The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [February 21]


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. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 1)
  2. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 (Up 1)
  3. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 (Up 4)
  4. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 (Up 2)
  5. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 (Up 3)
  6. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 (Down 5)
  7. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Down 2) 
  8. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 (Up 1) [Best Song]
  9. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 1)
  10. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (Up 2)
  11. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 
  12. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 (Up 1)
  13. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 (Up 1)
  14. Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” -3 (Up 3)
  15. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” (Up 1)
  16. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Down 1)
  17. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (Up 1)
  18. Sam Hunt – “Body Like a Back Road” -5 (Up 3) [Worst Song]
  19. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 
  20. Luke Combs – “Hurricane” -1 (Up 4)
  21. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 (Down 1)
  22. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 
  23. Dan + Shay – “How Not To” +1
  24. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You” (Up 1)
  25. Rascal Flatts – “Yours If You Want It” -2 (Up 2)
  26. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3 
  27. Lady Antebellum – “You Look Good” -4 (Up 2)
  28. Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends” +2
  29. Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know” -2 (New to Top 30)
  30. Runaway June – “Lipstick” +3

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -25

The pulse improves one spot this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” – Up 4 from #7 to #3
  • Luke Combs – “Hurricane” – Up 4 from #24 to #20
  • Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” – Up 3 from #8 to #5

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” – Down 5 from #1 to #6
  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” – Down 2 from #5 to #7

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

  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red”
  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl”
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine” (Fun fact: The music video for this song was released on January 29, 2015)
  • Runaway June – “Lipstick”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Appears to finally be losing momentum. But I still want to see it somehow reach top ten)
  • Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”
  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
  • Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Zac Brown Band – “My Old Man”
  • Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter”
  • Cole Swindell – “Flatliner”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Backstreet Boys) – “God, Your Mama, and Me”


Notes: RaeLynn’s “Love Triangle” has went recurrent and is done. Parmalee’s “Roots” and Jake Owen’s “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” both appear to be finished. Chris Lane’s “For Her” appears destined to be stuck in the mid 30s muck (but this is a good thing). LoCash’s “Ring on Every Finger” is struggling to build momentum like its previous singles. I bring all of this up because these are most of the songs directly behind the next four songs I see entering the top 30. Essentially there’s a vacuum there ready for someone to take advantage and it’ll be interesting to see who fills it. Blake Shelton’s “Every Time I Hear That Song” will of course be a hit. But then you have Justin Moore’s “Somebody Else Will” and Dylan Scott’s “My Girl.” They’re the closet in airplay, but radio doesn’t seem that keen on either. Scott has yet to have a hit and Moore’s last single took forever to climb the charts (never forget it went recurrent one week after going #1). Brothers Osborne’s “It Ain’t My Fault” is off to a good start, much better than their last single. They should reach the top 30 no problem. Billy Currington’s “Do I Make You Wanna” could make it by sheer process of elimination. Easton Corbin’s “A Girl Like You” seems like the next logical choice and something radio would get behind. Finally you have Drake White’s “Makin’ Me Look Good Again” quietly marching up the chart and looking like a possible sleeper hit.


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

39 thoughts on “The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [February 21]

  1. Raymond February 22, 2017 / 12:25 pm

    Wow besides Michael Ray, that Top 5 is not bad at all.

    I still wonder what the future holds for songs from Lauren Alaina, Eric Church, Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley and Trent Harmon.

    For Lauren Alaina she is getting strong Top 10 conversions and is doing really well in the callout and could fill in for the token solo female slot in the Top 10 and it seems radio is willing to convert. But the age of the song is definitely something that watch though.

    Eric Church has gained a second wind so they might aim for a Top 5 peak with that one.

    Kelsea Ballerini has mediocre callout at best and her sophomore album is done, so they might just try Top 10 and drop it for a lead single.

    Dierks Bentley isn’t moving at a bad pace but it just feels there and not a whole lot of passion.

    Finally Trent Harmon is a newcomer so the label might want to send the album out soon as it’ll be a long time before Trent Harmon is back in the Top 30.

    I also really hope Runaway June can somehow manage to hang in there and Wheelhouse announces their debut album as I need music from that asap.


    • Josh Schott February 22, 2017 / 4:56 pm

      I could see Ballerini though holding off on a lead single if Aldean decides to release their duet as his next single. Similar to something Carrie Underwood is doing right now.


      • seak05 February 22, 2017 / 5:01 pm

        I think that is partially though bc Carrie is taking a break, and her lead singles climb fast enough that if she wants to drop a new album this fall, she won’t release the lead till summer anyways. I think it depends on how ready Kelsea/her label is to release new material. If they want to release the album this year, I don’t think the Aldean duet goes to radio as a single.


        • Josh Schott February 22, 2017 / 5:07 pm

          I agree with this. I’ll be surprised though because this seemed like a really obvious choice for a single from Aldean. With it being a fourth single too, it would be a safe choice. But then again Aldean can release whatever the hell he wants and radio will play it. The duet would be more beneficial to Ballerini than him.


          • seak05 February 22, 2017 / 6:33 pm

            Would it really benefit her though? Going to #1 featured on a duet hasn’t seem to really help country women lately, and Kelsea already has radio and single success on her own as a solo artist anyways. Radio seems rather happy to jump on her music already 3 #1’s off a debut album, and her latest will at least be top 10.


          • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 10:18 pm

            For what it’s worth, “Whiskey’d Up” is actually slightly edging “The First Time” in total YouTube views.

            Either one of those tracks would work as a possible follow-up, but it IS telling to me that an album track not benefiting from feature artist hype is making such an impression directly rivaling it.

            I will say that as much as I am bored with “They Don’t Know” as a whole, “Whiskey’d Up” does stand out a bit for the louder guitars in the chorus and a darker, brooding tone to its production than I’m usually accustomed to hearing on country airwaves as of late. It really seems to underscore exactly how much Aldean’s fans miss his less-polished guitar-driven tracks (“Lights Come On” probably came off as too slick in the production to many) and are clamoring for him to release something that is in that vein again.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 12:49 pm

    This is Chris Young’s push week, so you can add him to the “Songs I See Going Recurrent Or Leaving The top 30 soon” column.

    “Sober Saturday Night” was by no means a bad song, but nonetheless bland and burned through a lot of chart weeks considering how rapidly the lead two singles ascended. It actually makes sense to me it’ll be missing out on #1.


    Lauren Alaina also has a Power Up ad this week: indicating the end is near for “Road Less Traveled”. It hardly ever moved the needle in other categories such as sales and streaming, so this makes sense to me too.

    I’m curious what callout is like for “Kill A Word”. It strikes me as likely being a hot-or-cold song: hot among those who have a respect for sharp, poignant songwriting but cold among those who may be interpreting the song in a certain partial, ideological way or being too confrontational. Sales have been unimpressive (where the flying f*** is that video?) so that won’t help. I have to imagine the end is nearing for that song, as much as I’ve made my love for the song clear and in an ideal world would love to see it reach #1. On the other hand, there is a vast chasm separating the convoy in the Top Five and Church, so EMI may feel tempted to keep pushing him by virtue of that.


    Florida Georgia Line’s latest, of course, is off to a weak start at radio………………but the video’s release may have given it a serious shot of new life. It’s currently at #22 on the all-genre iTunes chart.

    Again, like I’ve said last week, it smacks as hypocritical to me if the reason many stations are reluctant to spin this is merely because it features the Backstreet Boys. If Alabama could get away with producing a #2 hit with N’SYNC in 1999, there’s absolutely NO way it couldn’t work today regardless of how devoid of country instrumentation the song is.


    Looks like the end is finally here for “Lipstick”.

    It’s a shame as I enjoyed that song, but the pitiful sales and streaming don’t lie. You can’t just use the tired “because they’re women/tomatoes!” line of argument as to why female-fronted releases falter every time if that given track is failing to connect in the first place. It’s a tragic shame more female artists like Nikki Lane aren’t being actively promoted to radio in the first place………………..but hypothetically, if a Nikki Lane commercial single debut were to loiter at #1250 on the iTunes chart without any indication of growth or an upward trajectory, I would be making the same argument as to why it deserved to have the plug pulled regardless of how much I loved the song.

    It’s a shame institutionalized sexism is rampant here, and the real key to reversing this mess is for labels to demonstrate leadership in terms of investing in the artistic development and focused distribution of its rosters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott February 22, 2017 / 4:59 pm

      I think “Kill A Word” is in a much better position now than it appeared a couple of weeks ago. The recurrents are breaking just right and I think it’s looking pretty likely to reach top five.

      Glad you bring up that Alabama/N’Sync song. I would bet you there are lots of people who are decrying Florida Georgia Line for releasing a song with BSB, yet they probably gave a pass to Alabama’s song because they’re Alabama.

      I take it you were a fan of Nikki Lane’s new album?


      • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 10:03 pm

        Damn right I loved Nikki Lane’s album. I was meaning to offer my thoughts in full but haven’t fully absorbed it yet to assemble the right words. =)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 10:11 pm

        If “God, Your Mama & Me” winds up underachieving at radio anyway, I sure as hell hope it is because listeners genuinely don’t care for the actual composition and tepid sound. Because it would truly be hypocritical if it was all because of the Backstreet Boys namesake.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Raymond February 22, 2017 / 7:56 pm

      I asked on Pulse and the Power Up add might be for Lauren Alaina just telling the last few holdover stations to start converting the song. “Road Less Traveled” is still showing no signs of slowing down. I think the Power Up add is a little misleading (I remember “Love Me Like You Mean It” when it was charting got Power Up adds basically from Top 15 on and that song hit #1).


      • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 9:29 pm

        I saw the exchange, and find it interesting how thin-skinned one poster got by the mere assertion I made that its natural peak was around #15. 😉

        Seriously, though: if it wasn’t for “On The Verge”, the track more than likely wouldn’t be remotely on the radar like it is now as indicated by its mediocre sales and streaming. With all due respect, I’d like to see their response to the simple fact that “Road Less Traveled” didn’t even chart the Billboard Hot 100 until three weeks ago as it reached its 25th week on the Country Airplay chart.

        Ever still, it is at #15 on the mongrel Hot Country Songs chart and, when a song’s peak on the mongrel chart is considerably lower than its airplay peak, you know its natural peak is lower than what its airplay suggests. Other recent (and worse) recent examples of this come with Chris Lane’s “Fix”, Granger Smith’s “If The Boot Fits”, Tim McGraw’s “How I’ll Always Be” and Chase Bryant’s “Little Bit of You”. Their airplay peaks may have all fallen within the Top Five at least, but their natural peaks were far worse: by at least ten chart placements.

        They can respond with another stock GIF for all I care. I’m making a simple, direct appeal as to some hits clearly being much more natural than others in spite of their airplay peaks. And, in my opinion, Alaina and six other songs currently occupying the Top Ten (I suppose you COULD go off on a limb with Michael Ray seeing that his song is actually selling in the latter half of its lengthy chart run) just don’t look like #1 hits at all and their natural peaks are lower from anywhere between five to fifteen chart placements.


        • seak05 February 22, 2017 / 9:37 pm

          Define natural peak. As you well know, radio and sales are not moral equivalents, That said this is selling in the same neighborhood as Eric and Luke’s songs. It’s not selling great, but it is by no means selling terribly. As for radio, on the national call out it’s currently 4th in pop score, and has the 3rd highest favorite score. So as a radio song (which is what we’re talking about here), it’s definitely not at any sort of natural peak.

          Also radio doesn’t want a song in heavy rotation for months, because it gets over-played, so “deserving” or not, things are going to change up.


          • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 10:01 pm

            With a few caveats (which I’ll touch upon), I would define a country single’s “natural peak” simply by its peak on the mongrel chart (Billboard’s Hot Country Songs).

            The exceptions would be 1) factoring out front-loaded first week fanboy/fangirl effects that usually inflate a single’s peak on the mongrel chart (though that’s less of an issue now), 2) the possibility of a rarer moment like a well-received live televised performance of a song giving it a broader cultural recognition that transcends genre, or 3) the unsustainable Bobby Bones Bounce………………….to name three that pop in my head most readily. And, obviously, 4) airplay on other formats (which has been quite the rarity as of late).

            Outside those exceptions, though, both the Hot Country Songs chart and the Billboard Hot 100 are far more accurate heat maps to a song’s true volume of success and reach than the Country Airplay chart or the Mediabase chart. Between 2011 and 2014, I often stated that you could almost always discern the bona-fide hits from the forgettable hits by looking at a song’s peak on the Billboard Hot 100 and seeing whether it was within or outside the Top Forty. Now, due to the evolving rules of streaming working against country radio’s favor, the Top 50 of the Billboard Hot 100 is a more accurate threshold in separating truer hits from the inflated ones.


          • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 10:07 pm

            Oh, one other caveat I forgot to mention was 5) the inevitable award show bounce.

            Usually when it’s a song that had already been debuted prior to the televised performance, it isn’t even a matter. But sometimes entertainers like to debut singles live on award shows, and sometimes that doesn’t accurately gauge a single’s true impact and staying power from then on out.


          • seak05 February 22, 2017 / 10:14 pm

            Lol, nothing is easier to manipulate then the HCS song chart. Labels don’t even need programmers, just put it on sale and watch it bounce, add a TV appearance and you’re really cooking.

            Oh, and who cares how you sell your 300,00 units, if it’s 10k a week over 30 weeks or 100k in one week and the rest of the time spread out? It’s the same number of units. But HCS does…and has nothing to do with actual popularity.


          • seak05 February 22, 2017 / 10:30 pm

            Also since HCS includes airplay, both Lauren, Brad etc are going to keep increasing at HCS as their airplay increases, so they still haven’t hit their peak. And country radio isn’t going to give HOLY or Body 20wk #1 runs (thankfully) so songs that aren’t #1 on HCS are going to get there, Pardi’s wont go to #1 on HCS btw bc of Sam. And of course, as I pointed out earlier, non-lead singles often don’t do as well sales wise, not because they’re less popular, but because people have already bought/streamed the album.

            You are putting way, way, to much stock in one chart, and then back applying it to radio.


          • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 10:40 pm

            I respectfully disagree.

            iHeartMedia and Cumulus can buy all the first-week airplay they want, and there’s even the very real possibility that labels purchase automated plays on YouTube (I haven’t concluded what to think on that charge/conspiracy).

            But the bottom line is, you almost always have to see the stars align on all fronts to ensure a high Hot Country Songs placement. The only exceptions are the mega-hits from established current entertainers like Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt. Outside of that, though, you can do everything right as a radio executive and, yet, STILL see your single have a mediocre peak on the Hot Country Songs chart: because you can arm-wrangle radio executives and buy them donuts to get them on your side, but it doesn’t work the same way with all who traverse VEVO and Spotify.

            “You Look Like I Need A Drink” SOMEHOW reached #1 on Hot Country Airplay yet, it didn’t even make the Top Ten on the Hot Country Songs chart (let alone a pathetic #79 peak on the Billboard Hot 100). Chris Lane’s “Fix” went #1 (somehow) on Hot Country Airplay yet peaked at #10 on the Hot Country Songs chart. Kenny Chesney’s “Wild Child” went #1 at airplay but peaked at #9 on the mongrel chart. And so on. Certainly looks like radio is the chief gerrymander in each of those instances along with countless others.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Raymond February 22, 2017 / 10:43 pm

            But Nadia, by that logic what is really stopping Lauren Alaina from potentially hitting the Top. She’s selling well enough and testing well enough and her Hot Country Songs peak will probably outmatch those if I’m being honest.


          • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 11:09 pm

            With regards to the Sam Hunt dilemma, I already indicated in an earlier post in this thread that, if I were in charge, he would be disqualified for the chart altogether for the simple reason that he, himself, is NOT country. That would quite obviously raise the ire of many, but I take contrast and categorization seriously.

            That aside, however, it stands to reason there will be big hits and, sometimes, there will be mega-hits. And as much as I agree with your contention on Jon Pardi being barred from #1 on the mongrel chart solely because a mega-hit is eclipsing it (which again, in this case, should be disqualified anyway because it is NOT a country song and Sam Hunt is not a legitimate country entertainer), in other instances it does happen. You do everything right and produce a truly big hit with genuine staying power, but the timing is unfortunately met by a generation-defining mega-hit that, in effect, eclipsing it. It does happen sometimes, too.

            To approach it from another angle, I notice Pulse posters frequently like to cite Kenny Chesney’s “I Go Back” as another classic example of a bona-fide career hit nonetheless never making it to #1. It obviously makes sense that Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” happened to be the song that barred it from #1 during six of its seven weeks at #2 seeing that, after all, it was a generational hit. But Reba McEntire’s “Somebody”? Not a knock on Reba or anything but, I’m highly inclined to doubt that particular release is remembered remotely as much as either of those two songs are now. “I Go Back” may have lost the airplay battle, but it has gotten the last handful of laughs ever since from a staying power standpoint. And if we were, hypothetically, to wage a nostalgia streaming/sales/airplay contest between these three singles now…………….I’m 100% confident McGraw would win, but “I Go Back” would best “Somebody” by a wide margin.

            If there’s any justice, Sam Hunt is not going to remain a fixture on country radio for years to come. But eligibility issues aside, can we really at all doubt that Hunt’s song is clearly a whole other league of hit right now that can’t help but eclipse other current hits?


          • seak05 February 22, 2017 / 11:11 pm

            When you have a massive gap sure, I don’t think anyone here would argue that You Look Like I Need a drink was a pathetic #1. I mean you could argue Brad’s gap right now between #4 and #10, but that’s plausible, especially since this song had big sales its first week. Lauren’s gap is only 4: that’s within the margin & the HCS number hasn’t hit its peak yet either.

            Also labels/songs shouldn’t be punished for not wanting to offer them on sale, which is of course how Kelsea got her #1 on HCS.


          • Raymond February 22, 2017 / 11:19 pm

            That’s the thing though. Lauren Alaina isn’t that far off in the margin as seal just said. 4 position difference isn’t that bad at all.

            Lauren Alaina I believe still has a shot at #1 it just depends on how long that gap will stay between her Kenny Chesney, Brantley Gilbert, Kelsea Ballerini and Sam Hunt. If she can hold them off, she should have a chance at the top..


          • seak05 February 22, 2017 / 11:29 pm

            eh, by this logic we’d only have like 5 radio #1’s a year. That’s to strict for me. Mega hits aside, HCS can be manipulated exactly like Kelsea did for Peter Pan (& I don’t have a problem with the label doing that), but it makes quibbling over a #2 or #1 peak rather silly to me. Radio is also not the same as sales, so something can be deserving from call out, but not from sales. That’s the point of the different charts anyways.


  3. OlaR February 22, 2017 / 1:18 pm

    52 weeks young. With a healthy bullet. Next goal: the top 10. Happy Va….High Valley can do it. Well…

    Michael Ray: Most Increased Audience. The “Douchey Pickup Song” is on the way to reach the top spot. Meh.

    On The Hot Seat Too: Miranda Lambert (#28 with bullet). No buzz & not gaining much audience.

    Back & Forth: Tucker Beathard (#50 with bullet), WMM (#49 no bullet), Seth Ennis (#53 no bullet) & Aaron Watson (#51 with bullet)

    Hot Shot Debut: #48 – Blake Shelton – “Every Time I Hear That Song”
    New: #56 – Kip Moore – “More Girls Like You”
    New: #59 – Ryan Kinder – “Close”
    New: #60 – Kane Brown feat. Lauren Alaina – “What Ifs”

    Billboard Top Country Albums: #1 – Reba McEntire / #2 – New – Brett Young
    Billboard Americana/Folk Albums: #1 – Chris Stapleton
    Texas Regional Radio Report: #1 – Aaron Watson – “Outta Style” (3rd week)
    Billboard Canada Country National Airplay: #1 – Jon Pardi – “Dirt On My Boots” (2nd week)
    – Highest Canadian Track: #3 – Dean Brody – “Time”

    Country Tracks Top 40 Australia (Country Music Services):
    #1 – Tania Kernaghan – “That’s A Tradie” (2nd week)
    #2 – Travis Collins – “Hometown Calling”
    #3 – Connie Kis Andersen – “Happy Day”
    On The Rise: #14 (36) – James Blundell feat. The Wolfe Brothers – “Rain On The Scarecrow”
    Top New Track: #21 – John Lecner – “I Just Need A Friend”


  4. seak05 February 22, 2017 / 1:21 pm

    Runaway June looks done, the top 5 is a bit of a knife fight right now, Chris Young is not going to make #1, Brad might be blocked as well. The next tier is a little soft though, I definitely think Eric goes top 5. Luke & Jason will go #1 (probably in consecutive week). I think Dierks will make a top 5 peak, but I think he might get blocked by Sam. FGL is starting to take off at radio.

    The bottom is soft right now, I think Brothers Osbourne could do good things. I’m curious to see how radio will treat Maren and “rich”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 4:38 pm

      I think we’re likely to see a revolving door effect within the next five weeks at #1.

      Remember that Brad Paisley’s “Love & War” is going to be released April 21st. That’s a little more than seven weeks from today and, as much as “Today” is already at a high audience level, Chris Young’s throwing in the towel will help him find an open window between he, Jon Pardi and Michael Ray.

      Of course, if I were calling the shots at radio, I would ensure three weeks minimum at #1 for “Better Man” and three weeks minimum for “Dirt On My Boots” as well. Those are the only two songs in the top five at the moment that are legitimate well-rounded big hits in terms of sales, streaming and airplay. I would have pulled the plug on “Sober Saturday Night” around #8 or so, “Think A Little Less” around #4 and “Today” wouldn’t have even made the Top Ten if I were going by a system that rewards legitimately big hits and puts flukes in their place.


      What will be more interesting to see is what develops outside the Top Five. There’s a sizable gap right now between Michael Ray/Brad Paisley and Eric Church, so EMI Nashville may feel tempted to just conclude “The hell with it, let’s take advantage of this vacuum and just go for #1!”.

      On the other hand, let’s be honest here: “Kill a Word” just hasn’t sold or moved along like a #1 hit. Despite being a third single, its sales are sized up to “Road Less Traveled” right now in indifferent territory, and its streaming is moderate (with a proper video it would quite likely be doing resoundingly better though, grrrrrrrrrr!). As much as I love the song, if I were being honest, its natural peak would have been just outside the Top Ten if I was calling the shots (and “Road Less Traveled” at about #15, for that matter.)

      But SOMETHING has to fill that vacuum. So if not Church, who? It’s highly unlikely it’ll be Alaina since her label just released a Power Up! ad: all but certainly a signal that it’s final sprint time. The easy money is likely on Luke Bryan, because……………………Luke Bryan! But “Fast” certainly hasn’t been selling like a #1 either and has had a bizarre, inconsistent chart run. “Any Ol’ Barstool”, in contrast, has been consistently and steadily rising and has sold good but not great, so it has to be looked at as a contender (its callout has been excellent: including a #1 on Bullseye).


      Again, if I had my way:

      1) Little Big Town’s “Better Man” would have a reign of AT LEAST three weeks at #1 that befits how legitimately big a hit it has been and continues to be: barring both Michael Ray and Brad Paisley from the top spot.

      2) Jon Pardi’s “Dirt On My Boots” would then take over for a minimum of three weeks as it has been also been a deserved big hit.

      3) Jason Aldean would narrowly fend off others for the next #1, and hold pat until the next well-rounded big hit not under the name Sam Hunt (because he’d be disqualified from the “country” category) came around: most likely either Luke Combs’ “Hurricane” or some lead single yet to be released.


      Sounds very strict, yes? Yes, I’ll admit that. But at least this system actually rewards the bona-fide hits rather than instantly-forgettable and middling releases.


      • Josh Schott February 22, 2017 / 5:04 pm

        “Dirt on My Boots” is definitely a big hit and unfortunately that means Mike Dugan at UMG was right. Strong evidence suggests that next single will be “Heartache on the Dance Floor,” as it’s getting play on The Highway. It makes sense they would release the other dance influenced song after the success of the other.

        Little Big Town really got help from the Swift effect, but nevertheless it’s great to see one of their best recent singles get rewarded with a #1. I’m kind of optimistic about the album coming out on Friday, even though Jay Joyce is still producing.


        • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 9:38 pm

          Uggghhh! =/

          I actually dislike (though not hate) “Dirt On My Boots”. But I’m not letting my distaste of the song cloud the truth that it’s a legitimate country song and it legitimately deserves to be regarded as a bona-fide #1 hit.

          And though I would simply choose to disqualify Sam Hunt from charting, if I had my way, for the singular fact that he is not country……………….beyond that, “Body Like A Back Road” is a legitimate all-around hit too. It just doesn’t deserve the title “country” in the same breath as “hit”.

          If I was in power, I would push for a return to the days when fewer songs reached #1 but 1) you could easily discern bona-fide hits and 2) the playlists would otherwise be far more diverse than they have been for over a decade now. So the #1 song probably wouldn’t receive more than 4000 spins in a single week but, at the same time, the #60 song would have much more total audience than it has now.


    • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 4:45 pm

      As far as “It’s Not My Fault” is concerned, it’s doing pretty much EXACTLY what I expected it would do.

      Radio really doesn’t want anything to do with it yet, because there is a “Smoke A Little Smoke”-esque enthusiastic word of mouth helping it emerge a cult seller and streamer, they may find they have no choice but to hold onto it and honor that enthusiasm somewhat.

      I really do hope it makes legitimate chart movement despite it understandably being so far out of place with radio persuasions in this current climate. Better to reward a song listeners are actually passionate about than something like “Fast”, “Road Less Traveled”, “Today” or “Sober Saturday Night”.


      • Blair February 23, 2017 / 12:27 am

        “Today” is #3 on MB callout chart. “Road Less Taveled” is #4, “Sober Saturday Night” #6. The passion is there. “Better Man” is down at #17. What are you going by when you say Better Man should get three weeks at #1 and not these other hits?

        If sales, they have nothing to do with radio listeners’ passion. There’s no evidence that it’s selling to radio listeners, and sales are such a small fraction of a radio audience. For example, Better Man has sold ~400k digital units so far. Country radio gets north of 60 million audience impressions every week. So everyone who has bought Better Man on iTunes amounts to less than half a percent of country radio’s weekly audience. That’s why Hot Country Songs can be misleading and irrelevant, totally not representative of majority public opinion. It’s like using town hall crowd sizes of a couple hundred to estimate public opinion of a congressional district of population 711k.


  5. Kevin Davis February 22, 2017 / 4:38 pm

    As I’ve probably already said elsewhere, I actually like the “Douchy Pickup Song” except for the lyrics. Unfortunately for Michael Ray, lyrics are important, and I don’t have a lot of confidence that he’ll improve in that regard. As for my beloved Miranda, now I’m starting to really get worried about “We Should Be Friends.” At #28!? Seriously, still in the upper 20’s!? Shouldn’t the recently released music video for the song (a great video, btw) have helped?

    I’m not a big fan of the song, but I’ll be happy to see Pardi get another #1. And I’m very happy to see Paisley’s “Today” doing well. And, once again, “Outskirts of Heaven” is still hanging in there! As a result, I get to hear it on semi-regular rotation on our local country stations!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 4:52 pm

      I dislike “Dirt On My Boots” because of the bro-country cliches, but it clearly deserves to be #1 all the same. It has proven itself more than worthy of the title based on the consistently robust sales, streaming and a steady trajectory at radio.

      Really, “Better Man” and “Dirt On My Boots” are the only two singles clearly deserving of the #1 distinction currently in the Top Ten, in my opinion. I do think Jason Aldean’s “Any Ol’ Barstool” has done enough to be deserving of the title as well, but there’s still a notable chasm between Pardi and Aldean where Pardi has earned it decisively while Aldean has merely satisfied the basic criteria.

      Outside of those three though, no. None of the other seven really deserve to go all the way. I mean, “Think A Little Less” caught fire in the latter half of its chart run, but it would have burned through too many weeks to warrant going all the way in my eyes. It would have peaked high at #3 or so, but it would be close but no cigar. And then there would be a wide chasm between Ray and the other six.

      Liked by 1 person

      • seak05 February 22, 2017 / 4:57 pm

        One thing with basing #1 on sales, it’s somewhat important to keep in mind that a lead single almost always will sell the best…and that’s especially true with a big name. Also 2nd, 3rd 4th etc singles from high selling albums aren’t going to sell as well. On several levels the 6th single from a platinum album being anywhere near (sales wise) the 3rd single from an album that hasn’t even gone gold (Aldean) is probably more impressive.


        • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 9:48 pm

          As true as your point is, I still think it’s imperative to evaluate secondary singles based more of their own impact as opposed to name identification.

          Because fourth and fifth singles DO make large impact here and there. “Like a Wrecking Ball” was the fifth single from Church’s previous album and yet it out-sold every other single issued from the album that, itself, was a consistent hot seller. “I Told You So” was the fifth single from Carrie Underwood’s sophomore album and that went Platinum. “Waitin’ On A Woman” was the fifth single from Brad Paisley’s “5th Gear” and its Gold certification fell in line with the second and third singles from that album. And so forth. It DOES happen, even if it’s rarer.


  6. jmartin103 February 22, 2017 / 6:26 pm

    I don’t think I can remember the last time we ever had a chart where almost every song in the Top 5 had a positive score. I have to say that this is a pretty solid Top 5, except for the crappy Michael Ray song. I can see LBT getting a multi-week #1 song because of the popularity of “Better Man”, with it being written by Taylor Swift, I’m not complaining about this though. It’s a great song that deserves to be a #1 hit. I’m also hoping to see Brad Paisley and Jon Pardi score a #1 soon, and that Lauren Alaina can break into the top 10 on Billboard.

    At the same time, I’m flabbergasted that High Valley’s “Make You Mine” has been on the chart for literally a whole year, and that it’s continuing to climb, despite not gaining a lot of traction at radio. I wish Warner would just go ahead and pull the plug on the song already. Unfortunately, it looks like the end for “Lipstick”, which is a shame because I really enjoy that song. Then, as for the Garth song, I’m not completely sure on how it will perform.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Becca February 22, 2017 / 9:02 pm

    I can’t believe Sam Hunt’s single is selling better on the iTunes than ones from pop stars with huge followings like Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, Zayn/Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga. He’s really that famous?! *sigh*


    • Raymond February 22, 2017 / 9:14 pm

      Yep! I thought people would take one look at the title and scoff it immediately and not even give it the time of day.

      It’s going to be a massive hit though and arguably one of the biggest if not the biggest “country” song of 2017.


      • Amanda February 23, 2017 / 8:10 am

        Exactly! I thought people would look at the title and say, “Oh god, more bro-country.” *eye roll* Apparently not, because it is selling well and moving right on up the charts.


    • Nadia Lockheart February 22, 2017 / 10:08 pm

      Apparently! (tugs collar) =X

      It’s clear Sam Hunt is here to stay regardless of how anti-country he is! =/


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