The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [April 1989]

keith-whitley

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 April 8, 1989. Since this chart came before 1990, I only have access to the top 25 songs. This means that the highest possible score for this week is a +125 and the lowest possible score is a -125. Once again, I am still wading through a ton of chart requests so this week’s chart is dedicated to reader Scotty J!

  1. Keith Whitley – “I’m No Stranger To The Rain” +4 [Best Song]
  2. George Strait – “Baby’s Gotten Good At Goodbye” +3
  3. Vern Gosdin – “Who You Gonna Blame It On This Time” +3
  4. Shenandoah – “The Church on Cumberland Road” +3
  5. Don Williams – “Old Coyote Town” +4
  6. Billy Joe Royal – “Tell It Like It Is” -1 [Worst Song] (His voice and the overall feel of this just don’t work for me)
  7. Hank Williams Jr. & Sr. – “There’s A Tear In My Beer” +4 (As an actual song it’s a +3, but considering the magic that went into this I have to give it its due.)
  8. K.T. Oslin – “Hey Bobby” 0 (Sorry, way too sleepy in the production and that “do you want to huh, huh” line just annoyed the crap out of me)
  9. Foster – “Fairshake” +2
  10. Roy Orbison – “You Got It” 0 (+2 for Pop though)
  11. Michael Martin Murphey – “From The Word Go” +3
  12. Patty Loveless – “Don’t Toss Us Away” +3 (Interesting production on this track)
  13. Lacy J. Dalton – “The Heart” +3
  14. Highway 101 – “Setting Me Up” +2
  15. The Judds – “Young Love (Strong Love)” +2
  16. Lee Greenwood – “I’ll Be Lovin’ You” +1 (Holy crap! A Lee Greenwood song that isn’t “God Bless The U.S.A!”)
  17. Baillie and the Boys – “She Deserves You” +3
  18. Randy Travis – “Is It Still Over?”+3
  19. Restless Heart – “Big Dreams In A Small Town” +2 (I wish the accordion was a little more prominent in the mix but still solid)
  20. Rodney Crowell – “After All This Time” +3
  21. Alabama – “If I Had You” +1
  22. The Bellamy Brothers – “Big Love” +1
  23. Barbara Mandrell – “My Train Of Thought” +3
  24. Reba McEntire – “New Fool At An Old Game” +2
  25. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – “Down That Road Tonight” +2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +56

This is certainly a good week, but I have to be honest that there’s more generic songs here compared to other past weeks. Nothing inherently bad mind you, just not really all that special. Of course, Keith Whitley was riding the top of the charts so what can I say?

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 1991]

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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 1st, 1991.

  1. Diamond Rio – “Meet In The Middle” +3
  2. Doug Stone – “In A Different Light” +3
  3. George Strait – “If I Know Me” +4
  4. Paul Overstreet – “Heroes” +3 (The production is a little much for me, otherwise this would be +4)
  5. Mark Chesnutt – “Blame It On Texas” +3
  6. Dwight Yoakam – “You’re The One” +4 (Holy mandolin!)
  7. Joe Diffie – “If The Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets) +3
  8. Garth Brooks – “The Thunder Rolls” +4
  9. The Oak Ridge Boys – “Lucky Moon” +3
  10. Clint Black – “One More Payment” +3 (Holy Western Swing!)
  11. Lorrie Morgan – “We Both Walk” +3
  12. Tanya Tucker – “Oh What It Did To Me” +4
  13. Ronnie Milsap – “Are You Lovin’ Me (Like I’m Lovin’ You)” +3
  14. Randy Travis – “Point Of Light” +3
  15. The Judds – “One Hundred and Two” +2
  16. Alan Jackson – “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” +3
  17. Pirates Of The Mississippi – “Feed Jake” +4
  18. Alabama – “Down Home” +3
  19. Dolly Parton & Ricky Van Shelton – “Rockin’ Years” +4
  20. Ricky Van Shelton – “I Am A Simple Man” +3
  21. Highway 101 – “Bing Bang Boom” +2
  22. Pam Tillis – “One Of Those Things” +2
  23. Mike Reid – “‘Till You Were Gone” +4
  24. Travis Tritt – “Drift Off To Dream” +3
  25. Kathy Mattea – “Time Passes By” +4
  26. Terry McBride – “Can I Count On You” +3
  27. Mark O’ Connor – “Restless” +2
  28. Clinton Gregory – “(If It Weren’t For Country Music) I’d Go Crazy” +4 [Best Song] (wouldn’t we all though?)
  29. Billy Dean – “Somewhere In My Broken Heart” +3
  30. Carlene Carter – “The Sweetest Thing” +2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +94

Wow! Quite the reversal from last week! Indeed, this is one of the best charts we’ve ever had. Sure, not every song on here is perfect, but the overall quality is simply stunning. I felt no need to award a “worst song” award this week since it wouldn’t have really made sense. The worst here is still good.

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: Truly Listen To The Music

When the uptick of bro-country music invaded our radios and country music rocketed to peak popularity, hit mainstream country songs simply became a soundtrack to parties. More and more, people stopped listening to the lyrics. No one actually cares what Tyler Hubbard sings until he says things like “All I want to do today is wear my favorite shades and get stoned.” The rest of the song doesn’t matter as long as there’s a few sing along lines for people to belt out in terrible, off pitch unison.

The constant hammering of the same rehashed lyrics and themes brought in an audience that only cares for the aforementioned lines. The demand was there and supply increased. There was success, money, number one singles, radio play, etc. It’s a working formula, brilliantly brought to light with this 6 song mashup. We’ve now graduated from bro lyrics set to generic pop rock melodies to hip-hop inspired club beats set to similar lyrics. The point being, within the mainstream light, no one actually listens to the music anymore.

I’d bet that most of the mainstream country demographic simply takes the song on the surface, accepting the noise head-on, not necessarily taking in the various instrumentation and intricate melodies that make up the song. It’s the instruments that can truly add some magic to a song. Using a recent example of Cam’s “Burning House,” the song begins with a simple acoustic guitar strum that carries through the first verse. The moment Cam begins the chorus with “I’ve been sleepwalking” a piano key chimes in which further emphasizes the impact the chorus has to the rest of the song.

I recently attended a concert of an indie Latin American band called Las Cafeteras. Most of the set was in Spanish, which I do not speak or understand much of. But the 7-piece band had some great melodies and were mixed together well. Our seats were far away, but I did my best to try to identify which band member was playing which solo; I tried to take in each instrument by itself. But even though I didn’t understand one word of what they said, the concert was enjoyable because their melodies were great. I was able to enjoy the concert by listening to their music and appreciating the skills and gifts they share with their audiences.

Listening to the lyrics seems to be a forgotten pastime of music too. Lyrics can tell beautiful, heartbreaking stories, but you have to listen to the lyrics to get the full grasp of the songs. If you’re only half-listening to a song, you can’t fully appreciate the story the writer has crafted. When you have listen to a song, you miss the sentiment, and key lines from songs don’t bring as much meaning to you. Take for instance Jason Isbell’s “Children of Children.” I’d argue this song has one of the most heartbreaking lyrics, especially considering the song is autobiographical of Isbell’s own life. But if you don’t actually listen to the verses and take in their meaning, you miss the emotional impact of the closing line to the chorus: “All the years you took from her just by being born.” That line should punch everyone in the gut, if you ask me.

In this past year, especially, as I’ve listened to and discovered more and more brilliant, independent country songwriters, I’ve learned to appreciate how the pieces of the songs work together for full impact. I’ve paid more attention to the poetry of the lyrics, the word choices, the inclusion or exclusion of a certain instrument at a certain point in the song. All these aspects work together to make songs special. The mainstream party atmosphere songs take that away from the casual listener. Not only are people being exposed to lazy lyrics and production, but they’re being denied the opportunity an experience in listening to how melodies and lyrics can come together to make beautiful music.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

Just tomorrow (September 25) alone, we have these albums being released:

Today in Country Music History

  • Clint Black’s debut album Killin’ Time is certified gold in 1989.
  • Deena Carter’s “Strawberry Wine” wins both Single and Song of the Year at the 1997 CMA Awards.
  • Sara Evans has the number one song in 2005 with “A Real Fine Place To Start.”

Today’s Country Music history facts come courtesy of RolandNote.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Why Not Me” The Judds. The Judds are one of those acts I continually over look, but this mother-daughter duo of Naomi and Wynonna tore up the late 80s with consecutive Vocal Duo or Vocal Group awards from the Grammy’s, CMAs and ACMs. This particular single was awarded the CMA Single of the Year in 1985.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


Ryan Adams’ 1989. This cover album has drawn quite a bit of extreme praise and criticism. Personally, I like Adams’ take on Taylor Swift’s pop album. Some of his re-workings actually sound better to me than Swift’s original recordings. “All You Had To Do Was Stay” sounds like it came straight from a John Hughes movie. “Style” “Blank Space” and “I Wish You Would” were the other covers I felt worked well with Adams’ voice and arrangements.

Tweet of the Week

Chris King is another great follow on Twitter. Also, the Country Music Hall of Fame is an excellent place to visit, and I highly recommend it if you ever have the chance. I had the opportunity to visit a couple of years ago where they had a special exhibit for Reba among the rest of the Hall.

iTunes Review or Something

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These two reviews were left under Blake Shelton’s Loaded: The Best of Blake Shelton. I agree with many of the sentiments these two emulate.