The Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: May 2, 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. Cole Swindell & Lainey Wilson, “Never Say Never” 0 (5/10)
2. Carly Pearce & Ashley McBryde, “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” +2 (7/10)
3. Luke Combs, “Doin’ This” 0 (5/10)
4. Thomas Rhett, “Slow Down Summer” 0 (5/10)
5. Keith Urban, “Wild Hearts” 0 (5/10)
6. HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” +1 (6/10)
7. Dierks Bentley ft. BRELAND & HARDY, “Beers On Me” -1 (4/10)
8. Walker Hayes, “AA” -1 (4/10)
9. Jason Aldean, “Trouble With A Heartbreak” +1 (6/10)
10. Morgan Wallen, “Wasted On You” -1 (4/10)
11. Tim McGraw, “7500 OBO” 0 (5/10)
12. Parmalee, “Take My Name” 0 (5/10)
13. Maren Morris, “Circles Around This Town” +1 (6/10)
14. Jake Owen, “Best Thing Since Backroads” -1 (4/10)
15. Miranda Lambert, “If I Was A Cowboy” +2 (7/10)
16. Eric Church, “Heart On Fire” +1 (6/10)
17. Blake Shelton, “Come Back As A Country Boy” -4 (1/10)
18. Scotty McCreery, “Damn Strait” +1 (6/10)
19. Dylan Scott, “New Truck” 0 (5/10)
20. ERNEST ft. Morgan Wallen, “Flower Shops” 0 (5/10)
21. Chris Young & Mitchell Tenpenny, “At The End Of A Bar” 0 (5/10)
22. Jon Pardi, “Last Night Lonely” 0 (5/10)
23. Justin Moore, “With A Woman You Love” +1 (6/10)
24. Kenny Chesney, “Everyone She Knows” 0 (5/10)
25. Frank Ray, “Country’d Look Good On You” 0 (5/10)
26. Jackson Dean, “Don’t Come Lookin'” +1 (6/10)
27. Lee Brice, “Soul” 0 (5/10)
28. Dustin Lynch, “Party Mode” -1 (4/10)
29. Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story” 0 (5/10)
30. Old Dominion, “No Hard Feelings” +1 (6/10)
31. Morgan Wade, “Wilder Days” 0 (5/10)
32. Zac Brown Band, “Out In The Middle” 0 (5/10)
33. Jelly Roll, “Son Of A Sinner” +2 (7/10)
34. Ingrid Andress ft. Sam Hunt, “Wishful Drinking” 0 (5/10)
35. Mitchell Tenpenny, “Truth About You” 0 (5/10)
36. Gabby Barrett, “Pick Me Up” 0 (5/10)
37. Kelsea Ballerini, “HEARTFIRST” 0 (5/10)
38. Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” +1 (6/10)
39. Jimmie Allen, “Down Home” 0 (5/10)
40. Brett Young, “You Didn’t” +1 (6/10)
41. Priscilla Block, “My Bar” 0 (5/10)
42. Conner Smith, “Learn From It” 0 (5/10)
43. Lady A, What A Song Can Do” 0 (5/10)
44. Michael Ray, “Holy Water” +2 (7/10)
45. Chris Stapleton, “Joy Of My Life” +1 (6/10)
46. Russell Dickerson ft. Jake Scott, “She Likes It” 0 (5/10)*
47. Dillon Carmichael, “Son Of A” 0 (5/10)*
48. Caitlyn Smith, “Downtown Baby” 0 (5/10)*
49. Chayce Beckham & Lindsay Ell, “Can’t Do Without Me” 0 (5/10)
50. Joe Nichols, “Good Day For Living” 0 (5/10)*
Present Pulse (#1—#25) 0
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +9
Overall Pulse +9
Change From Last Week
-4 😡

*Preliminary Grade

Best Song: “Never Wanted To Be That Girl,” 7/10
Worst Song: “Come Back As A Country Boy,” 1/10

Gone:

  • Elle King & Miranda Lambert, “Drunk (And I Don’t Want To Go Home)” (recurrent)
  • Chris Janson, “Bye Mom” (dropped below #50, likely recurrent next week)
  • Brett Eldredge, “Songs About You” (down to #52)

Leaving:

  • Eric Church, “Heart On Fire” (crashed hard from #2 to #16)
  • Dierks Bentley ft. BRELAND & HARDY, “Beers On Me” (down from #3 to #7)
  • Blake Shelton, “Come Back As A Country Boy” (down from #11 to #17)

Zombie Tracks:

  • HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” (up from #9 to #6, “max spins” ad in Country Aircheck this week)
  • Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” (down from #36 to #38, gained only ten spins and twenty-five points)

In Real Trouble:

  • Dillon Carmichael, “Son Of A” (up from #49 to #47, but gained only seventeen spins and twenty-nine points)
  • Chayce Beckham & Lindsay Ell, “Can’t Do Without Me” (up from #50 to #49, but gained only twenty-two spins and fifty-three points

In Some Trouble:

  • Brett Young, “You Didn’t” (down from #38 to #40, gained only twenty-two spins and seventy points)
  • Conner Smith, “Learn From It” (up from #44 to #42, but gained only twenty-nine spins and seventy-seven)
  • Lady A, “What A Song Can Do” (up from #45 to #43, but gained only twenty-six spins and thirty points)
  • Joe Nichols, “Good Day For Living” (debuts at #50, but gained only eleven spins and twenty-six points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Kelsea Ballerini, “HEARTFIRST” (up from #43 to #37)
  • Morgan Wallen, “Wasted On You” (up from #14 to #10)
  • Parmalee, “Take My Name” (up from #16 to #12)
  • Jake Owen, “Best Thing Since Backroads” (up from #18 to #14)
  • Mitchell Tenpenny, “Truth About You” (up from #39 to #35)

Is still Thanos?:

  • Luke Combs, “Doin’ This” (up from #4 to #3)

Bubbling Under 50:

  • Eli Young Band, “Love Talking”
  • Brett Eldredge, “Songs About You” (5/10)
  • Kameron Marlowe, “Giving You Up”
  • Clay Walker, “Catching Up With An Ol’ Memory”
  • Randy Houser, “Note To Self”

On The Way:

  • Kane Brown, “Like I Love Country Music”
  • Easton Corbin, “I Can’t Decide”

Overall Thoughts: So apparently I was a week early on a few things:

The wild cards, however, are the zombie tracks, as both the best song (Janson) and the worst song (Shelton) could call it quits any day now, which would throw the Pulse for a loop.

Consider the Pulse thrown for a loop: The plug was unceremoniously pulled on both tracks last week, with Janson already gone and Shelton likely join him in a week or two.

I’m also curious how long HARDY sticks around: That song is already sixteen months old, and will likely need another 7-8 weeks to reach #1. …Is Big Loud willing to wait that long for a Mediabase #1? I have my doubts.

The max-spin ad in this week’s CA made the answer to that question a resounding “No.” Put it all together, and there’s a good chance the “Zombie Tracks” section disappears soon.

So what about the rest of the chart? Swindell and Wilson spent an extra week at the top, but the combined crashes of Church and Shelton kept the spin market from tightening up too much, and most songs were at least able to put together a passable week (the exceptions, as usual, clustered near the bottom of the chart). A few songs emerged from depths to join the Top 50, but none of them are really worth caring about, so I think that lightning round post I mentioned a few weeks ago is coming sooner rather than later. I expect to see continuing turnover as the zombies are finally defeated, but I’m not sure I foresee much of an improvement in the chart as a result (Shelton and Janson will essentially cancel each other out). The Music City meta is bland right now, and it’ll be that way for at least a few more weeks.

On the coronavirus front, new case averages continue to rise nationally, and while daily death averages are still down over the last two weeks, they’ve leveled off in more recent days, which indicates that they’ll soon follow the upward trend of cases and hospitalizations. The major story these days concerns subvariants of the virus’s omicron variant: After dealing with BA.1 and BA.2 for months, now officials are monitoring case increases driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants in South Africa and the BA 2.12.1 variant in the eastern United States. Many signs indicate that we’re staring another surge in the face, but unfortunately right now the burden remains on individuals to decide what they should do and what precautions they should take based on their own tolerance for risk. My tolerance for such risk remains low, so my guidance remains the same:

I know a lot of people want to be done with the pandemic and just ignore rising case numbers, but if we don’t keep taking precautions to limit the virus’s spread, we’ll be stuck with another surge that will be too big to ignore. I urge people to keep doing the right things to protect yourselves and the people you care about.

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