The Coronavirus Pandemic of Mainstream Country Music: June 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. Parmalee, “Take My Name” 0 (5/10)
2. Morgan Wallen, “Wasted On You” -1 (4/10)
3. Jason Aldean, “Trouble With A Heartbreak” +1 (6/10)
4. Scotty McCreery, “Damn Strait” +1 (6/10)
5. Walker Hayes, “AA” -1 (4/10)
6. Tim McGraw, “7500 OBO” 0 (5/10)
7. Jake Owen, “Best Thing Since Backroads” -1 (4/10)
8. Dylan Scott, “New Truck” 0 (5/10)
9. Kane Brown, “Like I Love Country Music” +2 (7/10)
10. Maren Morris, “Circles Around This Town” +1 (6/10)
11. Chris Young & Mitchell Tenpenny, “At The End Of A Bar” 0 (5/10)
12. Jon Pardi, “Last Night Lonely” 0 (5/10)
13. Justin Moore, “With A Woman You Love” +1 (6/10)
14. Keith Urban, “Wild Hearts” 0 (5/10)
15. Jackson Dean, “Don’t Come Lookin'” +1 (6/10)
16. Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story” 0 (5/10)
17. Kenny Chesney, “Everyone She Knows” 0 (5/10)
18. ERNEST ft. Morgan Wallen, “Flower Shops” 0 (5/10)
19. Mitchell Tenpenny, “Truth About You” 0 (5/10)
20. Miranda Lambert, “If I Was A Cowboy” +2 (7/10)
21. Old Dominion, “No Hard Feelings” +1 (6/10)
22. Dustin Lynch, “Party Mode” -1 (4/10)
23. Frank Ray, “Country’d Look Good On You” 0 (5/10)
24. Ingrid Andress ft. Sam Hunt, “Wishful Drinking” 0 (5/10)
25. Lee Brice, “Soul” 0 (5/10)
26. Jelly Roll, “Son Of A Sinner” +2 (7/10)
27. Tyler Hubbard, “5 Foot 9” -1 (4/10)
28. Luke Combs, “The Kind Of Love We Make” +1 (6/10)
29. Morgan Wade, “Wilder Days” 0 (5/10)
30. Gabby Barrett, “Pick Me Up” 0 (5/10)
31. Zac Brown Band, “Out In The Middle” 0 (5/10)
32. Jimmie Allen, “Down Home” 0 (5/10)
33. Kelsea Ballerini, “HEARTFIRST” 0 (5/10)
34. Russell Dickerson ft. Jake Scott, “She Likes It” -1 (4/10)
35. Brett Young, “You Didn’t” +1 (6/10)
36. Priscilla Block, “My Bar” 0 (5/10)
37. Chris Stapleton, “Joy Of My Life” +1 (6/10)
38. Conner Smith, “Learn From It” 0 (5/10)
39. Lainey Wilson, “Heart Like A Truck” 0 (5/10)
40. Thomas Rhett ft. Riley Green, “Half Of Me” 0 (5/10)
41. Michael Ray, “Holy Water” +2 (7/10)
42. Lady A, “What A Song Can Do” 0 (5/10)
43. Jordan Davis, “What My World Spins Around” -1 (4/10)*
44. Cole Swindell, “She Had Me At Heads Carolina” 0 (5/10)*
45. Joe Nichols, “Good Day For Living” 0 (5/10)
46. Little Big Town, “Hell Yeah” 0 (5/10)
47. Brett Eldredge, “Songs About You” 0 (5/10)
48. Restless Road, “Growing Old With You” 0 (5/10)
49. Chayce Beckham & Lindsay Ell, “Can’t Do Without Me” 0 (5/10)
50. Randy Houser, “Note To Self” +2 (7/10)
Present Pulse (#1—#25) +3
Future Pulse (#26—#50) +9
Overall Pulse +12
Change From Last Week
-1 😦

*Preliminary Grade

Best Song: “Son Of A Sinner,” 7/10
Worst Song: “AA,” 4/10

Gone:

  • Thomas Rhett, “Slow Down Summer” (recurrent)
  • Caroline Jones, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” (recurrent)
  • Clay Walker, “Catching Up With An Ol’ Memory” (down to #52)
  • Dillon Carmichael, “Son Of A” (down to #53)

Leaving:

  • Jason Aldean, “Trouble With A Heartbreak” (down from #1 to #3)
  • Walker Hayes, “AA” (holds at #5, but lost its bullet with an 1150+ point loss, is already down to #9 on the daily charts, and a new single-to-be-named-later has already been announced)
  • Keith Urban, “Wild Hearts” (down from #7 to #14)
  • Miranda Lambert, “If I Was A Cowboy” (down from #10 to #20)
  • Lady A, “What A Song Can Do” (down from #41 to #42, lost its bullet with a 350+ point loss, and a new single “Summer State Of Mind” has already been announced. Apparently “be a hit” is what a song can’t do)

Zombie Tracks:

  • ERNEST ft. Morgan Wallen, “Flower Shops” (up from #19 to #18, but gained only forty-five spins and 145 points. Carrie Underwood ran it over this week, but the real insult will be when Mediocre Mitch Tenpenny runs it over next week)

In Real Trouble:

  • Frank Ray, “Country’d Look Good On You” (up from #24 to #23, but gained only seventy-one spins and ninety-nine points)
  • Morgan Wade, “Wilder Days” (down from #28 to #29, gained only forty-six spins and sixty-five points)
  • Little Big Town, “Hell Yeah” (down from #44 to #46, gained only five spins and thirty-six points)
  • Restless Road, “Growing Old With You” (down from #45 to #48, lost its bullet)
  • Chayce Beckham & Lindsay Ell, “Can’t Do Without Me” (down from #46 to #49, bullet-less for a second consecutive week)

In Some Trouble:

  • Brett Young, “You Didn’t” (holds at #35, but gained only seven spins and sixty-five points)
  • Conner Smith, “Learn From It” (up from #39 to #38, but gained only one spin and lost points)
  • Randy Houser, “Note To Self” (down from #48 to #50, gained only twenty-four spins and eighty-one points)

In No Trouble At All:

  • Thomas Rhett ft. Riley Green, “Half Of Me” (up from #51 to #40)
  • Tyler Hubbard, “5 Foot 9” (up from #33 to #27)
  • Kane Brown, “Like I Love Country Music (up from #13 to #9)
  • Justin Moore, “With A Woman You Love” (up from #17 to #13)
  • Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story” (up from #20 to #16)

Is Thanos:

  • Luke Combs, “The Kind Of Love We Make” (debuts at #28, should dominate the globe by the 4th of July)

Bubbling Under 50:

On The Way:

  • Carly Pearce, “What He Didn’t Do”
  • Eric Church, “Doing Life With Me”

Overall Thoughts: This was the week that the bullies returned and kicked everyone out of the sandbox. With Thanos and Rhett leading the charge (although given the timing, Rhett never actually left) and Swindell and Davis drafting behind them, this ended up being a tight week for spins despite significant losses from Aldean and Urban and premature exists for Hayes and Lambert. Those last two expected departures, combined with Jones’s quick (and unsurprising) collapse and Lady A’s quick hook, seem to indicate that the window I mentioned a while back for new/lesser-known artists to offer something different from the usual radio drivel is closing (especially since there are still A-listers on the sideline: Johnson will be here next week, and Aldean and Luke Bryan should have new offerings out any minute now…). Radio seems to be coalescing around its hitmakers right now, and if you’re not one of them, you may want to abandon ship now (or wait until boarding one) and look for a better opportunity to make you next move. Look for more chaos next week as the current batch of leavers exit and more big names stage comebacks.

On the coronavirus front, there is some good news to report:

As heartening as this news is, we can’t afford to lower our guard: Vaccines for young children are only useful if parents can be convinced to give their children the shot, and we could be set up for a big problem later this year: The BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants are creating a new surge of cases in Europe (which generally means another rise in cases in the U.S. in a few weeks), and waning immunity from vaccinations and the subvariants’ improved ability to evade existing antibodies could lead to a rough fall. Basically, we can’t afford to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the pandemic like we’ve been trying to do for the last few months. There are still things we can (and should) do to protect ourselves:

Despite what many would like to believe, the pandemic isn’t over, and we must remain vigilant and do everything we can to protect ourselves and our communities. We can do this, but whether or not we actually will remains an open question.

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