Cody Johnson Finally Earns His #1 Moment with “Till You Can’t”

photo: Robert Millage

When Cody Johnson partnered his independent CoJo Music record label with Warner Music Nashville in 2018, we thought it could result in the best of both worlds. Johnson would keep creative control over his contemporary cowboy style of traditional country music, which had already made him an arena-level performer in Texas. But now he would have the muscle of a major label behind him, including an opportunity to return at least a semblance of country-sounding music to country radio.

But if we’re being honest, the results were mostly mixed. Cody Johnson was already selling well before signing with Warner, and his debut radio single “One My Way To You” went to #11. Not terrible, but not exactly a top hit either. That was trailed by “Nothin’ On You” that did downright terrible, tanking at #55. And adding Reba McEntire to Johnson’s “Dear Rodeo” didn’t help much either. Cody Johnson’s third major label single ended up at #34.

At that point, it was fair to question the reason for signing with a major label at all. Frankly, the first two singles were mild, and not exactly representative of CoJo’s more country style, but didn’t fare well commercially either. This is so commonly what happens in country with more traditional artists. You try to commercialize them, and you get the worst of both worlds, not the best.

But all the second guessing and doubts about Cody’s prospects in mainstream country have just been eradicated, at least for the moment. The lead single off his second major label album Human called “Till You Can’t” is a doggone hit, and not one of those where it takes 14 months to materialize, and relies mostly on radio to garner the interest of the public.

“Till You Can’t” has become Cody Johnson’s first #1 single as a country artist, and not on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, but on the more consumption-based Hot Country Songs chart that factors in streaming and downloads, along with radio. With no pop crossover prospects for an artist like Cody either, this was all born off of fans listening to a song that’s resonating beyond Johnson’s already impressive fan base.

“Till You Can’t” will also be a #1 on country radio; it will just take a few more weeks to get there. It currently sits at #8, which is a career best for Cody Johnson as well. And how fitting Johnson landed this #1 without the primary help of radio while the annual Country Radio Seminar was transpiring in Nashville last week. One of the big themes of the conference was how radio is losing its relevancy in the marketplace and it’s ability to mint stars, especially how it often takes a year-plus for radio singles to develop these days.

But Cody Johnson’s “Till You Can’t” was released in late October, 2021. And usually once an artist has a failed single or two at radio these days, they rarely recover to get back in the format’s good graces. A good song is a good song though. And though the Americana snobs will scoff, and the purists will claim it’s pop, “Till You Can’t” written by Ben Stennis and Matthew J. Rogers is just a powerful song, bolstered by a propulsive performance by Cody Johnson.

In this era of manufactured radio #1’s bestowed to manufactured stars, former rodeo rider turned independent country artist turned mainstream star Cody Johnson built it all from the ground up, through sweat and toil, through growing grassroots, and keeping it country. And now, finally, after some adversity and ample perseverance, he’s finally scored an illustrious #1, and his way.

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