“No one wants to wind up at No. 2, 6 or 11. But, of those, No. 11 is probably the worst.”
Adrian Moreira, RCA/J/Arista Records senior vice president/adult music notes the frustration associated with a No. 11 peak on a Billboard survey.
“If you peak at No. 2, at least you can brag about reaching the top five. If you hit No. 6, a label can still market a track and/or artist as ‘top 10.’
“But, if you peak at the dreaded No. 11, then the best you can boast is ‘top 15,’ which obviously doesn’t sound as prestigious.”
Moreira cites numerous variables that can prevent a title from entering the coveted top 10 range, from stronger competition to spotty audience research, “with luck and timing playing pivotal roles alongside a promotion team’s strategy.”
Still, a song’s highest position on a Billboard chart isn’t always an indicator of its legacy.
Countless hits at various formats have outshined their runs as current songs, from the Hot 100’s first top 40 rap crossover title, “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang (No. 36, 1979), to Eminem‘s more recent rap classic “Stan,” featuring Dido (No. 51, 2000).
As we ring in ’11, Chart Beat is celebrating songs that, despite stopping short at No. 11 on Billboard lists, have become ubiquitous.
Each week in January, we’re spotlighting 11 such smashes, continuing this week with tracks that fell one spot shy of the top 10 on Country Songs.
“Mean Woman Blues,” Elvis Presley, 1957
The King of Rock & Roll charted 66 titles on Country Songs between 1955 and 2009. Three peaked at No. 11: this cut from the Presley film “Loving You”; “Treat Me Nice,” the B-side to the 1957 No. 1 “Jailhouse Rock”; and, 1975’s “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” which, as covered by Travis Tritt, returned and reached No. 13 in 1993.
“Tennessee Flat-Top Box,” Johnny Cash, 1961
This track wasn’t one of Cash’s 13 Country Songs No. 1s, but it did become a chart leader for his daughter Rosanne. Her update topped the tally, becoming the seventh of her 11 No. 1s, in 1988.
“Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” Dolly Parton, 1977
First released as the single preceding the five-week No. 1 “Here You Come Again,” Parton re-recorded the song 13 years later for the soundtrack to “Straight Talk,” in which she starred as a radio talk show host. The film’s cast also included James Woods, Teri Hatcher and, in one of her first roles, eventual “Glee” favorite Jane Lynch.
“American Boy,” Eddie Rabbitt, 1990
The last of the late singer’s 39 top 40 hits on Country Songs found favor following the start of the Gulf War. “I’m an American boy / Drive me a Chevy, ain’t got no Peugeot,” sings Rabbitt. “My older brother was a GI Joe / Red, white and blue from my head to my toes.”
“Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?,” Shania Twain, 1995
The then-future superstar had peaked at No. 55 with two consecutive singles from her self-titled 1993 set. Twain ushered in her follow-up album, “The Woman in Me,” with this feisty track, her format breakthrough (co-written with now-ex-husband Mutt Lange). Beginning with her next radio single, “Any Man of Mine,” her first No. 1, Twain would send 16 songs to the top 10, including seven No. 1s. With sales of 34 million, Twain ranks as the best-selling female country artist and 13th-best-selling album artist overall (one spot above Presley) since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking U.S. sales in 1991.
“She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” Kenny Chesney, 2000
Just as Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” contains a “Glee” connection, so does this song. One of its writers? Paul Overstreet, father of Chord, aka McKinley High QB (short for both quarterback and Quinn’s boyfriend) Sam Evans.
“There You’ll Be,” Faith Hill, 2001
Buoyed by exposure in the Ben Affleck blockbuster “Pearl Harbor,” the ballad, written by Diane Warren, flew to No. 11 in just five chart weeks. It spent one more frame on the doorstep of the top 10 but never rose higher. Its soaring production made for a better fit at pop radio, as the track topped Adult Contemporary for a whopping 12 weeks.
“Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” Big & Rich, 2004
Kenny Alphin and John Rich, members of the “Muzik Mafia” (Musically Artistic Friends in Alliance), along with the likes of Gretchen Wilson, unconventionally merged rap and country on this risqué anthem. “We respect everything that has come before us,” Alphin has said. “But, we don’t have to repeat them. What we’ve done is come up with a style of our own.” The song is the duo’s second-highest-peaking of 14 Country Songs entries, bested only by its 2007 No. 1 “Lost in This Moment.”
“Johnny & June,” Heidi Newfield, 2008
The former lead singer of Trick Pony released this ballad of the romance of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash as her debut solo single, which marked the second hit to name-check the Man in Black in as many years; Jason Aldean‘s “Johnny Cash” had climbed to No. 6 in 2007.
“Lookin’ for a Good Time,” Lady Antebellum, 2008
Billboard’s top group and top country artist of 2010 arrived on Country Songs with the No. 3-peaking “Love Don’t Live Here” in 2007. While this follow-up just missed the top 10, it helped solidify the trio’s rising star power. The band’s next four singles all reached No. 1: “I Run to You,” “Need You Now,” “American Honey” and “Our Kind of Love.”
“Strange,” Reba McEntire, 2009
After building her iconic career resume on the Mercury (1975-83) and MCA Nashville (1984-2008) labels, McEntire moved to the Valory Music Group. “Strange,” her 93rd Country Songs hit, fell short of the top tier by one position but each of her subsequent singles (not including her remake of Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy,” now being serviced to country radio) has reached the top 10: “Consider Me Gone” (No. 1, four weeks), “I Keep On Loving You” (No. 7) and “Turn On the Radio” (No. 1, one week).