The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [April 2013]

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? 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 April 13, 2013. After getting a perfect score last week when looking at 1993, we’ll now get to see how much country music regressed over 20 years.

  1. Hunter Hayes – “Somebody’s Heartbreak” -1 (Too pop sounding)
  2. Lee Brice – “I Drive Your Truck” +1 (Brice’s best single of his career)
  3. Lady Antebellum – “Downtown” (I like the sentiment, but it’s overproduced)
  4. Blake Shelton – “Sure Be Cool If You Did” -1 (It made the bro country mashup, so…)
  5. Thompson Square – “If I Didn’t Have You” (Pretty forgettable song)
  6. Chris Young – “I Can Take It From There” (Young doesn’t show enough charisma and energy)
  7. Miranda Lambert – “Mama’s Broken Heart” -1 (This song is just dumb)
  8. Kenny Chesney – “Pirate Flag” -1 (This song is even dumber)
  9. Florida Georgia Line – “Get Your Shine On” -1 (I think this is the song that made the term “sugar shaker” popular)
  10. Carrie Underwood – “Two Black Cadillacs” (Good production and vocals, but is the violence necessary?)
  11. George Strait – “Give It All We Got Tonight” +1 (One of his weaker singles, but still good)
  12. Darius Rucker – “Wagon Wheel” (Just listen to Old Crow Medicine Show’s version)
  13. Eric Church – “Like Jesus Does” (Too sappy to take seriously)
  14. Brantley Gilbert – “More Than Miles” (This sounds exactly the same as “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do”)
  15. Jason Aldean – “1994” -1 (One of Aldean’s worst songs ever)
  16. Brad Paisley – “Beat This Summer” +1 (A summer tune I can enjoy)
  17. Tim McGraw & Taylor Swift – “Highway Don’t Care” -1 (This song’s entire arrangement annoys me)
  18. Dustin Lynch – “She Cranks My Tractor” -1 (Do I really need to explain this one?)
  19. Blake Shelton – “Boys ‘Round Here” -1 (One of the worst country songs ever)
  20. The Band Perry – “DONE.” -1 (This song flat-out annoys me)
  21. Jake Owen – “Anywhere With You” -1 (I’ve heard this song way too many times in my life)
  22. Zac Brown Band – “Jump Right In” +1 (You either love or hate this song)
  23. Rascal Flatts – “Changed” (Not bad enough for a -1, not good enough for a +1)
  24. Gloriana – “Can’t Shake You” (A pretty forgettable song)
  25. The Henningsens – “American Beautiful” (I forgot about this father-son-daughter trio)
  26. Kip Moore – “Hey Pretty Girl” -1 (The hook is annoying and Kip sounds bored)
  27. Jana Kramer – “Whiskey” (A decent song. Nothing more, nothing less)
  28. Kelly Clarkson & Vince Gill – “Don’t Rush” +1 (This song needed more Vince to be really good)
  29. Easton Corbin – “All Over The Road” -1 (The start of Easton wasting his talent)
  30. Brett Eldredge – “Don’t Ya” (Eldredge’s vocals save this song from being terrible)

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -8

Pretty terrible list, huh? Amazing how much of a difference there is from 1993 to 2013. Over a 20 year span the pulse went from a perfect +30 to -8, making it a 38 point drop. There are some songs up above that would be strong contenders for the worst country songs ever. If terrible music wasn’t being made, it was usually just safe and neutral music. Hell this time period is even worse than today, which was at -4 this past week. There’s really not any great music, just a few good songs that save this chart from being a total wash. Of course this is right before bro country would become huge.

Personally I remember being a pretty disinterested country music fan at this time. My frustration started in late 2012 and at this point I was drifting away from the genre. I went about five months in 2013 without turning on country radio. Zac Brown Band and Brad Paisley were the only country music I would listen to in my music library. I really got into rap music. When I returned and saw it had gotten even worse, that was when I began my search for country music beyond the mainstream and started the path to me eventually creating this site.

As is now customary, fire away with your comments and questions about this week’s past pulse.

16 thoughts on “The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [April 2013]

  1. DimM April 10, 2015 / 11:14 am

    And I thought i was the only one i don’t like Mama’s broken heart .Yes it’s dumb.
    But i disagree with Highway don’t care. +1 to 1994 because it mentions Joe Diffie!

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  2. Raymond April 10, 2015 / 11:21 am

    Ok well Mamas Broken Heart is one where I flat-out disagree with. The amount of energy and particularly the bridge Line Your Lips And Keep Them Close Never Never See You Cry. It’s awesomely written and Miranda owns it

    For Carrie song yes the violence is necessary. Just Kidding but Carrie gives a top notch vocal performance perfect production.

    Give It All We Got Tonight is just so boring and predictable a 0.

    Brad Paisley song is dumb no matter what way I try this is where Brad started to lose me to be honest

    Anywhere With You was Ok I guess I was lucky my radio station didn’t overplay it0

    The Henningsens were awful to me they seemed just so bland and boring. -1

    Gloriana Can’t Shake You is a definite +1. The song starts off decent the chorus though really shows their signature harmonies and then when Rachel takes the second verse and gives in my opinion one of the best vocal performances ever and the rest of the song really captures the heartbreak emotion one f the best songs in 2013 although the bar was set pretty low.

    Kip and Jana both really do well with their songs. Particularly Jana although the production is a little bland. As for Kip I saw on Country Universe he’s a definite acquired taste you either like him.

    Never heard Don’t Rush I’m a little nervous to hear it cause Kelly Clarkson and Vince Gill I mean I’m expecting good things.

    As for the rest yeah 2013 was when for me the acts liked were Zac Brown Band Kip Moore Carrie Underwood Miranda Lambert Gloriana and Little Big Town.

    My Pulse -3. Man 2013 sucked still. I blame FGL

    On the bright side there was no Redneck Crazy

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    • ron12274 April 10, 2015 / 1:31 pm

      Me too, Mama’s broken heart is one of my favorite Miranda songs (even though it was written by Kacey Musgraves). I also really like Done by TBP and Pirate Flag is a guilty pleasure but otherwise I agree its a fairly weak chart.
      Heard I drive your truck the other day and am amazed at what a well crafted song it really is. And one of the few recent songs to tug on the heartstrings like good country used to do. Lee does a great job on it too

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      • bob April 10, 2015 / 2:30 pm

        Mama’s Broken Heart was not solely written by Kacey Musgraves. Her co-writers were Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. I heard MBH sung by Brandy Clark about 18 months ago at the Bluebird Cafe and to me she sounded a lot better than Miranda.

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      • ron12274 April 10, 2015 / 3:14 pm

        Bob, that just gives more credence that its not a dumb song by any means

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  3. Derek Hudgin April 10, 2015 / 12:34 pm

    This is really where I started to lose interest too. Jason Aldean’s “Take A Little Ride” was the spark that started my fire of hatred against mainstream country.

    But a chart that has BOTH “1994” & “Boys Round Here”??? Good Lord, two awful, terrible, very bad songs. Personally, I’d put “Mama’s Broken Heart” (I’m not a fan of the song, but I think it’s just good enough to cross the 0 threshold from a -1) and “Highway Don’t Care” at 0s, and “Hey Pretty Girl” at a +1. I think that’s Kip’s best song, and I think it’s a good, well written song. But outside of those three songs, I’d agree with the other 27 rankings.

    “Don’t Rush” was such an underrated song. Needs more Vince, like you said, but still awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. John in Georgia April 10, 2015 / 2:41 pm

    Two of the worst songs in the history of the genre are on this list (1994 and Boys ‘Round Here).

    I agree with most of your rankings, however there are a few songs that I am more favorable to. “Mama’s Broken Heart” is a borderline 0,+1 in my book, maybe because it told more of a story than the average song on the radio at the time. I’d also give “Hey Pretty Girl” a +1, in spite of it’s use of the generic girl. “All Over the Road” is a guilty pleasure song of mine, fluffy lyrics and all. Clearly not Eason’s best work, however.

    “Wagon Wheel” is a tough song to grade. I can understand and respect someone grading it -1, 0, or +1.

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  5. Lorenzo April 10, 2015 / 3:58 pm

    I agree on most of them but I would have rated 0 highway don’t care and all over the road. by the way I think 1994 is way worse than boys round here. I hate them both but 1994 is purely idiotic. what’s the point of stupid aldean fans screaming out joe diffie’s name at his shows while they don’t even know who the hell he is???

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  6. Zack April 10, 2015 / 4:39 pm

    I honestly started to lose interest in the mainstream not too long ago, like last fall (same time I discovered this site).

    Anyway here’s my rankings:

    The +1’s
    I Drive Your Truck (its amazing that Lee could get this to the top at the time)
    Two Black Cadillacs
    Can’t Shake You

    The 0’s
    Downtown
    If I Didn’t Have You
    I Can Take It From There (the calm before the storm if you get what I mean…)
    Give It All We Got Tonight (George has very few 0’s but this is one of them)
    Like Jesus Does
    More Than Miles
    DONE
    Anywhere With You
    Changed
    American Beautiful
    Hey Pretty Girl
    Whiskey
    Don’t Rush (sorry, never cared for it)
    Don’t Ya

    The -1’s
    Somebody’s Heartbreak (where is he? Did he go back to preschool or something?)
    Sure Be Cool If You Did (sure be cool if you cut some quality stuff Blake)
    Mamas Broken Heart (THANK YOU!, Such a stupid song, there’s no fuckin point to it!!!)
    Pirate Flag (I’m actually a Kenny fan, but this was too much)
    Get Your Shine On (still one of my least favorite songs ever)
    Wagon Wheel (I don’t care if it helped OCMS, Darius got all the fucking credit for this song when he shouldn’t have)
    1994 (don’t need an explanation here right?)
    Beat This Summer
    Highway Don’t Care
    She Cranks My Tractor (see “1994”)
    Boys Round Here (see “1994”)
    Jump Right In (sorry, just not my cup of tea)
    All Over The Road (oh Easton 😦 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zack April 10, 2015 / 4:40 pm

      Btw, that makes my score a -9. For once I’m lower than Josh

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    • Raymond April 10, 2015 / 5:06 pm

      Yes!!!!!! Finally some one who agrees with me and says Can’t Shake You & Two Black Cadilacs are +1.
      Not trying to be rude or mean Zach do you think you could explain both cause I don’t think I did a good job of doing that at all.
      Yeah Zach sorry I ever doubted you on Ridiculous it’s worse than all those songs and deserves to get dropped by an atomic bomb.

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  7. Zack April 10, 2015 / 5:17 pm

    You’re not being mean or rude at all Raymond, no worries.

    The violence in Two Black Cadillacs may not necessarily be “required” but I always felt that it added to the song to make a killer story song, something I’d kill for to hear again. Plus, Carrie is one of the best (and one of the very few) examples of how you can fuse modern country and pop & rock to make a good country song. I’ve always felt that the dark nature of this song is why I always loved it. I’d give it a 9/10.

    Can’t Shake You is something that I always liked. I like the more quiet approach to it and thought that Rachel Reinhart did a good job vocally with it. The lyrics might be nothing groundbreaking but I thought that overall the song at least netted a 7.5/10.

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    • Scotty J April 10, 2015 / 6:16 pm

      There have always been violent revenge songs in country music and many much more violent than ‘Two Black Cadillacs’. Go check out ‘Cold Hard Facts Of Life’ by Porter Wagoner from 1967 which was a top five hit.

      The key to these songs though I think is there has to at least be a feeling of consequences (i.e. ‘going to hell and rotting in this cell’). That’s the major difference in some of these more recent revenge songs like ‘Redneck Crazy’ where the act is either glorified or presented as neutral.

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  8. Pete Marshall April 10, 2015 / 11:08 pm

    You are right on the money on this one Josh. the song by Jason Aldean “1994” is a disgrace of country music and the year I graduated from high school.

    Like

  9. NoahHibiscusEaton April 12, 2015 / 5:16 am

    1: Hunter Hayes – “Somebody’s Heartbreak” 0 (Meh, the production is alright and Hayes’ provides a more competent performance here. It’s forgettable but it doesn’t commit any red flags.)
    2: Lee Brice – “I Drive Your Truck” +1 (Remember when I said in my negative “Drink A Beer” review how the song particularly falters in that it comes across more like a cynical backhanded radio advertisement for a beer company than a genuine personal expression of heartbreak? Well, “I Drive Your Truck” provides a counterpart as to doing it right…………..and especially flourishes with the believable descriptive details in the lyrics. Sure, it’s too Adult Contemporary-sounding, but when a song is this well-written, it more than holds its own.)
    3: Lady Antebellum – “Downtown” -1 (This signals the turning point of Lady Antebellum’s obsession to chasing shallow trends. They briefly followed it up with the solid “Goodbye Town”, but this song hinted the beginning of their loss of focus. Hillary also tries too hard to play up her sexy side but you can tell sounds uncomfortable as she reverts right back to pouting in the chorus. Nice steel guitar solo, though)
    4: Blake Shelton – “Sure Be Cool If You Did” -1 (It’s not that I’m against mixing R&B sensibilities with country. It’s that Shelton’s stab at it is by far the laziest, white bread interpretation of it imaginable.)
    5: Thompson Square – “If I Didn’t Have You” 0 (Shawna genuinely tries to project emotion here, but she is constrained by a sterile-as-hell production scheme.)
    6: Chris Young – “I Can Take It From There” +1 (I dig the laid-back, neo-traditional sing-along vibe of this cut. Sure, Chris Young doesn’t sound particularly energetic here, but do you really need to be when the nature o the song is another seductive come-on song?
    7: Miranda Lambert – “Mama’s Broken Heart” +1 (While Lambert’s version isn’t the best interpretation of the song, and the revenge angle is overplayed in her wheelhouse, it is more than made up for in an interesting production scheme, descriptive lyrical details and touching on generational commentary.)
    8: Kenny Chesney – “Pirate Flag” -1 (Tom Petty’s publisher called! They think your third-rate re-write of “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” is Lame-O! And for a song that is supposedly supposed to be carefree, why does Kenny Chesney sound so anguished in the chorus?)
    9: Florida Georgia Line – “Get Your Shine On” -1 (To be brutally honest, if I were phasing out the lyrics and vocals to this song altogether, and pretend it’s an instrumental……………..it’s actually fairly enjoyable, sunny-skied musical wallpaper. Too bad there is actually a set of completely obnoxious and nonsensical lyrics to contend with.)
    10: Carrie Underwood – “Two Black Cadillacs” 0 (Pretty much echo Josh’s thoughts)
    11: George Strait – “Give It All We Got Tonight” 0 (One of his worst singles to date, with an unacceptably sterile production and bland lyrics that fail to achieve any real payoff. The only reason this will even be remembered among some is because of the emotional gravity surrounding the artificial 60/60 campaign that disingenuously catapulted the song to #1 on Mediabase’s Country Airplay chart.)
    12: Darius Rucker – “Wagon Wheel” +1 (Still a solid song regardless. Rucker handles it with enough respect and resonance to help it achieve a whole new degree of longevity and recognition in the broader scope.)
    13: Eric Church – “Like Jesus Does” 0 (A nice change of pace for Church, but a bit forgettable.)
    14: Brantley Gilbert – “More Than Miles” 0 (This drags on too long and never fully takes flight. But it sounds sincere.)
    15: Jason Aldean – “1994” -1 (AKA the song that pressured Joe Diffie to cut his own terrible bro-country song.)
    16: Brad Paisley – “Beat This Summer” 0 (The production is too choppy and all over the place for me to fully enjoy this. But I like Paisley’s twist on the summer song cliches with a more melancholic buzzkill reading.)
    17: Tim McGraw & Taylor Swift – “Highway Don’t Care” -1 (The overproduction really gets on my nerves. On paper, there is a true urgency coursing through the lyrics, but you wouldn’t know that listening to the toothless wall of sound and overprocessed vocals from McGraw and Swift.)
    18: Dustin Lynch – “She Cranks My Tractor” -1 (The female in its video humps farming equipment throughout its duration. Enough said.)
    19: Blake Shelton – “Boys ‘Round Here” -1 (Yep………………..this isn’t leaving your karaoke library anytime soon! Including that shakin’ that sugar sweet as Dixie crystal line! =X )
    20: The Band Perry – “DONE.” -1 (If this was played on 90’s to early 00’s Alternative radio instead, I can see myself liking this enough. Kimberly Perry unquestionably has a lot of vocal charisma, but when she exercises it on the wrong songs like this and “Chainsaw”, she can come across as quite grating. This feels woefully out of place on Country radio at any rate. And it’s just another dime-a-dozen boy-bashing song.)
    21: Jake Owen – “Anywhere With You” -1 (What was the point in cutting this, exactly. when this same sort of theme has already been covered dozens of time before………………not to mention better like with “Heads Carolina, Tails California”? Oh…………………rrrrrrrrrrright…………..to get an instantly gratifying fluff #1 hit.)
    22: Zac Brown Band – “Jump Right In” 0 (Lyrically it’s painfully predictable. But I always have a soft spot for tropical percussion and there’s an unmistakable energy here. Plus it doesn’t overstay its welcome: which is most important for songs of this sort.)
    23: Rascal Flatts – “Changed” 0 (One of their better songs in recent memory. Lyrically this hits home in showing how faith can redeem any troubled life, and Gary Levox also delivers a powerful vocal here. Now if only the production wasn’t so milquetoast……………again.)
    24: Gloriana – “Can’t Shake You” 0 (Lyrically, this definitely has the right idea and touches on a sentiment that’s all too stinging, haunting and real in the aftermath of relationships dissolving. But the production doesn’t have enough teeth to back it up, and the group’s two vocalists also don’t do enough to elevate the material at hand into something special.)
    25: The Henningsens – “American Beautiful” 0 (Lyrically, this is mostly lame laundry-list fodder. However, I have to say I dig the early 90’s power-pop flavor to the production.)
    26: Kip Moore – “Hey Pretty Girl” +1 (I dig the intimacy of this track. Granted many songs can be mired from relying on a steady arrangement, but when Kip Moore’s vocals feel reminiscent of John Mellencamp here and the lyrics paint some pretty slices of imagery that do enough to not feel stale, this just works.)
    27: Jana Kramer – “Whiskey” +1 (Kramer’s vocals sting with sweet heartache here and, backed by generous flourishes of melancholic fiddle and pedal steel, this achieves just what it is set out to do. Granted the lyrics are limited, but when you’re focused on a personal slice of life more than telling a story, less is more.)
    28: Kelly Clarkson & Vince Gill – “Don’t Rush” +1 (The production would have benefited from a little more edge, but the chemistry between the two vocalists feels real and it single-handedly lifts this song to something more.)
    29: Easton Corbin – “All Over The Road” -1 (Yeah, Easton and co-writers of this song……………we’ll see how much of a laughing matter distracted driving is when you find yourselves barely eschewing a fatal accident involving………………..duh…………………distracted driving!)
    30: Brett Eldredge – “Don’t Ya” -1 (No amount of vocal confidence can save a misfire that begins with the line “Girl, you cut those jeans just right…”

    *

    My Pulse: -5

    (………………….what do you know? I’m more positive than you on a country chart for once! 😉 )

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    • Raymond April 12, 2015 / 7:41 am

      Hey Noah nice job. The only ones I disagree with is Downtown, Can’t Shake You. Downtown was for me an actual refresher for Lady A cause their previous We Owned The Night Album was pure pop garbage and I think radio realized the shtick got old. It was nice for Lady A to let loose. Still Hillary does sound flat. Can’t Shake You the production I will admit is a little bland which in my opinion has always been Gloriana’s biggest weakness since being a trio is that they haven’t found the right production. But what for me at least sells the song for me is Rachel Reinert in the second verse with the line “I didn’t wanna be here but my friends all love this bar, I don’t wanna see you but I’m wondering where you are.” The way she dings it at lease for me she totally owns it and sings it with so much emotion which is why I stand by saying Rachel has one of the best female voices in country music right now.

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