Chart Watch: 'Forever Country' Is Off to a Fast Start

Paul Grein

“Forever Country,” which was recorded by a “We Are the World”-style ensemble of 30 top country stars, is the week’s top new entry on the Hot 100 at #21. It’s a medley of three country classics: John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” The recording was made to promote the upcoming 50th edition of the CMA Awards on Nov. 2.

Denver’s original version of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” reached #2 in 1971. Nelson’s original version of “On the Road Again” hit #20 in 1980. But Parton’s original version of “I Will Always Love You” failed to crack the Hot 100 in 1974. (A Parton remake of the song for the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas reached #53 in 1982. And, of course, a cover version of the song by Whitney Houston became one of the most successful singles in history.)

“Forever Country” enters the Hot Country Songs chart at #1. It’s just the third single to enter that chart in the top spot, following Garth Brooks’s “More Than a Memory” in September 2007 and Craig Wayne Boyd’s “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face” in January 2015. (Boyd was the Season 7 winner on The Voice.)

You may be surprised to learn that “Take Me Home, Country Roads” wasn’t a major country hit when it was first released in 1971. It peaked at #50 on Hot Country Singles, as the chart was then known. (“I Will Always Love You” and “On the Road Again” were both #1 country hits on their first go-round.)

Country radio eventually embraced Denver, who had seven top 10 country hits between 1974 and 1986. The singer-songwriter died in a plane crash in 1997. He would have been 72 now, and no doubt would have found it gratifying that his old song was one of three songs chosen to represent country music on such a meaningful, time-capsule project.

For the record, the artist billing on “Forever Country” is “Artists of Then, Now & Forever.” It’s not as catchy as “USA for Africa,” is it?

Top Songs

The Chainsmokers’ “Closer” (featuring Halsey) tops the Hot 100 for the sixth straight week. It also heads the U.K.’s Official Singles Chart for the fourth week. And it heads Top Digital Songs for the seventh week (with sales of 162K this week).

The next two songs in line remain in place from last week. twenty one pilots’ “Heathens” holds at #2 in its 14th week. Major Lazer’s “Cold Water” (featuring Justin Bieber and MØ) holds at #3 its ninth week.

DJ Snake’s “Let Me Love You” (also featuring Bieber) jumps from #6 to #4 in its seventh week. It’s DJ Snake’s third top five hit; Bieber’s eighth. This is Bieber’s fifth top five hit so far in 2016, which is more than any other artist.

Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” (featuring Sean Paul) dips from #4 to #5 in its 32nd week.

Shawn Mendes’s “Treat You Better” jumps from #8 to #6 in its 16th week. It’s from his sophomore album, Illuminate, which is set to enter the Billboard 200 at #1 next week.

The Chainsmokers’ previous hit, “Don’t Let Me Down” (featuring Daya), drops from #5 to #7 in its 32nd week.

D.R.A.M.’s “Broccoli” (featuring Lil Yachty) jumps from #12 to #8 in its 15th week. This has to be the healthiest title of a top 10 hit in history. It makes up for Larry Groce’s “Junk Food Junkie,” a top 10 hit in 1976.

Charlie Puth’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore” (featuring Selena Gomez) rebounds from #13 to #9 in its 16th week. This is its highest ranking to date.

Calvin Harris’s “This Is What You Came For” (featuring Rihanna) drops from #7 to #10 in its 21st week.

Two songs — twenty one pilots’ “Ride” and Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” — drop out of the top 10 this week.

Calvin Harris’s “My Way” is the week’s second-highest new entry at #24. This is the fourth different song with that title to make the top 30. The most famous is by Frank Sinatra, though that one only reached #27. (A cover by Elvis Presley climbed higher, to #22.) Two songs titled “My Way” have reached the top 10. One by Usher hit #2. Another by Fetty Wap featuring Monty hit #7.

The Weeknd’s “Gameboy” (featuring Daft Punk) is the week’s third-highest new entry at #40. It’s the title track from the Weeknd’s upcoming third studio album, which is due Nov. 25.

Top Albums

Drake’s Views jumps from #2 to #1 in its 21st week on the Billboard 200. This is its 13th week on top. Views is the 40th album to log 13 or more weeks at #1 since the album chart became a weekly feature in March 1956. Exactly one-quarter of those albums have had one-word titles. Views follows Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Harry Belafonte’s Calypso, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, the Police’s Synchronicity, Carole King’s Tapestry, the soundtracks to Titanic, Exodus, and Frozen and the Broadway cast album to Hair.

Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine debuts at #2. It’s his highest-charting album since his debut, Blue Slide Park, opened at #1 in November 2011. (That album was bumped out of the #1 spot by Drake’s Take Care, so these two hip-hoppers have some chart history.) All four of Miller’s studio albums to date have made the top 10. Only one artist with that surname has had more top 10 albums. Mitch Miller of “Sing Along With Mitch” fame amassed 14 top 10 albums between 1958 and 1962. The Steve Miller Band also had four. Country star Roger Miller had two.

The Suicide Squad soundtrack holds at #3 in its seventh week. It’s #1 on Top Soundtracks for the seventh week.

Aaron Lewis’s Sinner debuts at #4. That’s his highest solo ranking to date. It’s a little higher than the most recent album by his band Staind, which debuted and peaked at #5 in 2011. Sinner is Lewis’s second solo album. His solo debut, The Road, reached #30 in 2012. He subsequently cracked the top 10 with an EP, Town Line (#7 in 2011) With Staind, Lewis amassed five top 10 albums between 2001-11. (Simple math tells us that this is the seventh top 10 album or EP of his career.) Sinner enters Top Country Albums at #1, displacing Jason Aldean’s They Don’t Know. This is Lewis’s second #1 on the country chart. Town Line also reached #1 country.

Sinner is the week’s top-selling album, with pure sales of 39K copies this week. (The Billboard 200 formula also factors in streaming and digital song sales.) Since 1991, when Nielsen Soundscan began tracking album sales for Billboard, there was only one previous week where not one album sold 40K copies (again, looking just at pure album sales). That was in August 2015 when the Descendants soundtrack was the top seller with sales of just 30K copies.

Usher’s Hard II Love, his first studio album in four years, debuts at #5. It’s his eighth top 10 album or EP. But it’s his lowest debut position in 19 years, since his sophomore album, My Way, opened at #15 in October 1997. (That album, which made him a star, eventually peaked at #4.) Usher’s last four full-length albums all debuted at #1. Unless Usher’s new album moves up in a subsequent week, which rarely happens these days, it will be his lowest-charting studio album since his 1994 debut album, Usher, which peaked at #167.

Jason Aldean’s They Don’t Know drops from #1 to #6 in its second week.

Travis Scott’s Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight dips from #6 to #7 in its third week.

twenty one pilots’ Blurryface rebounds from #12 to #8 in its 71st week. The album debuted at #1 in May 2015.

Casting Crowns’ The Very Next Thing debuts at #9. It’s the sixth consecutive top 10 studio album by the Christian rock band.

Florida Georgia Line’s Dig Your Roots holds at #10 in its fourth week.

Bastille’s sophomore album, Wild World, drops out of the top 10 this week. Bastille’s album is #1 for the second week on the U.K.’s Official Albums Chart. Four other albums — The Head and the Heart’s Signs of Light, the Beatles’ Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Jack White’s Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016, and Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman — drop out of the top 10 this week.

Look for Shawn Mendes’s Illuminate to debut at #1 next week. Also look for debuts by Luke Bryan’s Farm Tour: Here’s to the Farmer EP, Bruce Springsteen’s Chapter and Verse compilation, and the Trolls soundtrack.