The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [July 11]

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 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 current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or 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 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. Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On” -2 (Up 1)
  2. Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells” +2 (Up 1)
  3. Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” -2 (Up 1)
  4. Keith Urban – “Wasted Time” -3 (Down 3)
  5. Eric Church – “Record Year” +4 [Best Song]
  6. Chris Lane – “Fix” -5 (Up 1) [Worst Song]
  7. Kenny Chesney – “Noise” (Down 1)
  8. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots” +3 
  9. Dan + Shay – “From The Ground Up” +1 (Up 2)
  10. Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” -2 (Up 2)
  11. Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” -4 (Up 2)
  12. Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” -1 (Up 4)
  13. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink” +2 (Up 1)
  14. David Nail – “Night’s On Fire” -1 (Up 1)
  15. Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With a Beer” +2 (Up 2)
  16. Kip Moore – “Running For You” +2 (Up 2)
  17. Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight” +2 (Up 2)
  18. Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” -2 (Up 3)
  19. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway” +1 (Up 1)
  20. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls” -3 (Up 2)
  21. Tucker Beathard – “Rock On” -3 (Up 2)
  22. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” +3 (Up 2)
  23. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” +2 (Up 2)
  24. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately” +2 (Up 2)
  25. LoCash – “I Know Somebody” -5 (Up 3)
  26. Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” -2 (Up 1)
  27. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” +3 (Up 2)
  28. Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream” +1 (Up 2)
  29. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” -2 (New to Top 30)
  30. Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer” +2 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -5

The pulse improves five spots this week. 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Thomas Rhett – “T-Shirt” -4
  • Luke Bryan – “Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day” -1

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory”
    • He’s back and he’s still whiny as ever. This time we have Swindell dancing with some girl on the dance floor when her friends show up and take her away. This leaves Swindell alone on the dance floor. He then proceeds to whine for the rest of the song about unfair this was and basically without saying it explicitly, felt like the girl’s friends took away a night of sex from him. He says memory, but anyone who has heard a Swindell song knows what his whole goal always seems to get laid. Does he think dancing with a woman entitles him to sex? Throw in some cheap production and this song is same shit, different title from him (although it’s not one of his worst singles). 3/10
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”
    • It’s about time this song made the top 30! This was a perfect single choice for this time of the year and not just because summer is in the title. This is one of the best songs off their debut album Pawn Shop. “21 Summer” is a nostalgic song about a man recalling the summer he lost his virginity and how that woman made a man of him. He still thinks about her now and then, wondering where she’s been and how she’s doing. What I like about the songwriting is the mature and thoughtful approach taken, although I could do without the cutoff jeans line (it’s not necessarily bad, it’s just not necessary). The instrumentation and production have a breezy feel about it. It’s such a perfect fit for a summer tune and demonstrates once again the knack the duo has when it comes to the sound of their music. 7/10

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” – Up 4 from #16 to #12
  • Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” – Up 3 from #21 to #18
  • LoCash – “I Know Somebody” – Up 3 from #28 to #25

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Luke Bryan – “Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day” – Out of the Top 30
  • Thomas Rhett – “T-Shirt” – Out of the Top 30
  • Keith Urban – “Wasted Time” – Down 3 from #1 to #4

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

  • Kenny Chesney – “Noise” (Losing tons of spins and label is ready to begin the push for a new single)
  • David Nail – “Night’s On Fire” (Ad in Aircheck says it going for max spins this week, so it looks like the label is pushing it until the album drops on Friday and then it’ll be gone within two weeks)

On The Hot Seat:

  • William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” (I put it here tentatively because Warner seems willing to continue to push this song, yet it’s now been on the chart for 40 weeks and only makes minimal gains)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time”
  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes”
  • Thomas Rhett – “Vacation”
  • Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be”

 

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

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10 thoughts on “The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [July 11]

  1. Last weeks “Hot Shot Debut” dropped out of the charts (Darius Rucker).
    The other “New Entries” are up. The Last Bandoleros 60-49 & the Eli Young Band 54-47.
    Clare Dunn is still not done. Up to 55 with a bullet.
    Parmalee are up again (57-54).
    “Seein’ Red” rebounds to 53.
    Summer is over. Cassadee Pope is down again (55-57, no bullet)
    Week 3 & Maren Morris is close to enter the Top 30. (#32)

    Hot Shot Debut: Toby Keith – “A Few More Cowboys” – #51
    New: Joe Nichols – “Undone” – #60
    Re-Entry: Old Dominion – “Beer Can In A Truck Bed” – #58
    Re-Entry: Gary Allan – “Do You Wish It Was Me?” – #59

    Billboard Top Country Albums:
    #1 – Blake Shelton (2-1)
    #2 – Chris Stapleton (1-2)
    #3 – Cole Swindell (8-3)
    No new album (Top 25)

    Billboard Canada Country National Airplay:
    #1 – FGL (3rd week)
    #2 – Carrie Underwood (2-2)
    #3 – Eric Church (5-3)
    .
    #5 – Dallas Smith – “One Little Kiss” – highest canadian track

    Country Tracks Top 40 Australia:
    #1 – Billy Bridge feat. Rebecca Lee Nye – “We Knew” (2nd week)
    #2 – Sara Storer – “Dandelions” (9-2)
    #3 – Travis Collins – “Call Me Crazy” (2-3)

    Billy Bridge feat. Rebecca Lee Nye – “We Knew”: fiddle & guitar driven ballad with a saxophone part. Album: Billy Bridge – Stories Through Time – Independent/Billy Bridge.
    Sara Storer – “Dandelions”: atmospheric midtempo track. Album: Sara Storer – Silos – ABC Music/Sara Storer.
    Travis Collins – “Call Me Crazy”: 2nd single (after the very good “Just Another Girl”), melodic & slow. Album: Travis Collins – Hard Light – ABC Music.

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    • “Summer” won’t acheive much of anything more than likely. But it’s definitely not over. The label is still actively promoting the song as it got 4 adds on radio this week. Besides one bulletless week doesn’t automatically make a song over, is it struggling more than likely. By that logic William Michael Morgan “I Met A Girl” would’ve been done in the winter time.

      Also the reason Darius Rucker fell out is the fact that “If I Told You” got a mini IHeartMedia debut and this week was the hangover week.

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      • At any rate, there’s no way Capitol Nashville can be happy about how “Summer” has fared thus far.

        It’s not even in the Top 100 of the iTunes County chart as we speak. And given that they invested quite a bit into the music video right out of the gate, my bet is that they’re already losing money with this release attempt.

        I agree the label is likely to keep this alive through August. But don’t expect this to go Top 40.

        *

        Nowhere is the iHeartMedia deal for Darius Rucker more painfully obvious than reflected in its embarrassing plunge down the iTunes chart.

        It managed to peak at #2 for about four days among all songs being marketed as country. Now, less than a full week since that time, it has crashed to #44. That’s an even more staggering decline than what we’ve come to expect from a Kane Brown promotional single. Definitely among the worst free-falls I’ve seen of any single in quite a while.

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      • I wrote “Summer is over”. Not “Summer” is over.
        Her record company can promote “Summer” like there is no tomorrow. The track will not hit the jackpot.
        Country radio is busy playing Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Carrie Underwood & is picking up “Lipstick”. I don’t think radio will play more female artists. Even Jennifer Nettles can’t reach the Top 20 after 26 weeks.
        Lauren Alaina, Cassadee Pope, Tara Thompson, Danielle Bradbery, Brooke Eden, Clare Dunn, Lindsay Ell, Brandy Clark, Ashley Monroe, Kacey Musgraves are fighting for airplay.
        Will the new Jana Kramer single reach the Top 10? Who knows. What about Miranda Lambert or RaeLynn? With Cassadee Pope or Lauren Alaina struggling to reach the Top 50 with every release, record companies will search for new & fresh voices.
        Ashley Gearing lost her contract with Curb Records last week. (Source: Nash Country Daily)
        Looks like Sara Evans found a new label (according to “The Boot”): “I will be signing with a new label, but I can’t say who it is yet…”

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        • And Maren Morris may have an opening to claim that exclusive spot, especially if Miranda Lambert continues to struggle with singles like the just-announced “Vice” from her forthcoming album.

          “80s Mercedes” isn’t country whatsoever, but it is off to a solid start and I’m willing to bet will explode in just a matter of days. With Kelsea Ballerini essentially claiming Taylor Swift’s former spot (unfortunately, as long as she continues to cut non-country songs), it is especially improbable to be a breakout airplay success as a female at this moment in time.

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        • I think Miranda Lambert will be fine, as long as the label picks the right singles. Miranda will more than likely see a huge BB Top 30 debut when “Vices” is released. I honestly believe if they stay away from the hard rockers Miranda Lambert will really be back in control.

          I just hope that more of those female artists can breakout as a lot of them are really talented, singers like Lauren Alaina, Cassadee Pope, and Danielle Bradbery always have very strong singing voices that most of the time can elevate rather bad songs (exceptions being “Friend Zone” and “Barefoot and Buckwild”). Lindsay Ell is an amazing guitar player and she knows how to sing a light fluffy pop country song that has a really catchy hook, that radio should eat up.

          Artists like Brandy Clark, Ashley Monroe and Kacey Musgraves are great writers and singers and also radio friendly enough to appeal to listeners.

          There is so much female talent, but unfortunately OTV is coming up and LANco is probably gonna get it.

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        • The latter three women you mentioned have essentially come to the end of the line with their radio viability, so their futures are going to bank on critical acclaim and sinewing loyal followings. Which they undoubtedly have sizable fanbases that will ensure they can continue to record and release records.

          Same with Cassadee Pope. Her country radio career is just about done at this point in that radio programmers will look at her failure to capitalize on the hit duet with Chris Young and, with even less success than “I Wish I Could Break Your Heart”, close the door on her. Fortunately, quite a few know of her via word of mouth with her previous associations with Hey Monday, so she has an opportunity to recalibrate into something of an Adult Top 40 act.

          The other names have even more work cut out for them if they desire mainstream relevance.

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  2. I actually am rather indifferent towards “Middle Of A Memory”. Cole shows a good amount of restraint in his voice and sounds decent, the production is also decent with the amount of piano in the song.

    21 Summer isn’t bad and I greatly agree with your thoughts.

    It’s also intresting to note, it appears Warner Bros Nashville has stop promoting “It All Started With A Beer” as it is in freefall mode. “Noise” will get a couple of weeks as it is not eligible for recurrency until it is bulletless for 3 weeks in a row since Kenny Chesney is under 20 weeks.

    Also news is new Miranda Lambert music titled “Vice”, I am hoping for the best but I have a nagging voice in my head saying it won’t be good at all.

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  3. I agree with the ratings of both new entries.

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    “Middle of a Memory” SOUNDS alright. If it wasn’t for the hip-hop beat they somehow felt necessary to drive the rhythm, it would sound quite intimate and pretty. Even so, the production isn’t bad and Swindell doesn’t sound bad either even with his obvious vocal limitations.

    But yeah, the lyrics try to pass off as something deeper than they really are and it does get on my nerves somewhat. Much like male country entertainers tirelessly rely on the word “crazy” to describe how a woman makes them feel because they don’t have the guts to call a spade a spade and just say they’re horny, Swindell basically implies here: “Sex? Oh no no no no no……………I’m just talkin’ about a slow dance…………………yeah, that’ll do! (shifts eyes)”, and I feel I must deduct points due to the disingenuous intent.

    Still, at least it doesn’t also sound as bad as “Hope you Get Lonely Tonight” or sound bitter like “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey”, so there’s that.

    *

    As for “21 Summer”, it’s easily one of the stronger tracks off of an underwhelming debut album for The Brothers Osbourne.

    It’s true that the “cut-off jeans” lyric is a little distracting and can’t help but feel phoned in as if to say their label heard the song and said: “Alright, we’ll clear this for release under one consideration: we ask you replace your existing rhyme with cut-off jeans! We can’t lose the listeners now and our charts show demographics are responsive to tried-and-true references like jeans!”. But outside of that, the track more than makes up for that lyrically with some solid lines: especially the reference to high tide thunder. That lyric especially commanded my attention and paints some believable imagery in my head along with a late summer breeze and a powder blue Chevrolet. This is essentially yet another recent stab at capturing the nostalgia of “Springsteen”, but definitely among the more poetic and wistful ones.

    It certainly helps tremendously how well-produced this song is. What I can’t take seriously about many songs that try and rip off “Springsteen” is that, as much as they’re capitalizing on nostalgia and making gratuitous name-drops, they sound dime-a-dozen and flat. But the atmospheric early autumnal, swirling production fits the bittersweet longing of the lyricism hand in glove here and never gets in the way of T.J. Osbourne’s warm but gently melancholic vocals. When I listen to this, I can effortlessly envision myself resting on the hood of a vehicle gazing at the stars in a twilight sky in a desert canyon in late September: that time of year where summer’s afterglow is still palpable enough but you begin to notice a chill in the air for the first time in a while. This song captures that reflective middle ground between warmth and melancholia so effortlessly. Definitely a Decent to Strong 7 out of 10 to me.

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  4. Just listened to the new David Nail album, by the way.

    It blew away my expectations. “Night’s On Fire” (which isn’t bad, just obvious and overproduced radio fodder and little else) is definitely the album’s outlier. I’ll refrain from sharing my full thoughts until a review of the album surfaces here, but there are five tracks that I’d consider at least a +3 if graded by the newly-revised Pulse rubric (“Home”, “Fighter”, “Old Man’s Symphony”, “Babies”, “I Won’t Let You Go”), and even the remaining tracks that weren’t as impactful or vulnerable are still enjoyable or pleasant listening to (“Good At Tonight” would make a solid second single and I’d rate a +2, and even the album’s nadir……………….a tie between “Night’s On Fire and “Got Me Gone”, would still be a 0 on the Pulse.

    For now, here’s how I graded the tracks. Needless to say, “Fighter” is probably Nail’s best album (I say probably because “The Sound of a Million Dreams” was awesome too, with its main strengths being the diversity of sounds):

    *

    1: “Good At Tonight”: +2
    2: “Night’s On Fire”: 0
    3: “Ease Your Pain”: +1
    4: “Home”: +4
    5: “Lie With Me”: +1
    6: “I Won’t Let You Go”: +3
    7: “Fighter”: +4
    8: “Babies”: +3
    9: “Got Me Gone”: 0
    10: “Champagne Promise”: +2
    11: “Old Man’s Symphony”: +4

    *

    So the album averages out to a solid +2 (or Decent to Strong 7 out of 10). It does have a few filler moments which keep it below stellar territory, but considering how it has been a rarity this year to hear gut-punching songs on any mainstream country album, hearing multiple such songs on this album has made me very happy.

    I’m going to sleep good tonight! =)

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