It’s now been two months since purely pop star Bebe Rexha eclipsed the all-time record on the 70-year-old Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for consecutive weeks at #1, and there is still no end in sight for the song’s reign. 43 weeks now the song has remained in the top spot, with challengers coming and going with no real threat of dethroning “Meant To Be” recorded with Florida Georgia Line. This would be a historic run for any song. But for a track that was never meant to be country, and hasn’t even really perpetrated some significant cultural impact along with its chart run, its continued placement at #1 is perturbing and alarming, and remains to be quite curious, especially since the song disappeared from country radio months ago.
But the big question now is where does this madness end? The song debuted at #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart two weeks before Thanksgiving in 2017. Now we’re entering the fall of 2018, and it’s still hard to spy a challenger to the song’s reign. We initially thought after “Meant To Be” would maybe have a few more weeks in it before falling off. Now, it’s hard to see the song’s end game.
Many songs from artists who we thought could challenge “Meant To Be” at #1 have come and gone with no effect. Jason Aldean’s “Drowns The Whiskey” went to #1 on country radio, and was aided by the participation of Miranda Lambert and her rabid fans. But it didn’t have the oomph to get past the Top 3 on Hot Country Songs. Luke Bryan is arguably the biggest artist in country music at the moment, but his “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” never even came close to sniffing the top spot. Like Bebe Rexha, Kane Brown enjoys very favorable placement of major streaming playlists that feed much of the metadata that have ensconced Bebe Rexha at #1 on a country chart in the first place. But his song “Heaven” crested at #2, and doesn’t appear to have the muscle to supersede “Meant To Be.”
One of the problems in finding a challenger to “Meant To Be” is the log jam at the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart at the moment. For the last month, the #2 spot on the chart has been held by Dan + Shay’s “Tequila,” and the #3 spot by Florida Georgia Line’s “Simple.” Going back even farther, Dan +Shay’s “Tequila” has been at the #2 spot for six weeks total. If it wasn’t for Bebe Rexha and “Meant To Be,” “Tequila” may be putting together it’s own historic run. But “Tequila,” which crested on country radio 3 months ago now, doesn’t seem to have the muscle to switch spots with “Meant To Be.”
Florida Georgia Line’s “Simple” is the only other logical challenger out there to “Meant To Be” at the moment, still having some headroom at #5 on the Country Airplay charts to rack up more spins, and possibly depose “Meant To Be” in the coming weeks. But even if this occurs, it would be a change without any difference. It would be one Florida Georgia Line song knocking another Florida Georgia Line song out of the #1 spot.
And even this may not happen. Even though “Meant To Be” is no longer showing up on any major radio charts, it’s still enjoying strong recurrent play across pop, adult contemporary, and country radio, along with strong streaming as it stays firmly implanted in spurious streaming charts despite being well-removed from its radio and pop cultural relevance. Along with remaining at #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart, “Meant To Be” tops the Country Streaming Songs chart for the 39th week, showing no signs of slowing down.
So how long could “Meant To Be” go? Well if Florida Georgia Line’s “Simple” can’t do the deed, we could be looking well into the fall or winter for a resolution. One good test case could be the Latin mega hit “Despacito.” It spent a total of 56 weeks at #1 before being dethroned. If a similar fate awaits “Meant To Be,” there’s a possibly the song’s reign could reach into three separate calendar years. This is all made possible by Billboard’s chart rules first implemented in 2012 that allow pop music to be counted on country charts if a song is simply released to country radio, while also counting spins on pop radio towards country’s metrics.
This chart methodology puts pop stars at a severe advantage over their country counterparts on country’s own charts. This same issue has been affecting all of Billboard’s genre-based charts, including “Despacito” on the Latin Songs Chart, which had the Latin music community up in arms as well. Still, Billboard seems not just tone deaf to the concerns, while being willing to promote these landmark runs as they completely skew and mischaracterize decades of music history, putting artists who came before the new rules regime at a severe disadvantage.
Some may ask why we still care about these arbitrary charts that clearly are built upon poor methodology. But these are the documents future generations will refer back to as markers of what was popular and relevant at a given time in a given genre. And unfortunately, the scores of songs and artists that should populate such charts will be whitewashed by one song that in the case of country, is not even native to the genre the charts are purported to record.
But just like the reign of “Meant To Be” at the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, there appears to be no end in sight to this madness. All that’s left is for the fans of the respective genres to voice their concerns, and record their dissent, and hope that future generations dig deeper than Billboard’s charts to find what was important in country music in 2018. Because according to Billboard, country music in 2018 was “Meant To Be,” and nothing else.