The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [August 8]

When you look at the #1 spot on the country chart…

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

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -10

The pulse drops three spots this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On” -2
  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1 (As much as I enjoy this as a pop song, I realized I have to be fair and judge this just as I would any other pop song going through country radio. So I’m docking it down and will be sticking to this score. For the record, it would get a +3 on pop radio.)

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be”
    • Can I just take a second and applaud Tim McGraw? It can’t be understated how great McGraw’s single choices have been the past few years. He’s one of the constant shining beacons of light on country radio in the midst of a lot of bad music. He returns to the top 30 with yet another good single in “How I’ll Always Be.” This is basically a life anthem from McGraw, as he touts living the simple life and sticking to country music. That’s most apparent on the line when he sings, “I’m a little more old Hank Williams than that trendy crap.” Just getting this lyric alone on country radio is satisfying because you just know this song is going to follow-up so much “trendy crap.” Some might call this hypocritical of McGraw after he released some trendy crap, but I read this more as I said in my original review of the song: this is McGraw stating that he’s never going back to that and this is how he will be from here on out. In other words he learned his lesson. It’s not as good as “Humble and Kind,” but it’s damn solid nonetheless. 8/10
  • Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime”
    • I’ve finally found a good way to listen to this song in full (thanks to Zack for the suggestion). First off it’s definitely a step up from “Lights Come On,” as this song actually has something to say. The song itself is a summer love nostalgia tune that immediately put me in mind of Luke Bryan’s single from a few years, “Roller Coaster.” The difference to me between that song and this one is the production and instrumentation is an improvement here. It actually has good energy and surprisingly doesn’t chase trends. I mean it’s not full-blown country, but it’s more rock with a tinge of country influence. It’s certainly not the best single we’ve ever gotten from Aldean, but it’s probably the best single he’s had in a few years. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. 5/10

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots” (It’s going to be close. I could see “Fix” getting a second week, but I’m leaning more towards doubtful. The bigger problem is Sam Hunt’s promotion team going into full push mode with “Make You Miss Me,” as it’s nipping at Pardi’s heels. So it looks we have a battle between Hunt and Pardi for #1 next week.)

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice” – Up 4 from #25 to #21
  • Luke Bryan – “Move” – Up 4 from #29 to #25
  • Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” – Up 3 from #7 to #4

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” – Out of the Top 30 (to #31)
  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” – Down 4 from #3 to #7

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

  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.”
  • Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells”
  • Kip Moore – “Running For You”
  • Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream” (It lost a ton in audience and will need a big rebound to retain its spot in the top 30. I just don’t see this hanging on until the album release.)

On The Hot Seat:

  • Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight”
  • Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” (Somehow this song continues to hang. Not that I’m complaining, but I’m just surprised.)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes”
  • Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boot Fits”
  • Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song”
  • Florida Georgia Line & Tim McGraw – “May We All” (In a few weeks there could be three McGraw songs in the top 30)


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 [August 8]

  1. Raymond August 10, 2016 / 11:14 am

    Josh, Jon Pardi will easily get to #1. Chris Lane sent out a thank you country radio add and Sam Hunt is Jon Pardi’s label mate (and Capitol Nashville has made it clear they are pushing for the top this week with Jon Pardi) so Chris Lane is freefalling and Sam Hunt is gonna stay right behind probably to block Dan + Shay from the top.

    I disagree about the whole “80’s Mercedes” thing, to me good music is good music regardless of genre. I’d rather take a well written catchy pop song then a clichéd country song. So agree to disagree on “80’s Mercedes” as I’d give it a +4.

    For me I’ve felt like there’s a lot of good songs in the Top 30 really the only songs I actively dislike are “Fix”, “American Country Love Song”, “She’s Got A Way With Words”, and “Rock On”. I guess I have a little more of a looser definition of what country music is.

    I do really hope “Unlove You” can make the Top 20. I’m just curious Josh, why didn’t you cover Jennifer Nettles solo album, I thought it was really good and a good balance of pop and country.


    • Josh Schott August 10, 2016 / 11:27 am

      The Nettles album hasn’t been covered because better albums came along and took precedence at the time. Derek and I always start with the best albums we haven’t reviewed and work from there. Plus based on the couple of listens I had of the album I wasn’t blown away. I still haven’t ruled out listening to it again and possibly reviewing it.


  2. jmarsh123 August 10, 2016 / 11:57 am

    After thinking over 80’s Mercedes again, I think I’d settle at a 0 for it. Since it’s a pure pop song, it doesn’t really do anything to further country radio so I can’t give it a positive score. At the same time, it’s a great song when not attached to a specific genre, so it’s not really actively harming anything either at least relative to other trash on the charts.


  3. OlaR August 10, 2016 / 12:12 pm

    Justin Moore: after only 40 weeks “You Look Like I Need A Drink” enters the Top 10
    Gary Allan & Joe Nichols: no Re-Entry
    Chase Rice, Randy Houser, Lauren Alaina, Chase Bryant & RaeLynn: no New Entry
    Easton Corbin, Thomas Rhett, Chris Young feat. Vince Gill, Dustin Lynch, Josh Turner, Runaway June, Eli Young Band, Toby Keith & The Last Bandoleros: no Bullet
    Darius Rucker: a bullet! (but down to #59)

    #39 – The Former Pop Tarts – “Comeback Kid” – Hot Shot Debut
    #51 – FGL feat. TMcG – “May We All” – New
    #56 – Mickey Guyton – “Heartbreak Song” – New

    Billboard Top Country Albums:
    #1 – Jake Owen – American Love – New
    #2 – Hillary Scott & The Scott Family – Love Remains – New
    #3 – Blake Shelton – If I’m Honest
    #19 – Lori McKenna – The Bird & The Riffle – New

    Billboard Canada Country National Airplay:
    #1 – Eric Church – “Record Year” – 3rd week
    #2 – Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots”
    #3 – FGL – “H.O.L.Y.”
    #6 – James Barker Band – “Lawn Chair Lazy” – highest canadian track

    Country Tracks Top 40 Australia:
    #1 – Alice Benfer – “Amamoor Creek” – 2nd week
    #2 – Troy Cassar-Daley – “Things I Carry Around – New
    #3 – Kaylens Rain – “Lost In The Moonshine” – Album: In Our Blood
    #31 – Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” – highest american track

    New Release: American Young – AY – 12 tracks – Curb Records – Released (08/05)
    Remember “Love Is War”? The track was a #39 hit in 2014. Later “Wasn’t Gonna Drink Tonight” reached #58 (both Country Airplay). The Ep “American Young” went up to #39 (Top Country Albums).
    American Young is a male/female duo: Jon Stone & former “Bomshel” Kristy Osmunson.
    The album contains the radio mix of “Love Is War” & other Ep-songs. Mixing (modern) country sounds with pop & folk is not a new idea. There is no real highlight. “Party In The Dark” or “Eighteen” might work as radio single. 5/10.


    • Ron August 10, 2016 / 4:36 pm

      Not sure what to make of the new Band Perry song. It’s not pop, not country. just kinda there. Very Not ready to make nice by the Dixie Chicks, even with an “uh oh, uh oh” ode to If I die Young


  4. Nadia Lockheart August 10, 2016 / 12:56 pm

    When would the last time be since what we deem the Pulse’s Best and Worst songs changed places? It’s quite a frickin’ big leap! =/

    Besides Old Dominion’s “Break Up With Him”, Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” and possibly Jerrod Niemann’s “Drink To That All Night”, I’m not convinced we’ve ever had a #1 song quite as bad as “Fix”. Yes, you heard me right: WORSE than “That’s My Kind of Night”, “Sun Daze”, “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey”, “Bottoms Up”, “Love Me Like You Mean It”, “Kick The Dust Up”, “Kiss You In The Morning”……………….and even gawd frickin’ “Burnin’ It Down” and “Get Me Some Of That”. It’s just THAT awful.

    So yeah, “Fix” would come in at #4 on my All-Time Worst List behind only the first three titles I cited. I guess “Take Your Time” remains my pick for Worst “Country” #1 of All-Time because it had more cultural impact than “Break Up With Him” but, really, they’re equally as unprecedentedly awful in content. It’d be a toss-up between “Burnin’ It Down” and “Get Me Some Of That” in rounding out the Top Five with the loser essentially (or lack thereof, rather) being #6.


    “How i’ll Always Be” is definitely a solid +3 mainly due to the excellent production and instrumentation as well as McGraw’s vocals having an air of defiant ache and conviction to them. I’ve already given “A Little More Summertime” a +1. I definitely think it does a better job than “Roller Coaster” due to the production and instrumentation coming across as more natural and the melancholy is definitely reflected in the melodic chorus well.

    “Setting The World On Fire” would be a -2 to my ears. It obviously sounds more like a Pink featuring Kenny Chesney song more than a Kenny Chesney featuring Pink song. It sounds like something OneRepublic left on the studio cutting board, and it astonished me seeing that Buddy Cannon sure enough produced this, because I can so easily mistake this as a Ryan Tedder production had I been blindfolded upon listening to the song for the first time. As a song alone it’s not worth hating on any level, but besides the fact it’s 0% country and actually sounds more like a natural follow-up to “Just Give Me A Reason” for Pink’s own career to buoy her forthcoming studio album……………….there’s virtually no point to this song existing other than to give Kenny Chesney commercial instant gratification. It’s a song without any stakes whatsoever. Songs like “Springsteen” and “21 Summer” are effective in capturing summertime flings because they point at how ephemeral such moments and memories are and how they directly impacted the narrators as individuals. But with “Setting The World On Fire”………………’s a song about drinking on La Cienaga Boulevard and dancing in hotel hallway lights. Whoop-Dee-Doo! What’s the point of this existing? I mean, it’s WRITTEN IN THE PAST TENSE! So if that’s the case, WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT? What’s the incentive?

    It just comes down to Kenny Chesney reciting a list of awesome things he did with Pink in the verses, Pink bragging about all the awesome things he did with Kenny Chesney in the chorus, and……………………..then both of them bragging about how awesome it was singing in the hotel lights in the closing chorus! And…………………that’s it!


    “Head Over Boots” will definitely be #1 next week, trust me.


    • Josh Schott August 10, 2016 / 1:42 pm

      Yes, after looking at the chart movement and a Chris Baggs confirmation on Twitter, it’s a lock “Head Over Boots” will be #1. It’s a great sight to see and something I didn’t expect when this song came out last September. For Pardi it really helps establish his career and in my opinion this will be a career song for him. It may not blow the doors down, but it’s simple and 100% country. Sometimes that’s all it takes.


    • Scotty J August 10, 2016 / 2:44 pm

      I would definitely say ‘Fix’ is worse than ‘Drink To That All Night’ as the biggest problem to me with ‘Drink’ is the production while ‘Fix’ is bad in every way possible from lyrics to production.

      The question is whether Lane is going to take the Chase Rice train to obscurity (yeah I know Rice had two hits) after this manufactured #1.


  5. Scotty J August 10, 2016 / 2:55 pm

    The Paisley and Chesney duets are going to achieve the exact opposite thing that they were intended to do in my opinion. Instead of opening up these far past their prime middle aged guys to a new audience they will only hasten their journey to irrelevance.

    As you mentioned Tim McGraw is showing the way for these guys to stay relevant and at the same time earn some respect but it seems like nobody else wants to follow. This would seem to be a perfect path for Paisley especially but he is so lost at this point I’m not sure he even cares anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Justin W Adams August 10, 2016 / 6:05 pm

    Do you guys think there is any chance Jon Pardi earns any cma nominations for top new vocalist or single/song of the year?


    • Josh Schott August 11, 2016 / 11:48 am

      It’s definitely possible, although I expect Eric Church to really clean up this year since Mr. Misunderstood will be eligible for this round of awards. Pardi will have a presence at the show at the very least.


  7. jmartin103 August 11, 2016 / 12:12 am

    “Fix” is truly one of the absolute worst “country” songs that I have ever heard. I’d place it on the same level of terribleness as “Burnin’ It Down”, “That’s My Kind of Night”, and “Strip It Down”, it’s absolute garbage. By the way, I wouldn’t recommend listening to Lane’s new album, “Girl Problems”, as all of the songs on the album suck just as bad as its lead single, not country at all, and the instrumentation on the album sounds just like something you’d hear in a Sam Hunt song.


  8. Kevin Davis August 11, 2016 / 5:20 pm

    One of our Charlotte country stations does a “local top 10 countdown,” which I assume is based upon requests. WMM’s “I Met a Girl” is #1 this week. The dj said, “North Carolina loves this guy.” That made me happy. But, there was a lot of crap in the top 10, so all is not well. Nonetheless, hopefully it’s a good sign of grassroots enthusiasm for WMM.


  9. Luiz August 16, 2016 / 9:54 pm

    I think “A Little More Summertime” deserve a 7/10.


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