The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [December 1999]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Every week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. Each song on the chart will receive either a +1, 0, or -1. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the top 30 songs with the highest score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. Songs rated between a 7 and 10 will receive a +1. Songs rated either 5 or 6 will receive a 0. Songs rated 4 or lower will receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from December 4, 1999.

  1. Clint Black – “When I Said I Do (w/ Lisa Hartman Black)” 0
  2. John Michael Montgomery – “Home To You” +1
  3. Martina McBride – “I Love You” -1 [Worst Song]
  4. Brad Paisley – “He Didn’t Have To Be” +1
  5. Faith Hill – “Breathe” +1
  6. Shania Twain – “Come On Over” -1
  7. Tim McGraw – “Something Like That” +1
  8. Yankee Grey – “All Things Considered” +1
  9. George Strait – “What Do You Say To That” +1
  10. Reba – “What Do You Say” +1
  11. Alan Jackson – “Pop A Top” +1
  12. LeAnn Rimes – “Big Deal” 0
  13. Dixie Chicks – “Cowboy Take Me Away” +1
  14. Andy Griggs – “I’ll Go Crazy” +1
  15. Tim McGraw – “My Best Friend” +1
  16. Steve Wariner – “I’m Already Taken” +1
  17. Kenny Chesney – “She Thinks My Tractors Sexy” -1
  18. Randy Travis – “A Man Ain’t Made Of Stone” +1
  19. Lonestar – “Amazed” 0
  20. Clay Walker – “Live, Laugh, Love” 0
  21. Jo Dee Messina – “Lesson In Leavin’” +1
  22. Lonestar – “Smile” 0
  23. Ty Herndon – “Steam” 0
  24. Tracy Byrd – “Put Your Hand In Mine” +1
  25. Gary Allan – “Smoke Rings In The Dark” +1 [Best Song]
  26. Joe Diffie – “The Quittin’ Kind” +1
  27. Brooks & Dunn – “Beer Thirty” 0
  28. Keith Urban – “It’s A Love Thing” -1
  29. Trace Adkins – “Don’t Lie” +1
  30. SHeDAISY – “This Woman Needs” +1

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +15

Wow, a double-digit positive score, and one that’s halfway to a perfect score! Sure beats 2010 from last week. As you all remember, 2010 didn’t even have a Pulse! As a child of the 2000s, I have to admit I was very unfamiliar with a few of these songs and artists prior to conducting this pulse. That’s why doing this particular Past Pulse was especially fun. I get to discover some great new songs! First of all, I never had once heard of Yankee Gray. “All Things Considered” isn’t exactly something anyone would call “deep”, but it’s fun enough with the catchy melody and bouncy fiddles. This was their only top 10 hit. Elsewhere, while I am familiar with artists such as Clint Black, John Michael Montgomery, Steve Wariner, and Tracy Byrd, I can’t say that I had ever heard any of their respective singles on this chart. I’ve also never heard a single SHeDAISY song despite hearing of them multiple times. “This Woman Needs” is a pretty enjoyable country-pop tune.

However, I’m not totally out of tune with what was going on in 1999. Alan Jackson’s “Pop A Top” was (and still is) a damn catchy tune that hardly feels like a cover song at all. And of course there’s the monster hit by the Dixie Chicks with “Cowboy Take Me Away.” I can understand why they are a very polarizing band to many, but when you look at them from a pure musical standpoint, they were a very talented group who made some fine country music. With Gary Allan, they share the honor of being tied for the best song on this chart. I’ve always loved “Smoke Rings In The Dark” for its dark, ominous atmosphere and sharp lyrics combined with Gary’s vocal delivery. In fact, it’s probably my favorite Gary song ever. Oh, can we also talk about how awesome Trace Adkins is when he’s trying to be a serious country singer? The man has always had a set of pipes, and when he’s not doing the whole “Swing” or “Honkytonk Badonkadonk” crap, he’s excellent.

But of course, at any given moment there’s always some type of bad in country music, even in 1999. Hell, I’m sure at one point somebody somewhere declared Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” the worst country song in history. Nowadays it wouldn’t come anywhere close. Elsewhere, we had Martina McBride’s annoying “I Love You” which easily is the worst song here. To put it bluntly, this song sounds extremely immature and annoying. And then of course we have “Come On Over.” Now, I actually like Shania Twain for the most part, but this song is just terrible and definitely didn’t belong on country radio, especially not in 1999. Keith Urban’s first song also wasn’t great either. But that’s it folks. FOUR negative scores on the pulse. Nowadays that’s about as many positive scores you’ll find on the pulse. Evolution my ass.

If you have any questions as to why I gave a certain song the score I did, or perhaps just want to make your own Pulse, sound off in the comments!

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [March 2000]

Toby Keith 2000

Every week I take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. It could be 10 years ago, 20 years ago or even further back. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. How do I determine if a song is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site by either Derek or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Songs rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Songs rated between 5 and 6.5 receive a 0. Songs rated 4.5 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I take a look at the top 30 on the Country Airplay Chart from March 25, 2000.

  1. Toby Keith – “How Do You Like Me Now?!” 0
  2. George Strait – “The Best Day” +1
  3. Tim McGraw – “My Best Friend” +1
  4. Tracy Lawrence – “Lessons Learned” +1
  5. Mark Wills – “Back at One” +1
  6. Martina McBride – “Love’s The Only House” 0
  7. Lonestar – “Smile” 0
  8. Clint Black & Steve Wariner – “Been There” +1
  9. Jo Dee Messina – “Because You Love Me” +1
  10. Dixie Chicks – “Cowboy Take Me Away” +1
  11. Phil Vassar – “Carlene” 0
  12. SheDaisy – “This Woman Needs” +1
  13. Faith Hill – “Breathe” +1
  14. Andy Griggs – “She’s More” +1
  15. Faith Hill – “The Way You Love Me” 0
  16. Chely Wright – “It Was” +1
  17. Kenny Rogers & Alison Krauss – “Buy Me A Rose” +1
  18. Garth Brooks – “Do What You Gotta Do” +1
  19. Montgomery Gentry – “Daddy Won’t Sell The Farm” 0
  20. Kenny Chesney – “What I Need to Do” +1
  21. Trisha Yearwood – “Real Live Woman” +1
  22. Vince Gill – “Let’s Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye” +1
  23. Brad Paisley – “He Didn’t Have to Be” +1
  24. Jessica Andrews – “Unbreakable Heart” +1
  25. Collin Raye – “Couldn’t Last A Moment” 0
  26. Dixie Chicks – “Goodbye Earl” +1
  27. Yankee Grey – “Another Nine Minutes” 0
  28. Clay Walker – “The Chain of Love” +1
  29. Clay Davidson – “Unconditional” +1
  30. Brad Paisley – “Me Neither” +1

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: +22

Last week we looked at 2010 and it was only at +4. This week we go back 10 years before in the year 2000, where it’s a whopping +22. Clearly a much better environment at country radio at this time. This score is right around the 2005 score we looked at a few weeks back and 26 spots higher than the current pulse. Fun fact: three different artists had two songs charting at the same time on the March 28, 2000 chart. The three artists are Brad Paisley, Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks. By the way how creepy does Keith look in that cover photo?

As for my thoughts on the songs, I decided I want to do this different from here on out. Instead of me throwing my thoughts out on the songs I want to talk about I would rather just let you all ask me questions on the ones you want further clarification on and my thoughts on. It saves me time and I would rather spend more time conversing with you the reader. Sound good? Fire away with any questions below!

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [Feb. 2005]

Rascal Flatts

Wait a minute I thought we already did the current pulse of mainstream country music? Indeed we did. This is different. Reader Scotty J made the excellent suggestion to take a look back at the country airplay chart of year’s past to compare the differences to the current chart. Here’s how it would work:

Every week I take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. It could be 10 years ago, 20 years ago or even further back. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. How do I determine if a song is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site by either Derek or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Songs rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Songs rated between 5 and 6.5 receive a 0. Songs rated 4.5 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I take a look at the top 30 on the Country Airplay Chart from February 26, 2005.

  1. Rascal Flatts – “Bless The Broken Road” +1
  2. Keith Urban – “You’re My Better Half” +1
  3. Brad Paisley – “Mud On The Tires” +1
  4. Josh Gracin – “Nothin’ To Lose” +1
  5. Alan Jackson – “Monday Morning Church” +1
  6. LeeAnn Rimes – “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense” 0
  7. Craig Morgan – “That’s What I Love About Sunday” 0
  8. Sugarland – “Baby Girl” +1
  9. Reba McEntire – “He Gets That From Me” +1
  10. Billy Dean – “Let Them Be Little” +1
  11. Blake Shelton – “Some Beach” +1
  12. Montgomery Gentry – “Gone” +1
  13. Brooks & Dunn – “It’s Getting Better All The Time” +1
  14. Kenny Chesney – “Anything But Mine” 0
  15. Lee Ann Womack – “I May Hate Myself In The Morning” +1
  16. Jo Dee Messina – “My Give A Damn’s Busted” +1
  17. Andy Griggs – “If Heaven” 0
  18. Toby Keith – “Honky Tonk U” -1
  19. Joe Nichols – “What’s A Guy Gotta Do” +1
  20. Jamie O’Neal – “Trying To Find Atlantis” +1
  21. Gretchen Wilson – “What I Think About Cheatin'” +1
  22. Martina McBride – “God’s Will” +1
  23. Trace Adkins – “Songs About Me” +1
  24. Blaine Larsen – “How Do You Get That Lonely” +1
  25. Tim McGraw – “Drugs or Jesus” +1
  26. Terri Clark – “The World Needs A Drink” +1
  27. Jeff Bates – “Long Slow Kisses” +1
  28. Phil Vassar – “I’ll Take That As A Yes (The Hot Tub Song)” 0
  29. Miranda Lambert – “Me and Charlie Talking” 0
  30. Lonestar – “Class Reunion (That Used To Be Us)” 0

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: +21

What a night and day difference! As you can see country music was waaaaaaaaaay better 10 years ago compared to now. A 25 point difference to be exact. Listening to these songs was like a trip down memory lane. The songs I had forgotten about I immediately remembered once they started playing. Rascal Flatts was at the top of the charts and the song didn’t stink! Isn’t that amazing? Alan Jackson was in the top five, where he belonged. I forgot how much I loved “Monday Morning Church” and it was definitely one of my favorites from 2005.

There were a total of nine female country artists on the chart in 2005! For comparison to the current chart, it only has five female country artists and three of them are paired with a male artist. Needless to say female country artists had much more airtime in 2005. There are also nine artists currently charting in the top 60 Country Airplay chart that were also charting in the top 30 in 2005. Toby Keith has the only negative song on the chart in “Honky Tonk U.” So Keith was the worst artist on radio in 2005. Today he’s only like the 10th worst artist on the radio.

I did not remember Billy Dean, Jamie O’Neal, Blaine Larsen and Jeff Bates at all on radio. But then I remembered them after hearing their songs. Larsen’s “How Do You Get That Lonely” really stood out to me. You would never hear such a sad and depressing song like this on radio today. I wonder what happened to him? This was a great song and his voice was great too. I didn’t remember Terri Clark’s “The World Needs A Drink,” but now I want to listen to it more. It’s just a fun country song.

So what do you think of this chart? Do you want this to be a weekly feature on the site? Be sure to let me know in the comments! 

A Trip Back In Time: What Was Country Music Like in 2005? (Part Two)

 

(This is part two of my two-part look at country music in 2005. If you missed part one, you can read it by clicking here.)

So after getting those two embarrassing songs, “XXL” and “Redneck Yacht Club”, out of the way let’s take a look at my now current favorite song on this album, Ray Scott’s “My Kind of Music.” This song has the perfect blend of seriousness and humor. The story of the song is Scott has found his perfect woman, until he finds out she hates country hate and she calls it “hokey.” Scott becomes more frustrated with her lack of appreciation and knowledge throughout the song until the end where Scott finally has enough of her and tells her to kiss his ass. I wish this song came out today because as a single guy I’m always talking with girls who say they like “country” music and then proceed to list their favorite artists as Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Chase Rice. It makes me cringe. I then cringe even more when I explain to them who my favorite country artists are (Waylon, Alan Jackson, George Jones, etc) and they have no clue who I am talking about. Or worse she says they’re old and boring. So I guess I can relate to this song quite well and I wish there was a song like this on the radio right now.

 

The next song on the album is Lonestar’s “You’re Like Coming Home.” This group of course is known for their hits such as “I’m Already There,” “My Front Porch Looking In” and “Mr. Mom.” If you listened to country music radio in the 2000s, you’ll remember them quite well as they were quite popular and received plenty of radio time. Yes these guys made pop country songs, but I actually enjoyed Lonestar. At least the songs had some heart and sounded country for the most part. “You’re Like Coming Home” peaked at #8 on the country charts and this was really one of their last hurrahs as they only had one top ten single after this. The reason I think they declined in popularity is because the band was climbing in age and Rascal Flatts pretty much came along and took their spot. I would take Lonestar over freaking Rascal Flatts every single time. If there’s going to be pop country on the radio, at least give me the good pop country.

This is followed by Blake Shelton and his cover of “Goodbye Time.” Older fans and country music historians will recognize that this song was originally recorded by Conway Twitty. Turns out this song was originally pitched to Reba McEntire, but she turned it down because she was going through a divorce at the time and the song felt pretty similar to what she was going through. Conway had good success with it, as it peaked at #7 on the country chart. Shelton was able to duplicate this success with his cover also, as it reached #10 on the country chart. Going back and listening to pre celebrity/bro country/egotistical douche Blake Shelton music is quite surreal. Shelton could have had a great country music career AND kept people’s respect, but he obviously chose a different route. There’s no dispute the man is talented and capable of producing great country songs and “Goodbye Time” is certainly proof. It’s also pretty ironic Shelton was one of the most country sounding artists on the radio. Oh how things change so drastically over such a short time…

 

Speaking of that the next song is Jason Aldean’s “Hicktown.” Although I feel Aldean isn’t as talented as Shelton, he too could have had a good country career that also earned people’s respect. The possibility of that of course is washed away, especially after “Burnin’ It Down.” Again it’s quite surreal to go back and listen to “Hicktown” just like I said with “Goodbye Time.” This is a decidedly country song that depicts small towns and southern culture in a way that isn’t offensively false. The year 2005 actually marked the debut of Aldean in country music as his self-titled album was his first album and “Hicktown” was his first ever single. It reached #10 on the country chart and was his introduction to the country music world. He would follow this up with “Why,” which reached #1, and “Amarillo Sky,” which reached #4. Both of these songs also decidedly country sounding and actually good in quality too. Where did it all go wrong with Aldean? I’d say he was going downhill with “She’s Country” and “Big Green Tractor.” In my opinion, he was officially gone with songs like “My Kinda Party” and “Dirt Road Anthem.” Shelton and Aldean infuriate me so much with their career choices.

Moving onto the next song, you might want to grab some tissues for this one. It’s Martina McBride’s “God’s Will,” a song about McBride meeting a little boy who was crippled named Will. It tells the heartbreaking story of McBride getting to know Will and how his tough life has taught her so much. The song reached #16 on the country chart and really it should have been so much higher. This song is fantastic and I can see why McBride did an album of R&B covers recently. Country music radio never appreciated her as much as they should have. Anyway you should listen to this song if you don’t remember it.

 

The next song is Andy Griggs’ “If Heaven,” a song that speculates on what heaven looks like. My apologies to Griggs and his fans, but I don’t remember him or this song at all. That’s a shame because after listening to this song it shows that Griggs is a talented artist and belongs more on the radio than most artists that are currently on it. This song reached #5 on the country chart and was his sixth top ten country hit. After this Griggs hasn’t had a song reach no higher than #52 on the country chart. According to this interview he gave in 2006, Griggs left major label RCA Nashville over creative differences. So pretty much another talented country artist leaving a Nashville label because they refused to make corporate country music that appeals to the label’s demographics. I hate you Nashville. By the way Griggs is still making music and you can find more about him here.

The final song on the album is Brooks & Dunn’s “It’s Getting Better All The Time.” This was one of many #1 hits for the iconic duo. They would go onto produce music together for five more years and split in 2010, as everyone I’m sure remembers. For decades they were the top duo in country music and for the most part made pretty good music. Now we’re stuck with Florida Georgia Line. I sometimes wonder how it would have played out if they had stuck together and the duos went head-to-head on the awards circuit. We’ll never know. From what I’ve gathered, Kix Brooks is pretty much a shill for mainstream country music now. This doesn’t surprise me as he’s trying to get into the career of becoming a DJ. Ronnie Dunn is still making music and if you follow him on social media, he has a big piece of news he plans on announcing soon. I’m speculating he’s been signed to NASH Icons. I know he’s made several posts on fighting the mainstream country music system and he made a candid post months ago about his latest album trying too much to appeal to radio. It looks unlikely we’ll see these two together again anytime soon.

 

So that concludes our look back to country music back in 2005. The landscape has certainly changed since then and not for the good either. All in all country music still sounded like country music in 2005 and that’s something I would love to get back to someday. For now we have our traditional country music in the independent and Texas scenes. Maybe the NASH Icons project can return us to greener days. Ten years after Totally Country Volume Five we’ll find out if this comes true.