The Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: January 17, 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. Michael Ray, “Whiskey And Rain” 0 (5/10)
2. Chris Stapleton, “You Should Probably Leave” 0 (5/10)
3. Jordan Davis ft. Luke Bryan, “Buy Dirt” 0 (5/10)
4. Dustin Lynch ft. MacKenzie Porter, “Thinking ‘Bout You” 0 (5/10)
5. Morgan Wallen, “Sand In My Boots” 0 (5/10)
6. Jimmie Allen & Brad Paisley, “Freedom Was A Highway” 0 (5/10)
7. Kane Brown, “One Mississippi” +1 (6/10)
8. Kelsea Ballerini ft. Kenny Chesney, “Half Of My Hometown” +1 (6/10)
9. Parker McCollum, “To Be Loved By You” -2 (3/10)
10. Sam Hunt, “23” -1 (4/10)
11. Eric Church, “Heart On Fire” +1 (6/10)
12. Elle King & Miranda Lambert, “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” +1 (6/10)
13. Russell Dickerson, “Home Sweet” +1 (6/10)
14. Jon Pardi, “Tequila Little Time” -1 (4/10)
15. Carly Pearce & Ashley McBryde, “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” +2 (7/10)
16. Blake Shelton, “Come Back As A Country Boy” -4 (1/10)
17. Cody Johnson, “‘Til You Can’t” +2 (7/10)
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. Miranda Lambert, “If I Was A Cowboy” +2 (7/10)
22. Keith Urban, “Wild Hearts” 0 (5/10)
23. Cole Swindell & Lainey Wilson, “Never Say Never” 0 (5/10)
24. Jake Owen, “Best Thing Since Backroads” -1 (4/10)
25. Thomas Rhett, “Slow Down Summer” 0 (5/10)
26. Luke Bryan, “Up” -1 (4/10)
27. Tim McGraw, “7500 OBO” 0 (5/10)
28. Lauren Alaina & Jon Pardi, “Getting Over Him” 0 (5/10)
29. Dan + Shay, “Steal My Love” 0 (5/10)
30. Jason Aldean, “Trouble With A Heartbreak” +1 (6/10)
31. Toby Keith, “Old School” 0 (5/10)
32. Brothers Osborne, “I’m Not For Everyone” +3 (8/10)
33. Scotty McCreery, “Damn Strait” +1 (6/10)
34. Luke Combs, “Doin’ This” 0 (5/10)
35. Dylan Scott, “New Truck” 0 (5/10)
36. Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now” -1 (4/10)
37. Frank Ray, “Country’d Look Good On You” 0 (5/10)
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. Maren Morris “Circles Around This Town” +1 (6/10)
42. Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” +1 (6/10)
43. Lee Brice, “Soul” 0 (5/10)
44. Parmalee, “Take My Name” 0 (5/10)
45. Chris Janson, “Bye Mom” +3 (8/10)
46. Chris Lane, “Fill Them Boots” -1 (4/10)
47. Drew Parker, “While You’re Gone” -1 (4/10)
48. Chase Rice, “If I Were Rock & Roll” -1 (4/10)
49. Morgan Wade, “Wilder Days” 0 (5/10)
50. Midland, “Sunrise Tells The Story” +2 (7/10)
Present Pulse (#1—#25) +1
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +5
Overall Pulse +6
Change From Last Week
0

*Preliminary Grade

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

Gone:

  • Adele ft. Chris Stapleton, “Easy On Me” (down to #51)

Leaving:

  • Dustin Lynch ft. MacKenzie Porter, “Thinking About You” (down from #2 to #4)
  • Jon Pardi, “Tequila Little Time” (down from #4 to #14)

In Real Trouble:

  • Brothers Osborne, “I’m Not For Everyone” (holds at #32, but lost its bullet)
  • Dylan Scott, “New Truck” (holds at #35, but gained only thirty-four spins and seventy-nine points)
  • Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now” (down from #34 to #36, lost its bullet)
  • Frank Ray, “Country’d Look Good On You” (down from #36 to #37, but gained only sixteen spins and forty points)
  • Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” (down from #41 to #42, gained only fifteen spins and thirty-six points)
  • Chris Lane, “Fill Them Boots” (down from #44 to #46, lost its bullet)
  • Drew Parker, “While You’re Gone” down from #46 to #47, gained only ten spins and sixty-three points)
  • Chase Rice, “If I Were Rock & Roll” (down from #47 to #48, lost its bullet)

In Some Trouble:

  • Toby Keith, “Old School” (holds at #31, but gained only thirty spins and forty-two points)
  • Lee Brice, “Soul” down from #42 to #43, gained only five spins and lost points)
  • Chris Janson, “Bye Mom” (down from #43 to #45, gained only two spins and lost points)
  • Morgan Wade, “Wilder Days” (down from #48 to #49, gained only seventeen spins and sixteen points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Jason Aldean, “Trouble With A Heartbreak” (debuts at #30)

Is still Thanos:

  • Luke Combs, “Doin’ This” (up from #40 to #34)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

  • Ernest ft. Morgan Wallen, “Flowers”
  • Kip Moore, “Crazy One More Time”
  • Lady A, “What A Song Can Do”

Overall Thoughts: This was my most on-point prediction in a while: “Look for a similar [i.e. rough enivronment] next week: Michael Ray appears to be aiming for a second week at #1, and while Morris will regress to the mean, Aldean’s new song will likely pick up the slack when it hits the chart later this week. (Thanos is also trying to rebound from what was his weakest single in a long time, so expect him to keep pushing for more spins as well.)” That’s exactly what happened, and despite Pardi pulling the plug on “Tequila Little Time,” spins remained a scarce commodity and songs at the bottom of the chart took the biggest hit.

Going forward, I expect to see a bit more action, even at the top of the charts: Lynch/Porter will go recurrent, Ray will exit, and I have severe doubts about the ability of some of these songs to reach #1 (most notably Allen/Paisley, but don’t be surprised if Dickerson does a surprise swan dive; I reviewed that track over a year ago and it’s still only at #13). There should be some turnover at the bottom as well (at lot of songs seem to be backing up below #50, and it’s really time for Lane to give up on “Fill Them Boots”), but barring another surprise debut (whoever Ernest is got 27 adds, so maybe they show up next week), I expect things to be a bit more fluid next week.

On the coronavirus front, things still look pretty grim: The two-week new case average now stands at over 775,000, with daily death averages starting to rise substantially as well. The omicron surge appears to have be peaked in some of the early hard-hit areas such as New York City, but it’s still rising in other areas, and when a peak is this high, it’s still going to cause a lot of pain and suffering on the way down. The vaccination rate is still sitting at a concerning 63%, and with infections increasing 20% globally just this week alone, we remain a long way from this pandemic being over. If we’re ever going to get a handle on this virus, we have to keep following best practices:

  • Wear a high-quality 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. 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.

I know that you’re as tired of me saying this as I am of saying it, but these are the things that we can (and should) do to finally put this pandemic behind us. With our healthcare system under stress from critically ill COVID-19 patients and every sector under stress from illness-based absences, we owe it to everyone to do everything we can to bring this pandemic to a close as quickly as possible.