The Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: March 28, 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. Dierks Bentley ft. BRELAND & HARDY, “Beers On Me” -1 (4/10)
4. Elle King & Miranda Lambert, “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” +1 (6/10)
5. Eric Church, “Heart On Fire” +1 (6/10)
6. Cole Swindell & Lainey Wilson, “Never Say Never” 0 (5/10)
7. Carly Pearce & Ashley McBryde, “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” +2 (7/10)
8. Luke Combs, “Doin’ This” 0 (5/10)
9. Keith Urban, “Wild Hearts” 0 (5/10)
10. Blake Shelton, “Come Back As A Country Boy” -4 (1/10)
11. Thomas Rhett, “Slow Down Summer” 0 (5/10)
12. Parker McCollum, “To Be Loved By You” -2 (3/10)
13. HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” +1 (6/10)
14. Walker Hayes, “AA” -1 (4/10)
15. Tim McGraw, “7500 OBO” 0 (5/10)
16. Miranda Lambert, “If I Was A Cowboy” +2 (7/10)
17. Jake Owen, “Best Thing Since Backroads” -1 (4/10)
18. Maren Morris, “Circles Around This Town” +1 (6/10)
19. Jason Aldean, “Trouble With A Heartbreak” +1 (6/10)
20. Luke Bryan, “Up” -1 (4/10)
21. Scotty McCreery, “Damn Strait” +1 (6/10)
22. Ernest ft. Morgan Wallen, “Flower Shops” 0 (5/10)
23. Parmalee, “Take My Name” 0 (5/10)
24. Morgan Wallen, “Wasted On You” -1 (4/10)
25. Chris Young & Mitchell Tenpenny, “At The End Of A Bar” 0 (5/10)
26. Dylan Scott, “New Truck” 0 (5/10)
27. Frank Ray, “Country’d Look Good On You” 0 (5/10)
28. Justin Moore, “With A Woman You Love” +1 (6/10)
29. Toby Keith, “Old School” 0 (5/10)
30. Lee Brice, “Soul” 0 (5/10)
31. Kenny Chesney, “Everyone She Knows” 0 (5/10)
32. Jon Pardi, “Last Night Lonely” 0 (5/10)
33. Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now” -1 (4/10)
34. Dustin Lynch, “Party Mode” -1 (4/10)
35. Old Dominion, “No Hard Feelings” +1 (6/10)
36. Morgan Wade, “Wilder Days” 0 (5/10)
37. Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” +1 (6/10)
38. Taylor Swift & Chris Stapleton, “I Bet You Think About Me” -1 (4/10)
39. Chris Janson, “Bye Mom” +3 (8/10)
40. Zac Brown Band, “Out In The Middle” 0 (5/10)
41. Midland, “Sunrise Tells The Story” +2 (7/10)
42. Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story” 0 (5/10)
43. Ingrid Andress ft. Sam Hunt, “Wishful Drinking” 0 (5/10)
44. Brett Young, “You Didn’t” +1 (6/10)
45. Gabby Barrett, “Pick Me Up” 0 (5/10)
46. Priscilla Block, “My Bar” 0 (5/10)
47. Mitchell Tenpenny, “Truth About You” 0 (5/10)
48. Conner Smith, “Learn From It” 0 (5/10)
49. Jimmie Allen, “Down Home” +1 (6/10)*
50. Lady A, What A Song Can Do” 0 (5/10)
Present Pulse (#1—#25) 0
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +6
Overall Pulse +6
Change From Last Week
0

*Preliminary Grade

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

Gone:

  • Kelsea Ballerini ft. Kenny Chesney, “Half Of My Hometown” (recurrent)
  • Russell Dickerson, “Home Sweet” (recurrent)
  • Chase Rice, “If I Were Rock & Roll” (recurrent)

Leaving:

  • Parker McCollum, “To Be Loved By You” (down from #6 to #12)

Zombie Tracks:

  • Blake Shelton, “Come Back As A Country Boy” (up from #11 to 10, but gained only ninety spins and 266 points)
  • HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” (up from #15 to #13, gained 214 spins and 829 points. A decent week, but I still don’t think it’s going anywhere)
  • Toby Keith, “Old School” (holds at #29, but gained only nine spins and sixty-five points)
  • Taylor Swift ft. Chris Stapleton, “I Bet You Think About Me” (holds at #38, but lost its bullet)
  • Chris Janson, “Bye Mom” (up from #42 to #39, but gained only thirty-four spins and 119 points)

In Real Trouble:

  • Luke Bryan, “Up” (up from #21 to #20, but gained only thirty-four spins and eighty-five points)
  • Tenille Arts, “Back Then, Right Now” (up from #35 to #33, but gained only eighteen spins and eighty-one points)
  • Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” (up from #41 to #37, but gained only twenty-four spins and sixty-four points)
  • Ingrid Andress ft. Sam Hunt, “Wishful Drinking” (up from #45 to #43, but gained only thirty-three spins and seventy-three points)

In Some Trouble:

  • Priscilla Block, “My Bar” (up from #47 to #46, but gained only twenty spins and ninety-eight points)
  • Conner Smith, “Learn From It” (re-enters at #48, but gained only seventeen spins and fifty-five points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Morgan Wallen, “Wasted On You” (up from #32 to #24)
  • Keith Urban, “Wild Hearts” (up from #13 to #9)
  • Walker Hayes, “AA” (up from #19 to #14)
  • Jon Pardi, “Last Night Lonely” (up from #37 to #32)
  • Lee Brice, “Soul” (up from #34 to #30)

Is still Thanos:

  • Luke Combs, “Doin’ This” (up from #9 to #8)

Might also be Thanos:

  • Cody Johnson, “‘Til You Can’t” (holds at #1, but ‘Thank You Radio!” ad in CA suggests it’s leaving)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

  • Caitlyn Smith, “Downtown Baby”
  • Chris Stapleton, “Joy Of My Life”

Overall Thoughts: This was a week that could have gone either way: Would Johnson’s extended stay at #1 back things up, or would continued losses up and down the chart free up enough spins to let others move around? In the end, it was a little bit of both: There was certainly some movement, but only from certain songs (most notably Wallen and Hayes…yeah, it wasn’t a good week), while others suddenly found themselves in a rough spot (at this point even Shelton has accepted that his song is toast, but when Luke Bryan posts back-to-back rotten weeks out of the blue, it gets your attention). Even after last week’s lightning round review post, there’s a lot of new stuff coming onto the charts right now, and while little of it has been terribly inspiring yet (spoiler alert: The TL;DR version of the Allen review that’s probably coming Friday is a lukewarm “it’s okay I guess”), it feels like PDs are pushing back against labels and being more picky about what crosses their desks, and we’ll hopefully see more opportunities for more artists as a result.

On the coronavirus front, we seemed to have reached a situation that could go either way as well: The daily new case and death averages continue to go down overall, but the omicron BA.2 variant is now officially the dominant strain in America, and over a dozen states are seeing their new case averages rise again. Is another surge on the horizon, or will the current decline end up dragging on for a bit longer? No one can say for sure, but as I stated last week, the current case numbers and the threat posed by the virus are still too high for my tastes, so I’m sticking with my strategy for a bit longer:

Society may be reopening, but the truth is that the virus is still out there and causing problems, and it can still do some serious damage if we let it. Let’s not give it that chance, and let’s keep doing the right things to keep ourselves and our communities safe.

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