The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [June 27]

Each week I 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 either a +1, -1 or a 0. 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 +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. How do I determine if a song is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Songs rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Songs rated a 5 or 6 receive a 0. Songs rated 4 or lower receive a -1.

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 – “Wasted Time” -1 (Up 2)
  2. Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On” -1 
  3. Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells” +1 (Up 2)
  4. Luke Bryan – “Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day” -1 (Down 3)
  5. Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” -1 (Up 3)
  6. Eric Church – “Record Year” +1 (Up 4) [Best Song]
  7. Thomas Rhett – “T-Shirt” -1 (Down 3)
  8. Kenny Chesney – “Noise” (Up 1)
  9. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots” +1 (Up 2)
  10. Chris Lane – “Fix” -1 (Up 2) [Worst Song]
  11. Dan + Shay – “From The Ground Up” (Up 2)
  12. Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” -1 (Up 2)
  13. Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” -1 (Up 3) 
  14. David Nail – “Night’s On Fire” -1 (Up 1)
  15. Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With a Beer” +1 (Up 3)
  16. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink” +1 (Up 1)
  17. Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” 0 (Up 2)
  18. Kip Moore – “Running For You” +1 (Up 2)
  19. Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight” +1 (Up 2)
  20. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway” (Up 2)
  21. Tucker Beathard – “Rock On” -1 (Up 2)
  22. Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” -1 (Up 6)
  23. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls” -1 (Up 2)
  24. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” +1 
  25. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately” +1 (Up 2)
  26. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” +1
  27. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” +1 (Up 3)
  28. Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” -1 (Re-Entered Top 30 This Week)
  29. Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream” 0
  30. LoCash – “I Know Somebody” -1 (Re-Entered Top 30 This Week)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -3

The pulse dropped two spots this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Blake Shelton – “Came Here to Forget”
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Brett Young – “Sleep Without You”
  • LoCash – “I Know Somebody”

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” – Up 6 from #28 to #22
  • Eric Church – “Record Year” – Up 4 from #10 to #6
  • Three Different Songs Moved Up Three Spots (the entire chart shifted pretty much)

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Blake Shelton – “Came Here to Forget” – Out of the Top 30
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind” – Out of the Top 30

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

  • Thomas Rhett – “T-Shirt”

On The Hot Seat:

  • David Nail – “Night’s On Fire”
  • Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory”
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”
  • Old Dominion – “Song for Another Time”
  • Thomas Rhett – “Vacation”

Note: I’ve been throwing around an idea for a revamped and what I believe to be an improved scoring format for the Pulse. Under this format the scoring would work like this: each song would be assigned a +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3 or -4. This is how I would determine the score assigning:

10: +4

9: +3

8: +2

7: +1

5-6: 0

4: -1

2-3: -2

1: -3

0: -4

I think this new format would better distinguish the level of quality on the chart, as at the current format treats every quality and bad song the same. This new format would show varying degrees of quality in both bad and good songs. The highest possible score under this new format would be +90 and the lowest would be -90. If you’re wondering how this new format would score the current chart, the pulse would be -14. There would be zero +4 songs and only one +3 song (“Record Year”). On the opposite end of the spectrum, there would be two -4 songs (“Fix” and “I Know Somebody”). Let me know in the comments what you would think of this new format, as I’m highly considering implementing it.

 

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s Pulse in the comments below. 

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29 thoughts on “The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [June 27]

  1. I like your proposed changes but shouldn’t it be evenly distributed around 0 (5)?

    Something like +1 for a 6-7 and -1 for a 3-4. That way slightly good songs and slightly bad songs would in theory cancel each other out.

    I do think this system would help differentiate between a better than average song and a really good one which in the current format isn’t there. The Currington song and the Church are both currently +1 but I would call the former a 6 and the latter a 9 which is a pretty big difference. Same with Bryan song which I would give a 4 and the Lane song is a 0.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point and something I was think about last night after I typed the format up into the post. I’ll probably adjust it to this because as you say this gives it more balance.

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  2. I like the proposed changes although if “Vacation” and “Song For Another Time” indeed crack the top 30, it’s going to be brutal. Which reminds me of one addition I have for the scale.

    10: +4
    9: +3
    8: +2
    7: +1
    5-6: 0
    4: -1
    2-3: -2
    1: -3
    0: -4
    “Vacation”: -25

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Vacation”: -25 (& a special place in hell).

    47 weeks: David Nail – “Nights On Fire” – #14 – +1 – Up in audience – Up in spins (Hot Seat?)

    Billboard Country Airplay:
    #41 – Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” – Hot Shot Debut
    #53 – Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” – New
    #57 – Thompson Square – “You Make It Look So Good” – New
    #60 – Gary Allan – “Do You Wish It Was Me?” – New
    #56 – Cassadee Pope – “Summer” – Re-Entry

    Billboard Top Country Albums:
    #1 – Jon Pardi – California Sunrise – New
    #2 – Chris Stapleton – Traveller
    #3 – Keith Urban – Ripcord
    .
    #14 – LoCash – Fighters – New
    #23 – Elizabeth Cook – Exodus Of Venus – New
    (Sturgill Simpson – up 10 to 13 / Brandy Clark – down 16 to 24 / Frankie Ballad – out of Top 25 in 2nd week)

    Billboard Canada Country National Airplay:
    #1 – FGL – “H.O.L.Y.”
    #2 – Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells”
    #3 – Keith Urban – “Wasted Time”
    .
    #7 – Dallas Smith – “One Little Kiss” – highest canadian track

    Country Tracks Top 40 Australia:
    #1 – Travis Collins – “Call Me Crazy”
    #2 – Billy Bridge feat. Rebecca Lee Nye – “We Knew”
    #3 – Connie Kis Andersen – “Gone Wishin'”

    (Not So) New music from Canada:
    George Canyon – I Got This – Album – ole Media – 11 tracks + bonus track – released
    George Canyon is a well known name in Canada with a long list of chart entries. His new album starts with the hit-single “I Got This”. A radio-friendly uptempo cut. Not his best single. His new single is “Daughters Of The Sun”. The track is up to #31 after 7 weeks. “Daughters…” sound like it was written for Keith Urban. By far the worst single of his career. Even his strong voice can’t save the track.
    “Chasing Cars” (yes, the “Chasing Cars”) works well in a (modern-)country arrangement. The rest of the album is filled with ballads & midtempos. 7/10.

    Aaron Pritchett – The Score – Ep – Big Star Recordings – 8 tracks – released
    The first single “Dirt Road In ‘Em” was a Top 10 hit a couple of weeks ago. Like so many other AP songs “Dirt…” is a radio-friendly country-pop cut. The song is about…dirt roads, tailgates & small towns.
    The rest of the tracks are predictable midtempo cuts. 4/10.

    Chad Brownlee – Hearts On Fire – Ep – MDM Recordings – 7 tracks – released
    Just another Ep full of predictable tracks. Up to date production, lazy songwriting & CB sounds bored. 3/10.

    Tim Hicks – “Stompin’ Ground” – Single – Open Road Music – released
    The single is up to #44 in the 2nd week. TH wants to be the canadian version of Brantley Gilbert. Shitty party-country-rock. Loud, bad & over-produced (…my crowd, only one road in & out…/…round here ain’t no cops…/…freezer…hometown…beer…”). So far the worst canadian single of the year. 0/10.

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  4. Tentatively, here’s how my score would turn out with the proposed changes:

    *

    1: Keith Urban – “Wasted Time”: -3
    2: Jason Aldean: “Lights Come On”: -2
    3: Carrie Underwood: “Church Bells”: +1
    4: Luke Bryan: “Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day”: -1
    5: Florida Georgia Line: “H.O.L.Y.”: -1
    6: Eric Church: “Record Year”: +3
    7: Thomas Rhett: “T-Shirt”: -3
    8: Kenny Chesney: “Noise”: -1
    9: Jon Pardi: “Head Over Boots”: +2
    10: Chris Lane: “Fix”: -4
    11: Dan + Shay: “From The Ground Up”: +1
    12: Jake Owen: “American Country Love Song”: -2
    13: Sam Hunt: “Make You Miss Me”: -3
    14: David Nail: “Night’s On Fire”: 0
    15: Frankie Ballard: “It All Started With A Beer”: +1
    16: Justin Moore: “You Look Like I Need A Drink”: +1
    17: Kelsea Ballerini: “Peter Pan”: -1
    18: Kip Moore: “Running For You”: +2
    19: Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato: “Without A Fight”: +1
    20: Zac Brown Band: “Castaway”: 0
    21: Tucker Beathard: “Rock On”: -2
    22: Blake Shelton: “She’s Got A Way With Words”: -2
    23: Dierks Bentley & Elle King: “Different For Girls”: -2
    24: William Michael Morgan: “I Met A Girl”: +2
    25: Big & Rich (Featuring Tim McGraw): “Lovin’ Lately”: +2
    26: Jennifer Nettles: “Unlove You”: +2
    27: Billy Currington: “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”: +1
    28: Brett Young: “Sleep Without You”: -1
    29: Drake White: “Livin’ The Dream”: 0
    30: LoCash: “I Know Somebody”: -3

    TOTAL: -12

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heck, here’s my Bottom Thirty:

      *

      31: Cole Swindell: “Middle of a Memory”: -1
      32: Brothers Osbourne: “21 Summer”: +2
      33: High Valley: “Make You Mine”: -2
      34: Granger Smith: “If The Boot Fits”: -2
      35: Brett Eldredge: “Wanna Be That Song”: -2
      36: Old Dominion: “Song For Another Time”: -3
      37: Jordan Ragar (Featuring Jason Aldean): “Southern Boy”: -1
      38: Chris Stapleton: “Parachute”: +1 (Love Stapleton, but considered this among the weaker tracks on the album, sorry)
      39: Jerrod Niemann & Lee Brice: “A Little More Love”: -2
      40: Thomas Rhett: “Vacation”: -4 (Or -44, Whatever…)
      41: Dustin Lynch: “Seein’ Red”: -3
      42: Brandy Clark: “Girl Next Door”: -1 (LOVE her new album, but I’ve never liked this lead single, which I consider a glaring outlier)
      43: Chris Young (Featuring Vince Gill): “Sober Saturday Night”: 0 (Sorry, I don’t buy how this is “Song of the Year” caliber like I’ve been overhearing quite a bit elsewhere. Young’s vocal performance is solid, but the production is bland as hell, the theme has been done to death already, and Vince Gill’s contributions are completely ineffectual placed against this production.)
      44: Easton Corbin: “Are You With Me”: 0
      45: Craig Campbell: “Outskirts Of Heaven”: +2
      46: Chris Janson: “Holdin’ Her”: +3
      47: Josh Abbott Band (Featuring Carly Pearce): “Wasn’t That Drunk”: +1
      48: Michael Ray: “Think a Little Less”: -1
      49: Maddie & Tae: “Sierra”: +2
      50: Runaway June: “Lipstick”: +2
      51: Drew Baldridge: “Dance With Ya”: -3
      52: Josh Turner: “Hometown Girl”: -1
      53: Maren Morris: “80’s Mercedes”: -2 (But +2 As A Pop Song)
      54: Parmalee: “Roots”: +2
      55: Clare Dunn: “Tuxedo”: -4
      56: Cassadee Pope: “Summer”: -2
      57: Thompson Square: “You Make It Look so Good”: -1
      58: Charles Kelley: “Lonely Girl”: +1
      59: Old Dominion: “Beer Can In A Truck Bed”: -4 (Or -44, Tomato/Tomato! 😉 )
      60: Gary Allan: “Do You Wish It Was Me?”: -2

      *

      TOTAL TOP HALF SCORE: -12
      TOTAL BOTTOM HALF SCORE: -25

      FINAL TOTAL: -37

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      • Hey Nadia, can you please explain your positive reception of “Lipstick”, that’s a song I legitimately thought you wouldn’t really care for.

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        • “Lipstick” is a solid debut, to my ears because, firstly, it sounds legitimately like a modern country song. It actually is most reminiscent of The Wreckers in that it finds just the right middle ground between contemporary country and pop sensibilities. In a way, it’s what Lucy Angel’s “Crazy Too” attempted to be but with not-as-annoying vocals.

          Also, the lyrics are certainly nothing new, but they’re agreeable and easy to relate to.

          Perhaps a +2 is slightly too strong a nod for a pleasantly enjoyable song, but I honestly felt like giving it the benefit of the doubt because it sounds like an example of a solid commercial country-pop song with a well-rounded sum of its parts amounting to an enjoyable whole.

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  5. I don’t think you should expand it to -4 to +4. Maybe do -2 to +2 if anything. I like the way it is now though. Good songs, mediocre songs and bad songs is simple.

    Regardless, you should center it around 5. I never understood why a song that is a 6 gets a “0” rating by a song thats a 4 gets a “-1” rating.

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    • This suggestion actually makes a lot of sense because it would be in line with how country radio callout surveys are conducted ranging from “Strong Favorable”, “Favorable”, “Neutral”, “Unfavorable” and “Strongly Unfavorable”.

      Under the ten-point system, there are songs I settled on a certain score that were nonetheless more or less enthusiastic than others in that same range. For instance, while I decided my take on Runaway June’s “Lipstick” was closer to a +2 than a +1, it would probably rank as a +1 under this system. Or tracks I have tepid support for like Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute” would nonetheless be distinguished properly from BOTH songs I passionately enjoy and those I’m on the fence with.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Here’s how I’d rate the Top Sixty under Tom’s rubric:

      *

      1: Keith Urban – “Wasted Time”: -2
      2: Jason Aldean: “Lights Come On”: -1
      3: Carrie Underwood: “Church Bells”: +1
      4: Luke Bryan: “Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day”: -1
      5: Florida Georgia Line: “H.O.L.Y.”: -1
      6: Eric Church: “Record Year”: +2
      7: Thomas Rhett: “T-Shirt”: -2
      8: Kenny Chesney: “Noise”: -1
      9: Jon Pardi: “Head Over Boots”: +1
      10: Chris Lane: “Fix”: -2
      11: Dan + Shay: “From The Ground Up”: +1
      12: Jake Owen: “American Country Love Song”: -1
      13: Sam Hunt: “Make You Miss Me”: -2
      14: David Nail: “Night’s On Fire”: 0
      15: Frankie Ballard: “It All Started With A Beer”: +1
      16: Justin Moore: “You Look Like I Need A Drink”: +1
      17: Kelsea Ballerini: “Peter Pan”: -1
      18: Kip Moore: “Running For You”: +1
      19: Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato: “Without A Fight”: +1
      20: Zac Brown Band: “Castaway”: 0
      21: Tucker Beathard: “Rock On”: -1
      22: Blake Shelton: “She’s Got A Way With Words”: -1
      23: Dierks Bentley & Elle King: “Different For Girls”: -1
      24: William Michael Morgan: “I Met A Girl”: +1
      25: Big & Rich (Featuring Tim McGraw): “Lovin’ Lately”: +1
      26: Jennifer Nettles: “Unlove You”: +1
      27: Billy Currington: “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”: +1
      28: Brett Young: “Sleep Without You”: -1
      29: Drake White: “Livin’ The Dream”: 0
      30: LoCash: “I Know Somebody”: -2
      31: Cole Swindell: “Middle of a Memory”: -1
      32: Brothers Osbourne: “21 Summer”: +1
      33: High Valley: “Make You Mine”: -1
      34: Granger Smith: “If The Boot Fits”: -1
      35: Brett Eldredge: “Wanna Be That Song”: -1
      36: Old Dominion: “Song For Another Time”: -2
      37: Jordan Ragar (Featuring Jason Aldean): “Southern Boy”: -1
      38: Chris Stapleton: “Parachute”: +1
      39: Jerrod Niemann & Lee Brice: “A Little More Love”: -1
      40: Thomas Rhett: “Vacation”: -2
      41: Dustin Lynch: “Seein’ Red”: -2
      42: Brandy Clark: “Girl Next Door”: -1
      43: Chris Young (Featuring Vince Gill): “Sober Saturday Night”: 0
      44: Easton Corbin: “Are You With Me”: 0
      45: Craig Campbell: “Outskirts Of Heaven”: +1
      46: Chris Janson: “Holdin’ Her”: +2
      47: Josh Abbott Band (Featuring Carly Pearce): “Wasn’t That Drunk”: +1
      48: Michael Ray: “Think a Little Less”: -1
      49: Maddie & Tae: “Sierra”: +1
      50: Runaway June: “Lipstick”: +1
      51: Drew Baldridge: “Dance With Ya”: -2
      52: Josh Turner: “Hometown Girl”: -1
      53: Maren Morris: “80’s Mercedes”: -1
      54: Parmalee: “Roots”: +1
      55: Clare Dunn: “Tuxedo”: -2
      56: Cassadee Pope: “Summer”: -1
      57: Thompson Square: “You Make It Look so Good”: -1
      58: Charles Kelley: “Lonely Girl”: +1
      59: Old Dominion: “Beer Can In A Truck Bed”: -2
      60: Gary Allan: “Do You Wish It Was Me?”: -1

      *

      TOTAL: -22

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    • My only problem with his current scoring system is as I mentioned above it doesn’t leave enough room for the differences between slightly good vs great songs or slightly bad vs colossally bad songs.

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  6. I second the new format…

    Was also going to ask… can you put the score next to the songs that entered/dropped each week? Or some other “cheating” indicator as to what exactly caused The Pulse to move? A majority of the songs on the chart are the same each week, and The Pulse isn’t scored by where those songs are in the top thirty, just their overall quality. After following several weeks in a row it can be a tad confusing to figure out where it all went.

    Just a thought! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Would also be cool if there was some way to weight the pulse so as it could be higher if the top 5 or 10 had better songs as opposed to a bunch of crap at the top and then a bunch of good to great songs slogging through the twenties.

    Not sure how that could work though.

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    • I thought about that, but the problem with this is then chart position becomes more important than quality, which is what I want to keep it about. Not to mention every radio station plays songs differently. While some station may barely play Stapleton, another one might play him all the time.

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      • Yeah I hear you it’s just amazing when you look at the audience that the top songs pull every week and the immense drop off that starts around 10 and really accelerates in the twenties.

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        • Well this problem is caused by the overpushing of songs I would say get a ‘meh’ response at best. It’s been particularly glaring because it seems there are more and more of these type of songs. Not a lot of true hits people want to hear.

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        • Right. And what this is leading to is a lack of those mid range recurrents that radio used to really ride. These are the songs that are no longer charting but anywhere from 6-18 months old and were huge hits. Instead radio has tightened up the playlists and plays the hell out of about a dozen songs at a time while the rest of the chart lines up like ships waiting for there turn at port and when a song drops off often it totally disappears and in no time it is like it never existed.

          This is just one of the negative consequences of country radio’s takeover by former top 40 programmers because this is how mainstream pop radio has always been programmed. Country radio used to be different. And better.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I think a 5 point system would be better ultimately.

    Basically have it be
    Great 8-10
    Good 6-7
    Meh 5 ( I honestly believe if a grading rubic is 1 out of 10, 5 should always be the center point)
    Bad 3-4
    Horrible 0-2

    I think all of the songs in the Top 30 can be distinguished rather easily into one of the categories I mention.

    I just think if a song is a 6 out of 10 that tends to indicate more right with the song than wrong.

    Totally unrelated but Josh, saw you got a new commenting picture, looks great!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I like the proposed format change. It’s important that the rankings reflect the nuances–however bad or good–within the top 30.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Is there a chance to run the two formats??

    I think they give two different perspectives, one of them which we can compare to the past.

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