September 19, 2017

Max Continues to Avoid Album Reviews by Commenting On Selections From Billboard's Hot 100 Chart (Week Ending September 23, 2017)


As I continue to dance around the idea of sitting down with an album and writing about it objectively, track-by-track, as most of you two have been waiting for going on nearly two years now, instead I present my thoughts on selections from this week's Billboard Hot 100 music chart, which is supposed to provide readers with an idea of what pop radio sounds like these days, but, as usual, fails miserably, thanks to Billboard's own ridiculous metrics, which incorporate sales, radio airplay, streams, how often a given track is used as a meme, flavor, thread count, blood alcohol content, and/or how much Taylor Swift factors into the creation of said track, in order to determine its placement in its popularity contest disguised as a chart of measurement.

Enjoy! Because I definitely did not.


 

100. "NO FEAR" - DEJ LOAF
I'm only halfway familiar with DeJ Loaf as a Detroit rapper (she had that one song, "Try Me", which sounded really fucking stupid to me, but it was annoyingly kind of catchy and, therefore, a hit, right?), so this obvious attempt at Top 40 radio, on which she sort-of talk-sings instead of spitting over music custom-built for the next Kidz Bop compilation, was off-putting. This sounds like an audio approximation of her label, Columbia Records, demanding that she put out a single that appeals to a broader audience, or else her debut album Liberated won't drop on its proposed release date (whenever that is), and DeJ acquiescing halfheartedly. As a pop song, I've heard worse, but there's nothing that distinguishes "No Fear" from the myriad other love songs on the radio today. I was also surprised to learn that, apparently, DeJ Loaf still hasn't dropped a proper full-length debut: wasn't she gaining in popularity around the same time that I stopped posting on the blog two years ago?

94. "NEON GUTS" - LIL UZI VERT FEAT. PHARRELL WILLIAMS
Lil Uzi Vert has a bunch of songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, benefiting tremendously from Billboard's more recent decision to include streams into their algorithm; he's certainly not on here because the local radio station plays Vert songs nonstop. (I think I've only heard one actual Lil Uzi Vert song on the radio, which I'll get to later, but I also listen mostly to Sirius XM, which isn't indicative of what is popping in my area: for all I know, dude is the god of the airwaves and I just don't give enough of a fuck to care.) "Neon Guts", which is equated to a "colorful aura" during the hook even though that logic isn't exactly sound, is exactly the type of inoffensive meh-rap that the kids like these days, which is to say, it doesn't appeal to me, but who cares, right? Not everything created is for all audiences; not that I exclusively live in the 1990s boom-bap era, but this brand of hip hop isn't my jam. Pharrell "Nice P" Williams produces and also features, keeping himself relevant in his post-Neptunes era, which is a smart move on his part, even though I can't remember anything about his performance, and as for the music, well, I like The Neptunes, and this, my friends, is no Neptunes.

85. "LIGHT IT UP" - LUKE BRYAN
Aside from being the first actual modern country song I've ever written about for the blog, "Light It Up" is notable for the underlying music, which, at the very beginning, no bullshit, sounds like it could kick off a fairly decent-sounding trap song. And then Luke Bryan starts singing about unrequited love and sitting in his truck or whatever, and the unmistakable country twang sets in (albeit with far more guitar than usual), and we're back to one. Most modern country music doesn't do it for me: not for nothing are the usual stereotypes (singing about your truck, or your girl, or your dog, or drinking beer) referenced so often in popular culture, and there's only so many combinations one can come up with (although I would like to hear a song about how your drunken dog stole your truck one day). But this wasn't bad. I won't actively seek it out again: in fact, this will most likely be the first and only time I ever actually listen to "Light It Up". But, again, it wasn't bad. And at less than three minutes, it wasn't a huge investment, either.

77. "THESE HEAUX" - BHAD BHABIE
So Atlantic Records signed Danielle Bregoli, the "Cash Me Ousside" girl (whose very catchphrase sounds like cultural appropriation just by reading the fucking thing, and yet nobody on Jezebel or Buzzfeed got upset? Shocker!), after hearing "These Heaux", credited to her (fucking stupid) rap alias Bhad Bhabie? Nothing surprises me anymore (her record deal extended her fifteen minutes of fame almost instantaneously, putting her back into the 24-hour news cycle alongside whatever stupid bullshit Trump is currently up to in an effort to draw attention from the fact that he's an unqualified white supremacist, sexist piece of shit who secured the presidency with Russia's illegal tactics, and you know I'm right, motherfuckers), but it's clear that she wasn't signed because of any innate musical talent. She's also only fourteen years old: although she could, theoretically, hone her craft over the years and possibly evolve into an artist worth paying attention to, I strongly doubt hip hop was the endgame for her, as opposed to a way to make a quick buck by co-opting racial stereotypes and the sound of today. But hey, maybe she'll prove me wrong. Until then, I will say that "These Heaux" (admittedly a funny way to spell "hos") is quite awful, but Bregoli sounds more convincing with her bullshit spitting than Iggy Azalea ever did. Yeah, I said it. Come at me.

70. "EVERYBODY DIES IN THEIR NIGHTMARES" - XXXTENTACION
XXXTentacion is another rapper with multiple chart entries benefiting from the new Billboard guidelines; "Everybody Dies In Their Nightmares" (what a pretentious goddamn title) is less than two minutes long and would never be released as a proper single, but when one counts streams in their overall numbers, well, here we are. This sounds more like an interlude than anything else (the "chorus" is repeated almost as many times as you could imagine, given the short run time), but incomplete thoughts can still count as songs these days. This one isn't for me, either, but it's not because of the rhymes: I'll admit that XXXTentacion (I hate typing that name) has some skill with the pen. But his backstory makes me uncomfortable, and it should do the same for you, too: anyone accused of beating and falsely imprisoning their then-pregnant girlfriend should not be celebrated for any reason. I can't even cite that cocksucker Chris Brown as precedent here, because XXXTentacion gained in popularity after these charges came up, and he's somehow capitalizing on them, and his label is complicit in allowing this to happen. Hip hop has historically been shitty to women, and that's a problem that won't go away overnight, but giving a platform to (alleged) pieces of shit like XXXTentacion only pushes the movement further back. Fuck this guy. Yeah, I said it. Come at me.

62. "NEW RULES" - DUA LIPA
Another popular UK act attempting to cross the pond, Dua Lipa isn't bad, but "New Rules", with its near-indecipherable chorus pitched to a dog's frequency so that you can't manage the words, most likely won't be what does it for her. It's perfectly bland and accessible pop music, disposable to a fault, and will most likely appear in the montage sequence of a romantic comedy (but not on its soundtrack, as it will be too "old" by the time this happens) where the protagonist, a female who's trying to juggle a successful career with a love life but keeps dropping both with hilarious results, decides to switch up her tactics and focus on just herself, forcing the love interest (some male actor, likely from a semi-popular broadcast television program, of the same race, because American film studios still can't really handle interracial couples or same-sex partners) to prove that he is truly into her for who she is and not because of any presumed spark they may have shared during their meet-cute, which invariably happened in a bar of some sort. Anyway, this song sucked, but boringly so.

55. "SWISH SWISH" - KATY PERRY FEAT. NICKI MINAJ
Poorly-conceived music video aside, "Swish Swish", Katy Perry's Taylor Swift dis track where she never names names because subliminals are the new orange, is a halfway-decent song that will most likely sound better in gay clubs than on the radio, thanks to the house-inspired beat that kicks in during the hook, on which Perry manages to sneak the word "bitch" onto pop radio airwaves multiple times by slurring it, Kendrick Lamar-style, as "bish", so expect to hear your daughters saying "bish" and then claiming they didn't do anything wrong, ladies and gentlemen. I do wonder if Nicki's participation (which I can barely remember, and also, when was the last time she dropped a solo song that was remotely popular?) stirred up any drama in the Young Money camp, as her thirsty labelmate Drake is on very friendly terms with Taylor, but honestly, I don't care enough to continue this para

53. "ROLL IN PEACE" - KODAK BLACK FEAT. XXXTENTACION
Kodak Black also has a history of allegedly physically and sexually assaulting women. I'm just saying.

43. "MASK OFF" - FUTURE
I was surprised to find "Mask Off" still on the Billboard chart: since it dropped in the first quarter of 2017, I assumed the kids would have since moved on. I firmly believe that Future's drugged flow is one of the instigating factors in hip hop sounding so goddamn terrible these days (not for nothing has the rapper Desiigner forged a career by sounding exactly like Future), but musically, I've never had much of an issue with the man: his ear for beats isn't bad. The flute sample that plays throughout the Metro Boomin and Southside-produced "Mask Off" sounds kind of perfect, and the former Dungeon Family affiliate (I'm still not over this fact) flows over it well enough. However, Future is now considered an "old man" by trap music standards, so "Mask Off" may signify the end of the "popular artist" phase of his career. I hope he's investing his money wisely, is what I'm saying.

31. "I GET THE BAG" - GUCCI MANE FEAT. MIGOS
Gucci Mane has been on quite the prolific tear ever since he was released from prison, and to be honest, I can't be mad at that: I've never given a fuck about his musical output, but his positive attitude is contagious. (He also has a line on here that I found hilarious: "I do what I want 'cause I'm signed to me" (italics mine).) Rap trio Migos is all over the Billboard chart this week, or at least member Quavo is, clocking in guest appearances alongside names as varied as DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Post Malone, Chance the Rapper, and even Liam Payne of One Direction. But despite their gaining popularity, they tend to sound truly comfortable only when alongside fellow trap acts, and as such, "I Get The Bag" is okay, I guess. It evaporated instantly from my brain, aside from the one bar I mentioned earlier, but if one were to put together a Spotify playlist of "Inoffensive Trap Music That Could Play In the Background and Propel You to Thoroughly Clean Your House or Apartment, "I Get The Bag" would have a firm place on it. Probably.

29. "I'M THE ONE" - DJ KHALED FEAT. JUSTIN BIEBER, QUAVO, CHANCE THE RAPPER, & LIL WAYNE
Full disclosure: I had never heard a single note of "I'm The One" before today's post. I'm just that good at avoiding popular culture when I want to: that's why I've still never watched a single episode of Game of Thrones. (It's all about Rick and Morty these days, anyway.) "I'm The One" is another absurd collaboration formed by the super-optimistic, hard-working brain of DJ Khaled (who ostensibly helped with the production, which would be more than he typically contributes to his own shit, aside from his ad-libs), featuring what reads like a poorly-thought-out mash-up on paper: Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne, and oh hey, there's Quavo again, told you he's all over this week's chart, all band together to rap about... oh, who gives a shit. Part of the fun to be had with a DJ Khaled album (if there is any, but that's a debate for another time) is hearing how these ridiculous posse cuts pan out, hoping that Khaled stumbled upon greatness by mixing up the ingredients. "I'm The One", already a huge hit, bored the shit out of me, though, but I'm not its target audience: while I appreciate that it gave Chano a mainstream platform, I'm possibly the only hip hop blogger and/or music critic that finds Chance the Rapper to be super fucking dull behind the mic, and none of his shit has ever appealed to me. It's possible to wish someone well with their career while never giving a fuck about their musical output: Chance is one of those people for me. Although with the amount of good press he has received, what with his charitable donations, his recently-announced awards ceremony for educators across the country, and everything else he does that exudes positivity, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I just hope he doesn't pull a Jared.

28. "REDBONE" - CHILDISH GAMBINO
The rap name "Childish Gambino", conceived by an online Wu-Tang name generator, must be a strange burden for Emmy-award winning actor/writer/director/producer/rapper/singer Donald Glover to bear these days; I'm sure he wishes he were able to release "Redbone", a smooth-sounding R&B jam that, while good, doesn't rank quite as highly as his other, more rap-like work for me, under another moniker, or even maybe his own given name. But I kind of dig this shit, and I've liked Glover's work with Derrick Comedy, on 30 Rock, Community (obviously), and his current gig, Atlanta, actually is a very good show that deserves all of the accolades it's received, so maybe I was conditioned to not hate this track from the jump. Oh well.

25. "SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS" - THE CHAINSMOKERS & COLDPLAY
Coldplay's transition into the kind of no-name act whose lyrics you can barely understand as their shit plays at an EDM festival happened so gradually that I didn't even notice until I realized that "Something Just Like This" was intentionally created as a club song. Weird. Also, fuck The Chainsmokers. Those guys are the worst.

24. "CONGRATULATIONS" - POST MALONE FEAT. QUAVO
Post Malone's "career" puzzles me, as his shtick is so interchangeable with everyone else on the radio that he comes across as hip hop muzak. Oh hey, there's Quavo again. Dude must have an excellent manager.

21. "HUMBLE." - KENDRICK LAMAR
I like "DNA." better. That's all you two get for now.

19. "XO TOUR LLIF3" - LIL UZI VERT
This is the only "song" of Vert's that I had heard on the radio, but that doesn't mean that I remotely remembered shit about it until today. Even the "all my friends are dead" line repeated throughout didn't leave that much of an impression. I mean, this wasn't terrible, and I guess I can see why the kids like this one? But I'm old, so it doesn't matter. Vert hasn't been accused of violence of any sort against women, though, so the young thinkpiecers should feel comfortable supporting the dude.

18. "FEEL IT STILL" - PORTUGAL. THE MAN
Seemingly custom-built for advertising campaigns, it's no surprise that "Feel It Still" hit as big as it did. Produced by John Hill (who's apparently worked with a lot of acts I like, such as Empire Of The Sun, Phantogram, Santigold, M.I.A. Florence + The Machine, and, interestingly enough, Devo, among many others) and Asa Taccone (of Electric Guest and being the brother of The Lonely Island's Jorma Taccone fame), "Feel It Still", um, still sounds catchy today, if a bit inconsequential. But hey, it helped move iPads, so.

12. "BANK ACCOUNT" - 21 SAVAGE
Mr. Amber Rose is yet another "popular" (relatively speaking" artist whose career saw a significant boost after Drake noticed that he was a thing that existed. (See also: Migos.) Drake doesn't have super-great taste, though. Remember when Kanye West put Paul Wall on Late Registration's "Drive Slow"? Yeah, that.

11. "RAKE IT UP" - YO GOTTI FEAT. NICKI MINAJ
Again, I ask: when was the last time Nicki released a successful solo song? Maybe she doesn't have to, since she can live comfortably off of inane cameos such as the one on "Rake It Up", which seems to have gained in popularity despite how insipid and sexist it is. There's a better way to create a "strip club anthem", as this is referred to, and Nicki's verse isn't exactly empowering. She does, however, at least make an attempt at trying (aside from the first few bars, all of which end on words with an "-ina" sound, which makes her sound lazy): Yo Gotti, whose song this ostensibly is, seems to just be here for the free beer and pickles, because nobody gives a fuck about his performance on "Rake It Up". Hell, I'm pretty sure most people online think of this as a Nicki song anyway, which for her is questionable branding, but a testament to her PR skills.

9. "UNFORGETTABLE" - FRENCH MONTANA FEAT. SWAE LEE
Bad Boy really should push the far-superior "Bring Dem Thangs", French Montana's Harry Fraud-produced collaboration with Pharrell "Nice P" Williams, as the next single from Jungle Rules, as that song is fucking great. "Unforgettable", which features Swae Lee of duo Rae Sremmurd as though anyone gives a damn about those guys separately, is merely passable, not-unpleasant music that helps time move by in four-minute increments. But it keeps Sean "Puffy" Combs in shiny suits, so.

8. "BELIEVER" - IMAGINE DRAGONS
Still making songs to be played during pivotal action sequences in the trailers of Michael Bay and Christopher Nolan movies, I see.

5. "1-800-273-8255" - LOGIC FEAT. ALESSIA CARA & KHALID
Mental illness is no laughing matter, and I think that the fact that Logic titled this song after the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is pretty goddamn great, as the stigma that causes people to be afraid to seek help needs to be abolished once and for all. So for that alone, I'm happy that this song is as huge a hit as is is. Oh, you wanted me to talk about the actual content? Sure thing, boss: this track was boring as fuck. The production was sleep-inducing, and the lyrics could be misinterpreted as making fun of those who may be contemplating suicide by diminishing their feelings and thoughts (Logic wisely turns this around as the song progresses, but still). It's well-intentioned, anyway.

2. "BODAK YELLOW (MONEY MOVES)" - CARDI B.
Cardi B. has the number one rap song in the country with a generic-sounding trap beat, a flow which openly apes that of Kodak Black (hence the ridiculous non-parenthetical portion of the song's title), and lyrics that sound like she learned them phonetically two minutes before she was pushed into the booth. I have nothing against Cardi B.: hip hop needs more female representation, and she can do whatever the fuck she wants. But "Bodak Yellow" isn't a very good song: aside from the line referencing Freek Nasty's "Da Dip", which made me laugh out loud, nothing about "Bodak Yellow" seems engineered for longevity. Even Cardi seems aware of this, as two of her follow-up tracks to this were remixes of "Bodak Yellow", thereby extending her own fifteen minutes of fame. It is what it is.

1. "LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO" - TAYLOR SWIFT
In which Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and Katy Perry, among others, inspire professional high school mean-girl Taylor Swift to record and release an objectively terrible song that attempts to attack all of them and fails. Her fans ate this shit up immediately, but Swift, who has written some pretty good songs in the past, can absolutely do better. And so it goes.

-Max

8 comments:

  1. Damn, fair play for sitting through so much rubbish and then writing about it... you've just confirmed to me why I don't listen to the radio!

    Slight curve ball with the country song... is this where we find that after two years waiting the first album review will be by a country artist?

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    1. Oh, definitely not. That one song was enough for me to last a while.

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  2. DAMN review confirmed?

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    1. I don't wish to speculate at this time.

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  3. totally agree on how shite all these tracks are, the only difference being I'll never actually hear them. My handy 'post-2000 hip hop wackness predictor' gizmo is 100% accurate, over 97.8% of the time.

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  4. The Chainsmokers are horrific. They are super popular right now in college for parties and the like, and nothing makes me want to drink more quickly (in a bad, sad way).

    XXX is horrible, and I also find his music boring as hell. Same with (most) of Kodak's stuff.

    Lil Uzi Vert's popularity is also puzzling to me, but what do I know.

    This has been a really poor year for hip hop, though this Friday will see two releases I'm excited for: G Herbo and Rapsody. Hopefully at least one of those is pretty good.

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  5. Billboard Hot 100 isn't a true representation of what music people really like. It's just a chart to show what's popular at that specific time.

    There are a lot of hip-hop albums that'll never make it on the Billboard Hot 100 and I like those albums a lot because those are representative of what's really music, not this junk chart that was relevant long ago.

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  6. I did enjoy! I wouldn't have in your position though...

    incidentally, it's testament to your writing quality that reading your non-rap song reviews are as entertaining as always. good work friend

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