Wednesday, November 13, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 16, 2019

You know, it feels like it's been a while since we've had a week that I'd otherwise describe as 'normal' on the Hot 100 - a respectable number of entries, everything seems somewhat stable, only the rapidly fading remnants of an album bomb that's best forgotten. And it's also one of those 'normal' weeks that seems deceptively busy - more of a correction to what the equilibrium of the chart should have been the past few weeks, at least to me.

Of course, by doing so we have the unfortunate case of our top ten, where returning to the #1 spot we have 'Someone You Loved' by Lewis Capaldi. And even despite a bit of residual traction in sales and streaming, it's really here because it has an unsteady hold on the top spot on the radio - any serious challenger will wipe this off the map, and the sooner it gets here, the better. I want to say that song is 'Circles' by Post Malone - better sales and streaming will get it there and it is narrowing that gap on the radio... but again, this is a margins game, and with radio growth slowing, if Post Malone wants to offer that sales discount at some point, now might be the time. None of this is particularly good for 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello rising to #3, mostly because those gains are not stopping how fast it's bleeding on the radio, which is all the more true for 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo at #4, which might have slightly better sales but considerably weaker streaming. Then we had 'Lose You To Love Me' by Selena Gomez tumble off the #1 spot to #5 - again, I predicted this last week, the fascinating thing will be how long this might stick around, especially as it still maintains strong streaming and sales and just needs to make the radio run. Then we have 'Good As Hell' by Lizzo at #6 - and I'll admit, I'm a bit torn on its momentum going forward: it's got real radio traction and impressive sales, but I seriously question how that streaming weakness is going to impact things... not a great sign. Then we have 'No Guidance' by Chris Brown ft. Drake up to #7 - honestly, it only regained this spot because Kanye fell out of the top ten, which is exactly what I'll also say for 'Panini' by Lil Nas X at #8, which might be in a better situation thanks to its streaming and more stable radio, but I don't see it making any sort of run. But then we got the song that I unfortunately expected to enter the top 10 but has no right to be here: 'Memories' by Maroon 5 - and seriously, radio, if you wanted to try and maintain any market relevance, maybe you could try not taking label payola and dropping uninspired turds like this! Sadly, it's not just them, because people are actually buying this too - if you want proof the vast majority of people like milquetoast gunk, it's this and our #10 entry '10,000 Hours' by Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber, which is also getting propped up on the radio - sorry folks who like this, but this is the 'Perfect' of 2019 and is just as forgettable.

But now for our losers and dropouts... not much in the latter category worth caring about, as 'INTRO' by DaBaby finally slid away along with 'Lalala' by Y2K and bbno$ - it'll comfortably miss any year-end list, although in defying my axiom that the Canadian charts are always better, it is sticking around over here... joy. As for our losers... they're either debuts from last week or long-running collapses like 'Love You Too Late' by Cole Swindell at 86 or 'China' by Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna, and J Balvin at 94. And of those debuts, nearly all of them are Kanye: 'Follow God' fell to 37, 'Closed On Sunday' burned to 84, 'Selah' plummeted to 92, and 'On God' at 96 - the only one that's not is 'Look At Her Now' by Selena Gomez at 62, and the faster it leaves, the better.

Now as expected, we actually did get a lot of gains and returns, and it's worth looking at what's returning to hold sway for the holiday months... and it might be a bad thing that I'm not all that impressed. Yes, 'all the good girls go to hell' by Billie Eilish finally returned to 89 on its radio, but if it's bringing back 'Heartless' by Diplo and Morgan Wallen at 95, and 'Stuck In A Dream' by Lil Mosey and Gunna at 87, that might not be a good thing. The only other return is 'Juicy' by Doja Cat and Tyga at 67, riding the success of her new project... although whether it has staying power is a much bigger question. And that's a relevant question to consider when we look at our gains, because of that list, the only continued surge is for 'Dance Monkey' by Tones and I, which is living up to being a hit in the making at #23 - top ten run, folks, this should be huge! Sadly, I don't have many good things to say about most of our gains, a chunk of which came in the broad category of unlistenable: 'Hot Girl Bummer' by blackbear at 45, 'What Happens In A Small Town' by Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell at 53, 'Hate Me' by Ellie Goulding and Juice WRLD, and 'Kinfolks' by Sam Hunt at 72. And yet these gains are emblematic of the main genres getting traction: trap and country, in the former category with 'Hot' by Young Thug and Gunna at 11 with a surge off the video, '223s' by YNW Melly and 9LOKKNINE at 35, 'Make No Sense' by YoungBoy Never Broke Again at 59, and 'Enemies' by Post Malone and DaBaby at 63, and with the dubious classification of country 'The Bones' by Maren Morris at 54, 'Remember You Young' by Thomas Rhett at 68, 'Heartache Medication' by Jon Pardi at 75, and 'What If I Never Get Over You' by Lady Antebellem desperately seeking momentum at 77. As for whatever's left... honestly, a lot of it isn't terrible? I never hated 'Hot Shower' by Chance The Rapper, MadeInTYO and DaBaby at 66 thanks to the video, 'Leave Em Alone' by Layton Green, Lil Baby, City Girls and PnB Rock isn't bad at 64, and if Joji's finally going to get a real chance with 'SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK' up to 69 thanks to finally getting streaming traction, I'll take it!

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

100. 'Big Boy Diamonds' by Gucci Mane ft. Kodak Black & London On Da Track - so apparently Gucci Mane put out a project recently - it came, it went, the reaction seemed lukewarm at best, and given that I have never really cared for Gucci in any capacity, I didn't bother to check it out. But he did get a song with Kodak Black of all people to chart... and unfortunately it feels a lot more like a Kodak track than Gucci's, with him handling both the hook and the first verse. And believe me, that's the last thing you want, because on his verse, Kodak is talking about screwing your girl, milking bitches like yoo-hoo, shitting on people 'he doo-doo', 'passing gas like he farted', and then fucking your daughter. So let's put aside how Gucci's verse is forgettable and the production is a leaden trap beat against a chipmunked sample, was Kodak Black getting scatological what you all wanted for his grand comeback? It certainly belongs in the toilet for being this shit, next!

91. 'Easy' by DaniLeigh ft. Chris Brown - so look, I get why a relatively unknown act getting the Chris Brown feature might be good on paper, but am I the only one who sees Chris Brown's success as being rather piecemeal and way more dependent on his guest stars this year than him? Anyway, this is from DaniLeigh and is a remix of a song of hers from last year... and I have to be blunt, for an undercooked Summer Walker impression, I wasn't impressed by the original and I'm not impressed by this version either - the cheap-sounding stuttering percussion is still sloppily blended, there's barely any melody, and DaniLeigh is not particularly interesting in her cooing sexual entreaties. The one thing I can say is that Chris Brown's overly synthetic presence isn't really offensive, but that's more because he actually has a personality and downplaying is not a bad fit for him. But still, in an era with Jhene Aiko, SZA, Asiahn, and Snoh Aalegra, I'm not sure we need this.

90. 'For My Daughter' by Kane Brown - it's very telling that this was the highest selling song of this week and it only peaked this low on the charts. Sure, Kane Brown hasn't made a radio push for this - it seems like this was a spur of the moment release when he discovered his wife was expecting and he wrote a song for it, tacked onto the digital rerelease of his album - but I'm not sure beyond a snapshot of virality this'll last. Which is kind of a shame, because this isn't bad at all - it basically has the feel of a country 'Dear Theodosia', if you follow the Hamilton reference, especially with Kane Brown's frank acknowledgement that he never had a father himself, and as such the percussion is more sandy and gentle, and there's a remarkable amount of supple pedal steel and real fiddle here too! Hell, even the kickdrums sound real for once, which highlights how Kane Brown has always been capable of making more organic country with quality... he just hasn't. The only quibble I have is that he's a bit of a hypocrite for saying his daughter can't get a tattoo given all of his, but that's minor; in the end, this is perfectly fine and pretty damn good, check it out.

88. 'Ridin' Roads' by Dustin Lynch - okay Dustin Lynch, I know it's been five years since I reviewed your album and had any hope of you making something that wasn't utterly mediocre and... I mean, there's at least something passing for a blocky live drum instead of a snap? No, in all due seriousness, it serves the same damn purpose by draining all the guitars of life and sliding gooey synth flourishes over an utterly flimsy song where I'm fairly certain nobody even bothered to mic a bassline! I get that Lynch has always chased an atmospheric sound, but without real foundation this just sounds unfinished, especially when the lyrics are the sort of road/love song that basically merges the bro-country love of cars and girls into the same song. In other words, utterly forgettable mush - you had potential dude, such a disappointment...

85. 'In My Room' by Frank Ocean - and speaking of rock-bottom expectations... look, I've always been underwhelmed by Frank's flexing, because especially in recent years it just has not been remotely interesting, and this is absolutely no exception. Forget the wiry tap of the beat with its jittery vocal sample and desaturated tones, this is Frank Ocean croon-rapping with autotune on triplet flows with a blatant Migos influence, and all we get is a single undercooked verse with no hook! I guess if we were looking for deeper lyrical influences, you get a bunch of shots taken at the music industry and fake friends just trying to use him, but this sort of sourness is a bad look and sound for Frank, and it really hurts a lot of the populism that used to be in his base appeal. So yeah, another mediocre track, not impressed - next!

79. 'Love Me More' by Trippie Redd - so I know this week it might seem like I'm largely uninterested in most of the new arrivals... but come on, it's not like Trippie Redd has ever given me much tangible in his content to hold onto, especially on a fragment of a song with only a single verse and two hooks where it sounds like he's singing through a bad head cold! And when you consider the content is basically a meandering, unfocused plea for this girl to love him more that makes it clear he hasn't made up his mind at all, and the music is a watery guitar lick with cheap trap snares and muddy layering... again, I get that folks are looking to see him step into the same mold that spawned X, but if it sounds this unfinished, I'm not sure I care.

70. 'It All Comes Out In The Wash' by Miranda Lambert - I'll admit I'm a little shocked that this song actually wound up finally charting thanks to the album's release - a perennially underperforming cut that I actually didn't really address when I reviewed Wildcard... but that was more because it doesn't give me a lot to say. Yeah, it's quippy and kind of likable in all the little mistakes that make unexpected, awkward moments and how it'll all get better through an extended laundry metaphor - it certainly has Lori McKenna's eye for memorable detail - but between the overmixed cymbal, burbling roil of guitar, clunky groove, and stacking of the vocals over the main guitar motif... look, it's hard to avoid how this sounds a little like an oversanitized commercial to me, with the blatant Tide placement to clinch it! And my larger point stands: it's got personality but lacks punch or depth or weight, and Miranda sounds like she's coasting on charisma - in other words, while this might be decent, it might be a very mixed blessing if it gets traction.

55. 'Immortal' by 21 Savage - am I the only one surprised that there's a new 21 Savage song on the Hot 100 and the buzz doesn't seem to have crossed over? I remember 2017 when it felt like 21 Savage was everywhere and even late last year with his late but improved sophomore album, but this seems different... and turns out there's actually a reason why. Apparently this is a track that was supposed to be on the sophomore album and was previewed in a Mortal Kombat 11 trailer, but was never really released until Halloween of this year, hence we have it here. And... ehh, can't say it's really worth the wait? For one, it's distracting how often the 21 Savage tries to cram an extra syllable or two into his bars to make the rhyme connect, and it doesn't feel smooth at all, and against the brittle trap beat and elongated strings sample that ever so slightly contorts, I kind of wanted it to feel slicker and more low-key and ominous than it really is. Yes, 21 is going on about how many people he's going to kill, but between the obvious Mortal Kombat references - and how that Russell Westbrook line is really dated - it winds up feeling like an underwhelming leftover, which is ironic for the song that has a hook featuring lines where he falls asleep while getting head! In other words... yeah, don't see the hype on this one.

34. 'Roxanne' by Arizona Zervas - so look, I don't want to kill this song just because it blew up from out of nowhere thanks to TikTok and Spotify playlists, all apparently without a label connection (although with as many playlists as he nabbed in a short time I'm not about to rule that out). I will kill this song over sounding like a blatant ripoff of Post Malone's sound circa 2018 with Young Thug's adlibs, watery guitars and keys, cheap percussion, and none of the blending that has given Post Malone punch in recent years. And the song is about as flimsy and California-obsessed as Post Malone was at the time, all about a rich girl who was only engaging with this guy if he was tricking - which apparently he was as he described on the hook, because with that Talledega Nights reference he sure isn't slick enough to get her otherwise! In fact, if this song was the sort of warning to tell guys to stay away from girls that only care about cash, cocaine, and Whole Foods who laugh at you if you don't have a foreign car, I'd buy it... except for the fact that this hapless dude still seems to be chasing her, with enough self-awareness to realize how bad this looks, but not enough to stop! I might be more forgiving of a guy like Bryce Vine for some of the nonsense he spews, but this just feels vaguely pathetic, and not in an interesting way... so yeah, I'm not behind this. Next!

30. 'Don't Start Now' by Dua Lipa - so it looks like Dua Lipa is getting primed for that sophomore album rollout for 2020, with this being the lead-off single. And given how much praise I've given her over the past few years, I did have expectations... and look, I'm not saying this isn't good, but I will say that it's not really on the level of the best songs from the self-titled album and seems a little too heavily reliant on that fat bass groove especially when otherwise all it seems to be doing is playing for a blatant early-to-mid 90s dance throwback with strings jacked from Clean Bandit. Now let me make it clear, that's not a bad thing: the strings sound terrific off the keyboards, the groove is remarkably organic and Dua Lipa's throaty vocals can command this sort of vibe with elegance and enough of an edge to work, and for a kissoff of the guy trying to slide back into the picture, it's really damn solid. But is it among Dua Lipa's best? Well, that's a little more dicey, mostly because the hook feels a little lacking in greater melody, and I still think she's missing a cut with the organic sweep and power of a song like 'Be The One'... but at the same time, in the same way that 'New Rules' blew up, I can see 'Don't Start Now' being successful - that groove is impressive. So... call it mostly positive? Yeah, we'll go with that.

And that's our week... and while the best and worst fall out fast, the second place mentions are a little more questionable. For the worst, obviously 'Big Boy Diamonds' by Gucci Mane, Kodak Black, and London on da Track takes it, but I'm giving Dishonourable Mention to 'Roxanne' by Arizona Zervas for just being faintly embarrassing as a whole, a song that I just don't want to hear at any point. The best... well, 'For My Daughter' by Kane Brown will take that handily, but I'm giving Honourable Mention to 'Don't Start Now' by Dua Lipa, and I can only hope it winds up as a hit. Next week... well, we're coming up on the last of the Billboard year, so let's see how this turns out. Stay tuned!

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