Tuesday, August 27, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 31, 2019

Not to get hyperbolic about it, but it seems like the entire purpose of the Billboard Hot 100 charts this year has been to get me to look stupid. Sure, we got another new #1 this week that I predicted, but everyone has been calling that for weeks if not months, and yet just as soon as I was musing that this year has been quiet on the album bomb front, here comes Young Thug with a proper album leaving the Hot 100 in disarray. And yes, to get in front of this now, album bomb rules are in effect and will probably will remain in effect if Taylor Swift does the same next week, we'll have to see - I just got back from vacation, I have a ton of catching up to do, just hold tight on this one.

Anyway, top 10, where again, we have a new #1: 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello. Again, it feels hard to be excited about this when everyone's been predicting it for months, so what I find more fascinating is how long it might last - sales are down, streaming is good but not great, and that radio momentum is finally starting to slow. I don't predict 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish to make a second run as it slipped to #2 - it's losing radio fast and while the streaming is there the sales are not - but 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo very well could, rising to #3 on great sales, even better streaming, and a genuinely impressive radio run - if she narrows the margin, she's got the #1 damn near in the bag. This pushes 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus to #4 - kind of expect it given weak radio and real losses on streaming and sales... which takes us to 'Ran$om' by Lil Tecca at #5. And look, maybe I'm warming to it because I've been overexposed to it the past week as background music at the festival I was at, but it's a streaming monster and even if the radio has no clue what to do with it, I'm not sure that matters? Anyway, next is 'Talk' by Khalid at #6 - that radio is in freefall and it has little else - 'No Guidance' by Chris Brown ft. Drake at #7 - where the streaming is great and the radio seems on-board but it just can't get higher with weak sales - and then 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber at #8, where the sales and radio collapse is even worse. I would expect it to get overtaken by 'Goodbyes' by Post Malone ft. Young Thug at #9, but the sales drooped and the radio stalled out despite good streaming, and then there's 'If I Can't Have You' by Shawn Mendes at #10, which somehow got another wind on the radio... basically all it has at the moment, so there's that.

But the bigger stories might come with our losers and dropouts, especially in the latter category with some pretty significant exits. So while we had songs that'll miss the year-end list like 'Talk You Out Of It' by Florida Georgia Line, '24/7' by Meek Mill ft. Ella Mai, 'Love Ain't' by the Eli Young Band, and 'Just Us' by DJ Khaled and SZA, the real notable losers are the long-running exits that clinched their spot months ago and have been some of the biggest hits of the year: 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille, 'Going Bad' by Meek Mill ft. Drake, 'Better' by Khalid, and 'Sweet But Psycho' by Ava Max. But where things got messy were our losers, because the only continued loss came for the sudden decline of 'Never Really Over' by Katy Perry to 65 - hell, maybe you could explain 'Hot Girl Summer' by Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign to 22 off the debut, and probably the steep dropoff for 'Mac 10' by Trippie Redd, Lil Baby & Lil Duke to 89. But I'll admit surprise that 'Daddy' by Blueface and Rich The Kid collapsed to 95, or that 'We Were' by Keith Urban slid to 96, or that seemingly out of nowhere 'All To Myself' by Dan + Shay crashed back to 43. And the other losses... I mean, I could chalk it up to the album bomb, but 'Raised On Country' by Chris Young was fading naturally to 66, as was 'EARFQUAKE' by Tyler The Creator to 86 and sadly 'Some Of It' by Eric Church to 91. Beyond that we just have 'Soltera' by Lunay, Daddy Yankee, and Bad Bunny at 81, a song for which I never really got the appeal anyway.

Now as on most album bomb weeks, the gains and returning entries are sparse - in the latter category all we have is 'Takeaway' by The Chainsmokers, Illenium and Lennon Stella at 98, likely thanks to album hype - but the gains are a different matter. Sure, 'Baby' by Lil Baby and DaBaby is rising on novelty alone to 24, but why the hell is there this huge boost for 'On Chill' by Wale ft. Jeremih to 57? I guess most of it must have come from YouTube and a smattering of radio, but a song this mediocre to move still feels weird to me. Oh, and since we've got a Young Thug album bomb - eight or more entries here, so the only songs that will get coverage below the top 40 are if they hit best/worst territory, here's the chart positions: 'Ecstasy' at 92 - advice, don't seek out the remix with Machine Gun Kelly - 'Lil Baby' at 84, 'Light It Up' at 82 - although with the badly blended melody is was really damn close to being among the worst - 'Sup Mate' with Future at 70 - you'd think given Future's inconsistent record this year he'd sound less like ass here and not drag Thugger down with him - 'Surf' with Gunna at 61 - maybe I'd take your claims of getting copied more seriously if you showed more melodic flair or didn't recruit one of your clones on this song - 'Just How It Is' at 60, and 'What's The Move?' with Lil Uzi Vert at 55, which could have been the best of these lower entries if both artists didn't have so many stupid flexes and questionable references!

Anyway, new arrivals start off with...

100. 'Did It Again' by Lil Tecca - okay, I'll freely admit I've gotten a lot wrong with Lil Tecca, mostly surrounding how long 'Ran$om' would last, but the follow-up single getting a bit of traction while even somewhat referencing the breakthrough is something we've all seen, time and time again. And while I could be very wrong with this again, I don't think it's the right move - the desaturated pianos and bass groove don't have anywhere close to the same punch, the hook meanders no matter how many Travis Scott-inspired adlibs you shove in, and when you pair it with forgettable flexing and not a single unique punchline outside of crashing multiple luxury cars, I'm just not that interested - not even bad, just forgettable. In hindsight, I can see why 'Ran$om' got bigger - not sure I see it with this one, just saying.

99. 'Every Little Thing' by Russell Dickerson - let me make this abundantly clear: I don't really have anything against Russell Dickerson specifically - he's inoffensive and if he didn't have the crutch of Nashville radio he'd have washed out of pop. I mean, take a look at this fusion of contorted banjos, a snap beat, a chipmunked drop, and a rollick they try to awkwardly crowbar some muscle into, all of which gives me the hideous feeling that Marshmello's collaboration with Kane Brown is starting a trend that needs to be burned out of existence post-haste! Hell, you can argue the only reason it's getting pushed now is because of that, because this song originated in 2016, especially given its choppy lyrical structure. But beyond that, Russell Dickerson has no unique personality, lyrical or otherwise, and the fact that Nashville radio feels this is worth pushing smacks of payola and outright laziness - the lyrics are the only thing close to awful mainstream country, and in the mean time it should be left to rot. This sucks, next!

83. 'Juicy' by Doja Cat & Tyga - let's be honest, this got big off the video and some of the weirder special effects trying to be sexy I've seen in some time. And I'll be honest, it feels really clumsy and hamfisted - and that's before we get to the fact this is a by-the-numbers ass anthem where Doja Cat croon-raps across a plinking trap knock that I can see being catchy because of all the repetition, but also doesn't really have a lot of colour or distinctive flair. And I do place a fair amount of that on Doja Cat - sure, she's more melodic, but her lyrical skills are considerably weaker and I'm not seeing a ton of personality - hell, at least Saweetie gets in my face. Also, Tyga's here, and while he's connecting his rhymes for once, he has the charming line, 'I love when you give in, I love when you don't' - all kinds of questionable from a rapper who could have been pushed out of the game at the beginning of this decade and yet for some reason we've left around. Sorry you two, despite an... interesting video, there's higher quality ass anthems out there.

78. 'Heartless' by Thomas Wesley ft. Morgan Wallen - okay, you need to follow me through this one: I originally thought that Thomas Wesley was a country act that Diplo was putting on... turns out that's just his actual name that he's going to be releasing a country project under in the near future, and he recruited Morgan Wallen for vocals here. Now I could say that when Zac Brown tried something similar a few years ago it really backfired, but I do understand why Diplo is trying to maintain some brand separation... mostly because this is really bad. For one, the faded guitar is smothered behind the bassy trap knock, snares, hi-hats and Wallen's braying voice - it's basically an acoustic trap song - and for another the lyrics are sour as hell! It takes a lot for you to make a song with this title more contemptuous than Kanye's, but Wallen delivers - apparently this girl chases but never lets Wallen 'catch her' and he wishes he could be as much of a tease, but he's not and now he's going to bitch her out with the detail you'd use to see on r/incels! And here I thought that Russell Dickerson would have the worst faux-country drivel this week, but Diplo beat him to it - because yeah, this blows, next!

75. 'Won't Be Late' by Swae Lee ft. Drake - so full disclosure, my opinion on this song may have been slightly tainted by hearing it on the Joe Budden Podcast first and then the host taking it to pieces at length... but in fairness, he's not wrong, because this is some lazy dreck. I hate the cheaply layered clap is dropped over the non-melody - the percussion layering is a mess here, along with what sounds like a throwing move from a video game that doesn't quite match the Afrobeat attempt here - and then Drake throwing in a verse left over from More Life. Again, it just sounds cheap and despite all the build-up in the background, there's no real payoff or urgency, which leads to the thoughts that it was a thrown together single that doesn't pay off any desire to not be late - for what or whatever is coming... well, I have to wonder why anyone cares. Not terrible, but certainly forgettable.

47. 'Slide Away' by Miley Cyrus - look, I want to stick up for Miley, I really do. She's got a unique voice and a ton of presence and she does take real risks... which is why I might feel more underwhelmed by this than I'd like to be. For one, there's only one verse repeated against a cleaner trap pickup with piano flourishes that doesn't quite match the more atmospheric touches of guitar and vocal layering... which honestly sounds alright opposite the strings on the outro. And while I do like the lyrics - the split feels naturalistic where it just wasn't working, and Miley sells tired melancholy pretty well - I feel like there's more detail that's missing here, and the lethargic melody doesn't quite have the same rollick or punch as some of her better songs. So with that many flaws... I hear the appeal, but Miley's made better and I wish this came together more, that's all.

33. 'Motivation' by Normani - you know, for as much collaborative success as Normani has found as the best member of Fifth Harmony, I'm still surprised that this song debuted as high as it did. Not to disparage her at all - she's built up the right sort of momentum for that debut, and getting both Ariana Grande and Max Martin to cowrite this is the right sort of team for success - but it's rare more than one girl group member can hit the ground running, especially as talent rarely matters. Which is why I'm happy this song actually is pretty damn good - I like the obvious influences from older, dance-friendly R&B with much bouncier percussion, and the backing harmonies from Ariana have some good character - and then the breakdown with the horns happens and I totally see the appeal, especially for a song this propulsive. Now that's not saying there aren't problems, mostly in some of the vocal mixing and lyrics - Normani's delivery sounds a little strained at points, and the hookup here isn't going to blow anyone's mind - but that's also because the hookup here isn't trying to be sultry so much as loose and fun, and I dig that. So yeah, to me this feels like a hit just waiting to happen, and if that VMAs performance really gets it some attention, this could be big - let's see where this goes, I'm rooting for it.

32. 'Bad Bad Bad' by Young Thug ft. Lil Baby - ...so I guess I have to talk about Young Thug at some length for at least two songs, both of which contain his clones-I mean proteges and for which I've got no expectations, especially in this case where the melody is a chipmunk fragment over your standard cheap trap clunker. And here's the thing: I can tolerate Thugger to a point, but more when he's over lush production that has flair and colour and he's hollering his lungs out, not increasingly rigid flows where his bad inflection doesn't quite disguise how his verse barely rhymes at all! I don't have that patience for Lil Baby, who thinks its a good idea amidst his lean and luxury rap to say he's going to pee until he passes out and how he's going to shit on everyone... and this is a brand-name overloaded flex song. Honestly, if it wasn't for good flows, I'd pitch this to the curb, because it sure as hell isn't that good.

26. 'Hot' by Young Thug ft. Gunna - so okay, this is better. Still standard trap percussion, but the horns have a bit more flair to compensate for Gunna being one of the least interesting Young Thug clones that's popular right now - and him having the gall to tell a woman how to sing better is a total load. But am I the only one who thinks this production sounds like a total riff on what T-Minus gave J. Cole on 'MIDDLE CHILD', and that song didn't have that reverb for that drowned out interlude that doesn't build into Thugger's verse at all. And sure, Thugger's verse is fine - more empty flexing and brand names and saying people are jacking his style and pay no attention to the Gunna on this song - but here's my biggest issue with Young Thug: I could take this verse, chop into pieces, place it on any one of the Young Thug projects that have dropped the past five years, and on lyrics alone I bet even most fans couldn't tell where this was from. And if your material is that disposable and your delivery's not that wild or interesting and your production is a pale imitation of production that was kind of dry and limited to begin with, I've just run out of reasons to care. Not terrible, again, but I'll have zero reason to come back to this.

19. 'Lover' by Taylor Swift - so look, I'll have more to say about the album in full in a day or two, plus when I've got another album bomb to deal with next week. That said, of the four songs released before the album, while this is not as good as 'The Archer', I still think it's good. Yes, there's some very obvious vintage countrypolitan influences - the drum layering, the very breathy vocals, the touches of strings, the baroque elements that do cast a few eyes at other acts who pull from this era of retro pop glamour - but it still feels refined and just a shade more soulful because the lyrical details are kept intimate and small... which for this sort of song is absolutely the right move. But as a whole... I'm a little underwhelmed, mostly because I've heard the better cuts on Lover that do a similar sound better, plus 'Wildest Dreams' played in similar instrumental territory and felt a bit better. Good, not quite great, at least for me. 

And that ends off kind of a rough week, but not a precisely terrible one - yes, I did hear all those Young Thug songs, but they were more forgettable than outright atrocious, a label I'm reserving for 'Heartless' by Diplo I mean Thomas Wesley ft. Morgan Wallen as the worst with 'Every Little Thing' by Russell Dickerson as the Dishonourable Mention. Yeah, Thugger, you got off easy, because bad pop masquerading as country will always piss me off more than your stuff. The best... not a lot to choose from whatsoever, but I'll stick with 'Motivation' by Normani as my best of the week with 'Lover' by Taylor Swift as the Honourable Mention. Again, not really much of a contest, although it'll be fascinating to see what havoc Taylor wreaks next week...

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