Thomas Rhett boasts the longest rule atop Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart in more than six years, as “Die a Happy Man” (Valory) leads the list (dated Jan. 30) for a fifth week. The ballad tops the survey with 50 million in audience (down 3 percent), according to Nielsen Music. No song had logged as many as five frames at No. 1 on Country Airplay since Lady Antebellum‘s “Need You Now” totaled five starting Nov. 28, 2009. “Man” marks the longest reign by a solo male since Kenny Chesney‘s “Never Wanted Nothing More,” which led for five weeks beginning Aug. 4, 2007.
KKBQ Houston PD Johnny Chiang compares the longevity of “Man,” a love song for Rhett’s wife, Lauren, to Tim McGraw‘s 2004 ode to making the most of every moment, “Live Like You Were Dying” (a seven-week Country Airplay No. 1). “Both songs resonate on many levels with country listeners,” says Chiang. “I believe ‘Die a Happy Man’ does the one thing that makes country music so great: It speaks to you. The message is incredibly sincere.”
Mike Moore, Entercom Communications director of country programming, concurs. “I really think this is one of those wedding songs for the ages,” he says of “Man.” “The digital sales [937,000 to date] are amazing and the research continues to grow. We currently have the song in heavy [rotation], and I would imagine that it will stay there for a while because the record is fairly young [in its 17th week on Country Airplay].”
Chiang feels that the single is further illuminating Rhett’s star power. “I believe that this is a career song. He has proven time and time again that he can bring the party and the fun. This single puts him on a different level.”
For newer faces at country, becoming more noticed is always the challenge. Moore, who also handles day-to-day programming for KWJJ Portland, Ore., notes of “Man,” “Many callers are asking, ‘Who sings that song?,’ which helps them connect the dots.”
Says Valory vp promotion George Briner, “All of us at the Big Machine Label Group are extremely proud of Thomas Rhett and what ‘Die a Happy Man’ has accomplished thus far. Five weeks at No. 1 in Billboard … the first time that’s happened this decade at country radio.”
Meanwhile, “Man” crowns the airplay/sales/streaming-based Hot Country Songs chart for a 10th week and Country Digital Songs for an 11th frame. The track is just the 18th to lead Hot Country Songs for at least 10 weeks dating to the chart’s 1958 origin. (Previously, Billboard published multiple country charts measuring various metrics.)
‘DIBS’ ON THE TOP 10 As Thomas Rhett dominates Country Airplay, two titles enter the top 10. Kelsea Ballerini achieves her second top 10 as “Dibs” (Black River) lifts 11-9 (up 1 percent to 30 million audience impressions). It holds at No. 14 on Hot Country Songs after reaching No. 12 on the Jan. 16 list.
Co-written by Ballerini, “Dibs” is the second single from her debut full-length, The First Time. Lead track “Love Me Like You Mean It” became the first debut single by a solo female to lead Country Airplay (July 14, 2015) since Carrie Underwood‘s six-week No. 1 “Jesus, Take the Wheel” in 2006. (For more on Underwood’s arrival 10 years ago, see Coda, page 20.)
Meanwhile, Keith Urban‘s “Break on Me.” steps 12-10 on Country Airplay (29.2 million, up 6 percent), becoming his 35th top 10 on the chart. With the advance, he moves ahead of Garth Brooks (34), taking sole possession of eighth place for the most top 10s since the tally launched 26 years ago this week. George Strait leads with 61, followed by Tim McGraw (54), Alan Jackson (51), Kenny Chesney (49), Toby Keith (42), Brooks & Dunn (41) and Reba McEntire (36).