The song, featuring 30 star acts, is just the third ever to debut atop the chart.
"Forever Country," the all-star ode to country's past, present and future, and billed as by Artists of Then, Now & Forever, blasts in at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart (dated Oct. 8). It also debuts at No. 21 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100.
The track, which celebrates 50 years of the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards, is a medley of three classics: John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads," from 1971; Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" (1974); and Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" (1980). Denver died in 1997, but Parton and Nelson are both featured on the track, along with 28 other CMA Award-winning acts.
"Forever" premiered on radio airwaves and streaming services, and via digital retailers, Sept. 16. Its Joseph Kahn-directed video debuted Sept. 20. Profits from the sales and streaming of the song will benefit music education causes through the CMA Foundation. (Since the early '90s, Kahn has helmed clips for such stars as Mariah Carey, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, U2 and many more, including Nelson previously.)
"Forever" launches at No. 1 on the Country Digital Song Sales chart with 93,000 downloads sold in its first week (ending Sept. 22), according to Nielsen Music. It also soars in at No. 1 on Country Streaming Songs with 5.7 million first-week U.S. streams. On Country Airplay, it rises 39-33 with 5.4 million impressions following its first full week of tracking (Sept. 19-25).
"Forever" is only the third song to debut at No. 1 since Hot Country Songs began as a multi-metric chart in October 1958. Garth Brooks made history when "More Than a Memory" arrived at the summit on Sept. 15, 2007 (when the list was based solely on radio airplay; the ballad bowed with 36.3 million audience impressions). Craig Wayne Boyd, the seventh-season winner of NBC's The Voice, followed with a No. 1 entrance for his coronation single "My Baby's Got a Smile on Her Face" (Jan. 3, 2015; by then, the chart was based on airplay, sales and streaming, as it has been since Oct. 20, 2012, and the song was driven almost entirely by first-week sales of 99,000).