Chart Beat

'Middle' Goes To The Top: Cole Swindell Earns Fourth Country Airplay No. 1

Cole Swindell performs during 2016 CMA Festival
John Shearer/Getty Images

Cole Swindell performs during 2016 CMA Festival at Nissan Stadium on June 11, 2016 in Nashville, Tenn.

Cole Swindell's "Middle of a Memory" charges 2-1 in its 28th week on Billboard's Country Airplay chart (dated Nov. 26), increasing by 2 percent to 50.4 million audience impressions in the week ending Nov. 13, according to Nielsen Music.

"I'm so thankful I wrote this song with my buddies Ashley Gorley and Zach Crowell," Swindell tells Billboard. "We literally wrote it in the middle of another song. It was just meant to be a moment ... that turned into the number one song in the country. Thanks, and let's celebrate!"

"Memory" marks Swindell's fourth Country Airplay No. 1 of six entries: "Hope You Get Lonely Tonight" became his first leader on the chart dated Oct. 11, 2014, followed by "Ain't Worth the Whiskey" (April 4, 2015) and "You Should Be Here," which topped the chart for three weeks beginning April 9, marking his first multiple-week No. 1. Swindell's other two singles, 2014 debut "Chillin' It" and 2015's "Let Me See Ya Girl," both peaked at No. 2.

"We knew this was a hit the first time we heard it," says KRTY San Jose, Calif., GM Nate Deaton of "Memory." "We moved it to medium rotation early and, almost from the beginning, it tested top 10 for us, [ranking] several times at number one."

"Cole is fast proving himself to be [a rising] superstar in our format, and all of his songs have done really well for us," says WBWL Boston PD Lance Houston. "His upcoming show here at the House of Blues sold out extremely fast, and ‘Middle of a Memory' has been one of our top-testing songs since early September. His album [You Should Be Here] is incredible; they could easily choose the next single by throwing a dart at the track listing."

On the hybrid Hot Country Songs chart, which combines airplay, sales and streaming data, "Memory" returns to its No. 3 high, from No. 4. The track holds at No. 6 on Country Streaming Songs with 2.3 million U.S. streams, up 3 -percent, in the week ending Nov. 10. On Country Digital Song Sales it dips 17-19 (9,000 sold; down 19 percent). Keith Urban's "Blue Ain't Your Color" leads Hot Country Songs for a second week.

On Top Country Albums, Swindell's You Should Be Here, which debuted at No. 2 on the chart dated May 28 with 65,000 first-week copies sold, descends 19-30 (2,000 sold; down 49 percent). Like many country titles, the set decreases in sales after receiving a bump on the previous chart (Nov. 19), thanks to the Country Music Association Awards, which aired live on ABC on Nov. 2. In the previous chart frame, buoyed by CMAs buzz -- Swindell was a presenter at the festivities -- his LP increased by 73 percent to 4,000. The album has sold 215,000 copies to date.

CHURCH MUSIC: Eric Church's new EP, Mr. Misunderstood: On the Rocks, Live and (Mostly) Unplugged, enters Top Country Albums at No. 4 (9,000 sold). The seven-song Walmart exclusive includes six tracks from Church's 2015 LP Mr. Misunderstood and was recorded live at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colo. The set also features Church's cover of "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, who died Nov. 7 at 82.

Also debuting in the Top Country Albums top five is the 2016 installment of NOW That's What I Call Country #1's (No. 5; 7,000). The 18-song compilation includes both new and older chart-toppers by such artists as Carrie Underwood ("Jesus, Take the Wheel") and Sam Hunt ("Take Your Time"), as well as Cole Swindell's "Ain't Worth the Whiskey."

NEW RECURRENT RULES Starting with the first Country Airplay chart of the 2017 Billboard year -- dated Dec. 3, 2016, the chart will be published on Nov. 21 -- Billboard will implement a new rule whereby any song that is No. 1 cannot fall off the ranking the following week, even if it is below the top 10 in audience or detections (as one can according to existing recurrent rules). Additionally, songs bulleted between Nos. 2 and 5 will remain on the chart the following week even if the tracks are below the top 10 in audience or detections. Overall, the adjustments will provide for a more accurate week-to-week overview of the format's top airplay hits.