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: “Stick That In Your Country Song,” 10/10
Worst Song: “I Love My Country,” 2/10
- Miranda Lambert, “Bluebird” (recurrent)
- Old Dominion, “Some People Do” (recurrent)
- Chris Janson, “Done” (down from #1 to #2)
- LoCash, “One Big Country Song” (down from #8 to #16)
- Jon Langston, “Now You Know” (down from #34 to #40)
In Real Trouble:
- Keith Urban, “God Whispered Your Name” (down from #6 to #8, gained only twenty-four spins and eighty-four points)
- Brad Paisley, “No I In Beer” (down from #21 to #22, gained only fifteen spins and thirty-three points)
- Midland, “Cheatin’ Songs” (holds at #26, but gained only thirteen spins and fifty-nine points)
- Lauren Alaina, “Getting Good” (down from #31 to #32, gained only six spins and lost points)
- Brett Eldredge, “Gabrielle” (up from #40 to #36 despite gaining only nine spins and losing points
- Brett Young, “Lady” (up from #44 to #43, but lost its bullet)
- Runaway June, “We Were Rich” (up from #48 to #45, but barely regains its bullet by breaking even on spins and losing points)
In Some Trouble:
- Thomas Rhett et al., “Be A Light” (gained only sixty-one spins and 126 points, and doesn’t look like a real contender for #1)
- Rascal Flatts, “How They Remember You” (up from #35 to #33, but gained only eighteen spins and ninety-eight points)
- Kelsea Ballerini, “Hole In The Bottle” (up from #42 to #38, but gained only thirty-eight spins and sixty-six points)
- Jimmie Allen & Noah Cyrus, “This Is Us” (up from #50 to #49, but gained only one spin and lost points)
In No Trouble At All:
- Lee Brice, “One Of Them Girls” (up from #15 to #10)
- Dan + Shay, “I Should Probably Go To Bed” (up from #32 to #27)
- Luke Combs, “Lovin’ On You” (up from #9 to #7)
Bubbling Under 50:
Unreported by Country Aircheck again…
On The Way:
Overall Thoughts: It looks like the ice is finally breaking up on the charts, as the lack of a massive debut and the early exit of several mid-tier contenders (Old Dominion last week, Langston this week, and likely Midland, Alaina, and maybe even Paisley soon) meant there were spaces and spins available for folks near the bottom for a change (witness the number of songs in the 30s and 40s that leaped 4 spots this week). However, there are some new issues I’m starting to see now:
- The chart spin counts are surprisingly top-heavy, with two distinct groups near the top (the top 8 at 5593 spins and up, then the next six clustered around 4500). It’s yet another indication of the playlist-shortening we’ve been monitoring: With fewer spins available and national programs having so much clout, the top half of the charts are stratifying while the bottom half gets excluded.
- The Pulse itself is becoming very top-heavy: There are five songs rated +4 or higher, and the Pulse is a meager +7 without them. This indicates that the current score is more than a little inflated, and that the state of the airwaves is a lot weaker than you might think.
Even though the escalator appears to be moving again, I don’t see a ton of support on the horizon (upcoming releases by Mickey Guyton and Cody Johnson offer some hope, but I haven’t heard them yet), so I forsee a Pulse crash in the near future as Midland, McGraw and McBryde head into the twilight of their chart runs.
If the coronavirus were a song, it would likely be heading into the twilight of its run as well; unfortunately, it’s a global pandemic that has now claimed nearly 172,000 American lives, and although case numbers are mostly trending downward, the amount of community spread we’re seeing means that thing is not going to go quietly. As a follow-up to the higher education issue I mentioned last week, it seems that schools that didn’t heed the warnings against opening in-person are now learning the lesson the hard way, and are now reverting to online learning in the name of public safety. What we’re seeing right now is that if you can’t build a bubble around your organization like the NBA did, you’re not going to be able to conduct in-person business safely until the broader coronavirus spread is brought under control. (Speaking of the NBA, given its bubble success thus far and its partnership with Yale to help develop a “game changer” of a COVID-19 test, I’m starting to think Adam Silver may become a dark-horse challenger for the White House in a few months…)
So what do you think? Are the numbers better or worse than you expected? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!