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  1. #1

    Default Handicapping The Country Song of Summer 2021

    From Radio Insight:

    It has taken place on a separate playing field from the Top 40/Hot AC world’s own annual competition, but the battle for Country Song of the Summer has been as fierce, and as calculated, as the pop battle for almost as long as I’ve been writing about the Summer Song competition. When Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” became a Country hit as well in 2008, it made having the Summer Song a bigger trophy in both formats with Country having at least a few songs calibrated for summer dominance each year.
    Country’s Summer Song of 2020 should have been on CHR’s radar last year. Pop radio had a battle between the held-over “Blinding Lights” and the held-back-for-timing “Watermelon Sugar,” but it didn’t have the musical depth of a great summer field, understandable given the circumstances. “One Margarita” by Luke Bryan would have been a great addition to the format, and not that crazy an idea in the time of Dan + Shay and Gabby Barrett.
    That’s why Country’s Summer Song of 2021 frontrunner should probably slide on to pop programmers’ radar now. There may well come a time in July or August when Hot AC and CHR should consider the bouncy, cajun-flavored “I Was on a Boat That Day” by Old Dominion. Released the same day that BTS’s “Butter” went to pop radio, it has grown at a similar pace. After five days, it is the No. 26 Country airplay song per BDSRadio. The midtempo but lyrically calibrated “Waves” by Luke Bryan, another leading contender according to Country PDs, is currently No. 22.*
    There is a chance that the Country Summer Song battle may be brought to pop radio’s door anyway thanks to two cross-genre collaborations. Nelly & Florida Georgia Line’s “Lil Bit” went to Country this week with a remix. Elle King & Miranda Lambert’s Hot AC charter “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” was already building at the format before Columbia Nashville came on board. Dan + Shay did not go to pop radio simultaneously with “Glad You Exist,” but I expect to hear it there at some point.
    I like “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” because it reminds me of Flo Rida’s “Timber,” and even the other early ‘10s “turbo-pop” that marked the peak of Top 40’s last all-ages format boom. Even remixed, “Lil Bit” has touched off discussions on my Facebook page about Country’s parameters, but the last time FGL and Nelly got together was the moment that Country exploded and became a true all-ages format for the first time in at least 25 years.*
    Those good times seem distant now. Over the last year, streaming has further challenged all music radio. So far, Country radio is still in a place that most PDs of other formats would envy, even if Country programmers wouldn’t see it that way. Streaming has put additional records into contention, but after that, even those songs still seem like they’re on the same 8-to-10 month (or longer) chart path. Many of the Summer Song candidates may still crest after Labor Day; “All Summer Long” peaked in October.
    The combination of a superstar artist and a summer-targeted hit meant that “One Margarita” climbed the charts more quickly and peaked when a summer song should, in mid-July. Other songs on the a more typical chart path acquire superpowers when summer rolls around. Jameson Rodgers f/Luke Combs’s “Cold Beer Calling My Name” was released in December. Jimmie Allen & Brad Paisley’s “Freedom Was a Highway” has been building since January but got some spins as far back as last July.
    If you’ve seen our other Summer Song prediction articles, I’ve typically looked for either tempo or lyrical intent to differentiate a “Summer Song” candidate from a hit that just happens to be occurring during summer. Because of the current Country chart pattern, any typically developing hit has a one-in-four chance of being a hit during the summer. I’m not sure whether to think of Chris Young & Kane Brown’s mid-to-uptempo “Famous Friends” as a summer song, but it was among the songs that Country radio PDs mentioned when I asked for candidates.
    Then again, when I put this question out to Facebook friends, one of them also suggested that it was too soon to see the full field of contenders. Scott Mahalick at KNUC (The Bull) Seattle nominates*Zac Brown’s “Same Boat,” which is cming June 24, he says.
    I’ve created a Country Summer Songs 2021 playlist. It’s a companion piece to my multi-genre “Summer Energy 2021” playlist. It contains the above songs as well as:

    • More party/drinking songs, including a few like Little Big Town’s “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” that didn’t quite make it to Memorial Day but would have sounded great this summer. (Ironically, I heard that song on Alternative WIIS Key West, Fla., this week, and it didn’t sound out of place.)
    • Other PD picks such as Niko Moon’s “No Sad Songs,” cited by WUBE Cincinnati’s Grover Collins (along with Old Dominion) or “Beach Cowboy,” the side project of FGL’s Brian Kelley, tipped by Audacy’s Tim Roberts and Kevin Callahan.
    • A Canadian Song of the Summer entry from Dean Brody, “Lightning Bug,” courtesy of CJKX (KX94.7) Hamilton, Ontario’s Derm Carnduff.
    • An entry from WKHX (New Country 101.5) Atlanta morning host J.J. Kincaid. When that station relaunched last fall, I had wondered how long it would take for them to find a local hit to champion. That turned out to be Drew Parker’s “Party In The Back,” currently in power although it isn’t Parker’s first major-label single.
    • Comeback efforts from Joe Nichols (“Home Run”) as well as an appropriately themed indie label entry.

    Enjoy the playlist. We’ll add to it throughout the summer. We’ll be back around Labor Day to choose the Country and pop Songs of Summer.




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