The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [July 25]

Derek here this week!  Josh is out enjoying a vacation, so I’m taking over the Pulse this week.

Each week we 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. Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” -2 (Up 1)
  2. Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells” +2 (Down 1)
  3. Eric Church – “Record Year” +4 (Up 1) [Best Song]
  4. Chris Lane – “Fix” -5 (Up 1) [Worst Song]
  5. Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On” -2 (Down 2)
  6. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots” +3 (Up 1)
  7. Dan + Shay – “From The Ground Up” +1 (Up 2)
  8. Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” -2 
  9. Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” -4 (Up 1)
  10. Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” -1 (Up 1)
  11. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink” +2 (Up 1)
  12. Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” -2 (Up 3)
  13. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls” -3 (Up 5)
  14. Kip Moore – “Running For You” +2 (Up 2)
  15. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway” +1 (Up 4)
  16. Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight” +2 (Up 1)
  17. Tucker Beathard – “Rock On” -3 (Up 3)
  18. Miranda Lambert – “Vice”   +3 (New to Top 30)
  19. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” +2 (Up 3)
  20. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” +3 (Up 1)
  21. LoCash – “I Know Somebody” -5 (Up 3)
  22. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately” +2 (Up 1)
  23. Kenny Chesney – “Noise” (Down 10)
  24. Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” -2 (Up 1)
  25. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” -2 (Up 2)
  26. Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream” +1 
  27. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” +3 (Up 1)
  28. Old Dominion – “Song for Another Time” -2 (Up 1)
  29. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes”  +1 (New to Top 30)
  30. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” 0

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -3

The pulse improves eight spots this week!

I give Jason Aldean’s “A Little More Summertime” a based on the iTunes preview of the song. We still haven’t heard the full version yet. Grade may change once the full version is heard.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Keith Urban – “Wasted Time” -3
  • David Nail – “Night’s on Fire” -1

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”
  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes”
    • Josh’s review of the song from Maren’s EP and HERO were positive, praising the pop-country aspect of what could be a big late summer hit. Maren sings the song well, the lyrics are catchy, and the melody is infectious. I honestly debated between scoring this a +1 or 0 and decided to give “80s Mercedes” the benefit of the doubt. Since I’m taking over for Josh this week, this score could change next week if Josh ultimately feels differently than I do.

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” (I think FGL is in for a multi-week run with this one).

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” debuts on the chart at #18!
  • Dierks Bentley and Elle King’s “Different for Girls” jumps 5 spots from #18 to #13

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Keith Urban’s “Wasted Time” – Out of the Top 30 and recurrent
  • David Nail’s “Night’s On Fire” – Out of the Top 30 and recurrent
  • Kenny Chesney – “Noise” – Down 10 from #13 to #23

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

  • Kenny Chesney – “Noise”
  • Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You”
  • Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need a Drink”
  • Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight”
  • Drake White – “Livin the Dream” (33 weeks on the chart and not making any headway)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be”
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”
  • Luke Bryan – “Move”
  • Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend”

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

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

  1. Raymond July 27, 2016 / 11:24 am

    I’m not sure if I see Justin Moore or Drake White on the hot seat as both still have albums coming out in the next few weeks. If anybody is on the hot seat it’d be Big & Rich and Kip Moore as both of them are on pure marathon runs and are probably on their last week.

    Also with the iHeartMedia debut of Kenny Chesney and Pink with their new song “Setting The World On Fire”. I am just so done with these multi genre collaborations. As much as Chris Young and Blake Shelton are boring artists I at least respect both men for releasing singles with promising female talent (Cassadee Pope and Ashley Monroe respectively), instead these multi genre collaborations feel like the music equivalent of a ratings trap. You have all this hype for this huge song that ends up not even being all that good (looking at you “Different For Girls” and “Go Ahead and Break My Heart”), with “Without A Fight” being the obvious exception.

    For other parts of the charts, nothing else really, Billy Currington song is connecting really well as his song is selling great, and well that’s it.

    As for my rankings, I am very fond of “80’s Mercedes”, I know it is not all that country, but I honestly feel like it is one of those songs that are good regardless of genre. Maren delivers a really great vocal performance the beat is so catchy and the hook is also a total earworm. Like I said, not country in the slightest but good music.

    I’m thinking a strong 8 out of 10

    As for “Vice” I agree in giving it an 8 out of 10.


    • Derek Hudgin July 27, 2016 / 11:38 am

      I agree that these crossover duets are awful. There’s a whole pool of little known female talent in country music that Dierks, Brad, and Kenny could pick from instead of pop stars. At the end of the day it’s a shameless cash grab from the labels wanting to attract both artists’ respective fan bases to the song, and probably get some crossover radio play.


      • Raymond July 27, 2016 / 11:53 am

        Yeah it is a pure cash grab.

        What sucks is that the female mainstream talent is wide open. Acts like Kacey Musgraves, Jana Kramer, Ashley Monroe, Cam are all talented enough to get featured. Also other singers like Danielle Bradbery, Mickey Guyton, and Lauren Alaina, all extremely talented women that could use the exposure but end up having too sing crap like “Heartbreak Song” which btw is going nowhere.

        Well at least Lauren Alaina has a great single out “Road Less Travelled”, it’s not country and the production is a little loud but the song has a great message and is really well written.

        The female talent is huge and these multi genre collabs are getting annoying as it undermines these women and make it all the more harder for a female to break out, I mean what’s next Meghan Trainor or Rihanna go in a country song with Sam Hunt or Kelsea Ballerini.


    • Derek Hudgin July 27, 2016 / 11:40 am

      And I say Justin Moore is on the hot seat because he has his new song “Kinda Don’t Care” in the bottom 30. It looks to me like they’re ready to get the new single on the charts soon.


      • Raymond July 27, 2016 / 11:46 am

        I never saw “Kinda Don’t Care” in the bottom 30, mainly cause the chart is overstuffed and it hasn’t been shipped to radio. But I will say that “Kinda Don’t Care” and the other song released last Friday would make excellent singles. Justin Moore is so far releasing pretty decent songs and I’m actually looking forward to his new album.


        • Derek Hudgin July 27, 2016 / 11:49 am

          I’m not sure where I saw it then, because I went back and checked, and you’re right, it’s not in the bottom 30.


  2. Ron July 27, 2016 / 11:27 am

    I’m wondering if this FGL ‘anti cop’ controversy has any legs? It seems to me that it was some kind of misunderstanding but of course many people are already quite upset about it


    • Derek Hudgin July 27, 2016 / 11:35 am

      I think it’ll die over soon. From what I understand about the situation, a cop wanting to be backstage with the group (and a fan of the groups) was denied access because, according to FGL, they bring their own security and don’t require extra security from local agencies. This cop seemed to take the rejection personally and ranted on Facebook about it and made assumptions about FGL while in the heat of the moment. I think that social media post gained traction with folks like TMZ and other outlets.

      Now as for the denial of a police escort out of town, I’m not sure why the cops turned it down, maybe word spread and they felt offended by the group. I think this whole thing was a misunderstanding and that it got blown out of proportion. I give FGL the benefit of the doubt here, even if their addressing of the situation is half-assed


      • Nadia Lockheart July 27, 2016 / 1:33 pm

        It definitely has had at least a marginal effect on their sales.

        “H.O.L.Y.” slipped down to #9 after remaining stubborn in the Top Five, and “May We All” has fallen out of the Top 100 altogether.

        In my opinion, I highly doubt the duo have ill will towards our police, and this was indicative of a misunderstanding and lack of clarification blown way out of proportion. The duo has a tendency of not explaining things very thoughtfully or gracefully, and having abysmal PR spokespeople, and that was also made clear in how they commented about a violent incident in Calgary in April 2014 where they said “We know that this city is in mourning, we heard about a shooting…. or a murder.. that happened in the city a couple weeks ago… or a couple days ago here in Calgary.” That riled up quite a few at the time, as you might recall.

        However, that blew over as did the whole Sandy Hook faux-controversy nonsense surrounding Tim McGraw.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. jmarsh123 July 27, 2016 / 12:30 pm

    The pulse is approaching 0! Progress, at least temporarily. Was surprised 80’s Mercedes merited a +1. I absolutely love the song, but there is also nothing remotely country about it. I thought that was why Peter Pan got downgraded to a -1 although I’ll grant that 80’s Mercedes is better.


    • Derek Hudgin July 27, 2016 / 1:45 pm

      As I said, that could change when Josh gets back. I really did bounce between a +1 and 0 because of the fact that “80s Mercedes” isn’t really all that country. But I do enjoy the song and decided to give it the benefit this time around.


  4. OlaR July 27, 2016 / 12:38 pm

    Hot Seat: Kip Moore (up in plays but down in audience) & the Paisley/Lovato duet is already losing steam (week 11).

    Billboard Country New & Active:
    Gary Allan, Darius Rucker, Joe Nichols, Chase Bryant, Lauren Alaina
    (looks more like Country Not-So-New & Desperate)

    The other New Entries:
    #38 – Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend”
    #53 – Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”

    #51 (57) – LANco – “Long Live Tonight”
    #44 (48) – Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red”
    #35 (58) – Luke Bryan – “Move”
    #31 (39) – Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be”

    Down (No Bullet):
    #47 (43) – Michael Ray – “Think A Little Less
    #49 (46) – Runaway June – “Lipstick”
    #52 (51) – Last Bandoleros – “Where Do You Go”
    #54 (47) – Toby Keith – “A Few More Cowboys”
    #59 (54) – Clare Dunn – “Tuxedo”

    Billboard Top Country Albums:
    #1 – New – Steven Tyler – We’re All Somebody From Somewhere (17.000 copies)
    #2 – Chris Stapleton – Traveller
    #3 – New – David Nail – Fighter

    Billboard Canada Country National Airplay:
    #1 – Eric Church – “Record Year”
    #2 – FGL – “H.O.L.Y.”
    #3 – Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells”
    #6 – Dallas Smith – “One Little Kiss” (highest canadian track)

    Country Tracks Top 40 Australia:
    #1 – Allan Caswell – “Nothing Left For Them”
    #2 – Billy Bridge feat. Rebecca Lee Nye – “We Knew”
    #3 – Alice Benfer – “Amamoor Creek”

    Allan Caswell – “Nothing Left For Them”: “…the world i leave behind”. Melancholic ballad with harmonica.
    Alice Benfer – “Amamoor Creek”: “…magic in the air”. Lovely uptempo tune with banjo.


    • Nadia Lockheart July 27, 2016 / 5:53 pm

      Good God, the sales this week are pathetic.

      17,000 ensures Steven Tyler the #1 Country Album, and yet it only translates to #19 on the Billboard 200? Yikes!


      I expect “The Weekend” to perform abysmally at airplay.

      I’m predicting a peak similar to the preceding “Stone Cold Sober”. It’ll dent the Top Twenty, but it won’t be the single that gets Gilbert’s album released. It’s way too sloppy and non-hooky to succeed even in this current radio environment.


      Not the least surprised to see Toby Keith’s latest retreat after its debut.

      It’s basically just “35 MPH Town” Deux, albeit with slightly more tempo and Western imagery. Seriously: get this poor guy to an art museum or the Cirque Du Soleil. He is creatively bankrupt and just seems to keep plagiarizing himself.

      And why, exactly, do we need more fistfights? I can certainly agree the world needs less yes men and politics, but why glorify violence? Last Friday, a man was arrested twice in the span of two hours during a concert he held in Mansfield, Massachusetts due to kicking a police officer in the chest and later doing so again. Why would you want MORE of that in our world, Toby?


  5. Scotty J July 27, 2016 / 4:17 pm

    Looks like ‘Vice’ is going to not surprisingly take a massive tumble next week as these artificially high debuts often do. Since this song doesn’t exactly fit the standard radio fodder nowadays wonder if it will ever make it back to #18 or will the label move on to another single.

    Maybe they will stick with it but I wouldn’t bet on it and of course this isn’t a reflection on the quality of the song as much as the current radio environment.


    • Nadia Lockheart July 27, 2016 / 5:28 pm

      Darius Rucker’s “If I Told You” suffered the exact same fate.

      It is startling to see how dramatically Rucker’s single has plunged since its promising debut. I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen a decline as precipitous as that. And it’s still struggling to emerge above New & Active.

      I don’t expect “Vice” to struggle nearly as much. However, I can’t see “Vice” going Top Ten on the airplay chart either. It should sell well and peak fairly high on the mongrel chart, but it is clearlymore of a statement song than radio fodder.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Raymond July 27, 2016 / 5:49 pm

        Maybe it’s the sales talking, but I think given the amount of hype their is for Miranda Lambert music, that “Vice” will be fine. I don’t know I feel like this’ll be a case where radio can’t ignore and won’t ignore, maybe I’m being a little too optimistic.


      • Scotty J July 27, 2016 / 6:31 pm

        Personally I think these artificial boosts right out of the gate by mostly iHeart stations do more harm than good sometimes in perception if nothing else. It seemed like there for awhile every Toby Keith single was getting that treatment only to bounce around the thirties on the chart for months before dropping off and now we are seeing this with others like the Rucker song you mentioned. Maybe this would be OK for a very top level radio act like Luke Bryan or Blake Shelton but if an act isn’t a sure fire #1 producer it often makes one wonder if their place in the hierarchy isn’t in danger.


      • petemarshall724 July 27, 2016 / 11:53 pm

        On the Hot Country Songs chart Miranda Lambert “Vice” debuts at #2!


  6. Justin W Adams July 27, 2016 / 7:00 pm

    With the struggles of some of the more well known artists most recent singles, such as Easton Corbin, Gary Allan, Joe Nichols, Darius Rucker, Toby Keith, is it safe to say these guys’ days of having radio hits are in the past? Seems like radio is moving on to newer fresher acts


    • Nadia Lockheart July 27, 2016 / 7:33 pm

      Easton Corbin and Toby Keith were already on the decline for several years (it didn’t help matters that Corbin’s latest album is bad).

      Gary Allan and Darius Rucker, meanwhile, are pushing 50. That leaves Joe Nichols, who is still young in relation to the mean country listening demographic. I’d say his struggles can be attributed to the fact he’s never been a consistent presence on the charts and, thus, he doesn’t have as developed a relationship with radio as many of his peers………………… he’s liable to get left behind.


  7. heyyyhector July 28, 2016 / 12:06 am

    IMO, I’d give A Little More Summertime a -1, written well, but done a bit better on “Roller Coaster”. Aldean doesn’t sound great and the guitars are too messy. Surprised there’s no videos at all of the studio recordings though with this being a lead single….


    • Nadia Lockheart July 28, 2016 / 4:20 am

      I prefer “A Little More Summertime” over “Roller Coaster”, personally.

      The production is what got in the way most of all on the latter. It was way too sanitized and polished. The driving riff actually reminded me of matchbox twenty’s “If You’re Gone”, but in this case it worked against Bryan’s favor because matchbox twenty’s song has more weight and stakes in its production and tone (and it has never even been among my favorite songs of theirs).

      With Aldean’s song, it admittedly plays it in the same sort of mid-tempo territory as many of his other deeper cuts. But it still sounds like a full band effort in spite of some dustings of modern sonics and I appreciate the chorus reaches for a higher key to accentuate the urgency.


  8. Cumva Proud Performer July 31, 2016 / 8:59 am

    What happened to Chris Stapleton’s Parachute??


    • Raymond July 31, 2016 / 11:08 am

      It’s lingering around in the 30s. The label is still actively promoting it though so I’d still expect it to at least come close to the Top 30. The thing is however expect new Chris Stapleton music in 2017 so I wouldn’t expect a lot out of “Parachute”.


    • Josh Schott July 31, 2016 / 12:44 pm

      It’s been slowly meandering up the chart. It probably would have hit the top 30 by now if the chart and release schedule weren’t so busy. Personally I think it will reach the 20s and stay a while before going recurrent. A top 20 run would be the absolute best I see and that’s being very optimistic. A lot of radio programmers don’t want to play him, but are forced to out of sheer demand and popularity. And unlike with Kacey Musgraves, they can’t play the 15% card with Stapleton. Really the Stapleton rise has demonstrated the absurdity of the radio format and how it’s not the end all be all for success like the radio programmers want everyone to think. Stapleton succeeded despite radio and that’s infuriating to programmers because they want to hold the power.


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