For all the non-country artists, albums, and songs showing up on Billboard‘s country charts recently, it was certainly a curious decision by Billboard chart managers to make an example of a poor band from Ft. Worth called Green River Ordinance this week. Despite the insistence of the band, and a clear sonic distinction to their music of country being the primary influence, their new album Fifteen was excluded from the country charts where it should have debuted at #7.
Beyond the issue this causes for Green River Ordinance itself, it also sets country music down a slippery slope where bands and artists could be excluded from industry-leading charts without any material basis. Today it’s Green River Ordinance, and tomorrow it could be Sturgill Simpson, Blackberry Smoke, Jason Isbell, or who knows who.
If Billboard wants to begin excluding acts for not truly being country for their charts, this would be a step in the right direction in the effort to save country music. But why is Green River Ordinance the band to be made an example of?
For the sake of argument, and using Green River Ordinance’s Fifteen as the benchmark, Saving Country Music has done an analysis of the Top 25 on Billboard‘s Country Album’s Chart, and kicked out any and all albums that are not as country as Fifteen.
PLEASE NOTE: This has nothing to do with taste, or a specific opinion on the music. This analysis is simply about taking sonic and lyrical benchmarks and assigning them to each album, and objectively asking if it is more or less country than Fifteen. Also note: All but six of the albums in the Top 25, Saving Country Music has published lengthy reviews for, and two of those un-reviewed albums are greatest hits compilations, and the remaining have been listened to, and singles reviewed from the album. So there is a strong knowledge in the material being presented. Also, if any album was sitting on the bubble, in an abundance of caution, it was allowed to stay on the chart.
RESULTS: In Saving Country Music’s estimation, if you used Green River Ordinance’s Fifteen as the benchmark for what is country and what isn’t, 19 of the 25 titles would need to be eliminated from the Billboard Country Albums chart. Also note that one of the albums to be eliminated would be Don Henley’s Cass County because he does not originate in country as an artist—one of the rationales presented by Billboard of why they left Green River Ordinance out.
Billboard has still not responded publicly to why Green River Ordinance was excluded from the Country Albums chart.
- Chris Stapleton – Traveller – Stay
- Hank Williams Jr. – It’s About Time – Stay
- Blake Shelton – Reloaded: 20 #1 – Since this includes some of his earlier more country hits like “Austin,” Stay.
- Sam Hunt – Montevallo – GONE
- Brothers Osborne – Pawn Shop – GONE – Too rock.
- Thomas Rhett – Tangled Up – GONE
- Carrie Underwood – Storyteller – GONE
- Eric Church – Mr. Misunderstood – GONE – Good album but much more rock.
- Luke Bryan – Kill The Lights – GONE
- Tim McGraw – Damn Country Music – Stay (barely)
- Chris Young – I’m Comin’ Over – GONE
- Cam – Untamed – GONE
- Don Henley – Cass County – Great record, and very country. But by Billboard‘s explanation, if you released music in a different genre previously, you can be disqualified, so GONE.
- Randy Rogers Band –Nothing Shines Like Neon – Stay
- Old Dominion – Meat and Candy – GONE
- Chris Janson – Buy Me a Boat – Close, but GONE
- Brett Eldredge – Illinois – GONE
- George Strait – Cold Beer Conversation – Stay
- Little Big Town – Painkiller – GONE
- Florida Georgia Line – Anything Goes – GONE
- Zac Brown Band – Jekyll + Hyde – One or two country songs, but GONE
- Carrie Underwood – Greatest Hits: Decade #1 – A few early country songs, but GONE
- Brantley Gilbert – Just As I Am – GONE
- Maren Morris – Maren Morris EP – GONE
- Kelsea Ballerini – The First Time – GONE