This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each 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. 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 past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 , 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].
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. Admittedly my week was pretty hectic, therefore I’m taking a break from my review backlog this week. It will resume next week, but for now I picked 2013 since I already knew my thoughts on all thirty songs. This week’s chart will be from May 11th, 2013.
Thompson Square – “If I Didn’t Have You” +1
Florida Georgia Line – “Get Your Shine On” -3 (Admittedly this song REALLY annoys me, but it’s more of a personal thing. Therefore I decided to be fair.)
Miranda Lambert – “Mama’s Broken Heart” 0
Lady Antebellum – “Downtown” 0
Kenny Chesney – “Pirate Flag” -3
Darius Rucker – “Wagon Wheel” +1 (I don’t think the song is all that special but eh…it was the most country thing to hit the top in quite a while so whatever)
Tim McGraw & Taylor Swift & Keith Urban – “Highway Don’t Care” -2
The Band Perry – “DONE” -1 (And now they really are!)
Jason Aldean – “1994” -5[Worst Song…..oh shit I already handed this out? Ugh….]
Jake Owen – “Anywhere With You” 0
Zac Brown Band – “Jump Right In” +1
Luke Bryan – “Crash My Party” -1
Gloriana – “Can’t Shake You” +2
The Henningsens – “American Beautiful” 0
Kip Moore – “Hey Pretty Girl” +2
Easton Corbin – “All Over The Road” -1
Hunter Hayes – “I Want Crazy” -2
Carrie Underwood – “See You Again” +1
Gary Allan – “Pieces” +1
Brett Eldredge – “Don’t Ya” -1 (Almost a 0 but that opening line is just way too cringe worthy)
Kelly Clarkson & Vince Gill – “Don’t Rush” +1
Justin Moore – “Point At You” -1
Billy Currington – “Hey Girl” -3
Randy Houser – “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” -2
The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: -14
So yeah this week was definitely a bust. From the looks at the bottom half of the chart, it looks like we were just about to be inundated with bro-country. Elsewhere, Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton run away with the “honor” of having two of the absolute worst songs to ever descend upon the country genre. Even looking beyond that there’s just not a whole lot here. The best song for me is Brad Paisley’s experimental “Beat This Summer” but only that is great as opposed to outright excellent. Honestly there’s just a whole lot of mediocrity here.
As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!
Finally! The infographics have returned! For those that are new to the site, one of the most enjoyable features I did last year was using infographics to break down the composition of the music or the charts. In the past I looked at Dallas Davidson songs and Luke Bryan songs. For today’s infographic I decided to take a look at the music catalog of Florida Georgia Line. I’ve been wanting to do this one for a while now and I finally had time to do it. So without further ado let’s take a look at the interesting data I scooped up on Florida Georgia Line’s songs…
If you’re wondering, no I did not sit down and listen to every Florida Georgia Line song. I like my ears.
To see the lyrics for all of Florida Georgia Line’s songs, click here. They’re even funnier reading them out loud.
Bonus stat that didn’t make the infographic: 12 different artists are name-dropped in their songs. Those artists are Marshall Tucker, Hank Williams (multiple times), Lynyrd Skynyrd, David Lee Roth, Drake, Alabama (multiple times), George Strait, Merle Haggard, Mick Jagger, Bob Marley, Shania Twain and Florida Georgia Line. Yes, they name-drop themselves in a song.
Each album features one song each that doesn’t contain the term “girl,” “baby” or a similar term. So they’re consistent in this regard.
I thought about listing every type of alcohol reference and alcohol brand, but there was no way it was going to fit onto the infographic. Based on memory, Bacardi seemed to be the go-to reference along with fireball.
You have no idea how much amusement I got out of reading such terrible lyrics together. I can’t fathom how grown adults can sit in a room and concoct such brain-dead lyrics.
If you have anymore questions on what data I found or how I got it, ask away in the comments below!
Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases
Toby Keith will be releasing his new album 35 MPH Town next Tuesday. I really don’t expect much from it.
Laura Bell Bundy just released a new album this week titled Another Piece of Me. I honestly had no idea she was still making music.
Sammy Kershaw just released a new album too and it’s called I Won’t Back Down. I will definitely be listening to and reviewing this one.
Clare Dunn is releasing a new single titled “Move On.”
There were several releases from Texas and independent acts in this past week, including: Dale Watson, Sam Outlaw, Uncle Lucius, Courtney Patton and more. See what I mean when I say there’s a lot of releases happening right now? Hopefully we’ll be able review all of these.
Also with the majority of these quality releases in the past week, Billy Currington’sSummer Forever and Gloriana’sThree albums will most likely not be reviewed. When it comes to reviews, Derek and myself always give preference to the better albums and these two are at the very bottom of our review list right now. We both found that each album, for the lack of a better word, sucked and really there wasn’t a single quality song on them. There’s no point in wasting time on bad albums, especially when they aren’t even big enough for hits. Sorry, but there’s just better music we would rather spend our time on.
Throwback Thursday Song
Jason Isbell – “Cover Me Up” – Of course I chose this song this week. I’ve been listening to Isbell a lot in the last week. Can his new album get here yet?
Non-Country Song of the Week
Weird Al Yankovic – “Word Crimes” – This was one of my favorite songs from 2014. Weird Al brilliantly combined the catchy beat from that terrible song “Blurred Lines” with a grammar lesson that many people need. Brilliant! I bet Florida Georgia Line could learn something from this song.
Tweet of the Week
#countryradiosalad Sturgill Simpson is the lasagna. So good but we don't put it in salad for some reason.
This week’s reviews are for Thomas Rhett’s “Crash and Burn.” It warms my heart to see other people skewer terrible music like this. The last review even comes from a fan of Rhett.
Note for Next Week: There will not be a Hodgepodge, as it will take the week off. All next week we’ll be giving our mid-year assessment of country music, looking at the best and worst throughout the genre so far in 2015.
That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments!
Each week I 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 either a +1, -1 or a 0. 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 +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 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 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…
Tyler Farr’s “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” went recurrent and fell from #9 to out of the top 30.
Keith Urban and Eric Church’s “Raise ‘Em Up” went recurrent and fell from #11 to out of the top 30.
Gloriana’s “Trouble” fell from #26 to out of the top 30.
The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -14
The pulse continues to plunge! The pulse drops to -14 this week, down from -10 last week. I’m pretty sure this four point drop is the largest ever in the history of the Pulse. The cause of this was three songs dropping out of the top 30 this week. First was Tyler Farr’s “A Guy Walks Into A Bar,” which was easily the best single Farr has ever put out. It had a good run at the top and was expected to fall out, especially since Farr is pushing his new single “Withdrawals” (spoiler alert: I don’t like it). Keith Urban and Eric Church’s “Raise ‘Em Up” was the second song to fall out and like Farr’s aforementioned single, it had a run at #1 and is now gracefully bowing out. The final song to fall out of the top 30 was Gloriana’s “Trouble,” which never escaped the twenties and really never had a shot of moving up. It was a decent song that was better than most songs on the chart (not saying much now).
The three new songs to join the top 30 are all atrocious in their own special way. First is the return of Sam Hunt and his new single “House Party.” I think you pretty much know by now how his music sounds. It will inevitably reach #1 and Hank turns over in his grave one more time. Jake Owen’s new Sugar Ray ripoff single “Real Life” gets a hot-shot debut at #29. It was the most added song at radio this week and also had the most increased audience. What was that about making better music, Jake? Oh yeah, you completely forgot. The last new song is Chase Rice’s “Gonna Wanna Tonight.” Just what we needed: Chase Rice returning to the top 30. It was so nice that he avoided the top 30 for the last several months. I’m starting to think country radio is playing a cruel, sick joke on everyone.
The new #1 on this week’s chart is A Thousand Horses’ “Smoke.” Not a big surprise, as I called this last week. It replaces Billy Currington’s “Don’t It,” a completely forgettable and bad song. “Smoke” may get a two-week run at the top, but no more as Florida Georgia Line’s “Sippin’ On Fire” is guaranteed to get a #1 spot because country radio is always making sure they’re kissing Florida Georgia Line’s feet. Once these two songs get their #1 achievement, “Wild Child” should be #1. After that is an endless parade of bad songs taking their turn at #1. What? You think “Little Toy Guns,” “Love Me Like You Mean It,” “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” and “Girl Crush” are going to reach #1? Don’t be silly. They’re either too female or too country to reach that spot. Remember to reach #1 you must have a penis, sing terrible music, can’t sound country and have to have many stupid clichés in your songs. This is based on Keith Hill logic.
The biggest gainers this week were Sam Hunt’s “House Party,” which moved up six spots from #4 to #28, Dustin Lynch’s “Hell of a Night” moved up five spots to #19 and Thomas Rhett’s “Crash and Burn” moved up five spots to #20. Just like clockwork, more shit rises to the top. The biggest losers this week were all three songs that fell out of the top 30. As for songs I see leaving the top 30 soon, Billy Currington’s “Don’t It” will probably get another week on the chart before going recurrent. Luke Bryan’s “Games” will fall off the chart next week, as his new single will now be getting all of the attention. Other than that, I don’t see a huge shakeup like this for a while.
Two of the four songs I predicted would make the top 30 soon last week made it this week. As for this week, the songs outside the top 30 I expect to see in the top 30 soon are Reba’s “Going Out Like That,” Cole Swindell’s “Let Me See Ya Girl,” Old Dominion’s “Break Up With Him” and Hunter Hayes’ “21.” I think Reba caught what Rascal Flatts had when they were frozen at #31 with “Riot.” One of these weeks she’ll break through. “Let Me See Ya Girl” kind of got off to a slow start, but it’s picking up steam now and will join the rest of the trash in the top 30 before you know it. Old Dominion’s “Break Up With Him” has slowly been rising and I haven’t heard this song yet. I just know they have the dumbest album cover of the year. Hunter Hayes’ “21” had a big drop this week, but that was expected after a hot debut. It hasn’t even went for adds yet, so it’ll rebound quickly I’m sure. His brand of pop music is exactly what country radio wants. I’m really not sure what to say anymore about country radio. I’ve run out of things to describe its awfulness. So I’ll use this gif to sum up my thoughts:
As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s chart in the comments below.
When it comes to the corporate country blog Taste of Country, I like to generally ignore it because I have no respect for the blog, as I outlined in this piece months ago. They bring zero journalistic integrity to the table and are a glorified public relations arm for artists and labels. Today I want to talk about a piece they actually seemed to put some time into and offered some sort of opinion. Shocking, right? They actually took a break from kissing major labels’ asses and writing fluff pieces to offer an opinion from an actual person. The topic of the piece? Do Record Reviews Matter in the Age of Social Media?
First off this is pretty damn ironic coming from Taste of Country, considering the fact that they don’t review music. As I said they are a PR machine and don’t offer opinions and analysis on music. Every song is a unique little snowflake and every artist is a creative ball of sunshine and rainbows. Nothing is bad and everything is good. You get the picture. So to the piece itself now. They begin the article asking the question above of record reviews mattering in this day and age. They then cite an NPR article from 2013 in which indie band Arcade Fire talks about receiving negative reviews for their Reflektor album, yet it was still a major chart hit. The NPR piece and band basically brush off negative reviews and say it really has no bearing on the fans. Taste of Country then writes the following:
There are plenty of examples of this in country music; in fact, the disparity between artists who are seeing the biggest commercial success in the genre and those who are the most critically applauded has arguably never been greater. Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, Sturgill Simpson and more of country’s most respected singer-songwriters have received glowing reviews, while generally finding little-to-no support from country radio, with only Musgraves scoring a Top 10 single there. Meanwhile, some of the biggest superstars in the genre routinely score commercial hits with songs that either receive lukewarm or outright negative reviews.
Hey, this is correct. But you want to know something about those radio stations that aren’t playing Musgraves, Clark and Simpson, Taste of Country? The same labels pulling the strings behind radio are the same pulling the strings behind your site. You are essentially why they’re “held back” and not on radio. The labels are pushing the trash to radio and not the genuinely good music, but you conveniently ignore these simple facts. But wait this article continues to get more ridiculous! Taste of Country goes on to cite Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night” as an example. They quote the reviews from Country Weekly and Country Universe bashing the song (those mean blogs!), along with Zac Brown’s quote that he thought it was the worst song he has ever heard. After that they write about how Bryan still accomplished a bunch of accolades with that song and his 2013 album Crash My Party. Then this gem of a line:
With that being the case, it’s not hard to see why many people feel professional reviewers are simply talking to themselves and their peers at this point, rather than influencing the tastes and decision-making of the fans.
Are you kidding me? Where the hell do I begin with this? I’ll start with the easy point: reviewers without a doubt are influencing fans. I know because you guys have told Derek and myself that you’ve found great new music thanks to us. Go to Saving Country Music and there are fans constantly telling Trigger that they’ve found music thanks to his reviews. I’ve seen this with my own eyes. But Taste of Country can’t say this because they don’t write reviews, so how do they know? They have no idea what they’re saying.
The second big crux that this Taste of Country article is insinuating is that because Bryan’s Crash My Party was a huge success chart wise and sales wise, it’s great. I’ve said this point a hundred times, right here on this site and I guess I am going to have to say it once again. Chart success, radio success and sales success doesn’t mean the music is of high quality. I’ll use the cheeseburger example to further illustrate this. McDonald’s sells billions of cheeseburgers a year. They’re one of the wealthiest companies in the world and are statistically a success. Now tell me this: Does McDonald’s make the best cheeseburger? I’ll venture to say most of you would say no. It’s not the best cheeseburger. Maybe you think your mother makes the best cheeseburger. Maybe you know a little hole in the wall that makes the best cheeseburgers ever. I know one of my favorite places to get a cheeseburger is Five Guys. They don’t sell near the burgers a year that McDonald’s does. But they sell the most! That says nothing about the taste and quality of the product. It says they have the greatest access to the public at large and are simply more present than Five Guys. A personal example: There are a total of 10 McDonald’s within a 40 minute drive of where I live. There is only one Five Guys within that area.
Taste of food is subjective, just like music. Music is a highly subjective art form. It is not black and white, only gray. The quality of music can’t be measured with numbers and metrics. Music is something that you need to hear for yourself. It’s a human interaction that engages your mind, body, heart and spirit. A robot can’t listen to a song and tell you how it feels, but a person certainly can. While iTunes, Spotify and YouTube can certainly give you suggestions, it simply isn’t the same as getting suggestions from a real, live person. When you call tech support when dealing with a faulty product, would you rather be greeted by automated messages or a real person? I know I would choose the latter every single time. People want to replace everything with a machine in today’s world, but some things just can’t be replaced with a machine. Only a person can do a certain job and a reviewer is certainly a job for a real, live human.
The rest of the article is really nothing special. The majority of it is getting the perspective of publicist Claire Cook, who does promotional work for Average Joes Entertainment (the label that is home to hick-hop acts like Colt Ford and The Lacs). Her comments are pretty neutral on the subject, although she does mention how she views reviews as a promotion vehicle for artists and that good reviews can help. Taste of Country tacks on after this:
It’s getting harder and harder for individual acts to get positive reviews from respected sources, in part because there are more acts competing for exposure than ever, and in part because so many outlets simply don’t publish in-depth reviews anymore.
If this is insinuating why Average Joes’ artists don’t get good reviews, I got news for Taste of Country and that label: they don’t get good reviews because their music sucks. I have been pitched numerous times by Average Joes and I refuse every time because hick-hop is horrible and not a valid art form. I don’t consider it a part of country music. It would be a waste of time to review it because it all sounds the same and has no respect for the roots of country music. There are many others that feel the same way. And the problem of outlets not publishing in-depth reviews anymore? That’s on you Taste of Country and the other blogs you cite that have dropped reviews from their sites. Rolling Stone is part of the problem too, as I don’t consider a paragraph a review. LA Weekly dropped them because they said they didn’t get a lot of hits on reviews. Maybe that’s a sign that people don’t like your reviews? I don’t know because I don’t read them, but I certainly have no problem getting hits for my reviews and I think our reviews are pretty in-depth compared to most other blogs’ reviews.
I’ve blubbered on enough about Taste of Country for one day, so to my final point: reviews definitely still matter. If they didn’t I wouldn’t have started this site. Multiple independent country blogs wouldn’t still be doing reviews either. People still read and appreciate hearing thoughts from reviewers. Not only that, but it brings fans together in comments sections in reviews everywhere. Do you see people coming together on iTunes comments or Taste of Country comments section on music reviews? No you do not because they’re lifeless reviews that in no way are constructive or helpful to people reading them. You tried really hard to bring an opinion to the table, Taste of Country, and unfortunately for you it was completely off base. Now run along and go back to praising Florida Georgia Line or ranking country artists with their shirts off (this is a real thing on their site). Let us music reviewers get back to doing the job you should be doing.
Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases
Billy Currington’s new album Summer Forever is coming out next Tuesday. Based on the track listing, I’m expecting a mixed bag. There will surely be some summer anthems and bro country, but I think there will be a few deeper songs too.
Gloriana is releasing their third album, Three, next week. You gotta think this is an important album for them, as their relevancy on the charts and radio has waned considerably in recent years. I’m really not sure what to expect with this one.
The new collaboration album between country icons Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard is also slated to be released on June 2. It’s titled Django & Jimmie, as the two pay homage to guitarist Django Reinhardt and country musician Jimmie Rodgers. You can get an early listen on it, as it’s currently available for streaming at NPR.
Lindi Ortega has released another song from her new album Faded Gloryville, slated to come out on August 7. It’s a cover of the Bee Gees’ song “To Love Somebody” and it’s fantastic. Can this album get here already?
Joy Williams, the former one half of The Civil Wars, is releasing a solo album on June 30 titled Venus.
Throwback Thursday Song
Dwight Yoakam – “Guitars, Cadillacs” – I heard this song come on the other day on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country station and it still sounds as good as when it came out. Who doesn’t enjoy a little hillbilly music from Dwight?
Non-Country Song of the Week
The Black Keys – “Gold On The Ceiling” – The Black Keys were on my long list of artists I’ve put off for far too long to give an in-depth listen to and I’m definitely a fan now. “Gold On The Ceiling” was one of the most successful singles off their brilliant 2011 album El Camino. I definitely recommend listening to this song and that entire album.
Tweet of the Week
The weirdest, saddest, most frustrating quote of 2015… "The tomatoes of our salad are the females." -Keith Hill pic.twitter.com/7LKY7k5nEe
So for those on Twitter, Tuesday night was pretty heated in the world of country music on the social media platform. Keith Hill, a radio programmer, said the quote above on the weekly Country Aircheck. Pretty damn ridiculous. This situation is now being termed #SaladGate. Not only do I recommend checking out Grady Smith’s timeline on all of this, but definitely recommend checking out Windmills Country’s timeline too. She took Hill to school on Tuesday night! Windmills is an absolute must-follow for all country music fans and people interested in the industry. Oh and female artists are noticing the quote too:
There are a lot of fed up people over the situation with female artists on country radio, but the female artists are by far the most fed up. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them steps up and calls out radio for its bullshit. They have nothing to lose because radio already hates them. When Carrie probably misses out on another airplay #1, I hope she has the guts to say something.
iTunes Reviews That Rock!
So I heard that Luke Bryan’s new single “Kick The Dust Up” was getting some backlash on iTunes and I went to look for myself. Holy crap, it’s true! These are the three top reviews under it and one of them is a Bryan fan who hates it. Please please please please please let this be the beginning of change in mainstream country music.
One More Thing…
No it’s not bad news this week! It’s great news. I’m going to be at the Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati next Friday and Saturday covering it. So if you’re at it be sure to say hi if you see me. The lineup is great and I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’ll have a post on the site recapping my experience and the artists performing.
That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments!