Sometimes the effort to save country music feels like one step forward, two steps back. Last week at this time we were all gaga over the fact that Chris Stapleton’s stripped-down new single “Either Way” was the most added single at country radio and debuted at a surprisingly #26 on the charts. Was this Stapleton’s big moment to finally crack the radio code and become a bona fide superstar across all of country music’s assets, not just the album charts and awards?
Well the answer at this point is “no” at worst, or “inconclusive” at best. Though new singles—or at least the ones that are doing well—usually only face in one direction on country’s airplay charts after they’re released until the time the peak, Chris Stapleton’s “Either Way” took a proverbial dive during its second week being susceptible to reporting. The single slid from #26, all the way to #40 on this week’s Billboard Country Airplay chart, giving a troubling sign for a single selection many are questioning as risky due to the acoustic nature of the song.
The good news is “Either Way” actually picked up new stations this week according to both Billboard’s Neilsen tabulations, and Country Aircheck’s SoundScan data. So how did it end up slipping backwards so dramatically? Apparently Stapleton and his label Mercury Nashville had a deal worked out with country music’s largest radio station owner, iHeartMedia, for top-of-the-hour radio play of Stapleton to help promote his new record, From A Room: Vol. 1. When that deal expired, so did all of those artificial spins on the charts, sinking Stapleton’s prospects for this week.
The good news is if Stapleton had actually received a normal chart debut without all the additional iHeartMedia spins, he likely would have gained in the charts this week. So it’s far from over for “Either Way,” though it still may face an uphill battle at radio. Meanwhile the song is doing well on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart that takes into consideration consumption, coming in at an impressive #17 debut.
Other Country Radio Airplay Observations
Miranda Lambert’s “Tin Man” is still alive … for now. Last week the big concern was the latest Lambert single had slipped multiple spots when it was supposed to be headed the other way. Was this the last stand for Miranda at radio? Luckily for fans of female representation in country music, “Tin Man” rose on the week from #42 to #39 on the Billboard Country Airplay charts, and picked up moderate gains in adds and spins.
Only two females are in the Top 30. Maren Morris slips in just barely at #29 with “I Could Use a Love Song.” Kelsea Ballerini’s “Yeah Boy” looks like it will miss a #1 spot, maxing out this week at #4, and not likely to go any farther than #3 in its lifespan. Perhaps it was weighted down by all of those “boy” references.
Aaron Watson’s “Outta Style” looks like it peaked when it hit #30 last week. That was still a huge showing for an independent Texas artist, but losing spins and slipping to #36 this week, that’s likely as far as that one goes.
Wheeler Walker Jr. is coming to mainstream country radio? Somebody thinks that’s a possibility. In this week’s Country Aircheck edition, Walker says he’s looking for adds for his song “Summers in Kentucky” come next week. Is it a marketing ploy, or will his camp legitimately release an edited version of the somewhat clean song (compared to his other material) to country radio? It’s already receiving airplay on Sirius XM’s Outlaw channel and some other places. I wouldn’t hold your breath, but it does make for an interesting radio wrinkle this week. Expect Wheeler’s new record Ol’ Wheeler to challenge Luke Comb’s major label debut for #1 on the Country Albums chart when they’re released June 2nd.