Two months after Billboard revised the Country Songs ranking method from core country radio audience to a digital, streaming, and expanded radio hybrid, Taylor Swift‘s ninth week atop the chart with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” sets an all-time record for the most weeks at No. 1 by a solo female, surpassing Country Music Hall of Fame honoree Connie Smith’s eight weeks with “Once a Day” in 1964.
Swift’s ninth week is the result of a photo finish ahead of Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” which bullets in its fifth week at No. 2. Swift’s run is the longest for any artist since the late David Houston stayed nine weeks with “Almost Persuaded” in 1966. When Smith and Houston accomplished their feats, the chart was known as Hot Country Singles, and was tabulated by blending reported radio playlists and singles sales data taken from retail store reports. No artist has spent more than nine weeks at No. 1 since Buck Owens led for 16 weeks in 1963-64 with “Love’s Gonna Live Here.”
On the Country Airplay chart, rookie duo Florida Georgia Line becomes the first new act in exactly one year to reach No. 1 with its first charted title, as “Cruise” steps 2-1. There’s been only one such song in each of the last three years — it was Brantley Gilbert‘s “Country Must Be Country Wide” on the chart dated Dec. 11, 2011, preceded by Easton Corbin‘s “A Little More Country Than That,” which topped the April 3, 2010 list. The duo’s song rings the top bell in its19th chart week, marking the fastest No. 1 climb for a new artist’s debut single since Heartland’s “I Loved Her First” needed 17 weeks to peak in 2006. Florida Georgia Line is the first duo/group to reach No. 1 with a debut single since Zac Brown Band‘s “Chicken Fried” led for two weeks in December 2008.
Meanwhile, Randy Houser achieves his second top 10 more than three years after his first, noted as “How Country Feels” steps 11-10 in its 32nd chart week. Houser’s track is one of seven this year that needed more than 30 weeks to reach the upper tier. He scored his first top 10 with “Boots On,” which peaked at No. 2 in September 2009, and his next four singles all failed to reach the top 30-the highest rank among those was a No. 31 peak with “Whistlin’ Dixie” in February 2010.
Over on the three-year-old Country Digital Songs chart, Republic Nashville becomes the third label to simultaneously control the top two slots on the tally with titles by two different artists — Florida Georgia Line logs a third cumulative week at No. 1 with “Cruise,” while the Band Perry‘s “Better Dig Two” returns for a second week to the No. 2 peak it set on opening week in November.
Five months after the chart launched in January 2010, “American Idol” starlets Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina bowed respectively at No. 1 and 2 with “I Love You This Big” and “Like My Mother Does.” During a three week period this summer, Capitol Nashville artists Luke Bryan and Little Big Town traded places at No. 1 and 2 with “Drunk on You” and “Pontoon.” On this week’s chart, “Cruise” sells 67,000 downloads according to SoundScan, while the trio’s song shifts 53,000. The biggest gainers on the digital list are a pair of Nashville-produced 1957 Christmas classics — Elvis Presley’s cover of Ernest Tubb’s 1949 standard “Blue Christmas” re-enters at No. 30 with 11,000 sold (up 5,000), while Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” jumps 41-24 with an increase of 4,000 downloads (14,000 sold).
Country Albums is sparsely bulleted, but led for a sixth week by Taylor Swift‘s “Red,” which sells 137,000. The Greatest Gainer is Lady Antebellum‘s “On This Winter’s Night,” which spikes 7,000 for a weekly total of 59,000 (5-2), and the percentage-based Pacesetter is Willie Nelson’s “The Classic Christmas Album,” which sells 3,000 with a 122% improvement. Expect to see a hefty debut on next week’s Country Albums by Florida Georgia Line’s first full-length album, titled “Here’s to the Good Times.”