On the heels of a topic I just posted about the relevance of folk music on mainstream radio comes an interesting an occurrence on Country radio. Both “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers and “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons currently rank in the top 60 according to Billboard. It’s hard enough to break a new Country act on the survey, so I’m sure a few people are at least a little annoyed that they’re taking up space. This, however, brings up the idea of country acts crossing over to the pop survey. Hunter Hayes has managed a decent-sized hit with “Wanted” off of his recent GRAMMY buzz. Could other acts follow? Here are two recent #1 songs on the Country chart that I think could make successful leaps.
FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE featuring NELLY – “Cruise”
Billboard Country Airplay #1: December 15-29 (three weeks)
The duo of Brian Kelley (from Florida, at right) and Tyler Hubbard (from Georgia, at left) got together back in 2010, recording some independent EPs. Last year, they signed to Republic Nashville Records, and their partnership has struck all the right notes. They recently took this song to the top of the Country chart in Decemb er. It’s sold north of 2 million copies in download sales from just that push. Republic Records and their Nashville department handled the Country promotion of the record; their main division is taking on the CHR side of this. The summer-sounding song is your typical back road banjo bash, filled with incorrect grammar (“Baby, you a song”; I’m in a English major, deal with it) and musical references that will have your 14-year-old daughter wondering if the Marshall Tucker Band sounds anything like One Direction. (Spoiler alert: They don’t.) Most of all, it’s been remixed with St. Louis rapper Nelly. Surprisingly enough, it’s not all that bad. In fact, I think I prefer it to the original. There’s an added line of hand clips in the arrangement, while the guitars are brought down, the twangy ones significantly. The rapper’s section is harmless too. Coming off of “Hey Porsche”, I think this is more refreshing. However, the song’s going to run into some problems down the road. There’s also a question of whether the Southern localization of the lyrics (“every little farm town” and “south Georgia water”, for example) would turn mainstream listeners off up north or out west. It’s a pretty polarizing record depending on who you talk to, but once those young girls see our fellows at the gas station, they’ll likely be fueling up for more. Follow-up single “Get Your Shine On” is already top 15 on Billboard’s Country Airplay survey, no surprise there, and parent album Here’s To The Good Times is in stores now.
THE BAND PERRY – “Better Dig Two”
Billboard Country Airplay #1: February 23 – March 2 (two weeks)
Yeehaw! Our favorite trio of siblings Kimberly, Neil and Reid are back with the current #1 song on Country radio that is also top 40 on iTunes. It was quickly certified Gold within two months of releases and Platinum status isn’t far behind given the continued popularity of it. Big Machine has done a great job of promoting their releases, including this one which stands at the top for a second week. If you strictly know them from hearing “If I Die Young” on your local adult contemporary or pop station a few years ago, then you have a right to be concerned about a potential crossover from it. Two songs in a row about death from them, and it’s two people this time? I would certainly be worried too. Alas, they do have other songs in their catalogue. In fact, they’ve had six top-40 singles on Country radio, the last five (including “Dig”) which have gone top ten. The arrangement would probably need to bare a slight change if the label’s looking for a decent amount of airplay. The crossover mix of “Young” went heavy on the guitar and drum to mask a lot of the strings on the album version. However, the twangy sounding guitars shouldn’t be a huge problem for most program directors as they fit in with the current sound. The group’s second album, Pioneer, is due on April 2. A second single at Country radio, “Done.”, is currently gracing the top 40 on Billboard’s most recent update. That one could do even better than “Dig”, but hey, one song at a time. Perhaps it will see its time in the crossover spotlight later this year.
Who could be next to see the crossover treatment? I would venture to guess that Carrie Underwood‘s “Two Black Cadillacs” or Hunter Hayes‘s “Somebody’s Heartbreak” could make decent chartings at adult contemporary radio, maybe even Lady Antebellum’s “Downtown”. How about you? Do you want to hear these Country hits in-between your favorite dance and pop songs? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.