It was either feast or famine for country singles in 2016. As the rigged singles system that almost guarantees #1 songs for any releases from big-named artists metastasized at radio—creating an incredible volume of singles hitting #1 for a solitary week before immediately falling off a precipice—if a song happened to not fit into that rigged system, it seems like it was lucky to crack the Top 40. 2015 saw a few high-profile busts in the singles market, but 2016 was off the charts.
Let’s look at some of the biggest commercial flops in 2016.
The Band Perry – “Comeback Kid”
Oh the irony. “Comeback Kid” was supposed to be The Band Perry’s big comeback, and well, have you heard from them lately? It appears the song caught a haymaker in the 2nd round, started pouring blood out of a broken nose, and Mickey threw in the towel. Topping out at a paltry #39 on the Country Airplay chart, The Band Perry’s on again off again flirtations with the pop world, their ridiculous saga with “Live Forever” getting pulled and then rebooted, and just the general weirdness surrounding this entire project before and after they got canned by Big Machine makes “Comeback Kid” not just one of 2016’s biggest flops, but The Band Perry along with it.
Chase Rice – “Whisper” & “Everybody We Know Does”
Prefaced with a Chase Rice apology letter, “Whisper” faded with a whimper hard and fast, only finding its way to #56 on the Country Airplay chart before being summarily pulled. His next single “Everybody We Know Does” didn’t do much better, meandering to #42 before landing in the ditch. Don’t any of these idiotic radio programmers remember he co-wrote “Cruise”? Someone forgot to tell Chase it’s no longer 2013, and rapping about date raping some chick in your truck is no longer cool. Country music has moved on to talking about people’s feelings and junk like that. And who is this Sturgill Simpson guy anyway? Don’t worry Chase, there’s always The Voice.
Thomas Rhett – “Vacation”
Thomas Rhett initially promised he wouldn’t release this as a radio single, and it was just something fun for the fans. Well he should have stuck to his own promise because “Vacation” took a big ol’ belly flop right into the resort pool and came up redbellied. Though many artists would love to come out at #30 on the Country Airplay chart, that’s not really where Rhett is used to being, especially as Mediabase’s #1-spun artist in 2016. “Vacation” broke Rhett’s streak of six #1’s, and even his 5th single from his record Tangled Up is doing 20 spots better so far. The fourteen songwriters of “Vacation” and its rehashed melodies were even too much for country radio to take.
Gary Allan – “Do You Wish It Was Me?”
The big sin of “Do You Wish It Was Me” was not that it was terrible. It was more an issue of being incredibly nondescript. A very strange pick for a single, especially after “Hangover Tonight” couldn’t crack the Top 40, “Do You Wish It Was Me” could only muster #57 on Country Airplay after being released in May. Gary Allan is not a bad artist. He’s had some great songs and been a breath of fresh air on mainstream radio in the past. But man, his prospects for a career resurrection on radio are looking pretty rough at the moment.
Steven Tyler – “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere”
You’re the lead singer for one of the biggest American rock bands of all time, and your album gets outsold by Sturgill Simpson’s latest by some 20,000 units. The album flopped, the singles flopped (“Red, White, and You peaked at #46, and the title track didn’t even register on the charts), oh and you pissed off Joe Perry and the rest of your band by acting like your country music lark had any sort of commercial viability or creative contributions to mankind. Once again this is an instance of Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta trying to live out his hair metal fantasy through a 70’s star and putting out a puke album. We’re All Somebody From Somewhere was country music’s popcorn fart of 2016.
Maddie & Tae – “Sierra”
Boy we were all falling over ourselves to lump praise on “Girl in a Country Song,” and for good reason. But even though the follow up “Fly” did very decent for a new act, cracking the Top 10, and “Shut Up and Fish” dug into the Top 25, four singles was apparently one too many, and “Sierra” stalled at #46 on the Airplay Chart. You have to believe the prospects remain favorable for Maddie & Tae moving forward. They proved they weren’t just a one trick pony, and Big Machine appears to be committed to them moving forward, which is a big part for young acts finding success.
Cam – Mayday
After all of the critical and commercial success of “Burning House,” you though Cam would perform better than #36 with “Mayday,” but part of the issue facing female artists in country is the commitment their labels give to their singles. Cam actually had another single called “My Mistake” that flopped at #52 before “Burning House” was released. Perhaps country radio feels like they can fill their female quota with Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris better. Cam needs another hit, or she could find herself in the company of Kacey Musgraves: a successful and accomplished mainstream artist that radio completely ignores.
Jana Kramer – Said No One Ever
#57 Country Airplay
And to think we thought Jana Kramer had turned a page with “I Got The Boy.” The flavor of this bubble gum pop song lost it’s flavor real fast.
Clare Dunn- Tuxedo
#51 Country Airplay
If you’re going to put on a stern face and sell out as hard as you possibly can, you better hope it’s successful. For Clare Dunn, it wasn’t. This song is sincerely awful.
Joe Nichols – “Undone”
#46 Country Airplay
Poor Joe seems to be in the same position as Gary Allan—facing down being put out to pasture.