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!
Best Song: “How They Remember You,” 9/10
Worst Song: “Wine, Beer, Whiskey,” 2/10
- Niko Moon, “GOOD TIME” (recurrent)
- Cody Johnson & Reba McEntire, “Dear Rodeo” (recurrent)
- HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” (down to #51)
- 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)
- Luke Combs, “Forever After All” (up from #28 to #25)
Bubbling Under 50:
- HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” (6/10)
- Ryan Hurd & Maren Morris, “Chasing After You”
- Caitlin Smith ft. Old Dominion, “I Can’t” (5/10)
- Riley Green, “If It Wasn’t For Trucks” (4/10)
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.