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: “Things A Man Oughta Know,” 7/10
Worst Song: “Wine, Beer, Whiskey,” 2/10
- Rascal Flatts, “How They Remember You” (recurrent)
- Sam Hunt, “Breaking Up Was Easy In The 90s” (down from #1 to #3
- Jake Owen, “Made For You” (down from #2 to #6)
- Chris Janson, “Waitin’ On 5” (down from #40 to #43 with a 400+ point loss; it’s toast)
- LoCash, “Beers To Catch Up On” (down from #42 to #48 with a 500+ point loss; also toast)
In Real Trouble:
- Little Big Town, “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” (down from #29 to #32, bullet-less for a second consecutive week and might also be toast)
- HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” (up fro #41 to #40, but gained only one spin and thirty-one points)
- Matt Stell, “That Ain’t Me No More” (up from #43 to #42, but gained only three spins and lost points)
- Riley Green, “If It Wasn’t For Trucks” (down from #48 to #49, gained only three spins and lost points)
- Clay Walker, “Need A Bar Sometimes” (holds at #50, but gained only twelve spins and fifty-six points)
In Some Trouble:
- Miranda Lambert, “Settling Down” (holds at #9, but gained only seventy-six spins and lost points, and might be replaced by her Elle King collab soon)
- Lady A, “Like A Lady” (holds at #28, but gained only sixty-two spins and lost points)
- Jimmie Allen & Brad Paisley, “Freedom Was A Highway” (down from #32 to #34, gained only twenty-seven spins and fifty-nine points)
- Parker McCollum, “To Be Loved By You” (holds at #39, but gained only twenty-nine spins and lost points)
- Brett Young, “Not Yet” (down from #46 to #47, gained only thirty-one spins and seventy-nine points)
In No Trouble At All:
- Old Dominion, “I Was On A Boat That Day” (debuts at #30)
- Ryan Hurd & Maren Morris, “Chasing After You” (up from #33 to #29)
- Luke Combs, “Forever After All” (up from #4 to #2, primed to hold the top spot for the next month)
Bubbling Under 50:
- Caitlyn Smith ft. Old Dominion, “I Can’t” (5/10)
- Chris Bandi, “Would Have Loved Her”
- Chris Stapleton, “You Should Probably Leave” (5/10)
- Darius Rucker, “My Masterpiece”
On The Way:
- Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now”
Overall Thoughts: The loss of Rascal Flatts puts the Pulse on the brink of the brink of disaster, but otherwise there wasn’t a lot to report, as chart movement was generally minimal and having one only recurrent track made spins tight across the board (a number of songs in the teens and twenties looked a little shaky). The immediate future, however, looks to be a bit of a roller coaster: I expect some big moves next week as Owen goes recurrent, Old Dominion regresses to the mean after a big debut, and Janson and LoCash finally get booted out of the top fifty, but with Thanos primed to take the top spot (history suggest he’ll let Scott have Mediabase and just hold Billboard for a month, but I really hope he blocks “Nobody,” which I reviewed back in February of 2020 and does not deserve to be #1), the chart will probably back up behind him for a while afterwards.
Country Aircheck discussed the questionable practices of WCTK a few weeks ago, but this week they profiled a couple of other stations whose methods seem a bit more encouraging, especially from WXBQ on Johnson City, Tennessee:
“The emphasis on personalities isn’t an accident, as WXBQ maintains a live airstaff 24 hours a day. ‘We try to keep everything local,’ [WXBQ PD Nikki Thomas] says.” —Chris Huff, article author
“This may sound crazy to some people, but we still sit down and listen to music, talk about that music and, if we think it’s going to work, we’ll play it…At any given time, you can look at our playlist and see [non-charted songs], because we’re looking at our data and not everybody else’s…We don’t bury [a song] in overnights. We play it, then we test it, and if it works, we keep it. If not, we let it go. That’s the big secret.” —Thomas
“We get to super-serve Akron; people [here] really seem to cherish their Akron stations…Part of the magic of ‘QMX has been the live and local talent…Scott [Wynn] and Sarah [Kay] in the morning have been out in this community for years, and even though last year we couldn’t be with the world turned upside down, [WQMX] became listeners’ comfort zone.” —WQMX (Akron, Ohio) PD Jeff Lynn
In a word: YES! Radio stations should be tuned into the wants and needs of their local communities, and having live/local staff that can engage with that community and playlists that accurately reflect the area’s tastes regardless of what’s popular nationally are huge steps in that direction. It heartens me to see stations having success with this formula, and I’d like to see more stations follow this model.
Speaking of heartening trends, the good news continues on the coronavirus front:
- New daily case and death averages continue to decline (the overall death toll stands as roughly 591,000).
- Half of all U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated, and nearly half of the total U.S. population have had at least one dose.
- Early results from Moderna suggest that their vaccine is “safe and effective for teenagers,” putting them on a path to obtaining emergency authorization for administration to children ages 12 and up, a designation given to the Pfizer vaccine a few weeks ago.
We’re still a ways from where we need to be (and the rest of the world is still really struggling with the virus), but right now all signs are indicating that we’re well on our way to getting there. If you haven’t gotten your vaccine shots yet, be sure to do so as soon as possible, and keep your masks on and your distance from other people until you’re fully vaccinated. We’re making great progress towards ending the pandemic here in the U.S., so let’s keep the momentum going!