If Radio Charts Were Like the Old Days
In a discussion last week, a commenter posted an often-repeated observation that Southern Gospel simply doesn’t have the mega-hits it used to have. This post originated as a comment, but ended up being so long that it turned into a post of its own.
It is true that songs fly up and down the charts far faster than they did twenty years ago. Back in the day, “I Can Pray” would have been #1 for 6 months or a year, and everyone in our genre would have heard it many times before its run was done. That song, about six years ago, was the last song to even make it for TWO months!
Let’s just suppose that it had stayed #1 for about six months. What were the next five #1s?
September 2007: A Greater Yes – Whisnants
October 2007: Last Night – Karen Peck & New River
November 2007: If You Only Knew – Inspirations
December 2007: We Have a Savior – Mike and Kelly Bowling
January 2008: Get Away, Jordan – Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
Now “Last Night” is one of those songs that would probably have also hit #1. Take that chart back 20 years earlier, and I wouldn’t be surprised to have seen “I Can Pray” rule for about six months, and “Last Night” take a couple of months after that.
Or take 2011. “The Shepherd’s Point of View,” which is probably the single strongest song the McKameys have sent to radio in the last half-dozen or maybe dozen years, would have probably stayed #1 from December 2010 through April or May 2011. Then either “Never Walk Alone” or “Love Came Calling” (but not both) would have been #1 for two or three months. Then “Celebrate Me Home” would probably have ruled from July, when it hit #1, through October or November.
It has been correctly observed that #1 hits don’t have the impact they used to have. However, I’m inclined to think that the cause assigned—inferior songs—is incorrect. I lean toward the position that the strong songs we do have disappear from the charts before they’ve been at the top long enough to really establish themselves in the public consciousness.
Once a song has hit #1, most radio DJs will quit charting the song, to make room for the next #1. This has been par for the course for about fifteen years. But is this what is actually best for the songs, the groups, radio, and the genre? Perhaps the jury is out, but I’m inclined to think that the verdict will not be in the affirmative.
Southern Gospel radio is strongest when its DJs play the strongest songs—even if the strongest, most-played song also happened to be the strongest song last month.