Breaking Down & Examining The Quality of #1 Country Songs: 2015


Last week in comments section of the The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music, reader Nadia brought up the great point of Eric Church’s “Record Year” being the first great song (+4 or better) to top the charts in a few years. It really highlighted the importance of Church landing the #1 spot at country radio with such a quality song. The last song to do this in my book was Zac Brown Band’s “Sweet Annie” in 2013 and before that in 2011 with Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather.” Only three songs were able to rate a 9 or better in the last five years and top the Billboard Country Airplay chart. That’s kind of crazy and really puts things into perspective. This sparked me to think further and made me want to look back at the quality of #1 country airplay songs throughout the years. So that brings us to this new semi-regular feature and that’s picking a year and taking a look how I would rate the #1 songs of that year. The rankings will work exactly like The Current Pulse does, so if you’re not familiar with that criteria just take a look at the most recent one linked above. Reaching #1 is a big deal for an artist, which is why I want to look at the strength and quality of songs that are supposed to be smash hits. When I think #1 song, I think it should be pretty important not just to the artist, but demonstrates the direction of the industry at the time as a whole. We’ll start off with last year’s #1 songs…

  • January 3-10: Tim McGraw – “Shotgun Rider” +2
    • McGraw has been in the midst of revival/comeback the last few years after drifting aimlessly with Curb for years and then going through that whole “Truck Yeah”/”Lookin’ For That Girl” phase. McGraw in other words rediscovered who he was and why people loved him in the first place. “Shotgun Rider” went a ways in helping fuel this comeback and at the time was refreshing to hear after the bro era. There’s nothing that significant about this love song, but it’s solid all around and decidedly country. 7/10
  • January 17-24: Brad Paisley – “Perfect Storm” +2
    • Paisley admittedly pissed me off with his 2014 album Moonshine in the Trunk because it felt like a pandering, low-grade effort from him in comparison to his full capabilities. The previous single before this was “River Bank,” which really caught my ire. This song kind of got back to what he does best and that’s heartfelt love ballads. In the last two years it’s safe to say this has been his best single. It’s also the last song he’s had reach #1 on the airplay chart (granted great timing helped aid it). 7/10
  • January 31: Kenny Chesney – “‘Til It’s Gone” 0 (Note: This was the last and only time the Pulse has ever been positive)
    • The story of Kenny Chesney’s career is beach music and playing it safe. In this case it’s the latter. This schmaltzy love song really does nothing to standout and it’s kind of telling I had to listen to it again because I really didn’t remember it. That’s how I feel about most Chesney songs though. 5/10
  • February 7: Eric Church – “Talladega” +3
    • This song has grown on me from when I originally heard it. It’s definitely one of the better ones from The Outsiders, an album I didn’t care for at all. Church really nails the nostalgic/reflective tone of this song and gets the listener to buy into what he’s singing. 8/10
  • February 14-21: Luke Bryan – “I See You” -2
    • The quality starts to take a big dip here, folks. “I See You” is an overproduced, pop rock mess of a breakup song. The point of a country breakup song is to express sorrow and sadness. Yet this song feels more happy and upbeat. Instead of trying to understand it I just tell myself its Luke Bryan and this par for the course for him. 3/10
  • February 28: Florida Georgia Line – “Sun Daze” -5
    • And here we have a 2014 finalist for Country Perspective’s Worst Song of the Year. Yet it didn’t win (you can thank Jerrod Niemann). This song not only has an annoying reggae beat and sound, but an annoying whistle too. Florida Georgia Line’s singing is at its most grating and by Florida Georgia Line of course I mean Tyler Hubbard because the other one never sings. Then you get to the lyrics, which are just a dumpster fire of quality. Two horrific lines stand out in particular:”Rock a little bit of hip-hop and Haggard and Jagger” and “I’ll sit you up on the kitchen sink
      And stick the pink umbrella in your drink.” These lines are disgusting and offensive in so many different ways. I never want to hear Hubbard sing about his dick again. 0/10
  • March 7: Thomas Rhett – “Make Me Wanna” -4
    • Overtly slick production and a blatant pop sound back this slow jam sex song. It’s easy to forget how bad this one was from Rhett because he still wasn’t that well-known and it proceeded a much clearer offensive song. There’s nothing country about “Make Me Wanna” and really nothing country about Rhett still. Just make sure you continue to forget this one. 1/10
  • March 14: Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe – “Lonely Tonight” +1
    • I remember being quite happy for Monroe to get this opportunity from Blake to be heard by more people. I was also happy to see her associated with a #1 song. But now looking back at this song, I’m not nearly as smitten to it as I was originally. It’s pretty dull by both artists standards and could have been so much more. Luckily Monroe’s vocals and Blake’s charisma elevate it just enough. Then again this sounds like a damn masterpiece after the last two songs, so that perhaps explains my higher enthusiasm originally. 6/10
  • March 21: Jason Aldean – “Just Gettin’ Started” -3
    • Tell me what’s more vanilla and uninspiring: this or Aldean’s most recent #1 “Lights Come On.” They’re essentially the same rocker-infused anthem that says nothing. 2/10
  • March 28: Brett Eldredge – “Mean To Me” -1
    • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….Oh I fell asleep. This song makes me sleepy with its uninspired production and cliché, banal lyrics. Eldredge is a fine vocalist, but this is generic at it’s finest. 4/10
  • April 4: Cole Swindell – “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey” -2
    • You’re not worth the whiskey, Swindell. You’re not worth giving a full review for this subtly vindictive song. 3/10
  • April 11-28: Zac Brown Band – “Homegrown” +3
    • Ah it feels so long since we’ve had this Zac Brown Band. This was the lead single for Jekyll + Hyde and you all know how I feel about that album now. When I reviewed “Homegrown,” I said it gave me high hopes for the album. This was the exact type of song not only to get people excited about that album, but what should be on country radio in this day and age. It deservedly got a three-week reign at the top and I remember it even hung on the chart for another month after falling from the top spot. It was a true hit in every sense of the word. 8/10
  • May 2: Sam Hunt – “Take Your Time” -5
    • This was the song that kickstarted the reign of terror of Sam Hunt. I loathe this song with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. To the naive and quite frankly clueless listener, this is a sincere and sensitive love song about a guy treating a girl right. In reality, this song is all about Sam Hunt perfectly playing to a girl’s emotions so he can get down her pants. It’s deceptively creepy, sleazy and in no way country. 0/10
  • May 9-16: Dierks Bentley – “Say You Do” +1
    • This another song I remember liking a lot more originally, but now not so much. It’s an above average love song at best, even by Dierks’ standards. There were better songs on Riser, but then again just like “Lonely Tonight” this song has the benefit of being propped up when put next to all of the other terrible songs around it. 6/10
  • May 23: Keith Urban & Eric Church – “Raise ‘Em Up” 0
  • May 30: Tyler Farr – “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” +2
  • June 6: Billy Currington – “Don’t It” -2
  • June 13: A Thousand Horses – “Smoke” -1
    • This one has definitely worn thin on me since I originally reviewed, some thanks in part to the absolute success it had getting hits. It’s one of the top five most popular posts ever in the history of this blog. And one of the reasons why is because people wanting to know the name and identity of the stripper in the music video for the song. I’m dead serious and there’s still to this day some stray hits based off this Google search. Why in the hell do you want to know the name of the damn stripper? A Thousand Horses has pretty much been irrelevant since this song had its run. And they even had Dave Cobb produce their debut album. But hey they’ll always have that stripper video.
  • June 20: Florida Georgia Line – “Sippin’ On Fire” -4
  • June 27: Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter – “Wild Child” 0
    • I remember being told by some readers I should be praising this song more and I just had a pretty lukewarm response to it. Over a year later it’s still pretty lukewarm. Go listen to “You & Tequila” instead.
  • July 4: Kelsea Ballerini – “Love Me Like You Mean It” -4
    • This is the best example of bro pandering.
  • July 11: Blake Shelton – “Sangria” -3
    • With time every Blake Shelton single now gets even more annoying and grating on the ears. He’s a wizard in churning out sterile production backed, annoying ear worm songs.
  • July 25: Canaan Smith – “Label Pushed Song You Don’t Remember the Name Of” -3
    • Seriously can you remember it without Googling?
  • August 1: Jason Aldean – “Tonight Looks Good on You” -3
  • August 8: Brantley Gilbert – “One Hell of an Amen” +1
  • August 15: Luke Bryan – “Kick The Dust Up” -5
  • August 22: Michael Ray – “Kiss You in the Morning” -4
  • August 29: Zac Brown Band – “Loving You Easy” +2
  • September 5: Frankie Ballard – “Young & Crazy” +1
  • September 12: Sam Hunt – “House Party” -5
    • One of the most annoying songs I’ve ever heard. It’s vapid and completely lacks in substance in all facets of music.
  • September 19: Dustin Lynch – “Hell of a Night” -4
  • September 26: Thomas Rhett – “Crash and Burn” -5
  • October 3-17: Kenny Chesney – “Save It For A Rainy Day” 0
  • October 24: Brett Eldredge – “Lose My Mind” -2
  • October 31-November 7: Luke Bryan – “Strip It Down” -4
  • November 14-21: Old Dominion – “Break Up With Him” -5
    • One of the douchiest songs I’ve ever heard and yet it didn’t win worst song of the year. Thanks, Sam Hunt.
  • November 28-December 12: Chris Young – “I’m Comin’ Over” +1
  • December 19: Dan + Shay – “Nothin’ Like You” -2
  • December 26: Blake Shelton – “Gonna” -2

Overall #1 Song Pulse for 2015: -61


Break Down of Number of Each Pulse Score

+5: None

+4: None

+3: 2 (Eric Church’s “Talladega” and Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown”)

+2: 4 (Brad Paisley’s “Perfect Storm,” Tim McGraw’s “Shotgun Rider,” Tyler Farr’s “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” & Zac Brown Band’s “Loving You Easy”)

+1: 5

0: (Three of the four are Kenny Chesney songs)

-1: 2

-2: 6

-3: 4

-4: 6

-5: 6


So in 2015 there were 39 songs to reach #1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. Of those 39 songs, a whopping 24 of these 36 songs were in the negative. That’s 2/3 (or about 67%) of all #1 songs for the year! It gets even worse, as 1/3 of the #1 songs have a score of -4 or worse, indicating horrendous or of horrifically bad quality (33% of the #1 songs). On the flip side, there were zero songs that I considered great or excellent to reach the top of the airplay chart in 2015 and only two songs I would consider pretty good to reach #1. Needless to say I would have to evaluate the quality of #1 songs in 2015 to be quite shitty. The year actually got off to a great start, as three of the first four #1 songs were positive. Then you look at the end of the year, from September 12 onwards there was only one positive song to top the chart (ironically having the longest reign on top during this time). I would be willing to go out on a limb and say this was one of the worst stretches in the history of country radio. Also there was only one solo female artist to top the Billboard Country Airplay chart in 2015 and that was Kelsea Ballerini. Meanwhile Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and Kenny Chesney each had three #1 airplay songs in 2015. Of their nine songs to top the chart, five have negative scores, three have neutral scores and one has a positive score.

Let me know what you think in the comments below of the songs and this new feature. And feel free to ask me about my grades for the songs.