The Current Pulse Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: November 8, 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. Walker Hayes, “Fancy Like” -2 (3/10)
2. Jason Aldean & Carrie Underwood, “If I Didn’t Love You” +1 (6/10)
3. Zac Brown Band, “Same Boat” +1 (6/10)
4. Luke Combs, “Cold As You” 0 (5/10)
5. Ryan Hurd & Maren Morris, “Chasing After You” 0 (5/10)
6. Dustin Lynch ft. MacKenzie Porter, “Thinking ‘Bout You” 0 (5/10)
7. Kenny Chesney, “Knowing You” 0 (5/10)
8. Old Dominion, “I Was On A Boat That Day” -2 (3/10)
9. Jon Pardi, “Tequila Little Time” -1 (4/10)
10. Michael Ray, “Whiskey And Rain” 0 (5/10)
11. Jordan Davis ft. Luke Bryan, “Buy Dirt” 0 (5/10)
12. Jimmie Allen & Brad Paisley, “Freedom Was A Highway” 0 (5/10)
13. Chris Stapleton, “You Should Probably Leave” 0 (5/10)
14. Kane Brown, “One Mississippi” +1 (6/10)
15. Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You” 0 (5/10)
16. Morgan Wallen, “Sand In My Boots” 0 (5/10)
17. Kelsea Ballerini ft. Kenny Chesney, “Half Of My Hometown” +1 (6/10)
18. Russell Dickerson, “Home Sweet” +1 (6/10)
19. Parker McCollum, “To Be Loved By You” -2 (3/10)
20. Callista Clark, “It’s ‘Cause I Am” -1 (4/10)
21. Eric Church, “Heart On Fire” +1 (6/10)
22. Elle King & Miranda Lambert, “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” +1 (6/10)
23. Sam Hunt, “23” -1 (4/10)
24. HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” +1 (6/10)
25. Keith Urban, “Wild Hearts” 0 (5/10)
26. Blake Shelton, “Come Back As A Country Boy” -4 (1/10)
27. Jake Owen, “Best Thing Since Backroads” -1 (4/10)
28. Dierks Bentley ft. BRELAND & HARDY, “Beers On Me” -1 (4/10)
29. Carly Pearce & Ashley McBryde, “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” +2 (7/10)
30. Thomas Rhett, “Slow Down Summer” 0 (5/10)
31. Lauren Alaina & Jon Pardi, “Getting Over Him” 0 (5/10)
32. Toby Keith, “Old School” 0 (5/10)
33. Miranda Lambert, “If I Was A Cowboy” +2 (7/10)
34. Tim McGraw, “7500 OBO” 0 (5/10)
35. Caitlyn Smith ft. Old Dominion, “I Can’t” 0 (5/10)
36. Dan + Shay, “Steal My Love” 0 (5/10)
37. Luke Bryan, “Up” -1 (4/10)
38. Darius Rucker, “My Masterpiece” +1 (6/10)
39. Brothers Osborne, “I’m Not For Everyone” +3 (8/10)
40. Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now” -1 (4/10)
41. Frank Ray, “Country’d Look Good On You” 0 (5/10)
42. Cody Johnson, “‘Til You Can’t” +2 (7/10)*
43. Nate Barnes, “You Ain’t Pretty” 0 (5/10)
44. Chris Lane, “Fill Them Boots” -1 (4/10)
45. Dylan Scott, “New Truck” 0 (5/10)
46. Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” +1 (6/10)
47. Drew Parker, “While You’re Gone” 0 (5/10)*
48. Cam, “Till There’s Nothing Left” +1 (6/10)
49. Chris Young & Mitchell Tenpenny, “At The End Of A Bar” 0 (5/10)*
50. Scotty McCreery, “Damn Strait” +1 (6/10)*
Present Pulse (#1—#25) -1
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +2
Overall Pulse +1
Change From Last Week
-1 😦

*Preliminary Grade

Best Song: “I’m Not For Everyone,” 8/10
Worst Song: “Come Back As A Country Boy,” 1/10

Gone:

  • Elvie Shane, “My Boy” (recurrent)
  • George Strait, “The Weight Of The Badge” (dropped below #50)

Leaving:

  • Jason Aldean & Carrie Underwood, “If I Didn’t Love You” (down from #1 to #2)
  • Old Dominion, “I Was On A Boat That Day” (holds at #8, but it’s down to #12 on the daily charts with 1000+ spin losses, so it looks like they pulled the plug)

In Real Trouble:

  • Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You” (holds at #15, but gained only fifty-one spins and seventy-six points)
  • Caitlyn Smith ft. Old Dominion, “I Can’t” (down from #33 to #35, gained only nine spins and lost points)
  • Brothers Osborne, “I’m Not For Everyone” (down from #38 to #39, gained only thirteen spins and ninety-eight points)
  • Nate Barnes, “You Ain’t Pretty” (down from #42 to #43, gained only twentu-one spins and twenty-three points)
  • Drew Parker, “While You’re Gone” (holds at #47, but lost its bullet)
  • Cam, “Till There’s Nothing Left” (up from #49 to #48, but gained only thirty-seven spins and eighty-one points)

In Some Trouble:

  • Jimmie Allen & Brad Paisley, “Freedom Was A Highway” (down from #10 to #12, gained only twenty-two spins and seventy-five points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Thomas Rhett, “Slow Down Summer” (debuts at #30)
  • Cody Johnson, “‘Til You Can’t” (up from #48 to #42)

Is Thanos (at least for now):

  • Luke Combs, “Cold As You” (holds at #4)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

  • Brett Young, “You Didn’t”

Overall Thoughts: Winter may be coming, but I didn’t expect a freeze this hard this early.

The spins that seemed to have vanished over the last week or so have returned, and they brought the whole family with them. Even with Rhett’s big debut and Aldean/Underwood’s slow descent, there were a lot of high-quality spins to go around. The problem, unfortunately, is that they didn’t go around that much: Gains were concentrated in the Top 10 and with A-listers as low as Rhett’s #30 debut, and a whopping fifteen songs posted 1000+ point gains (and nine broke the 1500 mark). (McGraw’s 19 adds, Shelton’s 17 and Bryan’s 13 were nothing to sneeze at either.) Those at the bottom of the chart/food chain didn’t fare as well, but the quality of the spins that were out there at least allowed most songs to post triple-digit point gains. In the end, only half of my prediction came true: The chaos (and position movement) was minimal, but the bigger names asserted their dominance, and everyone else is just fighting to get by. The only silver lining for those who are struggling: The charts are likely to slow down as we get into the holiday season and the end of the year, giving folks a respite and an opportunity to find their footing before the competition picks up again in January.

On the coronavirus front, it’s hard to tell exactly where we’re going at this point: The significant drop in the daily case average seemed to have dissipated (in fact, the two-week rolling average is actually up this week), and a few new hot spots are beginning to emerge (northern New England appears to be in the virus’s crosshairs right now). The fully-vaccinated numbers haven’t risen much this week (they went from 58% to 58.4%), but the number of shots given out has gone up significantly over the last few weeks, driven likely by booster shots and from newly-eligible children ages 5 through 11 getting the shot. With studies raising concerns about how vaccine effectiveness may fade over time, it remains critical to keep taking precautions and following best practices when going about your day:

  • 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, and be sure to get your booster shot once you become eligible.
  • 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.

I’ve had a surprising number of people raise the question of “Is this ever going to end?” in conversations over the last week. My answer is always the same: As hard as it is to believe, we will get through this eventually, and by doing the right things to keep ourselves and our communities safe, we can minimize the unnecessary loss and suffering along the way.

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