The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [May 2013]

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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. 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.

  1. Thompson Square – “If I Didn’t Have You” +1
  2. 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.)
  3. Miranda Lambert – “Mama’s Broken Heart” 0
  4. Lady Antebellum – “Downtown” 0
  5. Kenny Chesney – “Pirate Flag” -3
  6. 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)
  7. Tim McGraw & Taylor Swift & Keith Urban – “Highway Don’t Care” -2
  8. George Strait – “Give It All We Got Tonight” 0
  9. Chris Young – “I Can Take It From There” +1
  10. Brad Paisley – “Beat This Summer” +3 [Best Song]
  11. Eric Church – “Like Jesus Does” +1
  12. Blake Shelton  & The Pistol Annies – “Boys ‘Round Here” -5 [Worst Song…..Ever]
  13. Brantley Gilbert – “More Than Miles” +1
  14. The Band Perry – “DONE” -1 (And now they really are!)
  15. Jason Aldean – “1994” -5 [Worst Song…..oh shit I already handed this out? Ugh….]
  16. Jake Owen – “Anywhere With You” 0
  17. Zac Brown Band – “Jump Right In” +1
  18. Luke Bryan – “Crash My Party” -1
  19. Gloriana – “Can’t Shake You” +2
  20. The Henningsens – “American Beautiful” 0
  21. Kip Moore – “Hey Pretty Girl” +2
  22. Easton Corbin – “All Over The Road” -1
  23. Hunter Hayes – “I Want Crazy” -2
  24. Carrie Underwood – “See You Again” +1
  25. Gary Allan – “Pieces” +1
  26. Brett Eldredge – “Don’t Ya” -1 (Almost a 0 but that opening line is just way too cringe worthy)
  27. Kelly Clarkson & Vince Gill – “Don’t Rush” +1
  28. Justin Moore – “Point At You” -1
  29. Billy Currington – “Hey Girl” -3
  30. 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!

The Hodgepodge: Please Stop Making Albums Over 12 Songs Long

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There’s something that has been grinding my gears regarding albums for a while and lately it’s been bugging me more. And that’s the length of albums. More and more I’ve been seeing not just in country and Americana, but in all of music albums that are over 12 songs long. It’s now a common occurrence to see albums that are 14, 15 and even 17 songs long in the case of Randy Houser’s Fired Up. It drives me crazy because there’s simply no reason usually to have an album over 12 songs long.

Whenever I see an album over 12 songs long, I immediately roll my eyes if it’s an artist that isn’t at the very top of the genre because it’s probably got like five filler songs that are unnecessary. Sometimes even more. But I don’t blame the artist for this, but rather I imagine this is more on labels. Most don’t really care about the concept of an album nowadays, only singles. Hence why albums are 15 songs long because then they have a large list to choose from for singles and can also cover a variety of styles so that way the artist is prepared for any trends that may emerge over the course of that album’s era. Luke Bryan’s last album Kill the Lights is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. At 13 songs long you see a variety of songs on it. There’s bro country themed songs, upbeat pop leaning songs and even a couple of serious songs. It’s to set up him up for any trends that might emerge at country radio.

What really brings this attention to me is when I go back and listen to older albums from the 70s and 80s. This was back when artists and labels actually cared about albums and put more focus on them. No matter which genre I turn to, none of them have the problem I see today of overloading albums with pointless songs. Take for example George Strait, whose career began in the early 80s. His first ten albums were each ten songs long exactly. None of them came close to overloading. Almost every album released by legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye didn’t go over 12 songs. A modern example is Sturgill Simpson (who has cited Gaye as an inspiration), where each of his three albums hasn’t gone over 12 songs. Right now of my top ten country and Americana albums of 2016, none go over 12 songs. While there are plenty exceptions to the rule, it’s pretty well proven that if you care about putting out a quality album, you probably shouldn’t go over 12 songs.

There are many albums I can think of that have been released recently that could have benefitted from being culled down to a shorter length. One that immediately comes to mind is Zac Brown Band’s Jekyll + Hyde. It’s 16 songs long including the acoustic track, which is just ridiculous. There are undoubtedly some great songs on this album, but they get overshadowed by the bad and unnecessary tracks. If I had the power to cull it down, this is what the track listing for the album would look like:

  1. Homegrown
  2. Loving You Easy
  3. Remedy
  4. Heavy Is The Head
  5. Bittersweet
  6. One Day
  7. Dress Blues
  8. Junkyard
  9. I’ll Be Your Man (Song for a Daughter)
  10. Tomorrow Never Comes (Acoustic Version)

Try to tell me this isn’t a much better album after I cut out all of the EDM crap, the cheesy Mango song, the pointless island song and the fluffy songs that held down the backside of the album. This version of Jekyll + Hyde would have probably been one of my favorite albums of 2015. It’s really that simple. I’ll give you another example that’s more recent and that Florida Georgia Line’s Dig Your Roots. Here’s how I would trim that album down:

  1. Smooth
  2. Life is a Honeymoon
  3. H.O.L.Y.
  4. Island
  5. May We All
  6. Wish You Were On It
  7. God, Your Mamma and Me (I would cut out the Backstreet Boys)
  8. Music Is Healing
  9. While He’s Still Around
  10. Grow Old

It’s still not a great album of course. But after cutting out the five most annoying songs this album goes from really mediocre to around average. Really though the biggest way you could fix Florida Georgia Line into something more decent is getting rid of Joey Moi as producer, but that’s probably not likely to ever happen. One last example I will choose is Chris Stapleton’s Traveller. Now this is one of the most recent examples of an exception to my 12 songs rule. At 14 songs long, it’s still a great album and one of the best of 2015. However even this I would give a slight trim by taking out “Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore” and “Might As Well Get Stoned” because the first song has been done so much before and the second gets weighed down by the wedged in reference to the troops that isn’t bad, but feels pander-y. Of course this is just me really nitpicking because Traveller has launched Stapleton into the stratosphere and has netted him numerous awards.

I think I’ve gotten my point across thoroughly. While there are exceptions to the rule, at the end of the day an artist shouldn’t go over 12 songs on their album if they intend on it to be good. It’s a pretty established baseline that you shouldn’t go over unless you’re absolutely sure you can make a great long album. After all the longer an album is, the more chances an artist has of putting a bad song on it. At 12 songs or less, they can present a tight and cohesive album that is enjoyable for the listener every step of the way. So if you’re an artist making a new album and you can’t decide on the length of it, just remember less is more.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow Amanda Shires will release her new album My Piece of Land.
  • Next week there will be a plethora of new album releases:
    • Dwight YoakamSwimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
    • Reckless KellySunset Motel 
    • Kevin RoyHeartworn Highway 
  • David Nail’s next single is “Good at Tonight.” Excellent choice by Nail and his label. It was also the most added song at country radio this week.
  • Later this month George Strait is sending “Goin’ Goin’ Gone” as a single to radio. It coincides around the same time he’s releasing Cold Beer Conversation in vinyl. As for the single, it won’t do much most likely.
  • 99% of the time I don’t care about new Christmas albums (I prefer the classics), but there is one I’m interested in this year and that’s Kacey Musgraves’ first Christmas album, A Very Kacey Christmas. It’s out on October 28 and on November 18 in vinyl. It features Willie Nelson, Leon Bridges and The Quebe Sisters.

Throwback Thursday Song

George Strait – “Living For The Night” – All of this Strait talk inevitably makes me want to go listen to his music, so of course it’s in this spot this week. Most of my favorite Strait songs were released in the 80s and 90s, but this is hands down my favorite of his 2000s music. This is heartbreak music at it’s best. Even later into his career, Strait produces gold.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Little Richard – “Good Golly Miss Molly” – People love to talk about how Elvis is the king of rock and roll, but he isn’t in my book (he built his career off covering other artists). The real king of rock and roll is Little Richard, who influenced some of the greatest artists of rock, R&B, soul, funk and hip hop. He’s an artist every music fan should familiarize themselves with if they haven’t already.

Tweet of the Week

https://twitter.com/planmymistake/status/774248484526559232

Why is Dustin Lynch solitaire a thing? Who would want this?

Accurate Review of 2016 Dierks Bentley

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I feel like one of the most under talked points of country music this year has been Dierks Bentley’s mediocre output. Black is hands down his worst album and is an obvious attempt at trying to become an A-lister. It’s disheartening and this Dierks fans sums it up pretty well.

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [January 2009]

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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. While I did wish to go back even further in time with our past pulse, I unfortunately ran into time constraints. Therefore, we will look at a more recent time in country music history. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from January 3rd, 2009.

  1. Rascal Flatts – “Here” 0
  2. Montgomery Gentry – “Roll With Me” +3
  3. Sugarland – “Already Gone” +3
  4. Zac Brown Band – “Chicken Fried” 0 (At least it launched their career and showed they had better songs. Oh wait, hello “Beautiful Drug”…)
  5. Brad Paisley & Keith Urban – “Start A Band” +3
  6. Alan Jackson – “Country Boy” -1 (I hate giving Alan a negative score but fair is fair)
  7. Billy Currington – “Don’t” -2 (For country. As a whole, I actually somewhat like this)
  8. Dierks Bentley – “Feel That Fire” 0
  9. Jamey Johnson – “In Color” +5 [Best Song]
  10. Blake Shelton – “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” +3 (One of the last songs I would grade as a positive for Blake)
  11. Toby Keith – “God Love Her” +3 
  12. Keith Urban – “Sweet Thing” -3 [Worst Song]
  13. Kenny Chesney & Mac McAnally – “Down The Road” +4
  14. Brooks & Dunn – “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” +2 (Was I the only one who liked this?)
  15. Lady Antebellum – “Lookin’ For A Good Time” -2
  16. George Strait – “River Of Love” +2 (See Brooks & Dunn)
  17. Randy Houser – “Anything Goes” +4 (Now he’s talking about kicking up dust in the mud or some shit like that)
  18. Pat Green – “Let Me” 0
  19. Taylor Swift – “White Horse” +3 (Prepare the pitchforks folks. I’m ready.)
  20. Darius Rucker – “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” +3
  21. Lee Ann Womack – “Last Call” +3
  22. Jake Owen – “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You” +1 (Docking points for not being overtly country, although I do like this)
  23. Jack Ingram – “That’s A Man” 0 (Too cliché)
  24. Miranda Lambert – “More Like Her” +2
  25. Josh Turner – “Everything Is Fine” +3
  26. Martina McBride – “Ride” 0
  27. Rodney Atkins – “It’s America” 0
  28. Jimmy Wayne – “I Will” -1
  29. Gary Allan – “She’s So California” 0
  30. Eli Young Band – “Always The Love Songs” +1

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +39

Not a bad chart at all. In fact, quite a lot of good stuff here. Jamey Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, Josh Turner, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, and George Strait were all still on the radio and we actually have a +5 song with “In Color.” Perhaps I’m being a bit generous with that top score but I truly do think it deserves it. Even the worst song here (“Sweet Thing”) would still only be one of the worst on the modern-day charts instead of the lowest we could go. All in all, a solid top thirty.

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 [April 2014]

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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.

While I hate to do another recent chart after having just done 2011 last week, my schedule this week is admittedly pretty busy. Therefore, I wanted to showcase another chart of songs that I am familiar with. I picked April 19th, 2014 since that’s approximately a month before Country Perspective even came into existence, and I thought it would be fun to showcase what the charts were like just before Josh stepped onto the scene.

  1. Blake Shelton – “Doin’ What She Likes” -2
  2. Randy Houser – “Goodnight Kiss” -2
  3. Jerrod Niemann – “Drink To That All Night” -5
  4. Brantley Gilbert – “Bottoms Up” -5
  5. Eric Church – “Give Me Back My Hometown” +1
  6. Rascal Flatts – “Rewind” -2
  7. Thomas Rhett – “Get Me Some Of That” -5
  8. Florida Georgia Line & Luke Bryan – “This Is How We Roll” -5
  9. Brett Eldredge – “Beat Of The Music” 0
  10. Miranda Lambert – “Automatic” +3 [Best Song]
  11. Dan + Shay – “19 You + Me” -2
  12. Keith Urban – “Cop Car” -2 (I’m sorry, I don’t get the appeal in this song at all)
  13. Luke Bryan – “Play It Again” -3
  14. Justin Moore – “Lettin’ The Night Roll” -1
  15. Tim McGraw – “Lookin’ For That Girl” -5 [Worst Song]
  16. Craig Morgan – “Wake Up Lovin’ You” +2
  17. Sara Evans – “Slow Me Down” 0
  18. Tyler Farr – “Whiskey In My Water” -1
  19. Craig Campbell – “Keep Them Kisses Comin'” +1
  20. The Band Perry – “Chainsaw” -2
  21. Hunter Hayes – “Invisible” -2
  22. Billy Currington – “We Are Tonight” +1
  23. Jake Owen – “Beachin'” -4
  24. Chris Young – “Who I Am With You” +1
  25. Joe Nichols – “Yeah” -2
  26. Sheryl Crow – “Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely” +1
  27. Eric Paslay – “Song About A Girl” -1
  28. Eli Young Band – “Dust” +2
  29. Brad Paisley – “River Bank” -1
  30. Lee Brice – “I Don’t Dance” +2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: -38

Wow, this is an absolutely terrible chart across the board. How many -5’s was that again?!? It’s hard to believe that a chart from the future could actually look better than this. Yikes.

Alright, so let’s start off with the few good songs here. Miranda Lambert is the only person with a song worthy of an 8/10 (IMO), so she runs away with best song for “Automatic”. The only other good songs come courtesy of Craig Morgan, Lee Brice, and Eli Young Band and I’m sure that even you guys will have something to say about one or more of those songs.

The terrible is easy to digest. It’s quite surreal looking back and seeing just how much bro-country really did plague the genre. There are five songs here that could compete for country music’s worst songs, and to pick the worst of all of them was tough. In the end, I picked Tim since not only does that song absolutely blow, Tim McGraw simply knows better dammit! Trust me folks, I really did consider just tying all five of these songs for worst song. I felt like Negan from the Walking Dead trying to pick a victim. Aside from that…yeah, things aren’t much better outside of those five. Just a sad chart to see.

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!

Country Perspective’s Worst Albums of 2016 So Far

As our week of highlighting the best and worst of the first half of the year closes, we spend today looking at some of 2016’s worst albums thus far. As mainstream country has shifted away from bro-country and into pop, we’ve seen albums that are one of three things: completely pop music, bro-country hanging on by the very last threads, or a hybrid of the two. Needless to say, these albums have done nothing but continue to dig mainstream country into its hole.

As you’ll notice, we haven’t reviewed most of these albums, mainly because we didn’t want to spend the time to write a review about the album and complain about the same old things we’ve complained about time and time again. But we have listened to the albums. For the most part, mainstream country music released several boring, middle of the road albums, but there were a few that sank lower than that.

Without further ado, here are the worst country albums of 2016 so far…

Cole Swindell – You Should Be Here 

Cole Swindell’s second album pretty much did the exact same thing as his first album and any EPs he’s released. The album kicks off with an awful duet with Dierks Bentley called “Flatliner.” A majority of You Should Be Here is straight bro-country with a hint of Nashville Pop thrown into the song’s productions. “Middle of a Memory” finds Swindell lamenting over the fact that a girl he wanted to hook up with left the bar without him. The party never stops for Cole Swindell, with “Home Game,” “Up” “Party Wasn’t Over”, and “Stay Downtown” combining scenes of drinking and hook-ups. You Should Be Here is full of shallow music, and the album’s best song, “You Should Be Here” only mustered a 4/10 grade here. The icing on the cake of the album comes with the final song, “Remember Boys.” After making a name for himself as one of country’s bros, not to mention hit song after hit song about random hook-ups for just one night, Cole Swindell thinks he can be taken seriously as a “remember boy”: someone who’s serious about a relationship with someone. Please. Cole Swindell has been and continues to be a joke.

Randy Houser – Fired Up

The biggest flaw of Randy Houser’s Fired Up is that the track list is 15 consistently boring party songs with awful puns and terribly juvenile words and phrases. There’s a bonus track called “Whiskeysippi River” and “Little Bit Older” that features the phrase, “a little bit older a little Budweiser” as if it’s supposed to be some clever pun. Fired Up starts off strong with “Back,” but the rest of the album falters. The first single, “We Went,” was one of the worst singles in 2015. And the album’s second single, “Song Number 7,” essentially rips off Luke Bryan’s “Play It Again.” There was no originality brought into the album, with bro-country after bro-country. Perhaps the only bright spot of the album is that there isn’t as much pop music in the production, but at the same time, the music isn’t all that country.

Keith Urban – Ripcord

No matter which genre you stick Ripcord in, it’s a terrible album. This album felt like a to-do list of stuff Urban wanted to try because he felt like it and there was absolutely no direction planned for it. Some of it sticks like on “Wasted Time” and “Sun Don’t Let Me Down.” The rest however is pretty much a complete mess. I hear so much from country fans that an artist’s songs aren’t bad as pop music if I dismiss it as not country music. So the overall point I wanted to make with this review was to show that genre lines really don’t matter the most when it comes to judging music’s quality. Many refer to bad country music as pop and that’s insult to pop music because there’s a lot of great pop music (see Beyoncé’s Lemonade). This album even insults pop. It’s pretty simple: there is great music and there is bad music. Ripcord is bad music.

Kane Brown – Chapter 1 (EP)

Kane Brown exploded onto country music proclaiming himself to be country’s Justin Bieber. If by Justin Bieber, he means pop star, than he hit it right on the nose. Brown’s music is nowhere near country, and his first EP with Sony proves that Kane Brown is just another metro-bro clone making the same kind of music as every other solo male act. “Wide Open” is sung with no charisma and terrible vocals. The vocal effects on “Last Minute Late Night” are annoying, while Kane Brown begs for a late night booty-call. “Excuses” and “There Goes My Everything” are straight pop songs dealing with heartbreak, but Brown’s monotone vocal delivery is terrible. Chapter 1 is completely corporate manufactured pop music sung by a different puppet.

 

Dan + Shay – Obsessed

Obsessed is bro-country attitudes wrapped up in boy band pop. Sure, Dan + Shay have “From the Ground Up,” a well written love song, but it’s impossible to call this album country music. Slick computer generated beats with R&B influences, Dan + Shay are the poor man’s Justin Timberlake. This album is produced and the songs are written solely to appeal to the teenage girl demographic. As with most of the albums on this list, Obsessed falters because it’s a pop album marketed as country music.

 

Maren Morris HEROMaren Morris – HERO

Maren Morris’ debut album is anything but country music, despite how good the music actually is. The songs are well produced and well sung by Morris. When you look at Nashville Pop, HERO is an example of how it’s done right. It’s not a country album, but it’s marketed as such. Therefore, we can look it through the lens of country music and call it one of the worst “country” albums of the year. HERO will probably be the most polarizing album of 2016. Undoubtedly the biggest sin this album commits is it being called a country album. It shouldn’t have any business charting on the country albums chart too. If you’re angry about this and this prevents you from enjoying it, I don’t blame you because it would get a zero as a country record.