The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [October 2004]


This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. 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 past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade 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 past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from October 30th, 2004 (I asked last week if there were any charts you wanted to see, so this week is dedicated to reader and commenter Scotty J. Thanks for reading Scotty!)

  1. George Strait – “I Hate Everything” +4 (Yep, I’ve been there…)
  2. Sara Evans – “Suds In The Bucket” +3
  3. Phil Vassar – “In A Real Love” +2
  4. Brooks & Dunn – “That’s What It’s All About” +2 (Was sad to find out this wasn’t about the hokey-pokey…)
  5. Toby Keith – “Stays In Mexico” -2 (what the hell?)
  6. Gary Allan – “Nothing On But The Radio” 0
  7. Keith Urban – “Days Go By” +2
  8. Lonestar – “Mr. Mom” -2
  9. Kenny Chesney – “The Woman With You” +3
  10. Joe Nichols – “If Nobody Believed In You” +4 [Best Song] (Remember when Joe actually cared about the music?)
  11. Rascal Flatts – “Feels Like Today” +1
  12. Gretchen Wilson – “Here For The Party” -2
  13. Dierks Bentley – “How Am I Doin'” +3 (a little arrogant in its delivery but eh, it works for me)
  14. Tim McGraw – “Back When” +3
  15. Trace Adkins – “Rough & Ready” -1 (Holding back from any more demerits since I feel like this is intended to be viewed as stupid. I don’t really know about the grade for this…)
  16. Blake Shelton – “Some Beach” +3
  17. Shania Twain & Mark Currington – “Party For Two” -3 [Worst Song] (Doesn’t matter who she does this song with. It still isn’t good)
  18. Darryl Worley – “Awful, Beautiful Life” +3
  19. SheDaisy – “Come Home Soon” +3 (A little boring but still pretty good)
  20. Lee Ann Rimes – “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense” +2 (By no means a LAR fan, but this isn’t bad)
  21. Alan Jackson – “Too Much Of A Good Thing” +1 (Just average really)
  22. Montgomery Gentry – “You Do Your Thing” -1 (I actually really like the darker atmosphere of this one. The lyrics and melody not so much.)
  23. Reba McEntire – “Het Gets That From Me” +3
  24. Jimmy Buffett & Martina McBride – “Trip Around The Sun” +2
  25. Brad Paisley – “Mud On The Tires” +2 (Back before bro-country made songs like this damn near insufferable)
  26. Travis Tritt & John Mellencamp – “What Say You” +2
  27. Big & Rich – “Holy Water” +4
  28. Josh Gracin – “Nothin’ To Lose” +2
  29. Alan Jackson – “Monday Morning Church” +4
  30. Pat Green – “Don’t Break My Heart Again” +2 (I’d probably like this more if his voice didn’t annoy me somewhat)

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +49

Again, another good chart this week. I have to tell you, I had a tough time awarding the best song this week. Joe, Big & Rich, and Alan all were extremely close. I was familiar with a lot of the songs on this chart so it was even a trip down memory lane for me!

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

23 thoughts on “The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [October 2004]

  1. Raymond September 2, 2016 / 1:15 pm

    I love “Party for Two” (the Billy Currington version). Just the vocal play and the carefree nature draws me in so much. I also kinda like “Here For The Party” yes it’s ridiculous but I always thought of how that is how you make an uptempo party song.

    I also undeniably love Leeann Rimes music, it wasn’t this album era she was on it was the Family one where she co wrote all the songs off that album that I really took notice of her and ever since she has really honed in her craft and has produced some great music (if you haven’t listened to “What Have I Done”) but even st this time I still found her music solid like “Nothing Bout Love Makes Sense” or the dark and lonely “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way”. She’s always been an artist who I feel like fits in definition of better with time.

    Anyway if there is a song here I don’t like it’d be by far “Mr. Mom” that song annoyed me because it felts so phoned in.


  2. Kevin Davis September 2, 2016 / 1:37 pm

    I think that should be “Billy” (not “Mark”) Currington. I agree that it’s a terrible song.

    I love “Suds in the Bucket” — fun narrative, which is sorely missing today, and great accompanying instrumentation. As for “Mud on the Tires,” I would emphasize (as you note) that this is prior to bro-country. It’s 2004, and it’s a very good song.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zackary Kephart September 2, 2016 / 1:46 pm

      Yeah, the combination of the names was meant to be an intentional joke since the two have a version with her.


      • Scotty J September 2, 2016 / 2:32 pm

        In all fairness to Currington this was very early in his career and getting a ‘featuring’ credit on a Shania Twain song was a pretty big deal. The song still isn’t very good but sometimes you have to do these kinds of things to get a career going.

        She also did this with incredibly bland Bryan White on ‘From This Moment On’ only to strip him from the pop version.


      • Kevin Davis September 2, 2016 / 4:29 pm

        Oh, right, I forgot that there was another version. I only barely remember the Billy Currington version and how much I disliked it.


  3. Amanda September 2, 2016 / 2:13 pm

    My two cents:

    1. George Strait, “I Hate Everything” +4 (To reiterate what Zack said, I think we’ve all been there. I know I have.)
    2. Sara Evans, “Suds In the Bucket” +3 (I’ve always been a Sara Evans fan, and along with Faith Hill and Lee Ann Womack, she was one of my first big musical heroes.)
    3. Phil Vassar, “In a Real Love” 0 (Meh, it’s alright. Kinda boring.)
    4. Brooks and Dunn, “That’s What It’s All About” +2 (Solid song from Brooks and Dunn. And lol on Zack’s Hokey Pokey comment. :))
    5. Toby Keith, “Stays In Mexico” -2 (Okay, it’s confession time. When I was six, I used to steal my mom’s Toby Keith cd because I loved this song. However, at 20, I find it annoying.)
    6. Gary Allan, “Nothing On But the Radio” +4 (Mmmmmm, that sexy voice singing those sexy lyrics. And I love the traditional instrumentation. I wish he’d sing this to me! 😉 [Sorry, I am a crazy Gary Allan fangirl.])
    7. Keith Urban, “Days Go By” +1 (Decent song by Keith Urban. Wish he’d go back in this direction instead of the one he went with the sleaze-tastic “Blue Ain’t Your Color”.
    8. Lonestar, Mr. Mom -2 (the epitome of soccer mom country music.)
    9. Kenny Chesney, “The Woman With You” +2 (Remember when Kenny was singing meaningful songs like this one and not rehashing the same dumb beach song 20 times over? Good times.)
    10. Joe Nichols, “If Nobody Believed in You” +4 (Great song from Joe.)
    11. Rascal Flatts, “Feels Like Today” +1 (Decent song, nice harmonies from the Flatts.)
    12. Gretchen Wilson, “Here for the Party” -3 (I find this song gratingly annoying.)
    13. Dierks Bentley, “How Am I Doin'” +3 (Before Dierks was singing the insufferable Somewhere on a Beach and the offensive Different for Girls, he was singing great songs like this one.)
    14. Tim McGraw, “Back When” +4 (The instrumentation and Tim’s delivery make this one great.)
    15. Trace Adkins, “Rough and Ready” -1 (I agree with Zack, I believe that this song is intentionally stupid.)
    16. Blake Shelton, “Some Beach” +3 (Humorous, great instrumentation, and an actual story! Why can’t we have this Blake instead of a loud mouthed tool shed who doesn’t have a way with words?)
    17. Shania Twain, “Party for Two” -4 (Ouch, my ears. This song is so stupid.)
    18. Darryl Worley, “Awful Beautiful Life” +2 (Pretty good song by Darryl.)
    19. SHeDAISY, “Come Home Soon” +2 (Pretty good song with great harmonies.)
    20. LeAnn Rimes, “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense” +4 (Personally, I love this song. It has great instrumentation, cute lyrics, and puts a huge smile on my face.)
    21. Alan Jackson, “Too Much of a Good Thing +2 (Not Alan’s best, but still good nevertheless.)
    22. Montgomery Gentry, “You Do Your Thing” +1 (I gave this song a positive score due to the nostalgia factor of Montgomery Gentry in my life. Their music takes me back to the days when I was a kid and my older cousin, the neighbors’ grandkids, and I would all be hanging out outside on a hot summer day with the country radio on. It just takes me back to a simpler time.)
    23. Reba McEntire, “He Gets That From Me” +3 (Solid song from Reba.)
    24. Jimmy Buffett and Martina McBride, “Trip Around the Sun” +1 (Decent but forgettable)
    25. Brad Paisley, “Mud on the Tires” +3 (I don’t mind this song at all. Brad has a great voice and the instrumentation is nice. Also, this is also my dad’s favorite song of all time.)
    26. Travis Tritt and John Mellencamp, “What Say You” +1 (Decent but forgettable)
    27. Big and Rich, “Holy Water” +4 (It’s kinda hard to forget that Big and Rich have a serious side when you listen to Save a Horse and Comin’ to Your City, due to the fact that both songs are so ridiculously stupid. But when they reveal their vulnerability, they really shine.)
    28. Josh Gracin, “Nothin’ to Lose” +3 (Nice instrumentation and catchy as hell. I like it.)
    29. Alan Jackson, “Monday Morning Church” +4 (Now THIS is classic AJ. Although a bit depressing, it is a fantastic song all around.)
    30. Pat Green, “Don’t Break My Heart Again” +1 (Meh. It’s decent.)


    • FeedThemHogs September 2, 2016 / 4:47 pm

      Right there with you on the Montgomery Gentry nostalgia factor. Those guys were the soundtrack of my early teenage years. They had an album cut called “Scarecrow” on the My Town album that I rocked out to constantly.

      I Hate Everything… man now that is a classic heartbreak country song. Thank you George Strait.

      And dear God, SheDaisy. Been a LLLLOOOOONNNNGGGG time since I’ve thought about them. They had a catchy song called Little Goodbyes I believe. Gonna have to look that one up. I always was a sucker for good female harmony.


  4. Scotty J September 2, 2016 / 2:27 pm

    I suggested this one mainly because ‘I Hate Everything’ is one of my all time favorite George Strait songs plus there are several more really good songs.

    Some others that I think are pretty good are ‘Suds in The Bucket’ which is a fun little song, ‘The Woman With You’ which is another solid non beach and beer song from Chesney, ‘Awful, Beautiful Life’ was one of several good singles that Darryl Worley had in the early 2000s and ‘Monday Morning Church’ is a great song and probably would edge out Strait for the best song winner in my opinion.

    Other decent songs to me are ‘Some Beach’ which was a big hit for Blake Shelton at a point in his career when big hits were by no means a guarantee and ‘Mud On The Tires’ is one of my favorite Paisley singles and as has been mentioned this song needs to be judged by 2004 standards and not our bro infected current era.

    ‘Come Home Soon’ has to be judged by the times as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were going full force so a song like this resonated with listeners quite a bit.

    And finally ‘Mr. Mom’ is an absolutely atrocious song and would be a -5 to me. This would be the worst song on about 99% of the charts pre about 2010. I hate this song.


  5. OlaR September 2, 2016 / 3:43 pm

    A “hit or miss” week.

    Hit: George Strait, Sara Evans, Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Keith Urban, Joe Nichols, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, LeAnn Rimes, Pat Green, SheDaisy & Josh Gracin (prefer the Marcel version).

    Miss: Lonestar, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Twain & Currington, Tritt & Mellencamp, Montgomery Gentry, Phil Vassar, Gary Allan (one of the few songs i can’t stand), Gretchen Wilson, Trace Adkins & Dierks Bentley.

    Rest: Reba McEntire, Buffett & McBride, Toby Keith (kind of guilty pleasure), Brad Paisley & Darryl Worley.


  6. FeedThemHogs September 2, 2016 / 4:51 pm

    I like the diversity that we see on these old charts. Very different sounds, different styles, distinctive songs. That was the best part about radio of the past.

    Just a thought on Montgomery Gentry, who as I mentioned in a reply above, has a big nostalgia soft spot for me. They were really catchy to me, I think, because they were different than everybody else on the radio, and unlike current duos, both guys took lead vocals on hit songs. And when they came on the radio, you automatically knew who it was, because they had their own sound of country rock. And, the best part of them was, you could easily tell who was singing, either Eddie or T-Roy (lol that always cracked me up), giving them a real niche in the genre during their time. Cold One Coming On and Lonely and Gone continue to be two of my favorites.


  7. petemarshall724 September 2, 2016 / 6:25 pm

    I did like Party for two but I like Billy Currrington better. Here for the party is very annoying -5 for me worst song of 2004. Blake and Joe had good songs when they know about country music now they don’t.


  8. jmartin103 September 2, 2016 / 7:07 pm

    Thanks for bringing back this feature, Zack. And I have to agree that looking at these charts is like a trip down memory lane. Some songs on here that I’d forgotten about, such as SheDaisy’s “Come Home Soon” (fantastic harmonies), and Reba’s and Rimes’ songs. But I must say that the best song on here is “Monday Morning Church”. It sounds just like a classic Alan Jackson song, and unfortunately, a song like MMC wouldn’t have a chance on today’s country radio (nor would Jackson for that matter). I also miss when Joe Nichols cared about what he put on radio. The early 2000s Joe Nichols easily defeats the “Yeah” Joe Nichols any day. Gretchen Wilson’s music wasn’t so much bad as it was annoying, as radio overplayed her music way too much back then.

    And Brad Paisley’s song was an actual good song compared to many songs with similar themes that you hear today. I will admit that when I was younger, I did enjoy Toby Keith’s music, but now that I’m older, I just find his drinking and political songs irritating, though I still enjoy his 90s stuff.

    Overall, pretty awesome chart that brought back nostalgia to me.


  9. Jed Marshall September 2, 2016 / 7:17 pm

    I love this feature. I forgot about a lot of these songs from my (just barely) post college life.

    Loved Big & Rich’s first album and nothing more. Saw Kenny live around this time when he was still doing good stuff. Also was huge into “Suds In the Bucket” when it came out.

    “Mr Mom” and Shania Twain are the only bad ones. “Here for the Party” is so much better than bro country and even though they aren’t great I can tolerate the Toby Keith and Trace Adkins ones. Seems like forever that there’s been good radio, not just 12 years.


  10. Nadia Lockheart September 2, 2016 / 7:30 pm

    It was kind of a mixed bag that year, but the baseline was obviously better then than during any point in this decade so far.

    I’m going to give the Best Song honor to “Monday Morning Church”: mostly by virtue that it sounds as pure country gold compared to its competition and is lyrically on par. “I Hate Everything” would probably get the Honorable Mention while “If Nobody Believed In You” gets the Bronze.

    “Holy Water” is definitely one of Big & Rich’s best songs to date and lyrically excellent, but the production holds it back from being as great as the aforementioned two tracks. The drum machine and somewhat generic arena-rock production makes it feel more ordinary than it actually is. Still, a cut above the rest due to the songwriting.

    Here’s my basic grading since I don’t have te time right now to give elaborate reviews for each track like usual:


    1: George Strait – “I Hate Everything” +4
    2: Sara Evans – “Suds In The Bucket” +3
    3: Phil Vassar – “In A Real Love” +2 (The lyrics and sound are kind of cheesy, but the sincerity is charming.)
    4: Brooks & Dunn – “That’s What It’s All About” +1 (Unnecessarily loud and offers nothing interesting. Still, can’t go wrong with their vocals and an authentic sound true to the genre.)
    5: Toby Keith – “Stays In Mexico” -3 (It tries WAY too hard to be lyrically clever, but just comes across as annoying as does the production. And all that talking over the track! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!)
    6: Gary Allan – “Nothing On But The Radio” +2 (It’s just a sex song, but it’s a sex song done right: they keep it simple, the slow-burning groove never hits you over the head and it just sounds stylistically appealing. I completely get why this has held up well after all this time.)
    7: Keith Urban – “Days Go By” +2
    8: Lonestar – “Mr. Mom” +2 (Count me as an appreciator of this. I like that it kind of finds the exact middle way between a novelty song and a sincere, sappy ode to parenting and the blurring of gender roles. The lyrics are actually rather descriptive and believable, even if they arguably go too far with stereotyping males as incapable of babysitting and females of being predispositioned to such tasks. Either way, this has a charm to it.)
    9: Kenny Chesney – “The Woman With You” +1 (Sounds too much like late-80’s Adult Contemporary with hints of Bon Jovi hair metal power ballad. Still, the songwriting is alright.)
    10: Joe Nichols – “If Nobody Believed In You” +4
    11: Rascal Flatts – “Feels Like Today” +1
    12: Gretchen Wilson – “Here For The Party” -2 (I’ll admit I sometimes do perform this at karaoke because it actually resonates very effectively in that kind of environment. Still, as a song itself…)
    13: Dierks Bentley – “How Am I Doin’” 0 (It’s one of those type of songs that SOUNDS great but the lyrics sour the experience. They just come across as smug and puerile and simply are uncomfortable listening to not much differently than “She’s Got A Way With Words”. Still, awesome instrumentation.)
    14: Tim McGraw – “Back When” +2 (Some of the lyrics are dopey. But it sounds very honest and is a slice of life that’s easy to sink your teeth into. It helps that the production and arrangement is on-point.)
    15: Trace Adkins – “Rough & Ready” 0 (Same story here like with “How Am I Doin'”. It SOUNDS awesome with the roadhouse guitar, fast shuffling tempo and generous whiffs of fiddle and barroom piano. But the lyrics are just lazy and grating.)
    16: Blake Shelton – “Some Beach” +2
    17: Shania Twain & Mark Currington – “Party For Two” -4 (WORST SONG) (Ouch, this is painful when listening to on a headset! Those background chants, the vocal production, the overcompressed yet gutless guitars! Make it stop! Even Currington sounds completely disinterested here.)
    18: Darryl Worley – “Awful, Beautiful Life” +3 (I think I boycotted Darryl Worley altogether because of his despicable profiting off of 9/11 and the ramp-up to the Iraq war back then. Now listening to this with fresh ears, it’s pretty good. Kind of reminiscent of Joe Nichols at his near-best.)
    19: SheDaisy – “Come Home Soon” 0
    20: Lee Ann Rimes – “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense” +2 (This is what Faith Hill would sound like if she were trying harder.)
    21: Alan Jackson – “Too Much Of A Good Thing” +2
    22: Montgomery Gentry – “You Do Your Thing” -1 (Hard to argue with the sentiment of this song, and I agree that the production actually stands out in a way. Still, the whole package just comes across as too menacing and needlessly insinuating that those who don’t come from his sort of background are moochers who can’t ascertain right from wrong and don’t work hard. That leaves a sour taste in my mouth.)
    23: Reba McEntire – “He Gets That From Me” +2 (A bit too much Adult Contemporary for my liking, and references to Frosted Flakes and knobby knees hardly make for breathtaking lyricism. Still, it doesn’t try to be anything more than it is: a sentimental love song. I’ll take it for what it’s worth.)
    24: Jimmy Buffett & Martina McBride – “Trip Around The Sun” +2
    25: Brad Paisley – “Mud On The Tires” +2
    26: Travis Tritt & John Mellencamp – “What Say You” 0 (Same story here like with “You Do Your Thing”. It honestly surprises me Mellencamp was involved with this type of song seeing that he has always been the voice of the struggling blue-collar American and the working class. Bragging about not accepting handouts and not being afraid of work sounds at odds with much of what he talks about. Eh…)
    27: Big & Rich – “Holy Water” +3
    28: Josh Gracin – “Nothin’ To Lose” +1 (It tries way too hard with the fast-paced vocal delivery to stand out. Still, can’t complain with the fiddle and pedal steel.)
    29: Alan Jackson – “Monday Morning Church” +4 (BEST SONG)
    30: Pat Green – “Don’t Break My Heart Again” +1


    FINAL TOTAL: +38


    • Raymond September 2, 2016 / 9:13 pm

      Hey Nadia, I uh am curious. In all my time of reading your comments I’ve never heard your opinion on Leeann Rimes music as a whole. Would love to hear what you think!


      • Nadia Lockheart September 2, 2016 / 9:23 pm

        I have to offer a short answer at this moment, but in short, I think she was overrated when she was at the height of her popularity, while she has only continued to get better over the years with continued, criminally overlooked recent releases.

        “Spitfire” was a fantastic album that proved a lot of the negative scrutiny that has overcame her over the years is just insult to injury at this point and that, when you get your head past all of that, she can sell vulnerability very effectively. “Lady & Gentlemen” was a great covers album as well.

        So yeah, I disliked “All That” and “Sittin’ On Top of the World”, wasn’t crazy about “Blue”, and “Twisted Angel” was ridiculously poppy. But after about 2002, when she was falling out of favor with the mainstream altogether, she started finding her voice and now just strikes me as a genuinely self-realized artist that I am proud to call a fan of.


  11. Justin Adams September 2, 2016 / 8:14 pm

    I’m in the minority but I really love trip around the sun. Maybe a little nostalgic, but it drives me nuts that I can’t find it on spotify.

    Holy Water and Monday Morning Church are my 2 best songs on the charts and neither of them went to #1.

    And Nothing on but the radio isn’t my favorite Gary Allan song, but I’ve sang along with him too many times half lit at his concerts to say I don’t like it


    • Nadia Lockheart September 2, 2016 / 9:30 pm

      Jimmy Buffett is that kind of artist who cuts all kinds of obscurities that are hard to track down. But you’re right: “License to Chill” was marketed as a straight-up conventional country release and so, in theory, it should be one of his least difficult records to access.


  12. petemarshall724 September 2, 2016 / 10:42 pm

    “You do your thing” is not my favorite there something about that song irritates me. I really enjoy “Stays in Mexico for my guilty pleasure. Hey Zack are you going to review 1991,1995, and 1996?


    • Zack Kephart September 3, 2016 / 8:23 am

      1996 is actually what you’ll see next week as a matter of fact! 🙂


    • Nadia Lockheart September 3, 2016 / 5:47 pm

      The “culture wars” baiting nature of the lyrics is what sours on me most of all about that song: the idea that all those listening who don’t necessarily follow his background are moochers who don’t believe in hard work and other ideals.


  13. Nadia Lockheart September 3, 2016 / 5:50 pm

    Curious: am I the only one here who likes “Mr. Mom”?

    Don’t get me wrong: it’s not a great song by any stretch. But it’s a likeable song to my ears anyway, and I’m just curious to hear what really annoys others here about that song. My assumption is that it has to do with the lyrics being cheesy in a “19 Somethin'” kind of way.


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