Carrie Underwood Talks Cross-Genre Collaborations
Dating to 1958, when Billboard combined various country song tallies into one all-encompassing list, Underwood's seven-week No. 1 run is surpassed among women only by Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" (10 weeks, 2012-13) and Connie Smith's "Once a Day" (eight weeks, 1964-65). In addition to "Wheel," "Water" rushes past two other songs by women who each led for six weeks: Faith Hill's "Breathe" (1999-2000) and Swift's "Our Song" (2007-08).
SEEMS LIKE YESTERDAY: Speaking of country-chart history, Billboard's Country Airplay chart turns 25 years old this week, having launched in the Billboard print magazine dated Jan. 20, 1990, and Kenny Chesney celebrates by scoring his 24th No. 1 on the survey with "Til It's Gone," which steps 2-1.
Those who followed the format, and charts, will recall what a radical idea technology-based airplay charts were at the time (with Billboard promising on page 1 that week "the highest degree of accuracy ever available in measuring the exposure of songs by radio"). As Billboard aligned with Nielsen Music (then known as Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems) to pioneer charts based on actual, monitored airplay, which replaced the decades-old methodology based on station-submitted playlists, the concept of such charts and the technology that drove them were met with criticism and skepticism from the radio and record communities alike, sprinkled with support from forward-thinkers. "Prove to [the naysayers] your system is accurate. The business needs something new," wrote one early advocate in radio.
Yet, country was the first music genre to convert its airplay charts to the new model. Executives at Billboard and BDS believed that if they could successfully deploy technology-based charts in country (which almost never utilized custom mixes or edited versions of songs), far less musically tidy cousins in other formats might follow with significantly less blowback.
Billboard Debuts Expanded, Revamped Weekly Charts
Thus began the evolution of the monitored-airplay charts story. Skepticism gave way to a sense of inevitability, cautious tolerance and, ultimately, a full embracing. (Between 1991 and 1994, pop, adult, rock and R&B airplay charts likewise adopted BDS data.) Although the early days of using these new tools faced challenges, one would be hard-pressed to imagine those in the industry doing their jobs strategically and credibly without the benefit of monitored charts, while all chart-watchers are assured of "the highest degree of accuracy" pledged a quarter-century ago.
Here's a recap of some of the leading artists on Country Airplay since it debuted. Most No. 1s: Tim McGraw (27), Alan Jackson and George Strait (26 each), Chesney (24), Brooks & Dunn and Toby Keith (20 each). Most top 10s: Strait (61), McGraw (52), Jackson (51), Chesney (47), Keith (42) and Brooks & Dunn (41).
Most No. 1s among women: Underwood (13), Reba McEntire (11), Hill (nine), Swift and Shania Twain (seven each). Most top 10s among women: McEntire (36), Hill (23), Underwood and Martina McBride (20 each) and Trisha Yearwood (19).
Most No. 1s among duos/groups: Brooks & Dunn (20), Rascal Flatts (12), Zac Brown Band (10), Lady Antebellum and Lonestar (nine each). Most top 10s among duos/groups: Brooks & Dunn (41), Rascal Flatts (29), Alabama (24), Diamond Rio (19) and Lonestar (18).
Chesney's new leader follows previous single "American Kids" to the summit, marking his first set of consecutive leaders (counting only promoted, non-seasonal songs) since he strung together three (his best streak) with "The Boys of Fall" (2010), "Somewhere With You" and "Live a Little" (both 2011). "Kids" and "Gone" are from Chesney's The Big Revival album, whose new single is "Wild Child" (with Grace Potter).
'GROWN' GROWS: Along with posting a career-high bow (No. 23) on Country Airplay, Zac Brown Band's "Homegrown" rockets 41-4 in its second week on Hot Country Songs, adding Digital Gainer honors. A hefty 75,000 downloads sold in its first full week of availability, according to Nielsen Music, hurl the track onto Billboard's Country Digital Songs at No. 1, marking the band's first leader on the list and its biggest weekly sales sum. The group previously sold as many as 63,000 downloads in a week, with "Colder Weather" (April 23, 2011).
"Homegrown" previews Zac Brown Band's untitled fourth full-length studio set, due this spring.
FINDING HER VOICE: On Top Country Albums, RaeLynn earns the Hot Shot Debut at No. 7 with Me, a five-song EP that debuts with 6,000 sold. Formerly a contestant on NBC's The Voice, RaeLynn's lead single "God Made Girls" bullets at No. 15 on Hot Country Songs after having risen as high as No. 7.