Tuesday, June 25, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 29, 2019

There's something about this week that feels big. Not a lot of of new arrivals but we had two smash into the top 10, along with a few notable departures that give me the feeling that we're on the cusp of a major shakeup... although given that album bombs are a little less of a thing in 2019, I'm not sure I'm seeing the release on the horizon that's truly going to do it.

And again, if you just look at our top ten, I totally would understand if you're not seeing it just yet, because for yet another week, 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus is squatting on top of the Hot 100 at #1... but the weaknesses are finally starting to show through. Yes, it's still dominant on streaming and YouTube, but the radio looks to be finally sick of it and it's losing spins, and it got knocked off the top spot on sales. And that went to our #2 and our big new arrival: 'You Need To Calm Down' by Taylor Swift. As usual, I'll have much more to say later on, but considering how much streaming and YouTube it has along with a solid radio run already, you'd think it'd be able to challenge Lil Nas X... until you realize that his EP will impact the charts next week and it looks like Taylor is going to get blocked again. Either way, she got ahead of 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish at #3, which is stronger on streaming and has solid sales, so what's caught my attention is how consistent the radio run is - nice stuff, keep it up. And right behind it is 'Talk' by Khalid at #4 - absolutely ruling the radio, it just had a rotten sales week and took losses on streaming. Still remained ahead of 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber at #5 though, which has much better sales and good radio, but just can't make up the margin on streaming - oh well. It did hold its spot as 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers went to #6, though - as to be expected, as despite good sales the radio is now in freefall and the streaming was never there. Make no mistake, it's vulnerable to a new challenger: 'Money In The Grave' by Drake ft. Rick Ross at #7. Again, I'll have more to say about this in a bit, but considering how it already has good streams with decent enough sales, I'm going to be curious if this picks up traction, especially given how slow the radio was to get onboard. Next we have the considerable hit to 'Wow.' by Post Malone at #8 - losing across the board by considerable margins - which is not really something I'm going to say for 'Suge' by DaBaby down slightly to #9, which still has made a respectable radio run and has solid streaming, it just got eclipsed by bigger entries. Finally, lasting considerably longer in the top 10 than I'm inclined to allow, 'No Guidance' by Chris Brown featuring Drake actually held #10, and I'm kind of stunned as to why - the sale tanked, the radio run isn't there yet, but the streaming sure as hell is... Drake, you know you didn't have to prop up Chris Brown's flailing career, right?

Anyway, on that note, we've got our losers and dropouts, and remember how I said this week felt pretty big? Yeah, it came in the latter category, with both 'Beautiful Crazy' by Luke Combs and 'bury a friend' by Billie Eilish clinching their year-end slots, 'Close Friends' by Lil Baby on the cusp of it, and 'Put A Date On It' by Yo Gotti ft. Lil Baby just missing out as they departed the charts. What threw me a bit is that we honestly didn't have many losers here, and most were in country: 'Speechless' by Dan + Shay down to 43, 'Miss Me More' by Kelsea Ballerini to 70, and 'Love Someone' by Brett Eldredge at 71. Bit of a shame, most of those songs were alright to good, but to round it off we've got the continued losses for 'Press' by Cardi B... man, that next chart run isn't looking promising for her, is it?

Anyway, onto our gains and returning entries, and I'm sorry, what is 'Tap' by NAV and Meek Mill doing here at 95? Yeah he released a video, doesn't mean you have to give exposure, especially when Travis Scott is somehow back with a late Astroworld single with 'Wake Up' at 89. Finally, dipping back onto 99 is 'Racks In The Middle' by the late Nipsey Hussle ft. Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy - honestly, until this goes recurrent, I can see this happening pretty consistently. But now we have our list of gains... and a damn pity most of them suck! Yes, 'Rumor' by Lee Brice somehow getting a boost to 25 is absolutely unheard of to me - the year country is having on the Hot 100 is nuts right now, looks like Nashville finally caught up - and I still like 'The Git Up' by Blanco Brown more than I should so I'm pleased it's up off the debut to 51. But why is 'Otro Trago' by Sech and Darell up to 81 off its debut, and why are we still giving streams to 'Ransom' by Lil Tecca at 52, or for that matter to 'Shotta Flow' by NLE Choppa at 67? Again, I''ll say what I did last week, those kids will have their brief window, but I wouldn't expect it to stay open for long.

But now onto that eventful list of new arrivals I promised, and unfortunately we're starting off with...

100. 'The Ones That Didn't Make It Back Home' by Justin Moore - I'm not even surprised that this is on the charts - long time viewers know that I'm no fan of Justin Moore, but the success of songs that have referenced the troops in videos like the Eli Young Band's 'Love Ain't' was sure to inspire something like this. And I'll say this for Moore, he's not about to go for trendy Nashville production gimmicks for this sort of cut, so the guitars are meaty and the pedal steel cuts through - although I do have to question why the guitars and percussion are trying to sound so crushing and ponderous, nearly to the point where the cymbals are clipping the mix! And to Moore's credit, he's not trying to oversell this vocally like he would have eight to ten years ago, but that might be because the song doesn't feel melancholic or somber even the way Luke Combs knocked out of the park last week. No, this is stentorian and loud and the writing focuses way more on the moment for broad patriotic bombast rather than the humanity which you'd think would be at the core of the song, so while this is far from Justin Moore's worst song, it feels weirdly hollow to me. It's tough to tell how much this'll last, but I could take it or leave it either way.

97. 'It's You' by Ali Gatie - this is one of those artists that I didn't recognize at all, but upon doing my research, I feel I should have. Ali Gatie is an R&B act from the Greater Toronto Area who made traction on Soundcloud - and when I say traction, I mean this guy has a way bigger following than I think anyone would expect. His last single 'Moonlight' did well but this is the one that's apparently putting him over the top... and wow, someone's trying hard to chase Khalid's thunder. The prominent brittle acoustics driving the melody off a much deeper, cavernous mix, the lower vocal timbre, the snap beat, the angsty lyrics... and yet it's hard for me not to see Khalid beating him across the board, especially in the writing where Ali Gatie hits the weird mark of being vulnerable in a way that's neither attractive nor all that interesting - there are too many lines where he exposes his flaws and I'm not seeing the charisma to redeem them. Overall, though... eh, it's hard to care about this much - not bad, but not really worth caring about either.

92. 'Rescue Me' by Marshmello ft. A Day To Remember - okay Marshmello, I get that you're at the point where you could collaborate with pretty much anyone and get them a Hot 100 slot - you did it with CHVRCHES, for God's sake - but was anyone looking for the collaboration with A Day To Remember? For those of you who don't know, A Day To Remember is a metalcore band that I've never really cared about - not my genre, it happens - but certainly never the type of act to get Hot 100 traction... until now, with this. And if you're expecting a jarring genre clash... honestly, it doesn't really happen, mostly because Marshmello has the uncanny ability to suck the unique personality out of any act he works with thanks to a chipmunk-inflected drop that feels like a slimy comedown from a pretty propulsive and crunchy guitar lead on the hook, none of which really match with the obviously programmed percussion. And I kind of feel for frontman Jeremy McKinnon here, who is trying to ramp this into more of a rock song and working with utterly formless lyrics and seems stymied at every turn, not helped by the mix more blown out by the EDM passages than the rock! I guess credit to Marshmello for making me interested or sympathetic to A Day To Remember for the first time... ever, but again, it's a potentially interesting sound ground into Marshmello's consistently underwhelming mediocrity - figures.

80. 'Sanctuary' by Joji - not gonna lie, there's a part of me that's rooting for Joji to stick the landing here, as I'd like to say he's trending towards quality after 'SLOW DANCIING IN THE DARK'... and yeah, I think he actually did it here! What I like about Joji is that he's not afraid to take bigger melodic swings in his arrangements, and the hollow plucky tones coasting off the distant squeals and pulsating low-end, and his embrace of a well-multi-tracked upper register and more of a groove for an otherwise straightforward love song is good to help differentiate him. Also, the production and layering have a lot more polish, reminiscent of a vintage power ballad from the 80s or 90s in its synth backdrop while not compromising the slightly grainy grind that has always given his material a little more homegrown flair. So yeah, Joji stuck the landing with a cut that maintains his unique touches and gravitas while adding more polish, and he got a pretty damn good song - I like it, nice stuff.

75. 'Down Bad' by Dreamville ft. JID, J. Cole, EARTHGANG & Young Nudy - am I the only one who feels that after all the hype for the Dreamville recording sessions a couple months back that the turnaround time was slower than we all expected, or that J. Cole kind of deflated some of that hype by dropping 'MIDDLE CHILD' and sucking up all the attention? Anyway, this time we've got that posse cut... and here's where I piss off everyone by saying I'm not really a fan of it. And let me stress it's primarily the production: the scratch off the increasingly shrill tones that sound like a sample of 'Rebel Without A Pause' by Public Enemy but apparently isn't, even to just serve as a foundation for the Dreamville crew to go off it's blaring and distracting and doesn't support their flows melodically at all. And I'm not wild about how they're structured in the mix - Young Nudy is fine but he's got nowhere close to the intensity you'd see from the rest of them, and he's followed by JID who goes off and handles the hook too - not the best immediate comparison. But the more glaring issue comes with a lack of payoff across most of the verse - the structure of the song is basically 'started from the bottom, now we're here and hungry and you can't stop us', but I'd argue Bas is the only one who shows serious fighting words in calling out rappers pushing lean, and the choice to end the song with Johnny Venus instead of J. Cole is baffling - normally you want to save the best for last, right? I dunno, like with 'MIDDLE CHILD' this entire song feels anticlimatic - I guess we'll see how the collaboration goes, but I wish I liked this a lot more than I do.

25. 'Omerta' by Drake - okay, at some point Drake, you know Pusha-T is going to clap back against all of your subliminals? Pusha-T might be the only one in Kanye's camp who can spit the sort of fire to credibly go toe-to-toe with you, but he beat you once and he can beat you again. But what might irk me just as much is that this is one of two songs you released with the Raptors winning the NBA finals, and you had to make this all about you? You might try and call Pusha-T a taddletale, but that's a cheap way to deflect when a few lines later you describe how you have to keep the love strictly physical - which kind of contradicts the whole mob family thing you're trying to foster here, Drake! And yes, I get that the entire song is basically flexing, but am I the only one who is a little skeeved out by how Drake is talking about basically buying out his opponents, from their homes to their possessions that go up for auction? I get that you're kind of playing the villain here, relishing the pettiness, but you're doing it by being the rich kid who buys all the rare trading cards for his deck rather than develop any skills, and nobody ever likes that guy! What's frustrating is that the single-extended verse and creative rhyme structures is coming from the Drake I'd otherwise like... it's just that everything else here is completely unlikable, including the watery, fractured keys and lumbering beat. So yeah, not really a fan of this.

7. 'Money In The Grave' by Drake ft. Rick Ross - okay, a lot of the same complaints as the last track, but to a lesser extent. It's still all just flexing against a watery backing melody, it's not the best Rick Ross and Drake collaboration and they probably could have afforded to do more, there's no references to the Raptors... but this is a better actual song. For one, the very West Coast percussion pattern has a lot of punch and Drake can ride it really damn well - I could see YG hopping on the remix and killing it - and for another, there's an actual hook here that Drake tries to give a little more intensity. And Ross' verse... look, I'm not a big Rick Ross fan by any margin, but he at least bothered to put a basketball reference in his verse to Zion Williamson - not on the Raptors, but it's in the right direction. And while the bars all connect to each other, I wish the song felt more quotable - although I have laugh at Drake on the hook thinking about getting a face tattoo and now deciding he's not going to save girls anymore, which will promptly last until we get his next R&B joint. But as a whole... it's fine? It's not among the best Drake songs for me, but I'd put it in a similar category to the better hype songs off of If You're Reading This It's Too Late, a project that's only grown on me in the past couple of years. So yeah, good stuff.

2. 'You Need To Calm Down' by Taylor Swift - am I the only one who feels like this song is not interesting enough to earn the controversy it's trying to provoke? Because at this point for me, the release of this song in this way makes it look like Taylor Swift is seeking attention for an increasingly hollow set of music, and equivocating her dealing with Twitter backlash in comparison with real life LGBT oppression can feel dicey. And that's not even getting into the video, which for as much as I appreciate Taylor working to elevate LGBT talent, they really could have gotten a cinematographer or color grading that doesn't look like this was pulled from the uncanny valley and the furthest thing from glamourous! What it reminds me of most are the corporations who always try to latch onto Pride week while completely ignoring the real systemic concerns of the LGBT community, centering themselves and not the people - it's why the villains in the song are caricatured as protesting rednecks, not Ben Shapiro or the stuffed shirts of the current GOP. And it goes all the way down to the fast food branded reconciliation of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift in the video, which only serves to remind me of Katy Perry's fascinating back catalog with cuts like 'Ur So Gay' and 'I Kissed A Girl'! But all of that is assigning more weight to this song than I think it deserves - yeah, the pulsating wiry beat and snap hits with a little more impact than 'ME!' did, but Taylor's desaturated delivery and faux rapping reeks of put-on disinterest, only saved by the more layered backing vocals, which combined with the huge percussion are desperately trying to give this anthemic swell. And I don't want to take away from a community that might embrace this, who knows, but I remember the controversy surrounding 'Same Love' by Macklemore which always felt like someone making a clumsy and dated but earnest statement that centered him initially but tried to push for a bigger picture about the culture at large... but at the end of the day, that felt like it came from a real place and took a risk, and this does neither.

But as a whole... honestly, the winners and losers weren't what I expected, but they do fall out pretty cleanly, with the Best of the Week going to 'Sanctuary' by Joji, with Honourable Mention to 'Money In The Grave' by Drake ft. Rick Ross. The worst... yeah, Drake's getting that too with 'Omerta' and Dishonourable Mention going to the Dreamville crew for 'Down Bad' - sorry folks, really great flows can't excuse a lack of payoff and production that completely misses the mark, at least for me. Next week... well, we'll see if Lil Nas X can stick the landing with 7 and if he can snatch a mini album bomb of his own - right now the Spotify numbers are not consistent, but who knows?

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