Wednesday, November 20, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 23, 2019

Well, here we go folks: down to the last weeks of tracking the Billboard year (either this week or next week, I've yet to get clear info)... and yet I don't really get a finale vibe out of 2019. That's the frustrating thing when you try to cram a messy chart show into any sort of narrative, especially on a week that seemed relatively predictable, but here we are.

Unfortunately, the big prediction I made for the top 10 didn't quite come true, so let's start with 'Someone You Loved' by Lewis Capaldi continuing to squat at #1 like a lingering fart, with only a slight boost on streaming making up for how it's losing in all other categories. I have to believe that Post Malone's 'Circles' can make the run beyond #2, and yet while it has slightly better streaming and sales, it just hasn't quite narrowed that airplay gap enough just yet - more's the pity. Then we have 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello at #3, which is plummeting across the board and will likely be surpassed by 'Good As Hell' by Lizzo up to #4 thanks to strong sales and radio, although those streaming numbers are questionable. Unfortunately, that can also account for a stronger boost for 'Memories' by Maroon 5 at #5, which has even better sales and real radio growth - we're not getting rid of this any time soon, folks. Hell, it blew right past 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo at #6 as it was bleeding in all categories, but it still at least holds up above 'No Guidance' by Chris Brown ft. Drake at #7, mostly because it's losing on radio and streaming too. I'd say this was good news for 'Lose You To Love Me' by Selena Gomez, except that song fell back to #8 because despite radio gains, sales and streaming are down considerably. And yet that wasn't enough for 'Panini' by Lil Nas X to make gains either, as it fell to #9 because stable radio and streaming isn't enough to get higher. Finally, we have '10,000 Hours' by Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber holding at #10, as radio growth just isn't enough on its own to compensate for weakening sales and streaming.

Now this takes us to our losers and dropouts, where we kind of got a mix between the expected and faint surprises - yeah, I kind of expected 'Love You Too Late' by Cole Swindell to fall out, along with 'F.N.' by Lil Tjay which has had a rough few weeks, but with 'You Need To Calm Down' by Taylor Swift and 'Cash Shit' by Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby exiting... I'll be honest, I forgot both of them were charting, especially as the former easily clinched her year-end spot and Megan will be on the cusp of it. Granted, she didn't really have a great week as 'Hot Girl Summer' with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign fell sharply to 59, but the bigger loser this week was YoungBoy Never Broke Again, with 'Make No Sense' sliding to 69, 'Lonely Child' at 73, and 'Self Control' down to 86. Then there are other gains that just evaporated, like 'Hate Me' by Ellie Goulding and Juice WRLD at 68, 'Hot Shower' by Chance the Rapper, MadeInTYO and DaBaby at 85, and 'What Happens In A Small Town' by Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell plummeting to 93, and then we have the debuts that took the expected hit: 'Don't Start Now' by Dua Lipa stumbled a bit at 46, 'It All Comes Out In The Wash' by Miranda Lambert at 82, and 'Immortal' by 21 Savage hit hard at 100. Beyond that... eh 'Start Wit Me' by Roddy Ricch and Gunna at 98, and I'm not complaining about that.

But what about our returning entries and gains, all likely to be swept aside in the coming weeks by an avalanche of Christmas music? Shit, that's already started with 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' by Mariah Carey back at 39, but forgive me if I'm not going to be too sad that 'La Cancion' by J Balvin and Bad Bunny won't last back at 84, or that 'Lalala' by Y2K and bbno$ has its last gasp at 94. I'm a bit more interested in what happens with Kelsea Ballerini and 'homecoming queen?' at 89, but that'll depend on how much Christmas music cannibalizes country radio. But make no mistake, country and country-adjacent music had a banner week here, with the biggest story being the huge album-driven boost for Luke Combs pushing 'Even Though I'm Leaving' all the way to 11, which if this momentum continues, I won't even care about it missing this year-end list so long as it makes the next one! But the gains were consistent, pushing 'Remember You Young' by Thomas Rhett again to 53, 'What If I Never Get Over You' by Lady Antebellum to 54 in preparation for that album, and frustratingly 'Ridin' Roads' by Dustin Lynch to 76 off the debut. But off the return we saw 'Juicy' by Doja Cat and Tyga get a boost to 47 and 'Stuck In A Dream' by Lil Mosey and Gunna at 62, but they're not really what drew my attention - nor did the remix for 'Lover' by Taylor Swift with Shawn Mendes that pushed it to 26. Nah, what caught my eye was 'Nice To Meet Ya' by Niall Horan getting a boost to 63 - I honestly expected this to fizzle, but it has sales and radio traction, so we'll see just how far this goes.

Anyway, we've got a healthy if mostly frustrating list of new arrivals, starting with...

92. 'Valentino' by 24kGoldn - another day, another trap song catching a snippet of virality thanks to TikTok, and if this isn't Vine 2.0 I don't know what the hell is. Anyway, this was a song that was actually first released in February earlier this year - kind of makes sense with the title - and yeah, I kind of get why it's been a while for this to chart, because 24kGoldn is not remotely impressing me here. You'd think for luxury against restrained flutes and keys and a pretty underweight trap beat he'd try to sound more relaxed, but instead he's shouting with the weedy, cracking delivery of someone missing the point that for that sort of intensity, you need to be able to sell it. Anyway, this is a song about him wanting luxury brands and getting head, and while the hook is indeed catchy as hell, I'm a little more distracted by trying to force the rhyme of 'chess' with 'face' - but beyond that, the hook is catchy enough to expose exactly why it's popular, but it feels equally as disposable - next!

90. 'Show Me Love' by Alicia Keys ft. Miguel - so it's probably not a good sign that the first buzz I heard about this collaboration was that it was generally underwhelming from both acts, a chance to hop back towards a mainstream that may have left them both behind - which seemed simultaneously a little unfair but possibly valid. So while I was a little worried checking this out, I can confirm that 'Show Me Love' only feels like a play for the mainstream in its abortive structure - a single verse, a bridge, and a few hooks. Otherwise it sounds like more of a torch song, stripping things down to a few layers of guitar and bass and low-key vocal interplay between two singers with a lot of charisma... and yet weirdly little chemistry. Yeah, that's the odd thing about the two of them here, as they're both naturally organic and potent singers, but the smolder doesn't quite come through. Maybe if the hook had a bit more organic warmth or the larger mix didn't feel so reverb touched, or maybe if they had kept the unnecessary vocal touch-ups off the bridge... it's odd, you'd think this would be a slam dunk for me, but it falls weirdly flat for me. Not a bad effort, but this should be better.

83. 'Jerry Sprunger' by Tory Lanez & T-Pain - so I'm not sure if this is a commonly held opinion among fans of mid-2000s R&B, but I'll say it: T-Pain's 'I'm Sprung' sucks. The production is painfully undercooked even for that era, T-Pain's heavy embrace of autotune hadn't quite been finetuned as it would in the next few years, and the less his squawking lyrics are analyzed, the better; he hadn't quite leaned into the silliness that's always been emblematic of his best material, and his humble beginnings nowadays sound pretty embarrassing. So why in the Nine Hells Tory Lanez thought it'd be a good idea to sample that previous song for his remake off of Chixtape 5 utterly blows my mind, but here we are... and yes, just on the benefit of more developed percussion and T-Pain sounding more comfortable in his lane this is better, but only barely. Why is there more bass than actual melody behind them outside of cooing backing vocals, and why the clapping snare has no real body does get distracting, but what's more alarming is how weedy and underwhelming Tory is behind the mic compared to T-Pain... not a good sign when T-Pain includes a beat-boxing passage mid-verse and tells his girl who doesn't like the champagne to throw it up! And again, just like the original, this is a song built around the metaphor for horniness as being 'sprung', which puts me more in the mind of a Looney Tunes cartoon than anything sexual! So yeah, this is still pretty bad, and even if we're bound to see more of Chixtape 5 next week, I sure as hell am not looking forward to it - next!

81. 'Yellow Hearts' by Ant Saunders - and we have another act blowing up off of TikTok here... although not in a form I expected. For one, Ant Saunders is described as a indie pop singer-songwriter who has been sliding out projects below the radar for a bit and who only seemed to catch a flicker of attention now... and as much as I hoped maybe this guy could be the next Bazzi, this is one of those cases where the blatantly cheap pickups, lack of decent blending, and homegrown sound is a lot less impressive. Part of this is the weird vibe of the song where apparently it's about him getting strung along by a girl who seemed to imply more interest than there was, and I get the weirdly dejected mood of the song - we've all been there - but the lackluster writing and delivery just fall utterly flat for me, coming across as more pitiable than actively attracting sympathy. Maybe it's an age gap thing and this resonates more with a younger audience, but factor in a few sloppy rhymes and I'm reminded of why Lauv just didn't vibe for similar reasons. Not terrible and I can see this getting big, but it's not for me.

78. 'Tusa' by Karol G & Nicki Minaj - ...I mean, I'm not surprised that Nicki Minaj would hop on a reggaeton beat, there were enough tropical flourishes on Queen to make it obvious, but I was optimistic on how well it'd land, given how much the groove flattered her delivery. And to my pleasant surprise, I actually think this is decent - Karol G takes the approach of going out with her girls to get over an ex, but when a certain song comes on she's stuck thinking about that partner and heads back, and the duo have decent interplay and chemistry... at least until Nicki launches into her braggadocious side where she's telling off some ex, and it doesn't match with any of the established story. Kind of a shame because the strings added some decent sharp elegance to the otherwise standard percussion line and the subtle melodic interplay off the piano was actually pretty solid. If anything it feels like one of those cases where they had a good idea for a song and Nicki seemed game for a bit... until she defaulted to her most common mold, which feels jarringly out of place when Karol G returns for the third verse - kind of a shame, because otherwise, this isn't bad.

74. 'everything i wanted' by Billie Eilish - so I'll admit I'm not that surprised we're getting a new Billie Eilish song - there had been an extended single rollout for her debut album, a promotional strategy that paid off exponentially by the end, so the next question would be what the hell she'd deliver next, especially as 'all the good girls go to hell' hadn't really taken off as strongly as others. And with this one... look, I really do like it, but I'm not quite wowed by it in the way I've loved her best singles. And it's tough to pin down exactly why, but I will say at least some of it has to deal with the sound that's less experimental and eerie, instead relying on a spare clapping patter and muted piano that does build a bit of bassy swell on the hook, but it feels a little too restrained. Granted, that's not surprising when you consider the content, where Billie dreams of achieving everything she wants... and then committing suicide to discover nobody really cared that much, with only the reassurance from her brother that'd never really happen, but her misgivings still remain as success is even more in reach. It's a bleak, lonely little song that I might respect more than I outright love, and I do think this is good... but I will say she's done better before. Still, though, it's trying harder than most of what's on the charts, so worth checking out.

72. 'Better Together' by Luke Combs - you know, when I reviewed Luke Combs' album last week, I actually got a bit of backlash that I didn't really speak on this song considering how it could be considered kind of pushy for an intimate closing love song. And while I would agree this isn't really one of the top tier songs of the album - it's a bit too reliant on checklist songwriting and that doesn't really match the very spare accompaniment, where you'd think there'd be more focus on her - I actually didn't mind the moment of how he'd want to marry her on the bridge, mostly because of the framing: it's more wistful or even wishful thinking for Combs, and while it might feel presumptuous, it's just hesitant enough to feel genuinely sincere, and I think it works. In other words... yeah, this is a pretty good song - a little low-key for an album closer and I'm surprised it's getting pushed, but I'm okay with it being here - check it out.

56. 'Heart On Ice' by Rod Wave - okay, so this is a debut trap act that I think deserves a little more of an explanation, especially as some buzz suggests that this guy's come-up has been long-in-coming. So, Rod Wave: Florida rapper, known for his associations with Kevin Gates who actually produced his debut album that got some critical acclaim earlier this year, and he's built a base following before breaking through with this mixtape cut. And the immediate comparison that comes to mind with this guy is the most recent YoungBoy Never Broke Again that I actually liked, with a smattering of Polo G - his voice is a little more husky and emotive over the single verse we get and he seems to carry himself with a little more gravitas in his angst, which works over the layered pianos, warbling guitars, and more dense trap percussion. And it matches his jailtime depression and desire to repress his emotions effectively, especially given as he knows his anger is rooted in his broken home growing up. It's actually surprisingly impactful, and for a song that I still think is entirely too short... yeah, it works. Very good, definitely like this one.

19. 'Woah' by Lil Baby - you know, at some point the mainstream public is going to get sick of Lil Baby saying a lot of nothing badly - but thanks to TikTok and a reference to a mid-2010s dance craze, this charted as highly as it did. Certainly not because of the mixing, where opposite the pianos the trap snares sound cheap as hell against a bass beat that remains as badly blended as ever, or the flubbed rhymes like 'loads' with 'trophy' and 'person' with 'imagine' and 'roarin' with 'boyfriend'. And maybe it's just me, but are people really using Lil Baby lines for Instagram captions or thinking he's not a by-the-numbers regular rapper, because I can't recall a single thing he's ever said that's not one-dimensional bragging or remotely special or colourful. To me this just comes across as a middling Lil Wayne impression that can't bother to have punchlines, and really, it won't be worth remembering or caring about beyond this week - just saying.

So yeah, that was our week... honestly, tough to say there's a lot of standouts here on either side, with the exception of the obvious worst to 'Jerry Sprunger' by Tory Lanez and T-Pain. Dishonourable Mention... 'Woah' by Lil Baby, which only beats out 24kGoldn because he's more underwhelming and has way more undeserved hype. Now for the best... honestly, it was kind of a toss-up between Rod Wave and Billie Eilish, but I think I'm going to give 'Heart On Ice' by Rod Wave a bit of the edge for a slightly brighter melody and punch, with 'everything i wanted' as the Honourable Mention. Next week... well, potentially the end of this Billboard year or the start of the next one, I haven't been able to pin down official validation anywhere. Regardless, it looks like the show is going on...

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