Tuesday, August 6, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 10, 2019

Am I the only one who thinks that this year has just felt like an extended cooldown from the chaos of 2018, where it felt like the chart was facing upheavals every other week? Of course, some of that stability on top has to trickle down, but some of it feels rooted in a summer that feels increasingly listless and bereft of impact releases, true album bombs to shake the charts - yeah, we got a few songs from Chance The Rapper this week, but not the tidal wave we would have seen last year.

But on the topic of stability at the top, when we flip to our top 10 it looks like 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus has cemented their claim on the #1 record with another week there, still entrenched with streaming, sales and YouTube even as the radio collapses. And I have to wonder where the margin is going to crack first, because I'm not sure 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish has it - sure, she's right behind on streaming and handily winning on the radio, but the gap on YouTube and sales is only widening, which isn't a good sign. i still think the biggest contender is 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello at #3 - yeah, took a bit of a hit on streaming and YouTube this week, but the sales are still solid and the radio run it's having is genuinely impressive. And right behind it is 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo up to #4, which actually has better sales and radio but just can't quite muster the same streaming and YouTube just yet, though it is close. Hell, she blew right past 'Talk' by Khalid at #5, which seems to be hitting its peak on radio and that might signal a steep decline in its future. Unfortunately, it doesn't get better from there, because as predicted, 'No Guidance' by Chris Brown and Drake rode the viral video up to #6 - the radio and sales aren't quite there in the same way, but when the streaming is this robust, I'm not sure they care. It handily moved past 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber at #7 - the sales and radio might be holding better than I expected, but with little else, it is vulnerable - 'Goodbyes' by Post Malone ft. Young Thug at #8 - which has the radio traction and enough sales to be a contender, but the streaming numbers are concerning - and 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers at #9 - radio's in freefall, this'll be gone fast. Which takes us to our only new entry to our top ten: 'Ran$om' by Lil Tecca... wait, what? Are we honestly giving a top ten hit to this, a glassy bit of nasal, disposable trap that apparently is riding a video and nothing else? I don't even dislike this so much as question why something so utterly generic and forgettable in this lane that is clearly riding on production more than content has gotten this big... and yet knowing my luck, it'll probably wind up sticking around, so I won't even pretend to guess with this one.

So let's switch over to our losers and dropouts, and I can't be the only one a little shocked by how many relatively big songs left the Hot 100 this week, right? Some definitely clinched their year-end spots - 'MIDDLE CHILD' by J. Cole, 'Con Calma' by Daddy Yankee and Snow - no, I'm not dignifying that Katy Perry remix - and 'Act Up' by City Girls - but then we have some that are either borderline like 'Rumor' by Lee Brice or just missed out entirely, like 'GIRL' by Maren Morris and 'Sanguine Paradise' by Lil Uzi Vert. As for losers, most of them are either debuts from last week or just kept on losing - in the former category we saw 'How Do You Sleep' by Sam Smith slide to 40 and sadly 'The Archer' by Taylor Swift at 79, while in the latter 'Rodeo' by Lil Nas X and Cardi B went to 72, 'Nightmare' by Halsey crashed to 100, and Ed Sheeran saw losses for 'Antisocial' with Travis Scott at 78 and 'Cross Me' with PnB Rock and Chance The Rapper at 77 - odd, I thought Chance's presence might have given this a bit of a leg-up. And the only other worthwhile loser was 'Cool' by the Jonas Brothers - yep, not complaining there.

Now our gains and returns list is significantly smaller - and significantly less good. I'm not surprised to see NF nab returns for 'Time' at 67 and 'The Search' at 86, but why exactly is 'What If I Never Get Over You' by Lady Antebellum back at 99? More alarmingly, when we look at our gains, why is Nashville pushing 'I Don't Know About You' by Chris Lane to 73? I might not like 'The Ones Who Didn't Make It Back Home' by Justin Moore, but I at least get its run at 51, but swapping out Lee Brice for Chris Lane is just asinine. But the big story comes for 'Otro Trago' by Sech and Darell, which got a massive remix with a bunch of other forgettable reggaeton acts to shove this all the way up to 34 - I'd say I don't expect it to last, but I know none of us are that lucky.

Anyway, to move onto something that at least for me is better, our new arrivals, starting with...

95. 'Do You Remember' by Chance The Rapper ft. Ben Gibbard - so given I'm among the folks who actually liked that Chance album, I'm a little frustrated that the majority of my favourite cuts missed the Hot 100... but of the few that made it, this is probably the best. The glistening, elongated echo of the chipmunk tones lends them a bit of texture and makes them surprisingly likable, and play well off of Ben Gibbard's more sedate but slightly warning tone coming in how he ends his hook, which is an interesting contrast to the come-up story that Chance meanders through seeing success and realizing that in comparison with the fatalism he used to ponder, now he wants to take that longer view, an opportunity he knows through the ending of the first verse is not afforded all of his city. It's meditative and a little unsure - again, not quite one of my favourite cuts from the album - but it still really does come together; good song, check it out.

94. 'All Day Long' by Chance The Rapper ft. John Legend - the opening track of the album, and admittedly for as exultant as John Legend sells that hook over the ramshackle percussion and pulsating bass, along with the keyboard and guitar touches, the tune never quite clicked with me as much as I'd like. Part of this I do place on Chance - some of the comparisons he tries to make on the first verse feel a little forced, even if he seems so damn grateful that he got this length of success and time ahead of him - something he's keenly aware might not be for those who denigrate him, and where he could have well been the same. But I think the larger problem is that it starts at full force and doesn't quite hit an effective crescendo as strongly as it could - maybe a little more restraint in the percussion could have allowed this to truly take off, that's all I'm saying. Still a decent song, but there are better that should have charted.

89. 'Daddy' by Blueface & Rich The Kid - let's be honest, did anyone have expectations of this? One rapper who raps offbeat, the other who has trouble filling up bars, neither of which has had much of anything to say, should it be any surprise it's not all that good? And if there's a song that might finally put to bed Blueface is intentionally trying to be off-beat to be avant-garde or weird, it should be here: if anything, it seems like he just doesn't care where the beat even could be and is relying on personality to carry through it - unfortunate, because then Rich The Kid tries to imitate much of what Blueface is doing and only highlights the shortcomings in the approach. Now the piano-driven production isn't terrible - I'm still left thinking that if Blueface wanted to be weird he'd embrace weirder beats instead of just pulling a thin interpolation of 'Thotiana' - but again, the content is just not interesting, as these two buy their girls brand names, which is very different than no-strings-attached sex, Blueface, as I'm fairly certain your obnoxious personality would mean nobody would fuck you otherwise! It's just sneering and unpleasant, and the novelty has long worn off of this, and even with Rich The Kid riding Blueface's questionable coattails, I can't see this lasting - next!

85. 'Leave Me Alone' by NF - see, I'm not going to complain about NF notching a song this week; it looks like he's going to ride some impressive sales on the Billboard 200, good for him. The problem is that with every song he charts from this project I just find myself frustrated that he's not more interesting - yes, 'Leave Me Alone' is a little better with that reverb-saturated smolder, strings and the hammering hook, and I don't mind the darker symphonic bombast behind the end of the third verse - oddly reminded of Meek Mill a bit - but am I the only one who can't help but see some irony in him using balloons as a metaphor for weight on his soul - normally they're lighter and can be freed with little issue? And there are other little moments that feel off here too: the mixing feels a little too blown out and shouting for its own good - a weird choice for a song trying to play up his antisocial impulses - the feeling that for as much as NF says he obsesses over lines how many filler bars pack every song, how on his third verse he admits a call to 'fame' says the song might suck, and while I do like how he's self-aware of how he's cultivated his fanbase, I have to wonder if the undercooked antisocial vibe won't turn folks off in the long-term. As it is... look, I'm trying to like it, but the tonal dissonance between the content and execution is throwing me, not sure it really works.

82. 'Living' by Dierks Bentley - so it's been a while since we've gotten any singles from that last Dierks Bentley album that was a nice enough return to form with some really damn solid cuts... and this is not one of the best ones. Seriously, you have 'How I'm Going Out' or 'One Way' or 'Stranger To Myself' as options, and yet you go with this? I'm not going to call it bad - Dierks' more textured vocal tones are always welcome, the hook that ditches that clunky programmed handclap for real drums is good even if it still feels like the cymbals are a bit too loud, and there's some decent guitar smolder here - but it feels lyrically undercooked and sedate to match how much it's trying to soar. After all, all he's doing is just living day to day, without any serious hardship or struggle, and yet the music is trying to sell so much more than what we get. It just feels oversold, and thus winds up a little tepid for me - not bad, but with the wealth of better songs on the album, he could have skipped this over.

69. 'Takeaway' by The Chainsmokers & Illenium ft. Lennon Stella - you know, maybe it's on me that I keep trying to shove The Chainsmokers to the back of my mind - have been doing so since 2017 at least - but I keep being surprised whenever they notch surprisingly good chart position with another song, this one with EDM producer Illenium and one half of pop country duo Lennon & Maisy, who you might recognize from the TV show Nashville. Yet I would not expect anything close to country on this, because while there's an acoustic guitar behind the hook and some surprising sizzle behind the prechorus - along with some keys around the first half of the hook I like - you're still going to get your fried-out stuttering Chainsmokers drop with vocal fragments integrated into it. But I'm still left with questions here: if Andrew Taggart is going to sing on this, why not try for some real interplay with Lennon Stella instead of just layering them on top of each other? Why does the song still rely on manipulative sentiments of how affection is still desired even if it's never going to work? And why did you choose to describe said affection as 'takeaway', like you were picking up your takeout from the Chinese or pizza place - way to emphasize the disposability of everything here! Granted, at this point I'm not remotely surprised by The Chainsmokers playing into these sentiments; I just wish they were doing them far away from the Hot 100 where I don't have to hear their non-charisma in describing it - next!

64. 'Single Again' by Big Sean - so full disclosure, by titling this song as 'Single Again', Big Sean is writing about his breakup from Jhene Aiko, no matter how coy he's trying to be about it. On an analogous note, I'm entirely on her side in this, and Big Sean has an uphill battle trying to yank me over - so when I heard both uncredited vocals from Ty Dolla $ign and Jhene Aiko on this track, I was thrown for a loop. And on that note, when you realize that even though Jhene doesn't have a writer's credit, it appears that she's rubbed off on Big Sean for this at least, not just in the distinctive piano-touched R&B tone with some more elegant arranged touches around him, but also in his content. For one, I like the fact that he's trying to reflect on his own life on where he went astray and made selfish decisions for the wrong reasons, placing blame in the wrong places, from the backpedal of 'I Don't Fuck With You' that was originally intended at Naya Rivera four years ago, to how he wonders whether the fractured relationship his parents had rubbed off on him. And while I'm a little skeptical of DJ Khaled being a good advisor in any capacity, if it was that Big Sean needs to focus on himself, slow down, and focus on his internal balance instead of drugs or other women... yeah, that's just mature and smart. And when you also realize there's no obvious cornball lines and that Big Sean's melodic touches reflect more of Jhene's influence in a good way, I can't help but really like this. Holy shit, if Big Sean somehow grew up, that next album might be way more interesting than I was expecting, because this is really damn solid - nice work!

58. 'Hot Shower' by Chance The Rapper ft. MadeInTYO & DaBaby - and here we have the song that to so many people trying to let Chance win them over was the breaking point... and let's make this clear, it's absolutely a weaker song on the album. The trap beat sounds cheap as all hell and bereft of melody, MadeInTYO's Playboi Carti impression is not good, and Chance's goofy-ass staccato flow and references don't really match up with it. But on the flip side, it absolutely has the feel of someone high as balls careening through stupid references until his girl calls him over, especially that second verse which I still think is kind of funny. And DaBaby seems just as horny and scatterbrained on his verse, where he questions if he's still tricking if he gets the girl a shitty car when he buys a good one, dresses up like a Republican to get head from a white girl, and yet wonders if he's only fulfilling this role because it's a cultural stereotype... which makes you wonder whether Chance intended this song as more of a parody than playing it straight. Why this song is included on a wedding album, though... yeah, even giving this song some dubious credit it's not precisely good. I don't think it's terrible, but I get why people are giving Chance the side-eye because of it.

39. 'Gold Roses' by Rick Ross ft. Drake - so apparently we're getting a new Rick Ross album in a couple of days... and I'll be honest, I really couldn't care less. Even if Rick Ross has improved significantly as a technical rapper since I reviewed two albums of his in 2014, even if I think his descriptive abilities have improved and he still can pick good production, I can't help but find a lot of his material really lacking in dimension, and that's hard to stomach for a project over an hour long. And even when we get Drake stepping up to help, I'm not really all that impressed with this - both men are reflecting on opulent successes but a lingering feeling of emotional emptiness in the face of conflicts we aren't seeing, but especially with Drake's verse I'm left with the impression that truly interesting or vulnerable moments are being ignored for future ambitions that feel nebulously defined. I understand that part of this is the lingering shock of Nipsey Hussle's passing and the reference to reaping success while they're still here - something that's always been in Drake's content even going back to the beginning - but it's not like there's a sense of danger or paranoia permeating the song that would spark any sort of revelation, which leaves the platitudes feeling kind of thin. Now for Rick Ross it actually feels a little more solid - a lack of recognition and critical appeal does sting for him - but the choice to then double down on flexing adds to the same inert feeling that Ross is trying to inspire deeper emotion that just isn't connecting. And I don't think the production helps: leaden cascades of keys over a spare trap-infused clunker with chipmunk fragments, there's no sense of groove or a focal point to really sustain a song comfortably over five minutes. And yes, I get that this is more intended to brood, but if I don't feel like there's much genuine introspection or challenging vulnerability, I'm just left cold, which is sadly where I fall on this. I respect the attempt to try and get a little deeper, but when it feels this inert, I'll stick with a cut like 'Money In The Grave' that can actually hit.

And that was our week - weird notes to end things off on a weird week as a whole, but the best and the worst fall out pretty quickly. For the worst... honestly feels like a bit of a tossup, but 'Daddy' by Blueface and Rich The Kid was probably the most inept, with 'Takeaway' from The Chainsmokers, Illenium and Lennon Stella as the Dishonourable Mention. Now for the best... you know, when I started this week I thought Chance would have this with 'Do You Remember' with Ben Gibbard, but that's only getting Honourable Mention, with the best going to 'Single Again' by Big Sean - yeah, I'm as surprised as anyone, believe me! Now next week... see, I have no idea, we've got a slow release schedule, so it might come down to what crashes the most...

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