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!

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20 thoughts on “The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [December 1999]

  1. Out of the songs hear the ones I’ve heard are the ones from The Dixie Chicks, Leeann Rimes (why is that a 0), Jo Dee Messina (which her and Dixie Chicks would get a tie for best song), Shania Twain Come On Over which is a +1 for me but a guilty pleasure for sure. Brad Paisley and Faith Hill which both would rank as a +1 as well. I remember hearing “Smoke Rings In The Dark”, but I was never impressed with it (something didn’t click with me sorry). Also I’m gonna probably going to get hated for this but I don’t mind “Honkey Tonk Badonkadonk” sorry just I can’t explain it other than it makes me happy.

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  2. Great pulse, Zack! I remember loving a lot of these songs. And you are so right about Smoke Rings in the Dark being best song. It is just a fantastic, amazing song that i still love to this day.

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  3. Wow thats a blast from the past. You forget how many songs and artists just disappeared. There’s a few songs on there I don’t recall like Andy Griggs, Steve Wariner and Clay Walker but most are pretty familiar even if I have heard them in 15 years
    I remember when Lesson in Leavin’ got stuck at #2 for like 7 weeks behind Amazed which was #1 for 8 weeks I think. That’s a really long run at the top

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  4. Even as a huge Martina fan, I have to say I hate that song. It’s just as poppy as it gets.

    I always really liked “When I Said I Do” and “Amazed.”

    Fully agree that “Smoke Rings in the Dark” is Gary Allan’s best song out of his many great ones

    Also amazing to see Tim McGraw with two songs in the Top 20.

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  5. A few thoughts:

    ‘It’s A Love Thing’ was Keith Urban’s debut single (away from The Ranch) and would eventually peak at #18 and since then he has had 35 consecutive top ten hits on the radio chart as a lead artist.

    While I really like the Gary Allan song I think the best song on this chart is ‘Cowboy Take Me Away’ which is a truly great song and was in many ways the peak of the Dixie Chicks reign and was also written by Martie and Marcus Hummon about Emily’s then husband Texas country singer Charlie Robison.

    ‘I’m Already Taken’ was actually Steve Wariner’s debut single way back in 1978 and peaked at a lowly #63 and then after charting over thirty top ten hits between 1980 and 1999 he rerecorded it and it would go on to reach #3. Wariner would probably be labeled as a little pop country but he is an awesome guitar player and had some really good songs like ‘Small Town Girl’, ‘The Weekend’, ‘Life’s Highway’ and a great song called ‘Some Fools Never Learn’. There are a ton of performers from the 70s and 80s like this that put out great music for many years without reaching that superstar level and really shouldn’t be forgotten.

    Finally I can’t give ‘Breathe’ anything but a -1 as it was the beginning of the end of Faith Hill as a legitimate country singer as it crossed over to the pop charts and she began chasing that market while sill trying to keep a toehold in the country side and it ended up killing her career.

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    • Pretty much. Right now I’m trying to do all of the years that Josh didn’t cover (with the exception of 2010) from when he did it.

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  6. Hey Zack can you explain how Leann Rimes “Big Deal” is a 0. Just wondering as I found it to be one of my favorites.

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    • I just thought the production on the chorus was really weird, coupled with the fact that I’ve just never been a big Rimes fan at all.

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      • Wow that’s a first. I’ve always loved Leann Rimes like songs “One Way Ticket” “Blue” “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way” “Something’s Gotta Give” or my personal favorite “Nothing Better To Do”

        If there is a song Zack I’d suggest for a song called “What Have I Done”, it’s really beautiful and amazing, you should give it a listen.

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  7. The new Martina McBride single “Reckless” is out. I prefer her early work. Fine voice but after 2-3 songs in a row i have enough.

    Faith Hill had a worldwide hit with “Breathe”. It’s a -1.
    My local supermarket/discounter is still playing “Breathe” every 30 min. “Wild One” was ok. Never really cared for her songs after “Piece Of My Heart”.
    The Zaca Creek version of “Wild One” is better.

    Gary Allan is one of my favourite singers & “Smoke Rings In The Dark” is one of his best songs. But it’s time for new music and MCA Nashville is becoming the new Curb Records. Pushing back albums & putting artists on the sideline.

    Checkout/New Artists: Tucker Beathard & his first single “Rock On” for Dot Records. He’s the son of songwriter Casey Beathard. Perfect for country radio. But not for me….-1.

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  8. Pretty much in complete agreement, with just a few exceptions. I love that Gary Allan song, but I’m a sucker for the Dixie Chicks. So I would give “Cowboy Take Me Away” a slight edge over “Smoke Rings In The Dark” for best song. Both are great. Tim McGraw’s “Something Like That” was the perfect likable single that helped make him as popular as he is today. Brad Paisley’s “He Didn’t Have To Be” is a very underrated song and probably in his top ten best songs. This is the kind of music I want Brad to be making again.

    Shania Twain and Lee Ann Rimes represented the worst of the 90s, which isn’t as bad as today’s worst songs at radio. But they still irritated the crap out of me.

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    • I really was quite fond of Shania Twain’s material. “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”, “No One Needs To Know”, “Any Man Of Mine”, “You’re Still The One”, “From This Moment On”, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” all remain some of my favorite songs of the 90s. I’m just curious Josh what was your problem with Twain and Rimes, was there music too pop and not country enough? Just curious.

      I will agree though that Dixie Chicks song was the best as the harmonies are pleasant and they sell it so well and Natalie Maines makes you believe that she wants to be taken away at least temporarily.

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      • Twain and Rimes remind me of many of the pop/marginally talented artists who have “gone country” in today’s country music. Never felt like they were genuine country artists. Just trying to cash in on country’s popularity. I didn’t like their voices either, especially when I could listen to the likes of Reba, Martina and Dixie Chicks.

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  9. “Amazed” was one of the better Lonestar songs. But for every good song Lonestar released awful songs like “Mr. Mom”. “Amazed” is a 0 for me, too.

    Shania Twains first self-titled album for Mercury Nashville is full of good songs. “Dance With The One That Brought You” is my favourite track.
    But the Cee Cee Chapman version of “Dance With The One…” is much better. Love Cee Cee Chapmans darker voice. She was on Curb Records & her first album “Twist Of Fate” is still on of my all-time favourite albums.
    “Any Man Of Mine” is a guilty pleasure & +1. “Come On Over” a 0.

    Andy Griggs. Great Voice. He was done after three albums on RCA Nashville. Song Selection was so-so. Favourite tracks are “This I Gotta See” & “She Things She Needs Me”.

    Checkout/Forgotten Artists: Cee Cee Chapman. Two albums “Twist Of Fate” on Curb & “Cee Cee Chapman” on Curb/Capitol. Great voice, some great songs like “Frontier Justice”, “Twist Of Fate”, “Gone But Not Forgotten”, “Exit 99″…
    Top songwriters like Gretchen Peters, Hugh Prestwood, Austin Roberts, Pam Tillis & Paul Overstreet. Co- Produced by Jimmy Bowen. Vince Gill singing & not one single made the top 40. Just another wasted talent in country music.

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  10. Really enjoying this feature. I can’t say the late ’90s are my favorite era of country music, but there are many good songs here that I haven’t thought of in a long time, and it was fun revisiting them.

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  11. I like this feature. Since I was in my 20’s during the entire 90’s, it’s fun to see a bit of a younger perspective on that period. I can assure you that the entirety of Gary Allan’s Album went very well with some cold beer. It still does of course, but at that time the sound was far different than what others were putting out. I consider it one of the best country albums ever, the mood was perfect. I remember I really liked Lonestar’s Lonely Grill album, everything they did after that became too soccer mom for my taste.

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