Tuesday, June 4, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 8, 2019

I think the chaos of 2018 warped how I normally see the Hot 100. Granted, part of this feels driven by the fact that at this point last year we had been hit by multiple album bombs where 2019 feels more quiet in general, but it also feels like projects that would normally hit with greater impact just aren't penetrating as deeply as you'd expect, leading to a more chart. So maybe consistency is our new normal...

It certainly seems like in our top ten, 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus certainly is, still at #1 thanks to dominance in every format except radio, and it's making up that deficit with obscene YouTube and an consistent airplay surge. Again, I'm not sure what's going to destabilize it here, because it won't be 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish, rising up to #2 because sales are up, streaming is still rock solid, and it's finally got real radio traction to make itself a respectable contender. And one right behind it is 'Talk' by Khalid up to #3 with an even stronger airplay run that makes up for weaker streaming and sales - I'm still not a fan of the song, but I have to respect its moves. Hell, it muscled past 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, which actually has better sales and slightly stronger streaming, but this looks to be a margin's game - mediocrity sticks together, after all. Following behind it is 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers down at #5 - holding the top spot on radio and only okay sales isn't quite propping it up as much as it needs - but what's more interesting is the slight boost for 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee to #6 - yeah, consistently down across the board, but it's still edging out 'Wow.' by Post Malone in sales and streaming despite lagging in airplay, which means that song is getting elbowed back to #7. Then holding its spot at #8 we have 'Dancing With A Stranger' by Sam Smith and Normani - all it has is airplay and with that in freefall I don't predict this'll last long - but now we've got a glimpse of what might replace it rising to #9 and entering the top 10 for the first time: 'Suge' by DaBaby. Now I'm still not quite wowed by this song and the radio seems reticent on it, but the streaming and enormous YouTube is hard to deny - this might hold up while other songs collapse around it. And finally we have 'Sweet But Psycho' by Ava Max holding at #10... although with the radio finally peaking, even a sales boost might not keep it in the top 10 for long.

And on that note, our losers and dropouts, and in the latter category there's only two worth mentioning. First, as predicted 'Here Tonight' by Brett Young falls out and will miss the year-end list, but to my great pleasure, 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 and Cardi B is finally gone - about damn time! Now for the losers... honestly, outside of 'Earth' by Lil Dicky continuing its steady plunge to 91, most of these are either continuing losers or debuts from last week that are tanking. And as I predicted, given that most of the cuts from Tyler, The Creator dropped off entirely, the losers are from DJ Khaled, with 'Wish Wish' featuring Cardi B and 21 Savage at 43, 'Just Us' with SZA down to 60, 'You Say' with Meek Mill, J Balvin, Lil Baby and Jeremih at 67, and 'Higher' with Nipsey Hussle and John Legend at 77 - also, 'Nightmare' by Halsey collapsed to 29, and the faster it falls off, the better. Beyond that, we saw continued losses for 'Homicide' by Logic and Eminem to 68, 'Boy With Luv' by BTS and Halsey to 81, 'Don't Call Me Up' by Mabel to 90, and 'Who Do You Love' by The Chainsmokers ft. 5 Seconds Of Summer to 89... and honestly, I can't say I'm upset by any of that.

Unfortunately, when we flip over to our gains and returns, I can't quite say the same. Yeah, you got the expected bounce back for 'Paradise' by Bazzi at 99, but why is 'ocean eyes' by Billie Eilish back again at 92, or 'Mixed Personalities' by YNW Melly and Kanye at 98. But what's more notable are the returns for 'Juice' by Lizzo to 93 and 'Speechless' by Dan + Shay of all people to 46... mostly because they had other songs pick up gains and that likely translated, with 'Truth Hurts' from Lizzo up to 26 and 'All To Myself' from Dan + Shay at 83. Beyond those - and the bizarre boost for 'Close Friends' by Lil Baby to 47 - most of our gains came as rebounds from the album bombs dissipating. As predicted, 'Go Loko' by YG, Tyga, and Jon Z saw the biggest boost off the album to 53, but we also saw rebounds for '24/7' by Meek Mill and Ella Mai to 75, 'Talk You Out Of It' by Florida Georgia Line to 78, 'Calma' by Pedro Capo and Farruko to 80, and 'Baila Baila Baila' by Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, J. Balvin, Farruko, and Anuel AA to 85. And outside of those... well, 'Someone You Loved' by Lewis Capaldi got a boost to 70, but at least 'Love Someone' by Brett Eldredge clawed its way to 72 on a respectable radio push - there's some upside, folks.

But now onto a pretty scattered but average list of new arrivals, unfortunately starting with...

97. 'Rearview Town' by Jason Aldean - I swear, Nashville has no goddamn clue when to cut and run from a bad album cycle... but if you're stuck trying to make the best of a bad situation, I'm not going to complain about Jason Aldean picking one of the better songs from the project for his next single. Now it's still not great by any means - we're still dealing with a canned tapping drum machine behind the first half of the song, and even when organic drums come in they've got the sterile mixing right at the front that feels weirdly clean over the sour guitar line, and let's not even get into the gutless bass that's barely a presence at all. But Jason Aldean and his writers can at least do a credible job selling bitter, anti-social loners burning rubber to get away from a bad breakup, which is exactly what this is. Yeah, it's nothing he hasn't done before or better, but given how underwhelming the composition and production is, I guess I'll take it - not bad, but not all that good either.

96. 'HP' by Maluma - so this isn't a song about the steak sauce? Okay, obvious joke aside, I tend to be a bit more forgiving with Maluma's stabs at reggaeton because he trends towards organic tones... and that's unfortunately not what this is, with another underwhelming reggaeton knock complete with echoing chipmunk effects barely passing for a melody. Yeah, it starts trying to drop in underwhelming beeps across some of the verses, but does it really add up to more or make Maluma seem distinctive? The content doesn't really get there, as Maluma says he's intending for this song to be an anthem for all girls who have dumped their cheating exes and just want to get laid... but he couldn't help but sneak himself into the conversation on that outro, and that's when it's clear what this really is. And that is... honestly, not very interesting - next!

94. 'Bacc At It Again' by Yella Beezy, Gucci Mane & Quavo - so I'll admit I'm shocked to see Yella Beezy on the Hot 100 again. A little less shocked to see it on the backs of Gucci Mane and Quavo - the latter who is trying to make up for his messy 2018 - but maybe at some point this will become interesting? Honestly, it's tough to say, mostly because it seems like all three MCs are trying different flows over the same low synth groove and trap beat, with Quavo and Yella Beezy doubling up their flows for the verses, Yella Beezy dropping into a more simplistic, slower structure for the hook, and Gucci Mane using the same damn flow he'll use whenever he feels he can get away with it, and it's stilted and awkward over any sort of trap groove. And that weird pileup of flows is probably more interesting than the content, where it's the same gunplay, flossing, and messy sex references that always characterize anything associated with Migos - although Yella Beezy does say this girl squirts when he cums in her eyes, so that's something questionable! Beyond that... look, it sounds like a below-average Migos song, although I can see that hook being catchy enough to move - joy.

76. 'Some Of It' by Eric Church - well, it's about time that Eric Church bothered to put out another single from Desperate Man outside of the title track - although why it's not 'Monsters' I have no idea. Anyway, this is a cut I don't remember talking much about in my review of the album... mostly because it's one of those songs from Desperate Man that has a weirdly hollow feeling to it, especially in the writing, a series of observations and open questions surrounding the meaning of actions, but there's 'something to some of it'... okay? It's a similar problem I've found with a lot of Eric Church's moralistic songs, they can feel frustratingly vague and on the cusp of just being empty platitudes, and even if there's a good tune here - and I'd argue there is - you still get odd production choices like that weird added echo around the snare midway back and that organ-accented crunchy passage across the second verse. On the flip side, I did like that the deeper, echoing tone around the brief solo, but even then, I'm left feeling this doesn't quite add up to more than its parts. But it is unthreatening enough to make a run on country radio, and I'd take Eric Church over many of his peers, so it's fine enough, I guess.

59. 'Isis' by Joyner Lucas ft. Logic - look, you could make an argument which of these two artists are doing the most to crater their popular reputation, but teaming up to release a song called 'Isis' seems custom-designed to hit terminal velocity. So I think it might surprise some of you for me to say this is probably one of the better cuts I've heard from both of them in some time, skipping the obviously corny bars for the sort of ruthless efficiency that's always been a strength for both MCs. I like the fast-picked guitar loop over the synth bass, and while I do question why the ADHD diagnosis pushed into the song - it just feels a little out of place with the rest of the content - what's a lot more questionable is using ISIS as the primary comparison point. You really sure you want to compare yourself to a extremist cult who have claimed responsibility for bombing concerts, have been roundly routed across the Middle East, and that Phillip DeFranco refers to casually as 'Goatfuckers International'? What's more exasperating is that outside of that comparison, you'd think they'd have actually made time to squash beef on record beyond a couple of vague references that just leave more questions... but outside of that, the flows are tight, the bravado is pretty consistent, and I can't dislike it that much. Better execution than a concept this damaged on arrival deserves, I'll say that.

48. 'Easier' by 5 Seconds Of Summer - okay, when I heard that 5 Seconds Of Summer were interpolating Nine Inch Nails of all acts on this new song, I had a double take. Don't get me wrong, I've wanted them to go back for more of a rock sound, but I was talking more about the fertile and thriving pop punk scene which just outside of the mainstream is building real groundswell, not an industrial sound that seems about the last thing I'd give to this act! Granted, listening to this and thinking anything here sounds like 'rock' is a serious push - if anything, this reminds me of an overproduced boy band cut with way too much autotune, with the industrial crunch gutted for wiry synths and smoother atmospherics that might sound prettier, but again, don't flatter any of the energy the group used to have. Yeah, there's a rubbery groove that slips onto the second hook that picks up a bit of muscle by the third, but it's still so sloppily blended that the mix aggressively peaks - not blown out in an appealing way, just badly mixed. As for the content... look, I've never held these guys to much of a lyrical standard, but the toxic relationship here is not sold with any urgency and that infatuation makes it clear these guys probably aren't capable of the hard exit, which just leaves a mess overall. So yeah, this isn't good - next!

34. 'Cross Me' by Ed Sheeran ft. Chance The Rapper & PnB Rock - I'm going to have to bring something up that is going to sound bad no matter how you slice it, but it's something that all creatives with big dreams will face: sometimes when you get to that point of success where you can make that long-secret passion project, it's worthwhile taking a step back and asking whether it was a good idea to begin with. And this is a hard question to ask, make no mistake, especially when you're world-famous with hundreds of enablers around you who won't say no - but when I heard about Ed Sheeran's planned No. 6 Collaborations Project, I had a sinking feeling this could go sideways fast. As the EP that Ed Sheeran released in January 2011 to get signed with a bunch of UK grime talents, it might make sense, but 2019 Ed Sheeran with the ability to call on damn near everyone? Look, 'I Don't Care' was already a pretty rough start, and I had every expectation that 'Cross Me' with Chance The Rapper and PnB Rock wouldn't be much better. Now granted, this is better than 'I Don't Care', mostly because the groove is tighter, more of the song feels composed off the rubbery trap clatter, and Ed Sheeran somehow has the control to ride this flow. And while I'm not quite sure Chance The Rapper's verse entirely fits with this style - his flow and vocal timbre just sounds odd against this production, even if his verse is just weird enough to work - my real issue is with, surprise, PnB Rock. Now on some level this isn't entirely his fault - his voice is sampled from his 2017 XXL Freshman freestyle - but here's the problem: the girl he references is his 'seed', whereas Ed Sheeran and Chance are very much referring to a romantic partner. So would it have killed any of them to actually get PnB Rock in the studio to fix this, because otherwise we're dealing with some profoundly overbearing father figures or outright incest! A damn shame too, because I otherwise think the song has promise, but man, that's a detail someone should have fixed.

12. 'The London' by Young Thug, J. Cole & Travis Scott - it's funny, just over a week ago in my Megan Thee Stallion review I was talking about how it seemed like Young Thug's career was stalling out, and then he turns around to put out his highest charting lead artist entry in his career. Now to make this clear, a huge part of that came from J. Cole and Travis Scott's names attached, but I was curious how this collaboration would come together, especially with T-Minus providing the production like he did for 'MIDDLE CHILD'... and man, this should be better than it is. On the one hand, I think the spare pianos and muted hook from Travis Scott off the rumbling trap groove actually is pretty effective, and while I'll absolutely question the autotune slathered onto J. Cole's verse, if he's trying to sound more cohesive with Young Thug I get it. I'd question how the hell he could say he's hard off of that autotune, along with lines about how he could hit your bitch but you could never hit his, but I think my bigger issue is how he appears to be borrowing a forced rhyme pattern from Nelly and Chingy of all people to make 'buried' rhyme with 'birds' and 'charge'! But if we're talking about forced vocals... Jesus, I don't know if it's T-Minus not figuring out how to make Young Thug's croon work, but that high-pitched squawk he's trying across half the verse where he takes your girl out to dinner before having her eat semen in his garage - which just sounds disgusting the way it's phrased here - it's just intolerable, I'm sorry. So yeah, it's got an okay hook and I can imagine the presence of these rappers will keep it charting for a bit... but man, should be a lot better than it is.

And that was our week... look, it's kind of a mess here, with the only song that consistently holds together being 'Some Of It' by Eric Church. So it'll get Best of the Week even if it's a step away from his best, with Honourable Mention going to 'Isis' by Joyner Lucas and Logic - the central idea is badly considered, but at least it feels intentional over better production and it doesn't feel like an outright mistake like the PnB Rock sample on 'Cross Me'. Now the worst of the week... I'm going to go with 'Easier' by 5 Seconds Of Summer if only for terrible production and continuing to be a tremendous disappointment, with Dishonourable Mention to 'The London' by Young Thug, J. Cole, and Travis Scott, which features enough misconceived ideas to deserve some backlash. But next week... outside of that new Katy Perry song, it looks like we might be heading for a slower week, and I'm not complaining about that at least.

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