The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [Feb. 2005]

Rascal Flatts

Wait a minute I thought we already did the current pulse of mainstream country music? Indeed we did. This is different. Reader Scotty J made the excellent suggestion to take a look back at the country airplay chart of year’s past to compare the differences to the current chart. Here’s how it would work:

Every week I take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. It could be 10 years ago, 20 years ago or even further back. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. How do I determine if a song is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site by either Derek or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Songs rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Songs rated between 5 and 6.5 receive a 0. Songs rated 4.5 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I take a look at the top 30 on the Country Airplay Chart from February 26, 2005.

  1. Rascal Flatts – “Bless The Broken Road” +1
  2. Keith Urban – “You’re My Better Half” +1
  3. Brad Paisley – “Mud On The Tires” +1
  4. Josh Gracin – “Nothin’ To Lose” +1
  5. Alan Jackson – “Monday Morning Church” +1
  6. LeeAnn Rimes – “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense” 0
  7. Craig Morgan – “That’s What I Love About Sunday” 0
  8. Sugarland – “Baby Girl” +1
  9. Reba McEntire – “He Gets That From Me” +1
  10. Billy Dean – “Let Them Be Little” +1
  11. Blake Shelton – “Some Beach” +1
  12. Montgomery Gentry – “Gone” +1
  13. Brooks & Dunn – “It’s Getting Better All The Time” +1
  14. Kenny Chesney – “Anything But Mine” 0
  15. Lee Ann Womack – “I May Hate Myself In The Morning” +1
  16. Jo Dee Messina – “My Give A Damn’s Busted” +1
  17. Andy Griggs – “If Heaven” 0
  18. Toby Keith – “Honky Tonk U” -1
  19. Joe Nichols – “What’s A Guy Gotta Do” +1
  20. Jamie O’Neal – “Trying To Find Atlantis” +1
  21. Gretchen Wilson – “What I Think About Cheatin'” +1
  22. Martina McBride – “God’s Will” +1
  23. Trace Adkins – “Songs About Me” +1
  24. Blaine Larsen – “How Do You Get That Lonely” +1
  25. Tim McGraw – “Drugs or Jesus” +1
  26. Terri Clark – “The World Needs A Drink” +1
  27. Jeff Bates – “Long Slow Kisses” +1
  28. Phil Vassar – “I’ll Take That As A Yes (The Hot Tub Song)” 0
  29. Miranda Lambert – “Me and Charlie Talking” 0
  30. Lonestar – “Class Reunion (That Used To Be Us)” 0

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: +21

What a night and day difference! As you can see country music was waaaaaaaaaay better 10 years ago compared to now. A 25 point difference to be exact. Listening to these songs was like a trip down memory lane. The songs I had forgotten about I immediately remembered once they started playing. Rascal Flatts was at the top of the charts and the song didn’t stink! Isn’t that amazing? Alan Jackson was in the top five, where he belonged. I forgot how much I loved “Monday Morning Church” and it was definitely one of my favorites from 2005.

There were a total of nine female country artists on the chart in 2005! For comparison to the current chart, it only has five female country artists and three of them are paired with a male artist. Needless to say female country artists had much more airtime in 2005. There are also nine artists currently charting in the top 60 Country Airplay chart that were also charting in the top 30 in 2005. Toby Keith has the only negative song on the chart in “Honky Tonk U.” So Keith was the worst artist on radio in 2005. Today he’s only like the 10th worst artist on the radio.

I did not remember Billy Dean, Jamie O’Neal, Blaine Larsen and Jeff Bates at all on radio. But then I remembered them after hearing their songs. Larsen’s “How Do You Get That Lonely” really stood out to me. You would never hear such a sad and depressing song like this on radio today. I wonder what happened to him? This was a great song and his voice was great too. I didn’t remember Terri Clark’s “The World Needs A Drink,” but now I want to listen to it more. It’s just a fun country song.

So what do you think of this chart? Do you want this to be a weekly feature on the site? Be sure to let me know in the comments! 

17 thoughts on “The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [Feb. 2005]

  1. Ron February 27, 2015 / 11:07 am

    Night and day for sure. I remember liking the Terri Clark song alot but for some reason it didn’t become a hit (I think it stalled around 25). Would have been a #1 if Toby Keith sang it

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  2. bob February 27, 2015 / 11:37 am

    I definitely like it. A few comments.
    While i’m not a big Andy Griggs fan, “If Heaven” was his best song and it was solely written by Gretchen Peters. I’d give it a plus 1.
    I was a fan of Toby Keith until he got obsessed with drinking songs like “Get Drunk and Be Somebody”, “Get My Drink on”, etc. Country music will always have drinking songs but those that suggest that getting drunk is a good idea are irresponsible to my thinking. I loved “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”, “Me Too”, “My List”, etc.
    I thought Blaine Larsen would be big. He has the voice, sounds country. Don’t know why he didn’t make it.

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    • Josh Schott February 27, 2015 / 11:47 am

      Really I didn’t know Peter wrote “If Heaven.” She continues to impress me the more I find out about her.

      I too was a fan of Toby pre-drinking/chest-thumping Patriot songs era. His early to mid 90s material is pretty good. “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” is probably my favorite song from him. But ever since the late 90s he has produced a bunch of clichéd garbage.

      Larsen probably impressed me the most out of all of these artists on the chart above. As you said a great voice. I looked at his Wikipedia page and it says he was with BNA Records with this song and his first two albums. Charted pretty decently. Then he just went and left BNA for an independent label. He then made an album with them, but it went unreleased and he hasn’t released a new one since. That’s pretty strange. It’s like he fell off the grid. Wherever he is I wouldn’t mind if he started making music again.

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      • Scotty J February 27, 2015 / 11:49 am

        Blaine Larsen was a local kid from here in western Washington where I live and he seemed like a good kid but for whatever reason he just never broke through to the next level.

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        • Josh Schott February 27, 2015 / 11:51 am

          That’s a damn shame. He certainly has the talent, but as you said just couldn’t break through to the next level. His Facebook page indicates that he’s done with making music now.

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  3. Scotty J February 27, 2015 / 11:47 am

    Good stuff Josh! ‘I May Hate Myself In The Morning’ is one of the greatest songs in history and all the awards it won add further proof. ‘When I Think About Cheatin’ was the best single that Gretchen Wilson ever released and is an example of a song that would never get a chance today.

    I think I would give a few more zeros personally like the McEntire and Dean songs and on the other hand I always liked ‘That’s What I Love About Sunday’ which was a huge multiweek number one and did such a great job of setting a scene. Also I think ‘Me And Charlie Talking’ which I believe was Miranda’s debut single is very good and is refreshingly lacking in all the aggressive attitude that she displays far too often.

    Anyway this really is a good way of showing how the quality of mainstream country has declined in every way from the sound of the songs to especially the lyrical depth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott February 27, 2015 / 11:58 am

      Hey thank you for the great suggestion. You’re right that’s probably the best single Wilson ever put out.

      I went back and forth on Reba, Dean, Morgan and Miranda. I think those are songs that vary with each listener. But I think everyone would agree they’re at the worst decent. Certainly better than a majority of the stuff on the chart now.

      Yes the amount of lyrical depth surprised even me. I knew country music was better 10 years ago, but I didn’t realize it was this much better. Hell, the not so serious songs have more lyrical depth. Clark’s “The World Needs A Drink” is a well-written party song and even Blake’s “Some Beach” is clever and funny.

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      • Scotty J February 27, 2015 / 1:44 pm

        Yep it’s something I’ve mentioned over at SCM a few times that for as much as we all complain about rock instrumentation, rapping and EDM (which are bad to varying degrees) the real damaging change in mainstream country music has been the lyrical depth. A song like ‘What We Ain’t Got’ by Jake Owen stands out today but in the past there were all kinds of songs like that and most importantly they were big hits. Even the clever songs like ‘Some Beach’ are funnier and have a light hearted vibe as opposed to today where some are just creepy.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Raymond February 27, 2015 / 12:09 pm

    Wow some of these songs and artists I haven’t heard of ever.
    I liked Rascal Flatts this was one of their few good songs
    Brad Paisley and Josh Gracin songs to me remain classics
    The other songs I’ve heard of are Sugarland in my opinion one of their best songs behind stuff like Little Miss and Stay. I also like Stuck Like Glue. Really sugarland has remain solid and I would love for them to make a comeback.
    Gretchen Wilson releasing that song showed how she could use her unique voice for the better.
    Some Beach in my opinion best Blake Shelton song ever.

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  5. Zack February 27, 2015 / 5:56 pm

    Wow this was 10 years ago….that’s crazy to think. Btw Josh, I LOVE this feature and think it would be cool to have every week! Looks great except for a few things. Mud On The Tires a +1? It was bro-country before bro-country was cool. And Kenny a 0? Just wondering on your thoughts on that.

    Wow a +21 though…. for my money, 2012 was where it spiraled out of control completely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lorenzo February 28, 2015 / 12:58 am

      I’d rate Anything but Mine +1, it is very good. as for Mud on the Tires, the song definitely deserves a +1: first of all it’s actually a country sounding song. and its lyrics are good, when the song was released it was an original subject. and the girl in the song is respected (unlike the girls in jason aldean, brantley gilbert, Thomas rhett and florida georgia line song).

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      • Scotty J February 28, 2015 / 11:32 am

        That’s a good point about ‘Mud On The Tires’ which is song I kind of like and you can’t judge it by all that has come since then. In theory there is nothing wrong with songs about dirt roads and all that it only becomes a real negative when 75% of the songs touch on that theme.

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  6. Lorenzo February 27, 2015 / 6:53 pm

    I always thought country music was miles better back in 2005. nobody knew jason aldean yet, how great. If only nobody had known him at all country radio would still be amazing.

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  7. Pete Marshall February 27, 2015 / 10:49 pm

    I would give “If Heaven” and “That’s what I love about Sunday’s” both a +1. Country music was better in 2005 than crap that we listen to now in 2015.

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  8. DimM February 28, 2015 / 9:12 am

    I think Griggs , Morgan & Lambert deserves +1 and Adkins & Keith 0. But all these songs are much better than the best song FLG can write.

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  9. Kyle October 20, 2015 / 11:56 am

    In my opinion the best decade of country music was 1995-2005 (also the first decade of my life). I think during this time country became more upbeat, rocky, and poppy. While some of the artists during this time did not have much of a country sound (Phil Vassar, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, and Rascal Flatts to name a few), they still produced exceptional music with a taste of country. And for the more stereotypical country singers (Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry, Alan Jackson, etc..), they didn’t force the redneck lifestyle in their songs so much that it became annoying as it is today. Unfortunately as some of these artists started to appeal to a larger, younger crowd, they started producing shitty redneck pop music which inspired other new artists to be even worse. However, Zac Brown, Eric Church, and possibly Kenny Chesney (he’s back and forth in my opinion) may be a glimmer of hope that country music could return to its former glory days.

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