Wednesday, August 14, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 17, 2019

You know, I should just give up making these sorts of predictions one of these days. Here I go thinking that we wouldn't get much of an impact this week, that things would slow down, some of it even based on the evidence that the last time Drake reissued a project - that being So Far Gone - it didn't hit the charts that strongly. And yet apparently just enough time as passed to get a sizable compliment to hit the Hot 100, along with a bunch of assorted pop country because Billboard wants to make my life difficult before I go on vacation - go figure.

Hell, the only place that seems mostly static of now is the Top 10, where for another week and really solidifying its grip on the record, 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus holds the #1 - although the cracks are really starting to widen now, as it lost the top spot in on-demand streaming, radio is in freefall, and that sales and YouTube advantage is shrinking every day. But still, I'm not sure 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish has enough to get there: even with robust radio, its dropoffs in sales and streaming don't speak to being able to make that move. Again, I keep thinking it'll be 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello at #3 - the streaming is consistent, the radio growth is still robust, and while sales slipped a bit, I can still the potential. It'll either be that or 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo at #4, which still has strong sales, good streaming, and even more radio traction. Then we have 'Talk' by Khalid at #5, which hit a hard radio peak but has so many spins in that format that it'll probably take a while for it to fall off properly even despite mediocre streaming and lousy sales - honestly, as much as I don't want to admit it, I can see it being overtaken by 'No Guidance' by Chris Brown ft. Drake, which may have hit a radio blockage with limited sales, but the streaming and especially the YouTube is holding its own. Then we have 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber at #7 - which just had a terrible week on sales as the radio has been wavering - which takes us to a new arrival and debut in the top 10 I'm honestly a little surprised to see here: 'Boyfriend' by Ariana Grande and Social House. Now as usual I'll be talking about this song much more later on, but huge YouTube, even bigger sales, and a real radio push has proven that Ariana can drag someone to success along with her, and that her early oversaturation of this year might be sticking for a bit. Hell, it blew right past 'Goodbyes' by Post Malone ft. Young Thug at #9, where the streaming is slipping even as the radio keeps gaining, and 'Ran$om' by Lil Tecca holding at #10 - what can I say, if it takes the top on-demand streaming spot from 'Old Town Road' and keeps its YouTube momentum, I guess it's just going to keep proving me wrong.

And on that subject, our losers and dropouts - and we had a lot happening this week, including some significant exits. Sure, I'm not going to complain that 'Cool' by the Jonas Brothers or 'Nightmare' by Halsey are gone, or even that 'Calma' by Pedro Capo and Farruko left too, but the big story is that both 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco and 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott have made their exits, in the latter case notching a full year on the Hot 100. Hell, the only exit I'm disappointed with is 'Cross Me' by Ed Sheeran ft. PnB Rock and Chance The Rapper - what can I say, it grew on me. And in all due fairness, when we go to our losers both Ed Sheeran and Chance took losses, the former with Travis Scott with 'Antisocial' down to 88, and the latter with MadeInTYO and DaBaby on 'Hot Shower' to 80. Beyond that... it's kind of all over the place, to be honest. 'Otro Trago' by Sech ft. Darell lost hard off its big remix gain to 44, 'Time' by NF lost off its return to 79, 'Rodeo' by Lil Nas X and Cardi B continues to collapse to 96, 'Before I Let Go' by Beyonce continues its steady decline at 100, and 'Single Again' by Big Sean makes the expected dip off the debut to 84 - although I'll be fascinated to see if that fledgling radio really gets going for it. The only one I expect to maybe rebound is 'Gold Roses' by Rick Ross ft. Drake down at 73, and that's conditional on Ross maybe getting an album bomb this next week... which looking at his streaming numbers, might not be likely at all.

On the flipside, looking at our gains and returns... okay, let me get the good part out of the way, I'm so happy Khalid is pushing 'Right Back' as a new single up to 81 - it's one of the best songs on the new album, absolutely the right choice. But that's more than I can say about all our gains this week, all in country and all punching significantly below their artists' potential. I mean, come on: 'Tip Of My Tongue' by Kenny Chesney to 86? 'Living' by Dierks Bentley to 72? 'All To Myself' by Dan + Shay still rising to 33? I get that mainstream country had a robust week here, but come on!

And we might as well stay in that territory, because we've got a lot of new arrivals and nothing quite qualified for the album bomb, so let's get it started with...

99. 'Prayed For You' by Matt Stell - you know, at this point I have to wonder who at Nashville radio has been successively bribed to block indie country talent from bulldozing in and bringing real talent to the radio instead of yet another utterly forgettable pop country dullard that'll have at most three songs before being forgotten - hell, in this case, the song was dropped in March of 2018 and is only now getting played here! And make no mistake, this'll be forgotten in record time - leaden percussion, guitars and a fake handclap layered to clip the top of the mix, and an underwhelming lead where he didn't know this girl from anyone but he prayed and she showed up. And while I could get on my soapbox and say how I always hate the conflation of this sort of boringly placid religious iconography with love songs - see all the words I had for 'I Won't Give Up' by Jason Mraz a few weeks back on the main channel - the truth is that this is too undercooked to care about one way or the other - next!

97. 'What Happens In A Small Town' by Brantley Gilbert & Lindsay Ell - so you don't need to tell me that I'm a little delusional for hoping that Brantley Gilbert's career crashed and burned five years ago after 'Bottoms Up', but it still throws me that years after bro-country was supposed to tie he's still notching entries on the Hot 100. Last time he got here courtesy of Five Finger Death Punch, so I will say that Lindsay Ell is a net improvement along with jacking chunks of Journey's 'Faithfully' for the lead melody... but Brantley Gilbert is no Steve Perry and yet he's layered louder than Lindsay Ell in order to compete with the overbearing guitar line that has zero subtlety and still manages to cram in a drum machine for good measure! In other words, the cheapest possible way to update the song along with no potent groove... which takes us to the content which in continuing the recycling is a blatant retread of the dynamic Chris Young and Cassadee Pope did better on 'Think Of You' four years ago by ways of Sam Hunt's 'Break Up In A Small Town', except more generic. In other words, if he's expecting this to be the big comeback single for that album I don't want to cover this year, he might be in for a rough time ahead.

95. 'Days In The East' by Drake - man, I really was hoping to classify all of these loose entries from Drake on Care Package as an album bomb... but he came up just short, so let's go through these pretty quickly. Now this songs was released as a loosie back in 2014, with a very blatant cowriting credit from PARTYNEXTDOOR on a bare bones, spacey knock with weirdly cheap jingling percussion against the hi-hats at least until the mix sinks into the murk... and yeah, this one probably could have stayed buried. Basically it's a tune where Drake bitches out a girl for causing drama when they're both plainly cheating, and the final verse is an extended meandering piece where he moodily contemplates her devotion still there. The one thing I will give Drake credit for is the evolution of his rapping - he wouldn't nearly duplicate as many rhymes over and over again in 2019 as he does here - but that's slim consolation for a song that's comfortably over five minutes and has momentum for none of it. Not terrible, but certainly not good either - next!

94. 'Love You Too Late' by Cole Swindell - heh, I was wondering when we'd get another single from Cole Swindell off that album that dropped last summer - and yet like with Dierks Bentley, I'm exasperated that he missed obvious winners like 'Somebody's Been Drinking' and maybe even 'Dad's Old Number' after the winner of 'Break Up In The End' for a much lesser cut. Now let me make this clear, 'Love You Too Late' is far from the worst song on All Of It and the flaws are relatively minor - I think the guitars are a little overproduced and oversold for this sort of frustrated melancholy and don't quite capture the darker, deeper tone they could use, but the hook is remarkably punchy, the groove is surprisingly strong, and the regret works - he didn't show his affection, she cut loose, he very plainly blew it. That's a solid sentiment well-executed, and if we're going to deal with mainstream country, I'll stick with the stuff that's generally good like this. But now onto something we never see...

93. 'Fear Inoculum' by Tool - there is a much larger, much longer conversation about Tool that I will speak on at length when the album drops - it's a messy, complicated conversation and one I'm fairly certain will please nobody, just warning you now. But I will say I'm pleasantly surprised to see Tool's big new single rack up huge sales and land on the Hot 100, breaking the record for the longest ever song to chart. Of course, that means Tool is taking their sweet time building off the oscillating warp of guitar layers and plucky bass and guitar stutters before the downtuned groove begins letting more distortion and jangling smolder slip in - pretty much exactly the sort of meditative vibe that makes sense for a song all about absorbing those darker elements and emotions to protect yourself from deeper toxicity and a deceiving figure that has been beaten years ago and can no longer hurt him. And yet if I'm being honest... while I dig the atmospherics and am not really bothered by the length, am I the only one who finds some of the more spongy drum patter underwhelming? The playing has moments of complexity, but it lacks punch, which doesn't help the song ever really kick into gear properly with any potent riff, especially with the solo coming so late with a similarly underwhelming tonal choice. I dunno, I appreciate the novelty of a good prog metal song charting and it certainly sounds like Tool hasn't lost much of a step... but I'm not wowed either. Good, not great.

90. 'We Were' by Keith Urban - okay, why did I think that Keith Urban had already released a song with a similar title to this a few years back? The title seemed familiar, but apparently this is the new lead-off single for his next album, with a very welcome writing credit coming from Eric Church. That seemed promising... and yeah, it is, but it's also blatantly obvious that Church cowrote it, both in the lyrical cadence, more detailed word choice, and faded melancholy colouring its worship of Americana. Now keep in mind none of those elements are flaws - if I was pointing to that, I'd look at the knocking percussion that seems stiffer than it should be and the composition not quite getting the most out of Keith Urban's huge range - but the guitars add a lot of spacious texture and the writing is Church in his comfort zone, reflecting a lot of wistful yearning for how he was back then balanced against acceptance of who he is now - nostalgic, but tempered in the right way. Perhaps a little sleepier than I'd prefer - I definitely get why Eric Church didn't cut it himself - but still a decent enough song, I'll take it.

85. 'Club Paradise' by Drake - okay, back to Drake with a song from way back in 2011, a promotional song for Take Care that wound up getting cut likely because the old Bob Marley sample could never be cleared - also the reason why it's not on this version either. But I absolutely see why this was re-released, because this is a version of Drake that's actually self-aware and more likable, where the jaded paranoia is still there but years removed from stewing in it, as he ponders his remaining connections to women in Toronto and his awkwardness facing the larger world of hip-hop with his success. And the richer cushion of strings and synth blurred against the subtle tapping beat really do capture some of that vintage Take Care vibe, especially with the more low-key hook with hints of backing vocals from The Weeknd. So yeah, pretty good tune, and if Drake rereleasing this is a sign that he's tapping into this vibe for his next project... okay, I'm intrigued.

82. 'Uno' by Ambjaay - so let's back up - you all remember that terrible Blueface song from a week or so again? No? Well, apparently it was interpolating this song from another west coast MC and... well, at least this guy's on beat? Yeah, this is the sort of tune that just doesn't give me a ton to say: it's a clunky ass anthem with no defined melody coasting on a leaden stutter of bass and maracas with a lot of awkward-sounding Spanish rhymes, the sort of track where it should surprise nobody that it got big off of TikTok. And yet without much of a tune, it'll live and die by its incredibly basic hook, and honestly not one I see having a ton of shelf life... but knowing my track record with this, I'm not even going to try and predict more. As it is... not terrible, just sounding more unfinished and mediocre than anything. Next!

68. 'Dreams Money Can Buy' by Drake - now this is a song I'm not surprised at all Drake re-released - another song released in the lead-up to Take Care with a liberal Jai Paul sample, it makes sense in the face of his material now finally getting released proper Drake would want to ride a similar wave of hype with this, especially given how short it is. And yet I'm not really liking this as much - the Jai Paul sample doesn't quite match well with Drake's smoldering flex and the blur of vocal samples behind him as the shuddering groove slips in, and Drake spends most of his verses either referencing brand names, saying he's in the top five of rappers - yeah, can't quite sell that now, Drake, you're not in that conversation - and toying with strippers that he's taken home and now he wants them to put pants on. In other words, it's not bad, but I'm not really wowed by this either - next!

67. 'Queen Of Mean' by Sarah Jeffery - so look, I've repeatedly mocked the Disney Descendants franchise whenever songs from it chart on the Hot 100 - it reads like
really bad fanfiction and the production has a consistent of sounding like complete ass, especially if they somehow luck into a decent tune. But I do like a good heel-turn song and Disney at least gets the villains can be the most compelling parts of their own franchises, so I had to hope this was okay... and wow, are you kidding? You go with underwhelming faux rap verses and primarily acoustic guitars on the hook with no serious darker minor keys or any distorted textures to really ramp up the tension? Hell, I'm not even sure there's any real bombast here, not helped by Sarah Jeffery being utterly unconvincing in selling any credible darkness. Granted, we're talking about a song called 'Queen Of Mean' and lyrics that are cringeworthy in setting up any sort of menace, but if you're building a franchise about villains and anti-heroes and can't sell anything with real potency - and I grew up in the Disney Renaissance with 'The Mob Song' and 'Hellfire' and 'Be Prepared' that actually took a damn chance - you once again embarrassed yourself. So yeah, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, this sucks - next!

61. 'The Motion' by Drake - okay, three more Drake songs, we can do this, starting with a cut that actually was a deluxe exclusive from Nothing Was The Same... which seems like cheating, at least to me, especially when there are loose songs that were ignored, but fine, here we go... and yeah, why was this left on the deluxe again? I can think of a fair few cuts from Nothing Was The Same that could have used the tighter synth groove and smoky snap this brings to the table, as well as that hook getting a welcome assist from Sampha. And I kind of dig the content too - Drake with the shrugging flex that highlights he does love this girl, but between that and other rappers needing him more than the other way around, it's just how it is - though Drake piling on the projection of how this girl doesn't need to change who she is as he wants to save her is definitely pushing it for me. Still, one of the better cuts here, I dig it.

60. 'How Bout Now' by Drake - okay, another Drake bonus cut added, this time from If You're Reading This It's Too Late, a project I have grown to like a little more in recent years... although mostly through comparison to the considerably weaker projects that followed in the last three years. And that's also somewhat the case for this, mostly because of that grainy and ugly chipmunked Jodeci sample slathered all over the lumpy knock of the beat. No, what this reminds me more of is a proto-'Jaded' from Scorpion, where Drake steps out of his comfort zone to stand with a girl - probably more than he should, and in this case it looks like the song can be linked directly to his old ex Kandice Henry - and then cusses her out when she doesn't show him the same interest or fall in line except when he's on the upswing. And it's got the same ugly, sour note that tends to saturate any Drake song in this lane - I get being bitter and there's an audience for it, but his petulant pettiness really kills the vibe, even if I do like the faster flow here. So while I don't think this is bad - I might even like it more than 'Jaded' - it's still not particularly pleasant - I'd probably skip it.

58. 'Trust Issues' by Drake - and we're ending things back in the Take Care era with a promo song where Drake is singing more and I could have sworn I've heard him croon this particular hook before against the sharper snares and cymbals and the icy warp of the synths... and that's because it's a flip of the same vocal melody he gave DJ Khaled's 'I'm On One'. Now to be fair, this is considerably better than that song - yeah, Drake is getting into his alcohol-induced paranoia, but there's at least enough self-awareness to realize on his verse that he does attract the women who would feed into the vibe he creates, indulge the same ego he does. It's a good inversion of the scene and Drake's better singing here is a more naturalistic fit - hell, if he did more singing like this on recent albums, I'd probably be more fond of him the past couple of years! So yeah, I'm not sure this is my favourite of the songs he's recharted, but I do like this a fair bit - good stuff.

8. 'Boyfriend' by Ariana Grande & Social House - okay, some context is required here, because you may have caught snippets of Social House before working with Ariana Grande, even on the charts... but primarily as producers behind the scenes for 'thank u, next', '7 rings', and 'goodnight n go'. So I didn't precisely have high expectations for this, especially as Ariana seems to have stopped releasing singles from the last album... and that was probably the right attitude, because the only reason one should want to hear this is Ariana's voice... and even then, why she thinks she sounds good against this overly close, slightly buzzed out sample is baffling - thank god the thicker bass mostly smothers it before the distorted gang vocals creep in, but it still sounds really cheaply produced. And here's the other problem - even if I were to buy the give-and-take between these guys and Ariana, where nobody seems happy but they don't want the other person seeing anyone else even if they're not connected, it only really works if one of the guys seems like a credible match for her charisma. And between one of them doing his Khalid impression and the other rivaling Andrew Taggart for non-charisma, they just aren't even close to being on the same level, there's no real balance. And look, while I might get the melodrama dripping through this song and Ariana pushes it to being 'okay', she's absolutely slumming it with cuts like this, especially when on the last damn album 'bad idea' is right there. Not bad, but she's done much better.

And that was a pretty long week... and honestly not a bad week overall. Sure, the worst fall out easily: 'Queen Of Mean' from Sarah Jeffery gets the worst with 'What Happens In A Small Town' by Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell getting the Dishonourable Mention, but the best is a little more tricky. I'm not quite certain there's an overall standout, but I know the song I probably enjoyed the most was 'Love You Too Late' by Cole Swindell with 'Trust Issues' by Drake as the Honourable Mention - sorry, Tool fans, but I have high standards for this group and I'm not that impressed by a ten minute track that has every opportunity to do more and just can't deliver the way it should. Anyway, next time you'll see Billboard BREAKDOWN it'll be from vacation, so stay tuned!

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