Wednesday, May 22, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 25, 2019

So I'll be honest, I'm so happy this week is a slower one: I just got back from Sonic Temple in Columbus, Ohio - I'll have a recap/review video dropping in a few days and there'll be plenty of other videos I'll pop up in - and when you consider last Friday was one of the biggest release weeks of this month, I've got a lot to catch up on, so the relative lack of stories is encouraging.

Well, I say that even with an eye to the top ten, where for another week 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus holds at #1, mostly on the back of insane streaming and enough radio inertia to be difficult to unseat. But the challengers keep coming, and this might be one of the meatiest to date: a new entry at #2, 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber. Now look, I'll have much more to say about its quality later on, but I will say that it's the sort of megastar team-up that has tremendous sales, can make a streaming run, and has been giving the sort of preferential radio treatment few acts can get. Granted, I've been saying that about a lot of singles the past month or so and I haven't seen a break yet, so we'll have to see what has legs here. I do find it amusing that a song like 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers actually advanced to #3 because despite peaking in radio, it's got enough traditional sales to prop it up. Even better is 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish picking up spots to #4 because she had a good sales week, streaming is incredibly consistent, and she's finally gotten the radio traction she deserves - still lagging considerably, but it'll be interesting to see if a full run is possible. This also allows for a small recovery for 'Wow.' by Post Malone to #5 - inertia across the board albeit with weakening sales and wavering airplay - and for 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee to #6 - similar reasons, just swap stronger streaming for weaker radio. Then making a hard return to the top 10 at #7 thanks to its continued radio strength and little else, we've got 'Dancing With A Stranger' by Sam Smith & Normani, but it's hard for me to give this a ton of credit when it's faced with the odd collapse for 'ME!' by Taylor Swift and Brendon Urie. And I want to give this some scrutiny, because while radio was solid, it doesn't quite seem to have the gas it should, and sales, on-demand streaming, and YouTube are all down - not quite what you'd expect from Taylor Swift making her big comeback, I'd be a little concerned there if I was on her team. Hell, a big factor in that probably circles back to 'Talk' by Khalid up to #9, riding consistent radio and actually passing Taylor there and in streams, only lagging on sales. Finally, still in the top 10, we've got 'Without Me' by Halsey, and as soon as something that's bigger than it comes in, its losses across the board will likely push it lower.

And on that fun topic, let's go to our losers and dropouts, and we had a few considerable exits which clinched their year-end list spots: 'Close To Me' by Ellie Goulding, Diplo, and Swae Lee; 'You Say' by Lauren Daigle, and 'Swervin' by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and 6ix9ine - yeah, I'm not happy about that one either. And for our losers, most are as we expected: 'Boy With Luv' by BTS and Halsey continued to tumble to 61, off the debut 'If I Can't Have You' by Shawn Mendes slid to 13 and 'Homicide' by Logic and Eminem to 21. From there, a few of our losers are scattered - 'Clout' by Offset and Cardi B slid to 55 and 'Night Shift' by Jon Pardi went to 68, but the biggest loser is Lil Uzi Vert, with 'Sanguine Paradise' down to 59 and 'That's A Rack' to 97... if he's looking for momentum going down to any release for Eternal Atake, this is not good.

But where things get a little more diffuse is looking at our returns and gains, and in the former category, while I'm not that surprised that 'SOS' by the late Avicii ft. Aloe Blacc is back at 94, I am a little surprised 'Rule The World' by 2 Chainz ft. Ariana Grande is back at 98 - I guess it's had enough radio to hold its own, but I doubt it'll gain that much of a run this many weeks after its release. And the same messy situation, I'll admit that I'm shocked by 'Put A Date On It' by Yo Gotti ft. Lil Baby is rebounding up to 62 - this song has bounced all over the charts and I'm surprised it made the run it has. But outside of that, I'm not going to say I'm surprised that 'Hey Look Ma, I Made It' by Panic! At The Disco is picking up faster to 41, 'Love Ain't' by the Eli Young Band is up to 50, or even 'Love Someone' by Brett Eldredge to 78. But the biggest surge came to 'Beer Never Broke My Heart' by Luke Combs... and look, I'm underwhelmed by the song and I've seen a swathe of thinkpieces surrounding how much success he's found on big sales, but I think more attention should be paid to his on-demand streaming and surprisingly decent YouTube as a country act that's shunning the easy pop crossover, because if Nashville clues in that there's money in his approach, they might throw more support to more neotraditional acts who can play in a similar lane, so even if I don't like the music, I appreciate the impact.

But now we've got a pretty sparse list of new arrivals, starting off with a pleasant surprise in...

100. 'Juice' by Lizzo - well, about time this broke through! I said a week or so back that this was the Lizzo song I expected to eventually chart and I am pleased it finally did... mostly because of this newest pop-leaning incarnation of her sound, it leans into her strengths the best. The breezy echoing guitar grooves off the twisting rattle of the percussion and horns has the sort of atmosphere and flair off the sinuous bass and it's easily the most comfortable Lizzo has ever sounded, and it's a lot of supple support for her huge charisma. And the content plays to that swagger and ego pretty well, where it doesn't need to lean into the 'taking your girl or guy' mold but makes the assertion it could happen and she might not even be interested - that's a level of confidence that is rarely done well or convincingly, and I think she nails it. So yeah, great song, and while I have no idea how much traction it'll hold, I kind of hope it sticks around.

95. 'Te Robaré' by Nicky Jam & Ozuna - look, I don't want to be an ass about this, but I swear I've heard dozens of reggaeton songs over the past few years on this show and unless some production element or vocal choice goes awry, I barely remember them. I imagine if I spoke Spanish it might be a little different, but what the hell am I supposed to say about this? The percussion line feels like the same blocky clunker with desaturated melody with autotuned crooning from Nicky Jam and Ozuna that I've heard so many times before, not helped by content that when translated seems to imply that these guys are trying to steal this girl and get really clingy about it too, not even wanting to give her space to breathe. And while you might be able to convince me that Nicky Jam could be slick, Ozuna's whinging has been annoying for years now and this doesn't improve it - next!

85. 'Someone You Loved' by Lewis Capaldi - okay, so I've seen this song squatting on top of the UK charts for what feels like months now and I've deliberated putting him on this show as a World Hit before... and then every time I'd listen to this song I'd think there has got to be something better than this and go with that instead. And the issue with this is pretty straightforward: for a somber, heartfelt piano ballad where Capaldi is trying to split the difference between Ed Sheeran and Hozier but not quite nail either of their charisma, the post-breakup language doesn't really reflect the gravitas it's trying. Sure, getting 'kinda used to being someone you loved' is colloquial and honest, but when you precede with 'this all or nothing way of loving got me sleeping without you', it feels dicey because that can be taken as she wasn't ready to go all out... or that he wasn't, which might actually make more sense with the muted surprise that runs through the entire song. And in that case it feels like a more melodramatic version of Passenger's 'Let Her Go', with the lack of greater lyrical detail not helping matters. I dunno, I get why a drippy song like this might do well, but can we not make this a hit stateside? Please?

73. 'Soltera' by Lunay, Daddy Yankee & Bad Bunny - see, I might complain about reggaeton, but at least when I see Daddy Yankee there's an expectation that it'll be upbeat and wild and potentially fun... and yet it doesn't stop the squawking melody to be utterly formless and the conventional percussion to be boring as tar. It also doesn't help matters that Lunay is by far the least interesting part of the song, because Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee have the melody and presence to run away with this brand of hookup for this single girl who is running wild and I've heard these lyrics dozens of times before. More charisma than Ozuna and Nicky Jam, but this isn't remotely interesting - let's move on.

51. 'Triggered (freestyle)' by Jhene Aiko - so I'll be blunt: I'm legit shocked that Jhene Aiko debuted a song this high on the Hot 100. I know she's got a following and I've been a fan for years now, but her albums and previous singles haven't really moved the needle outside of 'Post To Be', especially with her as a solo artist, so to see what she's described as a freestyle hit the Hot 100 caught me off-guard. And on some level it does feel like a freestyle - the structure is loose, the conflicted flow of genuine love and bitter anger is free-flowing as she constantly tries to tamp down on her emotions even as the threats are both veiled and unveiled, all of which can feel jarring when sung as prettily as they are... but even still, the percussion feels ramshackle against the watery keys, and even the trap progressions can't hold stable for long. Of course, the larger question is whether she's singing about Big Sean, which she's frequently denied in that she's speaking to the larger emotions which could well refer to a lot of people, and I would be inclined to believe it as presenting this as a single... but I have the feeling that the album context both from TWENTY88 and Trip might well shift that, because there's not many people to which a mingled blend of love, hate, regret, and curdled respect might apply. We'll have to see, but as it is... yeah, I dig this, definitely want to hear more.

2. 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber - let me start by saying a few things: not only does this collaboration not surprise me given the massive success of 'Love Yourself', but both guys have a petty streak a mile wide and if they were going to indulge in rampant egotism, I could see the appeal. But that's not what this is, bizarrely - instead it's a jittery love song where these guys are overly anxious and wishing they could get the hell out of the party where they hate everyone there - which was good when Alessia Cara did it but I've long gotten sick of it since - but when this girl is there, they're having fun. And the weird thing with this is how the problems start cropping up almost immediately: why make this a duet at all when there's no significant interplay, especially when you know they're not singing about each other? Why are the vocal lines so compressed against those tinny keys at the top of the piano that has them playing in their most boring possible registers? Why is the entire song set up to be anthemic that doesn't remotely match the tense anxiety that's the emotional core, something that the smoked-out sample from Alessia Cara's 'Here' at least understood? And why are Bieber and Sheeran trying to lean on utterly unconvincing 'not fitting in' relatability when they're superstars who have been at their most compelling riding raw ego? If anything, this feels like an unfinished demo, more coasting on the name value slapping two big collaborators together than anything with a cohesive idea or consistent emotionality, and while there are elements of catchiness, with nothing close to genuine groove I can imagine this falling short if the fame doesn't cut it - and with Taylor Swift underperforming off a similar underwhelming comeback, that could well be possible.

So yeah, not a terrible week, but I can't really call it a great one either, especially as I'm going to give 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber the worst of the week here - not a terrible song, but it's absolutely mediocre and rife with issues that I can see holding it back in the months ahead. On the flip side... honestly, I think I might like Jhene's song more for the potential to be more than what it is as a whole, which is why I'm giving best of the week to 'Juice' by Lizzo, which can easily stand alone. Next week... honestly, the way Tyler, The Creator is doing on streaming, he could well have an album bomb for the first time, and that'd be fascinating to see, so stay tuned!

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