Billboard’s ‘Hot Country Songs’ chart and the curation of country music culture


  • Jada Watson University of Ottawa



Billboard charts, curation, country music culture


Billboard charts are curators of popular music culture. As Will Straw observes, Billboard charts bring order to otherwise chaotic consumption behaviors, by processing, archiving and transmitting a musical product’s commercial activity to radio programmers, streaming services and record labels, thus creating a cyclic relationship between Billboard and these actors. Through this process, charts document and shape a genre’s culture. Theories of social remembering offer a critical framework for considering the credibility of such record keeping within a culture that disadvantages and systematically ignores women. Influenced by the work of Catherine Strong, this article explores the role of Billboard charts in the process of ‘remembering’ and ‘forgetting’ in country music culture. In this context, Billboard charts function as curatorial instruments that systematically ‘remember’ some artists, while ‘casting away’ others. Drawing on the results of a data-driven analysis of the Hot Country Songs (HCS) chart, this article argues that Billboard’s new methodology has contributed to the radical extinction of variety and erasure of women’s narrative voices within country music culture.

Author Biography

Jada Watson, University of Ottawa

Jada Watson is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa, where she teaches in the School of Music, School of Information Studies and in the Digital Humanities. Her research focuses on the development of genre cultures and communities, with an interest in issues related to gender, race, class, identity and politics. Her research has appeared in Popular Music & Society, Journal of the Society for American Music, American Music, Popular Music and Music, Sound and the Moving Image. She also has chapters in The Oxford Handbook to Country Music and The Cambridge Companion to the Singer-Songwriter.


“Billboard Charts Legend.” Billboard Biz, n.d.,

“Hot Country Singles and Tracks (Chart).” Billboard, 27 December 1997: 47.

“Hot Country Singles and Tracks (Chart).” Billboard,8 May 1999: 33.

“Hot Country Singles and Tracks (Chart).” Billboard,13 January 2001: 36.

“Hot Country Singles and Tracks (Chart).” Billboard,31 January 2004: 32.

“Hot Country Songs (Chart).” Billboard,2 December 2006: 62.

“Hot Country Songs (Chart).” Billboard, 6 December 2008: 53.

“Billboard Shakes up Genre Charts with New Methodology.” Billboard, 20 October 2012: 12.

Bufwack, Mary A., and Robert K Oermann. 2003.Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800–2000. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP; Country Music Foundation Press.

Allen, Aaron S. 2011. “Prospects and Problems for Ecomusicology in Confronting a Crisis of Culture,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 64/2: 414-24. DOI: 10.1525/jams.2011.64.2.414

Atton, Chris. 2014. “Curating Popular Music: Authority and History, Aesthetics and Technology.” Popular Music 33/3: 413-27. DOI: 10.1017/S026114301400035X

Caramanica, John. 2019. “The Country-Rap Song Taking Over Nashville? It Isn’t ‘Old Town Road’.” New York Times, 11 July,

Ghosh, Devarati. 2012. “Billboard Changes Country Chart Rules, Boosts ‘Crossover’ Songs.” Saving Country Music, 11 Oct.,

Ghosh, Devarati. 2013. “The Meaningless Florida Georgia Line Billboard Country Songs Record: Who Really Has Country’s Biggest Hit? (ANALYSIS).” Msjbigblog, 2 Aug.,

Gifford, Larry. 2015. “Interview with Keith Hill.” Radio Stuff Podcast, 2 June,

Heidemann, Kate. 2016. “Remarkable Women and Ordinary Gals: Performance of Identity in Songs by Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton.” In Country Boys and Redneck Women: New Essays in Gender and Country Music, eds Diane Pecknold and Kristine M McCusker, 166-88. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press.

Holden, Stephen. 1991. “Billboard’s New Charts Roil the Record Industry.” New York Times, 22 June,

Keel, Beverly. 2004. “Between Riot Grrrl and Quiet Girl.” In A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music, eds Kristine McCusker and Diane Pecknold, 155-77. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press.

Lafrance, Marc, et al. 2011. “Gender and the Billboard Top 40 Charts between 1997 and 2007.” Popular Music and Society 35/5:557–70. doi: 10.1080/03007766.2010.522827

Leight, Elias. 2019. “Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ Was a Country Hit. Then Country Changed its Mind.” Billboard, 26 March,

McCusker, Kristine M. 2008. Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky Tonk Angels: The Women of Barn Dance Radio. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.

Misztal, Barbra A. 2003. Theories of Social Remembering. Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Molanphy, Chris. 2019. “The ‘Old Town Road’ Controversy Reveals Problems Beyond Just Race.” Slate 12 April,

Monbiot, George. 2013. “For More Wonder, Rewild the World.” TedTalk video, 14:59,

Mondak, Jeffery J. 1989. “Cultural Heterogeneity in Capitalist Society: In Defense of Repetition on the Billboard Hot 100.” Popular Music & Society13/3: 45–58. doi: 10.1080/03007768908591362

Moss, Marissa. 2019. “Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ Sounds Like Country’s Future. So Why has Nashville Snubbed it?” Los Angeles Times, 1 May,

Naess, Arne. 1973. “The Shallow and the Deep, Long?range Ecology Movement. A Summary.” Inquiry16/1–4: 95–100. doi: 10.1080/00201747308601682

Pelly, Liz. 2018. “Discover Weakly: Sexism on Spotify.” The Baffler, 4 June,

Pelly, Liz. 2019. “Thoughts and Prayers in the Background.” Paper presented on Digital Deaths panel at PopCon 2019; Seattle, WA.

Penuell, Russ. 2015. “Interview with Keith Hill.” Country Aircheck, 449: 1, 8.

Pietroluongo, Silvio et al. 2004. “Country Returns to Audience-Based Chart.” Billboard, 20 November: 88.

Phillips, M.K, and D.W. Smith. 1997. Yellowstone Wolf Project: Biennial Report 1995 and 1996. National Park Service, Yellowstone Center for Resources, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, YCR-NR-97-4,

Rossman, Gabriel. 2012. Climbing the Charts: What Radio Airplay Tells us About the Diffusion of Innovation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Russell, P.A. 1987. “Effects of Repetition on the Familiarity and Likeability of Popular Music Recordings.” Psychology of Music 15: 187-97. doi: 10.1177/0305735687152006

Sciarretto, Amy. 2012. “Taylor Swift Makes Country Chart History with ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’.” Taste of Country, 11 December,

Schippers, Huib, and Catherine Grant. 2015. Sustainable Futures for Music Cultures: An Ecological Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Straw, Will. 2015. “Mediality and the Music Chart.” SubStance44/3: 128–138.

Strong, Catherine. 2011. “Grunge, Riot Grrrl and the Forgetting of Women in Popular Culture.” The Journal of Popular Music Culture 44/2: 398-416.

Tansley, AG. 1935. "The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Terms and Concepts," Ecology 16(3): 284–307.

Watson, Jada. 2018. “Gender on the BillboardHot Country Songs Chart, 1996–2016.” Popular Music and Society, September: 1–23. doi: 10.1080/03007766.2018.1512070.

Watson, Jada. 2019. “Gender Representation on Country Format Radio: A Study of Published Reports from 2000 to 2018.” Prepared in consultation with WOMAN Nashville,

Wells, Allan. 2001. “Nationality, Race and Gender on the American Pop Charts: What Happened in the 90s?” Popular Music and Society 25: 221–31. doi: 10.1080/03007760108591794

Whitburn, Joel. 2018. Top Country Singles, 1944–2017.9th ed. Menomonee Falls: Record Research, Inc.

Zedric, Ariel. 2019. “An Interview with Emma White: Artist and Founder of Female-Owned Label Whitehouse Records.” Affinity, 11 July,



How to Cite

Watson, J. (2021). Billboard’s ‘Hot Country Songs’ chart and the curation of country music culture. Popular Music History, 13(1-2), 168–190.