The Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: March 21, 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. Cody Johnson, “‘Til You Can’t” +2 (7/10)
2. Sam Hunt, “23” -1 (4/10)
3. Elle King & Miranda Lambert, “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” +1 (6/10)
4. Dierks Bentley ft. BRELAND & HARDY, “Beers On Me” -1 (4/10)
5. Eric Church, “Heart On Fire” +1 (6/10)
6. Parker McCollum, “To Be Loved By You” -2 (3/10)
7. Carly Pearce & Ashley McBryde, “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” +2 (7/10)
8. Cole Swindell & Lainey Wilson, “Never Say Never” 0 (5/10)
9. Luke Combs, “Doin’ This” 0 (5/10)
10. Kelsea Ballerini ft. Kenny Chesney, “Half Of My Hometown” +1 (6/10)
11. Blake Shelton, “Come Back As A Country Boy” -4 (1/10)
12. Russell Dickerson, “Home Sweet” +1 (6/10)
13. Keith Urban, “Wild Hearts” 0 (5/10)
14. Thomas Rhett, “Slow Down Summer” 0 (5/10)
15. HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” +1 (6/10)
16. Miranda Lambert, “If I Was A Cowboy” +2 (7/10)
17. Tim McGraw, “7500 OBO” 0 (5/10)
18. Jake Owen, “Best Thing Since Backroads” -1 (4/10)
19. Walker Hayes, “AA” -1 (4/10)
20. Maren Morris, “Circles Around This Town” +1 (6/10)
21. Luke Bryan, “Up” -1 (4/10)
22. Jason Aldean, “Trouble With A Heartbreak” +1 (6/10)
23. Scotty McCreery, “Damn Strait” +1 (6/10)
24. Ernest ft. Morgan Wallen, “Flower Shops” 0 (5/10)
25. Parmalee, “Take My Name” 0 (5/10)
26. Chris Young & Mitchell Tenpenny, “At The End Of A Bar” 0 (5/10)
27. Dylan Scott, “New Truck” 0 (5/10)
38. Frank Ray, “Country’d Look Good On You” 0 (5/10)
29. Toby Keith, “Old School” 0 (5/10)
30. Justin Moore, “With A Woman You Love” +1 (6/10)
31. Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story” 0 (5/10)
32. Morgan Wallen, “Wasted On You” -1 (4/10)
33. Kenny Chesney, “Everyone She Knows” 0 (5/10)
34. Lee Brice, “Soul” 0 (5/10)
35. Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now” -1 (4/10)
36. Dustin Lynch, “Party Mode” -1 (4/10)
37. Jon Pardi, “Last Night Lonely” 0 (5/10)
38. Taylor Swift & Chris Stapleton, “I Bet You Think About Me” -1 (4/10)
39. Old Dominion, “No Hard Feelings” +1 (6/10)
40. Morgan Wade, “Wilder Days” 0 (5/10)
41. Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” +1 (6/10)
42. Chris Janson, “Bye Mom” +3 (8/10)
43. Midland, “Sunrise Tells The Story” +2 (7/10)
44. Zac Brown Band, “Out In The Middle” 0 (5/10)*
45. Ingrid Andress ft. Sam Hunt, “Wishful Drinking” 0 (5/10)
46. Brett Young, “You Didn’t” +1 (6/10)
47. Priscilla Block, “My Bar” 0 (5/10)
48. Chase Rice, “If I Were Rock & Roll” -1 (4/10)
49. Gabby Barrett, “Pick Me Up” 0 (5/10)*
50. Mitchell Tenpenny, “Truth About You”” 0 (5/10)*
Present Pulse (#1—#25) +3
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +3
Overall Pulse +6
Change From Last Week
-1 😦

*Preliminary Grade

Best Song: “Bye Mom,” 8/10
Worst Song: “Come Back As A Country Boy,” 1/10

Gone:

  • Kane Brown, “One Mississippi” (recurrent)
  • Dan + Shay, “Steal My Love” (recurrent)
  • Conner Smith, “Learn From It” (down to #51)

Leaving:

  • Parker McCollum, “To Be Loved By You” (down from #1 to #6)
  • Kelsea Ballerini ft. Kenny Chesney, “Half Of My Hometown” (down from #6 to #10)
  • Russell Dickerson, “Home Sweet” (down from #11 to #12)

Zombie Tracks:

  • Blake Shelton, “Come Back As A Country Boy” (up from #13 to 11, but gained only thirty-one spins and lost points)
  • HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” (down from #14 to #15, gained only eighty spins and 241 points)
  • Chris Janson, “Bye Mom” (holds at #42, but lost its bullet again)

In Real Trouble:

  • Miranda Lambert, “If I Was A Cowboy” (up from #17 to #16, but lost its bullet)
  • Toby Keith, “Old School” (holds at #29, but lost its bullet)
  • Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now” (down from #32 to #35, lost its bullet)
  • Taylor Swift ft. Chris Stapleton, “I Bet You Think About Me” (down from #37 to #38, lost spins and gained only nineteen points))
  • Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” (down from #38 to #41, gained only twelve spins and lost points
  • Chase Rice, “If I Were Rock & Roll” (down from #45 to #48, bullet-less for a second consecutive week)

In Some Trouble:

  • Eric Church, “Heart On Fire” (up from #7 to #5, but gained only thirteen spins and lost points)
  • Luke Bryan, “Up” (down from #20 to #21, gained only nineteen spins and lost points)
  • Dustin Lynch, “Party Mode” (holds at #36, but gained only fifty-five spins and sixty points)
  • Ingrid Andress ft. Sam Hunt, “Wishful Drinking” (up from #46 to #45, but gained only ten spins and lost points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story” (debuts at #31)
  • Morgan Wallen, “Wasted On You” (up from #43 to #32)
  • Chris Young & Mitchell Tenpenny, “At The End Of A Bar” (up from #30 to #26)

Is still Thanos:

  • Luke Combs, “Doin’ This” (up from #12 to #9)

Might also be Thanos:

  • Cody Johnson, “‘Til You Can’t” (up from #2 to #1, will likely be there next week)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

  • Adam Doleac, “Drinkin’ It Wrong”
  • Chris Stapleton, “Joy Of My Life”

Overall Thoughts: You’d all better head for high ground, because the dam has officially burst.

Brown and Dan + Shay are gone, Ballerini/Chesney and Dickerson will be gone next week, McCollum is gone either next week or the one after that, a ton of songs (Shelton? Lambert? Keith? Arts? Swift/Stapleton? Jones? Janson? Rice?) appear to be on life support, and we even got a few disappointing numbers from out of left field (Eric Church? Luke Bryan?). I have no idea what’s going on here, but I’d like to think this is a sign that radio is starting to judge songs less by their label support and more by how they resonate with their audience. Whether this actually leads to more quality on the airwaves in an open question (neither Barrett nor Tenpenny’s new singles are worth writing home about, and Underwood’s solo re-emergence was a disappointment), but at least there’s more turnover amongst the mediocrity, and hopefully it leads to some decent breakthroughs.

On the coronavirus front, daily new case and death averages are still dropping, but what happens next will depend on the omicron BA.2 variant that’s sweeping the world. While the variant is becoming more prevalent in America and it’s likely that we’ll soon see an increase in cases similar to what we’re seeing in Europe, whether or not we see restrictions return will depend on the number of hospitalizations this increase in cases brings along. At this point, experts are saying that folks should make decisions about what they do or don’t do based on their own risk tolerance, and personally, 30,000+ new cases a day and the continued threat of long-term (or even medium-term) coronavirus exposure makes throwing caution to the wind a non-starter right now. I’m sticking with the usual 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 consider yourself “fully vaccinated” without that third shot.

Yes, there will eventually come a day when even I will decide that the risks have decreased enough to turn this feature back into the “Current Pulse,” but that day isn’t here just yet. The threat is still very real, and I’d still encourage folks to stay on the safe side for both their own sake and the sake of their loved ones.

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