Tuesday, October 15, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - october 19, 2019

I did not expect this week to be that tumultuous. Granted, a major part of this comes from the minor album bomb courtesy of Summer Walker - which is just under the cutoff which means I'll be covering every entry in detail, which I don't mind given my curiosity into all the hype there - but there was a surprising amount of movement on the Hot 100, which makes for the sort of busy week that I'm actually intrigued to cover... so yeah, strap in, there's a lot here!

And for once that actually includes our top ten, where we do have a new #1, driven off of monster streaming and great sales: 'HIGHEST IN THE ROOM' by Travis Scott. Now I'm not precisely surprised this got here - we'll talk about quality when I review the song later, but despite the slow radio that means this probably won't hold the #1 next week, the fact that this blew past 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo doesn't shock me, pushing that song to #2 despite radio dominance because it got unseated in sales, really pushed back on streaming, and seems to have peaked on the radio. And that's also how I see a song like 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, which has also peaked on the radio and is also suffering losses in other categories - again, what did I say, when real competition comes through this sort of thing happens! And there's more of it in our second new top ten entry: '10,000 Hours' by Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber, which topped the sales charts this week and had pretty damn robust streaming and YouTube, although not quite as strong as it could have been in that category. More importantly, it's got real radio traction, so I kind of expect this to stick around - whether that's a good thing or not, we'll discuss later in the show. What's important is that it blew right past 'Someone You Loved' by Lewis Capaldi, pushing it back to #5... although it's not cutting back the radio momentum, which means this'll probably rebound too. And on that note, 'Circles' by Post Malone is still fighting its way up at #6 with a lot of consistency across the board but especially on radio, bowling right past 'No Guidance' by Chris Brown ft. Drake at #7, which still has a lot of streaming and radio traction too... joy. None of this is good news for 'Ran$om' by Lil Tecca down to #8, where it lost that streaming crown and with radio momentum stalling out... not a good sign. Also not good for 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish at #9, which is bleeding in all categories, and also for 'Panini' by Lil Nas X, muscled back to #10 even despite still having okay radio traction and streaming... again, I can see this rebounding, but I'm still not sure it's got enough to be bigger, we'll have to see.

Now this takes us to our losers and dropouts... which in the latter case the only big one was 'Without Me' by Halsey which is finally gone after spending a full year on the Hot 100, thank god. Now the majority of our losers are really the remnants of album bombs fading away, mostly from DaBaby with 'INTRO' at 32, 'BOP' at 41, 'VIBEZ' at 46, 'TOES' with Lil Baby and Moneybagg Yo at 67, 'RAW SHIT' with Migos at 90, and 'POP STAR' featuring Kevin Gates at 97, but we did still see some leftover Post Malone as well, with 'Take What You Want' featuring Ozzy and Travis Scott continuing to fall to 50, 'Enemies' with DaBaby at 62, and 'Die For Me' featuring Future and Halsey at 94. Outside of that... well, 'Boyfriend' by Ariana Grande and Social House just continues to tank at 59, 'Writing On The Wall' by French Montana ft. Post Malone and Cardi B collapsed off the debut to 74, and 'Southbound' by Carrie Underwood abruptly crashed to 88 - not really complaining about any of those, to be honest. Hell, the only losers I'm not thrilled to see are 'Cash Shit' by Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby slipping to 55 - not good if it's gunning for that year-end list spot - and 'Heartache Medication' by Jon Pardi slipping back a bit to 95 - although I'd watch with radio on this song, we'll see how much it builds here.

Now the big problem is whatever's coming to replace them... because like with most charts post-album bomb, it's kind of all over the damn place. Not our returns: 'The Bones' by Maren Morris might not be great but I'm not going to complain if the Hozier remix gives it a boost at 53, and 'SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK' by Joji back at 100 is only good news, as that song has only grown on me in the past few months. But our gains... okay, there are a few promising ones. 'Lover' by Taylor Swift somehow getting a boost to 34 is good, as is 'Ballin' by Mustard at Roddy Ricch at 30 and 'Higher Love' by Kygo and Whitney Houston getting even modest success at 85. But most of the rest... yeah, 'Playing Games' from Summer Walker surging big to 16 might be explainable, but it's certainly not good, and I'm not going to be throwing praise towards 'Prayed For You' by Matt Stell at 36, 'Graveyard' by Halsey at 44, or 'Good Vibes' by Chris Janson at 56. And it gets even worse when you consider songs like 'Heat' by Chris Brown and Gunna at 47, 'What Happens In A Small Town' by Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell at 64, and especially 'Hot Girl Bummer' by blackbear at 66 - the most comfort I'm taking is at all of those three will be caught between years, and the sooner they fall off, the better.

But now for a pretty healthy list of new arrivals, starting off with...

96. 'Dance Monkey' by Tones and I - well, I was wondering when this would eventually hit the American charts - it's been huge everywhere else around the world, and when I say 'huge' I mean #1 in over a dozen countries, including the U.K. And when you consider this is Australian pop artist Tones and I's first real hit off her debut EP, you have to wonder what's the massive, worldwide appeal... and yeah, I hear it, because this song is catchy as sin and pretty damn good to boot! No, it's not a cover of Sage Francis' song of the same name, but it's probably just fun with the sharper, staccato minor key progression, sinuous bass, and Tones and I bringing a vocal timbre that sounds like she's splitting the difference between Sia and Bjork - definitely an acquired taste, but by the final hook where they stack her vocals, I was absolutely on-board. And what I think makes the song stick as much as it does is the slow-burning anger and frustration beneath it - this is a song rooted in Tones and I's time as a busker before she blew up, and you can tell she's got legit venom for those who treat her as disposable, which is nicely augmented when the crescendo builds as a pushback. So yeah, great pop song, and while the American market can be reticent to take on talent from abroad like this, I'd like to see this blow up - definitely check this out!

92. 'Potential' by Summer Walker - first Summer Walker song on the docket... and here's the problem that I know I'm going to face talking about any song from this project, because if I'm comparing her to the rest of this scene in R&B, Summer Walker is not wowing me. So while I might like the bass line and the slight organic flutters, the watery waves of autotune, vocal sample, and mouth noises matched with the snap for percussion just feel a little undermixed. And while the contemplation from the sidelines that Summer Walker brings isn't bad... it's also leaving me with the SZA problem that if this felt a bit more organic, it'd probably work a lot better. And in the end, it just feels a little undercooked - not bad, but not really great either.

91. 'Leave Em Alone' by Layton Green, Lil Baby, City Girls & PnB Rock - I'll admit to being surprised that we're still getting singles from that Quality Control compilation project that dropped months ago - this song was first released in late May, you'd think it'd have crossed over by now, especially with the video being out for months too. And after listening to it, I'm a little surprised it hasn't been bigger: the obvious Ciara interpolation that is just off-kilter enough against the trap groove that actually has some momentum, especially when the blocky scratching is dropped over Yung Miami's verse, a pre-chorus from PnB Rock that's surprisingly sticky, and arguably solid verses from everyone, including Lil Baby who sounds more on-beat and clear than he has in a while! I will say that against such pretty keys and synths it's a little strange to hear Yung Miami then cussing out guys who aren't to her standards, but it still kind of clicked. So yeah, this is pretty decent too - not sure it's built to be huge, as I do think Layton Green's delivery is a little underwhelming, but not bad either.

83. 'Nice To Meet Ya' by Niall Horan - so we'll get to that new Harry Styles song likely next week, but am I the only one genuinely surprised and a little impressed by Niall's move with 'Nice To Meet You'. A pivot from a blatant Fleetwood Mac throwback to late 90s dance-rock should provoke whiplash, but it's striking how well Niall sticks the landing - the minor key piano line riding the firm bass groove into the blown-out storm of guitars that still sounds well-balanced and produced, it's inspired comparisons to U2's 90s run, although what it reminds me more with the effortless vocal charisma and traces of elegance is someone like Robbie Williams. Hell, it might even be better given how much Niall doesn't oversell this song, trying to lean into the hope of preserving some connection with this girl before she takes off after the night, and he's suave enough to pull that off. Of course, the big question is whether this'll actually last, given the throwback is to a sound of the late 90s that I actually haven't seen much attention given - I'd say the closest parallel to this era is The 1975's 'People' and even that's playing to a very different vibe in retro dance rock - but I kind of hope it does, because it kicks ass!

80. 'Over It' by Summer Walker - okay, let's tone the energy back for another Summer Walker song... and seriously, that cheap-sounding gloss that she drowns all her tones in, especially her overweight bass beat and percussion, it's just a tone that doesn't flatter her, especially given how clumsy her vocal line sounds on this song with even worse backing vocals. And as for the song, it's an extended flex on how she wants a guy to handle her, but nobody around her can actually do it. And yet all I'm left thinking is that if the writing was a little sharper in its rhyme structure, I might actually believe it, because this is mediocre - next!

79. 'Drunk Dialing...LODT' by Summer Walker - you know, Summer, just clumsily mashing two songs together is not a pass for not writing a complete track... but I can see why it could potentially work here against the watery slur here - it's a questionable drunk call late at night to her partner London On The Track. Unfortunately, that would involve competently mastered vocals, and a melody that sticks out against the drippy clank of the production, or any sort of real transition into that lo-fi guitar warp. Sadly, this just feels shambling and undercooked, potentially representative of what that scene is, but hardly glamourous and lacking the subtext or even text to imply more. Shame.

73. 'Body' by Summer Walker - so it's just me, but maybe don't take an obvious R&B sample that's already in circulation on a charting hit and then chipmunk it for your album, especially when your song is considerably less impressive. Yeah, Mustard already used that 702 sample for 'Ballin', and 'Body' doesn't come close to being as catchy or interesting as a sex song where Summer Walker meanders through options whether she should call up this guy for sex... even though she's got a boyfriend. And look, maybe I'm just not impressed by the puddle of autotune she's swimming in, but normally these questions carry a bit more weight if Summer's explanation didn't default to 'I don't know what I want except everything'... so yeah, not a lot of time for this sort of thing either. Next!

68. 'Stretch You Out' by Summer Walker ft. A Boogie wit da Hoodie - okay, a bubbly slice of R&B off spare twinkles and slow clicking snaps with too much autotune featuring A Boogie... this is both acts in their comfort zone, so why do I feel like nobody brought their A-game whatsoever? Yeah, the hook is raunchy in how it repeats how she wants to stretch him out - that's not how that works - and make him cum, but then her verse describes every reason why he's toxic both in bed and outside of it, seeming to set up a kiss-off on the final lines. And am I the only one who feels like it doesn't materialize as well as it should? Part of this is the fact A Boogie is way too sincere in trying to sound lovestruck and care about her feelings - and still doesn't know how to pronounce baguettes - but again, the song just doesn't feel fully constructed or hit much of a punchline, and that's exasperating as hell. Definitely a weaker cut that only charted so high because of the feature, and not one I hope sticks around.

61. 'I'll Kill You' by Summer Walker ft. Jhene Aiko - okay, we've now reached the two Summer Walker songs I was genuinely interested in, the first featuring the artist who paved a lot of the road in this brand of R&B and who frankly does it considerably better than so many in this lane, Summer Walker included. And here... look, Jhene gets a whole verse, and she's in a different ballpark when it comes to vocal texture and subtlety, not demanding the suffocating lake of autotune that normally drowns out Summer's tone and against the spare synth and cheap trap snare, Jhene just sounds better! And frankly, that inner core of confidence and refinement means that when she says she's going to kill every girl who ever approaches her man - and could well kill him if he crosses her - while making it all sensual, it's convincing! But outside of a good verse... honestly, just not much here, and I now just want a new Jhene album - this felt like Chris Brown putting Usher on a song in terms of a mismatch in talent, but while we're on the subject...

42. 'Come Thru' by Summer Walker & Usher - okay look, I'm a long-time fan of Usher, low-key sensual R&B is an underused layer in his arsenal especially with cuts like 'Climax', and even if Summer Walker isn't on his level of charisma, I had hopes this would be good... until you realize that the only reason Usher is here is because they're gratuitously sampling one of Usher's late 90s cuts on 'You Make Me Wanna...' in a glorified remake and he probably demanded placement. And it's frankly disgraceful how much he steals the entire song here, not only pitching the autotune to the side but also showing a tone of energy and groove that even London's clumsy production can't mask - hell, even the content runs in the territory of Usher showing up for a quick fuck that was expected to be disposable, and because he's Usher, she desperately wants to do it all again. Not gonna lie, it's not a bad flip, and it's probably the Summer Walker song I like the most out of the songs here, but it's very telling that every song I liked from her had a major feature that stole the show... but I'm going to be utilitarian and say that if it gets Usher and Jhene charting hits again, I'll take what I can get.

11. 'Bandit' by Juice WRLD & Youngboy Never Broke Again - oh look, two also-rans teaming up for a song that only debuted as high as it did because of name-recognition and a video that blew up on YouTube, that's just goddamn great. Now I will say this hook is least competently structured as the tinny flutters and leaden trap beat, but we're still stuck with Juice WRLD and Youngboy Never Broke Again as the acts here, so we're stuck with mindless drug abuse and gunplay to woo this girl, who Youngboy then says once he gets her, he 'owns her' - charming. Now by the standards of both acts this is far from the worst we've seen - just kind of oily, unpleasant, and kind of forgettable overall, and it leaves me utterly baffled why anyone would consider either of these guys attractive, but yeah, preteen white boys need by-the-numbers regurgitated flexing too, which means I don't have much use for this at all. Next!

4. '10,000 Hours' by Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber - am I the only one still a little amazed at the power of Justin Bieber, that for a pop country act like Dan + Shay it only takes the cosign to propel this into the top ten? Because as someone who has been covering this borderline boy-band duo since 2014, this is one of their most saccharine and least country songs they've ever made, with basically the last remainder of that sound coming through a guitar timbre that's now stuck with standard blocky pop percussion. Hell, I'd say it was a borderline boy band ballad from the late 90s, especially when the chimes slide in for the bridge... until you factor in how Bieber's huskier tone barely even tries to contribute to the harmonies and feels increasingly anonymous. And when you realize the song is otherwise an incredibly rote love song... well, at least Dan + Shay sound sincere, but I'm not really gripped by it. Not bad, per se, but the fact that this might stick around isn't wowing me either.

1. 'HIGHEST IN THE ROOM' by Travis Scott - so at this point, I'm still a little shocked that Travis Scott debuted at #1, mostly because I seem to remember Travis releasing songs not that different from this across the past few years and I'm not hearing what sets this apart. The guitar might be a little faster against the eerie trembles of melody against the washed out mix and cheap rattling trap whir. Even if I never really liked 'SICKO MODE', that song earned its #1 position by being over-the-top and fractured in an interesting way, and the piano and synth breakdown here doesn't really get there in the same way. Granted, the underwhelming content doesn't help - Travis Scott is high as hell, and he rambles through musings about guns, cars, and his girl who might be perturbed that he's way too high. But hey, he's talking about being high on 'ideas', right... yeah, whatever ideas inspired this feel just as insubstantial, and I'm not catching that vibe. So not precisely a bad song, but really it just sounds like album filler and definitely not a lead-off single - I'm not going to complain when this falls off, just saying.

So that was our week, and it's kind of funny how the best and the worst fell out, because Summer Walker only has one in the Dishonourable Mentions with 'Stretch You Out' with A Boogie - really, of her debuts, it's the most blatantly flawed, but it's not worse than 'Bandit' by Juice WRLD and Youngboy Never Broke Again, which is just tired and increasingly annoying with every listen. Now if that's the worst song, we probably wound up with a pretty good week, and that's actually reinforced by our two legit great songs for the best - and as much as I thought 'Nice To Meet Ya' by Niall Horan had a lock on the best of the week, he's only getting Honourable Mention because 'Dance Monkey' by Tones and I is getting the best - I'm shocked by how well this clicked with a terrific groove and great build-up and I'd love to see it grow into a significant hit. In the mean time, I'm not even going to predict what album bomb could hit next, we'll just have to see...

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