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
- Brothers Osborne, “All Night” (recurrent)
- Clay Walker, “Need A Bar Sometimes” (down to #51)
- Brett Young, “Lady” (down from #1 to #2)
- Thomas Rhett, “What’s Your Country Song” (down from #2 to #3)
In Real Trouble:
- Chris Stapleton, “Starting Over” (holds at #7, but is still much weaker than its competition)
- Scotty McCreery, “You Time” (up from #33 to #32, but gained only thirty-one spins and 114 poInts)
- Kane Brown, “Worship You” (up from #34 to #33, but gained only twenty-six spins and seventy-eight points)
- Teddy Robb, “Heaven On Dirt” (up from #48 to #47, but lost its bullet)
In Some Trouble:
- Little Big Town, “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” (up from #32 to #31, but gained only twenty spins and eighty-five points)
- Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You” (up from #37 to #36, but gained only thirty-three spins and forty-nine points)
- Michael Ray, “Whiskey And Rain” (down from #39 to #40, gained only twelve spins and eighty-two points)
- HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” (up from #51 to #50, but gained only twenty-two spins and eighty-seven points)
In No Trouble At All:
- Russell Dickerson, “Home Sweet” (up from #47 to #43
- Luke Combs, “Forever After All” (up from #25 to #20)
Bubbling Under 50:
- Clay Walker, “Need A Bar Sometimes” (5/10)
- Riley Green, “If It Wasn’t For Trucks” (4/10)
- Caitlin Smith ft. Old Dominion, “I Can’t” (5/10)
- Larry Fleet, “Where I Find God”
On The Way:
- Kelsea Ballerini ft. Kenny Chesney, “Half Of My Hometown” (6/10)
- Luke Bryan, “Waves”
Overall Thoughts: This was an interesting week defined by two phenomena:
- The deflation of Rhett & Brett Young’s recent chart-toppers released a bunch of spins back into the wild (Parmalee & Brown, not so much), and while the upper half of the chart certainly grabbed their share of the spoils (Owen got nearly 500 extra plays, Barrett got nearly 600), the spin division was a hair more equitable this time around, with nearly everyone on the chart reporting triple-digit point gains. Bryan will likely hit the airwaves like a tidal wave next week and put the breaks on this trend quickly, but with the summer approaching, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a sign of radio stations beginning to (ever-so-slightly) expand their playlists. Only time will tell.
- The spin losses didn’t really translate in spot losses, however, which meant that the escalator ground to a halt this week, with Brothers Osborne’s recurrence accounting for most of the miniscule gains we saw. Rhett and Brett Young will likely disappear soon, but with Bryan looking for a big splash and Ballerini/Chesney also positioned for a decent debut, some songs might find themselves going backwards next week.
While some more tracks have popped up on the April radar (i.e. the Add Date box in Country Aircheck), I think Bryan and Ballerini/Chesney are the only ones primed for impact in the short term (Maddie & Tae & Brothers Osborne have struggled historically, Moon has to prove he can avoid a sophomore slump, Denning’s song hasn’t shown much airwave strength yet, etc.). It feels like a quieter transition than I expected, but with Florida Georgia Line and a bunch of mediocre tracks set to leave soon, there’s some potential for Pulse growth if the right songs start rising to the top.
Speaking of rising, the coronavirus continues to dominate the country, with new cases continuing to rise at a significant clip. The death count, however, has not yet followed suit (it’s at roughly 556,500 now), which means the future is a bit murky right now: Will the rapid pace of vaccinations and prioritization of vulnerable individuals keep the hospitalization and death counts from spiking, or is a full-blown fourth wave just around the corner? Personally, I’d rather break the wave before it hits, so let’s keep on combating the virus by doing the right things: Wearing our masks, washing our hands, avoiding crowds, and especially getting vaccinated (President Biden has declared that vaccines will be open to all by April 19th, which means my own eligibility date is finally coming up). While more people I talk to are being vaccinated, more people I talk to seem to be getting infected too, so we can’t afford to let off the gas right now. A return to normalcy is on the horizon, and we can all get there so long as we stick together and keep one another safe.