Tuesday, September 17, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - september 21, 2019

So I'll be honest: when I created my album bomb rules, there inevitably were going to be projects that just skirt around them - it hasn't been a perfect process, and one that I'll probably revisit for the next Billboard year, just taking the data I have into account. Normally it has been the albums that have a full six or seven songs released - just under my eight song cut-off - and in those cases it's normally the full swathe of other releases that leads to a lengthy episode. Of course, the other factor comes when the artist is so big that the vast majority of his new entries hit in the top 40, and given this happened with Post Malone... yeah, album bomb rules are in effect, but I'm still going to wind up covering the majority of the album anyway, so mission accomplished, I guess?

Anyway, the top 10, where for another week 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo held firm at #1. And this shouldn't be a surprise - yeah, she took a huge streaming hit, but so did nearly everyone else and she's still comfortably on top in sales and the radio. And that's a similar case for 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello #2, which might have slightly more streaming but have fallen back on sales and the radio momentum seems to be flagging a bit - in the end, it's still fine. But then we have the first signs of the album bomb, with 'Goodbyes' by Post Malone ft. Young Thug up to #3 - really, the only issue here is that its sales are long gone, with a comfortable streaming and airplay rebound compensating in a big way. And right behind it - as I predicted - 'Circles' by Post Malone surged to #4, which has the sales and even better streams, but just couldn't pick up the radio fast enough. That pushes 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish to #5, but you could have seen that coming - heavy reliance on streaming means its collapse along with going into radio freefall means that it's in trouble. That's not quite what I'd say for 'Ran$om' by Lil Tecca, though - down to #6, sure, but its streaming didn't collapse overall thanks to YouTube stability, and it does have a small slice of radio. Then there's No Guidance' by Chris Brown ft. Drake at #7 - taking a tough streaming hit along with radio finally starting to slip, this could be in trouble next week - but then we got another Post Malone song in the top 10, and one that I did not expect: 'Take What You Want' by Post Malone ft. Travis Scott and Ozzy Osborne at #8, the latter who broke records for the longest length of time between top 10 hits! Now let me be clear: I dunno if this will be a hit given its trap-rock genre fusion, but if I'm Republic and I'm seeing those sales and streaming numbers, I'm trying for the radio push and I'm trying to slide this into rock radio - Ozzy's name will open doors, and the fact that is a credible rock song will probably do even more. But that's not the only new entry to the top 10, as for some ungodly reason - by that I mean stupid amounts of sales and radio - 'Someone You Loved' by Lewis Capaldi at #9. Unfortunately, this'll probably wind up sticking around as adult alternative radio needs schlock to fill airtime, but I'm praying for a collapse sooner rather than later. Finally, riding the album bomb we've got 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee back at #10, even as it is still fading across the radio.

But on that note, the losers and dropouts - and here's the funny thing, because as I predicted last week, the album bomb knocked a lot of songs back, but didn't really wipe out a lot of major hits. Yes, it finally took out '7 rings' by Ariana Grande, and then 'Whiskey Glasses' by Morgan Wallen, 'God's Country' by Blake Shelton, and 'ME!' by Taylor Swift, but the only songs you can argue it really crippled was 'Shotta Flow' by NLE Choppa and 'Call You Mine' by The Chainsmokers ft. Bebe Rexha, and I can't complain about losing either of those! But our losers... my god, folks, it's nearly a third of the Hot 100, so I'm just going to rattle through them in reverse order - pray for the editing nightmare this'll be, so starting from the bottom... 'Doin' Time' by Lana Del Rey collapsing off the debut to 100, 'Go Loko' by YG, Tyga and Jon Z thankfully falling to 98, 'It's You' by Ali Gatie sliding to 97, 'The Man' by Taylor Swift continuing down to 96, 'Baguettes In The Face' by Mustard ft. Nav, Playboi Carti and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie losing all the gains to 95, as did 'Right Back' by Khalid at 93. Then we have 'Easier' by 5 Seconds Of Summer crashing to 90 - you know, if they had made a rock song at some point, they could have stuck around - 'Hate Me' by Juice WRLD and Ellie Goulding at 83, 'F.N.' by Lil Tjay short-circuited at 80, 'Did It Again' by Lil Tecca fading hard at 78, and 'Queen Of Mean' by Sarah Jeffery at 76 - seriously, why in the Nine Hells is this still here in the first place! Then we've got a slew of country losses in a row: 'Rearview Town' by Jason Aldean at 75, 'All To Myself' by Dan + Shay at 67, and 'The Ones That Didn't Make It Back Home' by Justin Moore to 66 - bookended by the utter crap that is 'Lalala' by Y2K and bbno$. But we're not done, because 'Otro Trago' by Sech ft. Darell slid to 63, 'Bad Bad Bad' by Young Thug ft. Lil Baby fell to 62, 'Motivation' by Normani lost all her gains to 61, and so did 'Good As Hell' by Lizzo at 51. And yet we're still not done, because 'Hey Look Ma We Made It' by Panic! At The Disco hit 50, 'Lover' by Taylor Swift continued its losses at 49, 'Only Human' by the Jonas Brothers slid to 47, 'Cash Shit' by Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby hit 46, and 'Speechless' by Dan + Shay finally took a hit to 45. And now we're in the home stretch, because 'Beer Never Broke My Heart' by Luke Combs went to 44, 'Pop Out' by Polo G ft. Lil Tjay fell to 41, 'Without Me' by Halsey finally took a serious hit to 40, 'The London' by Young Thug ft. J. Cole and Travis Scott slid to 36, 'Dancing With A Stranger' by Sam Smith and Normani dipped to 35, 'The Git Up' by Blanco Brown stumbled to 31, 'If I Can't Have You' by Shawn Mendes fell to 27, and 'You Need To Calm Down' by Taylor Swift settled at 24. 

And here's the thing: there were gains and returning entries this week too! Not many of them - the only gains were 'Wow.' by Post Malone getting a boost to 17 and 'Panini' by Lil Nas X rising to 14 on a big video - but I'm more shocked by our returns. Yes, 'Every Little Thing' by Russell Dickerson back at 91 and 'Playing Games' by Summer Walker back at 99, I'm not happy by either of those, but Luke Combs is only now pushing 'Even Though I'm Leaving' back at 92? You couldn't have started this push a month ago so you could get it as a lock on the year-end list, dude, come on! I'm not complaining about the song, which is excellent and deserves the attention, but the execution drives me crazy! But since album bomb rules are also in effect, here's the surprisingly small number of Post Malone songs that broke through: 'Internet' at 58, 'I Know' at 53

Anyway, I don't have time to complain, so let's get to our healthy list of new arrivals, starting with...

87. '223's' by YNW Melly & 9LOKKNINE - okay wait a minute, I thought YNW Melly was in jail for the long-term, how is it that we have another song from out of nowhere? Well, follow me on this: the other artist 9LOKKNINE had a featuring credit from YNW Melly on his project that dropped in December of 2018, so he shifted the featuring credit to a co-headline in order to attract more attention, and hence we have this. And honestly, I see where this didn't catch much attention last time, because outside of YNW Melly's slurred hook with a melody that does sound weirdly familiar, there's not much to praise here. The rickety strums are buried behind your standard heavy trap knock, the writing is bog-standard gunplay , and 6LOKKNINE adds nothing remotely interesting or distinct to his verse... which makes the transparent play to ride off YNW Melly's coattails all the more annoying. Yeah, I'm not with this - next!

82. 'homecoming queen?' by Kelsea Ballerini - so it looks like we're heading into Kelsea Ballerini's third pop country project, and while I've seen a definite improvement project over project along with some strong singles, I wasn't really sure how her sound was going to evolve given the rather uncertain state mainstream country is in right now. And thus with this as her next lead-off single... and wow, once again, I'm impressed! Not only is Kelsea Ballerini leaning into the warmer acoustic tones while letting the beat mostly serve as foundation on the sweeping mix - not quite emphasizing if it's synthetic one way or the other - but also placing more of a focus on the writing, where she's asking that homecoming queen where and when the vulnerability might come through, especially when nobody shows her much sympathy one way or the other. Honestly, the song is kind of bleak in how it highlights how much of the world won't end or even care if this homecoming queen lets her guard down instead of holding to composure or a family who demands a certain image - there's always been a darkness just beneath a lot of Kelsea Ballerini's writing, and this is a great way of letting it come through. Granted, I do think it's a little slow and maybe even underwritten to hit as hard as it could - a bridge could have really driven this home, even if I get the shorter structure will work better on streaming - but it's really damn good all the same; again, a lot of folks haven't given her credit, check this out!

68. 'Self Control' by YoungBoy Never Broke Again - am I the only one surprised that this guy is still around? I get that he's been near the forefront of the sing-song trap flow, but by this point I'd argue there's been more artists who have done his sound better with stronger content, and this new single... wow, someone is trying to jack Young Thug's sound blatantly. Hell, I'm not even a Thugger fan but from the cadence - especially on the second verse - to the brand names juxtaposed against the paranoid gunplay to how he's trying to bend his melodies, I've heard this done before and frankly done better, especially when the trap percussion sounds this cheap and still dominant over that faint electric guitar sample with that faint sputter of horns as punctuation. But like with most YoungBoy songs, I'm going to forget this exists in record time - next! 

60. 'Shameless' by Camila Cabello - so before we get into Post Malone proper, there are two new songs that Camila Cabello dropped simultaneously and with full videos to try and drive interest in whatever the hell is coming next from her, with this one being widely understood as the one the label intended for the big push, but also one that the public didn't seem to like all that much. And it's easy to see why - it's clear with the success of Billie Eilish that Epic and Syco wants to see if they can tap into that darker pop market, and yet just like with 'Nightmare' from Halsey, I can't help but hear a real misstep. Of course, the problem is that Camila is a significantly weaker singer than both of them, so even if they've got watt's guitar trying to add some simmering darkness and they swamp out the post-chorus in smoky reverb - how very Post Malone of her - it feels like such an obvious appropriation of tones to try and get something working on the cheap, which you can tell from writing that feels so damn basic. You want him to be shameless with you, but why does all of this feel so calculated and lacking real edge - if Ariana Grande got comments three years ago with 'Dangerous Woman' that it was unconvincing, this is far worse. And here's the most exasperating part: it's just more boring than outright bad. No surprise people have already moved on, next!

56. 'Liar' by Camila Cabello - okay, song #2, this time leaning more into the Latin flavour that frankly should have been the main focus since 'Havana's success, and unsurprisingly it's a little better. Of course, the biggest problem is that they have to run Camila's vocals through a pile of filters and tight multitracking to make her cracking baby-voiced coo work - again, Normani runs circles around her in every way - but the larger problem is that the second you hear the interpolation of the melody from 'All That She Wants' from Ace Of Base, you won't stop being able to hear it, especially, with how badly micced those horns are against the hand percussion; apparently Camila didn't learn from all the production mistakes that plagued her debut! The one thing I can compliment this song on is the writing, as it does feel like the 'oh shit, I might actually have some feelings for this guy' is credibly captured, but the more I listened to this song, the more I wished that someone like Shakira had this song instead, as the production, writing, delivery, probalby even the video would be better. So yeah, passable - but barely.

52. 'Myself' by Post Malone - so we've now got an avalanche of Post Malone to get through and I'm going to try and keep this relatively short, given that I already reviewed the album at length. So let's start with probably one of the most low-key songs on the album and one that I actually liked a fair bit - not just because of the Josh Tillman writing credit, but it certainly does come through in the sunny, 70s-inspired flow and twinge of nihilism running through the lyrics. And yet there's just a warmth and sunniness playing off the gentle beat and how relaxed Post Malone sounds, where it sounds like for once he's not turning up to the same degree, and his falsetto sounds surprisingly solid - I've always kind of liked Post Malone's lightest side where he doesn't lean into the flexing outright, and this is a good one - I like it!

37. 'Allergic' by Post Malone - I'll admit to being a little shocked this didn't debut higher this week - the retro rock melodic style, the driving groove that had a surprising amount of bounce off the ramshackle clatters, and even if that warble did test my patience a little, I do think the hook has some punch to it. And I kind of like the premise of the song too - she's the person who gets his angst, but he's also encouraging his worst habits and she doesn't buy any of his excuses to get rid of her... well, too bad, she's gone now, and we got a solid song along the way!

34. 'Staring At The Sun' by Post Malone ft. SZA - so let's get the obvious comparison to 'Sunflower' out of the way - and now that we have, can we say this might actually be a little better? Swapping out Swae Lee for SZA is an upgrade, the groove feels a little more stable and organic off the desaturated guitars and bass, and I like the idea of the content, how it might seem like she's blinded by the good times and hubris... but on some level, he's just like her, and the subtle give-and-take is a good look. I'm not going to deny that it's a little too close to 'Sunflower' for comfort, but it is a better version, at least to me - I'll take it.

33. 'I'm Gonna Be' by Post Malone - do you ever have those songs where upon immediate listen, even if you don't quite love it, you know will just explode live? Yeah, this is one for sure - the flexing does feel a little basic and it's hard to avoid the feeling that this is all disposable with the spare desaturated guitar loops and Post Malone bragging about thousand dollar Crocs, for god's sake. But the thing is that he knows he's not here for a long time, but a good time, and the fact that he's leaning in to capture that raw emotion if just for a second is surprisingly infectious, especially as he knows he's all in on this. And really, I can appreciate that - perhaps not a great song, but this one grows on you.

29. 'A Thousand Bad Times' by Post Malone - talk about a song that grew on me a lot more than I expected, and one I was prepared to not like at all! And yet like with the last song, it's a track that embraces the disposability of everything off the gentle clinking bounce and desaturated melody - and more importantly, for as much as Post Malone is being a total dick here, he knows he's just as culpable for enabling this girl's entitlement and his bemusement at the whole experience lowers the stakes to rock bottom - after all, at this point he's not losing that much that matters anyway, where for as much as he warbles that she's making his life, it's not that bad. Coupled with intensity that plays into the melodrama on the bridge and a really solid groove... yeah, I dig this, a lot. But on the other hand...

22. 'On The Road' by Post Malone ft. Meek Mill & Lil Baby - okay, so you saw how I was more forgiving to Post Malone's flexing on the last song? Yeah, not so much here - Post Malone bragging about his plaques while he's taking a shit is far from an appealing image, especially when juxtaposed with the hard road life he's complaining about. But the real problem here comes on the guest verses - sure, Post Malone's hook is okay, but Meek Mill's verse feels incredibly clumsy and offbeat in comparison to this production and his content doesn't match the sourness that Post Malone is trying to push. Also, Lil Baby is here and adds nothing - so yeah, worst song from the album, next!

20. 'Die For Me' by Post Malone ft. Future & Halsey - and this is another case of the guest star not really clicking as well as they should into Post Malone's sound - although considering this time it's Future it's a little bit more surprising given how his hedonistic nihilism should have been a natural fit, at least until that terrible falsetto comes in. But the larger truth is that Future can't sell that rawness in the same way Post Malone and - to my surprise - Halsey can, who shows up to steal the entire song by not only leaning into the melodramatic toxicity of the entire song, but then flexing by stealing all the girls on his phone! Not going to lie, even with that this is a dark, bitter song... but with the stormy trap rumble and creeping guitar in the back, it manages to stick the landing and turn out okay enough. Unlike, say...

18. 'Saint-Tropez' by Post Malone - one of the other duds on the album, and featuring a lot of the side of Post Malone I just don't have much patience for - the damn warble, the cheap-sounding trap percussion, the empty flexing that feels more clumsy than it really should - 'I money ball like Bradley Pitt', 'doing what I want since fetus' - and an undercooked distant melody that doesn't evolve significantly. In other words, I have absolutely no idea why Post Malone made a video for this and seems to be pushing it in some capacity, because it really is not good - next!

16. 'Enemies' by Post Malone ft. DaBaby - am I the only one who feels like this song is such an obvious label concession for Post Malone? Yeah, as predicted this was the huge boost for DaBaby coming off losses last week, but even on the album it feels undercooked and not really fitting with the production style of the album as a whole, given the brittle percussion and inconsistent atmosphere. And while magnanimous is a mood that Post Malone can make work, this just feels undercooked lyrically and falls just short of being a 'more money, more problems' song, which has been done to death and even a few witty references from DaBaby can't quite save it. I'm not saying this is bad, but for one of the big name collaborations, it sure feels forgettable.

15. 'Hollywood's Bleeding' by Post Malone - the lead-off song and the title track... have to say, it's not a bad one. Melodramatic as all hell with the darker guitar line and references to Hollywood vampires and the empty toxicity of the city - we have seen this before, after all, and from Post Malone too - and I can't be the only one who thinks it's a little anticlimatic to end after a single verse, even if it tries to get heavy in a clunky way. But again, the reason why a song like this works is both leaning into the melodrama and the framing, because it's not accusatory - Post Malone knows exactly how much he lives the same lifestyle, and embracing that darkness is a better look. But if we want a song that does that much better...

8. 'Take What You Want' by Post Malone ft. Travis Scott & Ozzy Osborne - here's something funny: when I reviewed the album, I saw a lot of comments shocked that I didn't include this song among my favourites of the album, given my praise for it. And let me say this: yes, it's grown on me, but I do still have some reservations. Ozzy's inclusion cutting through Post Malone and Travis Scott's swampy production can't help but feel a little strange coming from someone who knows Black Sabbath, and while I'm on the subject, I can't be the only one who feels like Travis Scott's verse is just a little too conventional to properly match the swaggering rock vibe of the rest of the song - the flow is great, sure, but the actual flexing is just a little too interchangeable with plenty of his verses off of Astroworld to really click as deeply as I would like. But still, Post Malone and Ozzy sell the dark melodrama with a lot of genuine rawness, the pounding riffs kicking through the final lines of the hook are sweat, and the solo at the end is exactly how a song like this should end. So yeah, pretty damn good... but let me get back to you in a month or so if this becomes great, at least for me.

But for this week... my best is actually 'A Thousand Bad Times' by Post Malone with 'Myself' as the Honourable Mention. And yet Post Malone is also getting the worst of the week, with 'On The Road' with Meek Mill and Lil Baby nabbing that spot with 'Saint-Tropez' as the Dishonourable Mention. But next week... the fallout, and it could get really messy. Stay tuned!

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