Kenny Chesney Hoists 'Pirate Flag' On Hot Country Songs

The singer storms the chart with the first single from his new album. Plus, Kris Kristofferson makes a mighty return to Top Country Albums

Kenny Chesney ropes Hot Shot Debut honors at No. 35 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart with "Pirate Flag," the lead track from his album "Life on a Rock," due April 30. The song also checks in at No. 22 on the Nielsen BDS-driven Country Airplay tally (11 million first-week audience impressions), where it becomes Chesney's record-extending eighth song to open in the chart's top 25 in the BDS era (which dates to January 1990).

"Flag" premiered on Jan. 31 on Chesney's No Shoes Radio stream and a video clip debuts tomorrow (Feb. 8) on cable outlets CMT and Great American Country. The swirl of activity around the track builds excitement for Chesney's No Shoes Nation tour, which kicks off on March 16 in Tampa, Fla.

Released digitally on Tuesday (Feb. 5), "Flag" should see a strong second-week improvement in rank on Hot Country Songs. A similar bump is a sure bet for Lady Antebellum's "Downtown," which arrived at digital retailers the same day. The latter title flies 42-34 in its second week on Hot Country Songs, where it draws Greatest Gainer applause for the chart's biggest overall airplay surge. With a 25-20 hop on Country Airplay (12 million, up 87%), "Downtown" previews the trio's upcoming fourth studio album, which is yet to be titled or scheduled, but is expected in the spring.

High atop Hot Country Songs, the Band Perry's "Better Dig Two" returns to the summit for a second week (2-1) after being replaced last week by Gary Allan's "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)," which this week dips to No. 2.

'COOL' IS HOT: Blake Shelton's "Sure Be Cool If You Did" bounds 7-4 on Hot Country Songs and reclaims its former No. 1 peak on Country Digital Songs (3-1), selling 65,000 downloads (up 5,000), according to Nielsen SoundScan. The remainder of the top five on the digital chart: the Band Perry's "Dig" (No. 2, 60,000); Allan's "Rain" (No. 3, 57,000); Hunter Hayes' "Wanted" (No. 4, 49,000); and Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" (No. 5, 46,000).

'ONLY' 1: Jason Aldean's "The Only Way I Know," with Luke Bryan and Eric Church, charges 2-1 on Country Airplay (and remains bulleted at No. 5 on Hot Country Songs). The track drew 38 million audience impressions last week (up 1%), according to Nielsen BDS.

"Only" marks Aldean's ninth airplay leader, Bryans' fifth and Church's third.

GOOD 'FEELING': Outlaw country legend Kris Kristofferson's self-released "Feeling Mortal" makes a noteworthy No. 28 start as the highest new entry on Top Country Albums. With 2,000 sold, the album marks the Country Music Hall of Famer's best solo rank since "The Austin Sessions" set an opening-week peak of No. 26 in 1999.

Kristofferson rose to his highest perch on Top Country Albums with a solo set with "Jesus Was a Capricorn," which spent one week atop the survey in 1972. It also contained "Why Me," his lone No. 1 on Hot Country Songs (1973). (The veteran has also impressively appeared in the title field of a Billboard chart: he was feted in Tim McGraw's "Kristofferson," which reached No. 16 on Hot Country Songs in 2008.)

Top Country Albums is led for a second week by Gary Allan's "Set You Free" (34,000, down 68% in its second chart frame), followed by Taylor Swift's "Red" (No. 2; 29,000, down 15%); Florida Georgia Line's "Here's to the Good Times" (No. 3; 17,000, down 10%); Little Big Town's "Tornado" (No. 4; 15,000, up 7%); and Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away" (No. 5; 13,000, up 32%).

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