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

*Preliminary Grade

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


  • Luke Combs, “Cold As You” (recurrent)
  • Niko Moon, “PARADISE TO ME” (down to #52)


  • Kenny Chesney, “Knowing You” (down from #1 to #8)
  • Zac Brown Band, “Same Boat” (down from #3 to #6)
  • Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You” (up from #13 to #12, but a “Thank You Radio!” ad is in CA this week and it’s already down 450+ spins on the daily charts)

In Real Trouble:

  • Callista Clark, “It’s ‘Cause I Am” (up from #19 to #18, but lost its bullet again)
  • Toby Keith, “Old School” (up from #34 to #33, but gained only fifteen spins and seventy-three points)
  • Drew Parker, “While You’re Gone” (holds at #45, but gained only thirty-four spins and seventy-one points)

In Some Trouble:

  • Dan + Shay, “Steal My Love” (holds at #1, but gained only twenty-seven spins and seventy-nine points)
  • Chris Young & Mitchell Tenpenny, “At The End Of A Bar” (down from #43 to #4, gained only sixteen spins and seventy-seven points)
  • Chase Rice, “If I Were Rock & Roll” (holds at #48, but gained only four spins and twenty-six points)
  • Midland, “Sunrise Tells The Story” (holds at #49, but gains only twenty-six spins and 104 points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Chris Stapleton, “You Should Probably Leave” (up from #8 to #3)

Is still Thanos?:

  • Luke Combs, “Cold As You” (recurrent, and with it goes Combs’s sense of invincibility)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

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

Overall Thoughts: While this week featured a couple of semi-surprises (Block’s track has looked weak for a while now, and relatively-robust point gains despite meager spin counts indicate that Thanos, Chesney, and the ZBB are giving up some prime positions on the radio), overall things were pretty quiet, even as a new crop of contenders are starting their 2022 push early and sneaking in to grab some 2021 leftovers. Look for the B-side of Monday’s lightning round post to round out the year on Friday (Hayes, Brett Young, Old Dominion, Andress & Hunt) and for the big lists to make an appearance next week. Q4 has seen some decent tracks arrive on the scene, but which ones have enough clout to make our best-of list?

On the coronavirus front, things seem to be getting grimmer by the week: New case and death averages continue to rise (we hit the dread 800,000 milestone this week), our almost-61% vaccination percentage that took us months to achieve is pretty much useless if omicron becomes the dominant variant (adding a third booster shot kicks the protection back up, but that number sits at a measly 16% for the U.S. population), and omicron’s frightening-fast spread likely means that it’s not a matter of if it becomes dominant, but when. Our healthcare system, education system, and supply-chain infrastructure are at their breaking point, and the whole year feels like it’s devolved into a giant mess. Toss in our worsening political dysfunction, and you’d be forgiven for wondering: Is this how it all ends?

I feel like I’ve been shouting into the void here at the Pulse for nearly twenty-one months now, but I’m going to keep doing it because at this point it’s the only thing I can do, and the advice is still as relevant and effective as it’s been for years:

  • Wear a high-quality mask and maintain proper social distance from others when in public. 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. At this point, you shouldn’t considered yourself “fully vaccinated” without that third shot.
  • 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.

It know it might feel like nothing you do matters anymore, but it does matter, and the small steps you take to protect yourself and others could very well be the difference between causing and avoiding unnecessary pain and loss. If enough of us come together and do the right things, we can still make a difference and help keep the people we care about safe.