The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [August 1996]

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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 August 17th, 1996. As some of you may remember, a couple of weeks ago I asked if there were any charts you’d like to see me feature here. Last week’s chart was dedicated to Scotty J, and this week goes out to commenter Amanda! (It’s not exactly the date you said but it’s the closest I could get!)

  1. George Strait – “Carried Away” +3
  2. Wade Hayes – “On A Good Night” +3 (Pretty fun song)
  3. Brooks & Dunn – “I Am That Man” +1
  4. Neal McCoy – “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” +2
  5. Clay Walker – “Only Days That End In “Y”” +3 (Corny sure, but that’s what made the 90’s so great!)
  6. Tim McGraw – “She Never Lets It Go To Her Heart” +3
  7. James Bonamy – “I Don’t Think I Will” 0 [Least Good Song] (More because I just really couldn’t get into this guy’s voice)
  8. Garth Brooks – “It’s Midnight Cinderella” +1 (See Clay Walker)
  9. Mindy McCready – “Guys Do It All The Time” +3
  10. Diamond Rio – “That’s What I Get For Lovin’ You” +1
  11. Ricochet – “Daddy’s Money” 0 (Fun, but creepy lyrically)
  12. Lee Roy Parnell – “Givin’ Water To A Drownin’ Man” +4
  13. Bryan White – “So Much For Pretending” 0 (See James Bonamy)
  14. Rhett Akins – “Don’t Get Me Started (On Why My Son Would Ever Record That Dumb “Vacation” Song)” +2
  15. Lonestar – “Runnin’ Away With My Heart” +3
  16. Rick Trevino – “Learning As You Go” +3
  17. Ty Herndon – “Living In A Moment” +4
  18. Shania Twain – “No One Needs To Know” +3
  19. Billy Dean – “That Girl’s Been Spyin’ On Me” +1 (Props for some hard hitting production but it’s a little creepy lyrically…)
  20. Blackhawk – “Big Guitar” +3 (See Clay Walker)
  21. Pam Tillis – “It’s Lonely Out There” +3
  22. Faith Hill – “You Can’t Lose Me” +2 (A little sappy but easy to enjoy)
  23. Tracy Byrd – “4 To 1 In Atlanta” +3
  24. Randy Travis – “Are We In Trouble Now” +4 [Best Song] (Probably his most underrated single)
  25. Mark Wills – “Jacob’s Ladder” +3
  26. Vince Gill – “Worlds Apart” +3
  27. Trisha Yearwood – “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” +3
  28. Jo Dee Messina – “You’re Not In Kansas Anymore” +3 (Again, I like the production here)
  29. Collin Raye – “Love Remains” +2
  30. Toby Keith – “A Woman’s Touch” +3

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +72

Well it appears we have another good chart this week! I have to admit, there’s a lot of corny songs but hey, it was the 90’s. They all were delivered with heartfelt sincerity that made them easy to enjoy. I’m not quite sure there was a song here that really blew me out of the water except for Randy, but still we have a good chart 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 Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [February 2002]

Hello everyone! You didn’t read that headline wrong. The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music is indeed back! I am not a full-time writer at Country Perspective but I have come back to do this piece every week. I missed it and I know people were disappointed to see it go again. With the recent revamping of the current pulse, it’s a fitting time to come back. Thanks to Josh for letting me come back!

Anyway, this is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Every week, I will 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 will 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 February 9th, 2002.

  1. Steve Holy – “Good Morning Beautiful” 0
  2. George Strait – “Run” +3
  3. Brad Paisley – “Wrapped Around” +2
  4. Alan Jackson – “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” +4
  5. Brooks & Dunn – “The Long Goodbye” +2 
  6. Jo Dee Messina & Tim McGraw – “Bring On The Rain” +2
  7. Tim McGraw – “The Cowboy In Me” +2
  8. Garth Brooks – “Wrapped Up In You” -2
  9. Aaron Tippin – “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly” +2
  10. Martina McBride – “Blessed” -1
  11. The Dixie Chicks – “Some Days You Gotta Dance” +2
  12. Tracy Byrd – “Just Let Me Be In Love” +1
  13. Joe Diffie – “In Another World” +2
  14. Toby Keith – “I Wanna Talk About Me” -5 [Worst Song]
  15. Rascal Flatts – “I’m Movin’ On” +4
  16. Sara Evans – “Saints and Angels” +2
  17. Chris Cagle – “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out” +3
  18. Kenny Chesney – “Young” 0
  19. Trace Adkins – “I’m Tryin'” +3
  20. Phil Vassar – “That’s When I Love You” +1
  21. Blake Shelton – “All Over Me” +1
  22. Tommy Shane Steiner – “What If She’s An Angel” +1
  23. Toby Keith – “My List” +3
  24. Cyndi Thomson – “I Always Liked That Best” +1
  25. Lee Ann Womack – “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger” +4 [Best Song]
  26. Emerson Drive – “I Should Be Sleeping” +1
  27. Steve Azar – “I Don’t Have To Be Me (‘Til Monday)” +2
  28. Carolyn Dawn Johnson – “I Don’t Want You To Go” +2
  29. Kevin Denney – “That’s Just Jessie” +3
  30. Travis Tritt – “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde” +4

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +48

So as you can see, the music in mainstream country from the past definitely defeats the charts of today. It’s interesting to see how trends can affect certain songs in mainstream country music though. There was definitely an influx of pop sounds in country during this time, only back then they didn’t hit you over the head with it.  The country was actually more prominent than the pop sound! Unbelievable, I know.

Anyway, the more pop leaning production on some tracks is what really holds them back from higher scores. Either way however, there’s only one outright terrible song here with Toby Keith’s “I Wanna Talk About Me.” You thought “Dirt Road Anthem” introduced rap into country? Think again. The only other bad songs here come from Garth Brooks and Martina McBride. The former is annoying as all heck and the latter is just too overproduced for my tastes. Still, not terrible.

The best songs here are pretty easy to pick out as well. I know it’s been polarizing for some but I always was moved by Alan Jackson’s song. The always excellent Travis Tritt and Lee Ann Womack of course delivered quality songs as well. Hell, even Rascal Flatts had a great song with “I’m Movin’ On,” and it’s surprisingly one of the most outright country ones here.

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 [December 1999]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Every 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. Each song on the chart will receive either a +1, 0, or -1. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the top 30 songs with the highest score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. Songs rated between a 7 and 10 will receive a +1. Songs rated either 5 or 6 will receive a 0. Songs rated 4 or lower will 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 will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from December 4, 1999.

  1. Clint Black – “When I Said I Do (w/ Lisa Hartman Black)” 0
  2. John Michael Montgomery – “Home To You” +1
  3. Martina McBride – “I Love You” -1 [Worst Song]
  4. Brad Paisley – “He Didn’t Have To Be” +1
  5. Faith Hill – “Breathe” +1
  6. Shania Twain – “Come On Over” -1
  7. Tim McGraw – “Something Like That” +1
  8. Yankee Grey – “All Things Considered” +1
  9. George Strait – “What Do You Say To That” +1
  10. Reba – “What Do You Say” +1
  11. Alan Jackson – “Pop A Top” +1
  12. LeAnn Rimes – “Big Deal” 0
  13. Dixie Chicks – “Cowboy Take Me Away” +1
  14. Andy Griggs – “I’ll Go Crazy” +1
  15. Tim McGraw – “My Best Friend” +1
  16. Steve Wariner – “I’m Already Taken” +1
  17. Kenny Chesney – “She Thinks My Tractors Sexy” -1
  18. Randy Travis – “A Man Ain’t Made Of Stone” +1
  19. Lonestar – “Amazed” 0
  20. Clay Walker – “Live, Laugh, Love” 0
  21. Jo Dee Messina – “Lesson In Leavin’” +1
  22. Lonestar – “Smile” 0
  23. Ty Herndon – “Steam” 0
  24. Tracy Byrd – “Put Your Hand In Mine” +1
  25. Gary Allan – “Smoke Rings In The Dark” +1 [Best Song]
  26. Joe Diffie – “The Quittin’ Kind” +1
  27. Brooks & Dunn – “Beer Thirty” 0
  28. Keith Urban – “It’s A Love Thing” -1
  29. Trace Adkins – “Don’t Lie” +1
  30. SHeDAISY – “This Woman Needs” +1

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +15

Wow, a double-digit positive score, and one that’s halfway to a perfect score! Sure beats 2010 from last week. As you all remember, 2010 didn’t even have a Pulse! As a child of the 2000s, I have to admit I was very unfamiliar with a few of these songs and artists prior to conducting this pulse. That’s why doing this particular Past Pulse was especially fun. I get to discover some great new songs! First of all, I never had once heard of Yankee Gray. “All Things Considered” isn’t exactly something anyone would call “deep”, but it’s fun enough with the catchy melody and bouncy fiddles. This was their only top 10 hit. Elsewhere, while I am familiar with artists such as Clint Black, John Michael Montgomery, Steve Wariner, and Tracy Byrd, I can’t say that I had ever heard any of their respective singles on this chart. I’ve also never heard a single SHeDAISY song despite hearing of them multiple times. “This Woman Needs” is a pretty enjoyable country-pop tune.

However, I’m not totally out of tune with what was going on in 1999. Alan Jackson’s “Pop A Top” was (and still is) a damn catchy tune that hardly feels like a cover song at all. And of course there’s the monster hit by the Dixie Chicks with “Cowboy Take Me Away.” I can understand why they are a very polarizing band to many, but when you look at them from a pure musical standpoint, they were a very talented group who made some fine country music. With Gary Allan, they share the honor of being tied for the best song on this chart. I’ve always loved “Smoke Rings In The Dark” for its dark, ominous atmosphere and sharp lyrics combined with Gary’s vocal delivery. In fact, it’s probably my favorite Gary song ever. Oh, can we also talk about how awesome Trace Adkins is when he’s trying to be a serious country singer? The man has always had a set of pipes, and when he’s not doing the whole “Swing” or “Honkytonk Badonkadonk” crap, he’s excellent.

But of course, at any given moment there’s always some type of bad in country music, even in 1999. Hell, I’m sure at one point somebody somewhere declared Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” the worst country song in history. Nowadays it wouldn’t come anywhere close. Elsewhere, we had Martina McBride’s annoying “I Love You” which easily is the worst song here. To put it bluntly, this song sounds extremely immature and annoying. And then of course we have “Come On Over.” Now, I actually like Shania Twain for the most part, but this song is just terrible and definitely didn’t belong on country radio, especially not in 1999. Keith Urban’s first song also wasn’t great either. But that’s it folks. FOUR negative scores on the pulse. Nowadays that’s about as many positive scores you’ll find on the pulse. Evolution my ass.

If you have any questions as to why I gave a certain song the score I did, or perhaps just want to make your own Pulse, sound off in the comments!