Several years ago, Josh Schott started a weekly feature on the now-reborn 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 numbers are from the latest version of Country Aircheck, but I’m going to link to their archives since I never remember to update this from week to week. Without further ado, let’s crunch some numbers!
Best Song: “One Night Standards,” 10/10
Worst Song: “I Love My Country,” 2/10
Mode Score: 0 (16 songs)
- Jake Owen, “Homemade” (recurrent)
- Jason Aldean, “We Back” (recurrent)
- Riley Green, “I Wish Grandpas Never Died” (recurrent)
- Kelsea Ballerini, “Homecoming Queen?” (recurrent)
- Jordan Davis, “Slow Dance In A Parking Lot” (down from #1 to #7)
- Luke Bryan, “What She Wants Tonight” (down from #8 to #14
- Maren Morris, “The Bones” (down from #10 to #11, but back up to #10 on the rolling chart despite losing its bullet)
In Real Trouble:
- Gone West, “What Could’ve Been” (holds at #28, but loses spins and gains only seventy points)
- Jon Lansgton, “Now You Know” (up from #35 to #34, but loses its bullet with a 100+ point loss)
- Billy Currington, “Details” (down from #34 to #35, loses its bullet with a 200+ point loss)
In Some Trouble:
- Michael Ray, “Her World Or Mine” (down from #21 to #22, gained only sixty-eight spins and 153 points, and seems to be much weaker than its immediate competition)
- Rayne Johnson, “Front Seat” (up from #39 to #37, but gained only ten spins and lost points)
- Lauren Alaina, “Getting Good” (up from #42 to #39, but gained only eight spins and lost points)
- Eli Young Band, “Break It In” (up from #45 to #43, but gained only one spin and lost points)
In No Trouble At All:
- Thomas Rhett ft. Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott, Keith Urban, and Chris Tomlin, “Be A Light” (up from #36 to #30)
- Matt Stell, “Everywhere But On” (up from #38 to #33)
- Florida Georgia Line, “I Love My Country” (up from #30 to #26)
- Luke Combs ft. Eric Church, “Does To Me” (up from #12 to #9)
Bubbling Under 50:
- Luke Bryan, “One Margarita” (5/10)
- Little Big Town, “Over Drinking” (7/10)
- Brantley Gilbert, “Fire’t Up” (4/10)
On The Way:
Overall Thoughts: I’m hearing a lot about COVID-19 exacerbating the existing inequalities in our society right now, and I’m seeing a bizarre parallel on the Mediabase charts.
You would think that after dropping four songs from the charts and watching Davis and Bryan leak spins like a broken pipe, there would be at least some modicum of equity on the charts, with spins getting distributed and and down the escalator. Surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to be the case: Only Stell and Pardi broke the 100-spin-gain mark below #30, and this is countered somewhat by the weakness of Gone West at #28 (as good as that song is, it’s been flatlining for a while). If a song doesn’t have the clout and the label support to get out of the starting blocks fast (see FGL’s “I Love My Country” or Rhett et al.’s “Be A Light”), it seems like it’s condemned to a life in bottom-25 purgatory. I’m getting a distinct sense that radio programmers are looking for something right now that they’re not getting, and they seem to be looking to the recent past to fill the void (both in term of the artists that are soaring and the sounds they’re riding on). Given what we put up with in the 2010s, I’d say the current trend is towards a crossover sound rather than a traditionalist revival.
Does any of this matter in a world where 28,000 Americans have now been killed by the coronavirus? Not really, but given the downward trend of the Pulse recently, I’m not sure the radio is going to look any better than the rest of society when we finally emerge from lockdown.
So what do you think? Are the numbers better or worse than you expected? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!