The Billboard Top 10 is always a pretty mixed bag. This time last year, our nation was deep in its Chainsmokers addiction and known abuser Kodak Black had scored a No. 6 hit with “Tunnel Vision.” But this time in 2016, Rihanna’s “Work” was a number one single. Those were simpler times, before any of us knew what a 6ix9ine was.
Today, though, the Top 10 strikes me as particularly bleak. Sure, the number one song “God’s Plan” — an uninspired but largely unoffensive song bolstered by a tear-jerking music video — could be worse. And yes, the Top 10 is graced by Cardi B and BlocBoy JB in two dance party-ready tunes. But, aside from the snoozer that is “Psycho” by Post Baloney and the waning days of Camilla Cabello’s “Havana,” the continued presence of two unbelievably wack artists makes me want to throw the whole chart out and start over.
First off is “controversial” rapper XXXtentacion, whose mealy-mouthed single “Sad!” leapt into the Top 10 last week. Even in the midst of a national reckoning with abusers in power, so many people are willing to lift up this artist over all of the other non-abusers out there making way better music. Of course, whether you see the song’s position on the chart as bleak depends on your stance in the ever-raging debate on whether it’s “ok” to listen to and thereby financially support an artist who is a known abuser. On this issue, I’d humbly suggest that the answer is as simple as: What song is worth the toll of knowingly supporting someone who beat, threatened, and harassed his partner? But hey, maybe I’m an elitist for that.
Musically, if not ideologically worse, is “Freaky Friday” by Lil Dicky and Chris Brown, which moves up to No. 8 this week. In “Freaky Friday” we have the marriage of one dude who’s continuously applauded and uplifted despite his abusive history, and one dude who’s continuously applauded and uplifted despite trafficking anti-black nonsense. “Freaky Friday” is a song about a white guy, Lil Dicky, who switches bodies with a famous black guy, Chris Brown, and gets to enjoy all the supposed privileges that come along with that — namely, saying the word “nigga” openly several times and enjoying Brown’s wealth and “dream dick.” Meanwhile, Brown brags about finally being able to escape his “controversial past” now that he’s in the body of a nerdy white guy. It’s racial harmony sold by two unfunny, clueless narcissists — just a total nightmare.
Beautiful albums come out every week. 2018 has already brought us gems like Cupcakke’s Ephorize, Shannon and the Clams’s Onion, Frankie Cosmos’s Vessel and a slew of great singles from Bbymutha, David Byrne, Tyler the Creator, and countless others. Of course, taste is rarely followed by popularity, but Billboard’s incorporation of streaming metrics into its charts make it easier for trollish singles by grinning shitheads to break into the Top 10, lending those artists a veneer of respectability. XXXtentacion and Lil Dicky have their outsider popularity validated by the system, which allows them to become more firmly entrenched. It’s a vicious circle that climaxes with “Grammy-winning artist Lil Dicky,” which is when we’ll really live in hell. But hey, maybe Rihanna will release a new album soon, and knock them all out.