The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [June 13]

Tim McGraw Humble and Kind

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 a 5 or 6 receive a 0. Songs rated 4 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. Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind” +1 (Up 3) {Such a deserving song to reach #1!}
  2. Luke Bryan – “Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day” -1 (Up 1)
  3. Thomas Rhett – “T-Shirt” -1 (Down 2)
  4. Blake Shelton – “Came Here To Forget” -1 (Down 2)
  5. Keith Urban – “Wasted Time” -1 (Up 1)
  6. Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On” -1 (Up 2)
  7. Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells” +1 (Up 3)
  8. Dierks Bentley – “Somewhere On A Beach” -1 (Down 3)
  9. Kenny Chesney – “Noise” (Up 2)
  10. Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” -1 (Up 2)
  11. Eric Church – “Record Year” +1 (Up 3) [Best Song]
  12. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots” +1 (Up 1)
  13. Chris Lane – “Fix” -1 (Up 2) [Worst Song]
  14. Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” -1 (Up 2)
  15. David Nail – “Night’s On Fire” -1 (Up 2)
  16. Dan + Shay – “From The Ground Up” (Up 2)
  17. Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” -1 (Up 2) 
  18. Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With a Beer” +1 (Up 2)
  19. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink” +1 (Up 2)
  20. Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” 0 (Up 3)
  21. Kip Moore – “Running For You” +1 (Up 1)
  22. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway” 0 (Up 2)
  23. Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight” +1 (Up 3)
  24. Tucker Beathard – “Rock On” -1 (Up 1)
  25. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” +1 (Up 2)
  26. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” +1 (Up 2)
  27. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately” +1 (Up 2)
  28. Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” (New to Top 30)
  29. LoCash – “I Know Somebody” -1 (New to Top 30)
  30. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” +1 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -1

The pulse improved one spot this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Maren Morris – “My Church”
  • Old Dominion – “Snapback”
  • Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream”

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Brett Young – “Sleep Without You”
    • This is a new, fresh face being pushed hard by Big Machine right now. Young is a former college pitcher who was forced out by injuries and resorted to songwriting. This is his first single being pushed to radio and it’s not bad. It’s a love song about a guy who can’t go to sleep without his woman beside him and finds himself tossing and turning when she isn’t there. The production is a tad on the sterile pop side, but the lyrics are okay. Not much to get excited about, but not much to hate either. 5/10
  • LoCash – “I Know Somebody”
    • LoCash is back (unfortunately), following up their first big hit “I Love This Life” with new single “I Know Somebody.” And somehow this song is worse. LoCash’s vocals sound distorted and overproduced as they sing about being the guy with a gassed up truck in the moonlight. Yeah let’s just cut to the chase: it’s bro country with auto-tune. This song will haunt the radio all summer long because it will take 50 weeks for this terrible song to peak at #3. 2/10
  • Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”
    • It’s a surprisingly good song from Currington, as it feels like ages since we’ve gotten something good from him. It’s even more surprising when you see two co-writers for the song are Cary Barlowe (co-writer for Florida Georgia Line’s “Sun Daze” and Dustin Lynch’s “Where It’s At”) and Shy Carter (co-writer for Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue”). The third writer is Currington himself, which is important to point out as it was the only song on Summer Forever where he was a writer. It’s nice to see Currington putting out likable, non-pandering music again. 7/10

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Luke Bryan – “Lovin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day” (Running ads saying they’re going for max spins. This is a lock.)

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” – Up 5 from #33 to #28
  • Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells” – Up 3 from #10 to #7
  • Eric Church – “Record Year” – Up 3 from #14 to #11
  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” – Up 3 from #23 to #20

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Maren Morris – “My Church” – Out of the Top 30
  • Old Dominion – “Snapback” – Out of the Top 30
  • Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream” – Out of the Top 30 (#31)

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Dierks Bentley – “Somewhere On A Beach”
  • Kip Moore – “Running For You”
  • Tucker Beathard – “Rock On”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately” (Radio has no clue what to do with this song. Just seesawing back and forth)
  • David Nail – “Night’s On Fire”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream”
  • Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory”
  • Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls”
  • Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words”

Note: After further listens and considerations I’ve decided to change “Peter Pan” from a -1 to a 0. The lyrics have grown on me enough to the point I can give it a 0, even though I’m still not a fan of the production and think it drags the song down from being better.


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

6 thoughts on “The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [June 13]

  1. Derek Hudgin June 15, 2016 / 11:10 am

    I can’t remember the last time there was #1 song on this chart that truly deserved the title of a number 1 song. Happy to see “Humble and Kind” there!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Will P. June 15, 2016 / 11:26 am

    Good to see the pulse headed towards neutral ground, if not positive territory. Still, there’s a long way to go for the state of country music. Out of curiosity, I pulled up the top 30 from 25 years ago this week to see if my memory was accurate on how much better country radio was in those days. Here’s a sampling of what that week’s chart contained: #1 The Thunder Rolls (Garth Brooks), #2 If The Devil Danced in Empty Pockets (Joe Diffie), #4 Don’t Rock the Jukebox (Alan Jackson), #7 Meet in the Middle (Diamond Rio), #8 One More Payment (Clint Black), #11 I Am A Simple Man (Ricky Van Shelton), #18 Moon Over Georgia (Shenandoah), #20 You’re The One (Dwight Yoakam), #21 Here’s a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares (Travis Tritt), #23 Here We Are (Alabama), #24 Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy (Don Williams), #27 She’s In Love with the Boy (Trisha Yearwood). Pretty stout stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Raymond June 15, 2016 / 11:46 am

    It’s nice to see country music making it to more neutral category. I actually can’t recall the last time the pulse has been this close to the positive.

    Also nice to see Tim McGraw reach #1, I actually can’t recall the last time a solo written song made it to #1.

    I would normally say mainstream country is getting better but with Thomas Rhett, Blake Shelton both releasing garbage songs, and none of the songs looking to enter the Top 30 looking all that good (only Drake, Cole and maybe Dierks getting a 0) I’m not holding my breath. Especially with Cam and Brothers Osborne still struggling as it is. At least Chris Stapleton and High Valley are making nice movement.

    For me there is a lot of good songs below the Top 30 as I am a fan of the latest releases from Chris Janson, Craig Campbell, Maddie & Tae, Easton Corbin, Josh Abbott Band/Carly Pearce, Chris Young, Parmalee (shockingly as “Roots” is really good and I hope you guys review it), and Cassadee Pope with “Summer” (yeah who would have guessed Cassadee Pope and Parmalee would release some really solid country music). Maybe the future for country music is a little bright, but I’m not confident.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OlaR June 15, 2016 / 1:05 pm

    David Nail on the “Hot Seat”: #15, up 2 places, up in spins, up in audience, 45 weeks & the album will be released in 4 weeks. We’ll see.

    Cam – “Mayday” – #36, lost the bullet & is down in spins & audience
    Brandy Clark – “Girl Next Door – #41 (down 2), down in audience
    Kane Brown – “Used To Love You Sober” – #44 (down 7), bye-bye

    Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” – #53 – Hot Shot Debut
    Chris Young feat. Vince Gill – “Sober Saturday Night” – #54 – New
    Cassadee Pope – “Summer” – #59 – New

    Billboard Top Country Albums:
    #1 – Maren Morris – Hero – New
    #2 – Dan + Shay – Obsessed – New
    #3 – Blake Shelton – If I’m Honest

    Billboard Canada Country National Airplay:
    #1 – Keith Urban – “Wasted Time”
    #2 – Blake Shelton – “Came Here To Forget”
    #3 – Luke Bryan – “Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day”
    #9 – Aaron Pritchett – “Dirt Road In ‘Em” – highest canadian single

    Australia Country Tracks Top 40:
    #1 – Connie Kis Andersen – “Gone Wishin'”
    #2 – Aly Cook – “Message In A Cloud”
    #3 – Luke O’Shea – “My Country’s My King”

    New releases:
    Jana Kramer – “Circles” – Single – tba – Source: Jana Kramer during performance
    Chase Bryant – “Room To Breathe” – Single – 7/5 – Source: Music Row
    Dustin Lynch – tba – Single – 6/24 – Source: Country Aircheck (Add)
    Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” – Single – 6/24 – Source: Trent Harmon/Facebook
    The Last Bandoleros – “Where Do You Go?” – Single – 6/20 – Source: Music Row (New Warner Nashville act)
    Kenny Chesney – Some Town Somewhere – Album – 7/8 – Source: Music Row
    Steven Tyler – We’re All Somebody From Somewhere – Album – 7/15 – Source: Music Row
    Confederate Railroad – Lucky To Be Alive – Album – 7/15 – Source: Music Row


    • Robert June 15, 2016 / 1:25 pm

      Cody Jinks’ first song off the new album ships to radio June 22, I think. Luke Bell’s new album can be heard in its entirety for a free preview, courtesy of Southern Living- really good ! Lots of good music on the way…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nadia Lockheart June 15, 2016 / 3:59 pm

    Some thoughts this week:


    1) It’s pretty sad that it feels like history has been made with “Humble and Kind” being the first song written solo to top the chart in approximately four years. Still, glad this has happened and hopefully this happens a little more often from here on out. I have nothing against collaborative writing in truth, but the problem is the way in which a lot of it is conducted doesn’t feel like a genuine group effort.

    The back story behind “Fix” is a perfect example. It was initially formulated as a pop song then, when Moi decided to pounce on Lane’s newfound curiosity with reaching a falsetto range vocally and shopped for songs that fit that aspiration, “Fix” was pitched to Lane and then it was lazily edited just so it could be marketed to “country radio”. It was sausage-making rather than a genuine group effort, plain and simple.

    “H.O.L.Y.” is a similar story. It was initially written as a pop song, too, and originally pitched to Justin Bieber. Then when he declined it and they threw it around, the writers decided to try Nashville and after Florida Georgia Line eventually warmed up to the song, Moi and session musicians only mildly tinkered with it to where it would be credible with “country radio”.

    The point is, I have nothing against songs that have three or more writers when they’re actually written in a way where the writers are bouncing ideas off each other around a campfire or a cafe table and it is constructed organically. There’s a genuine chemistry to that kind of composition. But I’m convinced more than half of the songs with a least three writers permeating the charts were NOT written that way. Rather, you’d have one or two writers write something in one booth, ship it to another person who eventually tries to leapfrog off of it in another booth, then it gets shipped to yet another person in another booth, then it gets shipped to the producer with minimal efforts at editing and the person styles it to one’s liking, then the engineer handles post-production and it just gets rush-delivered to radio programmers from there. That also underscores why there’s been a lack of gut-punching songs in recent times. Because writing in this format does not allow much room for emotional release and payoff. Whereas with something like “Humble and Kind”, because it is sourced from an organic mode of composition, it does get to you.


    2) I still consider “Peter Pan” a -1 as a country release.

    As far as pop songs are concerned, “Peter Pan” is actually listenable (as is a significant chunk of her debut album, most notably the title track, “Secondhand Smoke” and “Stilettos”). But the production here is absolutely sterile to a numbing degree and has minimal organic instrumentation. There’s nothing remotely country about this and thus I can’t in all conscience give this anything other than a -1 as long as we’re evaluating releases in the context of the country charts.


    3) Eh, “Sleep Without You” isn’t bad, but it just falls short in warranting a 0 grade to my ears.

    It sounds too much like a Matt Nathanson song (i.e. Adult Alternative with Top 40 sensibilities and blandness) and can only be considered remotely country, instrumentally, if the mandolin is factored into the evaluation. And Holy Auto-Tune, Batman! The use of it on the vocal track is more glaring here than on most other tracks I’ve recently reviewed.

    Sorry, have to give “Sleep Without You” a -1. But it’s decent as an Adult Top 40 track (which is where it belongs, anyway, along with David Nail’s more recent releases)


    4) It’s a shame “Lovin’ Lately” appears to be finished.

    It was definitely my favorite of the album’s three singles. I still love how the chorus oscillates between major and minor chords to evoke this feeling of swelling melancholy. It honestly gets to me, even when I’m hardly been in a relationship all my life to date. It deserved more than this, though you can only do so much when you’re on an independent label with a third single and your parent album has sold poorly.


    5) “21 Summer” racked up an impressive amount of adds this past week, considering it’s already in the Top Forty of the chart.

    I never cared for “Stay a Little Longer” all that much besides the vocals and guitar solo, but I’m really digging “21 Summer” and am cautiously optimistic this duo won’t be a one-and-done deal on mainstream airwaves. I am still disappointed in their debut album from a lyrical standpoint, but “21 Summer” is easily one of the high points on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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