Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line‘s pop/country crossover smash “Meant to Be” (Warner Bros./Big Machine Label Group) marks a new milestone, as it reaches the top 10 of Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart, rising 11-9 on the list dated March 17. The song surges by 24 percent to 26.4 million audience impressions in the week ending March 8, according to Nielsen Music, earning Most Increased Audience honors.
FGL – Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley – notches its 14th Country Airplay top 10 and pop singer-songwriter Rexha earns her first (in her first visit to the chart).
Meanwhile, “Meant” leads Hot Country Songs, which blends streaming, airplay and sales data, for a 15th week, extending its record for the most time at No. 1 for song with lead female vocals in the chart’s 59-year history.
On the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, the song enters the top five, rising 7-5, as its benefits from multi-format support at both pop and country radio, where it’s being dually promoted. It also ranks at No. 6 on the all-genre Digital Song Sales chart (34,000 sold) and No. 19 on Streaming Songs (20.9 million U.S. streams).
At country, where the majority of program directors lean on research, record labels sometimes need a proven story to win programmers over, especially when a song involves a pop artist.
“I told our staff from day one, if there is a station that doesn’t want to play it, don’t get into a debate,” Big Machine Label Group executive vp and BMLG Records president Jimmy Harnen tells Billboard of “Meant.” “Just show them the sales, streams and audience impressions. Sometimes you have to listen with your eyes.”
“Meant” marks the latest top 10 Country Airplay collaboration between a country and pop-focused act. FGL’s own “God, Your Mama, And Me,” featuring Backstreet Boys, topped the July 8, 2017-dated chart; Kenny Chesney‘s “Setting the World on Fire,” featuring P!nk, led the list dated Nov. 5, 2016; and Dierks Bentley‘s “Different for Girls,” featuring Elle King, reigned on Oct. 1, 2016.
Also in 2016, Brad Paisley‘s “Without a Fight,” featuring Demi Lovato, reached No. 16. The song “did really, really well here,” says WHKO Dayton, Ohio, pd Nancy Wilson. “I mean, it is always about the song first, but the recent country-and-pop pairings seem to be big with our listeners.”
Another such song, Chris Lane‘s “Take Back Home Girl,” featuring Tori Kelly, the lead track from Lane’s upcoming album expected this June, ascends 24-22 in its 22nd week on Country Airplay (9 million, up 19 percent).
Big Loud Records president – and former radio programmer – Clay Hunnicutt tells Billboard of “Girl,” “Originally, Chris recorded it solo. We had some discussions internally and asked him who he’d want as a featured artist, and he told us that Tori was his favorite. Luckily, she said yes.”
Still, Hunnicutt says, “No matter how great the song is, you’re always going to have country pds who want to wait and see because of the pop artist component. It’s our job at the label to show these programmers strong metrics and successful stories so they’ll take that shot.”
WJVC Nassau, N.Y., pd Phathead stands out in that “we don’t do research. [“Girl”] is a smash for us. We don’t do research to tell us that. Chris is on top of his game and Tori is one of the premier pop acts in the business. It was a first-listen, straight-to-medium [rotation] song.”
‘MINUTES’ WITH McCREERY Scotty McCreery, the 2011 winner of American Idol, which returned March 11 on ABC for its 16th season after a nearly two-year break (following 15 seasons on Fox) guests on the latest Billboard Chart Beat Podcast, along with Triple Tigers GM/partner Norbert Nix
McCreery, whose “Five More Minutes” became his first Country Airplay No. 1 (March 3), will release his third studio album, Seasons Change, March 16.
How does McCreery compare his Idol and chart coronations? “It’s two different highs,” he says. “Coming off the biggest TV show in the world at that point… that was three months of hard work in a bubble, and it was awesome.
“But, we’re seven years removed from that, and you want to be able to maintain your success and put out music that is relevant, and that people enjoy.”