The Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: January 3, 2022

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

*Preliminary Grade

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

Gone:

  • Kenny Chesney, “Knowing You” (recurrent)
  • Nate Barnes, “You Ain’t Pretty” (recurrent)
  • Midland, “Sunrise Tells The Story” (down to #51)

Leaving:

  • Zac Brown Band, “Same Boat” (down from #6 to #9)
  • Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You” (down from #12 to #33)

In Real Trouble:

  • Will return next week.

In Some Trouble:

  • Will return next week.

In No Trouble At All:

  • Will return next week

Is still Thanos?:

  • Luke Combs, “Doin’ This” (debuts at #46, but we’ll see what sort of staying power it has)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

  • Maren Morris, “Circles Around This Town”

Overall Thoughts: It’s been a few weeks since our last Pulse report, and while I’m a little surprised at how little movement there was, the holiday period is generally a quieter time on the radio, so most folks were just biding their time and waiting for 2022 before ramping up their promotion pushes. (As much as Lynch & Porter want to tout their multi-week #1, the achievement was more due to luck and timing than due to the song itself.) The ‘going for adds’ list in CA is still pretty sparse, but given the artists currently in between single releases and the trend of sudden massive initial pushes for singles, I don’t expect January to remain quiet for long.

On the coronavirus front, the year is starting out on a low note: New cases have skyrocketed recently, to the point where the U.S. reported over one million cases in a single day, and while the omicron variant seems to cause milder symptoms, its sheer transmissibility means that higher hospitalization and death rates will still likely follow, especially with our low vaccination rate (we’ve really only jumped from “almost 61%” to 62% in three weeks?). Hope is still in short supply right now, but there are still things we can do to protect ourselves and our communities:

  • 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.

The next month or so is going to be tough, but we can’t afford for our resolve to falter now. We need to continue doing all we can to stop the spread of this virus and keep the people we care about safe. There’s still time to make 2022 the year we brought an end to this pandemic, but we’ll all have to do our part to make this happen.