The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [April 25]

Homegrown

Each week I take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. 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 current 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 current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…   

  1. Zac Brown Band – “Homegrown” +1 (Third straight week at #1)
  2. Sam Hunt – “Take Your Time” -1 
  3. Dierks Bentley – “Say You Do” +1 (Up 1)
  4. Chris Young – “Lonely Eyes” (Down 1)
  5. Lee Brice – “Drinking Class” +1 
  6. Keith Urban & Eric Church – “Raise ‘Em Up” (Up 1)
  7. Tyler Farr – “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” +1 (Up 1)
  8. Billy Currington – “Don’t It” -1 (Up 2)
  9. Cole Swindell – “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey” -1 
  10. A Thousand Horses – “Smoke” (Up 1)
  11. Florida Georgia Line – “Sippin’ On Fire”  -1 (Up 3)
  12. Tim McGraw & Catherine Dunn – “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” +1 (Up 1)
  13. Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter – “Wild Child” +1 (Down 1)
  14. Easton Corbin – “Baby Be My Love Song” -1 (Up 1)
  15. Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns” +1 (Up 2)
  16. Eric Paslay – “She Don’t Love You” +1 
  17. Brad Paisley – “Crushin’ It” -1 (Up 2)
  18. Kelsea Ballerini – “Love Me Like You Mean It” -1 (Up 2)
  19. Miranda Lambert – “Little Red Wagon” -1 (Down 1)
  20. Canaan Smith – “Love You Like That” -1 (Up 1)
  21. Little Big Town – “Girl Crush” +1 (Up 3)
  22. Frankie Ballard – “Young & Crazy” 
  23. Michael Ray – “Kiss You In The Morning” -1 
  24. Brantley Gilbert – “One Hell of an Amen” 0 (Up 3)
  25. Joe Nichols – “Hard To Be Cool” -1 
  26. Jason Aldean – “Tonight Looks Good On You” -1 (Up 4)
  27. Josh Turner – “Lay Low” +1 (Down 1)
  28. Blake Shelton – “Sangria” -1 (New to Top 30)
  29. Eric Church – “Like A Wrecking Ball” -1  
  30. Gloriana – “Trouble” (Down 2)

Darius Rucker’s “Homegrown Honey” fell from #6 to out of the top 30 (recurrent).

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -4

The pulse remains the same at -4 this week. There wasn’t a lot of movement in this week’s airplay chart. The only song that dropped out of the top 30 this week was Darius Rucker’s “Homegrown Honey.” It went recurrent and simply had its run come to an end, just as everyone expected. I won’t miss it. Unfortunately the song that replaces it is also terrible. The new song in this week’s top 30 is Blake Shelton’s “Sangria,” a bland love ballad that sounds more creepy than romantic. While ballads are usually Blake’s strong suit, this love ballad just puts me to sleep. Then again the rest of his Bringing Back The Sunshine album doesn’t offer any more appealing single choices either.

Now for the great news: Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown” sits atop the chart for a third straight week! It speaks volumes and shows how much people love this song. In a chart full of non-country songs, it’s nice to see a country song at the top of it. And I think it has a good chance of staying there for one more week. Hunt’s “Take Your Time” didn’t gain that much on “Homegrown” this week and is still over a million viewers behind it. When “Homegrown” does fall out of the top spot and “Take Your Time” replaces it, it will then have to hold off Dierks Bentley’s “Say You Do.” It had a nice gain again this week and should be close to top within a few weeks. Will Hunt get a multi-week reign at the top or will Bentley spoil the party? We’ll have to wait and see.

The biggest gainers this week were Blake Shelton’s “Sangria,” which moved up seven spots from #37 to #28, Jason Aldean’s “Tonight Looks Good On You” moved up four spots to #26 and three different songs gained three spots on the chart (Florida Georgia Line, Little Big Town and Brantley Gilbert’s singles). The biggest losers this week were Darius Rucker’s “Homegrown Honey” falling from #6 to out of the top 30 and Gloriana’s “Trouble” falling two spots to #30. As for songs I see falling out of the top 30 soon, Cole Swindell’s “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey” should fall out next week and I’m surprised it didn’t go recurrent this week with his new single being released. Other songs that should fall out soon are Chris Young’s “Lonely Eyes” and Miranda Lambert’s “Little Red Wagon.”

One of the four songs I predicted would make the top 30 soon last week made it this week. As for this week, the songs outside the top 30 I expect to see in the top 30 soon are Rascal Flatts’ “Riot” (or it will be stuck at #31), Dustin Lynch’s “Hell of a Night,” Luke Bryan’s “Games” and Thomas Rhett’s “Crash and Burn.” Maybe “Riot” will make it back in the top 30 again. Or it will be stuck at #31 for eternity. I’m starting to think the latter is more likely. I’m shocked “Hell of a Night” hasn’t gotten a bigger push, but then again I’m not clamoring for it to get a big push. So good job country radio? Luke Bryan’s “Games” got a solid bump in audience numbers this week, so perhaps his camp is pushing it to get more radio play now.

As for Thomas Rhett’s new disco country single, we all know it’s destined for #1. Not only was it a hot-shot debut at #38 (quite high for a new single), it was the most added song at radio and had the most increased audience this week. If this sparks a disco country phase, I might lose it. Seriously I might stop doing a mainstream pulse on a weekly basis because it would be pointless to just evaluate disco crap every week. What did we do to deserve the re-emergence of disco? There’s a reason it was mocked. Disco Demolition Night was a thing, country music. Perhaps this is the road country music needs to go down.

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s chart in the comments below.

14 thoughts on “The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [April 25]

  1. Raymond April 15, 2015 / 1:40 pm

    Well my pulse this week has comes to a +6. But man if Games Crash & Burn Hell Of A Night enter and other bad songs enter I don’t know if my pulse can stay in the positive I’ve finally warmed up to mainstream I’ve really been digging Smoke lately heck Hard To Be Cool while stupid is just so cheesy and care free I enjoy it.

    In related news Trouble is struggling whole crap I had to yesterday request this song to 50+ stations I don’t know how much more of supporting this song I can do before I lose my mind honestly. I need help I need more people requesting it. I don’t care I’ll settle for Top 20 but please Gloriana is one of the good guys in country music.

    So yeah the chart though it’s clogged up here are all the songs that are on the bubble
    Hard To Be Cool
    Trouble
    Lay Low
    Riot
    We all know Little Red Wagons going and honestly it should Miranda should know better. But Lay Low and Trouble, people request these songs they’re not that bad I want Josh and Gloriana release dates for their album their 2 of my favorite acts,

    Nice job Josh sorry for the rant.

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  2. NoahHibiscusEaton April 15, 2015 / 2:46 pm

    I actually consider “Sangria” a 0 song, and here’s why I think this.

    What I most appreciate about this track is the somewhat ambiguous production. Granted it’s nothing particularly gritty and is still unmistakably middle-of-the-road…………but this is obviously a track about a one-night stand and I like how, unlike most other recent tracks about casual encounters that approach the subject lightly without any nuance, the production has hints of semi-melancholic urgency.

    It is also why I appreciated Jason Aldean’s “Night Train” more than I expected. That song on paper reads as just another instantly-forgettable fluffy dime-a-dozen love song, but Aldean’s vocals in that particular song elevates it somewhat because of the somewhat melancholic urgency to his vocal performance: as if in the back of his mind he knows this experience will ride off into the sunset just as quickly as that train.

    And I get that same sort of vibe here. Though the lyrics read as predictable on paper, the minor-key production (which is kind of creepy, but more in a way where the narrator isn’t sure what he’s getting into and what he’ll make of this experience) and Shelton’s performance actually is laced with hints of possible remorse. This combination just makes for a slightly more interesting read of a terribly worn-over theme in contemporary country music.

    From a well below-average album replete with -1 songs, Shelton and Warner Nashville definitely released the strongest remaining song on the album wisely as the new single. It’s still not dense and memorable enough to warrant a +1, but I’ll take it. And at the very least, we can rest assured this was chosen over “Buzzin'”, “Gonna” or “A Girl” any day.

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    As for the rest of the chart…

    Firstly, while it would be delicious to see Sam Hunt held at #2 (which I obviously would love to see in an ideal world), MCA has already pulled out an ad this week indicating they’re powering up to #1, so it appears all but certain they’re intent on maintaining the already insanely high spin and audience levels through Monday to assure Sam Hunt a week at #1 before Dierks Bentley arrives (come on, Dierks, speed up………………….you know you want to! Do it for the soul of country music! 😉 )

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    Also, I don’t know what was up with you tirelessly repeating “Radio loves Dustin Lynch!” over and over again in recent weeks. Where did you get that impression, if you don’t mind me asking? Between his five singles to date, only two have charted the Billboard Hot 100 and only one is a Top Forty (“Cowboys And Angels”). Only two have made the Top Ten. And it should be no surprise why the others, including his current single, have struggled. All of them are generic songs about any variance of tailgate sex: the most obnoxious one, of course, being “She Cranks My Tractor”. That didn’t work, and yet he has decided to keep swinging for the fences with the exact same theme albeit less obnoxious.

    If Dustin Lynch is going to have any hope of even having remote staying power, he should either release “Your Daddy’s Boots” if critical acclaim is what he seeks, or “Mind Reader” if he’s fine for settling on merely another instantly gratifying hit (it is obviously at least somewhat about sex in a vehicle, too, but at least it has a melody and production that’s more in line with where the format as a whole is at right now and doesn’t hit you over the head).

    *

    Rascal Flatts are clearly in the twilight of their mainstream career, and I’ll admit that, in a way, it is a little sad to see despite generally never caring for them at all as artists and, for a long time, considering them second only to Faith Hill as the most useless and disposable country superstars of this generation or two.

    At any rate, “Riot” is definitely one of their better songs and while “Payback” definitely deserved the chilly reception and abbreviated chart run it got at radio and some of the hits to their commercial stature were self-inflicted, it’s unfortunate the direct result of this is “Riot” likely peaking even lower. Seriously: if Rascal Flatts were to release more music like “Riot”, “Changed”, “Why Wait” and “Skin (Sarabeth)” (hell, even “Mayberry” has grown on me over the years despite initially disliking it)……….and less music like “Payback”, “Me And My Gang”, “Bob That Head”, “Summer Nights” and faceless clones of their most banal ballads………..they’d stand out as above-average in this current radio climate and I’d be considerably glad to see them stick around.

    *

    As somewhat sad as it is to observe the notable era-to-era decline of Rascal Flatts, they have at least one thing to be thankful for: it’s nothing nearly as precipitous and alarming as that of chart group rival Lady Antebellum.

    It’s almost laughable to see exactly how rapidly they have plunged like a boulder from A-list country crossover superstars to a group like Gloriana you could easily mistake for struggling to even get heard at radio. I can’t get my head around the idea that as recently as 2010 they had a quadruple-platinum album with one of the biggest hit singles (“Need You Now”) of this generation, and still got another multi-platinum album in 2011-2012 with “Own The Night”………………and now they can barely get over halfway to Gold certifications. And now we come to “Long Stretch Of Love”: which actually lost audience last week below the Top Forty and just isn’t picking up crucial adds.

    At least Rascal Flatts have been around nearly a full decade longer than Lady Antebellum have (Rascal Flatts released their debut album in 2000, Lady Antebellum in 2008) and had seven consecutive Platinum or higher-selling albums under their belt. It just feels like Lady Antebellum have crashed and burned just as swiftly as they soared to A-artist status five years ago. And I doubt things are going to get any easier for them from here on out since they lack a loyal fanbase at, well, ANY radio format.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raymond April 15, 2015 / 3:01 pm

      Hey Noah I have a question
      Who do you think overall has a stronger body of work Gloriana or Lady Antebellum since both been around approximately the same time?
      Also I’m willing to say the indication for Lady Antebellum’s downward spiral. Wanted You More hands down that song when it underperformed I had a feeling they were going down. Would you agree?

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      • NoahHibiscusEaton April 15, 2015 / 3:43 pm

        Gloriana has generally played it rather middle-of-the-road too (I’m just not that impressed in “Trouble”, sorry), but I’d favor them over Lady Antebellum overall.

        *

        I disagree. “Wanted You More” was a boring-as-hell song that also happened to be a fourth single. I believe it would be a stretch to implicate a single late in the stages of a promotional cycle as the turning point.

        I’d argue “Goodbye Town” is the actual turning point. When that second single (which I consider one of their best to date and it’s unfortunate it fared poorly) failed to go Top Ten and also sold terribly, that has since triggered the group’s obsession with chasing hyper-trends to steer the ship again. They responded by desperately hurrying to the studio to record new tracks because they no longer had faith in what they recorded for the proper release, got the EDM and Mumford & Sons-influenced “Compass” on the airwaves and, when that topped the Airplay chart, proceeded to move further down this rabbit hole.

        “Wanted You More” obviously performed poorly, but you can look at the album that followed that single (“Golden”) and see that their signature style was still intact. The production wasn’t as banausic, but it was still every bit as mid-tempo as its two predecessors and only featured three songs that upped the tempo (“Downtown”, “Better Off (Now That You’re Gone)” and, to a lesser extent, “All For Love”). And the album stands as their second-best, in my opinion, because they do scale back on the production excesses and gloss and leave a more organic effort in result…………..and there are enough moments here where the vocalists trade genuine emotion and sentiment that’s true to who they’ve always been as a group.

        However, the album that followed “Goodbye Town” (“747”)………….while definitely having its moments…………..is a much less focused, forced and choppy affair. It sounds like the result of a group past its heyday that wants to keep one foot planted in their assured knacks for inspiring sentiment and harmonies, but has the other chasing trends like EDM (“Bartender”), youth culture (“Freestyle”) and Southern pride laundry-list fodder (“Down South”, which just comes off sounding completely unconvincing from them)

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    • Josh Schott April 15, 2015 / 3:54 pm

      I’ll admit I was overzealous and off base with that comment about Lynch. It didn’t come out the way I meant it. More accurately I believe he’s the type of artist radio seems to love. He’s relatively young, handsome, has sexual appeal with the ladies and he sings the same old shit that’s populated radio in the last few years. To me he seems to fit radio’s agenda perfectly, but perhaps they see otherwise. Considering newcomers Michael Ray and Sam Hunt are currently getting bigger pushes on the radio, Lynch may be getting passed over now completely. You’re right that he has two choices here: go traditional and gain some respect back or continue down the path he’s on in hopes of some instant success. If I’m Lynch I think it’s the perfect time for him to go traditional and renounce bro country. The genre is lost right now and a familiar face standing up and taking a stand against the trends would make that artist quite popular. This is the time artists need to take a chance when everyone is playing it safe.

      I’ve never hated Rascal Flatts as much as other critics and fans. There’s nothing offensive nor hatable about them. Sure they’ve had some annoying hits, but nothing too egregious. By all accounts they seem like nice guys and they’ve never pretended to be something they’re not. I’ll take them over Florida Georgia Line any day.

      Excellent point about Lady A. This one of the most under the radar stories in country music and I’m surprised it hasn’t been highlighted more. As you in 2010 they had a quadruple platinum album and now they’re buried and forgotten. It’s really amazing how far they’ve fallen down in such a short time. Part of it is because of the deemphasizing of females on country radio. Part of it is also because of the rise of bro country. But I put the most of the blame on the group for their terrible output of singles. What I think drew people to Lady A was the fact that they were country enough for casual listeners and polished enough for crossover appeal. They had perfect balance. Then they went chasing trends and started becoming more pop with their music. They deviated away from what made them appealing. They started to sound no different than the other stuff on radio. You’re right that they’re in trouble. Their next album will be make or break. If I’m Lady A I try to push out a new one by the end of the year because nothing off 747 is going to save them.

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      • NoahHibiscusEaton April 15, 2015 / 7:24 pm

        The only way I can see Lady Antebellum surviving commercially (meaning to maintain at least a moderate steady presence on the charts) is if they do the following:

        *

        1) Ditch both Nathan Chapman and Paul Worley and seek a producer that can work with their crossover appeal but also rely less on gloss and more on texture, and be driven by more distinctive country instrumentation. For some reason, Mark Bright (who most recently co-produced Lucy Hale’s “Road Between” with Mike Daly and also produced the first three Rascal Flatts albums) springs to mind, but even Ross Copperman (who produced Dierks Bentley’s “Riser”) is one I can see being a good fit. I’m sure there are others, but it’s definitely time to call Chapman and Worley a day and I’d also avoid Jay Joyce and Frank Liddell (please note I do respect both these producers a fair bit, but I’m convinced neither would play to their strengths).

        2) Don’t obsess over tempo, and concentrate more on the energy level and texture of the songs. That will already help give their songs more distinction from track to track. You can tell in recent interviews with the group that they have looked to their self-titled debut album for inspiration as to how to eschew this perception of them as being all about ballads, ballads and more ballads…………….but anyone who has followed this group along knows even their debut album wasn’t exclusively an up-tempo affair either. It was marked by youthful energy and hunger. And one other thing which leads to my next suggestion…

        3) We need to hear more songs that have an interplay between Scott and Kelley. One of the main reasons many listeners fell in love with Lady Antebellum in the first place is because they stood out automatically as a group where a male vocalist and a female vocalist share the lead. At the time their debut single became a hit, there was no other commercially viable group like that in that Gloriana never took off yet the same way. Yet on their couple of most recent albums, they hardly engage in call-and-response interplay. You either hear Hillary Scott or Charles Kelley take the lead and the other, at best, providing backup vocals.

        4) They need to keep acting their age (ha, I sure sound like a strict parent there, don’t I? 😉 ) and embrace their youth as opposed to regressing back into lifeless “Own The Night”-esque fodder………..but just be themselves and not dwell over trends. Just sing and write about what they love, and it will show. If the setting in which they record their albums influences how they come out sounding (i.e. dark studio spaces without windows explaining why most of “Need You Now” and “Own The Night” sounded dreadfully lifeless)…………..they should consider recording in a space with much more natural light, for instance. Sound hungry and embrace your youth, but screw being hip and/or trying to please Macklemore and EDM crowds.

        5) They must definitely keep embracing their calling card which is selling emotional, sentimental and nostalgic songs to the nosebleed section……………but resist the temptation to “Hallmark-ize” their material as I like to term it: or, namely, regurgitate pseudo-inspirational Hallmark card and schmaltz instead of writing from personal experience. That is precisely why I was much more critical of Maddie & Tae’s “Fly” than most, as well as AShley Monroe’s “On To Something Good”……………because they sounded more like impersonal Hallmark card fluff than something that felt absolutely personal and genuine. I want to hear more of what YOU have to share. And if you feel uninspired to write, then seek out songwriters who are in the meanwhile.

        *

        That’s just my recommendations, anyway.

        I genuinely have liked my fair share of Lady Antebellum, more than I’ve ever liked Rascal Flatts at any point overall (and I’m definitely not detracting the latter as they have always struck me as affable, good-hearted performers who are unmistakably passionate whenever they go on tour and truly embrace their fans that generally just tend to record mediocre music). It would be a shame for them to just fall into complete oblivion. But while I’d love to help, it is mostly up to them to do some soul-searching and realize all they’ve genuinely taken for granted over these past several years.

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  3. Kevin Davis April 15, 2015 / 3:27 pm

    Yes, we’re all rooting for Dierks to leap over Hunt and take the #1 spot. By the way, I am hearing Canaan Smith’s “Love You Like That” everyday on both of our country radio stations in Charlotte. If I didn’t know the charts, I would have assumed that it was in the top 5. I can see it having a lot of momentum. I’d be interested in having you do a review of it. It’s got the urban elements (especially the vocal modulation while singing, oddly enough, “I could never do it like a pretty city boy….”), but it is not as obnoxious as Hunt.

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    • Josh Schott April 15, 2015 / 3:32 pm

      If it continues to gain momentum we’ll probably review it. It certainly has an opportunity as there isn’t a lot of new, popular songs on the country chart right now. Touring with Dierks will also boosts Smith’s profile.

      Liked by 1 person

    • NoahHibiscusEaton April 15, 2015 / 3:54 pm

      I despise that “I could never do it like a pretty city boy…” line. That’s an instant deal-breaker to my ears for a song that was already dull, forgettable and below-average lyrically to begin with.

      Worst of all, he repeats that line in the bridge of the song and the coda like it’s the single proudest lyric he’s ever written. That’s what makes it especially insufferable.

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      • Kevin Davis April 15, 2015 / 6:02 pm

        Yes, I completely agree, Noah.

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  4. Raymond April 15, 2015 / 8:38 pm

    Man though I’m freaking out though Gloriana Trouble doesn’t look to last much longer. While I agree Noah they tend to go middle of the road they do have a couple +1 singles I think. We disagree on Trouble and Can’t Shake You I’d argue when they were a quartet that Wild At Heart and How Far Do You Wanna Go were also really solid. I said this on Country Universe but the reason why I like Gloriana is that they manage to do country pop really well and if you check Kevin’s review of Gloriana Trouble he does point that Gloriana sounds like what Lady A should be. Gloriana actually sound like their trying like they actually care in their music I just wish they’d put Rachel in front vocals she in my opinion for modern country music with the exception of Carrie Underwood and Mickey Guyton Ashley Monroe I think Rachel has one of the best voices right now. That’s why Trouble clicks for me they finally do what I think fans wanted and just put Rachel in front. I can only hope if country music had to choose right now. Gloriana or Lady Antebellum? They should pick Gloriana they manage to respect country music Lady A they’ve just basically desperate.

    But I’m hoping Gloriana can muster a Top 20 peak with Trouble I want that album and I want it Now.

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  5. Pete Marshall April 15, 2015 / 9:32 pm

    Sam Hunt “Take your time” is #1 on billboard hot country charts for 7 or 8 weeks in a row, but that chart sucks and so does this song.

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  6. Cobra April 16, 2015 / 7:18 am

    I’d say “Bringing Back the Sunshine” has one potential appealing single choice, and that’s “Anyone Else.” It’s one of the only songs on the album which I actually found to be worthwhile. That album as a whole was just so incredibly forgettable.

    I’ve said it before, but overall, the album wasn’t terrible. Yeah, it had a couple of really bad songs (“Gonna” and even worse, “Buzzin,”), but overall, the rest of the songs (with the exception of the above-mentioned “Anyone Else”) were ones I would classify as “0’s” based on your scoring….forgettable dud songs with nothing to them. It seemed like such a phoned-in album.

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  7. Raymond April 18, 2015 / 6:10 pm

    Well I’m gonna do this every Saturday or Sunday for the Country Airplay chart comment section. Look for the following songs to leave the Top 30. Love commentary for the comments
    Cole Swindell Ain’t Worrh The Whiskey Peak #1. Thank goodness
    Chris Young Lonely Eyes Peak #2. Well deserved.
    Josh Turner Lay Low Peak #25. Ouch we might have to wait awhile longer for this guys album release a real shame.

    Songs On The Bubble
    Eric Paslay She Don’t Love You Peak #16 (still has a chance) This song is struggling right now at this point I’m expecting Top 15 with summer coming around this songs gonna have it tough if they want a #1.
    Miranda Lambert Little Red Wagon Peak #16. This song is done but it doesn’t yet have enough weeks yet to go recurrent but oh well.
    Joe Nichols Hard To Be Cool Peak #22. Honestly Broken Bow is just gonna hold on to this song till Joe is ready with new music but it’s not going any higher.
    Gloriana Trouble Peak #27 (still has a chance to go higher.) This song is still flat and there’s jus no buzz and honestly I don’t know how much Gloriana has left in the tank they’ll have to be in the long long haul if they want a Top 20.
    So yeah those are the songs who are struggling or basically done and over with.

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