Fusion Country’s Five Must-Listen Albums of 2018

It’s that time of year again! It’s not Christmas I’m taking about, although you’re surely getting inundated with a lot of Christmas stuff. No, I’m talking about in the music world: The Listpocalypse. This is where all of the music outlets drown you in their lists of favorite albums, songs, artists, etc of the year. Now if you’re anything like me, you get tired of reading these after about the 5th list. My biggest issue is that most of them are way too long. Anything over 15-20 albums is just ridiculous and quite frankly I’m skeptical if you’re actually listening to the music. People read these lists to catch up and catch anything they might have missed out on throughout the year. They don’t need bogged down with these long lists. Instead they should just be suggested the very best. A nice and short, compact list is much more effective. This gives you the reader a chance to get through quickly and start listening.

So that’s why I’ve decided I’m only giving you the five must-listen Fusion Country albums of 2018 to listen to if you haven’t done so yet. And there won’t be a best songs list, as you can find all of Fusion Country’s favorite songs in our 2018 playlist. But I’ll include at the bottom of this post too. Thanks for reading Fusion Country in 2018 and I wish you all a safe and happy holidays!

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Golden Hour is an excellent journey through the ups and downs of the spectrum of human emotions. Happiness, sadness, love, confusion, fun, loneliness, togetherness, cockiness, hope and more are all on display. To be human is to feel and this album makes you feel so many things. This a defining moment for Kacey Musgraves, as a songwriter and an artist. Not only showcasing her top-level songwriting, but fearlessly taking the kind of risks that so many artists are outright scared or incapable of taking with their music. Most music released today sounds timid and lacks creativity. This album is full of confidence and charges ahead without letting the unwritten rules of music hold it back. When you cast away life’s preconceptions, you’re truly free as Kacey Musgraves demonstrates with Golden Hour.

Eric Church – Desperate Man

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.

Caitlyn Smith – Starfire

Caitlyn Smith’s Starfire is fantastic in every way. The songwriting is sharp, smart and relatable to the everyday listener. The production is smooth, flawless and really helps bring the words of the songs to life. Smith without a doubt has one of the best voices you’ll hear in music today. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t listened to this album. It’s one of the best you’ll hear in all of 2018.

The Wild Feathers – Greetings From the Neon Frontier

The Wild Feathers impress me with their brand of country rock on Greetings From The Neon Frontier. This band has a tight, cohesive sound that borrows from the late 70s era of country rock while also sounding fresh and modern-day. What this band absolutely excels at is their ability to paint a picture in your head with their music. Their lyrics are descriptive, engaging and cleverly composed while the instrumentation compliments the words well and add to the scene of the song. Their other strength is their soaring harmonies, which they shouldn’t be afraid to let shine more. Greetings From The Neon Frontier is a memorably fun album of country-flavored rock and roll that can be enjoyed both quietly and at full volume.

Kenny Chesney – Songs For The Saints

Songs For The Saints will go down as one of Kenny Chesney’s best albums at the end of his career. On this album he casts away the lazy tropes and paper-thin depth that has plagued his career at times and delivers an album full of songs about love, happiness and finding peace after destruction. This album’s biggest strength is its songwriting, as it’s rooted in a place of reality of real people and places, highlighting the ups and downs of life. The production of this album is pretty good too, as it’s varied and does a wonderful job of weaving reggae, island and pop influences throughout. Kenny Chesney should be quite proud of this album, as he delivers a real gem in Songs For The Saints.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0jwh1uI46CPgGwWpCdpj03

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.

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Oct. 6)

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 -1
  8. Brett Young -1
  9. Bebe Rexha -1
  10. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  11. Carrie Underwood 0
  12. Sam Hunt 0
  13. Cole Swindell 0
  14. Kenny Chesney +1
  15. Luke Bryan 0
  16. Lauren Alaina 0
  17. Jon Pardi +1
  18. Zac Brown Band +1
  19. Miranda Lambert 0
  20. Eric Church +1

The Ultimate Pulse: +2


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Lauren Alaina, Jon Pardi & Zac Brown Band
  • Gone: Dierks Bentley, Dolly Parton & Sia
  • The Ultimate Pulse stays the same at +2 this week. As expected Dolly Parton and Sia drop off, as they were on the chart thanks to the great first week sales of “Here I Am.” And of course Dierks Bentley’s album sales dive again. Next week they will spike again based on the last month of this feature.
  • Kane Brown is the new #1 this week, taking back the top spot from Luke Combs for his second appearance at the top of the chart. Brown re-takes the spot thanks to a big increase in both digital song sales and streaming. He’ll get another increase next week thanks to the release of another single, so I highly expect him to remain #1.
  • Luke Combs falls to #2 based solely on Brown’s gains, as he maintained his numbers from last week.
  • The big surprise of the week is Dan + Shay knocking off Florida Georgia Line from the #3 spot. While Florida Georgia Line has remained essentially static in their numbers, Dan + Shay continue to see great increasing sales and streaming from their current and previous singles. Their album sales are still good too. If their next single manages to do similar numbers, they will challenge the top two.
  • Chris Stapleton enters the top five for the first time this week thanks to a surprisingly big bump in sales of “Tennessee Whiskey.” It’s consistently charted in the teens on the digital song sales chart for the last several months, but for some reason it took off this past week to put it back in the top five. The only explanations I can come up with: somebody performed it on The Voice, Farm Aid, or Stapleton’s recent appearances at Timberlake concerts.
  • As expected Brett Young’s digital sales normalized to bring him down this week. But it’s interesting how the sales of his new single immediately dropped. It’s early, but his situation eerily reminds me of Brett Eldredge when he took off. Both had great success early in their careers with what I would call mellow ballads. But Eldredge couldn’t consistently replicate it with more upbeat singles. Young is showing the same early with his new single. It’s something to keep an eye on.
  • Mitchell Tenpenny finally makes the top ten. He should stay in the top ten too. But at the same time his numbers feel like they’ve peaked. The performance of his next single will let us know if he’s here to stay or a one-hit wonder.
  • Carrie Underwood’s numbers normalize and she only falls to #11. While last week was glass-half empty with her small album release bump, this week it’s glass-half full in that means only a small drop. Her album sales are going to be great for a while, so expect her to hang around the 10-15 range on the chart.
  • Cole Swindell rises back up to the top 15 this week thanks to seeing modest increases in album sales and streaming.
  • Lauren Alaina is back in the top 20 because “What Ifs” is still streaming well. This is what happens when you have a true hit and not a radio hit; you remain on the streaming charts for a long time. I should point out this isn’t a shot directed at Alaina or any artist in particular. I would just be remiss to not point this out, as I continue to prove the worthlessness of radio.
  • Jon Pardi’s California Sunrise continues to have good sales, allowing him to make the top 20. You have to wonder why his label didn’t decide for him to release a new single, instead of a fifth single off that album. Fifth singles almost never do well in sales and streaming.
  • Zac Brown Band’s greatest hits album is in the same boat in album sales. It’s a bit ridiculous to see this group make the top 20 based on the fact their last album flopped and the previous had a mixed reception. But at the same time it highlights the impact they’ve had in the past, the amount of fans they still have and really the lack of interest in several other acts.
  • Eric Church barely hangs onto the top 20, as his digital song sales normalized. He could possibly fall off before his album drops, but with his album sales always being strong he’ll safely be in the top 20 after it drops.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Jake Owen
  2. Dierks Bentley
  3. Old Dominion
  4. Jimmie Allen
  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.

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Sept. 29)

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 Streaming) +1
  2. Kane Brown -1
  3. Florida Georgia Line (#1 Digital Songs) -1
  4. Dan + Shay +1
  5. Brett Young -1
  6. Chris Stapleton +1
  7. Jason Aldean +1
  8. Bebe Rexha -1
  9. Carrie Underwood (#1 Album) 0
  10. Thomas Rhett -1
  11. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  12. Eric Church +1
  13. Sam Hunt 0
  14. Dierks Bentley -1
  15. Dolly Parton +1
  16. Sia +1
  17. Kenny Chesney +1
  18. Luke Bryan 0
  19. Cole Swindell +1
  20. Miranda Lambert 0

The Ultimate Pulse: +2


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Dierks Bentley, Dolly Parton & Sia
  • Gone: Old Dominion, Russell Dickerson & Dylan Scott
  • The Ultimate Pulse improves a whopping three spots to +2 this week. Who would have thought removing country radio from the equation would be a good thing for country music? Anyone paying attention, that’s who. As you can see I’ve also culled down the ranking from top 25 to top 20, due to one less category and the fact the bottom five I felt didn’t really have much of an effect. So if you’re wondering if that helped The Ultimate Pulse this week, it wouldn’t because it would still be the same if I included them. The arrivals and departures are based solely on the top 20 from last week. All of the departures were majorly propped up by radio. So shocking!
  • Luke Combs is the new #1 this week and the third different artist to top the chart. This was weeks in the making, as Combs’ steaming numbers are fantastic. He managed to somehow increase them more this week, which I didn’t think was possible. Combined with his almost equally great sales, Combs is poised to be a superstar in country music for years to come and I’m perfectly good with this, as his brand of country music is a good representative of the genre.
  • Kane Brown and Florida Georgia Line tied for #2 this week, but Brown gets the spot based on tiebreaker rules (he beats the duo in both streaming and album sales). Brown’s numbers normalize this week after the big bump he got from pre-orders and the sales of his new single. As you can see the top three don’t need radio and were unaffected by the chart change.
  • Brett Young jumps into the top five this week thanks to opening pre-orders for his new album and the good sales of his new single. If he wants to compete with the top four, his streaming numbers will need to improve.
  • Chris Stapleton and Jason Aldean tied for #6 this week, but Stapleton gets the spot based on tiebreaker rules. Stapleton is putting up strong numbers several months after dropping new music because that’s what happens when you have true hits. I can’t imagine the big numbers he will put up when the next album drops.
  • Aldean and Miranda Lambert continue to drop due to the dropping sales of “Whiskey Drowns the Memory.” But on the other hand “You Make It Easy” continues to sell and stream well for Aldean.
  • Bebe Rexha and Carrie Underwood tied for #8 this week, but Rexha gets the spot based on tiebreaker rules. Yeah I wish she would drop off the chart, but while she’s still on it I have to count her.
  • Carrie Underwood rises just to #9 with her album bump. I honestly expected more. She still manages to take the #1 Album spot from Stapleton though. I don’t expect her to maintain this top ten position long, as her sales don’t appear to stay for the long haul and she has zero streaming help.
  • Eric Church makes a big jump up to #12 this week thanks to sales from “Monsters.” He’ll drop back down next week.
  • Dierks Bentley is back again because once again his album sales spiked. If anyone has an explanation for why his album sales jump up and down, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter. I want to figure this out!
  • Dolly Parton and Sia make their debuts on The Ultimate Pulse! It’s awesome to have the queen of country music make an appearance, as well as a pop singer in Sia I have a great respect towards. They make their debuts thanks to the great sales of their re-recording of Parton’s smash hit “Here I Am” for the move Dumplin’. If you haven’t heard it yet, please check it out. I’ve also added it to the Fusion Country Favorites playlist.
  • Willie Nelson should have joined them this week, but Billboard did what I feared and put his new album My Way on the Top Jazz Albums chart. It’s pretty stupid considering Willie is country and it’s advertised as such on iTunes. Meanwhile Upchurch’s album was advertised as hip-hop on iTunes, but impacts the country albums chart. If anything Willie’s album should have debuted on both jazz and country.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Lauren Alaina
  2. Jon Pardi
  3. Jake Owen
  4. Zac Brown Band
  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.

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.