Tuesday, July 30, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 3, 2019

...am I the only one feeling a bit of anticlimax this week? Yeah, we'll be getting to the biggest story in a second - and make no mistake, it's huge, and the sort of story that only serves to make my predictions look questionable - but it wasn't a desperate race to the end or something where the record was broken by the skin of someone's teeth. At least to me it became clear that nothing was going to seriously defeat the margin our contender racked up, and once that happened... well, it was just a matter of momentum.

But enough dancing around this: our top ten, where in a landmark move: 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus did the unthinkable and broke the record for the longest running #1 in Billboard Hot 100 history. And he did it with the sales push to match the monster streaming and YouTube that's always been his greatest asset, probably driving the nail in how the radio can be rendered superfluous. And for its #2, probably stalling out the longest in its fruitless push, we have 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish, where despite beating his radio margin by nearly 2-1, her sales and streaming still lagged behind. But what is healthy and is starting to make serious inroads is 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello up to #3 - I've been predicting this'll be big for some time, and with consistent strength across the board, even better YouTube, and a huge radio surge, when Lil Nas X finally fades, it'll probably be this that takes over. And while I wouldn't quite say the same thing for 'Talk' by Khalid up to #4 - great radio can only make up for weaker streaming and sales for so long - I would say the same for 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo up to #5, given how robust it seems in all channels with no sign of slowing down. All of these overtook 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber - kind of expected as the album release fades, but even with a good sales week the radio growth has stalled out and the streaming has gotten considerably weaker. Then we have 'Goodbyes' by Post Malone ft. Young Thug at #7 - streaming and sales have faded slightly, but the radio run it's going on is considerable - and then 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers at #8, where all it has is radio and that's in freefall; just a matter of margins at this point. Then still sticking around we have 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee at #9 - somehow it's rebounding on streaming and YouTube even as radio and sales are in freefall - and to round out the top 10, returning to #10 we have 'If I Can't Have You' by Shawn Mendes, basically on a radio run unsupported everywhere else, and as soon as that stumbles or he's overtaken on streaming - 'No Guidance' probably next week - it'll be out of the top 10 again.

And on that note, we've got our losers and dropouts, and while I think our bigger stories in this category will hit next week, we still had some considerable songs making their exits, from 'Pure Water' by Mustard and Migos clinching their year end spot to 'Walk Me Home' by P!nk and 'Look What God Gave Her' by Thomas Rhett likely not. Now the losers list can mostly be characterized by muted album bombs fading naturally, especially from Ed Sheeran as 'Cross Me' with Chance The Rapper and PnB Rock going to 61, 'Antisocial' with Travis Scott at 62, and 'South Of The Border' with Camila Cabello and Cardi B at 99. We also saw losses for 'Under The Sun' from Dreamville ft. J. Cole, Lute, and DaBaby at 88 and 'Rodeo' by Lil Nas X and Cardi B at 73, but I'll admit what threw me more was the sudden abrupt loss for 'Some Of It' by Eric Church to 59, which looks to be because Nashville radio yanked all support for it - imbeciles! At least 'Nightmare' by Halsey continues to flop hard at 81 and 'Tip Of My Tongue' by Kenny Chesney lost hard off the debut to 98, but still, way to blow off a great song!

And look, I wouldn't get as annoyed if I looked at our gains and returns and felt like quality was coming - seriously, you're boosting 'All To Myself' by Dan + Shay to 41 and that abortion 'One Thing Right' by Marshmello and Kane Brown to 60? Thank god hip-hop and trap are mostly pulling themselves together, with 'My Type' by Saweetie up to 37 and 'Cash Shit' by Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby at 51, also pulling 'Callaita' by Bad Bunny and Tainy up to 55 for some reason. As for our returns, neither I expect to stick around that long, with 'Wish Wish' from DJ Khaled, Cardi B and 21 Savage at 91 and 'MEGATRON' by Nicki Minaj at 100 - any gains they might get will come from losses higher up the chart, but if a Chance album hits in any capacity, they could be in real trouble.

Now onto our list of new arrivals that can't help but feel kind of all over the place...

94. 'Ballin' by Mustard ft. Roddy Ricch - okay, another round with Mustard, hopefully leaving that mess that was 'Baguettes In The Face' in the dust, let's try it here with a new cut from Roddy Ricch fresh off of his XXL Freshman appearance... and man, this is much better! I'll be honest, I'm still not sure I like Roddy Ricch more than I do the 702 sample-accented production from Mustard - honestly feels more restrained and spare in its groove than I expected from him - but he's got a handle on melody and lyrical cadence on his hook that definitely does a lot of heavy lifting for him. But at the same time, I really do wish the content had something beyond forgettable flexing - some okay wordplay, something to make this stand out beyond the production, come on! But beyond that... eh, I think I might still like 'Pure Water' a bit more, but this is good stuff - I'll take it.

90. 'Mood 4 Eva' by Beyonce, Jay-Z & Childish Gambino ft. Oumou Sangare - so this is one of two songs that we got from Beyonce and company from her Lion King-adjacent soundtrack, and I'll admit getting both Jay-Z and Childish Gambino here is a pretty credible way to win me over. Sadly, we're getting them on what might as well be an Afrobeat-tinged spiritual follow-up to the forgettable hedonism of EVERYTHING IS LOVE, that seems to forget a melody for grainy percussion at the front of the mix and one of the most underwhelming guitar-driven drops that I've ever heard - seriously, for a celebratory vibe leading into Childish Gambino, killing any sense of momentum for his willowy bridge utterly neuters the mood. And I'll say it, while I get the aspirational vibe that Beyonce and Jay-Z are trying to put forward might click better for a different audience, am I the only one who would like them to push something that soars instead of flat, complacent bragging about money and jewelry, especially paired with a club vibe where neither sound all that interested? So yeah, I see the appeal, but this is a misfire on multiple levels - not good.

82. 'Hate Me' by Ellie Goulding & Juice WRLD - honest question: who wants this? Who outside of desperate label handlers thought this pairing made sense or was a good idea for artists who not only operate in very different lanes, but also would probably need different support and promotion to push a new hit? And make no mistake, I think both Ellie Goulding and Juice WRLD might be dicey circumstances here - 'Close To Me' moved well but the other singles haven't, and Death Race For Love was a twenty-two car pileup - but this combination is not the way to do it. Now to give them the slightest bit of credit, having Juice WRLD play the dude in the song makes sense for balancing the melodrama in the same way it did on 'Without Me' with Halsey - but Ellie Goulding's husky tones don't have anything close to the rawness to sell genuine venom at an ex and you can tell Juice WRLD phoned this in too. More alarming and utterly inexcusable, the production is utterly mediocre - terrible vocal mixing where Ellie Goulding's vocals clip the front of the mix, guitars swamped out in reverb against the cheap, gutless trap groove, and lyrics that feel painfully underweight. Sorry, this just sounds like a cheap reach for everyone involved - not terrible, but I'm not remotely impressed either.

76. 'Brown Skin Girl' by Beyonce, SAINt JHN & Wizkid ft. Blue Ivy Carter - okay, let's get this out of the way first: it's a weird comparison for 'Brown Skin Girl' to compare dark-skinned women to pearls - even if you're leaning on the "flawless" metaphor, it's a forced parallel at best. But am I the only one who finds it a real missed opportunity for Beyonce to only feature her daughter as the only other 'brown-skinned girl', instead getting Wizkid and SAINt JHN for the verses and hook - you'd think for this sort of song trying to elevate dark-skinned black women it'd be obvious! But that's because the framing of the song feels off too, as Wizkid focuses his verse on making this brown-skinned girl fall in love with him, using the hook as something to affirm that connection, not elevate them in the way that Beyonce's plainly trying to do. Honestly, her warmth and the gentle undercurrent of piano is the only reason I even kind of like this song, which had noble intentions but still winds up feeling weirdly diffuse - not a bad track, but I get the feeling this should be better.

69. 'The Archer' by Taylor Swift - man, I did not see this coming whatsoever, especially after the last two singles she released this album cycle. Honestly, I'm a little stunned this was released as a single at all, because not only is it low-key - and oddly reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper's 'Time After Time' in some of his melody - but might feature some of Taylor's best writing in years! And no, I'm not kidding - it's a moment of understated introspection where she stares in the face of her self-destructive tendencies in relationships, and while she's keenly aware of her value, the veneers are long-gone and she knows any partner past, present and future can see right through her. And what's affecting is that there's nothing coy or even flirtatious about it - just weary and achingly sad as she hopes that this new partner will actually stick around, with just enough desperation to accent how there's no guarantee of it. It's the desperate vulnerability of 'Back To December' with the self-awareness of 'Style' and 'Blank Space', and if Jack Antonoff's production just hit a little more of a climax point off those hazy guitars I'd probably cite this among her best ever song. As it is... yeah, this is absolutely terrific and the first real sign that Lover might actually work, especially if we get more cuts like this - goddamn it, Taylor, you got to me...

52. 'China' by Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna, J Balvin - man, I'm looking forward to the moment when well-remembered songs from my childhood being sampled doesn't feel bizarre as all hell, but between the bastardized interpolation of 'Ms. Jackson' on 'Just Us' and this, I'm definitely not there yet. And in this case it's on the tried-and-mostly-untrue method of throwing more reggaeton acts on a song in a vague hope of maybe hitting quality, especially in this case where it strips out the genuinely hilarious back-and-forth that characterized 'It Wasn't Me' from Shaggy and Rikrok nearly twenty years ago for another by-the-numbers reggaeton dance jam where everyone involved tries to avoid responsibility for cheating by blaming alcohol or the insatiable person they were cheating with! And look, I know that some of the charm of 'It Wasn't Me' was rooted in how flagrant and ridiculous it was, but between both Anuel AA and Daddy Yankee blaming it on booze, Ozuna calling the girl self-centered, and J Balvin blocking his wife's call on what still has the structure of a by-the-numbers reggaeton hookup jam... yeah, suddenly everyone is way less sympathetic! Couple it with the increasingly shrill synth, no impressive vocal performances, and the only likable presence coming through in Karol G just breaking up the boys club... yeah, no, this is bad - next!

42. 'Baby' by Lil Baby & DaBaby - oh look, the second collaboration in a week that I immediately thought was a bad idea when I heard about it, but for very different reasons. Maybe it's just me, but given DaBaby's rising star and how Lil Baby could well be on the way out - I'm just going to repeat that until it becomes true - and given their very different styles of trap - and stark imbalance in talent - I didn't expect much success here. And honestly, once you move beyond the gimmick of all the babies, this isn't all that note-worthy - the muted staccato line is really flat against the basic trap percussion, Lil Baby's drug-running is not interesting, he sounds even less compelling on the hook, and DaBaby's verse remains as sleazy but lacking the punchlines or sense of humor that would elevate this; he's absolutely done better. But again, outside of the gimmick, I don't see this sticking around - not terrible, but I'll forget about this in a day or so.

29. 'How Do You Sleep?' by Sam Smith - I got to thinking a few days ago how much Sam Smith has turned things around since his debut five years ago: embracing more open sensuality and tighter grooves, working to make more interesting and emotive music with smart collaborations, to the point where I was open to this having promise as his lead-off single to his third album. And... you know, I can see where this could have worked. The groove is more developed off the trap progression and the hook has promise in its give-and-take frustration where Sam Smith seems to be looking for every excuse to move on in this distrustful relationship, where he's even exasperated that he's acting crazy... but the sex is just that good. All of that could work... but man, the production lets him down here, particularly in his choice of synth tones. That glassy, rinky-dink tone that doesn't match the pulsating low-end and especially that yelping drop that sounds imported from a Chainsmokers parody! A damn shame, given how the hook had real promise, but yeah, this doesn't quite work for me.

And that was our week... and I'll admit there are a few surprises here. For one, 'Hate Me' by Ellie Goulding and Juice WRLD is only getting the Dishonourable Mention, with 'China' by Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna and J Balvin easily getting the worst - such an obnoxious waste of a good sample. Now for the best, 'The Archer' by Taylor Swift runs away with the top spot, with 'Ballin' by Mustard and Roddy Ricch comfortably getting the Honourable Mention. And next week... while I'm not sure he's got enough for the full impact of an album bomb, it'll be fascinating to see where Chance The Rapper manages to hit.

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