The Current Pulse Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: March 29, 2021

Several years ago, Josh Schott started a weekly feature on the 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. Brett Young, “Lady” +1 (6/10)
2. Thomas Rhett, “What’s Your Country Song” 0 (5/10)
3. Florida Georgia Line, “Long Live” -2 (3/10)
4. Gabby Barrett, “The Good Ones” 0 (5/10)
5. Parmalee ft. Blanco Brown, “Just The Way” 0 (5/10)
6. Dustin Lynch, “Momma’s House” -1 (4/10)
7. Chris Stapleton, “Starting Over” 0 (5/10)
8. Tenille Arts, “Somebody Like That” +2 (7/10)
9. Jake Owen, “Made For You” 0 (5/10)
10. Rascal Flatts, “How They Remember You” +4 (9/10)
11. Dylan Scott, “Nobody” 0 (5/10)
12. Sam Hunt, “Breaking Up With Easy In The 90s” 0 (5/10)
13. Eric Church, “Hell Of A View” 0 (5/10)
14. Jordan Davis, “Almost Maybes” +1 (6/10)
15. Dierks Bentley, “Gone” 0 (5/10)
16. Miranda Lambert, “Settling Down” +1 (6/10)
17. Keith Urban and Pink, “One Too Many” 0 (5/10)
18. Blake Shelton, “Minimum Wage” 0 (5/10)
19. Tim McGraw & Tyler Hubbard, “Undivided” +1 (6/10)
20. Jason Aldean, “Blame It On You” +1 (6/10)
21. Chris Young & Kane Brown, “Famous Friends” -2 (3/10)
22. Cole Swindell, “Single Saturday Night” 0 (5/10)
23. Dan + Shay, “Glad You Exist” -1 (4/10)
24. Carly Pearce, “Next Girl” 0 (5/10)
25. Luke Combs, “Forever After All” 0 (5/10)
26. Brothers Osborne, “All Night” -1 (4/10)
27. Brantley Gilbert, “Hard Days” 0 (5/10)
28. Justin Moore, “We Didn’t Have Much” +2 (7/10)
29. Lainey Wilson, “Things A Man Oughta Know” +2 (7/10)
30. Elvie Shane, “My Boy” +2 (7/10)
31. Chase Rice ft. Florida Georgia Line, “Drinkin’ Beer. Talkin’ God. Amen.” -1 (4/10)
32. Little Big Town, “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” -3 (2/10)
33. Scotty McCreery, “You Time” 0 (5/10)
34. Kane Brown, “Worship You” -1 (4/10)
35. Lee Brice, “Memory I Don’t Mess With” -1 (4/10)
36. Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood, “Shallow” +1 (6/10)
37. Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You” 0 (5/10)
38. Jimmie Allen & Brad Paisley, “Freedom Was A Highway” 0 (5/10)
39. Michael Ray, “Whiskey And Rain” 0 (5/10)
40. Jameson Rodgers ft. Luke Combs, “Cold Beer Calling My Name” 0 (5/10)
41. Lady A, “Like A Lady” 0 (5/10)
42. Kenny Chesney, “Knowing You” 0 (5/10)
43. LoCash, “Beers To Catch Up On” -1 (4/10)
44. Jon Pardi, “Tequila Little Time” -1 (4/10)
45. Ingrid Andress, “Lady Like” +2 (7/10)
46. Chris Janson, “Waitin’ On 5” 0 (5/10)
47. Russell Dickerson, “Home Sweet” +1 (6/10)
48. Teddy Robb, “Heaven On Dirt” 0 (5/10)
49. Lauren Alaina & Jon Pardi, “Getting Over Him” 0 (5/10)
50. Clay Walker, “Need A Bar Sometimes” 0 (5/10)
Present Pulse (#1—#25) +5
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +2
Overall Pulse +7
Change From Last Week
0

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

Gone:

  • Niko Moon, “GOOD TIME” (recurrent)
  • Cody Johnson & Reba McEntire, “Dear Rodeo” (recurrent)
  • HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” (down to #51)

Leaving:

  • Thomas Rhett, “What’s Your Country Song” (down from #1 to #2)
  • Parmalee ft. Blanco Brown, “Just The Way” (down from #3 to #5)
  • Brothers Osborne, “All Night” (down from #22 to #26)

In Real Trouble:

  • Chris Stapleton, “Starting Over” (down from #6 to #7, lost spins and gained only 174 points, and just appears to be out of gas)
  • Scotty McCreery, “You Time” (up from #35 to #33, but gained only forty-one spins and forty-nine points)
  • Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood, “Shallow” (holds at #36, but loses its bullet)
  • LoCash, “Beers To Catch Up On” (holds at #43, but gained only twenty-two spins and seventy-four points)
  • Jon Pardi, “Tequila Little Time” (down from #42 to #44, gained only twenty-four spins and twenty-three points)
  • Chris Janson, “Waitin’ On 5” (down from #45 to #46, gained only nine spins and eighty points)
  • Russell Dickerson, “Home Sweet” (down from #44 to #47, lost spins and gained only six points)
  • Teddy Robb, “Heaven On Dirt” (down from #46 to #48, gained only twenty-four spins and seventy-seven points)

In Some Trouble:

  • Tim McGraw & Tyler Hubbard, “Undivided” (down from #18 to #19, gained only twenty-four spins and thirty-five points)
  • Brantley Gilbert, “Hard Days” (holds at #27, but lost spins and gained only thirty-six points)
  • Kane Brown, “Worship You” (holds at #34, but gained only six spins and twelve points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Kenny Chesney, “Knowing You” (up from #53 to #42)
  • Lady A, “Like A Lady” (up from #48 to #41)

Is Thanos:

  • Luke Combs, “Forever After All” (up from #28 to #25)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

  • Travis Denning, “ABBY”

Overall Thoughts: This week is mostly a continuation of trends we’ve already pointed out: Little chart movement above #40 with lots of movement below it, massive gains for established artists (where the heck did Owen find 2000+ points lying around?) and minimal gains for everyone else, and a whole lot of flotsam still clogging up the charts. This week, I’d like to take a closer look at a few specific tracks:

  • “Lady,” Brett Young: This makes Young 7-for-7 in getting singles to #1, which makes me wonder what this means for Young’s position in genre history: Is this a predictor for all-time greatness? Frankly, no—I would argue it says more about how watered-down the “#1” distinction is these days, and perhaps how watered-down it’s always been. (Thanos went 7-7 with his first seven singles too, and no one would argue that Young is anywhere near his level of stardom.) With rankings this open to manipulation and any of them allowing you to claim the “#1 hit” title, “#1 single” doesn’t always mean “hit,” and while Young has had some legitimately huge songs (“In Case You Didn’t Know”), I have a feeling most of these original seven won’t stand the test of time.
  • Chris Stapleton, “Starting Over”: Anyone who’s ever reached X rank in Splatoon 2 and immediately gotten their head handed to them knows how Stapleton feels right now. “Starting Over” appears to be way over its head and has been stalled inside the Top 10 for nearly a month now, and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon (note how much bigger the point gains were for Arts and Owen just below Stapleton). A #1 in still a possibility, but Mercury’s going to have to bring their promotional A game to make it happen.
  • Tim McGraw & Tyler Hubbard, “Undivided”: These two really misread the moment: They went all-in on a plea for unity, and discovered that no one is in the mood to compromise, whether in Washington or in the rest of the nation. We remain an angry, bitter, polarized nation, which means that they’re really isn’t an audience for a song like this, and hence it seems to have stalled just above #20.
  • Brothers Osborne, “All Night”: I declared back in February that “if these losses grow and [“All Night”] quickly goes recurrent, it would not be a good look for country music.” Fast forward two months later, and the song appears to officially be on the way out, making zero headway after TJ Osborne came out as gay. Perhaps the song had already stalled out before the announcement, but it’s still not a good look for a genre that desperately wants to be seen as inclusive. (Meanwhile, Morgan Wallen continues to move a ton of albums while acts like Chapel Hart and Mickey Guyton still can’t find any radio traction.) Country music is many things, but moments like this remind us that “inclusive” isn’t one of them.
  • Lainey Wilson, “Things A Man Oughta Know”: Hey, a rare success story! Wilson certainly benefited from her selection as the next ‘On The Verge’ artist, but I did not expect her to explode like this (from #53 on March 1st to #29 as of today’s rolling chart), which makes me think two things:
    • This song could be an actual hit, unlike some of the rotating #1 songs we’ve seen recently like “Lady.”
    • Exactly how many artists are out there who would be doing the same thing is they were able to get an OTV-like push? With the charts being so stale lately, I would love to see PDs and stations take some more chances on below-the-radar talent, because a little exposure could end up going a long way.

April looks like a pretty quiet month for releases so far (only Hurd/Morris, Dennig, and the new Kelsea Ballerini/Kenny Chesney single look like they’ll be joining the charts in the short-term), so we may be waiting a while for the full seasonal airplay rotation to kick in.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus continues to remind us that it isn’t going anywhere for a while: New case reports are back on the upswing, which usually means hospitalization and death increases aren’t far behind it (our current death toll sits at nearly 551,000). With newer, nastier variants of the virus taking the country by storm, we need to hang on tight and keep doing the right things (wearing masks, avoiding crowds, getting vaccinated ASAP) to avoid another deadly surge. As tired as we all are of being stuck at home for the past year, now isn’t the time to let up—if we can push the virus numbers down and the vaccination numbers up, a more-normal summer is well within our grasp.

4 thoughts on “The Current Pulse Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: March 29, 2021

  1. You’re completely right that “#1 song” doesn’t mean “hit.” Manipulation by record labels has been going on for YEARS, but it seems to be getting worse and worse by the year, especially with the level of radio homogenization that exists across the country. iHeart Media and Townsquare Media both have stations that are fully on national music logs, meaning that the exact same music is being spun at the exact same time of day on dozens of stations that report to Mediabase and Billboard. Other major radio companies like Audacy (formerly Entercom), Cumulus, and Beasley have company-wide syndicated shows during certain parts of the day, each using nationally-programmed music. And, of course, you have the big syndicated shows like Bobby Bones, Cody Alan, The Lia Show, and Big D & Bubba that air across multiple companies. Another technique for some stations is overnight manipulation, where a record is spun either hourly or every 2 hours from roughly 10pm through 5am, and only sporadically throughout the day. Some examples of titles from recent memory that went #1 almost solely due to these 2 tactics – “In Between,” “Look What God Gave Her,” “I Called Mama,” “I Love My Country,” “Good Time,” “Catch,” “What She Wants Tonight,” “Love Someone,” “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” Zac Brown’s final “hit” in “Beautiful Drug,” and Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled.” Artists like Russell Dickerson, Dylan Scott, Kelsea Ballerini, Jake Owen, (sadly) Justin Moore, and of course Brett Young live off these tactics. Not surprisingly, none of those titles are very good songs in my book. It’s a damn shame, because you have lots of program directors that will keep those songs in rotation years later solely because they look at the charts and see that they were #1 hits. The difference between a good program director and a bad one is being able to look beyond the numbers to really determine what’s a hit and what’s not. And oftentimes, the songs that last longer are the ones that DON’T get the massive artificial pushes to #1 because they didn’t get beaten to death as much as currents. For example, songs like “Burning Man,” “Night Shift,” and Brothers Osborne’s “It Ain’t My Fault” were not #1 hits but still get plenty of airplay. Going back some years, the same can be said for Little Big Town’s “Boondocks,” Miranda Lambert’s “Kerosene,” “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy),” and even “Fancy” and “Independence Day” were only minor hits in their chart runs but became those artists’ signature songs. It’s interesting to see how this all works.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great write-up as always, Kyle, and good for you for calling out country music’s lack of inclusivity. It’s not like it’s a secret, but I know some in the industry tend to get very defensive if you bring it up. Also, I wish more people were still taking the advice about measures to prevent that spread of COVID that you’ve mentioned at the end of this article and every Pulse article for what feels like forever now. If we could all just hang on for a little longer, there probably would be much less need for any social distancing measures by summer…

    Like

  3. I agree with everything you said about “Undivided”. It’s a song that I doubt anyone was asking for at the moment, and I myself tend to turn the channel whenever it comes on. The only reason it’s gotten as far as it has is because of who sings it.

    Like

    1. Agreed. Tim McGraw can make anything at least tolerable, but the song has gotten crusty and stale very fast.

      Like

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