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 one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. 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 +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

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. Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells” +2 (Up 1)
  2. Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” -2 (Up 1)
  3. Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On” -2 (Down 2)
  4. Eric Church – “Record Year” +4 (Up 1) [Best Song]
  5. Chris Lane – “Fix” -5 (Up 1) [Worst Song]
  6. Keith Urban – “Wasted Time” -3 (Down 2)
  7. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots” +3 (Up 1)
  8. Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” -2 (Up 2)
  9. Dan + Shay – “From The Ground Up” +1 
  10. Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” -4 (Up 1)
  11. Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” -1 (Up 1)
  12. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink” +2 (Up 1)
  13. Kenny Chesney – “Noise” (Down 6)
  14. David Nail – “Night’s On Fire” -1 
  15. Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” -2 (Up 3)
  16. Kip Moore – “Running For You” +2 
  17. Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight” +2 
  18. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls” -3 (Up 2)
  19. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway” +1 
  20. Tucker Beathard – “Rock On” -3 (Up 1)
  21. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” +3 (Up 1)
  22. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” +2 (Up 1)
  23. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately” +2 (Up 1)
  24. LoCash – “I Know Somebody” -5 (Up 1)
  25. Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” -2 (Up 1)
  26. Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream” +1 (Up 2)
  27. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” -2 (Up 2)
  28. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” +3 (Down 1)
  29. Old Dominion – “Song for Another Time” -2 (New to Top 30)
  30. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” n/a (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -11

The pulse dropped six spots this week. 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With a Beer” +2
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer” +2

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Old Dominion – “Song for Another Time”
    • After an enjoyable hiatus, Old Dominion unfortunately returns to the top 30. They do return however with what I would call their best single yet. But that doesn’t mean it’s good (the bar isn’t set very high). “Song for Another Time” aims to be a nostalgic summer tune that tries to connect with listeners by name-checking a bunch of songs way better than this one. This begs the question of why you would do this because as a listener this just reminds me I could be spending my time better by listening to those songs. The production of this song is very adult contemporary/pop rock and isn’t really that country. Still this is the first single I’ve heard from Old Dominion that doesn’t make me want to tear my hair out. It just kind of bores me. So I guess this is progress? 3/10
  • Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime”
    • Since Jason Aldean and Broken Bow have a special deal with Apple Music, this song is currently not available to me to listen to unless I would buy it and there’s no way in hell I’m doing that. So this song will have to wait to be reviewed and rated. This is why I hate music exclusivity.

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” – Up 3 from #18 to #15

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With a Beer” – Out of the Top 30
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer” – Out of the Top 30 (#32)
  • Kenny Chesney – “Noise” – Down 6 from #7 to #13

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

  • Kenny Chesney – “Noise”
  • David Nail – “Night’s On Fire”
  • Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need a Drink”
  • Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight” (I’m surprised after 10 weeks this is already struggling to make headway. This has been kind of the theme with Paisley singles lately, as they always stall in the teens now. This is not a good sign for him when it’s rumored that his new album is coming in October.)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes”
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”
  • Luke Bryan – “Move”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”


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

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

  1. Scotty J July 20, 2016 / 11:11 am

    Paisley’s career has reached that point much like Rascal Flatts where every single is going to be a grind. The next step is when they can’t even crack the top forty anymore. It has happened to the best of them as we saw with Strait a few years ago. Really has little to do with quality as it’s just the way it works. Chesney, Urban and McGraw are fighting like crazy to avoid the same fate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ron July 20, 2016 / 11:17 am

    Heard a snippet of James Aldean’s new song and it just a rehashing of his last 11 singles, so that means it will be #1 14-15 weeks from now.
    I think the Brad/Demi song will be fine. It’s stalled out but should rebound or at least I would hope


  3. Raymond July 20, 2016 / 11:38 am

    Correction Josh, Jason Aldean is on Broken Bow records so I doubt he has much if any real affiliations with Big Machine.

    I kind of like “Song For Another Time” the whole checklist songs is rather tiresome. But I like the melody and rather catchy. Not the most country thing out there and isn’t the most original but it’s not bad. So I’d give it a 0.

    For the new Jason Aldean single, I’ve heard about a 30 second preview and it wasn’t bad, more boring, it sounds better than any of his past 5 singles. Probably Jason Aldean’s best single since “When She Says Baby” or “Night Train” according to people.

    I really hope Jennifer Nettles “Unlove You” can hold on and make the Top 20, but the gains are minimal so I have doubts she will make it. Although the fact that a female ballad by somebody not named Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini and Miranda Lambert made the Top 25 is impressive as it is.

    I actually love the 4 songs coming up (“Move” registers as a guilty pleasure sorry I kind of like the beat and production, just the lyrics make me cringe a lot) so I myself feel like country music is heading in the right direction.

    Also Brantley Gilbert has a new single that is apparently getting an iHeartMedia debut Friday so it’s entirely possible he’ll enter the Top 30 (the new single is called “Weekend” apparently ).


    • Josh Schott July 20, 2016 / 11:44 am

      Both start with a B and all of the major labels kind of blend together in my eyes. Either way I hate these exclusive streaming deals.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Raymond July 20, 2016 / 11:56 am

        Oh they drive me nuts. I am a passionate chart watcher so it’s easier for me to distinguish the labels. Broken Bow records label is arguably the worse as they have made some of the worst single choices ever for acts like Randy Houser (“Song Number 7” and “Chasing Down A Good Time”) Thompson Square (“Testing The Water” and “Trans Am”) and Joe Nichols (“Freaks Like Me”).

        I wouldn’t mind these streaming deals if like they were available on YouTube or something like that.

        This chart clog has gotten worst as it seems like right now every artist is releading a song, yesterday’s add date was a blood bath and acts like Jana Kramer, Randy Houser, Eric Paslay, and Chase Rice ended up having pretty terrible add date. I find it funny how an act like Lauren Alaina who has yet to even scratch the Top 25 can score more adds than acts like Randy, Eric, and Jana who all have now scored a couple of hits. Not complaining as I love “Road Less Travelled”.

        I really hope along with Kenny Chesney, David Nail leaving and Keith Urban as well, we see songs from Kip Moore, Big & Rich (once they hit the Top 20) and Jason Aldean “Lights Come On” leave too, actually surprised you don’t see any of them leaving soon. Their are so many singles right now at country radio and hardly anyone who isn’t a superstar is struggling.


  4. OlaR July 20, 2016 / 12:40 pm

    Fire’s out: no bullet for David Nail (#14 – week 50)

    Remember the names: Darius Rucker, Joe Nichols & Gary Allan? (Remember the last peak position?)

    Wanna play that song: country radio is going ga-ga over the not-so-new Brett Eldridge single. (#36 – 9 weeks)

    Not much love: Nieman & Brice, no bullet, down one place to #38 (week 11)

    But we all have a bullet: Young feat. Gill, Janson, Campbell, Ray, Corbin & the gang between #40 & #48. (No bullet for Josh Turner, Eli Young Band, Parmalee, Maddie & Tae, Thompson Square)

    Summer Vacation: Thomas Rhett lost audience & is down one place to #34. Cassadee Pope is moving up. (#55)

    Billboard Country Airplay:
    30 – Hot Shot Debut – Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime”
    39 – New – Tim McGraw – “How’ll I Always Be”
    57 – New – LANco – “Long Live Tonight”
    58 – New – “Luke Bryan – Move”
    60 – New – Aaron Watson – “Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song)” (#1 Texas Radio Regional Report – 2nd week)

    Billboard Top Country Albums:
    #1 – Chris Stapleton – Traveller
    #2 – Blake Shelton – If I’m Honest
    #3 – Various Artists – Now That’s What I Call Country (Volume 9)
    #22 – New – Mark Chesnutt – Tradition Lives

    Billboard Canada Country National Airplay:
    #1 – FGL (4th week)
    #2 – Eric Church
    #3 – Carrie Underwood
    #5 – Dallas Smith – “One Little Kiss” (highest canadian track)

    Country Tracks Top 40 Australia:
    #1 – Billy Bridge feat. Rebecca Lee Nye – “We Knew” (3rd week)
    #2 – Travis Collins – “Call Me Crazy”
    #3 – Sara Storer – “Dandelions”

    New Releases:
    Moe Bandy – Lucky Me – Album – 7/29 – Source: Google Play
    Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” – Single – 8/8 – Source: Country Aircheck


  5. Nadia Lockheart July 20, 2016 / 1:20 pm

    “Song For Another Time” is only “better” insofar that it doesn’t consist of any sleazy lyrics.

    Besides that, it does absolutely nothing for me. The lyrical conceit is not remotely clever. Lady Antebellum’s “And The Radio Played” did a significantly better job of conveying emotions surrounding nostalgic listens to the radio, and Jake Owen’s “After The Music’s Stopped” provides more effort in meshing all the song references together to convey a feeling of heartache in a breakup. It’s nothing new, and I can string a bunch of tired pop culture references together.

    Here, I’ll prove it to you!


    “We set out runnin’,
    guided by wire along South Tacoma Way,
    alone and forsaken,
    magpies to morning bracing for Sunday,
    the next time you say forever,
    never turn your back on Mother Earth,
    the tigers have spoken,
    cuz people got a lotta nerve…

    I’m a soulful shade of blue,
    runnin’ out of fools to ragtime,
    and there’s a train from Kansas City,
    ghost wiring these lonely old lies,
    I’m in a mood to burn bridges,
    and honky tonk hiccups knocking loud,
    I’m from nowhere,
    but look for me (I’ll be around).”


    See? Splicing together all those Neko Case song titles wasn’t hard! It only took seven minutes max!

    It doesn’t help that the song sounds generic as all-hell. It’s nearly synonymous with “milquetoast” in the dictionary and clinically designed for mass Adult Top 40 airplay with, of course, no hope of receiving it. Faint piano and guitar buried under a cellphone-raising swelling wall of sound? Check! Stationary percussion filling in for lack of an identifiable groove? Check! Obligatory guitar solo in the bridge to remotely try and liven up the pace? Check! All set to the most sterile, inoffensive production that is slathered across every song on their debut record.

    So no, I do not like this song and am flummoxed by its relative appeal elsewhere. It’s an utterly lazy exercise in songwriting and an equally lazy exercise in melodic composition. It’s not even half-assed. It’s quarter-assed at best. And it is for that reason why it isn’t getting anything higher than a Light 2 out of 10 from me.


    As for Jason Aldean’s latest……………’s definitely an improvement over any of his “Old Boots, New Dirt” era singles.

    In fact, I’d consider it his best single since “Night Train”. What made “Night Train” work for me is how Aldean and the mood of the song conveyed a melancholic urgency that elevated what is essentially another tired backwoods romance song. And there was a considerable amount of descriptive quality in the lyrics that easily painted the scene and made it feel believable.

    “A Little More Summertime” isn’t as strong as “Night Train”, but it does tap into that same melancholic longing vein that Aldean tends to sell naturally and effectively quite often. It sounds like…………………..well…………….pretty much how you’d expect any Aldean mid-tempo to sound, but that’s forgivable when it is accompanied by lyricism that actually connotes feeling. And to its credit, “A Little More Summertime” does tap into that fading-summer-flame saudade pretty good with plenty of imagery, “what ifs” and references to weather that I can certainly connect to and I’m gathering many others will as well as they reflect on their own bittersweet summer fling memories.

    Obviously it’s no “The Boys of Summer”, or Beach Boys anthem. But it’s the first listenable Jason Aldean single for a while now, and it works in spite of its generic production. I’m thinking a Light to Decent 6 out of 10 for “A Little More Summertime”.


  6. Scotty J July 20, 2016 / 4:36 pm

    Their are others here who may remember some other examples but is ‘Fix’ the most shady, unworthy hit in recent memory by whatever standard or metric available? I sense no great love for this song nor rabid fanbase for this performer but here it is in the top five nonetheless.

    There may be no better indictment of the ‘corrupt bargain’ (history reference, look it up) between labels and radio than this song.


    • Nadia Lockheart July 20, 2016 / 5:49 pm

      Shady? Yes!

      Unworthy? That’s more debatable. If we’re talking songs that reached the Top Five, my vote would go to Chase Bryant’s “Little Bit of You” with its especially pathetic sales and streaming (at least “Fix” has already come close to the Top Ten on the mongrel chart, whereas the best Chase Bryant could do was #16). In terms of singles that went to #1 on either airplay chart, my vote would go to Michael Ray’s “Kiss You In The Morning” (which barely went Top Ten on the mongrel chart)………………..though “Fix” might vie for that dubious distinction if it fails to go Top Ten on the mongrel chart upon reaching #1.

      So yeah, Chase Bryant epitomizes the “corrupt bargain” when it comes to Top Five hits. But “Fix” can potentially epitomize the most corrupt #1 in chart history.


      • Raymond July 20, 2016 / 5:53 pm

        Eh, “Young & Crazy” by Frankie Ballard might give it a run in the morning as it sold rather poorly through all it’s chart run.


        • Nadia Lockheart July 20, 2016 / 6:01 pm


          That peaked at #8 on the mongrel chart, though, so I’d argue Michael Ray’s distinction is still worse. Especially since “Young & Crazy” was a third single from Ballard’s breakout album, while “Kiss You In The Morning” was a debut single that was also buoyed by the On The Verge program.


      • Scotty J July 20, 2016 / 6:45 pm

        My unworthy argument would go more to the quality of the song in general and especially as a country song. I would argue that the other songs you two are mentioning may have been either boring or just not that great with ‘Fix’ this song is borderline offensive in a number of ways.

        But I guess the title is fitting as it seems like the fix is in with this one.


        • Nadia Lockheart July 20, 2016 / 6:49 pm

          I personally interpreted “shady” as being tawdry and morally backwards from an artistic standpoint, while “unworthy” as being oversold from more of a dry industry standpoint.

          That’s just how I discerned the two terms, though.


          • Scotty J July 20, 2016 / 7:00 pm

            I think of ‘shady’ in more of the business sense where the labels and radio play this pathetic game with songs rising or staying on the charts for months and months for no good reason other than the labels keep telling radio to play and radio just does it. The fact that hardly any songs (I know a few do) peak in the teens or twenties defies any kind of logic. Nadia, someone like you who follows this stuff closely could look at this chart and make a pretty good guess as to where every song between 11-40 is going to eventually peak and probably when they will peak and have an amazing success percentage if we looked back in say late November or December. That is shady to me and not a free flowing system where people make rational decisions about what songs are right for what markets.

            The phrase ‘going for maximum spins this week’ says it all for me. Why does this work? Why does radio go along with this?


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