The Current Pulse Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: November 9, 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. Russell Dickerson, “Love You Like I Used To” 0 (5/10)
2. Morgan Wallen, “More Than My Hometown” -1 (4/10)
3. Blake Shelton ft. Gwen Stefani, “Happy Anywhere” +1 (6/10)
4. HARDY ft. Lauren Alaina & Devin Dawson, “One Beer” -1 (4/10)
5. Chris Lane, “Big, Big Plans” +1 (6/10)
6. Matt Stell, “Everywhere But On” 0 (5/10)
7. Parker McCollum, “Pretty Heart” -1 (4/10)
8. Jon Pardi, “Ain’t Always The Cowboy” 0 (5/10)
9. Dan + Shay, “I Should Probably Go To Bed” 0 (5/10)
10. Jameson Rodgers, “Some Girls” 0 (5/10)
11. Kenny Chesney, “Happy Does” 0 (5/10)
12. Lady A, “Champagne Night” 0 (5/10)
13. Kelsea Ballerini, “Hole In The Bottle” +2 (7/10)
14. Darius Rucker, “Beers And Sunshine” 0 (5/10)
15. Luke Combs, “Better Together” +0 (5/10)
16. Chris Stapleton, “Starting Over” 0 (5/10)
17. Niko Moon, “GOOD TIME” -1 (4/10)
18. Rascal Flatts, “How They Remember You” +4 (9/10)
19. Dustin Lynch, “Momma’s House” -1 (4/10)
20. Florida Georgia Line, “Long Live” -2 (3/10)
21. Tenille Arts, “Somebody Like That” +2 (7/10)
22. Luke Bryan, “Down To One” 0 (5/10)
23. Jordan Davis, “Almost Maybes” +1 (6/10)
24. Brothers Osborne, “All Night” -1 (4/10)
25. Dylan Scott, “Nobody” 0 (5/10)
26. Morgan Wallen, “7 Summers” +1 (6/10)
27. Parmalee ft. Blanco Brown, “Just The Way” 0 (5/10)
28. Maren Morris, “To Hell & Back” +2 (7/10)
29. Gabby Barrett, “The Good Ones” 0 (5/10)
30. Keith Urban and Pink, “One Too Many” 0 (5/10)
31. Brett Young, “Lady” +1 (6/10)
32. Dierks Bentley, “Gone” 0 (5/10)
33. Sam Hunt, “Breaking Up With Easy In The 90s” 0 (5/10)
34. Taylor Swift, “Betty” +1 (6/10)
35. Brantley Gilbert, “Hard Days” 0 (5/10)
36. Runaway June, “We Were Rich” +2 (7/10)
37. Little Big Town, “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” -3 (2/10)
38. Jake Owen, “Made For You” 0 (5/10)
39. Miranda Lambert, “Settling Down” +1 (6/10)
40. Jimmie Allen & Noah Cyrus, “This Is Us” 0 (5/10)
41. Lee Brice, “Memory I Don’t Mess With” 0 (5/10)*
42. Carly Pearce, “Next Girl” 0 (5/10)
43. Cole Swindell, “Single Saturday Night” 0 (5/10)
44. Robert Counts, “What Do I Know” -3 (2/10)
45. Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You” 0 (5/10)
46. Caroline Jones, “All Of The Boys” 0 (5/10)
47. Brett Eldredge, “Gabrielle” 0 (5/10)
48. Old Dominion, “Never Be Sorry” 0 (5/10)
49. Kane Brown, “Worship You” -1 (4/10)
50. Justin Moore, “We Didn’t Have Much” +2 (7/10)*
Present Pulse (#1—#25) +7
Future Pulse (#26—#50) 0
Overall Pulse +7
Change From Last Week
-2 😦

*Preliminary Grade
Best Song: “How They Remember You,” 9/10
Worst Song: “Wine, Beer, Whiskey,” 2/10

Gone:

  • Jason Aldean, “Got What I Got” (recurrent)
  • Kip Moore, “She’s Mine” (recurrent)
  • Michael Ray, “Whiskey And Rain” (drops below #50)

Leaving:

  • Matt Stell, “Everywhere But On” (down from #1 to #6)
  • Jameson Rodgers, “Some Girls” (down from #6 to #10)
  • Brett Eldredge, “Gabrielle” (down from #37 to #47)

In Real Trouble:

  • Taylor Swift, “Betty” (holds at #34, but lost spins and gained only thirty-six points)
  • Jimmie Allen & Noah Cyrus, “This Is Us” (up from #42 to #40, but gained only sixty-three spins and 170 points)
  • Cole Swindell, “Single Saturday Night” (up from #44 to #43, but gained only fifty-three spins and 216 points)
  • Robert Counts, “What Do I Know” (down from #43 to #44, lost its bullet again)
  • Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You” (up from #46 to #45, but gained only fifty-eight spins and 166 points)

In Some Trouble:

  • Dylan Scott, “Nobody” (holds at #25, but gained only fifty-five spins and 139 points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Lee Brice, “Memory I Don’t Mess With” (up from #78 to #41)
  • Dierks Bentley, “Gone” (up from #45 to #32)
  • Luke Bryan, “Down To One” (up from #28 to #22)
  • Parmalee ft. Blanco Brown, “Just The Way” (up from #31 to #27)

Is Thanos:

  • Luke Combs, “Better Together” (up from #20 to #15)

Bubbling Under 50:

  • Nothing reported due to a plethora of upcoming album releases.

On The Way:

  • Thomas Rhett, “What’s Your Country Song”

Overall Thoughts: As far as the week itself, there isn’t a whole lot to discuss. Spins remained fairly plentiful even for those at the bottom of the chart, and the have/have-not divide continued to grow (see: Bentley’s massive rebound, Bryan and Thanos’s continuing to leap up the charts).

What’s more interesting, however, is the new trend that appears to be brewing in the genre right now. I don’t have a catchy name for it yet like I did with the Cobronavirus movement, so for now I’m referring to it as a “comfort food” movement, with country music reaching back to its past to cover for a listless present:

  • Well-known, established artists are earning prime playlist placement almost instantly, while newer, lesser-known, or fading stars have to fight for every spot on the charts.
  • Classic country instruments are starting to pop up again (even the fiddle is making some cameos), but only in small doses, as if tracks have to meet some minimum standard before they can be allowed onto the chart.
  • The common song themes are not exactly nostalgic, but they’re awfully familiar, starting with the wave of interchangeable lost-love tracks that have been hitting the charts recently. Other noticeable themes including rose-tinted descriptions of childhood (“We Were Rich,” “We Didn’t Have Much”) and Rhett’s upcoming song-title throwback track (frankly, Clint Black did it better with the difficulty settings set higher).

Given the generic, mass-produced feel I get from a lot of these songs, I’m not a huge fan on this movement, and while they are more serious and less tone-deaf overall, they also still don’t reflect the moment we’re going through terribly well. By reaching into the past like this, these tracks appear to be leaning on the “normalcy” of the pre-pandemic past to create an illusion that listeners can bury their heads in amidst the darkness of the present. It’s been said that current country music tries to sell a lifestyle to its audience, and right now that lifestyle is less beer and trucks and more “hey, remember all the things we used to think about?”

Unfortunately, the reason we’re not thinking about all that anymore is still here, and it’s giving us a hard lesson in exponential growth:

 

Welp, Donald Trump got his wish – he’s turned the nation red. (Image from WCAX)

Coronavirus case numbers are exploding in America now: We’re averaging over 100,000 new diagnoses a day, and the death count now stands just shy of 240,000. The election of Joe Biden as the 46th president has renewed peoples’ hope that our government will finally take this pandemic seriously, but it’s a long way from here to January 20th, and when the outbreak is this widespread, it’s going to take a looooooong time to get it under control, no matter who’s running the show. This winter is going to be the most painful and miserable of our lifetimes, and hundred of thousands of people won’t make it to see next spring.

With the holidays just around the corner, I’d like to encourage everyone to put their family gatherings on hold this year, and stay safe by staying home. I know that sharing turkey and opening gifts over Zoom won’t be the same, but putting those traditions on hold in 2020 gives us all a better chance of being around to restart those traditions in 2021.

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