The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: September 9, 2018

Several years ago, Josh Schott started a weekly feature on the now-defunct Country Perspective blog that asked a simple question: Based on Billboard’s country airplay charts, just how good (or bad) is country radio at this very moment? In the spirit of the original feature, I decided to try my hand at evaluating the state of the radio myself.

The methodology is as follows: Each song that appears is assigned a score based on its review score. 0/10 songs get the minimum score (-5), 10/10 songs get the maximum (+5), and so on. The result (which can range from +250 to -250) gives you an idea of where things stand on the radio.

This week’s official numbers are from Mediabase’s weekly chart publication. Without further ado, let’s crunch some numbers!

Song Score
1. Luke Bryan, “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” (5/10)
2. Old Dominion, “Hotel Key” +1 (6/10)
3. Thomas Rhett, “Life Changes” +2 (7/10)
4. Dylan Scott, “Hooked” 0 (5/10)
5. Russell Dickerson, “Blue Tacoma” 0 (5/10)
6. Jason Aldean ft. Miranda Lambert, “Drowns The Whiskey” +2 (7/10)
7. Florida Georgia Line, “Simple” +2 (7/10)
8. Cole Swindell, “Break Up In The End” +3 (8/10)
9. Chris Young, “Hangin’ On” 0 (5/10)
10. Chris Janson, “Drunk Girl” +5 (10/10)
11. Garth Brooks, “All Day Long” +3 (8/10)
12. Maren Morris, “Rich” -1 (4/10)
13. Luke Combs, “She Got The Best Of Me” +2 (7/10)
14. Eric Church, “Desperate Man” +1 (6/10)
15. Carly Pearce, “Hide The Wine” 0 (5/10)
16. Kane Brown, “Lose It” +1 (6/10)
17. Sugarland ft. Taylor Swift, “Babe” 0 (5/10)
18. Mitchell Tenpenny, “Drunk Me” 0 (5/10)
19. LANco, “Born To Love You” +1 (6/10)
20. Jimmie Allen, “Best Shot” +2 (7/10)
21. Kip Moore, “Last Shot” -2 (3/10)
22. Blake Shelton, “Turnin’ Me On” -1 (4/10)
23. Dierks Bentley ft. Brothers Osborne, “Burning Man” +3 (8/10)
24. Kelsea Ballerini, “I Hate Love Songs” +2 (7/10)
25. Midland, “Burn Out” +5 (10/10)
26. Chris Stapleton, “Millionaire” 0 (5/10)
27. Jordan Davis, “Take It From Me” -2 (3/10)
28. Riley Green, “There Was This Girl” +1 (6/10)
29. Dustin Lynch, “Good Girl” 0 (5/10)
30. Carrie Underwood, “Cry Pretty” (5/10)
31. Tyler Rich, “The Difference” 0 (5/10)
32. Dan + Shay, “Speechless” 0 (5/10)
33. Travis Denning, “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs” 0 (5/10)
34. Scotty McCreery, “This Is It” +1 (6/10)
35. Craig Campbell, “See You Try” -1 (4/10)
36. Jake Owen, “Down To The Honkytonk” -1 (4/10)
37. Granger Smith, “You’re In It” 0 (5/10)
38. Aaron Watson, “Run Wild Horses” +4 (9/10)
39. Michael Ray, “One That Got Away” -4 (1/10)
40. Rodney Atkins ft. The Fisk Jubilee Singers, “Caught Up In The Country” -3 (2/10)
41. Kenny Chesney ft. Mindy Smith, “Better Boat” +2 (7/10)
42. Jon Pardi, “Night Shift” 0 (5/10)
43. Brett Eldredge, “Love Someone” 0 (5/10)
44. Eli Young Band, “Love Ain’t” -1 (4/10)
45. Danielle Bradbery ft. Thomas Rhett, “Goodbye Summer” (5/10)
46. Carlton Anderson, “Drop Everything” -2 (3/10)
47. Cody Johnson, “On My Way To You” +1 (6/10)
48. Brandon Lay, “Yada Yada Yada” -1 (4/10)
49. Chase Rice, “Eyes On You” 0 (5/10)
50. Darius Rucker ft. Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Charles Kelley, “Straight To Hell” (5/10)
Present Pulse (#1—#25) +31
Future Pulse (#26—#50) -6
Overall Pulse +25
Change From Last Week +4 🙂

Best Song (tie): “Drunk Girl” and “Burn Out,” 10/10
Worst Song: “One That Got Away,” 1/10
Mode Score: 0 (19 songs)


  • Morgan Evans, “Kiss Somebody” (recurrent)
  • Chris Lane ft. Tori Kelly, “Take Back Home Girl” (recurrent)


  • Thomas Rhett, “Life Changes” (down from #1 to #3
  • Jason Aldean ft. Miranda Lambert, “Drowns The Whiskey” (down from #3 to #6)
  • Carrie Underwood, “Cry Pretty” (down from #24 to #30)

In Real Trouble:

  • Craig Campbell, “See You Try” (holds at #35, but hasn’t gained more than 200 points in a week since the Pulse restarted six weeks ago)
  • Rodney Atkins ft. The Fisk Jubilee Singers, “Caught Up In The Country” (up from #41 to #40, but only gained seven spins this week)

In Some Trouble:

  • Tyler Rich, “The Difference” (up from #33 to #31, but it’s starting to age, it gained less than 100 points this week, and it’s got Dan + Shay breathing down its neck)
  • Travis Denning, “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs” (up from #34 to #33 and regained its bullet, but it gained fewer points than Rich did, has already been passed by Dan + Shay, and both McCreery and Owen are poised to leave it in the dust)
  • Brandon Lay, “Yada Yada Yada” (holds at #48, gained less than 100 points, passed by Johnson, Rice is hot on its heels, and it continues to flounder at the bottom of the “future” chart)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Luke Combs, “She Got The Best Of Me” (has jumped ten spots in the last two weeks, and sits at #13 after only nine weeks)
  • Kenny Chesney, “Better Boat” (up from #53 to #41)
  • Michael Ray, “The One Who Got Away” (up from #45 to #39)
  • Danielle Bradbery ft. Thomas Rhett, “Goodbye Summer” (up from #57 to #47)
  • Chase Rice, “Eyes On You” (up from #55 to #49)
  • Riley Green, “There Was This Girl” (up from #32 to #28)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

Overall Thoughts: Hey, the Pulse went up for a change!

If there was ever a time to listen to the radio, this is it: Most of the really good stuff has now cracked the Top 25, and some of it is about to follow Brett Young into recurrence. Things settled down this week after some turbulent times on the charts, but there are still a few interesting storylines to watch:

  • This week’s battle for No. 1 should be interesting. Dylan Scott had already declared that this would be a max-spin week for “Hooked,” but this week’s Country Aircheck featured Luke Bryan’s team saying “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” was “#1 and still going strong,” implying that they’re not ready to give up the top spot just yet. (The daily Mediabase charts seem to corroborate this, as Bryan’s weekly spin count as of Tuesday was only 118 spins off of his Sunday total.) Old Dominion, for their part, is only asking stations to “power up” this week, implying that they want no part of Bryan right now and are preparing to wait him out. My gut feeling is that Scott is too far behind in spins to catch Bryan should the latter decide to stick around for an extra week, but a split #1 week (Bryan on Billboard, Scott on Mediabase) is also a possibility.
  • I’m not sure what to make of Eric Church’s “Desperate Man” right now. His performance last week mirrors Matt Stafford’s from Monday night: gaining less than 100 spins and 200 points, falling from #12 to #14, and getting passed by Morris and the force of nature that is Combs. Still, being inside the Top 15 after less than 10 weeks on the chart is a remarkable achievement, so while I think the warning lights are starting to blink, it’s too early to panic.
  • There are a lot of new songs racing up the chart right now (Combs, Church, Shelton, Bentley, Dan + Shay), but they’re all from established artists with long track records…except for Riley Green, with “There Was This Girl” inside the Top 30 after only seven weeks. I liked Green’s track more than a lot of the other new no-name singers I’ve listened to recently, but I’m at a loss to explain why he’s succeeding while others like Rich, Denning, Anderson, and Lay are struggling. (I know Green’s got Big Machine muscle behind him, but so does Rich, and he’s on the edge of the Top 30 after almost twenty weeks.) I’m not complaining, mind you; I’m just curious.
  • I sense we’re going to see some turbulence at the bottom of the charts very soon. Campbell and Atkins’s are really struggling and I expect their labels to pull on the plug on them sooner rather than later. The vultures are starting to circle around Denning, Smith, and Watson as well, and while Rich might have enough juice left to start riding the escalator upwards, Anderson and Lay definitely do not. With some strong contenders arriving soon (Urban’s “Never Comin’ Down,” Brett Young’s “Here Tonight,” Rhett’s “Sixteen,” and hopefully Wammack’s “Damage”), I suspect the lower portion of the chart will be getting a thorough flushing in a couple of weeks.

So what do you think? Are the numbers better or worse than you expected? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!