The Week In Pop

If You Think “Hot Girl Bummer” Is Bad, Just Wait Till You Hear blackbear’s Other Songs

It’s physics: For every “Hot Girl Summer” there is an equal and opposite “Hot Girl Bummer.” I don’t make the rules. Take it up with Isaac Newton or God or the Young Money Records roster circa 2010.

A decade ago YMCMB label-mates Nicki Minaj and Drake were setting off shockwaves that continue to this day. Nicki’s street-smart lyrical prowess, cartoonish energy, and body-positive feminism were so influential to our current generation of ascendant female rap stars that Megan Thee Stallion thought it only right to include the Queen on her meme-become-anthem “Hot Girl Summer” last year. At the same time Nicki was popping off, her fellow Lil Wayne protégé Aubrey Graham was developing a parallel rapper-singer hybrid that would inform the approach of an entire sadboy generation. We’re many mutations down the line by now, but without Drake, there would certainly be no blackbear, the 29-year-old Floridian currently enjoying a breakout moment thanks to the aforementioned “Hot Girl Bummer.”

Women’s empowered self-love and men’s myopic self-pity have been two of mainstream pop’s defining trends in recent years. The tropes have flourished in opposition to each other as power dynamics have come to overshadow romance and the traditional love song has all but gone extinct. So of course a celebratory hit called “Hot Girl Summer” would be followed by a song called “Hot Girl Bummer.” It’s science.

Already blackbear’s biggest hit to date, “Hot Girl Bummer” has climbed to #23 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It will likely go up a few more spots when the full Hot 100 is released tomorrow. (“Hot Girl Summer” notably topped out at #11.) The blackbear song’s rise has been steady since August. The original “low budget music video” now has 30 million views, so he followed it three months later with a “big budget music video,” now racking up play counts in the millions as well. “Hot Girl Bummer” has now been climbing the Hot 100 for 21 weeks.

The undeniably catchy hook repurposes Guillermo Díaz’s job-quitting Half Baked energy for some post-breakup catharsis: “Fuck you, and you, and you/ I hate your friends and they hate me too.” Blackbear’s conversational rap-sung vocals are backed by extremely on-trend production: steadily strummed barebones power chords, a minimal trap beat, ominously surging synths. There are lyrics about vomiting in Birkin bags and pulling up with “a emo chick that’s broken,” which blackbear unpacked in a painful Genius annotation: “I’m pulling up with that cool, sad girl. It’s like a vibe now. It’s cool to give off that vibe, like, I’m mysterious, but I’m like suicidal or something.”

Once upon a time, the artist born Mat Musto dropped out of high school to pursue a career in the music industry. A few years after moving to Atlanta for his big break working with Ne-Yo, he cowrote Justin Bieber’s 2012 smash “Boyfriend” alongside Mike Posner, with whom he later formed the rap duo Mansionz. Around the same time he switched his focus from unlistenable indie-folk to uninspired alt-R&B and spent the rest of the decade chasing trends, first as an independent SoundCloud-based artist and then from the dark recesses of the major-label system.

At Vice, critic Drew Millard called blackbear’s Interscope debut, 2017’s digital druglord, “the worst album I have ever heard,” dismissing its creative bankruptcy like so: “His only three influences appear to be early Weeknd, mid-period Weeknd, and the most recent work from the Weeknd.” Yet digital druglord netted blackbear his first Hot 100 hit, the #40-peaking “Do Re Mi,” an act of Abel Tesfaye worship as simplistic as its title suggests. Our man Musto has since moved into the vacuum left behind by the late SoundCloud rap stars Juice WRLD, XXXTentacion, and (especially) Lil Peep, that wave of depressive party-monster rap that sounds more like pop with rock guitars. He’s opening for Halsey on tour, and his music shares more than a little DNA with Manic’s minimalist post-genre soup.

Except Halsey is a truly fascinating force within the modern pop scene, whereas blackbear is a vacuous biter who makes Halsey’s ex G-Eazy sound sophisticated by comparison. ANONYMOUS, the album blackbear released last spring, is catchy and competently produced throughout, but it overflows with faux-profundities. “What am I gonna do the day that my drug dealer moves away?” he laments on the heartfelt tribute “Drug Dealer,” noting, “You drive a Prius and you have an Uber sign, you must drive Uber on the side/ I never really got that deep to ask about you personally.” A ballad titled “BURNT AF” begins, “I woke up at 7 a.m. to the Mars Volta/ The songs you’ve been playing remind me we’ve grown older.”

I certainly feel like a geezer when I consider the prospect of some kid somewhere lapping up new blackbear songs like characters in blackbear songs lap up pills. The latest, “Me & Ur Ghost,” finds him singing in a lightweight tenor reminiscent of “i hate u, i love u” one-hit wonder gnash and rapping like former collaborator Machine Gun Kelly. Over production that turns coffeehouse folk-pop into squelching Top 40 synth-pop, he attempts to erase the remains of a romance gone sour. “Tell me what I’m s’posed to do with all these pictures on my iPhone,” blackbear raps. “Even all them videos only you and I know.” This is a relatable observation, but when I temporarily mistook it for depth, I had to consider the possibility that listening to a bunch of blackbear music for this column actively made me dumber. Bummer.

CREDIT: Thaddaeus McAdams / Filmmagic

CHART WATCH

Hi. This is your captain Scott filling in for Chris DeVille, who is on vacation. Did you know I also ghostwrite the News In Brief section of this column? I’m a pophead when I’m not listening to Nechochwen/Panopticon. You’re in good hands.

This week’s Top 10 songs are the same as last week’s, just with a couple of minor swaps. Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” leads the Hot 100 for a fifth straight week, making this the first song with a squeaky windshield wiper impression to top the charts for five weeks. Behind “The Box” for the fourth week is Future and Drake’s “Life Is Good” at #2. Post Malone’s “Circles” lands at #3 and Maroon 5’s “Memories” remains at #4. “Dance Monkey” by Australian sensation Tones And I hits a new peak at #5, and per Billboard, it’s the first top five hit written solely by a woman in eight years. The back half of the Top 10 belongs to Lewis Capaldi (“Someone You Loved”), Arizona Zervas (“Roxanne,” rising one spot to #7), Dan + Shay + Bieber (“10,000 Hours”), Dua Lipa (“Don’t Start Now”), and someone named Billie Eilish (“Everything I Wanted”) at #10.

The Billboard 200 albums chart is much more dynamic this week, with five debuts. Lil Wayne’s occasionally great Funeral, which Stereogum’s Tom Breihan wrote about here, is the country’s new #1 album, having earned 139,000 equivalent album units. It’s Wayne’s fifth chart-topper, sales of which were bolstered by ticket and merch bundles. Roddy Ricch​’s Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial drops to #2, and Eminem’s Music To Be Murdered By drops to #3. Russ’ Shake The Snow bows at #4 and Posty’s Hollywood’s Bleeding remains at #5. That’s five rap albums in the top five slots, though Billboard points out that happened as recently as last January. The ubiquitous Billie Eilish​ is in 6th place with When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? followed by Kesha’s High Road, Halsey’s Manic, and Louis Tomlinson’s semi-Cool Britannia debut Walls at 7-9. (Walls gives Arista it’s first new Top 10 album in nine years.) Rounding out this week’s top 10 is Yo Gotti’s Untrapped.

This column may fully be on vacation next week. If not, I’ll see you back here. Here’s Chris again with a previously-filed look at this week’s new tracks…

POP FIVE

Carly Rae Jepsen – “Let’s Be Friends”
On first pass this is better than every song on Dedicated. Not only is it a lot of fun, it somehow puts a new spin on the ’80s pastiche that powered E•MO•TION.

Pussycat Dolls – “React”
I am not the kind of pop fan who knows the names of the non-Nicole Scherzinger Pussycat Dolls, so this reunion means nothing to me. Song is OK, though.

Justin Bieber – “Intentions” (Feat. Quavo)
This is my favorite Changes song so far. Percolating computerized R&B is an extremely pleasing context for Bieber’s voice.

Niall Horan – “No Judgement”
The guitar work and Niall’s charming performance in the video seal this one as a W.

Sean Paul & Tove Lo – “Calling On Me”
You: Why would Sean Paul and Tove Lo basically remake “Cheap Thrills”? Me: Why would they not?!

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • In the latest episode of his YouTube series, Justin Bieber spoke about how serious his drug use got: “I was waking up in the morning and the first thing I was doing is popping pills and smoking a blunt and starting my day.” [BBC]
  • Bieber’s Changes will feature Travis Scott, Post Malone, Quavo, and others. [Complex]
  • Taylor Swift is leaving Sony/ATV (home of her publishing rights since she was 14) for Universal. [Taylor Swift]
  • Rihanna will receive the President’s Award at the 51st NAACP Image Awards later this month. [BET]
  • Demi Lovato will host a talk show for Quibi. [THR]
  • The Format, the ’00s indie-pop act that featured future fun. singer Nate Ruess, announced some reunion shows. [MTV]
  • Finneas performed on Fallon. [YouTube]
  • Chance The Rapper, Bad Bunny, and Quavo will be among the players at this weekend’s NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. [Instagram]
  • Niall Horan’s new album, Heartbreak Weather, is out 3/13. [Idolator]
  • A Florida Georgia Line remix of Justin Bieber’s “Yummy” is coming. [Instagram]
  • Sam Smith’s new single, “To Die For,” is out Friday. It reportedly opens with a Donnie Darko sample. [Instagram]
  • Kacey Musgraves’ “Slow Burn” is now available as a candle. [Instagram]

HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME

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