In the week following the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards (Nov. 4), the aftereffects of Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake's duet performance of the former's "Tennessee Whiskey" and the latter's "Drink You Away" continue.
Mercury Nashville has already reaped benefits with Stapleton. His Traveller re-enters the Billboard 200 (dated Nov. 21) at No. 1 (marking the chart's first-ever re-entry at the summit), up by 6,109 percent to 177,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Nov. 5, according to Nielsen Music. It also vaults 25-1 on Top Country Albums (153,000 in traditional sales, up 6,412 percent). Traveller track "Whiskey" re-enters Hot Country Songs at No. 1 (likewise the chart's first No. 1 re-entry) and he has a new single at country radio: "Nobody to Blame" debuts on Country Airplay at No. 46 (2.2 million in audience).
Stapleton won in all three CMA categories in which he was nominated: new artist, male vocalist and album of the year.
Now, it's Timberlake's turn. RCA Nashville delivered an edit of "Drink" to country radio (Nov. 11). The shortened track is 4:15-long, instead of the original 5:31-long version from his 2013 album The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2.
It's not unusual for country radio stations to air highlights from the CMAs, especially the day after on morning shows, sometimes airing footage straight from the broadcast. But, "We didn't want programmers to have to take audio from their television," says Sony Music Nashville executive vice president, promotion/artist development Steve Hodges. "We received several requests from key programmers and we decided to get them a shortened version [of 'Drink'] so they didn't have to air the longer cut from the album."
The digital delivery turned plenty of heads, bringing up the obvious question: Is Justin Timberlake going country? "Our promotion staffs will not be actively working the single," Hodges tells Billboard. "We simply wanted to make the song easily accessible for country radio. Now they have it and can play it if they'd like."
If Timberlake dents Country Airplay or Hot Country Songs, it would be his first solo appearance on the surveys, although he's not a stranger to the format. His former boy band 'N Sync was featured on Alabama's 1999 cover of the group's "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You," which peaked at No. 3 on Hot Country Songs. ('N Sync's original reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 earlier that year.)
"Drink" has also made an appearance on Country Airplay, although not by Timberlake. Artist/producer David Fanning's version peaked at No. 58 in June 2014.