The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [August 29]

Sam Hunt Destroying Country Music
When you hear a Sam Hunt song come on the radio and you accidentally burn the house down as you try to burn your radio…

Each week we 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. Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” -4 (Up 1)
  2. Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” -2 (Up 2)
  3. Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” -1
  4. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls” -3 (Up 2)
  5. Dan + Shay – “From The Ground Up” +1 (Down 4)
  6. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink” +2 (Down 1)
  7. Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” -3 (Up 3)
  8. Kenny Chesney & Pink – “Setting The World On Fire” -2 (Up 4)
  9. Tucker Beathard – “Rock On” -3 (Up 2)
  10. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” +3 (Up 3)
  11. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” +2 (Up 3)
  12. LoCash – “I Know Somebody” -5 (Up 3) [Worst Song]
  13. Luke Bryan – “Move” -4 (Up 4)
  14. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” -2 (Up 4)
  15. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway” +1 (Up 1)
  16. Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” -2 (Up 4)
  17. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” (Up 5)
  18. Miranda Lambert – “Vice” +3 (Up 1) [Best Song]
  19. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately” +2 (Up 2)
  20. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” +3 (Up 4)
  21. Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream” +1 (Up 4)
  22. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” -3 (Up 4)
  23. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1 (Up 4)
  24. Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boots Fits” -4 (Up 4)
  25. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” -3 (New to Top 30)
  26. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” (Up 3)
  27. Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer” +2 (Up 3)
  28. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -3 (New to Top 30)
  29. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” -4 (New to Top 30)
  30. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” +3 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -30

The pulse drops five spots this week. It’s going in the wrong direction!

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Chris Lane – “Fix” -5 (Good bye and good riddance! May we never see another Chris Lane song in the top 30 ever again.)
  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” -2
  • Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots” +3
  • Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight” +2

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
    • On the surface this song should be decent. After all Tim McGraw is all involved and he’s consistently been churning out the most quality country singles at country radio the past couple of years. Surely his quality could rub off and help Florida Georgia Line produce their third good song ever. If anything it should be better than the vanilla “H.O.L.Y.” Well after listening thoroughly to this track, I can say no to both of these. This song is a good reminder that Joey Moi is still the producer of this duo. There’s no other way to put it: the production on this song flat-out sucks. It’s obnoxiously loud and in your face while trying to be pop, country, rock and hip-hop all at once. Then you get to the lyrics, which look like leftovers from the bro country era. We also get a line throwing together Travis Tritt and Tupac, who are both fine artists but don’t really need to be name dropped together. Everything about this song is just so lazy and the only redeeming quality it has is Tim McGraw, who kind of mails in his performance. I don’t blame him and I imagine he had to do this song so he could release songs like “Humble and Kind” as singles. 2/10
  • Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled”
    • This is the newest On The Verge pick, in case you were wondering why Lauren Alaina went from irrelevant to rising at a meteoric pace on the airplay chart. This is the same feature that has brought us craptastic artists such as Sam Hunt, Chase Bryant, Canaan Smith and Tucker Beathard. Now let me state right up front that I think Alaina is a talented vocalist that is capable of producing great music. Alan Jackson picked her to open for him on tour this year for a reason. I would take her over Scotty boy any day and she should have won American Idol over him. But this song is just not good and quite frankly not country. It’s a catchy pop song with a generic message of never giving up. There’s not a lot of meat and whole a lot of fluff to this song. I wanted to like it, but I just can’t. More unfortunately is I don’t see this giving her career a big boost. Once this song gets its fake rise to the top of the chart I don’t see the follow-up doing much because this is still country radio where they don’t play women. Alaina and her fans need to enjoy the ride to the top now because the crash back to reality later isn’t going to feel too good. 2/10
  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
    • Keith Urban is on a race to the bottom of the barrel! His single choices in the Ripcord era have been downright pathetic and reek of an older artist that is desperate to remain relevant and in the spotlight. With this single Urban releases the worst yet. This is a straight rip off of Sam Hunt’s mega hit “Take Your Time.” Just like that song it’s about a sleazy douche who acts all innocent and will fein genuine caring for a broken-hearted girl at the bar all in the hopes he can take her pants off later in the night. It’s disgusting, in bad taste and Urban will fool tons of people into believing his phoniness. The only thing that saves this from the very bottom and makes it slightly better than Hunt’s “Take Your Time” is the well composed instrumentation that is wasted on garbage lyrics. Congrats Keith Urban on losing any shred of respect I had left for you. 1/10
  • Chris Stapleton – “Parachute”
    • My God! Is it really a Stapleton song in the top 30? After the first three new arrivals this song is a huge breath of fresh air. While it’s not on the level of the previous single “Nobody To Blame,” this is a pretty damn good song. The catchy guitar riffs will instantly get stuck in your head and Stapleton absolutely belts the chorus of this song. There are better love songs on Traveller, but I found this to be one of the most enjoyable tracks on it. Hopefully this song has a long stay on the chart and ultimately has a good showing. I give it a solid shot at reaching the top ten, especially since I imagine Mercury will push this for a while being that it’s pretty much a lock that it’s the final single from Traveller. But once again we have Stapleton music in the top 30 and that’s something we should all be happy about. 8/10

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” – Up 29 from #57 to #28
  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” – Up 19 from #48 to #29
  • Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” – Up 5 from #22 to #17

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Chris Lane – “Fix” – Out of the Top 30 (& Finally Done)
  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” – Out of the Top 30 (& Done)
  • Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots” – Out of the Top 30 (& Done)
  • Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight” – Out of the Top 30 (& Done)

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

  • Dan + Shay – “From The Ground Up”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Zac Brown Band – “Castaway” (It’s been struggling for weeks and a couple of songs seem to leap-frog it each week. At the very least it’s something to keep an eye on.)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Jerrod Niemann & Lee Brice – “A Little More Love” (Why is Donkey guy coming back?)
  • Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry”
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word”
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”

Note: Thomas Rhett’s “Vacation” appears to be on its last legs, as it lost over 400k in audience this week. So it looks like it won’t be reaching the top 30 and is hands down a major flop. And to think I had the rant of all rants lined up for this song. I guess I’ll have to save it for the end of the year where it’s almost a lock to win Country Perspective’s 2016 Worst Song of the Year.

 

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

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Country Perspective’s Best Music Reviewed in August

Kelsey Waldon I've Got A Way

This is the monthly recap post of all the great music we reviewed on the blog in case you missed it or just came across our humble, little blog. So check this music out if you haven’t already.

10/10

Albums:

Kelsey Waldon – I’ve Got A Way

BJ Barham – Rockingham

Lori McKenna – The Bird & The Rifle

Songs:

Turnpike Troubadours – “Come As You Are”

 

9/10

Albums:

Dolly Parton – Pure & Simple

Cody Jinks – I’m Not The Devil

 

8/10

Albums:

Western Centuries – Weight of the World

 

Album Review – Drake White’s ‘Spark’

Drake White Spark

When it comes to mainstream country, I think the ideal place to be is under the radar and unsung. Well at least at first because the pressure isn’t immediately on the artist to be this big hit maker. It should happen organically and over a certain period of years of work because it ultimately helps shape them to be better and find their sound. This is certainly the case for Dot Records’ Drake White. It took him two different major label deals and two single releases over a couple of years with Dot to finally launch his new album Spark. While those two lead singles didn’t blow me away with their quality, it did catch my eye with their roots-y, organic instrumentation. I could see the potential and made me look forward to see what he could bring to the table with his major label debut album. Spark was actually one of the few mainstream country album releases I’ve looked forward to in 2016 and after listening to it, White delivers the goods for the most part.

Sparks opens with “Heartbeat,” which is introduced by a recording of White’s preacher grandfather delivering a sermon. Interludes of his grandfather show up throughout the album, as White has said in numerous interviews he greatly influenced the album’s songs and themes. The opening song is soul meets country tune about the value of heart and hard work. Everything about the song is uplifting in nature. Depending on your attitude towards these songs will greatly affect your outlook on this entire album. “Story” opens with lots of fiddle, which made me double take upon first listen and thought I had accidentally hit play on a Turnpike Troubadours song. That let me know right away I was in for a great song. It’s about various people’s lives, their everyday goals and tribulations of a normal day. It’s a song that is very easy to like with its universal message and traditional instrumentation. At the end it even features a little bit of scatting from White.

The piano-driven “Makin’ Me Look Good Again” really shows off White’s soulful side. You’ll find when listening to this record there’s a noticeable soul influence and White does a great job for the most part blending it with the country sounds. This love ballad gives him opportunity show off his flawless vocals. While he’s not one of the very best vocalists of the genre, he has a genuinely likeable quality about him that will endear him to listeners similar to Josh Turner and Zac Brown. The album’s lead single “It Feels Good” is next. Looking back I’m kind of surprised this upbeat, feel good single didn’t do better at country radio. While the lyrics are nothing to write home about (basically a song about being happy), the song is quite infectious and will stick with you.

This is followed by the sophomore single and biggest hit so far of the album, “Livin’ The Dream.” Much like the previous single it’s not breaking any new ground in the theme department, but it’s agreeable enough to a majority of listeners that it made sense for the label to make it a single. It’s a decent song that helped launch White and his album, but I probably won’t remember this song. “I Need Real” is one of the songs on Spark that tries to dig deeper. It starts out with White singing about small town problems like drugs and birth control, immediately catching my attention. But it doesn’t really delve into these more serious topics like I was hoping and it turns into a song about wanting a real, tangible love. It’s not what I hoped, but it’s solid and I could see it as a potential single for White.

Most of this album features a lot of organic, roots-y instrumentation and on “Back To Free” it doesn’t seem much different. That is until it kicks into the meat of the song and we get the annoying buzzing/beeping sound pulsing in the background. It just smacks of label dabbling because it’s utterly pointless and is only satisfying to some label executive in a suit. It’s distracting and ultimately brings the song down, making it one of the worst on the album. White tries his hand at an island summer song with “Equator.” It’s about heading to an island on the equator and getting away from the cold weather in the winter and it’s something you’ve heard before it you’ve ever listened to Jimmy Buffett. That being said it’s not a bad summer song by any stretch and along the line of Zac Brown Band’s beach songs. It’s fun, carefree and will fit nicely into vacation playlists where it belongs. “Live Some” is another song where White’s likeable vocals elevate above average lyrics. Most of the song consists of lyrics finishing with “some” at the end. It all revolves around how all kinds of things happen to you in life, but you continue to live and experience life. Again it’s simple, yet relatable.

The most serious song on this album is hands down “Waitin’ On The Whiskey To Work.” It’s probably the most important too because it showcases that White can dig deep and isn’t just all about fun and uplifting themes. The song is about a broken-hearted man trying to drink the pain away and continuing drink until the whiskey starts working. A fleeting organ and fine harmonica set the tone of the song perfectly. I would say this is the best track on Spark. “Elvis” is not indeed about the king of rock and roll, but he serves as an example of the point the song makes. It’s about keeping your head down and continuing to work hard towards your goals in life because success isn’t something that comes over night. The only way you’ll get there is putting in the time. With the catchy hook and the country rock production, this is another one I could see being a single. Spark unfortunately goes out with a fizzle with the R&B influenced “Take Me As I Am.” First off the production feels completely out of place after hearing the first 11 songs and seems to be a better fit on Thomas Rhett’s last album. Then the lyrics are your standard, generic love lyrics you find in Nashville pop songs nowadays. I will give it one thing and that it’s catchy. But that’s about the only good I can find in it.

With Spark Drake White delivers an album I think shows he’s a mainstream country artist worth paying attention to, despite a couple of rough spots. The upbeat and organic instrumentation is a real breath of fresh air and brings a sense of authenticity that is lacking from the mainstream scene. White’s vocals are deep, infectious and is something that will leave a lasting impression on the listener. Spark in a way reminds me of a lot of Zac Brown Band’s major label debut album The Foundation, which like White’s album wasn’t perfect, but it established the sound of the band and made them into a recognizable name in the genre. This doesn’t represent the best we’re going to get from White, but it gives us an idea of who he is and his sound. Spark is a pretty solid foundation for Drake White to build upon and I look forward to what he delivers on his next album.

Grade: 7/10

(I also have to give kudos to the artist of the album cover, which is fantastic. Probably one of the best album covers I’ve seen this year.)

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [Dec. 2005]

220px-come_a_little_closer

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 December 24th, 2005.

  1. Dierks Bentley – “Come A Little Closer” +2
  2. Kenny Chesney – “Who You’d Be Today” +3
  3. Joe Nichols – “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” -1 (sorry, this is way too corny for me)
  4. Garth Brooks – “Good Ride Cowboy” +3 (I don’t think Chris LeDoux would want to see the current pulse of mainstream country music…)
  5. Billy Currington – “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” 0 (more boring than anything else)
  6. Toby Keith – “Big Blue Note” -2
  7. George Strait – “She Let Herself Go” +3
  8. Carrie Underwood – “Jesus, Take The Wheel” +2
  9.  Faith Hill – “Like We Never Loved At All” +2
  10. Trace Adkins – “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” -4 [Worst Song]
  11. Little Big Town – “Boondocks” +3
  12. Keith Urban – “Better Life” +2
  13. Chris Cagle – “Miss Me Baby” +3
  14. Gary Allan – “Best I Ever Had” +4
  15. Tim McGraw – “My Old Friend” +4
  16. Brad Paisley & Dolly Parton – “When I Get Where I’m Going” +5 [Best Song]
  17. Sugarland – “Just Might (Make Me Believe) +3
  18. Josh Turner – “Your Man” 0
  19. Montgomery Gentry – “She Don’t Tell Me To” 0
  20. Keith Urban – “Tonight I Wanna Cry” +3
  21. Brooks & Dunn – “Believe” +4
  22. Gretchen Wilson – “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today” +3
  23. Big & Rich – “Comin’ To Your City” -3 (props for the Buffalo reference, but that’s it)
  24. Sara Evans – “Cheatin'”+3
  25. Miranda  Lambert – “Kerosene” +3
  26. Martina McBride – “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden” +2 (Wasn’t sure what to grade this one. I think the original Lynn Anderson version is overall better but Martina does good vocally here).
  27. Jamey Johnson – “The Dollar” +4
  28. Blake Shelton – “Nobody But Me” +3
  29. Terri Clark – “She Didn’t Have Time” +3
  30. Van Zant – “Nobody Gona Tell Me What To Do” +1

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: +58

Pretty good chart this week! Sure, there’s a couple awful songs here but overall, there’s some pretty good stuff here. The middle of the chart in particular features some truly excellent songs. Of course, that’s only my take on it. What do you guys think?

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: Country Radio’s 15 Minutes of Fame Strategy

This week’s opening will be short. I just started a new job this week so I haven’t had a ton of time to thoroughly think through this topic, but it’s something I want to dive into and would love to see readers’ thoughts on this.

Mainstream country labels seems to aim more and more for just one hit single. For all the radio hype Chris Lane got for “Fix,” his album sales tell a different story. Girl Problems hasn’t sold well out of the gate, debuting at #8 on Billboard last week and falling off the charts this week. Outselling Lane last week was Texas Country star Cody Johnson, who still remains on the charts this week. And Cody Jinks, who debuted at #4 this week with I’m Not the Devil sold more than Girl Problems did.

It’s not really breaking news that independent country stars have strong album sales, as we saw last year with Aaron Watson, Jason Isbell, Blackberry Smoke, and Turnpike Troubadours all reaching number one on the album charts. A main reason for this could be the fact that independent fan bases seem more willing to purchase an album to support their favorite artist. But being able to sell an album well, especially at the heels of a hit radio song, could signify the longevity for an artist. Yes, Cody Johnson and Cody Jinks have established careers and released multiple albums prior to Gotta Be Me and I’m Not the Devil, but strong album sales only cement their place with their fans and in the music industry.

However, with Chris Lane selling poorly after “Fix” hit number one just screams one-hit wonder. So many times, we see artists, particularly trend-chasing B/C-level artists, only perform well at radio with a song or two. Most albums seem to get delayed, or they simply just sell like crap. How do Chris Lane or Big Loud Records expect to see any follow-up success? Not that I want to hear another full-fledged pop song from Lane, but why wasn’t Girl Problems given the same type of promotion as “Fix”? I just don’t understand why they chose to play the short game for 15 minutes of fame. Chris Lane isn’t the first, and he won’t be the last. This is just one of many, many problems with mainstream country radio.

Country radio is in the pits, and these hot, one-hit wonder type songs is a short-sighted attempt to gain listeners and revenue. Labels and radio execs aren’t thinking of the long game to improve and crawl out of its self-dug hole. I don’t claim to be a programming expert, but this type of strategy screams short-term thinking. It’s treading on water without looking for a boat to help stay afloat. And as long as radio continues this thought process, we’ll be continually treated to trendy singles followed by poor albums. Artists and labels who think solely about the one single and not the album are not building a sustainable music career.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • Jack Ingram‘s Midnight Motel will be released tomorrow.
  • Whiskey Myers’ newest album, Mud will be released September 9.
  • Also coming out on the 9th is St. Paul & The Broken Bones‘ Sea of Noise.
  • Amanda Shires will release her new album My Piece of Land on September 16.
  • Erik Dylan‘s Heart of a Flatland Boy will be released on October 21.
  • Mack McKenzie is releasing his sophomore album A Million Miles on October 22.

Throwback Thursday Song

Merle Haggard’s “My Favorite Memory” This single from Haggard was released on this day in 1981, and would go on to become Merle’s 25th number one single.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Frank Ocean Blonde In an act of defiance against the major labels and streaming, Frank Ocean left his label and self-released his highly anticipated sophomore album exclusively through Apple. With labels/streaming services/artists all at odds, this kind of move is big and could lead to more artists acting in the same fashion.

Tweet of the Week

It’s been a big week for Erik Dylan, who performed at this Guy Clark tribute with the likes of Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, and others. Dylan’s upcoming album was also made available for pre-order.

iTunes Review for Florida Georgia Line

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.29.54 PM

This was left under Florida Georgia Line’s Dig Your Roots, which is due out tomorrow. I’ve only heard “H.O.L.Y.” and “God, Your Mama, and Me,” but I haven’t been crazy about either song. This review says it all!