Tuesday, July 2, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - july 6, 2019

So remember when I said last week that it looked like things were about to be changing? It's hard not to look at the Hot 100 right now and think that the disruptions are starting to come en masse - not the album bomb I expected from Lil Nas X, sure, but we still got four new songs in the top quarter of the charts, as well as a few shifts I definitely did not predict - we could be in for an interesting summer, just putting it out there.

Of course, when you have the utter behemoth of 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus squatting on top of the Hot 100, further bolstered by his EP release this week to make the sales, streaming, and YouTube even stronger even as the radio falls away fast. And props to him on a legitimately well-planned and impressed run, but again, I still think more than ever he's vulnerable next week, especially if the radio keeps evaporating as fast as it is, especially now we've got yet another challenger and our highest new arrival: 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello at #2. As usual, I'll have much more to say later on, but considering its own sizable YouTube margin, a radio run in full swing, and considerable backing on streaming, it could well be a disruptor if those margins close. Hell, it blew right past 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish holding at #3, which despite losing sales still is holding her own on streaming and is making a credible radio push herself. Then there's 'Talk' by Khalid at #4 - the radio's huge, the streaming and sales aren't quite there but it doesn't matter - and 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber at #5 - sales are better, streaming is worse, and while it is chasing on radio, it's got a ways to catch up. Then we have 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers, holding at #6 even as the sales shrink because apparently the radio isn't sick of this yet - which I'll admit kind of surprises me, I've been convinced this was out of gas for a month now. Then rising up to #7 we have 'Suge' by DaBaby - it doesn't really have the sales, but it held enough on radio to rise, although given how it seems to be peaking, I'm not sure whether it'll hold longer. Next we have 'Money In The Grave' by Drake ft. Rick Ross, only losing one spot to #8, because even if the sales fell off hard the streaming did not, and it actually looks like the radio might be getting on-board. Sadly that's a similar case for 'No Guidance' by Chris Brown featuring Drake, which'll only be further bolstered by the album next week but for now is just ahead on airplay even if it lags on streaming. Finally, clinging onto #10 as it stumbles out is 'Wow.' by Post Malone, which actually has better sales and residual airplay, even if it is losing there, but with weaker streaming it's going to get muscled out.

That takes us to our losers and dropouts, and again, it looks like a fair few respectable songs took their exit, some clinching their year-end spot with songs like 'Envy Me' by Calboy and 'when the party's over' by Billie Eilish - check my midyear list to see how I feel about the latter - and then songs like 'Miss Me More' by Kelsea Ballerini and 'Robbery' by Juice WRLD, thank god. But what looks more interesting are our losers, and let's get through the country and pop country cuts quickly which seem like they're on a rotation out and could well miss a year-end list: 'Look What God Gave Her' by Thomas Rhett down to 54, 'Good As You' by Kane Brown at 58, and frustratingly 'Love Someone' by Brett Eldredge at 88. Then you have the Drake losses for 'Omerta' to 99 and 'Girls Need Love' with Summer Walker to 74, along with a couple scattered losses to 'Sanguine Paradise' by Lil Uzi Vert to 89 and 'EARFQUAKE' by Tyler, The Creator to 46. Then we have the expected dropoff for 'Con Calma' by Daddy Yankee and Snow to 37 - I blame the Katy Perry remix on this - but the most interesting loss comes to Taylor Swift, because not only did 'ME!' with Brendon Urie tank to 31, 'You Need To Calm Down' also collapsed to 13. And that's the one I find fascinating because I predicted it could make a run, especially given its sales and burgeoning radio... but the streaming just isn't there, especially after YouTube dropped off. Again, Taylor Swift could be heading into trouble for this album cycle, and for her landing on a new label after the issues that have come up the past week - in which I just don't know enough around her attempts to get back her masters to speak effectively on it, especially given all the hearsay I'm hearing from each side - 2019 could be very rough for her.

Now on the flip side we don't have a lot in terms of returns and gains here... and I really can't say I'm a fan of any of this. I mean, the single returning entry is 'You Stay' by DJ Khaled ft. Meek Mill, J. Balvin, Lil Baby and Jeremih - what analytics told them that was a smart choice to push as the next single, I have no idea. And for our gains... look, I'm not surprised 'It's You' by Ali Gatie made a push to 70 off the debut or that 'Shotta Flow' by NLE Choppa went to 48 - I'm just annoyed and disappointed that neither song is all that good. I am a little pleased that 'Press' by Cardi B got a welcome rebound off the video to 43, but the biggest story comes with our biggest gain: 'The Git Up' by Blanco Brown to 29, where it looks like the trap-country dance song is following the exact same formula that made 'Old Town Road' work and this time with Nashville backing - make no mistake, I wouldn't be surprised if this gets even higher faster in the weeks ahead.

But now to our respectable week of new arrivals, starting with a surprise for me at least with...

100. 'Summer Days' by Martin Garrix ft. Macklemore & Patrick Stump - am I the only one who feels like Martin Garrix's production longevity might be a bit underrated? I say a 'bit' because he's got his fair share of forgettable tunes and I still wish I liked 'Animals' a lot more than I do, but he got quality work out of Bebe Rexha with 'In The Name Of Love' and then upgraded with Dua Lipa and 'Scared To Be Lonely', so if he was able to give Macklemore and Patrick Stump something to work with, this could be cool... and wow, this turned out a fair bit better than I expected! For one, while Patrick Stump's falsetto can be a little hit-or-miss, Garrix gives him the sort of layering and gravitas that I don't think Fall Out Boy has ever added - and considering that fat bass groove combined with the sharper grinding elements, it lends the song a swagger and grit to its groove that takes the smoother funk and retro disco that Calvin Harris attempted a few years back and puts it on steroids. Hell, Macklemore might be the least impressive part of the song here, until you realize the framing of the song is post-hookup and hitting the delicate balance between trying to sustain it and the inherent disposability of the situation is uncertain, hence the darker tone. Overall... yeah, I like this a lot, and while I have no idea how deep it'll penetrate the Hot 100, I'd root for it.

98. 'Cash Shit' by Megan Thee Stallion ft. DaBaby - frankly, I'm just surprised this wasn't being pushed earlier. And I'll admit I was shocked Megan Thee Stallion apparently did not get the push from her label for the mini-album bomb I thought she could handle off of Fever, but as a smart single with DaBaby looking for his next hit this is a good tack too. Shame it's not nearly as sharp as I wish it could be - I highlighted this when I reviewed the album, but for as good as she might sound in her flows, Megan's choice to drop rhymes without any good reason feel unnecessarily sloppy, especially with such minimal production where it's impossible not to notice. It's more an issue with the first verse than the third, and DaBaby has the outsized personality to be a good compliment to her... and that takes us to the content. And here's the thing: I'm not going to begrudge her the very transactional approach she takes to getting money and dating - if that's what she wants and it's effective, good for her - but the pronounced level of distrust and contempt that she has for the entire scene does taint the song a little, even if DaBaby shows himself as an even match. As a whole... it's the obvious single choice because of the guest star, but I'd argue there are better cuts from the album that at the very least have more of a tune - not bad, but not great either.

72. 'Out The Mud' by Lil Baby ft. Future - man, if there's a way to kill my interest in a song faster in 2019, say it comes from both Lil Baby and Future, two artists who have long run out of things to say or compelling personality and are solely dependent on flow and good production to be tolerable. I mean, if it wasn't for the flute melody and grimy bass coursing through this cut, are we really caring that much about the interchangeable flexing from both of these two, where Future splits his verse with sputtering adlibs, or how Lil Baby talks about how he can't even keep his drugs down and he keeps throwing up - I thought this song was supposed to be a flex, how is that supposed to look good? But that's the most scathing indictment of the track: if it is supposedly so different if you get it from 'out the mud', that all this wealth means more, why is there no detail or flair to your writing or delivery to emphasize it, because right now this sounds like all the same except with more obvious issues! So no, not a fan of this, and if I can avoid that new Lil Baby project apparently coming, the better off we'll all be.

57. 'One Thing Right' by Marshmello & Kane Brown - at this point, I think Marshmello is just poring through his Rolodex and finding whoever will pick up the phone and listen, because where A Day to Remember was out of nowhere, Kane Brown makes sense as a name to be called - and it was probably going to suck. Say what you will about him, but even on the snap beats Kane Brown tries to ride some sort of groove, none of which I believed Marshmello could make work. Oh, there's a snap beat here, but it's surrounded by hi-hats with a guitar where the low-end actively clips into the mix and that flat buzzy synth that's trying to add muscle or grit even as the pedal steel tries to keen through - and that's before we try and get a tempo switch-up for the bridge that kills whatever groove is even here! And that's before we get the expected Marshmello issues: an underwhelming drop, a badly compressed mix, and no sense of dynamics as he crushes Kane Brown's more unique tones into autotuned mush. And if Kane Brown was trying to make this more of a melancholic love song, where the only thing he got right was 'you', why is the melody sound so ominous - it's the same problem Jason Aldean has, a melodic tone for a love song that matches with nothing! So yeah, this is complete crap, and any Nashville DJ who plays this on a country station should be shot into the sun - next!

22. 'Rodeo' by Lil Nas X & Cardi B - I think a lot of people got the impression I was more negative on the Lil Nas X EP than I actually was, more because I just wasn't all that impressed by all the genre-mixing that felt more reminiscent of chasing a sound to make up for underwhelming content and delivery. And while 'Rodeo' is one of the better songs, these problems are still here: you have a promising Spanish guitar flourish and the horns on the outro, and yet you submerge it beneath cheap trap percussion and pretentions to rap rock on the prechorus with that tuning, to say nothing about a hook that sounds like Travis Scott trying to remake 'Mo Bamba'? And I actually like Cardi B's attention to a more dangerous vibe on the eight bars she contributed, but let's not act that it was complex or that interesting, especially as she comes across as so much more potent as a presence overall. And while I get the slightly curdled vibe is supposed to represent the tumultuous relationship - I get the rodeo metaphor - if you outright say you didn't care what she thought and are trying to foster her independence - a line that never works, by the by - why do I feel this relationship is more precarious and your sullen apology isn't going to work? Now here's the thing: despite saying all that I think there are the seeds of a workable song here, I think it's okay... but it is underwritten and undercooked, so I'm not about to call it all that good, just saying.

20. 'MEGATRON' by Nicki Minaj - why do I feel like the buzz for this song just came and went? I'll freely admit that I've probably never been much of a Nicki Minaj fan, but if I'm her and I'm not preparing for this to go into freefall after the sales and YouTube fall away, we could well get a repeat of her summer from last year and I don't think anyone wants that. Anyway, the song... honestly, she couldn't have just done the proper single push for 'Ganja Burn' if she was going for this sound, especially given the guitar foundation that actually had a distinctive hook there and didn't have to rely on her badly autotuned singing? It's not like the percussion hits that hard to drive a distinctive groove beyond the blatant samples, or that Nicki's utterly limp party hook adds much... until you realize that this song might as well serve as a commercial to her Moscato brand with interchangeable flexing and sex references and her talking about hitting the blunt-blunt and getting drunk-drunk! Once you add that context, it kind of makes sense why people ditched this song fast, because there's so little actually here - and yeah, I don't see this lasting. Next!

16. 'Panini' by Lil Nas X - and back to the point of people missing the point of my criticisms of Lil Nas X's EP, some folks got the impression I came down on this song because it was referencing a cartoon relationship, which he's now saying is a metaphor to his relationship with his fans who couldn't handle him when he got big. Okay, fair enough - I didn't grow up with Chowder, I'll accept this as a point of reference, and I'll even accept his question of the fan of what they really want from him, for which they probably don't have an answer. But for a guy in his position I can't help but think it's presumptuous to say he doesn't want the fan compared to a new car and the assumption he'll always win, especially given the novelty of his success. More to the point, if he builds his hook out of an interpolation of Nirvana's 'In Bloom' while still sounding like a low-rent Travis Scott for a song that can't even run two minutes long, I'm still going to be left with the impression that this song is undercooked and derivative, especially with how the percussion is clumsily blended and the synth feels so unsupported. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad... but it's not something I'm inclined to revisit much, that's all.

2. 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello - on some level I'm not surprised this is happening. Sure, I didn't like 'I Know What You Did Last Summer', but the song did have some proven success and a decent pulse, and I have to hope that with Shawn Mendes having a slightly more consistent record as of the past year or so and with Camila Cabello cutting a good song with Mark Ronson, we could get quality. And... well, I get the appeal, which is entirely rooted in real life shipping fodder and the video, and I think the song is moving in the right direction: leaning into gentler sensuality, lyrics that imply a greater connection with a modest amount of cleverness - even though I'm still on the fence of how the first line of the hook is structured, where only Camila sings 'me' while the duo sings in unison for the other words - and I can hear the mechanism to make this work. And that, in a strange way, might be the problem: while Shawn Mendes' multi-tracking is doing some heavy lifting to imply gravitas, I'm not sure he's got much chemistry and smolder with Camila, who still remains a shrill and frustrating singer who doesn't seem to have much subtlety. If there is chemistry here, it feels manufactured rather than organic, and while it might be a cheap shot to compare her to her old peers in Fifth Harmony, I can't help but remember when Normani teamed up with Khalid for 'Love Lies' or when Lauren worked with Halsey on 'Strangers'; hell, you could make the argument Normani and Sam Smith had more chemistry on 'Dancing With A Stranger'! And that sort of obvious effort undercuts the smolder this song is attempting to pull off...

That said, it still is getting the Honourable Mention of the week for better than expected organic production and effective construction - although compared to the best of the week in 'Summer Days' from Martin Garrix, Macklemore and Patrick Stump, it's not even close. Now the worst of the week is even easier, with 'One Thing Right' by Marshmello and Kane Brown being a total disaster with 'Out The Mud' from Lil Baby and Future easily getting the Dishonourable Mention. Next week... I mean, it'd be a miracle if Freddie Gibbs broke through, but DJ Mustard or even The Black Keys might be more likely. We'll have to see...

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