The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [Dec. 5]

Florida Georgia Line Roots

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 (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” +1 
  2. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” -3 (Up 1)
  3. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” (Up 1)
  4. Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” -2 (Down 2)
  5. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” -4 (Up 1)
  6. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” +3 (Up 2)
  7. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” (Up 3)
  8. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” (Down 3)
  9. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” -2 (Down 2)
  10. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Up 1)
  11. Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boots Fits” -4 (Up 1)
  12. Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3 (Up 1)
  13. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 (Up 2) [Best Song] 
  14. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1 
  15. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 (Up 1)
  16. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 (Up 2)
  17. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2
  18. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 3)
  19. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Up 1)
  20. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 (Up 2) [Worst Song]
  21. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” +3 (Down 2)
  22. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 (Up 3)
  23. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 (Up 1)
  24. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (Down 1)
  25. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Up 1)
  26. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Up 1)
  27. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 (Up 1)
  28. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” 0 (Up 1)
  29. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 (Up 1)
  30. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -23

The pulse improves seven spots this week! 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Luke Bryan – “Move” -4

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
    • I reviewed this one months ago, so if you missed it you can click on the link above to read it. One thing I have to add: I never thought this song had a chance at the top 30 when I first reviewed it and I’m thrilled it was able to make it this high. This song performing well also probably means we’ll be getting a new album from Campbell at some point in 2017. Again a really good song worth checking out.

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” – Up 3 from #10 to #7
  • Little Big Town – “Better Man” – Up 3 from #21 to #18
  • Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” – Up 3 from #25 to #22

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Luke Bryan – “Move” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” – Down 3 from #5 to #8
  • Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” – Down 2 from #7 to #9

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

  • Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime”
  • Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Granger Smith – “If The Boot Fits” (Horrible sales and only making small gains. It should drop once it hits the top ten.)
  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” (It had a noticeable drop this week and I’m a little worried. On the positive side it kept its bullet and I’m hopeful that this drop was just a result of stations starting to play more Christmas music.)
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” (This one had an even worse week arguably. I have a bad feeling this one will be gone when the holidays end.)
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine” (This is the 41st week it has been on the chart. I’m surprised it’s still here, considering the album release has already happened.)
  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”

(Special Note: A lot of songs lost airplay this week because of stations starting to play Christmas music, so I could easily be off on some of the songs being on the hot seat. We won’t truly know until the New Year. The “freeze” is just around the corner…)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Dierks Bentley – “Black”
  • RaeLynn – “Love Triangle”
  • Runaway June – “Lipstick” (Yes! This appears poised to break the top 30 in 2017.)
  • Luke Bryan – “Fast”


Announcement: There will be no Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio or The Current Pulse of Texas Country Radio next week, as we will be starting our “holiday freeze” next week regardless if radio starts theirs. I have an absolute blast doing this weekly feature and can’t wait to continue doing it in 2017. Here’s to hoping we see a positive pulse in 2017. And thank you for reading!


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

28 thoughts on “The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [Dec. 5]

  1. Amanda December 7, 2016 / 11:09 am

    Yes! Super excited that Lipstick is approaching top 30 territory, as I do love that song. Also glad to see Craig Campbell in the top 30.


    • seak05 December 7, 2016 / 1:53 pm

      If Lipstick and Love Triangle both make top 30, I will be ecstatic. Runaway June is already top 30 at MB btw


      • Amanda December 7, 2016 / 2:48 pm

        That would be awesome to see both Lipstick and Love Triangle in the top 30 after the holiday freeze is over. Both songs definitely deserve to be hits.


  2. Ron Virgilio December 7, 2016 / 11:30 am

    Curious to hear your thoughts on the grammys. Glad to see Sturgill get an album of the year nod along the lines of Chris Stapleton last year. Kelsea and Maren both nom for best new artist. Also best solo performance, 4 of the 5 were female artists, although they had to stick Keith Urban’s lame Blue aint your color over many, many more deserving choices. Sometimes I feel like the Grammys are more on point than the CMAs but there are also some headscratchers


    • Josh Schott December 7, 2016 / 1:43 pm

      I tweeted my original thoughts out yesterday if you want to see those here:

      For the most part I was pretty happy with the nominations. Sturgill being nominated for album of the year is fantastic. Most likely won’t win, although an upset is possible with enough vote splitting (see Arcade Fire in 2011 and Beck a couple of years ago). The nomination alone is a great accomplishment and will bring him more exposure. He seems like a lock to win Best Country Album. People on Music Row are looking like real assholes once again, which makes me happy.

      Maren Morris cleaned up as I expected. I echo what Nadia said below: she appears poised for a Musgraves like trajectory. Lots of critical acclaim and accolades, but radio will ditch her eventually. We’ll see. I was not pleased with Kelsea get New Artist nom and I’ll leave it at that. It sucks Urban got so many noms, but I’m more upset that Dierks will probably win best country duo performance for “Different for Girls.” I was ecstatic to see Loretta Lynn get nominated for Best Country Album and Lori McKenna for racking up four nominations in the Americana categories.

      The Grammys usually do get more right because Music Row can’t play their gerrymandering games like they do with their own award shows. But yes the Grammys can be odd with some of their choices and can’t get it just as wrong as the CMA’s.


    • Nadia Lockheart December 7, 2016 / 3:33 pm

      I for one am ecstatic Sturgill Simpson got a lot of Grammy love. Surprised, but I’ll eagerly take it! =D

      David Bowie’s “Blackstar” being snubbed in the major categories is nonetheless shocking to me. It’s obvious why Adele’s “25” and Beyonce’s “Lemonade” are there and, while it hasn’t exactly sold a lot or made a broader cultural footprint (yet), Sturgill Simpson’s inclusion makes total sense since someone has to fill the “outsider” spot.

      But Justin Bieber? REALLY?

      I’ll at least give Justin this: he’s instinctive enough to know he had to streamline his sound in order to reach a larger audience, and it is impressive he has succeeded greatly at that to the point he will likely claim BOTH the year-end #1 and #2 singles with “Sorry” and “Love Yourself”.

      But his album contributes nothing to culture as a whole in that most everything else is boring-as-hell filler that adds up to an instantly forgettable album only prospering off of its three megahits and Bieber’s cult of personality.

      Drake doesn’t belong here either. Just because he has been ubiquitous in streaming this year does NOT make “VIEWS” worthy of a nomination in the main categories. Frankly, I think it’s his worst album to date in how, outside from adopting the tropical house sound on several tracks, he basically drones on and on about the exact same shit as he has been known to do topically in his trademark sing-rap style that Sam Hunt has since co-opted himself. Ain’t got no time for that!

      If I had my way, Adele and Beyonce are no-brainers that belong here, and though I’d prefer Lydia Loveless or Dori Freeman’s latest efforts as the country album representative, I am more than fine with Sturgill Simpson being here too. But I would have picked “Blackstar” as the fourth nominee and Paul Simon’s “Stranger to Stranger” as the fifth (A Tribe Called Quest’s swan song was released too late to be eligible this go-around).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Erik North December 7, 2016 / 7:51 pm

        Yes, giving any consideration to Justin Bieber is the ultimate in head-scratchers. Another one would be in not giving Margo Price’s album MIDWEST FARMER’S DAUGHTER a touch, since that was one of 2016’s best albums in any musical genre.

        Still, seeing Brandy Clark get several nominations was a good thing. She and Sarah Jarosz (who is up for two nominations in the Americana field) will be here in L.A. on December 11 to perform at a benefit for Parkinson’s research and to honor 11-time Grammy winner Linda Ronstadt, whose immortal voice was silenced by that disease.


        • Nadia Lockheart December 7, 2016 / 7:57 pm

          Yeah, I figured Brandy Clark would get an Album of the Year nomination before Sturgill Simpson did. Either way, great! ^__^

          And I agree with Margo Price too: though I still feel her base remains a little more limited than that of either Simpson or Clark at the moment.


          • Josh Schott December 7, 2016 / 8:05 pm

            While I agree her base is more limited, I feel she’s definitely set herself up for the next album to go big. Reminds me after Sturgill’s debut. I see a lot of online talk in general music boards about her album. So while many are disappointed in her lack of recognition now, I see her possibly having her “Metamodern moment” later.


      • Josh Schott December 7, 2016 / 8:28 pm

        Another one released too late this go around, but should get nominations next time is the late Leonard Cohen. I’ve read a lot of anger over Bowie’s lack of major nominations and it’s completely understandable. But from what I know, the Grammys have never really loved him that much even in his prime. It’s weird how there’s certain artists who just don’t seem to get much love from the Grammys.

        IF he wasn’t protesting and didn’t submit, I agree with Sturgill that Frank Ocean’s Blonde should have been nominated for Album of the Year. But alas we’ll never know if it would have. The other anger I saw by the way about the nominations was the amount of noms for Lukas Graham’s “7 Years.” A lot of people seem to hate that song.


  3. Raymond December 7, 2016 / 12:29 pm

    Granger Smith is unfortunatley looking to stay. He was just announced as CRS New Faces (along with Maren Morris, Jon Pardi, William Michael Morgan and Drake White) so I imagine the label will stick with this til the bitter end and unfortunately it’s picking up the pace again😠😠!

    The rest I agree with Maren Morris has awful research. High Valley might make the Top 20 but that’s it. Chris Janson continues to be a tossup the label is still promoting the song (label had an add promoting it) but this song is sluggishly gaining. Chris Stapleton probably has new music and with so many faster moving songs around it I wouldn’t be shocked if the label gives up.

    I am hopeful “Lipstick” makes the Top 30, but the sales are non existing and the research is the worse outside of Maren Morris. If it even makes the Top 30 on Billboard I’ll be ecstatic.


    • Josh Schott December 7, 2016 / 1:44 pm

      Yeah I wrote this before I saw the CRS announcement. It sucks Dibbles is sticking around (I’m glad though he’s alright after his recent spill).


      • Raymond December 7, 2016 / 9:01 pm

        Yeah hearing about the collapsed lung sounded very scary. Despite all my hate for some artists, I would never wish any physical harm. I mean unless that person is an awful human being and judging Granger Smith he does seem like a good guy, just his music is vanilla as it gets.


  4. OlaR December 7, 2016 / 12:36 pm

    Hot Shot Debut & Most Added: Luke Bryan with “Fast” (#40).
    Re-Entry: Hunter Hayes with “Yesterday’s Song” (#52).
    Let’s hope for some big house-cleaning next year. The charts are too slow (except for the usual suspects) & predictable.

    Billboard Top Country Albums:
    #1 – Miranda Lambert – The Weight Of These Wings
    #2 & #3 & #4 – Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood with the 1001 christmas album & Gunslinger or Garth Brooks with Gunslinger but without Trisha Yearwood or Garth & Trisha with the christmas album but without Gunslinger

    Billboard Americana/Folk Albums:
    #1 – Chris Stapleton – Traveller

    Country Music Services – Country Tracks Top 40 Australia:
    #1 – Alice Benfer – “A Little Bit Flirty” (2nd week)
    #2 – Seleen McAlister feat. Drew McAlister – “I’ve Got You” (Album: The Journey)
    #3 – Aly Cook – “Kimberley” (Top Track New Zealand)
    On The Rise: #9 (35) – Jody Direen – “Gimme The Beat”
    Top New Track: #16 – The Long & Short Of It – “Kangaroo Rodeo”
    Top Track America: #33 (New) – Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends”

    Billboard Canada Country National Airplay:
    #1 – Keith Urban
    #2 – FGL feat. Tim McGraw
    #3 – OD
    Top Track Canada: #10 – Aaron Goodvin – “Woman In Love”

    New Album: Kane Brown – Kane Brown – 11 Tracks – Zone 4/RCA Nashville/Sony Nashville – Released
    Social media superstar & not so big country charts star released his 1st album. It’s a computer-optimized mess. 100.000 teen-girls will buy this soulless piece of crap. 0/10.


  5. Jordan December 7, 2016 / 1:16 pm

    “Fast” actually isn’t a bad song. Usually I cringe when I see Luke Bryan nearing the top 30 with a new single, but I think this will probably be his best release since “Drink a Beer.” It’s not country by any means, but it’s also not bad by any means either.

    I would also like to see Darius Rucker’s “If I Told You” to hit the top 30. It’s been stuck in the mid-30’s for a few weeks, but it’s probably one of the most underrated songs on the charts right now. Definitely one of my favorites.


    • Jordan December 7, 2016 / 1:19 pm

      Also, what happened to William Michael Morgan? It seemed like “Missing” took off in the week or two after its initial release, but since then it’s been stuck at the bottom of the charts.


      • Josh Schott December 7, 2016 / 1:50 pm

        Well it’s pretty likely “Missing” won’t be a hit and if it would become a hit it’s going to be a long haul, sleeper hit. Further evidence of why I was so pessimistic of the so called new traditional movement earlier this year in mainstream country. It took over 52 weeks for “I Met A Girl” to reach #1 and it was co-written by Sam Hunt. So I was doubtful from the beginning this Strait-esque song would be a hit.

        Radio is a stubborn mule that refuses to get with the rest of the country industry, which is actually shifting more traditional because they see the writing on the wall and the demand for artists like Stapleton, Sturgill, Morgan and Pardi. Hopefully in 2017 we see the death of country radio or at the very least major labels and artists ignoring them. They’re truly delusional and live in a bubble. Of course they’ll tell you the same thing about bloggers like me.


        • seak05 December 7, 2016 / 1:58 pm

          The top selling country singles, are also by and large radio hits. Country radio might not drive album sales, but it still seems to drive singles sales. And most of the big name headliners, who sell stadiums, are also by and large the radio mainstays. Until someone other than Stapleton (maybe Sturgill?) breaks out commercially without radio, Music Row isn’t going to ignore radio. And radio goes on research of what they believe is their core audience.


          • Amanda December 7, 2016 / 2:53 pm

            Man, I really hope Missing at least cracks the top 30. It’s chart run will probably will be like that of Miranda Lambert’s “Vice”. It won’t go any higher than right outside the top ten, which is a damn shame because it is an outright excellent song. “Missing” is the type of song I want to hear on country radio, not “Move” or “Seein’ Red”, for example.


    • Nadia Lockheart December 7, 2016 / 3:45 pm

      “Fast” just bores me.

      I agree it’s not a bad song, and totally get why it’s likeable. But I also think the production is completely inert and Luke Bryan has had far more engaging vocal performances than this on songs that didn’t even deem it necessary, just saying.

      Probably a Decent to Strong 4 out of 10 to my ears.


      • Jordan December 7, 2016 / 11:37 pm

        I agree for the most part. The production really holds the song back, and the chorus could use more emotion behind it.

        I put a lot more emphasis on the theme of a song than most people, so that’s probably why I feel a little more positively about it.


  6. Nadia Lockheart December 7, 2016 / 1:32 pm

    The chart is mostly going to be as slow as molasses through the second week of January. So it will take a while for a proper chart cleaning to take place! =/

    Anyway, Granger Smith is (unfortunately) here to stay for at least through January based on what Raymond already mentioned. There’s not a candidate less deserving than him based on the pathetic sales. MOVE ALONG!

    Maren Morris (as expected) has been decorated with Grammy nominations. But I don’t expect “80’s Mercedes” to survive past the holiday chart slowdown. It’s running on label support fumes at this point. I still expect Maren Morris to go the same way as Kacey Musgraves (who, herself, garnered multiple Grammy nominations but failed to convert them to radio recognition) at radio, but retain enough popularity to draw the attention of mainstream publications.

    I didn’t even realize until just now that Kane Brown has his album out. I thought for sure 2016 would be his breakout year, but it is just beyond surprising how poorly he has been able to convert his cult popularity to radio success. Without cheating by looking at Hits Daily first, I have to gather the sales projections are not Chris Lane bad due to his cult popularity, but not much better than those of Canaan Smith.


    • Danik Gillespie December 7, 2016 / 2:22 pm

      Kane Brown has sold about 30,000 copies this week. #6 in overall album sales right now.


    • seak05 December 7, 2016 / 2:53 pm

      Kane Brown is currently predicted by Hits to sell roughly the same in the first week as Maren. Above Pardi, and basically every other debut album this year.

      Ironically, at the moment he looks like the next person to breakout without radio success. While I am not a fan of his music, I find the fact that radio won’t play him despite very good sales numbers to be troubling, especially when one ponders potential reasons for his lack of radio support.


      • Nadia Lockheart December 7, 2016 / 3:40 pm

        Which makes his failure to court radio all the more remarkable.

        I mean, he’s basically EXACTLY the kind of archetype radio craves. From his image to his inoffensive choice themes to having mediocre but crowd-pleasing everyman vocals, you’d figure they’d be lapping him up without delay.

        His failure to catch fire in that respect surprises me. I can’t complain from an artistic/critical standpoint, but outside of that you’re right: it speaks volumes as to the disconnect between populist sentiment and what radio insists on. It’s just odd this time around, it’s a bro-leaning entertainer that is getting the burn.


        • seak05 December 7, 2016 / 4:04 pm

          Oh, him and especially his label have courted radio, radio has remained uninterested. And yes you’d think they’d make a natural marriage.

          It’s an interesting thing on how much to take notice of popular sentiment. The Grammy’s for instance nominated none of the top selling country albums of this period for basically anything (Carrie got a solo vocal nod). CMA’s also by and large ignored the top sellers. So in that sense the awards are also out of balance with populist sentiment, even if they are more in line with sentiment on this blog.


  7. jmartin103 December 7, 2016 / 4:47 pm

    “Fast” actually isn’t a bad song, but the production is too sleepy for me. I somewhat respect why Luke Bryan wanted to release it, but I think “To the Moon and Back” would have been a better choice if he wanted to release a sixth single from Kill the Lights. On another note, it’s good to see Craig Campbell in the top 30, and I hope WMM’s single can make it that far as well.


    • Nadia Lockheart December 7, 2016 / 8:07 pm

      I would have released either “To The Moon And Back” if he insisted on a ballad (“Scarecrows” is also one of the better tracks, but is just too dull and screams poor-man’s “Dirt”), or else “Love It Gone”.

      “Love It Gone” is the only track that has grown on me upon repeated listen. I’m consciously aware it’s also empty-calorie radio candy, but it is of superior quality in my opinion because Bryan actually sounds emotionally engaged in his vocal performance there and the production is also in sync with where mainstream country was at prior to bro-country’s invasion.


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