The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [January 9]


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. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” -4 
  2. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” (Up 1)
  3. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Up 1)
  4. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” (Down 2)
  5. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” +1 (Up 1)
  6. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” +3 (Down 1)
  7. Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3 
  8. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 (Up 1)
  9. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” -3 (Down 1)
  10. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 1)
  11. Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boots Fits” -4 (Down 1)
  12. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 
  13. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1 (Up 2)
  14. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 
  15. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 (Down 2) [Best Song] 
  16. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 [Worst Song]
  17. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 
  18. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 2)
  19. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” +3 
  20. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Down 2)
  21. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 
  22. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”
  23. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 
  24. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5
  25. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” 0
  26. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (Up 2)
  27. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1
  28. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Down 2)
  29. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 
  30. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -22

The pulse stayed the same this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • None

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • None (The chart is readjusting to the New Year and normal schedule. There should be a lot of movement in the coming weeks, as there are plenty of songs that need to be cleaned off the charts to make way for new.)

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” – Up 2 from #15 to #13
  • Luke Bryan – “Fast” – Up 2 from #20 to #18
  • Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” – Up 2 from #28 to #26

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” – Down 2 from #2 to #4
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” – Down 2 from #13 to #15
  • Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” – Down 2 from #18 to #20
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” – Down 2 from #26 to #28

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

  • Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” (Unfortunately has hit its peak. Expect a new McGraw single soon)
  • Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” (This one hopped back into the top five as it lost its bullet, so I’m not sure how the new recurrent rule will play into effect here)
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine”
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” (Paltry gains again, as this songs looks pretty much done. Radio never took to it)

On The Hot Seat:

  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” (I would be more positive about this song if it wasn’t currently sitting at 39 weeks on the chart. It will need label pushing to stick around)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”
  • Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends”
  • Dan + Shay – “How Not To”
  • Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World”


As always be sure to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments below. 

24 thoughts on “The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [January 9]

  1. KQ January 11, 2017 / 11:24 am

    Kinda sucks that ” How I’ll Always Be” didn’t reach number 1. Also really sucks that Urban got a multi-week number 1. Oh well.


  2. Raymond January 11, 2017 / 11:28 am

    I’m nervous about “Road Less Traveled”, Lauren Alaina is back down to #20 and seems like song after song is passing her. I love this song so much so I’m hopeful it can at least hit the Top 10, hopefully some of these older songs can leave (looking at you Chris Janson and High Valley which while I love both songs, neither have made much movement).

    I’m just getting a little concerned about “Road Less Traveled” especially since it dropped 2 spots


    • Josh Schott January 11, 2017 / 11:47 am

      Personally I think once the album drops it will go recurrent and that label pushing is keeping it alive. I know you don’t want to hear that, but radio has never wanted to really get behind this song. It’s another reason why I don’t like On the Verge because it creates this false sense of hope. It goes to show you can’t create a star out of thin air nor can you make an audience care about an artist. They either have “it” or they don’t.


      • Raymond January 11, 2017 / 12:00 pm

        Right, the only thing keeping hope is the album drop and the solid sales it has (she is nearing the all genre Hot 100) I do believe though that Granger Smith and Maren Morris (also both OTV picks) will go before Lauren Alaina. I do believe it can last into March, since Lauren Alaina is a new artist and still chart runs take forever. Her testing is fine too. There’s a good amount of songs above Lauren Alaina will go recurrent. Lauren Alaina is also testing well, so all the signs are there for this to last.

        I have come to accept that this will probably be Lauren Alaina’s only hit. A shame too because her talent is so much higher than others and I would love nothing more than for her to succeed.

        Also wish Lauren Alaina and Chris Stapleton would stop flipping positions.


      • Nadia Lockheart January 11, 2017 / 4:46 pm

        Look at A Thousand Horses. We pretty much never hear anything from them anymore. “Smoke” was a painfully boring and anonymous sounding first impression to begin with: which is outright bizarre when much of “Southernality”, as cliched as many of its lyrics and themes were, sounded quite respectable as a whole all the same due to Cobb’s tried-and-true touch. It was a choice that just didn’t reflect their core identity as a group. Now they’ll be regarded barely as a one-hit wonder.

        Tucker Beathard is going down that exact same path now. “Momma & Jesus” is having an eternal struggle even keeping steady in the Top 50 right now.

        I suppose Cam has more wind at her wings compared to those two due to the critical acclaim inspiring a little word-of-mouth. But “Mayday” definitely has frayed her momentum with radio and she pretty much HAS to strike lightning with the lead single from her sophomore album to have a shot at breaking the one-hit wonder mold herself.

        I suppose Michael Ray, in a sense, is breaking that On The Verge one-hit-wonder trapping with his atrocious current single. But is it really going to do anything to take his career to the next level? Does it really advance his artistry in any way, shape or form? I think we all know the answer to this, and his relative radio success still screams “Fluke!” to me.

        Yeah, I think there’s substantial evidence that On The Verge may be successful at assuring each of its beneficiaries a hit radio single, but nonetheless sets them up for disappointment immediately afterward.


  3. Raymond January 11, 2017 / 12:20 pm

    Also FGL is eligible recurrent status, if I recall correctly it’s only if you have a bullet in the Top 5 and then you drop below the Top 10 the week after. Since FGL lost their bullet, their eligible for recurrent but Chris Young will have to catch it as Granger Smith will take Old Dominion’s spot. So if FGL goes recurrent (they will first due to spin clause) Chris Young is the one to knock them out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OlaR January 11, 2017 / 1:27 pm

    Is the label still pushing “Make You Mine”? The song is done for 2-3 month & still bouncing around. High Valley will never reach the Top 10 with the song. The album sold 7.100 units so far (according to Roughstock, 01/03). “Make You Mine” can’t push the album.

    Hot Shot Debut – #31 – Rascal Flatts – “Yours If You Want It”
    New – #59 – Seth Ennis – “Bored In Nashville”
    New – #60 – Aaron Watson – “Outta Style”
    No bullet: Joe Nichols & Chase Rice

    Billboard Canada Country National Airplay:
    #1 – Brett Eldredge (3rd week)
    Top Track Canada: #7 – Chad Brownlee – “Somethin’ We Shouldn’t Do”

    Country Tracks Top 40 Australia (01/14 – Country Music Services)
    #1 – Justin Standley – “Sweet Ophelia”
    #2 – Connie Kis Andersen – “Happy Day”
    #3 – Casey Barnes -“Just Like Magic”
    On The Rise: #4 (33) – Troy Cassar-Daley – “Halfway Creek, Timber Cutting Man”
    Top New Track: #14 – Paul Crowder – “You’re Never Too Old To Dream”

    Top Country Tracks 2016 Australia (Country Music Services):
    #1 – Doug Bruce – “The Tears”
    #2 – John O’Dea – “Fishing”
    #3 – Travis Collins – “Just Another Girl”
    #4 – Doug Bruce – “Bad Weather”
    #5 – Troy Cassar-Daley – “Things I Carry Around”
    Top Female Artist/Top Artist New Zealand – Aly Cook – “Kimberley” (#6)

    Justin Standley – “Sweet Ophelia”: a song about his oldest daughter. Easy-listening-country with accordion.
    Connie Kis Andersen – “Happy Day”: country with congas. A lightweight summer-holiday tune.
    Casey Barnes – Just Like Magic”: former pop-singer, country-pop singer now with an uptempo “modern” country tune.
    Troy Cassar-Daley – “Halfway Creek, Timber Cutting Man”: outlaw-style midtempo country-rocker.
    Paul Crowder – “You’re Never Too Old To Dream”: traditional uptempo tune with steel & fiddle.


  5. Amanda January 11, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    I’m really hoping RaeLynn can crack the top 30, along with Runaway June. Personally, I would love to see Runaway June release an album this year. I would also be super-happy to see both Candi Carpenter and William Michael Morgan get in to the top 30 as well. William Michael Morgan’s Missing is too damn good of a song not to make the top 30. It is the best mainstream country single I’ve heard in a long time.


  6. Nadia Lockheart January 11, 2017 / 4:36 pm

    “Kill A Word” (unfortunately) should definitely be on the Hot Seat.

    It has been see-sawing even before the annual holiday chart slowdown. And now that we’ve officially exited out of that slowdown ritual as is the case every second week of January, “Kill A Word” has been showing the exact same signs of stagnancy that it had in the several weeks preceding it.

    It’s a shame that this may barely miss the Top Ten much like “Mr. Misunderstood”. I’d take that over Granger Dibbles Jr. (Ha!) and Michael Ray’s waste-of-spaces any day.


    I’m refraining from adding Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled” to the Hot Seat just yet due to the release of her album of the same name just over two weeks away: suggesting a final push will coincide around the time of its release. But by early February, I think we can expect the plug to be pulled on her release as well: seeing that it has been showing similar see-sawing to Eric Church’s release since before the holiday slowdown.

    Of course, we can add Brantley Gilbert’s “The Weekend” to the list for partially the same reason. “The Devil Don’t Sleep” will be released the exact same day and though its sales aren’t horrible and have actually picked up the pace since a languishing mid-chart run, its callout has been highly polarizing and for an A-lister, he has already burned through many weeks. “One Hell Of An Amen” persevered in spite of its lengthy chart run because it was an accessible single with very favorable callout, whereas I think the higher negatives will ultimately stop this in its tracks outside the Top Ten.


    Pretty shocked Garth Brook’s single has been hanging in there still. Whatever!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raymond January 11, 2017 / 5:02 pm

      Unless the labels have a followup single they are more than confident in than there is no way that any one of those 4 songs will go anytime soon.

      Lauren Alaina has been see sawing in positions, but the closer I look the less worried I am getting (yeah I know I’m the only one who likes it) as Lauren Alaina radio gains have been fine, not quiet stand out enough but she has decent testing is inside the all genre iTunes Top 100 and the album release should give this some momentum. Besides once again I see songs from Granger Smith, Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton leaving before either of Lauren Alaina or Brantley Gilbert.

      My point is that radio has a lot more songs to dispose of. “Road Less Traveled” and “The Weekend” aren’t those at all.

      Also lol at Brantley Gilbert being an A-lister. “Bottoms Up” was an outlier overall. Brantley Gilbert is probably more of a B-lister like Chris Young. Large fan bases, but never quite sticking it quite well enough with radio.


      • Nadia Lockheart January 12, 2017 / 2:24 pm

        Brantley Gilbert has sold records like an A-lister, so obviously he can expect to be defined, until his follow-up album possibly bombs, as an A-lister.

        And I agree “Parachute” and “80’s Mercedes” will be part of the spring-cleaning soon, too.


      • Nadia Lockheart January 12, 2017 / 5:24 pm

        I just observed the debate at Pulse Music Board (I used to be a longtime commenter there under the name SunnyScorpio), and here’s additional thoughts as to why I disagree with most of the respondents there thus far.


        One of the respondents brought up Dierks Bentley. Many consider “Black” to be the album that has finally helped him graduate to the cusp of A-lister. And, on the surface, he definitely has the back catalog consistent with the description of an A-lister.

        But here’s the thing: opening week sales for “Black” (in spite of the overall continuing decline of both physical and digital sales) still don’t size up to those of Gilbert’s most recent release (“Just As I Am”). Granted a lot has happened in three years, but I’m judging statuses based on their most recent releases, and “Just As I Am” sold more in its opening week than the vast majority of what any Dierks Bentley record has sold in its entirety. Dierks Bentley was clearly a singles artist who also happened to steadily release quality albums back-to-back that only die-hard fans truly appreciate (well, up until “Black” anyway).


        Also, “Just As I Am” sold 211,000 albums in its opening week. That isn’t far off from what Jason Aldean’s “Old Boots, New Dirt” sold in its opening week (278,000). And both these albums also had similar legs: not as strong as those of their predecessors, but still indicative of a robust, broad fanbase.


        What I will admit, that said, is that I don’t expect “The Devil Don’t Sleep” to fare nearly as well as its two predecessors. And should that happen as I’m predicting, I’ll instantly consider his A-list status to be terminated.

        But again, I’m judging statuses based on their most recent eras. And “Just As I Am” was clearly an A-list era, even despite Vanguard’s struggles in promoting their acts at radio consistently at the time.


        • Josh Schott January 12, 2017 / 5:31 pm

          Well one thing I’ll add about Gilbert to this discussion is he has a strong, grass roots fan base. He’s always had this going back to the days before he hit the mainstream realm. This alone gives him some staying power that will allow him to continue to at least stick around and remain on people’s radars. So even with his A-lister status probably vanishing and struggling to transition from bro country, he can remain relevant.


    • Josh Schott January 11, 2017 / 5:16 pm

      I gave ample consideration to putting “Kill A Word” on the hot seat, but I feel like it has a couple more weeks left and the label is probably pushing for top ten. Once it hits that I expect it drop quickly. A few songs going recurrent in front of it will help. If it can hit top ten I’ll be pretty happy.

      Yeah the only reason I don’t have either Gilbert or Alaina’s songs on the hot seat is because of the albums. Once those drop I expect these singles to go recurrent slowly after. Alaina’s never had a chance to really be a big hit because the first obvious reason of radio not wanting to play women and second this song was something radio never really got behind. I have no idea what Gilbert is doing with his music and who thought “The Weekend” would be a hit. It’s not catchy at all. I’m fully expecting the album to be terrible. The best I can come up with is his failure to transition out of the bro country era where he made his hay, which kind of makes him look like a one-trick pony. Of course he’s not the only one who’s struggled with the transition (Chase Rice, Randy Houser, Joe Nichols and Tyler Farr are all struggling too).


      • Raymond January 11, 2017 / 5:33 pm

        I think Eric Church & Rhiannon Giddens can still hit the Top 5. Besides Luke Bryan and maybe Jon Pardi who else is a threat to pass them in the immediate future. He’s not too far to behind Brad Paisley or Maren Morris.

        Also Granger Smith only has a couple weeks left in him at maximum he’s all the way at #11.

        Like I’m dumbfounded that I’m only the one who thinks Chris Stapleton, Maren Morris and Granger Smith ate in more danger than Eric Church/Rhiannon Giddens, Lauren Alaina and Brantley Gilbert.


        • Nadia Lockheart January 12, 2017 / 2:32 pm

          I would love to see it suddenly roar back to life, and I based my hunch that it may miss out on the Top Ten altogether by its see-sawing on this chart before the holiday slowdown even started, and it failing to move any differently now.

          I think they’re all in danger. I think we’re due for a great winter chart cleaning:


          Chris Stapleton: Very lengthy chart run, his sound too at odds with what radio programmers want.

          Maren Morris: Terrible callout, mediocre sales.

          Granger Smith: Atrocious sales and streaming.

          Eric Church/Rhiannon Giddens: The subject matter perhaps being too polarizing for radio, EMI’s tendency to jostle through Church singles faster

          Lauren Alaina: Mediocre sales and dispassionate callout that don’t stand up to “On The Verge” hype.

          Brantley Gilbert: Very polarizing callout, mediocre sales



          • Raymond January 12, 2017 / 2:53 pm

            Tell me how in the world would it make sense for the label to drop “Road Less Traveled” right after the album.

            I talked with one of the members of Pulse Music Board, and they said it’d make sense to keep both songs going as both songs should be near the Top 15 by the album drops.

            Promoting both songs keep Lauren Alaina and Brantley Gilbert in the spotlight, help drives up album sales for both artists. Also anytime a label can keep a song in significant rotation they’ll do it. The labels not just going to drop “Road Less Traveled” and “The Weekend” out of random.

            Agree to disagree, but they are so many bigger fish to fry on the charts and if sales determined how long a song will last Chase Bryant would have never had a Top 10 with “Little Bit Of You” and both Lauren Alaina and Brantley Gilbert sell better than he did with that song.


          • Josh Schott January 12, 2017 / 5:40 pm

            It would make sense to drop it if pushing it leads to nowhere for both songs. Costs and time add up and labels don’t want to waste either. Of course they’re going to keep pushing up to the album release and maybe just after. But really there’s no reason to do so shortly after when neither show much more life. Also comparing these two singles to Chase Bryant is laughable as that song took a ton of gerrymandering to make it rise and remain for so long. I think most labels have the sense to not pull these kind of stunts very often because it’s a bad look, not to mention “Little Bit of You” reaching the top ten didn’t really do much for Bryant’s career overall. He’s currently languishing in the 40s and 50s on the chart where he belongs. It’s just a bad move to force a hit to happen.


          • Nadia Lockheart January 12, 2017 / 3:10 pm

            Because of the lack of passion among listeners for “Road Less Traveled”.

            I totally understand that you are emotionally attached to this song and have given it a five-star review and all and, when we get emotionally attached to songs, we would stop at nothing to wish them to succeed even if it flies in the face of statistics and consensus viewpoints.

            But the reason it has been dragging along since the “On The Verge” phase of its promotion ended, is because listeners just shoulder shrug when they listen to it as a whole. They certainly don’t hate it like, say, “80’s Mercedes” (which is a shame because while it has no place on country radio and shouldn’t have in the first place, it’s a damn fun song that I wish could explode at Mainstream Top 40)…………………..but songs that are moderately polarizing always fare better than songs that don’t inspire any passionate reaction in consensus.

            That said, the fact “If The Boot Fits” is still alive makes it plain and obvious I’m completely at odds with what radio actually thinks.


          • Raymond January 12, 2017 / 3:16 pm

            I can take my feelings of a song personally and look at it from a broader sense.

            Lauren Alaina has some passion with the song otherwise it wouldn’t be in the Top 25 for the country iTunes and nearly Top 100 for sales.

            Chris Young has worst sales, and his song is testing about as well as Lauren Alaina’s.

            I’m not being biased, just doing my research and it appears “Road Less Traveled” is fine


          • Nadia Lockheart January 12, 2017 / 3:25 pm

            There is a clear difference, though.

            “Sober Saturday Night” is the third single from an established name on the chart since the late 00’s. “A Road Less Traveled” is the lead single from an artist who had already charted several times previously but never caught fire, but iHeartMedia decided to give a major promotional push in hope of a fresh start.

            Often the appeal of a song is unmistakable regardless of which order it is released during a respective album’s run. But it stands to reason third singles from artists are usually going to be expected to dominate the singles and streaming charts less than lead ones do.


          • Raymond January 12, 2017 / 7:08 pm

            This is for Josh

            Neither “The Weekend” or “Road Less Traveled” are showing signs of slowing down, both songs have had overall healthy gains on Billboard and especially Mediabase so it doesn’t even appear radio is sick of either.

            Also both labels are known for long chart runs for songs, heck every label is. UMG Nashville kept on to “21 Summer” from Brothers Osborne til the bitter end. Also if we are going by lead singles, they held til the very end on Canaan Smith “Love You Like That”. So I definitely don’t think 1. Radio is ready to drop “Road Less Traveled” otherwise Lauren Alaina would be bleeding audience like High Valley is right now.

            For Big Machine, all the proof I need there is “You Look Like I Need A Drink” by Justin Moore. They held onto that song determined to get it as high as possible.

            Neither song is going slow (there’s 8 songs in the Top 30 show signs of leaving before them, and there’s no way radio is going to simultaneously drop 8 songs in a 3 week time span) and both are selling pretty well.

            The Chase Bryant comparison off, but the labels for both artists have done marathon chart climbs and I fully expect them to do that with Lauren Alaina and Brantley Gilbert.


  7. Jess January 11, 2017 / 7:42 pm

    Just came to say I think Lambert’s “We Should Be Friends” won’t make much of a move. Of all the songs on the album this one is pretty stale, this song just doesn’t do anything for me.

    Highway Vagabond would’ve been a much better choice, hope to see this as a real single soon.


    • Nadia Lockheart January 12, 2017 / 2:36 pm

      Yeah, it will be interesting to see how it fares from here.

      I for one enjoy it a lot. However, I try and put myself in the overalls of other regional country music listeners, and it may prove challenging for the left-field production to click in spite of its lighthearted, cheeky nature reminiscent of “Only Prettier”.

      My guess is it will peak somewhere in-between “Kill A Word” and its eventual peak, and “Little Red Wagon”.


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