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Hot Country Songs is a chart published weekly by Billboard magazine in the United States.
Billboard began compiling the popularity of country songs with its January 8, 1944, issue. Only the genre's most popular jukebox selections were tabulated, with the chart titled "Most Played Juke Box Folk Records".
For approximately ten years, from 1948 to 1958, Billboard used three charts to measure the popularity of a given song. In addition to the jukebox chart, these charts included:
- The "best sellers" chart – started May 15, 1948, as "Best Selling Retail Folk Records".
- A "jockeys" chart – started December 10, 1949, as "Country & Western Records Most Played By Folk Disk Jockeys".
The juke box chart was discontinued in June 1957. Starting with the October 20, 1958, issue, Billboard began combining sales and radio airplay in figuring a song's overall popularity, counting them in one single chart called "Hot C&W Sides". The chart was published under the title Hot C&W Sides through the October 27, 1962, issue and "Hot Country Singles" thereafter, a title it would retain until 1990.
On January 20, 1990, the Hot Country Singles chart was reduced from 100 to 75 positions and began to be compiled entirely from information provided by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, a system which electronically monitors radio airplay of songs. Four weeks later, on February 17, the chart was retitled "Hot Country Singles & Tracks". Beginning with the January 13, 2001, issue, the chart was reduced from 75 to 60 positions, and all songs on the chart at the time had their tally of weeks spent on the chart adjusted to count only weeks spent at No. 60 or higher. Effective April 30, 2005, the chart was renamed "Hot Country Songs".
Starting in 1990, the rankings were determined by Arbitron-tallied listener audience for each spin that a song received. The methodology was changed for the first chart published in 1992 to tally the amount of spins a song received, but in January 2005, the methodology reverted to the audience format. This change was brought on because of "label-sponsored spin programs" that had manipulated the chart several times in 2004.
The Hot Country Songs chart methodology was changed starting with the October 20, 2012, issue to match the Billboard Hot 100: digital downloads and streaming data are combined with airplay from all radio formats to determine position. A new chart, the Country Airplay chart, was created using airplay exclusively from country radio stations. Following the change, songs that were receiving airplay on top-40 pop were given a major advantage over songs popular only on country radio, and as an unintended consequence, such songs began having record-long runs at the top of the chart. The first song to benefit from this change was Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", which had been declining in popularity but shot up to number one on the chart the first week the change took effect and stayed there until it set an all-time record for the most weeks at No. 1 by a solo female. This was followed almost immediately by Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise", which had the longest stay at number one of any song in the country chart's history (24 weeks), until it was surpassed by Sam Hunt's "Body Like a Back Road" in 2017 (34 weeks). The record was subsequently broken by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line's "Meant to Be" in 2018 (50 weeks).
Billboard has not explicitly defined how it determines which songs qualify for the country chart and which ones do not, only that "a few factors are determined (...) first and foremost is musical composition" and that a song must "embrace enough elements of today’s country music" to qualify. (The 1990–2012 chart did not have such ambiguity, being objectively measured by airplay from specifically identified country stations alone.) A later statement from Billboard elaborated on what those "few factors" entailed: "most notably the song’s musical composition, but also how the song is marketed and promoted, the musical history of the artist, airplay the song receives and how the song is platformed on streaming services." The 2019 country rap record "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X was a subject of controversy over this ambiguous standard after it initially appeared on the country chart, where it debuted and peaked at number 19, before Billboard took the song off subsequent charts, claiming it had made a mistake in including it. The song gained popularity through viral memes rather than radio, as only one country station, Radio Disney Country, had played it at the time of the charting.
Hot Country Songs chart achievements
Songs with most weeks at number one
These are the songs with 16 or more weeks at number one. Fifteen songs accomplished this feat between 1946 and 1964, but none did so again until after the 2012 reformulation; between "Almost Persuaded's" nine-week run in 1966 and the chart's reformulation in 2012, no song spent more than eight weeks atop the chart. Prolonged runs became commonplace again in 2012 As of October 2018[update]; five songs from this period have topped the chart for at least 16 weeks, and the top three longest chart runs have all been since 2012.
Note: Songs marked achieved their runs on the Most Played in Juke Boxes chart (published 1944-58). Songs marked achieved their runs on the Best Sellers on Stores chart (published 1948-58). Songs marked achieved their runs on the Most Played by Jockeys chart (published 1949-58). All songs listed for the period when multiple charts were in operation also had shorter runs at number one on the other charts not indicated. In 1958 the three charts were merged to create Hot C&W Sides (now Hot Country Songs).
Artists with most cumulative weeks at number one
As of the issue of Billboard dated November 17, 2018
|Weeks at |
|Florida Georgia Line|||
- List of number-one country hits (United States)
- American Country Countdown
- List of years in country music
- List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. country chart
- Country Airplay
- "Billboard Country Update: November 12, 2018" (PDF). Billboard. November 12, 2018. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
- Campbell, Michael (1 January 2012). Popular Music in America:The Beat Goes On. Chapter 30 Honky Tonk: Cengage Learning. p. 125.CS1 maint: location (link)
- Whitburn, Joel (2005). Joel Whitburn's Top Country Songs: 1944–2005. Record Research. p. ix. ISBN 9780898201659.
- "R&B Enjoying Rare Dominance Over Rap". Billboard: 68. 24 April 2004. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
- Jessen, Wade (January 13, 2001). "Country Corner" (PDF). Billboard.
- "Country returns to audience-based chart". 20 November 2004: 88. Cite journal requires
- Jessen, Wade (6 December 2012). "Taylor Swift Makes Country Songs History". Billboard Magazine. Billboard Musix. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
- Jessen, Wade (August 1, 2013). "Florida Georgia Line's 'Cruise' Sets Record For Longest No. 1 Run On Hot Country Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
- Elias Leight (March 26, 2019). "Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' Was a Country Hit. Then Country Changed Its Mind". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
- Asker, Jim (April 3, 2018). "Florida Georgia Line Now Has 3 of the 5 Longest-Leading Hot Country Songs No. 1s, Thanks to 'Meant to Be'". Billboard. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
- Jessen, Wade (July 24, 2013). "Florida Georgia Line's 'Cruise' Ties For Longest No. 1 Run On Hot Country Songs". Billboard. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
- Asker, Jim (March 10, 2020). "Maren Morris Scores First No. 1 on Hot Country Songs Chart, Kane Brown Crowns Country Airplay". Billboard. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits. Watson-Guptill. p. 515. ISBN 0823076326.
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits. Watson-Guptill. p. 516. ISBN 0823076326.
- "Florida Georgia Line Marks One Hundred Total Weeks Atop Hot Country Songs With 'Meant To Be'". Billboard. October 2, 2018. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
- "Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line's 'Meant to Be' Breaks New Record". Billboard. July 22, 2018. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
- Whitburn, Joel. Top Country Songs 1944-2005 - 6th Edition. 2006.
- Billboard Hot Country Songs chart – online version.