Editors’ note: Each week in this space, chart-watcher Robert Myers will offer his reactions to all the new entries on the Hot 100, Billboard‘s big board for popular songs.
The late-summer doldrums continue in the world of Hot 100 debuts with two less-than-stunning rap records that won’t be on the chart next week, an attempted comeback (its release timed, no doubt, to take advantage of the lack of competition), and a country debut that will probably outperform them all in the long run.
No. 80: 2 Chainz featuring Lil Wayne, “Yuck!”
The beat isn’t bad despite its melodramatic flourishes, and 2 Chainz can be funny even if he isn’t the greatest rapper you’ve ever heard. But the reason “Yuck!” made the chart is Lil Wayne, and he’s never sounded worse. I wouldn’t call Wayne lazy, but if there’s another explanation for his lackluster verse being repeated instead of him coming up with something new, it’s probably sadder than I care to think about. Worst of all, his attitude toward women, which went in a promising new direction on the empathic “How To Love,” is turning back toward misogyny. A few years ago Wayne was bragging, almost full time, about his skills at oral sex and his desire to give his partner pleasure. On French Montana’s “Pop That” he employs a sexual simile so disgusting I’m determined to never repeat it, and on “Yuck” the title comes from his reaction to a woman telling him she’s having her period. He needs a long, non-Federally-mandated vacation, and the sooner the better.
No. 92: Lupe Fiasco, “Lamborghini Angels”
Whatever Fiasco’s weaknesses as a rapper, he has a true mastery over words, an ability to create vivid images and stretch metaphors to the breaking point and then pull them back again. In the last verse of “Lamborghini Angels,” he switches points of view between five different characters in three different scenarios, and though the effect is disorienting at first, he gets his ideas across. The problem is the ideas themselves. The chorus presents an image of unbridled consumerism and the corruption of wealth, but the stories told in the verses have nothing to do with that, even if Fiasco thinks they do. The mutilation and debasement of corpses on the battlefield is as old as war itself, and the sexual molestation of the young by those in authority and the philandering of politicians have almost as deep a pedigree. But they’re part of the permanent dark side of human nature, not the result of the pursuit of wealth or glamoru. And does Fiasco actually believe that exorcism was devised to keep down minorities and lobotomies were developed as a weapon against feminism? I half-suspect that Fiasco has been carried away by his own talent, that his verbal acuity has led him to embrace ideas without thinking them through simply because they make for powerful verses. Either that or he’s been reading too many of the wrong books.
Knowing Fiasco’s history of mercurial changes in belief and attitude, this song may be the result of a phase. But it’s going to be damn hard to live down, if he even tries.
No. 95: Brandy featuring Chris Brown, “Put It Down”
With producers Sean Garrett and Bangladesh running her vocals through any number of filters and textures, Brandy comes across like a one-woman version of Destiny’s Child, and Chris Brown is rendered all but unrecognizable (though the role of cougar hunter is hardly an improvement on his usual persona). In other words, the real star of this record is the production, especially the sub-cellar synthesizer blurts that anchor the track. Despite the fact that Brandy has a supple and lovely voice and Brown raps better than most people would like to admit, these two could be replaced by almost anybody and “Put It Down” would still work.
No. 99: Florida Georgia Line, “Cruise”
There are too many things wrong with “Cruise” to count, but it isn’t without its charms. The strained, tough guy-wannabe vocals, with their hokey, carefully scripted interjections; the standard muddy back road, pickup truck fetishism; the moment when everything stops so the guy can pick up his guitar and serenade his latest sweetheart—it all seems designed to drive anyone who already dislikes country music (and maybe a few people who don’t) crazy. But these guys believe in every sentimental cliché, and they’re young enough for their romantic innocence to shine through. Once that shine wears off they may turn into Rascal Flatts, but for now I’m willing to cut them some slack.