The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [March 2000]

Toby Keith 2000

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 March 25, 2000.

  1. Toby Keith – “How Do You Like Me Now?!” 0
  2. George Strait – “The Best Day” +1
  3. Tim McGraw – “My Best Friend” +1
  4. Tracy Lawrence – “Lessons Learned” +1
  5. Mark Wills – “Back at One” +1
  6. Martina McBride – “Love’s The Only House” 0
  7. Lonestar – “Smile” 0
  8. Clint Black & Steve Wariner – “Been There” +1
  9. Jo Dee Messina – “Because You Love Me” +1
  10. Dixie Chicks – “Cowboy Take Me Away” +1
  11. Phil Vassar – “Carlene” 0
  12. SheDaisy – “This Woman Needs” +1
  13. Faith Hill – “Breathe” +1
  14. Andy Griggs – “She’s More” +1
  15. Faith Hill – “The Way You Love Me” 0
  16. Chely Wright – “It Was” +1
  17. Kenny Rogers & Alison Krauss – “Buy Me A Rose” +1
  18. Garth Brooks – “Do What You Gotta Do” +1
  19. Montgomery Gentry – “Daddy Won’t Sell The Farm” 0
  20. Kenny Chesney – “What I Need to Do” +1
  21. Trisha Yearwood – “Real Live Woman” +1
  22. Vince Gill – “Let’s Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye” +1
  23. Brad Paisley – “He Didn’t Have to Be” +1
  24. Jessica Andrews – “Unbreakable Heart” +1
  25. Collin Raye – “Couldn’t Last A Moment” 0
  26. Dixie Chicks – “Goodbye Earl” +1
  27. Yankee Grey – “Another Nine Minutes” 0
  28. Clay Walker – “The Chain of Love” +1
  29. Clay Davidson – “Unconditional” +1
  30. Brad Paisley – “Me Neither” +1

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: +22

Last week we looked at 2010 and it was only at +4. This week we go back 10 years before in the year 2000, where it’s a whopping +22. Clearly a much better environment at country radio at this time. This score is right around the 2005 score we looked at a few weeks back and 26 spots higher than the current pulse. Fun fact: three different artists had two songs charting at the same time on the March 28, 2000 chart. The three artists are Brad Paisley, Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks. By the way how creepy does Keith look in that cover photo?

As for my thoughts on the songs, I decided I want to do this different from here on out. Instead of me throwing my thoughts out on the songs I want to talk about I would rather just let you all ask me questions on the ones you want further clarification on and my thoughts on. It saves me time and I would rather spend more time conversing with you the reader. Sound good? Fire away with any questions below!

22 thoughts on “The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [March 2000]

  1. Raymond March 20, 2015 / 1:04 pm

    Ok I want you to explain the following songs.
    Both The Dixie Chicks and the Faith Hill songs cause I thought for sure you would’ve hated the Dixie Chicks or Faith Hills Breathe.

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    • Josh Schott March 20, 2015 / 1:20 pm

      Even though I find Faith Hill to be overrated, “Breathe” is a song that just works for her. And it doesn’t get too crazy with the pop influences, which is what prevented me from giving “The Way You Love Me” a +1. As for the Dixie Chicks, I don’t think they got enough credit for their music and I really didn’t appreciate them as much until I got older. Their brand of music would be much more accepted today than in 2000. They were considered too pop, but now they would be considered too country probably.

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      • Raymond March 20, 2015 / 1:22 pm

        Further explain what made you like Cowboy Take Me Away and Goodbye Earl 2 of ny favorites from them already.

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        • Josh Schott March 20, 2015 / 1:28 pm

          What I like about “Cowboy Take Me Away” is the light instrumentation that allows the song to breathe. The vocals are strong and while the lyrics could be a little better, they’re good enough for me. “Goodbye Earl” kind of reminds me of Miranda Lambert songs, except Dixie Chicks does a lot better executing it than Lambert could. This is a more light-hearted song that has fun, while maintaining it’s country roots. It doesn’t need bells and whistles to make it great like a lot of the “fun” songs nowadays.

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      • Raymond March 20, 2015 / 1:34 pm

        I’m assuming How Do You Like Me Now is Toby Keith’s last OK song.

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      • NoahHibiscusEaton March 20, 2015 / 3:00 pm

        I strongly (but respectfully) disagree with you on Faith Hill, but completely agree about the Dixie Chicks.

        Look, I get why they have always been intensely polarizing (and that’s putting aside the political end of it). A lot of their music can occasionally be off-putting because it comes across as preachy as opposed to populist, and all their albums are weakened somewhat by their share of filler.

        But as musicians, Emily Robison and Martie McGuire are the real deal where the road really begins to widen in their favor. Even on their first two Maines-era studio albums, which were heavily pop-influenced, their musicianship stands out over the glossy production. And on the stripped-down “Home” album, they REALLY deliver the goods.

        And while I understand how even Natalie Maines’ voice is polarizing for the same reason Jennifer Nettles and Carrie Underwood have polarizing vocals in how bombastic and shouty they can sound…………I for one think Maines has a strong, commanding vocal. And while it’s not hard to see why Maines at her shouty registers tends to get the most remarks, it’s important not to overlook the fact she can really deliver at lower registers and convey genuine emotion. Their read of “Top of the World” is a great example of this, as is “Easy Silence” and “Lullaby”……….where she just sounds beautiful.

        *

        So, all in all, I like the Dixie Chicks more than most in critical circles, I imagine. I’d certainly much rather hear them return to mainstream airwaves than most of what’s playing not just now, but even ten years ago……………………….but, yeah……………………….ain’t gonna happen because of the politics thingie! =P

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      • Scotty J March 20, 2015 / 3:08 pm

        Yeah I really liked the Dixie Chicks also and as Noah said their musicianship is very high. I’m not sure I remember them as being called too pop that much in their prime years but I would put songs like ‘Long Time Gone’, ‘Tonight The Heartache’s On Me’ and even ‘You Were Mine’ up against anything from just about any timeframe.

        In many ways they are from a musical standpoint the exact kind of act we need now in that they were country but not so country that they couldn’t appeal to a wider range of people. As I said before their loss was very big for the state of country music.

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    • Alan Pierce March 21, 2015 / 4:48 am

      Although I didn’t consider myself to be a Dixie Chicks “fan” at the time, there was absolutely no doubt this was my favorite song of 2000. In fact it is one of my favourites of all time simply for the instrumentation. I encourage anybody that hasn’t listened to it for a while to give it a spin. The nearly one minute outro featuring Martie, and (Natalie’s dad) Lloyd Maines on pedal steel is amazing!

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  2. Jay March 20, 2015 / 1:58 pm

    These songs are 15 years old and still better than anything even considered good now. Why Lonestar at a 0?

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    • Josh Schott March 20, 2015 / 2:40 pm

      I don’t like the production of “Smile.” Also the lyrics are a little too hokey for my taste.

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  3. Scotty J March 20, 2015 / 2:08 pm

    A few interesting songs here.

    I really like ‘Cowboy Take Me Away’ it just has such an airy hopefulness about it. If I remember right it was written by Martie about her sister Emily when she was married to Charlie Robison (which ended in divorce so no happy ending). The Dixie Chicks were so good and arguments can be made that there unfortunate incident started the chain reaction which has led to where we are today.

    ‘Buy Me A Rose’ is another good one and it came out of left field as Kenny Rogers had not seen the top ten since 1989. It is also the type of song you just don’t see any more. Songs about married couples have always been a staple of country music but it just doesn’t happen much anymore.

    “What I Need To Do’ is an example of good Kenny Chesney (his previous single to this was ‘She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy’ the ultimate bad Kenny Chesney). He had quite a few really good songs in the first 10-15 years of his career, probably more good than bad, like this one and others like the great ‘That’s Why I’m Here’ and even songs like ‘All I Need To Know’ and ‘Me And You’ and his debut independent single ‘The Tin Man’. It gets lost in the endless beach and beer songs but he has a pretty good catalog.

    ‘Daddy Won’t Sell The Farm’ is a guilty pleasure for me. It was only their third single after ‘Hillbilly Shoes’ and ‘Lonely And Gone’ and in many ways it sort of laid the groundwork for some of their later work like ‘My Town’ in that it hit on issues like creeping sprawl and the loss of small town values. Can see why you gave it a 0 but it might be one of the songs that looks worse because we know what has since come along.

    Haven’t thought of some of these songs in years. Good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bob March 20, 2015 / 2:43 pm

    Yankee Grey’s “Another Nine Minutes” is one of my favorite songs on the list. While I am usually more of a ballad guy, I love this uptempo song from the opening fiddles through the infectious chorus. I saw them at one of the World Trade Center lunchtime country concerts in the summer of 2000. I learned years later on Wiki that vocal problems, certainly not evident at the time I saw them, eventually caused lead singer Tim Hunt to leave the group. A second album followed in ’02 with a new lead but it didn’t chart and the group disbanded. I wonder if Tim Hunt or any of the other band members ever got together again or joined other groups.

    “Another Nine Minutes” was written by Billy Crain, Tim Buppert and Tom Douglas. Douglas is better known for writing Collin Raye’s “Little Rock” and co-writing M. Lambert’s “House That Built Me”.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. NoahHibiscusEaton March 20, 2015 / 2:48 pm

    I couldn’t remember about a sixth of these, so I listened to those I was vague on including “Another Nine Minutes”, “Unconditional”, “This Woman Needs” and “Unbreakable Heart”……………….and here’s my results:

    *

    1: Toby Keith – “How Do You Like Me Now?!” 0 (The lyrics actually make me cringe, honestly, even still…………..but when you have as much charisma as Keith, it’s a saving grace as long as the track fires on all other cylinders. Which it does)
    George Strait – “The Best Day” +1
    Tim McGraw – “My Best Friend” +1
    Tracy Lawrence – “Lessons Learned” +1
    Mark Wills – “Back at One” +1
    Martina McBride – “Love’s The Only House” 0
    Lonestar – “Smile” 0
    Clint Black & Steve Wariner – “Been There” +1
    Jo Dee Messina – “Because You Love Me” +1
    Dixie Chicks – “Cowboy Take Me Away” +1
    Phil Vassar – “Carlene” 0
    SheDaisy – “This Woman Needs” +1
    Faith Hill – “Breathe” 0 (Faith Hill is where our disagreements will be most intense. I personally think she is one of the most anonymous and useless superstars in all modern country history with nothing distinctive about her whatsoever aside from her pipes, but nonetheless fails to elevate mediocre or worse material all the same.)
    Andy Griggs – “She’s More” +1
    Faith Hill – “The Way You Love Me” -1 (I’m sorry, this is STILL a dial-turner to my ears. Call me anti-Hill biased, but from the atrocious lyrics (“If I had just one wish, I wish you could see the way you kiss…”) to the grating vocal effects (especially the chorus echo of “love me”) to the faceless production, this remains an embarrassment to this day.)
    Chely Wright – “It Was” +1
    Kenny Rogers & Alison Krauss – “Buy Me A Rose” +1
    Garth Brooks – “Do What You Gotta Do” +1
    Montgomery Gentry – “Daddy Won’t Sell The Farm” 0
    Kenny Chesney – “What I Need to Do” 0
    Trisha Yearwood – “Real Live Woman” +1
    Vince Gill – “Let’s Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye” +1
    Brad Paisley – “He Didn’t Have to Be” +1
    Jessica Andrews – “Unbreakable Heart” +1
    Collin Raye – “Couldn’t Last A Moment” 0
    Dixie Chicks – “Goodbye Earl” +1
    Yankee Grey – “Another Nine Minutes” 0
    Clay Walker – “The Chain of Love” 0
    Clay Davidson – “Unconditional” +1
    Brad Paisley – “Me Neither” +1

    *

    Final Score: +18

    (So we actually were in closer agreement here than we were with the 2010 retrospective: where my results barely registered a positive result. A couple of 0 scores instead of +1s, as well as Faith Hill were really the only dissenting sore thumb that stuck out. Sorry, Hill is one of the most disposable country superstars of all time to me. Which is a shame, because she has strong vocals without a doubt. The problem is, she almost ALWAYS wastes it on the most insipid and shallow material imaginable. If I’m being brutally honest, I’d say her contribution to the terrible “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” soundtrack, “Where Are You Christmas?”, is her best single to date and probably the only one that deserves a +1. Otherwise, she even edges Rascal Flatts in terms of most disposable mainstream acts of these past two generations.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scotty J March 20, 2015 / 3:14 pm

      The thing about Faith Hill is she just never seemed real to me. Her music was just so glossy and plastic feeling I’m not sure I can think of one song she had that was even a little gritty or intense.

      The other song on this chart that I would give a -1 is ‘Back At One’ by Mark Wills. It was just a bland cover of the Brian McKnight original which though a massive hit was also very bland. Just too boring for me.

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    • Raymond March 20, 2015 / 3:58 pm

      Hey Noah what’s your opinion overall on The Dixie Chicks

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      • Raymond March 20, 2015 / 4:05 pm

        Sorry already saw.

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  6. Pete Marshall March 20, 2015 / 6:29 pm

    Josh you are right on the money on this chart.

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  7. Zack March 20, 2015 / 11:36 pm

    I really wish I was more familiar with these, I know maybe 1/3 of them. Anyway I have to wonder if a year in the 80’s or 90’s would yield a perfect score? That would be cool to see!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cobra March 21, 2015 / 11:12 am

      I completely agree, Zack. Really looking forward to a mid 90s or even 80s list to see how high the score could get.

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  8. Cobra March 21, 2015 / 11:11 am

    There are only two where I would have a real disagreement:
    Toby Keith’s HDYLMN is what started him down that type of song of his career that he’s become famous for and got him away from all the good that was on GHV1. I’d give that one a -1.

    Martina’s song is one I’d give a +1 to. It took some time to grow on me as a song, as I always remember it feeling a bit long when it first came out, and yes, the chorus does basically just repeat itself, but overall, I think it was a really strong song.

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  9. John in Georgia May 17, 2015 / 4:30 pm

    I’d give “How Do You Like Me Now” a +1, but I have always considered it to be the beginning of Keith’s decline. I generally like Toby Keith’s music before HDYLMN while I generally dislike his music afterwards. In fact, his follow up single “Country Comes to Town” is loud and obnoxious and would fit in well with bro-country songs of 2011-2014.

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