Wednesday, November 27, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - november 30, 2019

You know, normally Billboard is a bit more organized when they delineate when their tracking year begins and ends - not this year. A lot of this is tied into some of the messiness that came when they adjusted their tracking week to be closer to current activity instead being so far post-dated, but since the calendar doesn't exactly correlate, this could well be counted as a 53rd week in this year... or the first next year. It's annoying, to say the least, but I'll adjust my records and thumbnail as we get new information.

Anyway, that's just bureaucratic info surrounding our top ten, where as I predicted, 'Circles' by Post Malone finally seized the #1 spot. Now keep in mind it's not exactly dominant here - strong in all categories but not on top in any of them, but thanks to slicing that airplay margin down and maintaining its strength on sales and streaming, it's on top over 'Someone You Loved' by Lewis Capaldi falling to #2 - although given how it's bleeding in all channels, that might be inevitable. Hell, it could well get eclipsed by 'Good As Hell' by Lizzo up to #3, taking the top spot on radio with consistently better sales... but that streaming is just not there where it needs to be. Then we have 'Memories' by Maroon 5 rising to #4 with even better sales and a consistent radio push - streaming is still slow to get onboard, though, and that might hold it back. Then we have 'Lose You To Love Me' by Selena Gomez rising to #5 - and honestly, if I'm putting money on a song that'll have more longevity, it's this one, especially given its strength in all channels. It's certainly holding over 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello stumbling to #6 as it loses in all categories... which takes us to the bizarre survival for 'No Guidance' by Chris Brown ft. Drake still at #7 - yeah, its radio decline has been painfully slow and it still has streaming, but you'd think it'd collapse a little by now! Granted, it could face real competition from the newest entry to the top ten: 'everything i wanted' by Billie Eilish smashing at #8, riding huge sales gains and a ton of streaming... but as expected, the radio will be slow to catch up, so while it might fall back a little next week, it's still an impressive boost. Hell, it blew right past '10,000 Hours' by Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber, which was still up to #9 because the radio loves it... albeit the softer sales and collapsing streaming do raise some questions about the long-term viability I expected. Finally, clinging onto #10 we have 'Truth Hurts' by Lizzo, which despite a tiny recovery on sales took a serious blow across the board - I'd expect this to be out of the top ten sooner rather than later.

And while we're on that, let's talk about losers and dropouts... and there's not really much worth talking about in the latter category beyond the expected exit for 'My Type' by Saweetie nabbing its year-end spot and 'What Happens In A Small Town' by Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell along with 'Living' by Dierks Bentley falling short. But our list of losers was a bit more scattered than I was expecting, so let's go through the expected ones first: 'Hot Shower' by Chance The Rapper, MadeInTYO and DaBaby kept sliding to 96, 'Hot Girl Summer' by Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign hit 79, and off the debut last week 'Tusa' by Karol G and Nicki Minaj fell to 92 and 'Yellow Hearts' by Ant Saunders tumbled to 98 - good. And while I'm not really pleased about it, I'm not surprised that 'Even Though I'm Leaving' by Luke Combs stepped back to 25 - it's going to be short of 2019's year-end list, but given how consistent its radio is, I can see it making next year's, maybe? The rest of losers fall out pretty quickly: 'Money In The Grave' by Drake ft. Rick Ross making its expected exit down to 46, 'Follow God' by Kanye West continuing to fall to 52, '223's' by YNW Melly & 9LOKKNINE at 56, 'Liar' by Camila Cabello getting its radio pulled to fall to 72, 'Stuck In A Dream' by Lil Mosey and Gunna tumbling back to 82, and in the category of mediocre quasi-country, 'Every Little Thing' by Russell Dickerson sliding to 73 and 'Good Vibes' by Chris Janson at 84 - good.

Now that being said, it doesn't precisely mean our gains and returns are all that good - yes, it's nice that in the continued build for his album 'Lights Up' by Harry Styles is back at 77, but did it have to bring back Diplo and Morgan Wallen to 90 with 'Heartless'? And when we look at the gains proper... man, this list is frustrating. I've already mentioned Billie Eilish surging to the top 10, but what worries me is 'Roxanne' by Arizona Zervas surging up to 12 on his Post Malone riff, along with 'Jerry Sprunger' by Tory Lanez and T-Pain riding the album boost to 44. What caught me a little by surprise was the continued sales success for 'Lover' by Taylor Swift, which picked up considerably to 15 to seemingly seal its year-end list spot - what didn't was the massive video success for 'BOP' by DaBaby to vault him all the way to 18 - this is going to stick around, for better or worse.

Anyway, we've got a pretty loaded list of new arrivals this week, unfortunately starting with...

100. 'RITMO (Bad Boys For Life)' by The Black Eyed Peas & J Balvin - ...seriously, we're doing this? The Black Eyed Peas put out an album last year that might not have been great but was the sort of comeback that was frankly better than it had any right to be - so obviously the next step is make a single with J Balvin tied into the new Bad Boys movie that might be some of the most transparent trend hopping I've heard all year! Granted, if you want generic, heavy-handed samples we've got two of those too, interweaving the glassy and already mostly forgotten 'You Know You Like It' from AlunaGeorge and DJ Snake with 'Rhythm Of The Night' of all things, and yet somehow this fusion sucks all the energy from J Balvin to leave him sounding increasingly rote and uninteresting. Granted, when you have trying to bring back hashtag rap and failing - 'I am on top of the pedestal (flu shot)', what is that even trying to say - and plans to party to the 'extremo', I'm just left faintly embarrassed for everyone involved, especially with trying to make the 'RITMO' drop a thing. And look, at the end of the day it's hard to get too angry at a song so heavily reliant on 'Rhythm Of The Night', which I've always liked... but when you turn it into this? What a waste - but on that topic...

99. 'Hell Right' by Blake Shelton ft. Trace Adkins - by the Nine Hells, Blake Shelton, 'God's Country' is one of the best singles of your career, and you think the obvious follow-up is this? I don't care if it's only here because you're pushing a late-period Greatest Hits compilation, there's a good reason country radio was reticent to this dreck - it's lousy! Blake Shelton is trying to rap as if it's 2013 again anchored less in Trace Adkin's bass and more in the heavy overdubs and an incredibly clunky attempt at a groove, which is what you get when you have a song that's frankensteined together like this! And I'd even be somewhat forgiving of this if the instrumentation had smolder or swagger, but the hook is a big oversold bro-country thing all in major chords that has no real atmosphere. And when the content is this meat-headed - you could basically drop it into any checklist song circa six years ago - is there any reason at all to give it a pass? Yeah, no, this is lousy - next!

97. 'Death' by Trippie Redd ft. DaBaby - I've said before that I have a hard time gauging Trippie Redd's stardom and popularity, but I will say that it's very telling that to nab more charting hits this time around he needed DaBaby, which to meet seemed weird given that the two of them seemed to come up in very different spaces and I'd argue DaBaby already handily eclipsed him. That being said, even if I'd argue this sort of song exposed that outside of his croon-rapping Trippie Redd is an incredibly limited rapper, I actually dug this song a lot more than I thought I would. A big factor to this is the production, which is relying heavily on the chopped up Three 6 Mafia sample between the sharper trap beat and darker synths, but the song is also more focused as a whole in its killer mold, and DaBaby can easily slide into this mold, even if I'd argue he's considerably more interesting than Trippie Redd and completely outshines him here. But yeah, for as blunt and single-minded as a song like this is... I kind of like it. Not bad at all.

95. 'Homesick' by Kane Brown - so I've recently observed some writers coining the newest wave of pop-adjacent country as 'boyfriend-country', coming from the saccharine side of lightweight grooves and oversold, sentimental love songs primarily targeting women - Thomas Rhett runs this sort of sound, and make no mistake, it's been working for a few years now. But Kane Brown isn't that far behind, and this song is a prime example: fake snap beat off of very gentle acoustics, fizzy effects layered over the hook, and content that focuses just how much he misses his girl over a beyond-basic melody. And look, Kane Brown can sell this material and between the pedal steel and generally warm pickups means that this'll sound more country than a lot in this lane... but beyond that, this is pretty by-the-numbers, and instead of emphasizing his loneliness this song takes the weirdly self-aggrandizing route of highlighting his headlining status, which feels a little misplaced to me. I dunno, I'm obviously not the target audience for this, but I'm still not really feeling it either - just saying.

93. 'We Back' by Jason Aldean - hey everyone, did you know that Jason Aldean put out a new album? Better question, did you care? Has there been any real reason to care about new Jason Aldean music for the past couple of years now, anything all that unique or potent that would make me want to check out his ninth album, with the descriptive title of 9? Well, here's the single, and immediately the exasperation clicks in because the cheap drum machine doesn't match the heavier sizzle of the guitar layering at all, and even when the limp live drums slide in in we're still stuck with no significant groove because the the bass is considered an afterthought! If you're making country rock, this is the sort of choice that'll cripple a song, especially when the bridge tries to be a little offkilter and just sounds messy in its transition, even with all the guitar wankery. More bizarre is that for as much as this song is trying to oversell rockstar posturing, it just feels utterly gutless and rote - Jason Aldean is back, but so what? What does this add, and what makes this any different than any other obvious 'opening set' song, especially when it's just not better than 'Lights Come On'? So yeah, this is pretty crappy too - next!

89. 'Up All Night' by Khalid - at this point I've stopped trying to guess how Khalid is going to push his singles, mostly because I'm not sure there's a point - most of the songs are pretty tepid and low-key as a whole, you're not going to get much differentiation, especially if the groove doesn't materialize. And with this new single for an album I didn't know was coming, it's... okay, I guess? Yeah, the groove actually has some decently smooth rollick to it with the acoustic accents and that fits Khalid's languid delivery pretty well, but it's absolutely a slide towards pop conventionality that's reflected in writing that feels increasingly bland. It's not like for all the vocal overdubs we're getting much in the way of backing melody or tune, and with Khalid, it's a song where he's contemplating everything good for him and how the tour keeps him going forward... but there's no change or implied drama or even conflict. Not so much self-satisfied as it feels kind of limp and complacent, which for this sort of groove seems like an odd pick. Normally with songs in this vein - the big one from this year that springs to mind is 'Sight Of You' by Sigrid - they're a little more propulsive and joyous, but this... yeah, it's not getting there. Better than 'Talk', but not by much.

87. 'Beauty In The Benz' by Tory Lanez ft. Snoop Dogg - so I'll admit I'm genuinely surprised that we only got two new Chixtape 5 songs this week, both courtesy of some big guest stars, the first here with Snoop Dogg and a choppy interpolation of his song 'Beautiful' from 2003 along with the blocky percussion from Jay-Z's 'I Just Wanna Love You'. And if that sounds like a wonky fusion of samples... yeah, that's pretty much exactly my response to how leaden and clunky the groove is on this song, which doesn't compliment Snoop's delivery whatsoever! Seriously, the more I listened to this I was convinced my speakers were dying whenever the groove just dropped out, at least the original 'Beautiful' held together and had Charlie Wilson despite being weedy as hell. Yeah, the strings flesh out the song by the final hook, but to get to that we're stuck with the verses trying to ride the non-groove, and while Snoop can make it work, Tory Lanez doesn't really impress me, especially as he's saying he's going to 'sink his teeth in it like Dracula'. So ladies, if you're into that on a song with no coherent flow, give this a try, but otherwise, skip it!

75. 'Falling' by Trevor Daniel - another week, another relatively unknown artist blowing up off of TikTok - and apparently pretty insecure about it given how he was spouting off on Twitter about it just today. And to his credit, he's got a point that in today's streaming economy you take whatever platform you can get in order to attract attention... but on the flipside, the reason why I've come down so sharply on acts who blow up off of Vine or TikTok is that the abbreviated songs often sound cheaply produced and bereft of fully developed ideas, especially when you only have a single verse to your song and are clearly trying to rip off Post Malone's cadence and delivery circa eighteen months ago. Now in this case, the heavier low-end synth did give this some decent atmosphere off the watery guitar pickup, but when you have a hook that doesn't even try to rhyme, a verse that isn't much better, and a pretty basic concept - he was hurt before but is now falling hard again - with no other details, I'm just left without much to say. I've certainly heard worse off this platform, but I'm left feeling about this similar to Arizona Zervas' 'Roxanne' - an obvious copycat, and not one with the flavour to last. Next!

66. 'The Take' by Tory Lanez ft. Chris Brown - second Tory Lanez cut, and one sampling a Chris Brown song that I actually remember liking from arguably his best project, 2007's Exclusive. Now granted, upon revisiting it the entire song is way more oversold than it should be, especially with that leaden percussion and squealing wails of synth and guitar, but it's still decent enough - so clearly what's best to do is smother the distinctive sample behind pitch-shifting, shove it into the background, and then emphasize the bassy knock instead, which without the more melodic blending only serves to highlight just how much of Chris Brown and Tory Lanez's delivery today is dependent on tinny autotune! It's genuinely alarming how much this song can't match the original and somehow feels just as lacking in dynamics, and that's before you get to the lyrics where Tory Lanez goes full sexually explicit, talking about 'splitting legs like dividends' and that she's gobbling, gobbling, gobbling like it's Thanksgiving! Ladies, again, how in the Nine Hells does any of this sound appealing, where somehow Chris Brown comes across less embarrassing? So yeah, somehow Tory Lanez whiffs it again, because this is pretty bad too - next!

60. 'Watermelon Sugar' by Harry Styles - so okay, I was a little underwhelmed by Harry Styles' lead-off single for that album dropping in mid-December - some decent acoustic-driven swell but it never quite felt like it paid off as strongly as it could. But hey, he managed to notch a second single here and I hoped it'd click better... and I'm not sure it really gets there. First off, am I the only one who feels like the live pickup of the vocals and blending, especially whenever that horn slides in, can sound really tinny and compressed? None of it feels all that organic, which you'd think would be the obvious palette to embrace for a song that relies so heavily on fruit-as-sex metaphors, instead of sounding like a Michael McDonald riff but with less tightness or fleshed out groove. What's frustrating is that you can tell the ingredients are here to make this work - yeah, I'd prefer more consistently organic drums, but the bass and guitar lines are good and the mix is appropriately lush - if they could only be mixed so they're not clipping the mix, you'd have something pretty special here! As it is, though... maybe the live cut will sound better, but as it is I wish I liked this a lot more.

55. 'None Of Your Concern' by Jhene Aiko ft. Big Sean - I'll admit I was worried about this one - as much as I've still been behind Jhene Aiko in her recent singles run, it's hard to avoid how they're just not delivering the punch or presence the best cuts from Souled Out or Trip did, and retracing the Big Sean drama for a glorified TWENTY88 retread isn't the way to do it. Now I'll say this, these two do have good chemistry - although why Ty Dolla $ign is here for adlibs is an odd choice - and I like the sentiment of this song, where both are actively cussing each other out through lingering feelings in the perpetual awkwardness of watching an old flame move on when it was clear they were not good for each other. And neither looks good here, from Jhene's third verse where she wants him to mind his own damn business when he tries to reconnect, to leaving Big Sean the last word where he's just about as petty in exposing all of it, especially in how her rebound doesn't remotely flatter her spiritual vibe the way he did. And I'd buy more into that if I felt that his verse was nearly as well constructed over this sort of production as hers were - the gentle pianos, warped guitar pickup, and deeper percussion flatter her husky, expressive cadence, but with every syllable he tries to force he sounds increasingly awkward, and you need a song like this to be evenly balanced to connect. So yeah, both have done better here, but compared to most of the rest this week... I guess I'll take it.

49. 'Reply' by A Boogie wit da Hoodie ft. Lil Uzi Vert - not gonna lie, the second I saw the Lil Uzi Vert credit I got to wondering where the hell that long-overdue second album is. Apparently it's been done for months now with no release date in sight and Uzi's retired from music multiple times over, so I guess the fans have to rely on this... and wow, with him demanding this girl 'follow his commands' against an increasingly sloppy flow, on a song where he's demanding this girl reply to his DM - and the second verse demand she cry for him and seems to imply he's fucking her as she tries to run away and puts his foot into her until she's numb, and then later says she's going to be raising his toddler; even charitably interpreted this is all kinds of abusive! A Boogie only winds up looking better because he's less of a presence here and seems a bit more sympathetic, but he still doesn't sound good over this misshapen guitar and blocky tap. But unfortunately Lil Uzi Vert is the most dominant presence and makes it abundantly clear that his career is failing for a very good reason: he sucks, and this song is fucking dreadful.

So yeah, out of nowhere this easily is the worst of a pretty terrible week, but the Dishonourable Mention could easily go to half of these songs... but I'm settling on 'We Back' by Jason Aldean tying with 'The Take' from Tory Lanez and Chris Brown, as both utterly misunderstand their strengths with terrible production and are utterly tired retreads of better ideas they themselves created. And for the best... man, this is rough, but Honourable Mention will go to 'None Of Your Concern' from Jhene Aiko and Big Sean for at least being decently written even if it doesn't quite come together, with the best going to 'Death' by Trippie Redd and DaBaby for being the only song that actually felt decently produced with groove and focus - believe me, I'm as shocked as anyone! Next week... well, either we're continuing down into 2020 or starting it proper, so let's pray for better. 

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