Tuesday, July 9, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 13, 2019

Am I the only one who thinks that we all dodged a bullet this week? I figured there was a real possibility that given the sparse set of releases we could get something disruptive and unpleasant like a week full of Chris Brown, but he only managed to lodge one new song on the Hot 100 and otherwise... looks like a pretty relaxed week. Not precisely a great one, but thankfully a bit slower.

And that means most of our focus has to be on the top 10, because right now 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus has the potential to become the longest running #1 single of the chart's history. Currently it's been on top for fourteen weeks, two weeks back of tying 'Despacito' and 'One Sweet Day' and three weeks back of beating it, and right now it seems like it's got every chance to do it. The streaming is still huge across YouTube and on-demand, and while the radio is plummeting, a well-timed sales discount is keeping it alive - for now. But here's the thing: I'm not sure what's the song that'll break its stranglehold - it might not even be in the top 10 right now. I mean, look at 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish pushing up to #2 - consistently strong streaming and eclipsing 'Old Town Road' in the radio run, but the streaming margin is too wide and she doesn't have enough sales yet. Then there's 'Talk' by Khalid at #3 - huge radio and the sales rebounded, but not enough and the streaming is going down, so it's not a serious challenger either. Then there's 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber at #4 - yeah, the sales are better, but the streaming is worse and the radio run looks to be slowing down abruptly. Then there's 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, down off the debut to #5 - which is to be expected given how the sales fell off, and while the streaming and radio are racing to catch up, it's a margin's game with this one, it could well be too late. Then we have our surprise contender and our newest arrival to the top 10: 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo at #6. Now I'll be honest, I never expected to rise this aggressively, but I can't deny big sales and a decent streaming presence, especially as the radio loves her - the question is whether she'll get enough fast enough to narrow the streaming gap, we'll have to see. Hell, she blew right past 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers down at #7, but given how the radio is finally sputtering and that's most of what it has, it might start crashing pretty fast. Then at #8 - reentering the top 10 much to my shock - we have 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee, that suddenly picked up a big streaming boost. Not going to say it's a full-on second wind given how the radio is still collapsing, but that's the explanation there. Hell, it went right past 'No Guidance' by Chris Brown ft. Drake at #9, because while streaming is keeping this afloat, the sales and radio sure as hell aren't. It did hold over 'Suge' by DaBaby down at #10, mostly thanks to having no sales and weak streaming, but this looks to be a margins game - better radio margin, much softer on-demand.

Which takes us to our losers and dropouts - and honestly, in the latter category I'm not complaining much. Yeah, 'Big Ole Freak' by Megan Thee Stallion is out prematurely, along with 'Love Someone' by Brett Eldredge, but 'Here With Me' by Marshmello and CHVRCHES was always underwhelming and if they're taking 'break up with your girlfriend, i'm bored' by Ariana Grande out with it, I'm okay with that... even if that song has the points to clinch a year-end list slot and a spot on my worst hits of 2019 list - lovely. Now we did have more losers than I expected here, and they're kind of all over the place. As expected we got the continued collapse for 'Girls Need Love' by Summer Walker and Drake to 90, and I'm not surprised that '24/7' by Meek Mill and Ella Mai weakened to 82, 'Wish Wish' by DJ Khaled ft. Cardi B and 21 Savage fell to 97, and 'Back At It Again' by Yella Beezy, Gucci Mane, and Quavo went to 99 - all of these songs just haven't hit the way they should have. Hell, given how many weeks 'ocean eyes' by Billie Eilish has persisted near the bottom of the charts, I'm surprised it's only now falling to 100. But what catches more interest from me are the losses for 'Wake Up' by Travis Scott to 94 - not a good sign for the late album single - 'Otro Trago' by Sech and Darell to 93 - good - and 'Trampoline' by SHAED at 89 - guess we aren't getting that understated and underwhelming indie pop crossover after all. But the real surprises came in our debuts losing, because yes, I expected 'Rodeo' by Lil Nas X and Cardi B to fade to 38 and 'One Thing Right' by Marshmello and Kane Brown to collapse to 76, but for 'MEGATRON' by Nicki Minaj to faceplant so hard to 92 implies that the audience emphatically rejected her commercial- I mean song. Hopefully this was not being positioned for bigger plans ahead, because this doesn't look good.

Now our gains and returning entries do make a bit more sense here, especially as both in the latter category came back thanks to music videos: 'Homicide' by Logic ft. Eminem at 71, 'Mother's Daughter' by Miley Cyrus at 83. And when we go to our gains... again, outside of 'Speechless' by Dan + Shay going on its umpteenth revival to 34 for no good reason, the rest of these gains kind of make sense. 'Some Of It' by Eric Church to 55 and 'Knockin' Boots' by Luke Bryan to 50 are the expected rotations for summer airplay, 'Ran$om' by Lil Tecca to 35 is the expected short-term run that'll hit a brick wall in a few weeks, and 'Cash Shit' by Megan Thee Stallion ft. DaBaby at 86 is a shrewd move that's got the potential to make major gains over the next little while. Of course, the more telling story is the boosts for 'The Git Up' by Blanco Brown to 16: given how much sales it has, all it needs to do is narrow the streaming margin and pick up any sort of radio promotion - which might be tough given Nashville monopolizing that airspace - and it becomes a contender. The only question is when and how it hits, which might be sooner than we all realize...

But anyway, let's move to our list of new arrivals, starting with...

84. 'Lalala' by Y2K & bbno$ - okay, let's have some context here. The producer is Y2K, the rapper is bbno$... although saying what he's doing is rapping is a serious stretch. But there's no way I could call this singing either - he's consistently off-key and has no presence whatsoever, only barely matching the minor-key guitar line and lumpy trap beat. No, to me this sounds like something you'd hear on a sketch-comedy show or a spoof on YouTube, especially with the clumsy Canada reference - except there are no jokes here, just mindless flexing. For god's sake, I've heard Riff Raff and Lil Dicky express more charisma and wit than this, and what delusions does this guy have in thinking he can take anybody's girl? I'd call this a parody... but again, even if there is a joke this is still leaden, tedious, overplayed, and generally shit, and what I really hate is its air of smug, hazy-eyed detachment - whatever weed this dude is getting in interior B.C. is a bad strain that I recommend getting purged with napalm! Apparently this blew up because bbno$ caught fire on Chinese streaming services and got himself a TikTok meme to boot... yeah, can we send him behind that firewall post-haste, because this is terrible - next!

81. 'My Type' by Saweetie - okay, putting aside that abortion of epic proportions, we have Saweetie here... and I'm sorry, are we back in 2004? Well, turns out I wasn't that far off, because that synth progression behind the popping bounce is a liberal sample from Petey Pablo's 'Freek-A-Leek', a song I've never really liked but certainly was distinctive and swapping him out for Saweetie's personality for two minutes of sexually charged flexing and hunting for a rich dude to screw seems like an upgrade? Now granted, take a step back and you'll realize nothing she's doing here is all that far removed from what Megan Thee Stallion is doing and she comes across as a bit more thirsty... but that synth choice is a nostalgic moment and it does contribute to a solid groove, so I can certainly get the appeal, but it also runs a little shorter than it should and I'd like to hope we can get a bit more variety in the content, that's all.

78. 'When I Grow Up' by NF - so okay, NF actually managed to impress me a bit with his last charting song, and while it didn't stick around, I was curious how this next one would be able to hit, even if the title definitely did give me some pause - retreating into adolescent issues is not territory he should want to recycle. And while this isn't quite that, it does seem to fall into cliched territory and my usual frustrations with NF pretty fast. That nursery box melody that's inflated by completely overblown bombast, a good flow that only serves to highlight wordplay that he himself admits isn't that all that good - plus that space-filling tactic where he corrects a misheard line that we all got right the first time - and while the hook does kind of knock after the second verse, am I the only one who hears some of that same clunky adolescence that has so little unique detail? The one decent assertion is that chasing his rap dreams is probably better than going to college and taking on huge debt for no reason, but again, there's so little detail to flesh out his 'come from behind' narrative means I'm left with a pretty thin track that's missing the payoff. So yeah, not the worst NF song I've heard, but it killed a lot of my interest pretty fast, so we'll see where this goes from here.

67. 'Don't Check On Me' by Chris Brown ft. Justin Bieber & Ink - ...you know what, I'm just happy we've only got one, and there's no way it can be worse than 'Lalala', I'm looking on the bright side here! Granted, am I the only one who thinks it weird that Chris Brown is trying to make an acoustic ballad with Bieber, mostly because Brown still stacks and compresses his vocals with enough filters to utterly neuter any sort of organic connection, not helped by how closely he aligns with Ink's also compressed and tinny delivery? And again, when all you have backing you is an acoustic guitar, that's the sort of production that can sound really canned and suck any attempt and genuine soul out of the song... kind of a shame because for the most part the lyrics actually work for once between Chris Brown and Ink, both as partners who aren't together and are trying to throw up defenses but the lines fall increasingly flat as it's clear there's still something there. I would say that... except that then Justin Bieber has his verse where seems very much okay that the relationship is over and he's cut all ties, which not only doesn't fit within the song's narrative at all, it completely kills the mood! So yeah, there might have been the potential for a good idea, but botching the execution leaves a mediocre song - next!

65. 'Que Pretendes' by J Balvin & Bad Bunny - so apparently these two put out a short joint project and apparently it's supposed to be loose and playful and fun - and I'm sitting back here utterly unconvinced because when has that really ever been the case for these two in any capacity? Granted, the watery pop and warping amorphous mass of synth against by the numbers reggaeton percussion is a bit different especially when it switches up to get even more muted, but I'm still not really hearing what's all that fascinating or interesting here from either artist, especially when the entire song when translated is a kissoff at a girl where neither guy is no longer interested in her attention. And given that neither of these guys come across that slick or smooth, the entire song has this weird, bro flavour that still gives the camaraderie a weirdly sour note. So yeah, not really vibing with this, but like most reggaeton, I'll forget it exists in a week or so - next! 

63. 'Higher Love' by Kygo & Whitney Houston - so I'll admit I was worried about this - a lot. I knew that it was only going to be a matter of time before the Whitney Houston estate began to give up old recordings for samples, and it turns out this was a recording from 1991 cut from the mediocre-at-best I'm Your Baby Tonight album, only released with the Japanese issue of the album and that Kygo then remixed here. Now I'm actually a little more forgiving of this case than most - this is originally a cover of a Steve Winwood and Chaka Khan collaboration, Whitney's voice is still the centerpiece unlike the places where Justin Timberlake and Drake have pillaged the Michael Jackson - Paul Anka sessions or the flagrant graverobbery to profit off of XXXTENTACION last year, Whitney is given co-equal credit, and this is more just a remix of an existing song with her voice as a sample. And as such... I'm not going to say it's Kygo's best, but Whitney's pop diva tones are given a ton of space against the coursing synth line and pianos and subtle percussion groove, especially when the horns and tropical percussion are used to amplify the choppy drop. And while I'd argue the lyrics remain a little thin and underwhelming, it's generally a pretty likable curiosity that I honestly don't expect to be much of a hit. Still a good effort, though, check it out.

26. 'Beautiful People' by Ed Sheeran ft. Khalid - okay, I've been waiting for this Ed Sheeran collabs project to truly impress me and while 'Cross Me' was a better step, I did have some hope for connecting with Khalid, who has always sounded at his best over more organic grooves and might be enough to pull some real raw soul out of Sheeran for once. And... well, it works better than 'I Don't Care', but that's because it's playing in much of the same territory of being the outcast at the party with the person you love, but now facing the fear that you don't want to become the 'beautiful people', all flash and glamour but concealing a life in ruins. Which okay, might fit the more anthemic vibe which hits better than I expected given how stiff the handclap groove is against the washed-out backdrop, and the combination of Khalid and Sheeran makes more sense with this, but they have shockingly little interplay and it's hard to avoid the thoughts that at least Sheeran is ambitious enough to want to be among that crowd. Granted, when he delivers a little more rawness on the post-chorus as well as the more spacious backing vocals, it does evoke a little more sincere reality, but I'm also stuck feeling like the song is missing a bridge or a change-up to really drive this home, and that's before you note all the possible gay subtext because just like 'I Don't Care', both of these guys are talking about a relationship at this party! Granted, it's more cohesive and works better than when Bieber did it, but it does feel like a bit of an unintentional odd note, even if it still is a good song.

And while I'm on that subject... eh, 'Beautiful People' will get the Honourable Mention while 'Higher Love' by Kygo and the late Whitney Houston gets the best of the week - it's a good remix and cover, I appreciate that. The worst is obviously 'Lalala' by Y2K and bbno$, with Dishonourable Mention going to 'Don't Check On Me' by Chris Brown, Ink and Justin Bieber - it had potential, but the vocal production should have been stripped back and Bieber shouldn't have been anywhere near it. Next week... my guess is Dreamville getting a small album bomb while Post Malone and Young Thug make a run for the top spot yet again, we'll have to see...

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