The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Sept. 22)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from four Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales, Airplay 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 25 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, whether the artist is strong at radio (Chris Lane, Dustin Lynch) or album sales (Chris Stapleton). It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as three of the four 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
  2. Luke Combs (#1 Streaming) +1
  3. Florida Georgia Line -1
  4. Dan + Shay +1
  5. Jason Aldean +1
  6. Thomas Rhett -1
  7. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  8. Brett Young -1
  9. Luke Bryan (#1 Airplay) 0
  10. Miranda Lambert 0
  11. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  12. Old Dominion 0
  13. Bebe Rexha -1
  14. Cole Swindell +1
  15. Carrie Underwood 0
  16. Sam Hunt 0
  17. Kenny Chesney +1
  18. Eric Church +1
  19. Dylan Scott -1
  20. Russell Dickerson -1
  21. Upchurch -1
  22. Chris Janson +1
  23. Lauren Alaina 0
  24. Chris Young -1
  25. Jon Pardi +1

The Ultimate Pulse: -1


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Upchurch, Jon Pardi
  • Gone: Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks
  • The Ultimate Pulse remains the same at -1 this week. This is despite two new departures off the chart. Dierks Bentley’s album sales once again take a big dive and it’s enough to drive him out of the top 25. I continue to be confounded as to why his album sales are a rollercoaster. Garth Brooks falls out because if you rise by airplay, you fall by airplay too.
  • Kane Brown is the new #1 this week and the second artist to top the chart since the beginning of the Pulse, ending Florida Georgia Line’s four-week run at the top. This was expected, as Brown opened up pre-orders for his new upcoming album and released a new song too, which greatly spiked his digital song sales. I can see Brown maintaining this spot next week, but it’s going to be much tighter and dependent on how fast Brown’s pop rating normalizes.
  • Luke Combs continues to solidify himself at #2 and is set up nicely to have his shot at #1 really soon. Combs also surprisingly takes the top streaming spot away this week, just edging out Brown. He just continues to pick up steam in streaming and the battle between him and Brown will continue to be tight for top streamer.
  • Florida Georgia Line falls to #3 this week, even though their pop rating remains basically static. The duo’s streaming numbers remain impressive, but they’re simply getting outpaced by Brown and Combs’ monster pace in streaming at the moment.
  • Dan + Shay are pretty solidly #4 for the time being and remain in a great position to break up the Big Three above them in the future once they start receiving significant airplay help.
  • Both Jason Aldean and Thomas Rhett should lose airplay help next week as they’re set to go recurrent. This will cause both to drop, but Rhett’s drop will be more noticeable. Both are working new singles, so expect them to rebound of course. These drops should help you see how reliant each artist is on airplay based on how far each drop. It widely varies.
  • Chris Stapleton makes a jump up to #7 this week thanks to his continually steady numbers, plus Brett Young seeing losses in both sales and streaming. Stapleton actually nearly passed Rhett this week and is guaranteed to pass him next week.
  • Young sees losses this week, but will see a boost next week thanks to opening pre-orders on his new album and his new single selling well.
  • Mitchell Tenpenny rises to #11 this week, as his ascent into the top 10 is nearly complete. He was just a few pop rating points shy of passing Miranda Lambert. The big question now is how far can he climb into the top ten?
  • Old Dominion and Bebe Rexha tied for #12 this week, but Old Dominion gets the spot based on tiebreaker rules (they have three categories of strength versus Rexha’s two categories). The group rises a few spots this week thanks more to artists have losses in front of them rather than making gains themselves.
  • Cole Swindell continues to fall, as he retained very little of the big boost from his album release. The sales and streaming performance of his next single will largely determine if he can make a move back up the chart.
  • Carrie Underwood jumps up to #15 this week thanks to the great sales of “End Up With You.” She’ll get her album boost next week and it will propel her into the top ten. I’ll be interested to see how deep into the top ten she can get, as digital song sales will largely determine this along with any possible streaming help.
  • Kenny Chesney falls five spots to #17 this week, as his sales and streaming numbers for “Get Along” fell even more. While many artists towards the top of the chart have been able to maintain their sales and streaming on singles that have went recurrent, Chesney’s nose-dived as soon as he lost airplay. So Chesney is either more tied to airplay than other artists or this song finally stagnated with listeners.
  • So Upchurch makes his Ultimate Pulse debut at #21 this week thanks to his new album Supernatural. Yeah I didn’t see this coming either. While I don’t like his brand of country hip-hop, he did pull off a smart little trick to help him on the Top Country Albums chart. Instead of releasing his new album on Friday like everybody else, he released it on the old music release day of Tuesday. This gave him a few extra days of sales, which undoubtedly gave him a boost and allow him to chart even higher. Independent country artists should take note of this.
  • The other new arrival Jon Pardi also makes his debut on The Ultimate Pulse thanks to album sales. His sophomore album California Sunrise continues to sell well years later and if he can get any help from his current single “Night Shift” he can climb higher on the chart.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 25

  1. Garth Brooks
  2. Jake Owen
  3. Maren Morris
  4. Blake Shelton
  5. Dierks Bentley

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.

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Sept. 15)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from four Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales, Airplay 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 25 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, whether the artist is strong at radio (Chris Lane, Dustin Lynch) or album sales (Chris Stapleton). It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as three of the four 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. Florida Georgia Line (#1 Digital Songs) -1
  2. Luke Combs +1
  3. Kane Brown (#1 Streaming) -1
  4. Dan + Shay +1
  5. Jason Aldean +1
  6. Thomas Rhett -1
  7. Brett Young -1
  8. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  9. Luke Bryan (#1 Airplay) 0
  10. Miranda Lambert 0
  11. Bebe Rexha -1
  12. Kenny Chesney +1
  13. Cole Swindell +1
  14. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  15. Old Dominion 0
  16. Dierks Bentley 0
  17. Sam Hunt 0
  18. Carrie Underwood 0
  19. Eric Church +1
  20. Dylan Scott -1
  21. Chris Janson +1
  22. Russell Dickerson -1
  23. Chris Young -1
  24. Lauren Alaina 0
  25. Garth Brooks 0

The Ultimate Pulse: -1


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: None
  • Gone: None
  • The pulse declines one spot to -1 this week. Due to a slow week in movement on three of the four Billboard charts, there are no new arrivals or departures. The pulse however drops one as I’ve once again changed Dierks Bentley’s score. Again it’s changing based on his album sales seesawing back and forth, affecting his pop rating’s influence. So I decided I’m just going to leave it at 0 for now.
  • Florida Georgia Line barely hangs on to the #1 spot for the fourth straight week. As expected their numbers returned back to normal levels this week. But they just barely hold on and will most likely lose it next week.
  • Luke Combs just missed the top spot this week, coming within a handful of points of knocking off Florida Georgia Line. He did it by essentially holding steady in his gains across all categories. However I would not expect him to get #1 next week…
  • Kane Brown solidifies himself at #3 and makes one of the bigger gains on the chart in terms of pop rating this week. I will be shocked if he doesn’t take the #1 spot next week, as he just announced his new album, opened pre-orders for it and released a new song that’s still near the top of the all-genre iTunes chart. He should make large gains in streaming and sales that will propel him to the top of the chart.
  • Dan + Shay jump up to #4 thanks to big gains in sales and streaming with their new single “Speechless.” I’m starting to think this duo could seriously challenge the Big 3 at the top. Keep in mind they aren’t even getting any help from airplay in their pop rating right now, which is quite impressive.
  • Jason Aldean remains in the top five, but will drop in the coming weeks with the loss of airplay. He should remain top ten though.
  • Thomas Rhett is going to drop thanks to losing airplay too. But his drop will be much more impactful, as I did not realize how much his pop rating relied on it. He’ll need his next single to be big if he wants to get back in the top five.
  • Luke Bryan tops the airplay chart this week to move up to #9, but like Rhett will see a big drop when he loses it.
  • Kenny Chesney lost his airplay and as a result falls out of the top ten. He should recover soon enough though and re-enter the top ten.
  • Cole Swindell continues to fall and his album sales will need to keep up to prevent the continuous free-falling.
  • Mitchell Tenpenny’s steady rise continues. With the amount of artists set to drop in front of him, he’s poised to make a big jump into the top ten in the coming weeks.
  • Old Dominion remains in the top 15 and are set to peak in airplay. But once that disappears they are in severe danger of dropping out of the top 25.
  • Dierks Bentley makes the biggest jump this week up to #16. His album sales once again balloon up and I don’t understand why. I’m not trying to be snarky nor am I commenting on the quality of his album. Like I legitimately don’t understand how it keeps fluctuating. If he can consistently keep it up, he can solidly remain in the top 15.
  • Carrie Underwood as expected makes a jump this week thanks to “Love Wins” topping the Billboard Digital Song Sales chart. She will see another boost next week since she released another song from her new album that is selling well and will see another boost the following week with the album dropping. I’ll be curious to see how high she can climb the chart.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 25

  1. Maren Morris
  2. Jon Pardi
  3. Zac Brown Band
  4. Blake Shelton
  5. Carly Pearce

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.

Ultimate Pulse Takeaway: Only A Few Country Artists Embrace Streaming & They’re Dominating The Field

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music has so far been my most favorite feature I’ve ever created. While I haven’t exactly received the same enthusiasm back from the few of you reading, I nevertheless approach this feature with passion and energy. It’s only been a few weeks and one immediate takeaway has emerged in my eyes. There’s only a handful of country artists truly embracing streaming and they’re dominating the competition on the chart as a result. The top three in the chart in particular are just putting up amazing streaming numbers with multiple songs: Florida Georgia Line, Luke Combs and Kane Brown.

Regardless of how you feel about their music, there’s no denying that these three artists have gotten their fans and listeners to embrace them in a big way on streaming platforms. These three are tightly close together in terms of streaming and have a healthy margin on the rest of the chart in this category. These three artists each sound different from the other in terms of sound. But the common thread is they’re all young and/or appeal to younger listeners with their music. Just a few years ago both Combs and Brown were independent artists largely nobody knew. Now they’re dominating all of the charts, most notably streaming. Meanwhile Florida Georgia Line have by far transitioned better out of bro country than any other act in that sub-genre. They’ve managed to hold onto a majority of the young audience they attracted from bro country and keep them as fans, while most other bro country acts have completely cratered.

While these three are the top of country streaming, there’s another group of artists in the genre that have gained solid traction in this arena too. That would be Jason Aldean, Dan + Shay and Brett Young. Chris Stapleton and Sam Hunt both have huge hits still streaming well. Thomas Rhett and Kenny Chesney are putting up decent numbers. None of these artists are below 16th on the chart. These artists comprise nine of the top ten spots on the chart. The data is loud and clear. If you want to actually gain traction and relevancy in country music, you better embrace streaming.

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Sept. 8)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from four Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales, Airplay 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 25 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, whether the artist is strong at radio (Chris Lane, Dustin Lynch) or album sales (Chris Stapleton). It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as three of the four 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. Florida Georgia Line (#1 Digital Songs & #1 Album) -1
  2. Luke Combs +1
  3. Kane Brown (#1 Streaming) -1
  4. Jason Aldean +1
  5. Dan + Shay +1
  6. Thomas Rhett (#1 Airplay) -1
  7. Brett Young -1
  8. Kenny Chesney +1
  9. Chris Stapleton +1
  10. Luke Bryan 0
  11. Miranda Lambert 0
  12. Cole Swindell +1
  13. Bebe Rexha -1
  14. Old Dominion 0
  15. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  16. Sam Hunt 0
  17. Eric Church +1
  18. Dylan Scott -1
  19. Russell Dickerson -1
  20. Lauren Alaina 0
  21. Chris Janson +1
  22. Carrie Underwood 0
  23. Dierks Bentley +1
  24. Chris Young -1
  25. Garth Brooks 0

The Ultimate Pulse: 0


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Chris Young, Garth Brooks
  • Gone: Keith Urban, Morgan Evans
  • The pulse improves three spots this week to 0. So country music has no pulse right now (this feels so appropriate). Keith Urban has steadily fallen down the charts ever since “Coming Home” went recurrent at radio. And Morgan Evans of course is a radio darling, who completely hinges on them to be relevant on this chart.
  • Florida Georgia Line easily remains #1 for a third straight week. I said last week they could be poised for a big week and they deliver an even bigger pop rating than I expected. They absolutely crush the rest of the field and hold a commanding lead thanks to big gains in sales of “Sittin’ Pretty” topping the Billboard Country Digital Song Sales chart. In addition Billboard did decide to count their four song bundle as an EP, so they get even more points in the album category to take the top title from Stapleton. When their album drops I can’t imagine what kind of crooked number they will put up. Once again the country music media looks absolutely stupid for trying to paint this duo as waning in relevancy.
  • Now if you’re fretting over this, there’s good news for you because Luke Combs is going to mount a serious challenge in the coming weeks to take the top spot. He had a great week himself and holds a nice lead in the #2 spot over the rest. He made gains in every category, including the biggest gain in airplay. His streaming and sales are extremely consistent. He’ll close the gap on Florida Georgia Line when their sales return to more normal levels for them and will challenge for #1 once they peak and go recurrent at radio. I think it’s become clear that Combs is one of the new superstars in country music.
  • Kane Brown moves to #3 this week and could be in the conversation for the top spot too if he releases a new song or improves his current digital song sales. His streaming numbers continue to beat everyone, although his label mate Luke Combs is in an almost dead-heat for the top streamer spot (Florida Georgia Line isn’t far behind either).
  • Jason Aldean continues to put up consistent numbers in every category and if his next single blows up, he might be able challenge for the top spot. But he’s more of a long-shot, as he’s currently getting blown out by the top three in streaming.
  • Dan + Shay, Thomas Rhett and Brett Young are all a solid ways behind the top four and have similar numbers to each other. Although it should be said neither the duo or Young have airplay helping them right now, while Rhett does. Expect Rhett to take a slight drop here soon with his airplay peaking this week, while the other two battle over the top five.
  • Kenny Chesney remains in the top ten, but next week should fall into the top 15 as he loses airplay and works his new single up the charts.
  • While Chris Stapleton does lose the top spot in the album category this week, he moves further into the top ten. His consistency continues to pay off. With increasing airplay and digital song sales, look for him to be a mainstay in the top ten for a while.
  • Cole Swindell takes a sharp drop this week, falling from #7 to #12. Unfortunately for him he couldn’t maintain a lot of the big bump he got from his album dropping. But thanks to weak competition on the chart, he will hang in the top 15 easily for the foreseeable future and maybe get back in the top ten when airplay peaks.
  • Last week Old Dominion gained points and lost positions on the chart. This week they lost points and gain positions on the chart. This is weirdly funny.
  • Mitchell Tenpenny jumps into the top 15 this week after jumping into the top 20 last week. He made big gains across all of his categories of strength and continues to gain steadily. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion he will make the top ten by the end of the year based on his current trajectory.
  • As expected, Eric Church takes a fall this week from #13 to #17. The big gain from “Heart Like a Wheel” was going to be temporary. But the good news it seems country radio likes “Desperate Man,” so he will continue to maintain a presence around the top 15 until his album drops.
  • Both Dylan Scott and Russell Dickerson maintain their presence in The Ultimate Pulse thanks to radio. Scott can’t even get “Hooked” up the digital song sales chart with the $0.69 trick. This is why I don’t get that riled up anymore over the radio darlings: most don’t do shit in other categories, which says a lot. They’re here and gone with the wind.
  • Carrie Underwood had an interesting week, as she takes a sizable drop down the chart. While she got a big bump in digital song sales thanks to pre-orders opening on her new album, she got a big drop in airplay thanks to “Cry Pretty” going recurrent. She will rebound next week with the big sales of her new single “Love Wins.”
  • Dierks Bentley lost a lot in the album sales category this week, but made solid gains in digital song sales and airplay. Also thanks to this tipping of points, his score changes to a +1 this week. For an explanation on this, see my comment in the comments sections from last week.
  • Chris Young makes his Ultimate Pulse debut this week thanks to radio. He continues to disappoint me with his music. Rinse, wash, repeat.
  • Finally, Garth Brooks makes his debut too this week thanks to streamhahahaha. Yeah I couldn’t finish that. Radio helped him make the chart. But since the only way to listen to his singles involves sending a carrier pigeon to aliens on Mars, I view him as having no impact.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 25

  1. Jon Pardi
  2. Maren Morris
  3. Zac Brown Band
  4. Carly Pearce
  5. Blake Shelton

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.

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Sept. 1)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from four Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales, Airplay 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 25 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, whether the artist is strong at radio (Chris Lane, Dustin Lynch) or album sales (Chris Stapleton). It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as three of the four 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 effecting the genre. Onto the chart!

  1. Florida Georgia Line (#1 Digital Songs) -1
  2. Luke Combs +1
  3. Jason Aldean (#1 Airplay) +1
  4. Kane Brown (#1 Streaming) -1
  5. Brett Young -1
  6. Thomas Rhett -1
  7. Cole Swindell +1
  8. Dan + Shay +1
  9. Kenny Chesney +1
  10. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  11. Miranda Lambert (#1 Airplay) 0
  12. Luke Bryan 0
  13. Eric Church +1
  14. Bebe Rexha -1
  15. Old Dominion 0
  16. Sam Hunt 0
  17. Carrie Underwood 0
  18. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  19. Dylan Scott -1
  20. Chris Janson +1
  21. Dierks Bentley -1
  22. Russell Dickerson -1
  23. Keith Urban -1
  24. Lauren Alaina 0
  25. Morgan Evans -1

The Ultimate Pulse: -3


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Chris Janson, Dierks Bentley, Russell Dickerson
  • Gone: Cody Johnson, Chris Lane, Tori Kelly, Morgan Wallen
  • The pulse improves one spot this week to -3, despite no significant difference between the new group of artists to enter the chart and the ones that left. Johnson was expected to leave and the other three were helped significantly by airplay, which they all lost this week. No surprise with these artists.
  • Florida Georgia Line remains atop the chart and actually extend their lead on the rest of the chart, despite a sizable streaming loss this week. Expect them to remain atop next week and extend their lead even more in the next couple weeks, as they just released their new song “Sittin’ Pretty.” It’s selling really well when they’re already #1 in the digital song sales category this week and they could get even more points if their four songs being grouped as an EP count towards album sales.
  • Luke Combs and Jason Aldean both tied for #2 this week, but Combs gets it based on tiebreaker rules (if you missed the explanation for this, see last week’s chart). Combs will eventually hit the #1 spot on the chart, as he continues to put up big sales and streaming numbers. When his airplay starts peaking, he should start seriously challenging for the #1 spot.
  • Aldean with another week of consistent numbers across the board, as he tops airplay for a second straight week.
  • Kane Brown drops to #4, as he takes a sizable loss in digital song sales. But he continues to put up monster streaming numbers and takes the #1 streaming spot from Florida Georgia Line.
  • As expected Cole Swindell makes a big jump into the top ten with the release of his new album. He made great gains across the board and it’ll be interesting to see if “Dad’s Old Number” continues to sell well. It could be a future single. It’ll be interesting to see how his album continues to sell too.
  • Dan + Shay actually tied Swindell, but lost on tiebreaker due to losing airplay this week.
  • Kenny Chesney fell in three out of four categories this week and should lose airplay next week. Expect him to fall more as his team begins to work his new single “Better Boat.”
  • Chris Stapleton makes his debut in the top ten this week, beating Miranda Lambert in tiebreaker rules. With his consistent album and streaming numbers, Stapleton is a top 15 lock. With some help in digital song sales and/or airplay, he can consistently be top ten.
  • Eric Church makes a nice leap up to #13 this week, beating Bebe Rexha on tiebreaker rules. The gain is thanks to “Heart Like a Wheel” selling quite well.
  • Despite gaining in points thanks to airplay, Old Dominion somehow manages to lose positions on the chart this week. Other artists simply had an even better week than the group.
  • Carrie Underwood and Dylan Scott are each slowly climbing the chart thanks to increases in airplay.
  • Mitchell Tenpenny makes consistent gains across the board to jump into the top 20. As I said before, he’s unfortunately not going to way. I think he’s definitely tapped into the bro country crowd who never really tired of that terrible sub-genre.
  • There was a whopping five-way tie for #20 on the chart this week. Newcomers Chris Janson and Dierks Bentley got first crack and Janson beat him on tie breakers thanks to just slightly better digital song sales.
  • Russell Dickerson beat out Keith Urban (who continues to fall) who beats out Lauren Alaina based on tie breakers.
  • Morgan Evans barely hangs onto the final spot on the chart this week and should fall off next week. You live by airplay, you fall by airplay.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 25

  1. Jon Pardi
  2. Sugarland
  3. Taylor Swift
  4. Chris Young
  5. Maren Morris

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.

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Aug. 25)

On my previous blog Country Perspective I developed many popular features. I’ve developed a few more on this one. But in terms of popularity, none of them touched The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio. To this day I still have people talk to me about it and write about it. For the most part I really enjoyed doing it until eventually I got completely bored with it (along with the entire idea of Country Perspective). I also found it was not the best indicator of the “pulse” of country music in any way, as I find using terrestrial radio as the sole indicator of the popularity of something in this day and age to be highly laughable.

So while I missed the heydays of doing that feature, I knew I would never do it again based on these two reasons. But I did want to continue breaking down charts and numbers on one of my favorite genres of music because I’m a huge data nerd and this marries two of my passions together. I always wanted to develop what I would call the ultimate chart. A chart that fused data from multiple charts to create the ultimate indicator of popularity and relevance in country music. It was just a thought and vague idea. Until now…

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from four Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales, Airplay 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 25 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, whether the artist is strong at radio (Chris Lane, Dustin Lynch) or album sales (Chris Stapleton). It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as three of the four 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 effecting the genre. Onto the chart!

  1. Florida Georgia Line (#1 Streaming) -1
  2. Kane Brown (#1 Digital Songs) -1
  3. Thomas Rhett -1
  4. Luke Combs +1
  5. Jason Aldean (#1 Airplay) +1
  6. Brett Young -1
  7. Dan + Shay +1
  8. Kenny Chesney +1
  9. Luke Bryan 0
  10. Miranda Lambert (#1 Airplay) 0
  11. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  12. Bebe Rexha -1
  13. Old Dominion 0
  14. Sam Hunt 0
  15. Cole Swindell +1
  16. Cody Johnson +1
  17. Keith Urban -1
  18. Morgan Evans -1
  19. Eric Church +1
  20. Lauren Alaina 0
  21. Dylan Scott -1
  22. Carrie Underwood 0
  23. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  24. Morgan Wallen -1
  25. Chris Lane -1
  26. Tori Kelly -1

The Ultimate Pulse: -4


Notes & Observations

  • Florida Georgia Line tops the inaugural Ultimate Pulse Chart, just edging out Kane Brown. I should note that they had a much larger lead on my test run chart I did on the previous week’s data. Their biggest strengths come in digital song sales and streaming, as they put up monster numbers in these categories. They also put up solid numbers in the other two categories. So much for them waning in relevancy and popularity, eh?
  • Brown’s strengths and numbers are similar to Florida Georgia Line, although he’s quite low in airplay at the moment. He’s right there with Florida Georgia Line in streaming too, which is no surprise. These two artists both have a big lead on the rest, as they’re nearly 30 points ahead in pop rating on #3.
  • Thomas Rhett has consistent numbers across the board, although at the moment has a particularly strong number in streaming.
  • Luke Combs is doing great streaming numbers, which is what propelled him into the top five this week. He only trails Florida Georgia Line and Kane Brown in this category and not by much.
  • Rounding out the top five is Jason Aldean, who is putting up a strong streaming number himself. This surprised me, as I remember he struggled in streaming a couple of years ago. The other surprise is he’s currently weak in digital song sales. Airplay gives him a boost as he tops the Billboard chart this week.
  • Brett Young, Dan + Shay and Kenny Chesney are all pretty consistent across each category, although Chesney is a bit down in streaming.
  • Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert ultimately tied for #9 on the chart, but Bryan gets ranked ahead based on my tiebreaker rules. So I might as well explain this rule right here: I look at number of categories contributing strength in. Both though in this scenario contribute strength in three categories (Bryan shockingly brings 0 in streaming, while Lambert brings 0 in album sales). So I go to the next tiebreaker: Solo vs feature contributions. In this case all of Bryan’s contributions are solo, while all of Lambert’s numbers come from being featured on Jason Aldean’s “Drowns the Whiskey.”
  • And while I’m at it I’ll explain the impact of features on the charts. At first I wanted to give half of the points to a featured artist I gave to a solo artist/act. But I realized this would be messy and ultimately hard to judge. Lambert no doubt drove more sales to “Drowns the Whiskey” with her appearance, as her fan base is quite supportive. At the same time Aldean’s fan base is quite big too. You can’t measure the impact of each. Then you have a song like “Meant to Be” where Florida Georgia Line’s feature is the sole reason it’s categorized as country and the only reason Bebe Rexha makes an appearance on this chart. There are other features that aren’t as significant like Lauren Alaina further down the chart. See how it’s complicated? This approach could be adjusted at a later date, but for now it’s the approach I will use.
  • Chris Stapleton unsurprisingly is really strong in album sales and will probably hold the #1 spot in this category a lot. “Tennessee Whiskey” gives him a great streaming number too. It’s a shame I couldn’t incorporate concert sales into this chart (trust me this data is hard and the best source for it is behind a massive pay wall), as Stapleton would be a great beneficiary of it.
  • Sam Hunt’s Montevallo and his massive hit “Body Like a Backroad” are what put him on the chart, despite his most recent single unfortunately flopping.
  • Cole Swindell only sits at #15 this week, but should take a big step-up in next week’s chart with his new album dropping this past Friday. I expect strong gains across all categories.
  • Cody Johnson making an appearance on this chart proved to me that my methodology works. Here’s an independent artist who’s done really solid album sales and has a strong fan base, whose debut single for Warner did massive sales and impact would not be shown if you just looked at airplay. Johnson actually sat #1 on all of iTunes for a day or so, which is incredible. He will probably drop off next week, as his sales have dropped off a ton. It shows though my chart not only shows long-term impact, but short-term impact too.
  • Keith Urban had a big fall off this week from my test chart. He’s almost solely on the chart based on album points.
  • Morgan Evans and Dylan Scott are only on the chart because of country radio. Act surprised. You probably can’t.
  • Eric Church should continue to rise on the lead-up to his new album. Let’s hope!
  • You would expect Carrie Underwood to be higher, but “Cry Pretty” isn’t streaming or selling well. Like Church she should rise with the lead-up to her new album.
  • Alright now I can get to why the top 25 chart has 26 rankings. That’s because there was a four-way tie for the #23 spot on the rankings between Morgan Wallen, Chris Lane, Tori Kelly and Mitchell Tenpenny. Based on the aforementioned tiebreaker, Tenpenny gets first ranking over them based on having strength from three categories. Last week he only had one category, so unfortunately he isn’t going away and only going to rise. He’s then followed by Wallen, who has strength in album sales and streaming. Finally Lane and Kelly, who are solely on the chart thanks to airplay.
  • One more thing: This feature won’t be this long each week, so don’t worry about having to read this wall of text every week. It’ll be more succinct moving forward now that I’ve got all of the rules and methodology of the chart out of the way.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 25

  1. Zac Brown Band
  2. Jon Pardi
  3. Russell Dickerson
  4. Chris Janson
  5. Garth Brooks

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 – Sam Hunt’s “Downtown’s Dead”

Change is hard for everyone to accept. In country music there are two artists right now who can claim superstar status (transcend beyond the genre): Chris Stapleton and Sam Hunt. They’re both fusion country artists. Now I’ve been on record as a Stapleton fan for a while, but it’s kind of been the opposite with Hunt. It’s what happens when you’re blinded by traditionalist hate, even though Stapleton certainly doesn’t fall into the category of tradition. Yet Hunt gets all of the hate. All the while he’s proving to everyone that change in country music can be accepted by a lot of people. He isn’t your standard pop country artist.

This came to me when he released “Body Like a Backroad” last year. It was the only song he released last year, but it was one of the biggest hits of the year in all genres. Most artists would have gladly capitalized on this and released an album. But not Hunt. He’s not interested in fame and fortune, contrary to the image traditionalists and pop country fans want to portray. He doesn’t really use social media much and it’s been four years since his debut album. Hunt is taking the exact opposite approach of today’s average artist. He’s actually taking his time releasing music and it’s quite a refreshing approach.

That leads us to his brand new single “Downtown’s Dead.” The echoes of a dobro guitar introduce the song before feeding into a blend of country, R&B and pop influences. The song is about the loneliness of a crowded bar. Much like Maren Morris’ “I Could Use a Love Song,” this single centers around the millennial angst of dating and socializing in today’s world. It’s the realization of chasing after the highs of the bar and clubs scenes only leads to emptiness and unhappiness. True satisfaction can’t be found at the bottom of a glass or end of a bar. Hunt perfectly frames this message around the scenes of a club on Tuesday and Friday nights. At the end of it all, he realizes he needs to go back to the woman he loves. It’s a short and effective story that conveys its message well. While I don’t expect Hunt’s new album anytime soon, he delivered another song that is bound to be played all summer in “Downtown’s Dead.”

Grade: 7/10

Songwriters: Sam Hunt, Josh Osborne, Shane McAnally & Zach Crowell