The Current Pulse Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: September 7, 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. Luke Bryan, “Waves” -1 (4/10)
2. Lainey Wilson, “Things A Man Oughta Know” +2 (7/10)
3. Thomas Rhett, “Country Again” +2 (7/10)
4. Scotty McCreery, “You Time” 0 (5/10)
5. Jameson Rodgers ft. Luke Combs, “Cold Beer Calling My Name” 0 (5/10)
6. Lee Brice, “Memory I Don’t Mess With” -1 (4/10)
7. Justin Moore, “We Didn’t Have Much” +2 (7/10)
8. Elvie Shane, “My Boy” +2 (7/10)
9. Jason Aldean & Carrie Underwood, “If I Didn’t Love You” +1 (6/10)
10. Old Dominion, “I Was On A Boat That Day” -2 (3/10)
11. Ryan Hurd & Maren Morris, “Chasing After You” 0 (5/10)
12. Lady A, “Like A Lady” 0 (5/10)
13. Kenny Chesney, “Knowing You” 0 (5/10)
14. Luke Combs, “Cold As You” 0 (5/10)
15. Jon Pardi, “Tequila Little Time” -1 (4/10)
16. Jimmie Allen & Brad Paisley, “Freedom Was A Highway” 0 (5/10)
17. Michael Ray, “Whiskey And Rain” 0 (5/10)
18. Zac Brown Band, “Same Boat” +1 (6/10)
19. Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You” 0 (5/10)
20. Walker Hayes, “Fancy Like” -2 (3/10)
21. Dustin Lynch ft. MacKenzie Porter, “Thinking ‘Bout You” 0 (5/10)
22. Callista Clark, “It’s ‘Cause I Am” -1 (4/10)
23. Chris Stapleton, “You Should Probably Leave” 0 (5/10)
24. Russell Dickerson, “Home Sweet” +1 (6/10)
25. Kelsea Ballerini ft. Kenny Chesney, “Half Of My Hometown” +1 (6/10)
26. Parker McCollum, “To Be Loved By You” -2 (3/10)
27. Jordan Davis ft. Luke Bryan, “Buy Dirt” 0 (5/10)
28. Kane Brown, “One Mississippi” +1 (6/10)
29. Eric Church, “Heart On Fire” +1 (6/10)
30. HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” +1 (6/10)
31. Carly Pearce, “Next Girl” 0 (5/10)
32. Morgan Wallen, “Sand In My Boots” 0 (5/10)
33. Garth Brooks, “That’s What Cowboys Do” +2 (7/10)
34. Elle King & Miranda Lambert, “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” +1 (6/10)
35. Matt Stell, “That Ain’t Me No More” 0 (5/10)
36. Lauren Alaina & Jon Pardi, “Getting Over Him” 0 (5/10)
37. Riley Green, “If It Wasn’t For Trucks” -1 (4/10)
38. Caitlyn Smith ft. Old Dominion, “I Can’t” 0 (5/10)
39. Toby Keith, “Old School” 0 (5/10)
40. Jake Owen, “Best Thing Since Backroads” -1 (4/10)
41. Keith Urban, “Wild Hearts” 0 (5/10)
42. Dierks Bentley ft. BRELAND & HARDY, “Beers On Me” -1 (4/10)
43. Brett Young, “Not Yet” +1 (6/10)
44. Brothers Osborne, “I’m Not For Everyone” +3 (8/10)
45. Tim McGraw, “7500 OBO” 0 (5/10)
46. Dan + Shay, “Steal My Love” 0 (5/10)
47. Darius Rucker, “My Masterpiece” +1 (6/10)
48. Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now” -1 (4/10)
49. Chris Bandi, “Would Have Loved Her” +1 (6/10)
50. Nate Barnes, “You Ain’t Pretty” 0 (5/10)
Present Pulse (#1—#25) +4
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +3
Overall Pulse +7
Change From Last Week

*Preliminary Grade

Best Song: “I’m Not For Everyone,” 8/10
Worst Song: “To Be Loved By You,” 3/10


  • Dan + Shay, “Glad You Exist” (recurrent)
  • Larry Fleet, “Where I Find God” (dropped below #50, “Thank you!” ad in CA)


  • Justin Moore, “We Didn’t Have Much” (down from #3 to #7)
  • Carly Pearce, “Next Girl” (up from #12 to #31)
  • Brett Young, “Not Yet” (down from #41 to #43 and lost its bullet with a 275+ point loss. This thing is history)

In Real Trouble:

  • Lauren Alaina ft. Jon Pardi, “Getting Over Him” (holds at #36, but gained only seven spins and lost points)
  • Riley Green, “If It Wasn’t For Trucks” (up from #38 to #37, but lost its bullet)
  • Caitlyn Smith ft. Old Dominion, “I Can’t” (up from #39 to #38, but gained only forty-seven spins and 109 points; I need to see more strength from this one before I pull it off this list)
  • Dierks Bentley ft. BRELAND & HARDY, “Beers On Me” (up from #43 to #42, but lost its bullet)
  • Brothers Osborne, “I’m Not For Everyone” (up from #45 to #44, but gained onlt forty-one spins and 131 points)
  • Darius Rucker, “My Masterpiece” (down from #46 to #47, bullet-less for a second consecutive week)

In Some Trouble:

  • Ryan Hurd & Maren Morris, “Chasing After You” (holds at #11, but gained only seventy spins and twenty-six points)
  • Jon Pardi, “Tequila Little Time” (up from #16 to #15, but gained only six spins and six points)
  • Parker McCollum, “To Be Loved By You” (up from #27 to #26, but gained only sixteen spins and lost points)
  • HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” (holds at #30, but gained only twenty spins and seventy-eight points)
  • Garth Brooks, “That’s What Cowboys Do” (down from #32 to #33, gained only six spins and fifty-one points)
  • Elle King & Miranda Lambert, “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” (down from #33 to #34, lost spins and gained only forty-two points)
  • Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now” (up from #49 to #48, but gained only twelve spins and one point)
  • Chris Bandi, “Would Have Loved Her” (re-enters at #49, but gained only ten spins and sixty-two points; why is still song still here?)
  • Nate Barnes, “You Ain’t Pretty” (re-enters at #50, but gained one spin and lost points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Kane Brown, “One Mississippi” (up from #34 to #28)
  • Morgan Wallen, “Sand In My Boots” (up from #37 to #32)

Is Thanos:

  • Luke Combs, “Cold As You” (up from #17 to #14)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

  • Sam Hunt, “23”

  • Midland, “Sunrise Tells The Story”
  • Morgan Evans, “Love Is Real”
  • Chris Young ft. Mitchell Tenpenny, “At The End Of A Bar”

Overall Thoughts: Bryan’s camping at the top of the escalator and Rhett and Wilson’s duel pushes for the week to come turned this week into a gut check: With spins fairly hard to come by (especially in the lower half of the charts, you either had to focus on the quality of your spins or cross your fingers and try to live another day. Despite both Pearce and Fleet bowing out early, a lot of songs posted some seriously disappointing numbers, especially Alaina/Pardi (how do you get 10 adds one week and just seven spins the next week?), Green (look for this one to get run over by several tracks next week, possibly even by Smith/Old Dominion’s weak track), Bentley/BRELAND/HARDY (for whatever reason, the radio is simply not picking up what they’re putting down), and Young (this thing has been treading water for months; if it’s not toast it ought to be). Hunt’s likely-to-be-massive debut won’t make things any easier next week, so at this point any songs that are wavering better batten down the hatches and hope that things improve by October.

The bi-annual examination of the Power Gold rankings came out this week as well, and the big news here is just how much turnover there was: “Nearly a quarter of the list are new entries,” including seven debuts within the Top Ten! It seems that PDs are starting to decide what songs/artists will stand the test of time from the late 2010s, and the results aren’t all that encouraging:

  • If you needed more evidence that Morgan Wallen paid exactly zero price for his behavior earlier this year, look no further than “Whiskey Glasses” debuting a the top of the Power Gold list. The article insinuated that most of Wallen’s work has yet to become gold-eligible, so unfortunately his presense on this chart will likely increase over the next few years (similar to how Luke Combs has increased his presence to put six songs on this chart).
  • I’m not a huge fan of most of the songs that joined the Power Gold party this time around, but maybe some of the older cruft is finally be cycled off the airwaves? Well, not exactly: The monster Metro-Bro hits of the 2010s seem to be trending downward, but they’re still there, and are likely to pester us for a few more years.
  • While the turnover was enough for CA not to mention that a few artists were representing half the charts, female representation in Power Gold hasn’t improved much: The article claims there are only “four women with six songs” here, but a closer look at the list indicates that there’s only one woman (Carrie Underwood) with any notable presence here: Miranda Lambert is down to a single song, “Meant To Be” was more of a Florida Georgia Line song than a Bebe Rexha one, and apparently they counted Lauren Alaina for being featured on “What Ifs.” (Lady A and Thompson Square are also present, but only have three songs betwen them.)
  • The loss of “Where The Green Grass Grows” means that “Something Like That” is the last song standing from the 1990s, and at #88 I don’t expect it to last much longer. Based on the number of times I’ve heard Chris Owen talk about the throwback 2000s sound in newer songs, it seems like the 2000s are starting to take the “new old sound” mantle away from the 1990s, although in fairness the 2000s don’t have many reps on the Power Gold list either (just eleven by my count).

On the whole, I’m just not encouraged with the makeup of the airwaves at this point, and with the Pulse still in a precarious position, I’m hoping some decent reinforcements arrive soon.

On the coronavirus front, things look really bad right now. The front edge of the current surge is starting to recede in some of the early hot spots, but daily new case averages are still climbing on the whole, health care rationing is now on the table (Idaho is already doing it, and Hawaii is preparing for it), children now make up over 25% of the nation’s weekly COVID-19 cases, and the death toll is still increasing (we’ve now surpassed the 650,000 death mark) and likely will do so for quite a while. With a stubbornly-low vaccination rate now sitting around 53%, we’re pretty much at the mercy of the virus in the short-term, and with the possibility of other illnesses making a return this fall and winter (RSV has been surging recently, and flu season is just around the corner), I honestly have no idea what the rest of the year has in store for us.

Giving in and giving up, however, are not an option, so we need to keep following best practices and do our best to keep COVID-19 and whatever else pops up this year at bay:

  • Wear a mask and maintain proper social distance from others when in public.
  • If you’re not vaccinated yet, get your shots at the earliest opportunity. There may be questions about how long they protect you, but they do protect you from severe outcomes, and boosters shots that will be rolled out over the next few months will help keep that protection strong.
  • If you’re in a position to do something to minimize the spread of COVID-19, do it. If it takes making the vaccine easier to access, make it happen. If it takes mandating masks or vaccines in certain environments, sign the order. If it takes going on the road to combat misinformation or alleviate unfounded fears, book your travel and spread your gospel. At this point, we need all the help we can get.

It may not feel like all this amounts to much right now, but every severe illness and death that we can prevent counts (especially if you’re the one that’s saved!). We owe it to ourselves and our communities to do what we can to keep each other safe and eventually bring this pandemic to an end, whenever that may be.