The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: December 2, 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. Kane Brown, “Lose It” +1 (6/10)
2. Jimmie Allen, “Best Shot” +2 (7/10)
3. Luke Combs, “She Got The Best Of Me” +2 (7/10)
4. Dan + Shay, “Speechless” 0 (5/10)
5. Mitchell Tenpenny, “Drunk Me” 0 (5/10)
6. Kip Moore, “Last Shot” -2 (3/10)
7. Dustin Lynch, “Good Girl” 0 (5/10)
8. Dierks Bentley ft. Brothers Osborne, “Burning Man” +3 (8/10)
9. Thomas Rhett, “Sixteen” +2 (7/10)
10. Maren Morris, “Rich” -1 (4/10)
11. Blake Shelton, “Turnin’ Me On” -1 (4/10)
12. Scotty McCreery, “This Is It” +1 (6/10)
13. Jason Aldean, “Girl Like You” (5/10)
14. Eric Church, “Desperate Man” +1 (6/10)
15. Chris Stapleton, “Millionaire” 0 (5/10)
16. Midland, “Burn Out” +5 (10/10)
17. Jordan Davis, “Take It From Me” -2 (3/10)
18. Luke Bryan, “What Makes You Country” (5/10)
19. Riley Green, “There Was This Girl” +1 (6/10)
20. Jake Owen, “Down To The Honkytonk” -1 (4/10)
21. Tim McGraw, “Neon Church” 0 (5/10)
22. Michael Ray, “One That Got Away” -4 (1/10)
23. Jon Pardi, “Night Shift” 0 (5/10)
24. Keith Urban, “Never Comin’ Down” -2 (3/10)
25. Carrie Underwood, “Love Wins” +3 (8/10)
26. Kenny Chesney ft. Mindy Smith, “Better Boat” +2 (7/10)
27. Old Dominion, “Make It Sweet” (5/10)
28. Tyler Rich, “The Difference” 0 (5/10)
29. Cody Johnson, “On My Way To You” +1 (6/10)
30. Brett Young, “Here Tonight” +1 (6/10)
31. Eli Young Band, “Love Ain’t” -1 (4/10)
32. Chase Rice, “Eyes On You” 0 (5/10)
33. Travis Denning, “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs” 0 (5/10)
34. Granger Smith, “You’re In It” 0 (5/10)
35. Rodney Atkins ft. The Fisk Jubilee Singers, “Caught Up In The Country” -3 (2/10)
36. Brett Eldredge, “Love Someone” 0 (5/10)
37. Kelsea Ballerini, “Miss Me More” +4 (9/10)
38. Randy Houser ft. Hillary Lindsey, “What Whiskey Does” -1 (4/10)
39. LoCash, “Feels Like A Party” -2 (3/10)
40. Rascal Flatts, “Back To Life” +1 (6/10)
41. Morgan Wallen, “Whiskey Glasses” -1 (4/10)
42. Lee Brice, “Rumor” (5/10)
43. Maddie & Tae, “Friends Don’t” -1 (4/10)
44. Runaway June, “Buy My Own Drinks” +2 (7/10)
45. Florida Georgia Line, “Talk You Out Of It” -1 (4/10)
46. Brandon Lay, “Yada Yada Yada” -1 (4/10)
47. Luke Combs, “Beautiful Crazy” +1 (6/10)
48. Brad Paisley, “Bucked Off” +3 (8/10)
49. Morgan Evans, “Day Drunk” -1 (4/10)
50. Billy Currington, “Bring It On Over” -1 (4/10)
Present Pulse (#1—#25) +8
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +2
Overall Pulse +10
Change From Last Week +2 🙂

Best Song: “Burn Out,” 10/10
Worst Song: “One That Got Away,” 1/10
Mode Score: 0 (15 songs)

Gone:

  • Chris Young, “Hangin’ On” (recurrent)
  • Garth Brooks, “All Day Long (recurrent)
  • Carlton Anderson, “Drop Everything” (who cares as long as it’s gone)

Leaving:

  • Jimmie Allen, “Best Shot” (down from #1 to #2)
  • Maren Morris, “Rich” (down from #2 to #10)

Death Watch:

  • Kip Moore, “Last Shot” (up from #8 to #6, but after 44 weeks on the chart with some strong competition behind it, has it hit its ceiling?)
  • Tyler Rich, “The Difference” (holds at #28 and has a decent week for a change, but—say it with me now—it was passed by another song. After 30 weeks on the chart, it’s time to make like Queen Elsa and let it go)
  • Rodney Atkins ft. The Fisk Jubilee Singers, “Caught Up In The Country (up from #36 to #35 with yet another weak week of gaina. After thirty weeks on the chart, this needs to join “The Difference” on the scrap heap)

In Real Trouble:

  • Travis Denning, “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs” (holds at #33 after another awful week of gains)
  • Granger Smith, “You’re In It” (holds at #34 after a week that was only slightly better than Denning’s, and nowhere near good)
  • Maddie & Tae, “Friends Don’t” (up from #44 to #43 despite gaining only seven spins and less than 55 points this week)
  • Brandon Lay, “Yada Yada Yada” (up from #47 to #46 and barely regains its bullet, but gains only twelve spins and 26 points, and is about to get steamrolled by Combs and Paisley)

In Some Trouble:

  • Tim McGraw, “Neon Church” (up from #22 to #21 but gained only three spins and lost points this week, and has stagnated over the last month or so)
  • Kenny Chesney ft. Mindy Smith, “Better Boat” (down from #24 to #26, gains only eighteen spins and lost points this week, and has tire tracks from Pardi, Urban, and Underwood on its back)
  • Rascal Flatts, “Back To Life” (holds at #40 after gaining only 36 spins and less than 100 points this week)
  • Morgan Evans, “Day Drunk” (up from #50 to #49 but gained only 34 spins and lost points this week, and was passed by Combs and Paisley)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Luke Combs (the man has two songs in the Top 50, and “She Got The Best Of Me” went up from #4 to #3 this week and may never leave!)
  • Jason Aldean, “Girl Like You” (up from #18 to #13)
  • Dustin Lynch, “Good Girl” (up from #11 to #7)
  • Runaway June, “Buy My Own Drinks” (up from #48 to #44)
  • Florida Georgia Line, “Talk You Out Of It” (up from #49 to #45)
  • Brad Paisley, “Bucked Off” (up from #52 to #48)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

WTF:

  • Ed Sheeran, “Shape Of You” (appears at #98?)

Overall Thoughts: Welp, so much for my future in fortune-telling. Jimmie Allen did not hold the #1 slot, Chris Young stopped “Hangin’ On” and went recurrent, and Maren Morris lost her bid for the #1 crown to Kane Brown and is now sliding towards the exit herself. (For his part, with Allan and Combs fading and Dan + Shay at least two weeks away from #1, things look pretty good for Brown right now.)

While I do think Brown’s eventual exit will be slow like Allen’s and Combs’s, I see some a bit more action coming to the top of the charts next week: Morris will be gone, Church (who’s now calling for a max-spin week in Country Aircheck) will be on his way out, and a trio of strong contenders (Lynch, Bentley, and Rhett) are steaming towards the top. (Dan + Shay are a threat for a multi-week #1 as well, so I’m betting that Tenpenny and especially Moore don’t even get to sniff the top slot.) Throw in the wildcard that is the holiday music season, and things could get very interesting as 2018 draws to a close.

Farther down, there seems to be a surprising downward trend for older artists:

  • Garth Brooks went recurrent with “All Day Long,” and “Stronger Than Me” doesn’t sound very strong at all.
  • Blake Shelton got bounced from the Top 10, and despite a respectable week of gains, “Turnin’ It On” is suddenly the weakest-looking song (outside of Eric Church) in the top fifteen.
  • Tim McGraw seems to have hit a wall in the low twenties, and his spin/point numbers are starting to flatline.
  • Kenny Chesney not only lost points this week, but “Better Boat” got bowled over by three artists this week (Pardi, Urban, and Underwood), and Old Dominion almost made it four (they’ll pass him next week).
  • Rodney Atkins didn’t lose points this week, but “Caught Up In The Country” has had the look of a dead song walking for at least two months now.
  • Even Rascal Flatts had a surprisingly bad week compared to its immediate competition.

I’m rooting for Brad Paisley, but if his contemporaries are any guide, he’s in for some rough uphill sledding.

So where do things go from here? The charts tend to be less flexible at this time of the year compared to others, but there are still some leftovers from the fall rotation that are cycling out. After my poor round of predictions last week, I’m just going to kick back with some hot cocoa and see what transpires.

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