The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [July 18]

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 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. Blake Shelton – “Sangria” -1 (Second straight week at #1)
  2. Jason Aldean – “Tonight Looks Good On You” -1 (Up 2)
  3. Easton Corbin – “Baby Be My Love Song” -1 (Up 2)
  4. Canaan Smith – “Love You Like That” -1 (Up 3)
  5. Little Big Town – “Girl Crush” +1 (Up 3)
  6. Brantley Gilbert – “One Hell of an Amen” (Up 3)
  7. Michael Ray – “Kiss You In The Morning” -1 (Up 3)
  8. Tim McGraw & Catherine Dunn – “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” +1 (Down 5) [Best Song]
  9. Luke Bryan – “Kick The Dust Up” -1 (Up 2) [Tied for Worst Song]
  10. Zac Brown Band – “Loving You Easy” +1 (Up 3)
  11. Brad Paisley – “Crushin’ It” -1 (Up 1)
  12. Frankie Ballard – “Young & Crazy” (Up 2)
  13. Dustin Lynch – “Hell of a Night” -1 (Up 2)
  14. Sam Hunt – “House Party” -1 (Up 2) [Tied for Worst Song]
  15. Thomas Rhett – “Crash and Burn” -1 (Up 3) [Tied for Worst Song]
  16. Eric Church – “Like A Wrecking Ball” 0 (Up 1)
  17. Chris Janson – “Buy Me A Boat” -1 (Up 2)
  18. Brett Eldredge – “Lose My Mind” -1 (Up 2)
  19. Keith Urban – “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16″ -1 (Up 3)
  20. Maddie & Tae – “Fly” +1 (Up 1)
  21. Jake Owen – “Real Life” -1 (Up 4)
  22. Chase Rice – “Gonna Wanna Tonight” -1 (Up 1)
  23. Kip Moore – “I’m To Blame” (Up 1)
  24. Cole Swindell – “Let Me See Ya Girl” -1 (Up 2)
  25. Lady Antebellum – “Long Stretch of Love” 0 (Up 2)
  26. Dan + Shay – “Nothin’ Like You” -1 (Up 3)
  27. Old Dominion – “Break Up With Him” -1 (Up 1) [Tied for Worst Song]
  28. Reba – “Going Out Like That” -1 (Up 2)
  29. Big & Rich – “Run Away With You” +1 (New to Top 30)
  30. Brothers Osborne – “Stay A Little Longer” +1 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -13

Progress! The pulse improved two spots this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Carrie Underwood’s “Little Toy Guns” went recurrent and fell from #2 to out of the top 30.
  • Kelsea Ballerini’s “Love Me Like You Mean It” went recurrent and fell from #6 to out of the top 30.

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Big & Rich’s “Run Away With You”
  • Brothers Osborne’s “Stay A Little Longer”

New #1 Song This Week:

  • Blake Shelton’s “Sangria” remains at #1 for a second straight week.

Song I Predict Will Reach #1 Next Week:

  • Jason Aldean – “Tonight Looks Good On You”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Jake Owen – “Real Life” – Up 4 from #25 to #21
  • Nine Songs Gained Three Spots

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns” – Out of the Top 30
  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Love Me Like You Mean It” – Out of the Top 30
  • Tim McGraw & Catherine Dunn – “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” – Down 5 from #3 to #8

Songs I See Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Tim McGraw & Catherine Dunn – “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”
  • Easton Corbin – “Baby Be My Love Song”
  • Brad Paisley – “Crushin’ It”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Florida Georgia Line – “Anything Goes”
  • Kenny Chesney – “Save It For A Rainy Day”
  • Chris Young – “I’m Comin’ Over”
  • Cam – “Burning House”

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

20 thoughts on “The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [July 18]

  1. Raymond July 8, 2015 / 1:15 pm

    Really what about those 2 songs . get a +1. Alsowhose gonna fill in for Tim since he is out. Presuming Cam makes it I assume herr I love the new Kenny song. Also I am suprised that FGL has not gotten Top 30. While she won’t get quite soon Jana Kramer song is doing pretty well this week was at #36.Also did you see Mo Pitney leave. Maddie & Tae are Top 20 I do think they deserve honorable mentions for Best. Do you guys plan to cover that album. What is sad they are the only act here besides Reba but her song is dying that f is all

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    • John in Georgia July 8, 2015 / 6:43 pm

      Little surprised to see Pitney’s song fall off the charts from the mid 30s. I thought it had some momentum behind it, and even with it falling off the airplay charts it still moved up the mongrel (hot country) charts this week.

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      • Raymond July 8, 2015 / 6:48 pm

        It was Billboard being stupid. It should still eek out a Top 30 peak.

        Like

  2. Nadia Lockheart July 8, 2015 / 1:29 pm

    Eh, I wouldn’t consider either “Run Away With You” or “Stay A Little Longer” +1 tracks.

    Perhaps I’m biased against the former somewhat, but……………….I still expect a lot more from Big & Rich than this. It just sounds utterly anonymous and safe. The overall sentiment the song brings out is easy to relate to and they try to squeeze some genuine emotion out of it, especially in the bridge…………….but the overall production hampers it from being as poignant as it could have been. “Run Away With You” is an 0 song to my ears.

    Same with “Stay A Little Longer”. The guitar solo in its outro is the only thing about it that really stands out, but otherwise it’s, fittingly, another song debuting on the chart in the same week that has a nice sentiment but sounds way too safe and whose singer doesn’t quite have the chops to sell the ache and longing we discover in the end after the subject declines to stay. It may seem revolutionary considering there’s hints of actual emotion in a country/”country” radio song in a landscape stricken by emotional drought in recent memory, but on its own it’s just passable and nothing real special about it. That’s a 0 song to my ears too.

    *

    Somehow I forgot you had upgraded the Zac Brown Band’s latest to a +1.

    I have to admit it has grown on me somewhat, although I’d still consider it a high 0. And the reason why is because, every time I listen to it, I really love the feel and vibe of the song………………but it still feels incomplete. It doesn’t sound fully developed. It’s one of those rarer songs where I think it should have went on longer than its actual runtime. It’s as though they were experimenting with all these ideas and styles in the studio from various musical eras, and then said “Wow, this sounds so early 1970s, let’s go with this for the record!”………………but at the time only had two verses and a chorus and forgot to apply the final touches to it. It shows the way the first two verses are separated by hardly a second of pause, as well as how the band rushes into repeating the chorus after delivering the second chorus. It sounds choppy and incohesive.

    That said, it has still grown on me. When I first heard it, I thought it was kind of bland and lacked any impactful quality. But upon repeated listen, it stands out more from the breezy, summery riffs to Brown’s ability to infuse an emotional heart into what he sings that helps apply a latent sense of urgency to all he observes of his love interest.

    On ts own, it’s still a whole lot better than country/”country” radio as a whole right now. But it’s essentially a 6.5/10 to my ears and I can’t see it moving any higher in that it still sounds like 3/4 of a song done right than a full song. Here’s hoping “Bittersweet” is being considered as the follow-up instead of, say, ***cough*** ***cough*** ***cough*** “Wildfire” and “Young & Wild” ***cough*** ***cough*** ***cough***.

    I mean, the time of year would make absolute sense for releasing “Bittersweet” next. It will be mid-August by the time this peaks, and they’ll release the follow-up by early September. I know the track’s length will be a minor issue in an era where Music Row is obsessed with sub-three minute ditties, but they need to get the shucks over it in that “Colder Weather” already proved they could hit big with a longer track.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott July 8, 2015 / 2:24 pm

      I debated back and forth on the two new songs. They were very borderline between a +1 and 0. But I gave both several listens and they actually grew on me well. Both songs strive for something emotional and the production is at least decent. But I can totally understand why you would give them each a 0.

      I personally think “Remedy” will be the next single released. I’ve seen a lot of chatter about it from his feeds on social media. I see “Bittersweet” being released after this, as I think it’s more suited for the latter part of the year going into the early part of next year, especially because I see Jekyll + Hyde possibly being nominated for multiple awards at the Grammys. I see no chance of “Dress Blues” being released as a single. “Castaway” will probably be the single for the summer of 2016.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nadia Lockheart July 8, 2015 / 3:00 pm

        “Remedy” is alright, but I feel like the tempo is a little too close to the lead two singles from this album.

        You have a feel-good mid-tempo (“Homegrown”), followed by a somewhat breezier feel-good mid-tempo (“Loving You Easy”). “Remedy” has more room to breathe between its sections, but its general vibe is still mid-tempo and feel-good, and I just feel releasing three consecutive songs of this sort would risk listener burnout.

        “Remedy” sounds more like that type of song that you’d want to release after you’ve already accomplished what you set out to accomplish for an album and say: “Oh, what the heck, we still have this, let’s give this a shot for good measure!” at the tail end of an album cycle. I get why “Dress Blues” is surrounded in doubt, but I just don’t see “Remedy” being that kind of single that would anchor the middle of an album cycle.

        And, yes, “Castaway” is a no-brainer. Regardless of your opinion of island country/beach songs from the band, they clearly have worked in the band’s favor and is a clear standout for a spring/summer 2016 release.

        As long as neither “Wildfire” and “Young & Wild” don’t see the light of day with single treatment, I’ll be satisfied.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Nadia Lockheart July 8, 2015 / 1:41 pm

    If I were the Zac Brown Band, I’d release the country radio singles as follows:

    *

    1) “Homegrown”
    2) “Loving You Easy”
    3: “Bittersweet”
    4) “Castaway” (Not a favorite of mine, but hard not to see why this isn’t perfect for the format and the timing of the year would be perfect too. Besides, the way it is produced and its overall sound is still much better than “Young & Wild” and “Wildfire”.)
    5) “Dress Blues” (End the era with a risk of sorts. This might not become a hit, but it would serve the band better to take a chance this late in the album’s cycle as opposed to settling on more generic fare that wouldn’t move the needle digitally. Focus on garnering award show appeal with this and hope that generates organic buzz. That, alone, can ensure a notably high digital presence even if it underperforms at radio.)

    *

    I am dead certain that, at some point, they’re going to release “Beautiful Drug” (uggghhh!) to Mainstream Top 40 and Adult Top 40 radio because Brown himself said back in the autumn of last year that they think they have a big crossover hit in the wing with this. It was obviously made solely to pander to mainstream audiences.

    Then, depending on how well that performs (when Sam Hunt is struggling to scale the mainstream charts right now, it’s probably a tall order for ANY country/”country”-centric act to break big elsewhere right now), they’ll release “Tomorrow Never Comes” as the follow-up or it will remain shelved.

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    • Derek Hudgin July 8, 2015 / 2:09 pm

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Tomorrow Never Comes” as a single released – to almost any format, really. I think between the fluff, positive vibe lyrics and the EDM inspired productions, it has that mass appeal effect to it. Not to mention the inclusion of an acoustic version on the album and the band has played that song towards the end of their shows this tour. TNC seems like it’s an important song to Zac Brown at least, if not the band.

      But I’d love to see “Bittersweet” or “Dress Blues” released to country radio. I’m curious if they’d follow up “Heavy Is The Head” with “Junkyard” on rock radio?

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      • Megan Conley July 8, 2015 / 2:16 pm

        “Tomorrow Never Comes” wouldn’t be the worst choice for a single. I’d like to see “Bittersweet” released to country radio, and I wouldn’t mind a whole EP or album of songs like “Heavy is the Head” and “Junkyard.” That was one experiment on “Jekyll + Hyde” that I felt really worked for them.

        Like

      • Josh Schott July 8, 2015 / 2:27 pm

        With Brown’s involvement with Avicii, I think maybe he’s wise enough to release both EDM songs to pop radio, as releasing it to country radio would alienate some of his fans. He already got a rock radio #1, so why not go for pop radio too? It would definitely explain why there were so many different genres on Jekyll + Hyde. Perhaps a ZBB World Domination plan? Haha

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nadia Lockheart July 8, 2015 / 3:07 pm

        You know, I actually have come to like “Tomorrow Never Comes” a hell of a lot more than “Beautiful Drug” among the album’s two EDM-influenced songs.

        Even the original version of “Tomorrow Never Comes” is decidedly acoustic-driven. It’s only in the chorus where the EDM production emerges to the forefront, and I don’t even mind it then because it blends reasonably well with the strident cadences. I wouldn’t balk if it is released as a single instead of “Beautiful Drug” (which is both lyrically and musically pathetic). I think it would resonate to both fans of Avicii and Coldplay (and I’m a fan of the latter).

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      • Nadia Lockheart July 8, 2015 / 3:12 pm

        Josh: Well, what about Nintendocore? Or bossa nova? Or salegy? Or KPop? Crunk? Viking metal?

        Stop being so closed-minded to all those styles, Zac Brown! 😉

        Liked by 2 people

      • Nadia Lockheart July 8, 2015 / 3:26 pm

        As for possibilities in following up “Heavy Is The Head” on Active Rock radio, maybe the band will re-release “Jekyll & Hyde” soon enough with seven new tracks………………….four of which magically so happen to be more fodder for Active Rock! (the other three being a first-time studio version of their rare song “Big Fat Bitch” featuring Rich Homie Quan and 2 Chainz, a song for Smooth Jazz radio, and the other a Spanish-language merengue house song for Latin radio! 😉 )

        I can see it now:

        *

        1) “Fighting These Demons” (Featuring Jacoby Shaddix)
        2: “Hangman” (Featuring David Draiman)
        3: “Living Loud” (Featuring Lzzy Hale)
        4: “Feel So Cold” (Featuring Ivan Moody)
        5: “Big Fat B****” (Featuring 2 Chainz & Rich Homie Quan)
        6: “Peach Blossom Overture”
        7: “Muy Caliente” (Featuring Daddy Yankee & Sean Paul)

        *

        And, for the Japanese version of the re-release, two bonus tracks:

        *

        8: “Harajuku Honky-Tonk” (Featuring Momoiro Clover Z)
        9: “Boba Sweet Tea” (Featuring PSY)

        *

        😉

        Liked by 2 people

        • Josh Schott July 8, 2015 / 3:33 pm

          …I would give the Lzzy Hale track a listen. Ha-ha!

          Like

      • Nadia Lockheart July 8, 2015 / 3:35 pm

        Eh, the PSY track certainly wouldn’t be a dull moment, either! 😉

        I’m not even a Halestorm fan, but Lzzy Hale’s vocals make anything better.

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        • Josh Schott July 8, 2015 / 3:43 pm

          This feels like an appropriate moment for this picture: Guitar Music

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  4. Scotty J July 8, 2015 / 2:02 pm

    It’s really got to the point that other than the Tim McGraw song (which will be gone next week) I don’t see a single song that I would say is clearly above average and country at the same time. There are a few decent songs but the overall situation has deteriorated to the point that it is almost not worth listening to and I follow it in the same way as a wreck on the freeway. It’s hard to look away.

    Radio and the entire mainstream country industry will rue the time when they turned off such a large portion of there base in an effort to chase the most fickle demo. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    Like

  5. Will July 8, 2015 / 2:26 pm

    Wait, has ‘Going out like that’ always been and -1. Or was ‘Run away with you’ supposed to be the -1 and ‘Going out like that’ supposed to be the +1?

    Like

    • Josh Schott July 8, 2015 / 2:28 pm

      “Going Out Like That” has always been a -1. The production completely kills the song for me.

      Like

  6. SRM July 8, 2015 / 8:06 pm

    Wow, 3/4 of those new songs you guys see entering the top 30 are +1’s in my book! Thus confirming that the chart almost always gets better after the year is half over.

    Unlike everyone else (how surprising…), I’m glad to see “Stay A Little Longer” get a +1. Really like that tune.

    Liked by 1 person

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