The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [March 2008]

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This is the Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country  Airplay Chart 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 30 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[0], 4[-1], 3[-2], 2[-3], 1[-4], 0[-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past pulse 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 Country Airplay Chart from March 15th, 2008.

  1. Carrie Underwood – “All American Girl” +1 (Cliché, but the sound and vocals are good)
  2. Rodney Atkins – “Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)” 0
  3. Alan Jackson – “Small Town Southern Man” +4 (One of his best in my opinion)
  4. Kenny Chesney & George Strait – “Shiftwork” 0
  5. Chuck Wicks – “Stealing Cinderella” +1 (cheesy as all hell, but it’s played with enough sincerity to work for me)
  6. Trace Adkins – “You’re Gonna Miss This” +4
  7. Gary Allan – “Watching Airplanes” +2
  8. George Strait – “I Saw God Today” +4
  9. Chris Cagle – “What Kinda Gone” +2
  10. Jason Aldean – “Laughed Until We Cried” +3 (Yeah, a positive Aldean score. I’m as shocked as you all are)
  11. Brooks & Dunn – “God Must be Busy” +2
  12. James Otto – “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” 0 (Eh…)
  13. Taylor Swift – “Picture To Burn” +1
  14. Phil Vassar – “Love Is A Beautiful Thing” +1 (Cheesy as all hell, but at least it sort of incorporates a story)
  15. Bucky Covington – “It’s Good To Be Us” -1
  16. Lady Antebellum – “Love Don’t Live Here” +3
  17. Kellie Pickler – “Things That Never Cross A Man’s Mind” +1
  18. Joe Nichols – “It Ain’t No Crime” +1
  19. Jewel – “Stronger Woman” -1 [Worst Song] (Man, never heard a song by here before. Don’t care for her voice at all. Plus the song is too preachy for me. Sorry)
  20. Jake Owen – “Somethin’ Bout A Woman” 0
  21. Dierks Bentley – “Trying To Stop Your Leaving” +3
  22. Josh Turner & Trisha Yearwood – “Another Try” +4 [Best Song]
  23. Garth Brooks & Huey Lewis – “Workin’ For A Livin'” +2 (Yes, I’ve heard this Garth song)
  24. Ashton Shepherd – “Takin’ Off This Pain” +2
  25. Jack Ingram – “Maybe She’ll Get Lonely” 0
  26. Rascal Flatts – “Every Day” -1
  27. Brad Paisley – “I’m Still A Guy” +2
  28. Montgomery Gentry – “Back When I Knew It All” +3
  29. Josh Gracin – “We Weren’t Crazy” +2 (Yes, people on country radio used to sing from the perspective of ONCE being young instead of pretending they’re still young…)
  30. The Eagles – “Busy Being Fabulous” 0

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +45

So yeah this kind of a weird week. On one hand, there’s a plethora of great songs. Even compared to some charts in the 90’s I’d say there’s more good songs here. In other words, quantity versus quality. In fact, picking the best song was absolutely brutal.

The problem is that there’s also a lot of mediocrity here. Nothing inherently terrible or anything, but there are too many songs that play it safe here and don’t really stand out that much. Still this is a damn good week. I’m happy with the results.

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!

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [June 2007]

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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 [0], 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. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from June 30th, 2007. In honor of my request backlog from a couple of weeks ago, this week’s chart goes out to Raymond. Thanks for reading Raymond!

  1. Brad Paisley – “Ticks” -1 (I’m sorry, for as humorous as Brad can be this just did nothing for me)
  2. Tracy Lawrence feat. Tim McGraw & Kenny Chesney – “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” +3
  3. Montgomery Gentry – “Lucky Man” +2
  4. George Strait – “Wrapped” +3 (Holy fiddle and steel Batman!)
  5. Emerson Drive – “Moments” +4
  6. Big & Rich – “Lost In This Moment” 0
  7. Billy Currington – “Good Directions” +3
  8. Keith Urban – “I Told You So” -2 [Worst Song] (The narrator’s arrogance just does nothing for me. I like the sound but that’s it)
  9. Alan Jackson – “A Woman’s Love” +1 (I like the bluesy feel. Just wish the theme was a little less conventional)
  10. Jake Owen – “Startin’ With Me” +4
  11. Jason Aldean – “Johnny Cash” +1 (Guilty pleasure…..sue me)
  12. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops On My Guitar” +2
  13. Kenny Chesney – “Never Wanted Nothing More” +2
  14. Tim McGraw & Faith Hill – “I Need You” +3 (So you guys both have an Uncle Joe in Oklahoma who needs rain huh? Kidding aside, this is solid)
  15. Rodney Atkins – “These Are My People” +2 (Yes, this is cliché as hell, but Rodney’s sincere delivery works for me. Plus that opening fiddle is just heavenly)
  16. Bucky Covington – “A Different World” +1 (Was he even old enough to know about all the things he’s singing about here? Regardless, at least it has a good sound)
  17. Craig Morgan – “Tough” +3
  18. Kellie Pickler – “I Wonder” +4 [Best Song]
  19. Eric Church – “Guys Like Me” +1
  20. Toby Keith – “High Maintenance Woman” +2 (I know this is a pretty well-known hated Toby song, but I think that the song isn’t meant to be taken that seriously. On that note, combined with the pretty good guitar work it passes for me)
  21. Reba & Kelly Clarkson – “Because Of You” +2
  22. Little Big Town – “A Little More You” +2
  23. Martina McBride – “How I Feel” -1
  24. Luke Bryan – “All My Friends Say” +3
  25. Sugarland – “Everyday America” 0 (Ugh, those Pop beats were unfortunately ahead of their time in country music. That of course means they were only slightly behind what pop was doing…)
  26. Jason Michael Carroll – “Livin’ Our Love Song” +1
  27. Cole Deggs and the Lonesome – “I Got More” +1 (Well, we had a guy whose name says “Cold eggs” and in the modern-day we have Colden Rainy Swindell. Go figure)
  28. Trace Adkins – “I Wanna Feel Something” +2
  29. Tim McGraw – “If You’re Reading This” +4 (Three times where McGraw is on the chart. It’s exactly like 2016! Not complaining though)
  30. Brooks & Dunn – “Proud Of The House We Built” +2 (Yes, it’s cheesy and corny as all hell. And yes, this is another song where I’m making excuses for why it works for me)

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +54

Well it would appear to be another good chart this week! In all honesty I was probably a little more forgiving of some of these songs than I should have been, but even before I became a hardcore country fan in 2010 I always had memories of some of these songs playing on my grandparent’s radio. Nostalgia admittedly gets in the way of some of these songs for me, but hey none of us are free from bias. I went with Kellie Pickler’s “I Wonder” for the best song honor since it came from a personal place and is excellent to boot. It was hard to pull off getting a song like that to be a single in 2007 and it’s pretty much impossible to do in 2016.

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!

Review – Kellie Pickler’s “Feeling Tonight”

Former American Idol contestant and Dancing With The Stars winner, Kellie Pickler, hasn’t found as much consistent success with country radio as she may like. Her 2012 album, 100 Proof, was praised by critics for her traditional styling and personal lyrics. However, the album was practically ignored by her label who did very little to help her make it a hit. Her follow-up, The Woman I Am, added a little more edge to her country music, but still resulted in lackluster charting singles. In fact, Kellie Pickler hasn’t had a single chart higher than 30 since the turn of the decade. Now Kellie is back with a new single trying to get the eyes and ears of country radio gazing back her way. And what better way to attract country radio listeners than by releasing a song that’s borderline pop! That’s what we have with “Feelin’ Tonight.”

Sure, right off the bat you’ll hear a quick banjo lick that kicks off the production, but that’s quickly abandoned for a heavy electric guitar and some sort of guitar tone/siren behind it. Heavy drums climb in to create a sound tailor-made for the song to thrive in arena settings. The overproduction even exists on Kellie Pickler’s vocals. Pickler’s North Carolina country twang gives her one of the most distinctive voices in country music, yet that twang feels rather subdued on this track. It sounds like there may even be a bit of auto-tune on her vocals as well.

The lyrics don’t help the song much, either. “Feelin’ Tonight” finds Kellie Pickler asking her man, if he’s still awake, to pick her up and take a drive “past the city glow.” There, they can be romantic in the country air. The lyrics paint the same damn picture we hear all the time in country music. The repetition in the lyrics is obnoxious, too. Just read the chorus:

Hey are you feelin’
Just what I’m feelin’?
Cause’ I’m up for feelin’ any kinda feelin’
You feel like feelin’ tonight.

I can’t even put into words how dumb I think that chorus is. Honestly, with the “ooo ooo ooo’s” and bubblegum pop production, I keep picturing some Disney actress releasing this song as an anthem to go along with her big movie, like what Hillary Duff did with The Lizzie McGuire Movie. Josh’s Disney comments in his Hunter Hayes review can be put right in on this song too.

Kellie Pickler is capable of much better music. Take a look at songs like “Someone Somewhere Tonight” or “I Wonder” to know where I believe to be the bar for Kellie Pickler’s music. “Feelin’ Tonight” falls way short of that bar. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but when you have three albums of good pop country blends and a damn good honky-tonk album under your belt, then that’s the standard by which your music gets judged. Kellie Pickler is one of my favorite female country singers, but “Feelin’ Tonight” is a giant swing and miss.

Grade: 2/10

The Hodgepodge: Salad Gate Needs To Be About More Than Female Artists on Country Radio

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Miranda Lambert and other female country artists deserve to be on country radio. But not all female artists.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week, the country music industry has been abuzz over comments country radio consultant Keith Hill made in the weekly Country Aircheck. Here are those comments again to refresh your memory:

Many people, including myself, are rightfully in an uproar over these comments. Then again I wasn’t that surprised. As you regular readers know, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay chart every week and observe the shenanigans taking place. There aren’t too many female country artists populating the chart right now. It’s been a sausage fest for the last few years. Many country artists, male and female, have also spoke out against Hill’s comments. Miranda Lambert had a pretty straightforward response:

And there were several more tweets expressing distaste in Hill’s comments. Of course Hill doesn’t know better to shut his mouth and went on to make a bigger ass of himself in articles on CMT and The Tennesseean. Not even bro country artists have been dumb enough to say something stupid (yet). But the flames continued to build bigger over the weekend when country radio personality Carson Johnson not only backed Hill up on his comments, but made even dumber comments himself:

Now you probably expect me to tear into these comments, but there’s been more than enough of these articles. Many great articles that do a better job than I could, have already been published and are well worth your time reading. Windmills Country has a great, data-driven post on MJ’s Big Blog. Trigger at Saving Country Music has weighed in with his always intriguing thoughts and ForTheCountryRecord.com has several posts giving analysis on the situation too. So I’ve been sitting and observing all of this stuff happening. No doubt I’m thrilled that this issue is finally being given the attention it deserves, as this problem has been persistent in country music for years. I’m a big champion of female country artists and we feature several talented artists right here on the site. But I see a problem with this movement.

People are not looking at the whole picture. This is bigger than not enough female country artists being played. This is about not enough quality country artists being played. This needs to be about all quality artists being left out, not just all female country artists. Why? Not all female country artists deserve to get airplay and quite frankly some people getting involved with this movement don’t need to be involved. For example, Maggie Rose getting involved:

Really? You’re the same artist that recorded “Girl In A Truck Song” in 2014. It was one of the worst songs of the year. It completely pandered to bro country and in my opinion tarnished Rose’s image. So in one year’s time Rose went from bro country supporter to female empowerment? I’m supposed to get behind an artist that was just pandering to radio? This is called bullshit trend riding and seems to be the only thing Rose is willing to do in her career. Speaking of bullshit…

https://twitter.com/mrBobbyBones/status/604378638037970944

Go away, Bobby Bones. I don’t want you involved in this at all. You’re part of the establishment poisoning country radio right now and really you don’t belong in country music period. Take your pandering and shove it up your ass. Kelsea Ballerini doesn’t belong on country radio either. She’s a pop artist. Her music is not high enough in quality to play on country radio. See why I have issues with this movement? People equate female country music to quality, just like the idiots who run country radio equating chart success to quality. Neither are the case.

More female country artists deserved to get played on radio. But so do underplayed male artists who make quality music. Eric Paslay and Jon Pardi put out some of the best albums in mainstream country music in 2014. They barely get any radio play. Pardi’s new EP is wonderful and yet there isn’t a single from it in the top 60 on the airplay chart. Mo Pitney is one the most promising upcoming artists in mainstream country music and where’s his airplay? Multiple Texas country artists such as Aaron Watson, Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers should be on mainstream country radio. Sturgill Simpson had a huge year in 2014 and didn’t even sniff country radio, despite the fact that he outsold several mainstream artists in album sales. He achieved a top ten album without any airplay or major label push. Yet I have to hear that untalented hack Cole Swindell on the radio?

Country music’s biggest problems are what I’ve been saying all year: there aren’t any gatekeepers to vet the quality of the music or even if it’s country at all, the payola going on behind the scenes (specifically On The Verge), and dirty politics. This is what is holding back not just female country artists, but all quality country artists. Luke Bryan no doubt has a huge fan base, but he wouldn’t be near the star he is without the pushes he has gotten from his label and radio. This goes back years and I hope to talk about a little unknown story from before he became a big star in a future Hodgepodge. It’s really interesting. All of the bro country artists (Swindell, Chase Rice, Thomas Rhett, Michael Ray) wouldn’t be nothing without the support of radio and their labels. In a world with justice they remain obscure and never become the stars they are right now. Country radio executives wanted mimbos with hunky looks who were willing to do whatever it took to get to the top and willing to perform brainless, watered-down music filled with cliché hooks. They didn’t have standards and were looking for dollar signs.

If Kacey Musgraves got the same kind of push Cole Swindell has gotten, she would have #1 hits on radio. But she doesn’t conform to what the sexist, clueless pigs at country radio and country labels want out of an artist. You can say the same thing about Mo Pitney. So you shouldn’t be campaigning for more female country artists. You should be campaigning for more quality male and female country artists on the radio. You should be demanding the crap currently populating radio being taken away. However demanding things won’t get you your desired result. You want to make an impact? Boycott country music radio indefinitely. Don’t listen at all. Tell everyone you know not to listen to country radio. Hit them where it hurts and that’s in their bottom line. Listen to your own music library or your CDs. Listen to radio stations that play quality country music. It’s the best way to make a difference. In the summer of 2015 I’m declaring war on mainstream country radio and I hope you join me in doing the same.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • A Thousand Horses will released their major label debut album Southernality next Tuesday. Their lead single “Smoke” has had a lot of success on the airplay charts and will reach #1. It’s also got a lot of hits right here on the site. We’ll definitely be reviewing that one.
  • Montgomery Gentry’s new album Folks Like Us will also come out next Tuesday. It was originally supposed to come out in the early spring, but it was pushed back until now. I’m really not sure what to expect with this album, as their music has been a mixed bag in the last five years or so. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to review it.
  • Chris Hennessee, signed to Jamey Johnson’s Big Gassed Records, will release an album next week titled Greetings From Hennessee. I listened to the lead single from it and I thought it was pretty good. Johnson has an eye on for talent, so I’m definitely giving this one a listen.
  • Hunter Hayes just recently came out with his new single, “21.” There will be a review on this one soon.
  • Kip Moore announced on Twitter last week that his new album will finally be released on August 21. It will be called Wild Ones. So you only have to wait a little longer for an album, Kip fans.
  • Kellie Pickler just released a new song titled “Feeling Tonight.” It was originally released exclusively to Spotify, but is now available in most music outlets. I’m sure we’ll get around to reviewing it.
  • Brett Eldredge will release his new album on Friday, September 11 and it will be called Illinois.

Throwback Thursday Song

The Dixie Chicks – “Not Ready To Make Nice” – Yeah this fits this Hodgepodge perfectly. Country music needs The Dixie Chicks back. Save us Dixie Chicks! I would love to hear what they think of Keith Hill.

Non-Country Song of the Week

Guns N’ Roses – “Welcome To The Jungle” – One of my favorite rocks songs from one of my all-time favorite albums, Appetite For Destruction.

Tweet of the Week

So many choices this week, but I’ll go with Twitter king Jason Isbell’s comments on Hill.

iTunes Reviews That Rock!

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This week’s reviews are for Jake Owen’s new song “Real Life.” Thank you to reader Ben for sending this one in! Looks like Owen’s own fans felt the same way you and myself also felt about the song. Remember Jake if you’re going to copy 90s music, copy 90s country radio, not 90s pop radio.

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments! 

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [March 2010]

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 13, 2010.

  1. Josh Turner – “Why Don’t We Just Dance” +1
  2. Billy Currington – “That’s How Country Boys Roll” -1
  3. Darius Rucker – “History In The Making” 0
  4. Blake Shelton & Trace Adkins – “Hillbilly Bone” -1
  5. Brad Paisley – “American Saturday Night” 0
  6. Easton Corbin – “A Little More Country Than That” +1
  7. Carrie Underwood – “Temporary Home” +1
  8. Keith Urban – “‘Til Summer Comes Around” 0
  9. Zac Brown Band – “Highway 20 Ride” +1
  10. Lady Antebellum – “American Honey” 0
  11. Kenny Chesney – “Ain’t Back Yet” -1
  12. Taylor Swift – “Fearless” -1
  13. Rascal Flatts – “Unstoppable” -1
  14. Kellie Pickler – “Didn’t Know How Much I Loved You” +1
  15. Steel Magnolia – “Keep On Lovin’ You” 0
  16. Justin Moore – “Backwoods” -1
  17. Eric Church – “Hell On The Heart” +1
  18. Joe Nichols – “Gimme That Girl” 0
  19. Alan Jackson – “It’s Just That Way” +1
  20. Chris Young – “The Man I Want To Be” 0
  21. George Strait – “I Gotta Get To You” +1
  22. Tim McGraw – “Still” +1
  23. Martina McBride – “Wrong Baby Wrong” +1
  24. Clay Walker – “She Won’t Be Lonely Long” +1
  25. The Band Perry – “Hip To My Heart” -1
  26. Reba – “I Keep On Lovin’ You” 0
  27. Love and Theft – “Dancing In Circles” +1
  28. Luke Bryan – “Rain Is A Good Thing” -1
  29. Lee Brice – “Love Like Crazy” 0
  30. Gretchen Wilson – “Work Hard, Play Harder” 0

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: +4

As we continue to look further towards the present, the pulse continues to drop. Two weeks ago we looked the chart in 2005 and it was +22. Last week we looked at the chart in 2007 and it was at +10. This week we look at the chart in 2010 and it’s down to +4. Clearly the quality drops the closer we get to present day and the pre-cursors to the problems currently plaguing the genre are rearing their ugly heads. At the top of this chart is a good song, Josh Turner’s “Why Don’t We Just Dance.” Turner to this day continues to produce solid country music that appeals to the roots of the genre and country radio. We need more artists like Turner. Right behind that though is a problematic song in Billy Currington’s “That’s How Country Boys Roll.” This song being a success is what helped lead to a lot of country songs about how country they are. Then you have the ridiculous “Hillbilly Bone,” which was pretty much Trace Adkins last hurrah as he’s faded into obscurity since this hit. Also another song comparing country boys to city boys.

Easton Corbin just broke out with “A Little More Country Than That” and really got me excited about his potential at the time. Unfortunately he’s declined in quality ever since. What a shame. Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home” was a nice return to her early beginnings after releasing mediocre pop country singles “Cowboy Casanova” and “Undo It.” Zac Brown Band’s “Highway 20 Ride” is one of the group’s most sentimental songs in their library. Kenny Chesney had run out of ideas at about this time in 2010 and really he’s still out of new ideas for songs. Same could be said for Rascal Flatts. Taylor Swift was in the midst of her big rise to becoming a superstar. Kellie Pickler was still on radio and I wish I had appreciated it more. Steel Magnolia doesn’t even exist anymore and one half of the duo is now “trying out” on The Voice.

Justin Moore’s “Backwoods” was terrible then and still terrible now. This song and really his music helped usher in bro-country. I need to pick a week when “Bait A Hook” is charting so I can rant about it. Eric Church wasn’t an egomaniac making pop rock yet. Joe Nichols was slowly starting to fall to the dark side. Sure “Gimme That Girl” isn’t terrible, but giving it a pass is what led to him making “Yeah” in my opinion. From 19-24 (other than Chris Young), torch bearers of country music from the 90s and 2000s were slowly fading in radio play. Love and Theft was still a trio and this single was actually not that bad. Luke Bryan’s “Rain Is A Good Thing” was his first big hit and it annoyed the absolute shit out of me. Radio played this one to death, at least in my area. This just made me hate rain even more.

So what do you think of this chart? What’s your favorite and least favorite of the above songs?