PnB Rock's mush-mouthed croon that highlights just how forgettable he's been across his entire career against your standard desaturated melody and sloppily mixed trap beat. And the content's bad too - I've already highlighted how this side of X was easily his least likable, but PnB Rock has lines like 'slimin' like I'm dripping snot from my nose' amidst all the mindless flexing on only the single verse we get. And really, if you're getting kicked out of your house, why on earth are you being aggressive about which girl you're staying with, and given how many others you're seeing, why are you convinced she'll let you in? So yeah, this sucks like about all of the posthumous XXXTENTACION material has, and PnB Rock continuing to prove why I don't need to care about him - next!

71. 'Go Loko' by YG, Tyga & Jon Z - so, second YG single after the one from last week didn't stick - more's the pity, really - and while the buzz was suggesting that this one was considerably worse than 'Stop Snitching', I'm not sure I was prepared for this. For one, it's a DJ Mustard beat where the melody is anchored in Spanish guitar, mariachi horns on the outro, and the same squeaking sample behind 'Some Cut' by Trillville - you know, one of the worst of songs of the mid-2000s! But what's worse is that it's not even really a YG song - between the hook and the verse, it's more in the vein of a Tyga booty song, and even as someone who mostly liked 'Taste', this is a considerable step down. For one, who thought Jon Z's nasal tone would match with this somber acoustic guitar or that YG and Tyga should basically sound half asleep for the majority of the song? And look, nothing against getting kinky, but YG is way too clumsy to make his chokehold sound remotely appealing, and yet somehow Tyga makes it worse by following his line about not wanting to wife the girl by not wanting police to show up, which reminds me of his underage escapades with Kylie Jenner and other reports that came out around a similar time and why in the Nine Hells would you mention any of this when you just managed to salvage your career from the dumpster fire it once was? So yeah, bad song, let's just move on!

68. 'Beer Never Broke My Heart' by Luke Combs - and speaking of songs that had poor word of mouth going in... look, I've defended Luke Combs, but between his haphazard promotional strategy and his mixed results with singles, I've had a hard time fully getting onboard. And with what looks like his first new single in some time, he continues that tradition, with a song that jacked the guitar tones from an old Lee Brice or Chris Janson song and then paired them with a clunky groove, messy solo, and the sort of checklist songwriting that I'm trying to convince everyone went out of style five years ago! And really, if beer hasn't disappointed you in the way women, politicians, sports, and bad fishing trips have, count yourself lucky you haven't tasted some truly atrocious craft beers, dude. Anyway, like most Luke Combs songs this'll probably stick around and annoy me but not be worth actively disliking, but this is absolutely a weaker single, at least to me.

50. 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo - well, about time this showed up! And for those of you who saw my review of Lizzo's debut album, I wasn't incredibly fond of the album but I did expect her to make moves, preferably with a song like 'Juice' which balanced its confidence with the groove very effectively. What I didn't expect was a song from the bonus edition of the album that I did not cover, produced by Ricky Reed, and... look, I kind of get why it was left off the album proper and why it's doing well here. For one, it's got the lumpy and weirdly cheap-sounding trap groove that would easily fit on the Hot 100 - as well as a curdled oily melody that doesn't really fit with anything - but Lizzo is going to drag this song across the finish on personality alone, and her kiss-off is probably what works the best about it... even if the lyrical construction feels slapdash as all hell with rhymes repeated or outright dropped. And when you realize that this song got its boost off of TikTok... yeah, Lizzo's done better, and I'm not wowed by this.

5. 'Homicide' by Logic ft. Eminem - ...so can somebody enlighten me what the joke is supposed to be here? Seriously, I'm expecting a punchline or some indication that there's something funny by tacking on the Chris D'Elia meme or how Logic's dad opens the song talking about how Logic came out of his balls, and I'm just not getting it whatsoever. The production sounds blubbery and atonal, the percussion sounds cheap, and Logic dropping on his weird fusion of an Eminem/Kendrick flow to highlight how much better he is while saying nothing of substance is genuinely exasperating - if you're so full of innovation, why can I so obviously trace the artists you're ripping off? Why are you relying on the tired-ass 'well, you can't rap, you obviously don't get it' that Eminem also references when he says he's going to slow it down because people just don't understand - no, Em, we get it, we're just not as impressed by you continuing to swallow your own tail anymore and referencing the meme as if it doesn't continue to prove the point. Great wordplay - certainly more compelling that whatever Logic spat, for sure, and I don't think there's a genuinely bad line here - but what does it add up to in the purpose of the song, because if you're trying to kill something besides time, I'm not hearing it. 'Lucky You' worked because the ominous foreboding of your kamikaze strike was supported by Joyner, the production, and a real target, and 'Killshot' was the sort of focused dissection that MGK quite frankly didn't deserve, whereas this... well, it's a 2010s Eminem guest appearance, showing up the lead MC and leading to an underwhelming song overall. Next!

2. 'If I Can't Have You' by Shawn Mendes - so I'll be honest: over the past year, I've been rooting for Shawn Mendes to stick the landing more consistently, and thus far I'd argue he has. 'Mercy' was the pull-up, 'There's Nothing Holding Me Back' was the boost, 'In My Blood' wasn't great but it wasn't bad either, and 'Lost In Japan' quite frankly deserved to be bigger. So with this getting positive word of mouth, I was looking forward to it... and yeah, it's good, but I will confess I'm not quite as high on it as everyone else, mostly because I feel the tighter groove coming off the verses doesn't quite match with the stiffer percussion blend on the hook, not helped by that overlayered vocal line that sounds really tinny, especially on the final hook with such canned production. Part of this is me being unconvinced his falsetto is well-balanced, but there's also a clinginess to the track that just isn't appealing - I get you still want her after this is over and she's not helping by continuing to string you along, but the slightest shade of genuine self-awareness beyond the oversold hook might actually make it seem believable. I dunno, after 'Lost In Japan' - not counting the remix - I thought there was a hope Shawn Mendes might embrace more maturity and tightness, and this... honestly, I'm not sure this is it. Not bad with that groove on the verses, but he's made better.

So this week... woof, pretty rough here, folks, and it means picking there's actually a fight for the worst. But I think in terms of raw disappointment and surprising layers of awful I'm going with 'Go Loko' by YG, Tyga, and Jon Z, with 'Middle Child' by PnB Rock and the late XXXTENTACION as the Dishonourable Mention. For the best... honestly, I'm a bit surprised that this made it, but I'm sticking with 'Paradise' by Bazzi, with Honourable Mention just getting won out by 'All By Myself' by Dan + Shay. Next week... look, I don't want to expect an album bomb from Logic, but it could well be coming, so stay tuned for that...

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