'Down' Is Up: Luke Bryan Dominates Country Charts; Toby Keith and Jana Kramer Debut
Luke Bryan makes an almost clean sweep, topping four of Billboard’s five country charts dated Oct. 31. "Strip It Down" (Capitol Nashville) crowns Hot Country Songs (for a fifth week) and takes over atop Country Airplay and Country Streaming Songs (up 2-1 on each list), while his LP Kill the Lights scores a seventh nonconsecutive week at No.1 on Top Country Albums (4-1).
Bryan’s quadruple simultaneous reign marks the first time that an artist has led that many country charts at once since March 14, when Sam Hunt topped Hot Country Songs, Country Digital Songs and Country Streaming Songs concurrently with "Take Your Time," while his debut set Montevallo led Top Country Albums. (Before Bryan, Hunt last crowned Hot Country Songs, Country Airplay and Top Country Albums in the same frame with "Leave the Night On" on the first two charts and Montevallo on the lattermost list, on Nov. 15, 2014.)
The sultry "Strip" (48.2 million audience impressions, up 3 percent, according to Nielsen Music) is Bryan’s 13th Country Airplay No. 1 and the second from Kill the Lights, following "Kick the Dust Up"; at 11 weeks each, they represent his fastest flights to the summit. On Country Streaming Songs, "Strip" strides with a 30 percent gain to 3.2 million U.S. streams, becoming his fourth No. 1 on the list. Meanwhile, Kill the Lights marches by 8 percent to 23,000 copies sold in the week ending Oct. 15. The set opened atop the survey dated Aug. 29 (320,000) and has sold 640,000 to date.
Country Digital Songs is the only country chart that Bryan doesn’t crown this week; "Strip" holds at No. 2 on the tally (39,000 downloads sold; down 1 percent) after having spent five weeks at No. 1.
"I continue to be amazed by things that have happened to me in this business," Bryan tells Billboard of his multiple No. 1 rankings. "To radio, my fans, my label and my whole team, I love y’all."
Programmers are reciprocating the adoration. "Luke came into Vanderbilt Stadium [in Nashville] this summer like a conquering hero," says Charlie Cook, PD of Cumulus Nashville’s WSMFM and WKDF. He adds that "Strip" is "testing No. 3" on WKDF and "continues to grow" on WSMFM. "Luke Bryan completely hits the 18-49 country lifestyle full-frontal," echoes Shelly Easton, PD of Beasley’s WXTU -Philadelphia. "The music, his live performance and his personality all come together, making his fans excited to be a part of everything he does. I once saw him spin around, grab a fan’s camera, take a selfie and never miss a note or a move.
"Luke Bryan is a star and country is lucky to have his charisma."
KEITH & KRAMER: Toby Keith’s 35mph Town (Show Dog-Universal/Universal Music Group Nashville) debuts at No. 2 on Top Country Albums (19,000 sold). The set is Keith’s 23rd top 10 and first since his prior album, 2013’s Drinks After Work, opened at No. 3 (35,000).
Jana Kramer’s second major label album, Thirty-One (Elektra Nashville/Warner Music Nashville), bows at No. 3 on Top Country Albums (18,000). She bests the debut rank and sales sum of her 2012 self-titled set (No. 5, 16,000).
"I’ve worked so hard for the past three years on this album and I wanted people to really get to know me and the artist that I am working so hard to be," Kramer tells Billboard. "I knew I had something to prove and I’m proud of how much I’ve grown throughout this entire process.
"The support of my fans really gave me the confidence to continue and push down walls with my writing. They never gave up on me. I’m so grateful for every opportunity that I’ve been given."
This article first appeared in Billboard's weekly Country Update newsletter -- sign up here.