Chart Beat

Thomas Rhett Rules Again; Hank Jr. Scores Highest Debut on Country Albums Chart

Hank Williams Jr.
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Hank Williams Jr. performs at the 5th Annual NRA Country Jam on April 10, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. 

For a fifth consecutive week, Thomas Rhett crowns three of Billboard's main country songs charts (dated Feb. 6) with "Die a Happy Man,” which he co-wrote for his wife, Lauren. The love song leads Hot Country Songs for an 11th week and 10th in succession; Country Airplay for a sixth week, all consecutively; and Country Digital Songs for a fifth straight week and 12th total.

Rhett's continued rule on Country Airplay is especially significant: It's the first song to stay at the summit for six weeks since Taylor Swift's "Our Song" (her first Country Airplay No. 1) dominated for six frames beginning Dec. 22, 2007. "Man" holds at the summit despite a 4 percent dip to 47.8 million in audience, according to Nielsen Music.

"The first time I heard ["Man"], I knew we had something extraordinary," Big Machine Label Group president/CEO Scott Borchetta tells Billboard. "I had the same feeling about it that I'd had some 20 years earlier when [at MCA Records] I first heard Vince Gill's ‘I Still Believe in You' that this song would establish Thomas as one of the most important male artists in country music. The fact that its weeks at No. 1 match up to the song [released on Borchetta's Big Machine label] that truly launched Taylor into the stratosphere is amazing and ironic. We're humbled by its continued success."

"I seriously can't believe this song has spent six weeks at No. 1," said Rhett upon hearing the news. "When you put a song out there as personal as this, you hope it connects and resonates with people. But I could never have imagined it would connect like this. And to mirror an achievement not seen since Taylor Swift -- someone I really respect as a songwriter, performer and entertainer -- is mind-blowing."

PERFECT 10s Meanwhile, Hot Country Songs welcomes three new top 10s, led by Carrie Underwood's "Heartbeat," up 12-8. She notches her 23rd top 10 and has yet to miss the bracket with any song she has released as an officially promoted country single, dating to her first, "Jesus, Take the Wheel," which topped the chart for six weeks in 2006.

Zac Brown Band's "Beautiful Drug" climbs 11-9, marking the group's 15th top 10. Dating to its first top 10, "Chicken Fried," which hit the tier Nov. 1, 2008, no group has more; Lady Antebellum follows with 11 in that span.

Also new to the Hot Country Songs top 10 is Keith Urban's "Break on Me" (13-10), which is not only his 35th top 10 but his 35th consecutively, a run that started with the No. 4-peaking "Your Everything" in 2000. Urban breaks a tie with Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw for the longest streak of uninterrupted top 10s on Hot Country Songs in 22 years (counting songs in lead roles officially promoted to country radio and excluding holiday fare). Chesney linked 34 in a row from 2000's "What I Need to Do" through 2012's "Reality," while McGraw managed the same run from 1994's "Indian Outlaw" through 2004's "Back When."

Urban's top 10 streak on Hot Country Songs is now the longest since Alabama collected 41 straight from 1980-94, from "Tennessee River" through "T.L.C. A.S.A.P." Just before that, Ronnie Milsap also wrapped a string of 41 consecutive top 10s (1976-92), from "(I'm a) Stand by My Woman Man" through "Turn That Radio On."

HANK'S HIGHEST Top Country Albums sports three top five debuts, led by Hank Williams Jr.'s It's About Time at No. 2 (24,000 sold). The icon scores his highest debut on the chart on which he has been appearing since 1964, surpassing the No. 3 starting rank of That's How They Do It in Dixie: The Essential Collection in 2006. He also earns his highest rank since Lone Wolf reached No. 2 in 1990 (a year before Nielsen Music data began powering the tally).

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Brothers Osborne's first full-length (and first top 10), Pawnshop, begins at No. 3 on Top Country Albums (21,000), and Randy Rogers Band's Nothing Shines Like Neon (Randy Rogers Band/Tommy Jackson) opens at No. 4 (11,000), marking the act's sixth top 10.