Album Review — Old Dominion’s ‘Old Dominion’

Four years ago Old Dominion released their debut album and to say they didn’t make a good first impression on Country Perspective is an understatement. But still even in hindsight I can say they deserved every bit of criticism they got. They seemed to take notice of the criticisms they received from reviewers too because their sophomore album Happy Endings was a noticeable enough of a step up in quality that I’ve quietly been anticipating this band’s third album. I’ve been hoping that the great glimpses of potential they demonstrated on that album would lead to a good third album. So do they accomplish this with their new self-titled album?

The album’s lead song and single “Make It Sweet” lives up to it’s name: it’s a pretty sweet sounding love song that’s both catchy and heartfelt. It may be a bit saccharine to some listeners, but for me it’s just right and it’s breezy, simple feel makes it an instantly likable song. “Smooth Sailing” is about seeking the more peaceful side of life and remaining upbeat in the face of negativity. Again the simple, singalong nature makes for another solid song. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s not a sentiment that needs overthinking.

“One Man Band” is a song about a lonely man seeking love. The lyrics are downtrodden, yet slightly hopeful and this feeling is conveyed perfectly in this song with the crisp and clean electric guitar lingering through the song and a surprisingly effective snap track that keeps the flow going. It’s one of the band’s best songs to date. Speaking of their best songs, you can add “Never Be Sorry” to that list too. This song instantly hooked me with it’s smooth and infectious sound (another one to add to the yacht country list). And it’s catchy due to it’s minimalist approach, showing you don’t need to go big to make a danceable song. Big props to producer Shane McAnally and the band for coming up with not just a great sounding song, but crafting lyrics that are just as hooky too.

The hot streak for this band continues with “My Heart is a Bar.” It’s another song with great lyrics, as it poignantly lays out the frustration and heartbreak of a man who’s always used as a rebound and the shoulder to cry on, but never the heart that is taken by someone else. What I love most about the lyrics are the way it balances the cynicism and sadness, which really allows anyone who has went through these emotions to be able to connect with it. Matthew Ramsey delivers a fantastic vocal performance here too, showing his growth as a frontman. Also the glimmery piano gives the song an appropriate “tear in my beer” feel.

“Midnight Mess Around” is a smooth and enjoyable sex jam that avoids the creepy pitfalls so many of these types of country songs fall into and has the right amount of playfulness and charisma to make it endearing to the listener. It’s even a bit soulful, which is something new from Old Dominion. “Do It With Me” is about a man pleading to a woman to love and be with him. So here’s a sentence I’ve never typed before: this song really utilizes it’s use of synths and a harp well. It’s weird, but it works! That’s the best way I could describe this track.

“Hear You Now” is your classic heartbreak regret song, where the man is eating crow for letting love slip through his hands. Once again the band displays quality songwriting chops with lyrics like “You used to wake me with a whisper but now the only voice is the pouring rain/And the echo of goodbye just rattles through my mind like a midnight train.” It’s understandable to debate the sound of this album being country at times, but you can’t dispute the country quality in lyrics like the ones above. “I’ll Roll” puts you in the mind of rolling down a desert road. At least the sound does, as it’s got that trippy desert feel thanks to a twangy telecaster. But I feel like the lyrics are lacking a bit and could do a better job of putting you in the mindset the song is going for, as they play it a bit safe.

“American Style” is easily the worst song on the album, with it’s cliché and lazy lyrics that are a dime-a-dozen in the pile of dime-a-dozen country songs about America and small towns. This is basically a smooth version of Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids.” It’s not egregiously bad, but these type of songs just bore me so quickly. “Paint the Grass Green” is about a man vowing to do whatever he has to do to keep the love strong in his relationship. On paper this song definitely seems too sweet and cliché, but then I listen and it surprisingly works. Just like “Make it Sweet,” this song has heart that shines through with it’s tone and presentation that wins you over.

The somber piano ballad “Some People Do” shows yet another side of Old Dominion to cap off the album, this time their most serious side. It’s about hoping and seeking forgiveness from someone you did wrong. Ramsey once again delivers a praise-worthy vocal performance, showing great vulnerability with his falsetto and conveying the appropriate amount of emotional depth needed to connect a serious piano ballad with the listener. If there’s one song I had to point to on this album to demonstrate how far this band has come, this would be the song.

With their self-titled album, Old Dominion officially sheds the bro country moniker that once plagued them. Old Dominion prove they now deserve to be taken seriously. This album shows incredible growth, depth and a nice balance of both serious and fun songs. The production is varied and shows this band is capable of delivering multiple styles. Most importantly this band has undeniably improved in all facets and dare I say positioning themselves as one of the best groups in mainstream country music. This album isn’t good, it’s great.

Grade: 8/10

Reacting to The Absolute Joke of the 2017 ACM Awards Nominations

pile_of_shit

Let’s be honest, I’ve never been that fond of country music award shows. Outside of the 2015 CMA Awards that helped launch Chris Stapleton to a brand new level of stardom, I’ve pretty much scoffed at these shows. As I’ve said before, no other genre spends more time patting themselves on the back than country music. This is evident by the heaps of award shows held throughout the year and this trains the viewer to basically not give a shit. But nevertheless we keep an eye on these shows in hopes they get it more right each time. Well we now have the nominations for the 2017 ACM Awards and there’s no other way to put it. These are an absolute joke. My first reaction was are these the mainstream country radio awards? Because it’s mostly a list of radio darlings that programmers fall over themselves to play. After seeing these nominations it makes me not want to watch and may not. Each category seems to have its own joke, so let’s pick through each.

Entertainer of the Year

  • Jason Aldean
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Keith Urban

No Eric Church or Chris Stapleton, but sure Aldean and Florida Georgia Line get nominations. Complete failure already before we even get to the more insane nominations. I know the ACMs are in the tank for Aldean, but could they be any less discreet about it? The only nomination even worthy of winning is Carrie Underwood for her excellent touring numbers and consistently churning out hits and I give her a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. Aldean and Bryan are the odds on favorites here.

Male Vocalist

  • Jason Aldean
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Keith Urban

Once again Eric Church isn’t a nomination. Church released the best album of his career and is releasing the best singles of his career. And every awards show is stiffing him. I guess the industry is pissed he isn’t giving them radio fodder anymore. But I’m guessing Church doesn’t give a shit. Another category with one worthy candidate in my mind: Chris Stapleton. Remember when Dierks Bentley was considered one of the good guys at these shows? Then he decided he wants to be Luke Bryan and make a bunch of cheesy and stiff adult contemporary schlock. No Tim McGraw. Also no Blake Shelton in any categories. Well there’s some good news.

Female Vocalist

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Maren Morris
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood

I don’t know why Kacey continues to go to these awards show when she and everyone else knows she’s just a token nomination to fill out the field. What did she do in 2016 to earn a nomination? She didn’t release any new music. And keep in mind this isn’t a jab at her. She’s one of the best on a major country label. You would think Miranda is the shoe-in to win, but with her turn towards a more songwriter/Americana-like side I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Maren Morris wins. She seems poised to usurp Lambert as the new female darling in mainstream country and is racking up awards like crazy.

Vocal Duo

  • Big & Rich
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae

Big & Rich are a Vocal Duo nomination in 2017…..hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! They released one single last year that took like 40 weeks to peak at #14 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. They’re completely irrelevant. What in the hell makes them deserving of a nomination? Maddie & Tae are a complete token nomination like Musgraves above. I don’t see Dan + Shay being quite in the position to win yet. So it’s between CMA 2016 Duo of the Year Brothers Osborne and past years favorite Florida Georgia Line. I’m hopeful the former wins, but being a radio favorites show I expect the latter to win.

Vocal Group

  • Eli Young Band
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Old Dominion
  • Rascal Flatts

Eli Young Band?! Where are they getting these joke ideas for nominations? You’re telling me Eli Young Band is a nomination, but not Zac Brown Band who at least had a song reach the top 15 in the last year and are a mainstream staple? Get out of here! Lady Antebellum was on hiatus for all of 2016. Rascal Flatts are irrelevant. Yet despite this joke of a category, the best group Little Big Town should easily walk away with this award.

New Male

  • Kane Brown
  • Chris Janson
  • Chris Lane
  • Jon Pardi
  • Brett Young

Out of all the categories, this actually might be the one I have the least qualms with because these are all new male artists who have did something notable in the last year. Despite not being a fan of him, Kane Brown is deserving based on the fact that he does sell well and has great streaming numbers. While you and me might not like him, there are many he does resonate with and it’s ironic he’s one of the few nominations where the ACM looked beyond radio. Hands down this should go to Jon Pardi, who achieved a #1 album with California Sunrise, racked up a #1 hit in “Head Over Boots” and is on his way to another #1 in “Dirt on My Boots.” And I think it actually does go to him because his accomplishments blow the others out of the water. If anyone else wins I’m calling shenanigans.

New Female

  • Lauren Alaina
  • Cam
  • Brandy Clark
  • Maren Morris

That’s right they couldn’t even fill out the nominations for this one. Hey ACMs: Margo Price and Aubrie Sellers. Did you forget they exist? How is Brandy Clark new? This is just another award for them to give Maren.

New Vocal Duo/Group

  • A Thousand Horses
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • LoCash
  • Maddie & Tae

None of these are really new, but then again barely anything else makes sense with these awards. I’m guessing Brothers Osborne or Dan + Shay win here.

Album

  • Dierks Bentley – Black
  • Florida Georgia Line – Dig Your Roots
  • Maren Morris – Hero
  • Keith Urban – Ripcord
  • Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings

This should 1000% go to Miranda Lambert for her great album. But it’ll probably go to Urban or Morris or maybe even Bentley. You could take the best material from all of the non-Lambert ones, put it in one album and it still wouldn’t top Lambert’s album.

Single

  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Maren Morris – “My Church”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

Key distinction is this is single. I’m kind of surprised Thomas Rhett’s “Die A Happy Man” isn’t here, but rather under Song below. I don’t give Lambert a chance here either sadly. I could see any of the other four winning.

Song

  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
  • Thomas Rhett – “Die A Happy Man”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Tennessee Whiskey”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

I would be happy with any of the bottom four winning, but watch one of the top two win. If I had to pick the winner I would definitely go with “Kill A Word,” being the best song of the nominations and for Church getting screwed over in general.

Video

  • Chris Stapleton – “Fire Away”
  • Various Artists – “Forever Country”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”
  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

With all due respect to the other videos, “Fire Away” is the no-brainer best video. It’s one of the powerful music videos I’ve watched in years and takes the song to a whole new level of meaning. Instead though “Forever Country” will probably win because it’s done insane numbers on YouTube and sold well (also great numbers on this very blog). The only hesitation I have of it winning is this song was specifically made for the ACM’s chief rival show CMA’s 50th Anniversary. How ironic would that be if it won an ACM Award?

Songwriter

  • Ashley Gorley
  • Luke Laird
  • Hillary Lindsey
  • Shane McAnally
  • Lori McKenna

McKenna has to win this one, right?

Vocal Event 

  • Dierks Bentley (feat. Elle King) – “Different For Girls”
  • Various Artists – “Forever Country”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
  • P!nk (feat. Kenny Chesney) – “Setting The World on Fire”
  • Chris Young (feat. Cassadee Pope) – “Think of You”

I could see a case made for any of these conceivably winning. I think this will largely depend on the other categories’ winners.

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [January 17]

Creepy Blake

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. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Up 2)
  2. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” [Carrie missed #1 on Billboard by about 50k in audience]
  3. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” -4 (Down 2)
  4. Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3 (Up 3)
  5. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” (Down 1)
  6. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 (Up 2)
  7. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” +1 (Down 2) 
  8. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 2)
  9. Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boots Fits” -4 (Up 2)
  10. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 (Up 2) 
  11. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 (Up 3)
  12. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 (Up 3) [Best Song] 
  13. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1
  14. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 (Up 2) [Worst Song]
  15. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 (Up 2)
  16. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 2)
  17. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Up 3)
  18. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” +3 (Up 1)
  19. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 (Up 2)
  20. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Up 2)
  21. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 (Up 3)
  22. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (Up 4)
  23. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 
  24. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” (Up 1)
  25. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 (Up 2)
  26. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Up 2)
  27. Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” -3 (New to Top 30)
  28. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 (Up 1)
  29. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3 (Up 1)
  30. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You” (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -25

The pulse drops three spots this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” +3 
  • Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” -3 (On the bright side it’s always great to see Old Dominion leave the top 30. On the bad side, that means they’re probably releasing new music soon. Joy.)

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World”
    • Ooooh! A new Kenny Chesney single. How exciting! I’m sure he’s got something really creative and innovative for us. Okay enough with the sarcasm. When I reviewed this song on the album review, I didn’t really have anything to say except a bad joke about it. Well there’s nothing really changed. This song is one big snooze fest with Chesney singing of course about getting drunk at a bar and the beach and the sun and for the love of all things holy can Chesney even bother to sound like he’s trying? He’s worse at covering up his mailed-in singles than Aldean. I’m just so sick of Chesney at this point and his complete failure to innovate in any way, shape or form. This song is bland as hell and you’ll forget it as soon as it ends. 2/10
  • Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”
    • Originally when I reviewed this (all the way back in July) I gave this 7/10. I must have been in a great mood that day because this song just isn’t doing as much for me now. The lyrics are still good, but this production is just blah and can get sleepy after multiple listens. So this will fit right in with what’s popular right now. At least Rucker isn’t singing bro country anymore (I think the last time he was here was with “Homegrown Honey”). Revised grade: 5/10

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” – Up 10 from #37 to #27
  • Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” – Up 4 from #26 to #22
  • Brad Paisley – “Today” – Up 3 from #14 to #11
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” – Up 3 from #15 to #12

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – Down 2 from #5 to #7

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

  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” (Really bad week, as it lost 400k in audience. This shouldn’t be too far from recurrent. Only good news is it kept its bullet.)
  • Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” (Well at least new Stapleton music is coming soon)
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine” (How is this still here?)
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” (Still holding on, but by a thread. Pure luck it’s still here)
  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” (Looks dead in the water and done to me)

On The Hot Seat:

  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (The fact this made top 20 in 2017 is surprising. It’s now going to be hitting a lot of resistance and I don’t like it’s odds of hanging around. But I said this a month ago too.)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends”
  • Dan + Shay – “How Not To”
  • Runaway June – “Lipstick”
  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know”

Note: The new year’s cleaning appears to be underway. Next week at least four and maybe up to six songs could go recurrent. Not to mention Lady Antebellum is dropping a new single later this week, Sam Hunt is expected to have a new single in February and a host of other new songs are going to be impacting. I don’t have the best feeling about these new songs, but I’m hopeful for some surprises.

 

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

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [January 9]

shrug

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. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” -4 
  2. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” (Up 1)
  3. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Up 1)
  4. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” (Down 2)
  5. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” +1 (Up 1)
  6. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” +3 (Down 1)
  7. Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3 
  8. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 (Up 1)
  9. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” -3 (Down 1)
  10. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 1)
  11. Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boots Fits” -4 (Down 1)
  12. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 
  13. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1 (Up 2)
  14. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 
  15. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 (Down 2) [Best Song] 
  16. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 [Worst Song]
  17. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 
  18. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 2)
  19. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” +3 
  20. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Down 2)
  21. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 
  22. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”
  23. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 
  24. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5
  25. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” 0
  26. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (Up 2)
  27. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1
  28. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Down 2)
  29. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 
  30. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -22

The pulse stayed the same this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • None

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • None (The chart is readjusting to the New Year and normal schedule. There should be a lot of movement in the coming weeks, as there are plenty of songs that need to be cleaned off the charts to make way for new.)

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” – Up 2 from #15 to #13
  • Luke Bryan – “Fast” – Up 2 from #20 to #18
  • Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” – Up 2 from #28 to #26

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” – Down 2 from #2 to #4
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” – Down 2 from #13 to #15
  • Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” – Down 2 from #18 to #20
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” – Down 2 from #26 to #28

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

  • Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” (Unfortunately has hit its peak. Expect a new McGraw single soon)
  • Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” (This one hopped back into the top five as it lost its bullet, so I’m not sure how the new recurrent rule will play into effect here)
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine”
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” (Paltry gains again, as this songs looks pretty much done. Radio never took to it)

On The Hot Seat:

  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” (I would be more positive about this song if it wasn’t currently sitting at 39 weeks on the chart. It will need label pushing to stick around)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”
  • Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends”
  • Dan + Shay – “How Not To”
  • Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World”

 

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

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [January 3]

sam-hunt-take-your-time
Eh, close enough

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…

(Note: This week’s movement in parenthesis is based on the previous Current Pulse in December to show change over the holiday)

  1. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” -4 (Up 4)
  2. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” (Up 1)
  3. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” (Up 4)
  4. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Up 6)
  5. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” +3 (Up 1)
  6. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” +1 (Down 5)
  7. Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3 (Up 5)
  8. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” -3 (Down 6)
  9. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 (Up 6)
  10. Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boots Fits” -4 (Up 1)
  11. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 7)
  12. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 (Up 4)
  13. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 [Best Song] 
  14. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 (Up 3)
  15. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1 (Down 1)
  16. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 (Up 4) [Worst Song]
  17. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 (Up 5)
  18. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Up 1)
  19. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” +3 (Up 2)
  20. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (New to Top 30)
  21. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 (Up 2)
  22. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Up 3)
  23. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (Up 1)
  24. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 (Up 3)
  25. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” 0 (Up 3)
  26. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 
  27. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 (Up 2)
  28. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (New to Top 30)
  29. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 (New to Top 30)
  30. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -22

The pulse improves one spot this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” -2
  • Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” 0
  • Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” -2

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Luke Bryan – “Fast”
    • You know what other song I’m instantly reminded of when I hear this Luke Bryan song? Another Luke Bryan song, “Drink a Beer.” This is probably because both songs share something really important in common: an overrated sense of sentimentality in the lyrics. Don’t get me wrong, this is better than most of Bryan’s recent singles and definitely an improvement over “Move.” But this whole theme of life going too fast so live it up now is covered too vaguely, not to mention we’ve heard better versions of this song on country radio (Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink” and Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” come to mind). The song is also too lifeless and lacks the energy to really hook me into the lyrics. Boring may be better than bad, but it isn’t good either. 4/10
  • Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool”
  • Dierks Bentley – “Black”
    • 2016 was the year Dierks went A-lister and in the process abandoned the things that made his music good. Warm guitars were traded for stiff pop, adult contemporary production. “Black” perfectly exemplifies this. It’s a stilted attempt at an edgy love song that instead collapses in itself. Bentley tries to force these really clunky rhymes throughout the song and the instrumentation fails to achieve the spacey blackness it’s going for and instead leaves the listener feeling empty. Listening to this song is akin to eating a rice cake: sure you consumed something, but you sure as hell don’t feel it and you’re left with no nutritional value. You know what’s really sad though? This is the best single of the Black era so far. 3/10

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Little Big Town – “Better Man” – Up 7 from #18 to #11
  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” – Up 6 from #10 to #4
  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” – Up 6 from #15 to #9

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” – Out of the Top 30 & Done

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

  • Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” (A terrible position coming out of the holidays. It’ll reach top ten maybe, but radio seems to be getting ready to drop this one)
  • Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” (The best I see this doing is top 15, but I don’t think it even gets there before dropping)
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” (Radio just isn’t getting behind this song and I’ll be shocked if it lasts to the end of the month)
  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” (It’s now been on the chart for 38 weeks and a lot of new singles are coming behind it. I don’t like this song’s odds.)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Darius Rucker – “If I Told You” (This song has made one hell of a turnaround after a rocky beginning)
  • RaeLynn – “Love Triangle”
  • Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends”
  • Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World”

Note: There won’t be a Current Pulse of Texas Country Radio tomorrow, as the last chart update was in the middle of December. Once the first update for the new year drops that feature will start up again.

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