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!
Best Song: “Son Of A Sinner,” 7/10
Worst Song: “Fall In Love,” 2/10
- Jake Owen, “Best Thing Since Backroads” (recurrent)
- Kameron Marlowe, “Giving You Up” (down to #51)
- Eric Church, “Doing Life With Me” (down to #52)
- Kane Brown, “Like I Love Country Music” (down from #1 to #4)
- Dylan Scott, “New Truck” (down from #6 to #13)
- Maren Morris, “Circles Around This Town” (down from #24 to #44)
- Frank Ray, “Country’d Look Good On You (up from #19 to #17 with a decent week, but after what happened it’s never leaving this list)
- Brett Young, “You Didn’t” (up from #30 to #29, but lost its bullet)
In Real Trouble:
- Brett Eldredge, “Songs About You” (down from #45 to #47, gained only two spins and lost points)
- Little Big Town, “Hell Yeah” (holds at #48, but gained only twenty-seven spins and eighty points)
In Some Trouble:
- Dustin Lynch, “Party Mode” (down from #16 to #18, gained only four spins and lost points)
- Sam Hunt, “Water Under The Bridge” (holds at #34, but gained only twenty-thre spins and ninety-four points)
- Michael Ray, “Holy Water” (holds at #36, but barely keeps its bullet by breaking even on spins and losing points)
- Joe Nichols, “Good Day For Living” (up from #38 to #37, but gained only four spins and lost points)
- Dillon Carmichael, “Son Of A” (down from #44 to #46, gained only fourteen spins and twenty-four points)
In No Trouble At All:
- Blake Shelton, “No Body” (debuts at #33)
- Bailey Zimmerman, “Fall In Love” (up from #28 to #22)
- Dierks Bentley, “Gold” (up from #47 to #41)
- Carly Pearce, “What He Didn’t Do” (up from #46 to #42)
- Luke Combs, “The Kind Of Love We Make” (up from #8 to #7, and has only been inching forward over the past month)
Bubbling Under 50:
- Kameron Marlowe, “Giving You Up” (5/10)
- Eric Church, “Doing Life With Me” (6/10)*
- Matt Stell, “Man Made”
- Ryan Griffin, “Salt, Lime And Tequila”
On The Way:
- Parmalee, “Girl In Mine”
Overall Thoughts: This was an…interesting week, to say the least. Spins were relatively abundant this week (Shelton had a big debut, but Brown, Scott, and Morris completely flooded the market), and while a lot of songs on the back half of the chart didn’t get a lot of them, the ones they got were high-quality, allowing most everyone to post decent point gains. The truly interesting part, however, is that there was a stark divide between the songs that posted decent point gains and the songs that absolutely cleaned up this week. Most notably, the common thread for those near the middle/bottom of the chart is that they are relative newcomers to the party (Shelton, Bentley, McCollum, Kent, and even the tracks from Smith, Aldean, and Zimmerman are fairly recent). We’re seeing a lot more examples of songs racing up the charts like its 1995, and the fact that some newer names got some serious airtime this week tells me that’s there a lot of flotsam floating around on the charts that the nation’s PDs are not impressed with. Look for a higher turnover rate than usual in the near future, especially as the summer winds down.
Speaking of long chart runs, it was the lead story in CA this week, as radio insiders tried to pinpoint exactly why the escalator has gotten so slow. Fingers were pointed at short listening times (and subsequent at Nielsen for collecting this data and letting programmers optimize based on it), an over-reliance on nighttime airplay that few people actually listen to, a switch from a star-based system to a song-based system (I disagree with this one; the stars are still getting the lion’s share of airtime), industry consolidation (yeah), playlist shortening (double yeah), an increase in non-radio opportunities to push new artists (and this more songs are pushed overall), and so on. I think some of these ideas are valid, but I also think that there’s just a lot of cruft out there that’s getting pushed by labels that no one actually wants to hear, so stations are caught between appeasing Music Row and responding to the data from their listeners, and thus they play songs just enough to let them move forward without annoying their audience. (This would also explain why “currents” are getting a smaller slice of airtime while “recurrent” and “gold” songs, i.e. proven hits, get a bit more space to shine.) Given some of the terrible scores I’ve been handing out lately, I really think Nashville needs to take a look in the mirror and ask itself if it’s really putting its best foot forward and making a quality product that will demand its fair share of the airwaves.
On the coronavirus front, this week was a repeat of last week: Daily new case numbers continue to fall, daily death rates continue to rise, and no one wants to talk about it. The major news, however, concerns the latest weapon against the virus: The word is that the FDA is planning to authorize omicron-updated booster shots around Labor Day (the CDC will need to sign off too, but they’ve got some meetings in early September as well), and “the Biden administration is preparing to distribute the updated booster shots to teenagers and adults as part of its fall booster campaign.” While this timeline feels a hair too slow given that school is about to start, in the absence of any other restrictions or guidance, it’s the only measure people are even willing to entertain anymore, so here’s hoping this shot rollout is swift and smooth. The good news is that if you’re still worried about the virus, our tried-and-true best practices remain as effective as ever:
- Wear a high-quality mask and maintain proper social distance from others when in public. A high-quality mask that fits well can still provide solid protection, even if you’re the only one wearing one.
- If you’re not vaccinated yet, get your shots at the earliest opportunity, get your booster shot once you become eligible, and be ready to get the omicron-specific booster when it becomes available.
Regardless of how others feel about the virus, the good news is that we still have the tools available to keep ourselves and the people we care about safe. If we all continue to take the proper precautions, we have the power to minimize the needless suffering and officially bring this pandemic to a close.