The Current Pulse Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: August 17, 2020

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!

Song Score
1. Maddie & Tae, “Die From A Broken Heart” +2 (7/10)
2. Chris Janson, “Done” 0 (5/10)
3. Justin Moore, “Why We Drink” -1 (4/10)
4. Florida Georgia Line, “I Love My Country” -3 (2/10)
5. Thomas Rhett ft. Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott, Keith Urban and Chris Tomlin, “Be A Light” +1 (6/10)
6. Kane Brown, “Cool Again” -1 (4/10)
7. Luke Combs, “Lovin’ On You” +2 (7/10)
8. Keith Urban, “God Whispered Your Name” 0 (5/10)
9. Tim McGraw, “I Called Mama” +4 (9/10)
10. Lee Brice, “One Of Them Girls” -1 (4/10)
11. Jason Aldean, “Got What I Got” +2 (7/10)
12. Ashley McBryde, “One Night Standards” +5 (10/10)
13. Jameson Rodgers, “Some Girls” 0 (5/10)
14. Matt Stell, “Everywhere But On” 0 (5/10)
15. Chase Rice, “Lonely If You Are” -2 (3/10)
16. LoCash, “One Big Country Song” 0 (5/10)
17. Parker McCollum, “Pretty Heart” -1 (4/10)
18. HARDY ft. Lauren Alaina & Devin Dawson, “One Beer” -1 (4/10)
19. Kip Moore, “She’s Mine” +1 (6/10)
20. Blake Shelton ft. Gwen Stefani, “Happy Anywhere” +1 (6/10)
21. Jon Pardi, “Ain’t Always The Cowboy” 0 (5/10)
22. Brad Paisley, “No I In Beer” 0 (5/10)
23. Russell Dickerson, “Love You Like I Used To” 0 (5/10)
24. Morgan Wallen, “More Than My Hometown” -1 (4/10)
25. Lady A, “Champagne Night” 0 (5/10)
26. Midland, “Cheatin’ Songs” +4 (9/10)
27. Dan + Shay, “I Should Probably Go To Bed” 0 (5/10)
28. Chris Lane, “Big, Big Plans” +1 (6/10)
29. Kenny Chesney, “Happy Does” 0 (5/10)
30. Dustin Lynch, “Momma’s House” -1 (4/10)
31. Eric Church, “Stick That In Your Country Song” +5 (10/10)
32. Lauren Alaina, “Getting Good” +2 (7/10)
33. Rascal Flatts, “How They Remember You” +4 (9/10)
34. Niko Moon, “GOOD TIME” -1 (4/10)
35. Tenille Arts, “Somebody Like That” +2 (7/10)
36. Brett Eldredge, “Gabrielle” 0 (5/10)
37. Dylan Scott, “Nobody” 0 (5/10)
38. Kelsea Ballerini, “Hole In The Bottle” +2 (7/10)
39. Brothers Osborne, “All Night” -1 (4/10)
40. Jon Langston, “Now You Know” -2 (3/10)
41. Jordan Davis, “Almost Maybes” +1 (6/10)
42. Maren Morris, “To Hell & Back” +2 (7/10)
43. Brett Young, “Lady” +1 (6/10)
44. Parmalee ft. Blanco Brown, “Just The Way” 0 (5/10)
45. Runaway June, “We Were Rich” +2 (7/10)
46. Darius Rucker, “Beers And Sunshine” 0 (5/10)
47. Brantley Gilbert, “Hard Days” 0 (5/10)
48. Gabby Barrett, “The Good Ones” 0 (5/10)
49. Jimmie Allen & Noah Cyrus, “This Is Us” 0 (5/10)
50. Zac Brown Band, “The Man Who Loves You The Most” +1 (6/10)
Present Pulse (#1—#25) +11
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +18
Overall Pulse +29
Change From Last Week
-2 😦

Best Song: “Stick That In Your Country Song,” 10/10
Worst Song: “I Love My Country,” 2/10

Gone:

  • Miranda Lambert, “Bluebird” (recurrent)
  • Old Dominion, “Some People Do” (recurrent)

Leaving:

  • 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)

Is Thanos:

  • 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!

One thought on “The Current Pulse Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: August 17, 2020

  1. I’m fully convinced that if radio programmers had the leeway they had even a year or so ago, songs like “Be A Light” would be trending much more than they are now. I also believe that as playlists condense, we will start to see only a core group of artists being constantly pushed to radio, and we’ll start to see artists being replaced like songs on the charts (Tim McGraw’s only a few years from going “recurrent” himself and being replaced by a total manufactured assembly-line “artist” like Rayne Johnson.) In addition, lousy, cheap single choices that have struggled to make any sort of impact for that reason will begin to see more chart airplay (think “Lonely If You Are,” “Front Seat,” “The Other Girl,” “Downtown’s Dead” and Thomas Rhett’s toxic “Vacation”) because the local programmers won’t be there to block them out. Take my word for it…even though the sound of country now is in more of a traditional phase, by 2023-25 it will sound like 2015 on steroids. Luke Bryan will be viewed as “classic country.” Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, even Carrie Underwood will be put out to pasture and the metro-bros will be shoved down peoples’ throats as the only big superstars. Luke Combs may be pushing this off a little bit, but it’ll happen, and when it does the genre will be sentenced to death, at least as far as radio is concerned. Funny how much the delocalization of radio has contributed to the degrading quality of music….in all genres. The FCC drastically loosened ownership rules in 1996, just a few years later Mainstream Rock was almost a complete thing of the past, being replaced on rock radio by more edgy, young-skewing alternative, and on pop radio by manufactured boy bands, EDM, more teen idols, and hip-hop (don’t get me wrong, there were lots of exceptional, talented acts in that era – Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, etc. – but I’m talking about overall). All of a sudden, pop radio nearly became as generic, cheap, and paint-by-the-numbers as it was in the early 1960’s before some 4 guys from the UK came overseas. Bob Pittman is probably the poster child for the lack of quality in our music – he founded MTV (I love 80’s pop/rock, but it set the standard for putting image over quality) and now leads iHeart Media, where he’s demolishing radio in plain sight. Only cares about the bottom line. And nothing else.

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