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

*Preliminary Grade

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

Gone:

  • Justin Moore, “We Didn’t Have Much” (recurrent)
  • Riley Green, “If It Wasn’t For Trucks” (down to #54; I expected this one to “get run over by several tracks,” but not to get kicked out the chart entirely!)
  • Brett Young, “Not Yet” (recurrent)

Leaving:

  • Luke Bryan, “Waves” (down from #1 to #3)
  • Carly Pearce, “Next Girl” (up from #31 to #47)

In Real Trouble:

  • Callista Clark, “It’s ‘Cause I Can” (down from #22 to #23, lost its bullet)
  • Garth Brooks, “That’s What Cowboys Do” (up from #33 to #32, but gained only nine spins and ninety-eight points)
  • Chris Bandi, “Would Have Loved Her” (up from #49 to #48, but gained only thirty-seven spins and ninety-four points)

In Some Trouble:

  • Toby Keith, “Old School” (up from #39 to #38, but gained only eleven spins and forty-two points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Keith Urban, “Wild Hearts” (up from #41 to #37)

Is Thanos:

  • Luke Combs, “Cold As You” (up from #14 to #13. It’s pace is surprisingly slow, but it may be getting held back by “Forever After All,” which would still be #9 if it wasn’t officially recurrent)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

  • Chris Young ft. Mitchell Tenpenny, “At The End Of A Bar”
  • Carly Pearce & Ashley McBryde, “Never Wanted To Be That Girl”

Overall Thoughts: It wasn’t surpising to see the floodgates open as Bryan and Pearce combined to release over 2,000 spins back into the wild, but it was surprising to see those spins filter all the way down to the bottom half of the charts (especially given Hunt’s big debut), leading to only a few songs winding up in the Pulse’s traditional trouble categories. The top of the chart remained mostly frozen in place, but the departure of Moore, Green, and Young (paired with Pearce’s rapid collapse and imminent exit) led to some notable position gains at the bottom of the charts as well.

The overall Pulse, however, remains in a precarious position: There are only five songs in the Top 50 with a score above a 6/10, and three of them are currently in the Top Ten, which means that unless someone miraculously rides to the rescue (maybe the Pearce/McBryde collab isn’t bad, or maybe Midland finally makes a move back onto the chart), I think the Chart’s descent into negative territory is now inevitable. The genre has fallen into a real malaise (which, admittedly, reflects how the entire country feels at this point), and I’m not sure what it will take to get it out of its funk.

Things look mixed on the coronavirus front, but “mixed” is an upgrade from the “flat-out awful” we’ve been staring out the last few weeks. While the death count continues to climb, daily new-case averages appear to be leveling off nationwide (although some hot spots are still popping up), and while the vaccination rate remains at a paltry 54%, this should increase as President Biden (and an increasing number of employers) impose vaccine mandates. (In truth, the whole “nationwide mandate” narrative is a little overblown, given that the eventual OSHA guidelines will allow folks to avoid vaccination as long as they submit to weekly tests.) Given that the consensus seems to be that the incentives offered thus far have helped a little but not a lot, I support bringing the other half of the carrot-and-stick approach into play, because (I’ve I said before) we need to do everything we can to get people vaccinated and protect both them and the people around them from the virus.

At this point, y’all know what to do:

  • 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.
  • If you’re in a position to do something to minimize the spread of COVID-19, do it. More incentives, more mandates, reducing access barriers…whatever it is you can do to help, do it.

We don’t have a ton of time before winter, so we all need to do our part now try to get this virus under control as soon as possible. There will be an end to all this someday, but how quickly we reach that future will depend on our actions in the present.