Michael Ray's Debut Single Rises at Radio; Sam Hunt Tops Country Songs Chart (Again)
Michael Ray's debut single, "Kiss You in the Morning," reaches the top of Billboard's Country Airplay chart (dated Aug. 22), rising 2-1 in its 26th week with 49 million audience impressions (up 5 percent), according to Nielsen Music. The hooky, uptempo proclamation of love, written by Michael White and Justin Wilson, is the first single from Ray's self-titled debut album that was released Aug. 7 and is due to impact the Aug. 29 Top Country Albums chart.
Ray, from Eustis, Fla., was raised in a musical household and played in the family band Country Cousins. "I grew up listening to so many of my heroes on the radio, and to be part of that with a No. 1 song is crazy," Ray tells Billboard of his new No. 1 status. "It's a crazy dream that all started when I was 9 years old playing in my grandpa's country band. A lot of people worked really hard to make all this happen." His next single, "Real Men Love Jesus," goes for adds at country radio on Sept. 14.
Notably, "Kiss" is the third debut entry to crown Country Airplay in 2015. Kelsea Ballerini's "Love Me Like You Mean It" led on July 4, following A Thousand Horses' "Smoke" on June 13. The last year that three introductory chart entries hit No. 1 was 2006, when Carrie Underwood arrived with "Jesus, Take the Wheel" (Jan. 21), followed by The Wreckers' "Leave the Pieces" (Sept. 9) and Heartland's "I Loved Her First" (Oct. 28).
'PARTY' TIME: Sam Hunt's "House Party" surges 2-1 on Hot Country Songs, becoming the third No. 1 on the survey from his debut album, Montevallo. The set rebounds 3-1 for a ninth nonconsecutive week atop Top Country Albums, with 13,000 sold (up 12 percent) in the week ending Aug. 6. Hunt previously ruled Hot Country Songs with "Leave the Night On" (Nov. 15, 2014) and "Take Your Time," which began its 11-week command on Feb. 21. He is the first artist to pull at least three No. 1s from a debut major-label country album since Zac Brown Band, whose 2008 album The Foundation yielded four: "Chicken Fried," "Toes," "Highway 20 Ride" and "Free" in 2008-10. The most recent male to do so? Darius Rucker, whose first country project, 2008's Learn to Live, produced three toppers: "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," "It Won't Be Like This for Long" and "Alright."
SPACE TRAVELS: Tim McGraw appears on Country Airplay for the 76th time, as "Top of the World," the first single from his forthcoming album that's due this fall, is the Hot Shot Debut at No. 30 with 9 million first-week audience impressions. The song's impact was bolstered by some truly out-of-this-world banter between McGraw and NASA astronauts. Never mind radio stations: On Aug. 3, McGraw tweeted to astronauts in the International Space Station, given the single's title and theme: "Hey @NASA, astronauts on @Space_Station might enjoy my new song. Check it out." It wasn't long before the astronauts replied from the stars to the country star: "Thanks, @TheTimMcGraw! You're on #TopOfTheWorld…we orbit around it."
McGraw tells Billboard that with introducing the new set, "We could have gone in a lot of different directions, but I wanted something that made everyone feel good, something that jumped off the radio and jumped off the speakers. I think this one did it."
'DOWN' IS UP: Luke Bryan, whose Kill the Lights arrived Aug. 7 and will storm the Aug. 29 Top Country Albums chart, celebrated by appearing on ABC's Good Morning America from New York's Central Park stage the same day, performing live versions of former Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay No. 1 "Kick the Dust Up" and new single "Strip It Down." The latter lifts 33-29 on Hot Country Songs and enters Country Airplay at No. 31 (9 million).
This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.