It’s not just wishful thinking, and it’s not skewing the numbers to paint a sunny picture. With his new album Honky Tonk Time Machine, “King” George Strait is back at the top of the country genre, and in multiple ways.
Honky Tonk Time Machine debuted at #1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart this week with 51,000 equivalent albums sold, and 44,000 in pure album sales. This is good enough to give Strait the best-selling album sales week in country so far in 2019, and also puts him at #4 on the all-genre Billboard 200. This also extends Strait’s already historic marker for the most #1 albums in country music history. Now with 27 #1 albums under his belt, that puts him 10 albums ahead of the nearest competition. Both Garth Brooks and Willie Nelson have 17 #1 albums to their name.
But that’s not all George Strait fans have to celebrate. Though Strait also holds the record for the most #1 country songs in history with 60, he’s struggled for the last decade to chart another #1, let alone find much of any traction on radio at all. His last Top 20 showing was back in 2013 with “I Got A Car” which stalled at #17.
But that’s all about the change with Strait’s current single “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar.” It’s showing surprisingly real promise and traction on country radio. The song shocked everyone by debuting at #20, and though many thought it would fall precipitously afterwards due to embellished first week spins, the song only edged down slightly in the weeks after, and since then has continued its climb. “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar” is sitting at #18 on radio at the moment, with solid gains that are expected to see it potentially challenge for the Top 10, or perhaps even hit #1 in the coming weeks. “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar” also sits at #22 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, which is also Strait’s best performance in 7 years.
On top of all this, traditional country fans were surprised to see George Strait receive more performance time than any other artist at the 2019 ACM Awards on Sunday (4-7), which will only help the cause of Honky Tonk Time Machine, and “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar,” which Strait performed as the final song of the night. He also performed with Miranda Lambert, and did a rendition of “God and Country Music” in the middle of the presentation.
Despite all the concerns about lingering bad singles from mainstream country’s usual suspects and the controversy of whether Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” is country or not, country music has been enjoying a resurgence of interest in artists, albums, and songs that are undeniably more country, and more quality than what we saw during the height of the Bro Country era. A #1 record for George Strait was probably a given. But to have the best sales week so far this year, and possibly one of the best we’ll see into the near future—not to mention the radio success of “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar”—it’s putting “King” George back where he’s supposed to be: at the top.