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

*Preliminary Grade

Best Song: “Never Wanted To Be That Girl,” 7/10
Worst Song: “AA,” 4/10

Gone:

  • Cole Swindell & Lainey Wilson, “Never Say Never” (recurrent)

Leaving:

  • Luke Combs, “Doin’ This” (down from #1 to #2)
  • Carly Pearce & Ashley McBryde, “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” (down from #10 to #23)
  • HARDY, “Give Heaven Some Hell” (down from #19 to #33)

Zombie Tracks:

  • Miranda Lambert, “If I Was A Cowboy” (up from #14 to #12, had a decent showing this week)
  • Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” (holds at #38, but lost its bullet again)

In Real Trouble:

  • Conner Smith, “Learn From It” (holds at #40, but lost its bullet)
  • Michael Ray, “Holy Water” (holds at #44, lost its bullet)
  • Dillon Carmichael, “Son Of A” (down from #47 to #59, lost its bullet)
  • Brett Eldredge, “Songs About You” (down from #48 to #50, lost its bullet)

In Some Trouble:

  • Maren Morris, “Circles Around This Town” (holds at #11, but gained only thirty-two spins and forty-four points)
  • Lee Brice, “Soul” (up from #28 to #26, but gained only thirty-nine spins and seventy-nine points)
  • Zac Brown Band, “Out In The Middle” (up from #33to #32, but gained only twenty-two spins and nineteen points)
  • Kelsea Ballerini, “HEARTFIRST” (up from #36 to #35, but gained only fifteen spins and six points)
  • Priscilla Block, “My Bar” (up from #39 to #37, but gained only twenty-five spins and fifty-three points)
  • Lady A, “What A Song Can Do” (up from #43 to #42, but gained only one spin and ten points)
  • Chayce Beckham & Lindsay Ell, “Can’t Do Without Me” (holds at #45, but gained only twenty-six spins and seventy-seven points)
  • Little Big Town, “Hell Yeah” (down from #46 to #47, gained only eleven spins and lost points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Kane Brown, “Like I Love Country Music” (up from #26 to #18. This thing is rocketing up the charts right now

Is still Thanos?:

  • Luke Combs, “Doin’ This” (down from #1 to #2. What will his next move be?)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

  • Matt Stell, “Man Made”
  • Lainey Wilson, “Heart Like A Truck”
  • Cody Johnson, “Human”

Overall Thoughts: I think it’s safe to say we’re just about done with the transition to summer playlists (and not a moment too soon, with Memorial Day weekend on the way). Jones is the only song that I really expect to run out of steam in the next few weeks (I think Lambert will linger for an extra month or so), so I think what you see is about what you’ll get until the fall. It’s also worth noting that although the Pulse of the Top 10 is a mediocre -1 right now, the songs that are at the top (Aldean, Thanos, Parmalee, Hayes, Wallen) are ones that have shown notable strength during their climbs (I don’t have the total week numbers available, but these ones in particular have seen rapid and consistent growth over their runs). As much as I’m not sold on them, perhaps it’s a sign that the radio is finally letting the people decide what a hit is and letting their choices rise to the top? Finally, if there’s a place where quality meets popularity, it’s Brown’s latest single, and as a result that song has rocketed into the Top 20 in just a few short weeks. I’m very interested in seeing what it’s able to do once if gets to top.

On the coronavirus front, it’s more of the same with new daily case averages continuing to rise and hospitalizations now going up along with them. Death counts haven’t started tracking upward quite yet, but the focus recently has been on the virus’s impact on those that survive it: CDC data now indicates that roughly 20% of COVID-19 infections could lead to “long COVID” symptoms, and while the current vaccines are still effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths, they’re not as effective at preventing long COVID. While avoiding COVID-19 altogether is easier said than done, protecting ourselves is going to be really hard in the free-for-all climate we’ve got going right now, so it looks like I’m not leaving this soapbox anytime soon:

I know that most folks aren’t in the mood to bring back strict restrictions or mandates, but that doesn’t mean we should leave ourselves unprotected in the middle of a surge. We need to continue doing all we can to protect ourselves from this virus, and try to limit the unnecessary (and potentially long-lasting) suffering that it causes.

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