The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Oct. 20)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from three Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales and Streaming. I take the numbers from these charts, plug them into my formulas and methodology and it spits out a number I refer to as a Popularity Rating or Pop Rating for short. This determines the order of the top 20 rankings you’ll see below.

What I love about my chart is it’s simple, but fluid and dynamic. It accounts for all types of artists across the board. It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as all three categories are ultimately controlled by you the listeners. Not to mention I feel it’s more inclusive of a variety of styles of country music and women artists. It’s a true real-time indicator of who is popular in country music with built-in natural weights that ensures fairness.

One last thing: I will of course be adding my own personal opinion to the chart with a rating of +1, 0 or -1 based on whether I think the artist’s contributions towards their pop rating are helping, hurting or not having an effect on the genre. Onto the chart!


  1. Luke Combs +1
  2. Kane Brown (#1 Streaming) -1
  3. Dan + Shay (#1 Digital Songs) +1
  4. Florida Georgia Line -1
  5. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  6. Thomas Rhett 0
  7. Jason Aldean +1
  8. Bebe Rexha -1
  9. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  10. Eric Church +1
  11. Lauren Alaina +1
  12. Brett Young -1
  13. Carrie Underwood 0
  14. Tim McGraw +1
  15. Old Dominion +1
  16. Sam Hunt 0
  17. Jon Pardi +1
  18. Jimmie Allen +1
  19. Zac Brown Band +1
  20. Jake Owen -1

The Ultimate Pulse: +5


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Eric Church, Tim McGraw, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi & Jake Owen
  • Gone: Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Cole Swindell, Travis Tritt & Loretta Lynn
  • The Ultimate Pulse improves two spots to +5 this week, another new all-time high. There was a ton of movement again this week, with yet another five artist swing in arrivals and dismissals. Bentley once again drops in album sales, which is tradition at this point. Rascal Flatts couldn’t maintain their impressive sales and probably won’t recoup them. Swindell has almost consistently lost traction since his album release and will need his next single to be a hit to rebound. Tritt and Loretta were both expected to only last a week.
  • Luke Combs is the new #1 this week, his second reign at the top of the chart. He just edges out Kane Brown by about the same margin Brown edged out Combs in last week’s chart. It’s impressive how Combs consistently maintains his numbers, as they never waver and stay in the same vicinity every week, whereas Brown’s numbers ebb and flow in sales. Brown’s streaming numbers are more consistent than anybody though.
  • At this point Dan + Shay have essentially replaced Florida Georgia Line in The Big Three at the top. They’ve got a large lead on Florida Georgia Line now and have also taken over the #1 Digital Song sales spot. They’re also nipping at the heels of Combs and Brown. If they can just increase their streaming number a little bit, they have a great shot at the #1 spot.
  • As Florida Georgia Line has dropped, Chris Stapleton makes a solid gain this week and almost had enough to pass the duo for the #4 spot. This is thanks to his current single “Millionaire” starting to make a dent in sales. If it can continue to rise in sales with it, he just may move to #4 in the coming weeks.
  • Mitchell Tenpenny continues to steadily gain every week in sales and streaming with his single “Drunk Me,” rising to #9 this week. He’s also just announced his debut album release and opened pre-orders, so this will help his gains even more. While I hate the song, you can’t deny it’s a true hit.
  • As expected Eric Church re-enters the chart this week and in a big way, breaking into the top ten. In a crowded album release schedule, Church did great sales with his excellent album Desperate Man. For the first time he also gets streaming help, as the title track debuted on the Country Streaming Songs chart. Equally surprising, the song fell off the sales chart, which makes no sense considering I haven’t seen it fall from its current position on iTunes.
  • Nevertheless, Church should be able to hang around this spot on the chart due to his albums always selling through well and the chart being pretty weak right now.
  • Lauren Alaina rises to #11 thanks to the sales of her new single. I’ll be curious to see if she makes a streaming impact.
  • Brett Young continues to hemorrhage sales and streaming, falling out of the top ten. It’s clear at this point that there isn’t a lot of enthusiasm and excitement around his new single. But I’m sure this won’t stop the industry and media from gas lighting everyone into thinking it’s a hit when it tops the radio chart.
  • Tim McGraw makes his debut on The Ultimate Pulse at #14, thanks to the sales of his new songs. I imagine he should be able to maintain sales for “Neon Church,” allowing him to stay on the chart.
  • Old Dominion makes their return to The Ultimate Pulse, thanks to the sales of their new single “Make It Sweet.” It’s selling well and seems to be resonating with listeners, so they should be able to stick around on the chart. I wouldn’t be surprised if they garnered some streaming traction too.
  • Jake Owen makes his debut on The Ultimate Pulse at the final spot on the chart, thanks to the sales of his single “Down to the Honkytonk.” This looks like it will be a hit for him. It’s been a while since Owen has had a true hit and not a radio hit. Unfortunately I do not like this song at all. It’s some of the cheapest, laziest songwriting I’ve heard this year. It panders so hard toward traditionalists. The song relies on tired references to get you hooked, not to mention the hook itself is repeated too much.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Cole Swindell
  2. Blake Shelton
  3. Dierks Bentley
  4. Taylor Swift
  5. Brothers Osborne

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below and feel free to make predictions for next week’s rankings. Feel free to ask questions if you need any clarification on the methodology and rankings.

Review – RaeLynn’s “Tailgate”

The career of RaeLynn has certainly been an interesting one to watch. She was discovered on The Voice by Blake Shelton and made a splash with the hit “God Made Girls,” which was criticized as being a bro-pandering song. Not to mention her voice received plenty of criticism. But then she found redemption with maturation, releasing songs like “Love Triangle.” Her voice has improved too. With this improvement, it makes it easy to root for RaeLynn. A few months ago she released her newest song “Tailgate” and I sort of forgot about it. But then I started to hearing it more again on satellite radio recently and it’s just too damn infectious for me not to review it. The production is lively, colorful and engaging. The lyrics are clever and witty, as RaeLynn worries about a tailgate telling of the sexual romance she experienced on it in her teen years. Of course a tailgate can’t talk, but it’s the song’s nonchalant attitude about sex on a tailgate that gives it such a breezy and fun feel. The lingering organ in the background with the synthesizers really create the perfect sound for it too. “Tailgate” is just a blast to listen to and so easy to enjoy.

Grade: 8/10


Songwriters: RaeLynn, Corey Crowder, Tyler Hubbard, Canaan Smith

Review – Old Dominion’s “Make It Sweet”

When Old Dominion broke onto the country scene, I could not stand them. Their debut hit “Break Up With Him” still annoys me to this day. Needless to say I got off to a rocky start with them. But on their sophomore album the band matured a lot and I found myself liking multiple songs off it (“No Such Thing as a Broken Heart” and “Hotel Key” most notably). So I guess I’m not too surprised that I immediately enjoyed their new single “Make It Sweet.” It’s a happy song that hits the spot and puts a smile on your face. But at the same time the song roots itself in reality before pouring on the happy. The song establishes in the beginning that yeah life can suck, there’s a constant chase to keep up with the Joneses and your dollar doesn’t go as far now. But you need to take the lemons your dealt and make lemonade. Embrace the good in life and enjoy your loved ones. Yes, it’s cliché and not breaking new ground. But these type of pick-me-up songs are something everyone can use. The hook is just spot-on and something you’ll remember (“Life is short, make it sweet”). Not to mention it’s pretty danceable and the guitar solo in the bridge gives that jam-y punch to bring it on home. “Make It Sweet” lives up to its name.

Grade: 7/10


Songwriters: Trevor Rosen, Geoff Sprung, Matthew Ramsey, Whit Sellers, Brad Tursi, Shane McAnally 

Album Review – Eric Church’s ‘Desperate Man’

Eric Church has always did it his way. It’s a cliché thing to say in the music industry. So many artists love to say it in press releases and interviews. But very few are being genuine. It’s just another marketing phrase. When it comes to Church, he’s one of the few being sincere. Not only has he done it his way, but his sound has evolved and changed with his life along the way. Each album shows more growth in his music and artistry. On Mr. Misunderstood, I thought Church delivered his best album yet. I didn’t think he could top himself on Desperate Man, but he does. Church delivers more on Desperate Man than I could have imagined.

Church delivers a real statement with opening song “The Snake.” It’s a stripped-down, appropriately sinister sounding song about a Copperhead and a rattlesnake. I’m not sure how others interpret it, but for me it’s a scathing commentary on American politics regarding the two major political parties. It tells of how each work together to continue eating the mice (who represent the people) and keep their power, each out for themselves and not the people they represent. “And the whole world’s burning down,” as Church wisely sings.

Church then does a complete 180 with the fun and upbeat “Hangin’ Around.” It’s probably the most danceable song Church has ever released, as it’s impossible to not want to move your head and feet along with the beat. The bass, drums, clapping and electric guitars chug along in unison, creating an infectiously funky sound. “Heart Like A Wheel” is a slice of bluesy country goodness that puts the guitars front and center. It’s about a love that can’t be stopped and keeps rolling on. Church delivers the lyrics with a real passion that make them really resonate over the listener.

“Some Of It” is the perfect marriage of Church’s past and present styles. The lyrics of the song are classic Church, with his deftly simple message about finding wisdom in life. It pairs up well with the new rich, heavily textured sound of Church. To me it’s a no-brainer, future single. The next song “Monsters” sounds like a single too. For many I imagine this is the center-piece of the album and I don’t blame them. The song’s writers Church and Jeff Hyde cleverly weave together a story of the monsters in life. When you’re a kid, they’re under the bed and you kill them with a flashlight. When you’re an adult, you realize they’re all around you and even in your head. In the case of Church, you pray them away. Whether you’re young or old, we all have our demons and we all have our way of dealing with them. You know you’re hearing a special song when we can all relate to it, as it unites us through its message.

Church fondly looks back on his upbringing and life on “Hippie Radio.” Specifically it was the sounds of rock radio that were always there through many milestones, marking each moment in his mind. It’s a song that celebrates the meaning of music and the influence it has on us. It’s a great song that’s probably the least memorable on the album, but that’s a testament to the sheer amount of quality throughout this record. “Higher Wire” shows a completely different side to Church. It’s a bare, soulful tune that Church sings almost entirely in falsetto. Like many I didn’t know what to think of it at first. It reminds me a lot of when I first heard “Like a Wrecking Ball,” which I originally didn’t like. But just like that song, “Higher Wire” grows stronger on you with each listen. My main takeaway: It’s so much damn fun to sing along to the chorus!

I covered the album’s title track when it first released and I still stand by what I said. It’s a great song and it’s appropriate it’s the title track because it perfectly captures the spirit and sound you hear throughout the album. “Solid” immediately gives you a ’70s vibe thanks to the undeniable presence of the electric guitars. Not a surprise, considering Church has cited many influences from the era. Church sings about the many things in his life that keeps him grounded and allows him to have a solid foundation in life. By the end he takes it back to where he grew up and the upbringing by his parents, the appealing emotional closer that ties it all together.

The shimmery feeling “Jukebox And A Bar” sees Church once again fuse his classic lyrical style with his new production style. The theme is a staple of country music, but it’s Church’s lyrical approach that makes this song so good. I particularly enjoy the line, “We got pinpoint GPS, all you need is an address/But her love is the one thing I can’t find.” I enjoy it because despite all of the technology we have and all of the problems it can solve, ironically it still can’t heal a broken heart like the camaraderie of a bar. Plus the use of words like “phosphorescent” and “incandescent” have never been used better in a country song.

The album closes out with “Drowning Man,” taking the album back to where it began with the headache of politics. Church is the voice of many, as he doesn’t want to think about the problems of the world and would rather drown in whiskey. He doesn’t want to hear about your “beach” or “mountains” either, which can be interpreted as the endless chatter from each side on social media. The drowning is a sea of words. “Save your breath, I don’t want to hear about it” are the final words from Church, as he carefully expresses the exasperation of many.

Desperate Man is a fantastic album. Church’s songwriting has never been better and the production choices made by him and Jay Joyce blow me away. Just like Kacey Musgraves with Golden Hour, Eric Church shows us just how innovative and exciting country music can be when you throw out the “rules” and just create your sound. It’s not about giving people what they want, but giving them what they didn’t know they needed until they heard it. Eric Church did it his way on Desperate Man and his way is excellent.

Grade: 10/10

Album’s Top Highlights: Monsters, The Snake, Hangin’ Around, Heart Like A Wheel, The whole damn thing, listen to it all


Producers: Jay Joyce & Arturo Buenahora Jr. 

Songwriters: Eric Church, Travis Meadows, Jeremy Spillman, Jeff Hyde, Clint Daniels, Bobby Pinson, Scooter Carusoe, Casey Beathard, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Anders Osborne

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Oct. 13)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from three Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales and Streaming. I take the numbers from these charts, plug them into my formulas and methodology and it spits out a number I refer to as a Popularity Rating or Pop Rating for short. This determines the order of the top 20 rankings you’ll see below.

What I love about my chart is it’s simple, but fluid and dynamic. It accounts for all types of artists across the board. It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as all three categories are ultimately controlled by you the listeners. Not to mention I feel it’s more inclusive of a variety of styles of country music and women artists. It’s a true real-time indicator of who is popular in country music with built-in natural weights that ensures fairness.

One last thing: I will of course be adding my own personal opinion to the chart with a rating of +1, 0 or -1 based on whether I think the artist’s contributions towards their pop rating are helping, hurting or not having an effect on the genre. Onto the chart!


  1. Kane Brown (#1 Digital Songs & #1 Streaming) -1
  2. Luke Combs +1
  3. Dan + Shay +1
  4. Florida Georgia Line -1
  5. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  6. Jason Aldean +1
  7. Thomas Rhett 0
  8. Bebe Rexha -1
  9. Brett Young -1
  10. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  11. Carrie Underwood 0
  12. Dierks Bentley 0
  13. Rascal Flatts 0
  14. Sam Hunt 0
  15. Cole Swindell 0
  16. Travis Tritt +1
  17. Loretta Lynn +1
  18. Lauren Alaina 0
  19. Jimmie Allen +1
  20. Zac Brown Band +1

The Ultimate Pulse: +3


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Travis Tritt, Loretta Lynn & Jimmie Allen
  • Gone: Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert & Jon Pardi
  • The Ultimate Pulse improves one spot to +3 this week, a new all-time high. There was a ton of movement this week, with a whopping five artist swing in arrivals and dismissals.
  • The most shocking artist to be gone is Luke Bryan, someone you expect to not fall off this chart. But “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” wasn’t a big hit. As a result sales and streams have tanked pretty hard. Kenny Chesney’s numbers have tanked too, as his new single is struggling to gain traction so far. Eric Church’s fall off is temporary of course, as his new album just dropped and he’ll be back on The Ultimate Pulse chart next week. Expect my review of that album soon.
  • Kane Brown remains at #1 for a second-straight week. The sales of another new single from his upcoming album helps him just maintain a slight edge over Luke Combs at #2. Next week it’ll be neck and neck between the two for the top spot. Streaming will probably determine who gets it.
  • Dan + Shay are so close to the top two, yet their numbers appear maxed for now. So they’ll just stay out of reach.
  • Jason Aldean has continued to lose in digital sales and streaming, but maintains his spot thanks to strong album sales and the great streaming numbers of “You Make It Easy.” Like Bryan and Chesney, Aldean is also struggling to get traction with his new single in streaming and sales.
  • Thomas Rhett is essentially in the same boat as the aforementioned artists.
  • My Eldredge theory for Brett Young continues to feel spot-on. Expect Mitchell Tenpenny to overtake him soon if Young keeps free-falling.
  • As you can see there’s not much excitement in the top 11 of the chart. But then the chaos starts at #12 with Dierks Bentley. Once again he bounces back up in the top 20 because his album sales boomeranged back up in sales. It makes no sense!
  • Rascal Flatts makes their debut on The Ultimate Pulse thanks to great sales of their new single. This surprised me a lot. Who knew they could still get this much traction in 2018? Unsurprisingly, the song bores me. It feels like a watered-down combination of “You Make It Easy” and a recent Dan + Shay single.
  • Veteran Travis Tritt makes his debut on The Ultimate Pulse thanks to the strong sales of “Help Me Hold On.” The sales spiked thanks to it being performed on The Voice. So I guess that show is good for something. Despite my issues with Tritt’s attitude, this song and his music in general is still great.
  • The legendary Loretta Lynn makes her debut on The Ultimate Pulse thanks to the sales of her new album. It’s pretty cool to see both Dolly Parton and Lynn making appearances on the chart within weeks of each other. I’m glad my proclamation that this chart is inclusive of older artists is remaining true.
  • Lauren Alaina has hung around in the top 20 for weeks thanks to being featured on “What Ifs” and next week it will pay off big, as she should get a boost on the chart from sales of her new single “Ladies In The ’90s.”
  • The last debut on The Ultimate Pulse this week is Jimmie Allen. Now remember when I said if airplay is effective it will show in sales and/or streaming in a significant way? His debut single “Best Shot” is demonstrating just that, as his airplay has gained so has both his sales and streaming. He’s getting numbers from both categories. And it’s a good song to boot! The only reason I haven’t reviewed it yet is because his debut album is dropping soon and I want to hear it to possibly review it, which I could then cover the song in it.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Eric Church
  2. Jon Pardi
  3. Kenny Chesney
  4. Jake Owen
  5. Old Dominion

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below and feel free to make predictions for next week’s rankings. Feel free to ask questions if you need any clarification on the methodology and rankings.

Review – Lauren Alaina’s “Ladies In The ’90s”

Lauren Alaina has shown she can be one of the best in modern country at blending together country and pop. On her last album Road Less Traveled there were multiple moments where she demonstrated this (“Crashing The Boys Club” and “Queen of Hearts” immediately come to mind) and I was hoping she would build on these type of songs more in her future discography. Well on her new single “Ladies In The ’90s” she does just that. It’s a bouncy, colorful song that fondly looks back on the days of ’90s radio. It doesn’t just refer to the plentiful amount of women who got airplay on country radio, but pop radio too. Alaina reflects on her days of singing along to Deanna Carter’s “Strawberry Wine,” Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and more. As a fellow ’90s kid, I immediately got all of the references and remember each song mentioned. It’s kind of cool, but at the same I feel a bit old too.

Normally I don’t enjoy these nostalgia heavy songs with multiple references to past songs. It’s just lazy songwriting. However, I find myself enjoying this song because of its emphasis on Alaina’s joy of being able to previously turn on the radio to hear and connect with women artists and how it shaped her life. Instead of focusing on the nostalgia and name-dropping, it focuses on how the music made her feel. It makes for a much more genuine and real connection. Plus, the song is damn catchy with the well-crafted hooks and the great blend of drums, keyboards and electric guitar. “Ladies In The ’90s” is another good offering of country pop from Lauren Alaina.

Grade: 7/10


Songwriters: Lauren Alaina, Jesse Frasure, Amy Wadge

Review – Tim McGraw’s “Neon Church”/ “Thought About You”

It’s been too long since we’ve received new solo music from Tim McGraw. His last album Damn Country Music was pretty good and really his last few albums have all have been of high quality. What I love most about McGraw recently though is his ability to remain true to his sound while also pushing the sonic boundaries. His new singles pick up right where he left off in his more experimental moments on Damn Country Music. “Neon Church” is a declarative, anthemic song for the broken-hearted and lost looking for answers at the bar. But as McGraw espouses through the song, it’s less a bar and more a place of healing and escapism from their pain. The hook of the song is infectious and the blending of steel guitar, organs and electric guitars create an eclectic sound that really sticks with you. As much I enjoy this song though, I actually enjoy the B-side single “Thought About You” even more. It actually kind of reminds me of McGraw’s cover of “When The Stars Go Blue” because of the soaring atmospheric vibes the instrumentation conveys. The bridge emphasizes this sound even more. It shows the importance of interesting production, as it takes well-trotted lyrical material and elevates it into a great song. This kind of production from Byron Gallimore and McGraw has me excited to hear what else they have in-store for the rest of the album.

Grade: “Neon Church” – 7/10 ; “Thought About You” – 8/10


Songwriters: Ben Stennis, Ross Ellis Lipsey, Ben Goldsmith, Brett Warren, Brad Warren, Lee Miller