The Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: November 29, 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. Zac Brown Band, “Same Boat” +1 (6/10)
2. Dustin Lynch ft. MacKenzie Porter, “Thinking ‘Bout You” 0 (5/10)
3. Luke Combs, “Cold As You” 0 (5/10)
4. Kenny Chesney, “Knowing You” 0 (5/10)
5. Michael Ray, “Whiskey And Rain” 0 (5/10)
6. Jon Pardi, “Tequila Little Time” -1 (4/10)
7. Ryan Hurd & Maren Morris, “Chasing After You” 0 (5/10)
8. Jordan Davis ft. Luke Bryan, “Buy Dirt” 0 (5/10)
9. Chris Stapleton, “You Should Probably Leave” 0 (5/10)
10. Jimmie Allen & Brad Paisley, “Freedom Was A Highway” 0 (5/10)
11. Kane Brown, “One Mississippi” +1 (6/10)
12. Morgan Wallen, “Sand In My Boots” 0 (5/10)
13. Kelsea Ballerini ft. Kenny Chesney, “Half Of My Hometown” +1 (6/10)
14. Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You” 0 (5/10)
15. Parker McCollum, “To Be Loved By You” -2 (3/10)
16. Russell Dickerson, “Home Sweet” +1 (6/10)
17. Eric Church, “Heart On Fire” +1 (6/10)
18. Elle King & Miranda Lambert, “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” +1 (6/10)
19. Sam Hunt, “23” -1 (4/10)
20. Callista Clark, “It’s ‘Cause I Am” -1 (4/10)
21. Blake Shelton, “Come Back As A Country Boy” -4 (1/10)
22. HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” +1 (6/10)
23. Carly Pearce & Ashley McBryde, “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” +2 (7/10)
24. Keith Urban, “Wild Hearts” 0 (5/10)
25. Dierks Bentley ft. BRELAND & HARDY, “Beers On Me” -1 (4/10)
26. Jake Owen, “Best Thing Since Backroads” -1 (4/10)
27. Miranda Lambert, “If I Was A Cowboy” +2 (7/10)
28. Thomas Rhett, “Slow Down Summer” 0 (5/10)
29. Luke Bryan, “Up” -1 (4/10)
30. Lauren Alaina & Jon Pardi, “Getting Over Him” 0 (5/10)
31. Tim McGraw, “7500 OBO” 0 (5/10)
32. Cody Johnson, “‘Til You Can’t” +2 (7/10)
33. Toby Keith, “Old School” 0 (5/10)
34. Dan + Shay, “Steal My Love” 0 (5/10)
35. Cole Swindell & Lainey Wilson, “Never Say Never” 0 (5/10)
36. Brothers Osborne, “I’m Not For Everyone” +3 (8/10)
37. Darius Rucker, “My Masterpiece” +1 (6/10)
38. Frank Ray, “Country’d Look Good On You” 0 (5/10)
39. Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now” -1 (4/10)
40. Dylan Scott, “New Truck” 0 (5/10)
41. Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” +1 (6/10)
42. Scotty McCreery, “Damn Strait” +1 (6/10)
43. Nate Barnes, “You Ain’t Pretty” 0 (5/10)
44. Chris Lane, “Fill Them Boots” -1 (4/10)
45. Chris Young & Mitchell Tenpenny, “At The End Of A Bar” 0 (5/10)
46. Taylor Swift & Chris Stapleton, “I Bet You Think About Me” -1 (4/10)
47. Drew Parker, “While You’re Gone” -1 (4/10)
48. Chris Janson, “Bye Mom” +3 (8/10)
49. Chase Rice, “If I Were Rock & Roll” -1 (4/10)
50. Parmalee, “Take My Name” 0 (5/10)
Present Pulse (#1—#25) -1
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +4
Overall Pulse +3
Change From Last Week
+4 😎

*Preliminary Grade

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

Gone:

  • Walker Hayes, “Fancy Like” (recurrent)
  • Adele ft. Chris Stapleton, “Easy On Me” (down below #50)
  • Caitlyn Smith ft. Old Dominon, “I Can’t” (finally recurrent)
  • Old Dominon, “I Was On A Boat That Day” (recurrent)

Leaving:

  • Luke Combs, “Cold As You” (down from #1 to #3)
  • Ryan Hurd & Maren Morris, “Chasing After You” (down from #4 to #7)

In Real Trouble:

  • Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You” (up from #15 to #14, but gained only twelve spins and lost points)
  • Callista Clark, “It’s ‘Cause I Am” (holds at #20, lost spins and gained only eight points)
  • Toby Keith, “Old School” (up from #34 to #33, but gained only twenty-seven spins and 110 points)
  • Brothers Osborne, “I’m Not For Everyone” (up from #40 to #36, but lost its bullet)
  • Darius Rucker, “My Masterpiece” (up from #39 to #37, but is bullet-less for a second consecutive week)
  • Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now” (up from #42 to #39, but gained only twenty-six spins and lost points)
  • Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable” (up from #48 to #41, but gained only twenty spins and eighty-nine points)
  • Nate Barnes, “You Ain’t Pretty” (up from #46 to #43, but gained only four spins and nine points)
  • Chris Lane, “Fill Them Boots” (up from #45 to #44, but lost its bullet)
  • Drew Parker, “While You’re Gone” (up from #50 to #47, but gained only ten spins and ninety-two points)

In Some Trouble:

  • Scotty McCreery, “Damn Strait” (up from #48 to #42, but gained only fourteen spins and seventy-three points)
  • Dylan Scott, “New Truck” (up from #44 to #40, but gained only forty-three spins and 111 points)
  • Chris Young & Mitchell Tenpenny, “At The End Of A Bar” (up from #49 to #45, but gained only seven spins and lost points)
  • Chase Rice, “If I Were Rock & Roll” (debuts at #49, but gained only two spins and lost points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Thomas Rhett, “Slow Down Summer” (up from #33 to #28)
  • Frank Ray, “Country’d Look Good On You” (up from #43 to #38)
  • Cody Johnson, “‘Til You Can’t” (up from #36 to #32)

Is Thanos (at least for now):

  • Luke Combs, “Cold As You” (only a single-week #1; is the king’s grip on the throne starting to loosen?)

Bubbling Under 50:

  • Midland, “Sunrise Tells The Story”
  • Niko Moon, “PARADISE TO ME”
  • Morgan Wade, “Wilder Days”

On The Way:

  • Brett Young, “You Didn’t”
  • Lee Brice, “Soul”
  • Old Dominion, “No Hard Feelings”
  • Ingrid Andress & Sam Hunt, “Wishful Drinking”

Overall Thoughts: How can a week have a lot of action and no action at all at the same time? When the dam breaks and a bunch of tracks depart at once, leaving plenty of spots for other songs to fill despite posting awful gains themselves, which leads to rare sights like Brothers Osborne jumping four slots and losing their bullet at the same time. The same spin inequities and playlist shortening that we’ve been discussing all along are still here, and most of the eye-popping position gains fall into the ‘nothing to see here’ category (but some don’t; in particular Rhett and Johnson appear to be legit after back-to-back strong weeks). There are still some songs that I’d like to see on the exit ramp (Barnes, Lane) and a few that look shaky even in the top half of the chart (Block, Clark, Allen/Paisley, and even Pardi), so woth a few more big songs on the horizon there could still be some significant movement before the holiday deep freeze takes hold.

On the coronavirus front…you already know what’s coming, right? “Omicron” went from an anonymous middle-of-the-alphabet character to humanity’s greatest fear in the space of a week, as a new coronavirus variant was discovered and scientists quickly discovered that it was already everywhere, including in the United States. The current messaging is that we still don’t know much about the variant and that it’s too early to panic, but with the delta variant already driving cases and hospitalizations back up here in the States, the prevailing emotion I’m hearing from people is despair: Are we ever going to get out of this mess? If the answer if eventually going to be “yes,” you know what we have to do:

  • Wear a high-quality mask and maintain proper social distance from others when in public. (And if you’re going to gather for the holidays, take steps to minimize the risks to yourself and others.)
  • 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. The shots may be less effective against mutated variants, but they’ll still provide a sizeable degree of protection, and manufacturers are already preparing to tweak their formulas to target different variants as needed.
  • 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.

If omicron winds up being delta’s successor, there’s a good chance that we’ll be in for a repeat of the last few months, and could endure further stress on our lives and our health care systems. It’s important to remember, however, that we’re not powerless in this fight: If we continue to follow best practices and take the necessary steps to protect our communities, we can help limit the amount of needless suffering and eventually bring this pandemic to a close.

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