For only the third time since October 2012, when Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart began using a list that blends airplay, streaming and sales data, a song has debuted in the Number One spot of the survey, earning pop singer-songwriter Bebe Rexha a spot in the history books in the process. Rexha, who collaborates with country-pop chart veterans Florida Georgia Line on “Meant to Be,” becomes the first solo female artist credited on a song that debuts in the top position. Since Garth Brooks’ 2007 hit “More Than a Memory” bowed at the pinnacle position, only two other songs have duplicated that feat: The Voice Season Seven winner Craig Wayne Boyd’s “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face” and the CMA’s “Forever Country,” by the 30 acts collectively known as the Artists of Then, Now & Forever.
A track off Rexha’s All Your Fault: Pt. 2 album, the single marks Rexha’s first time topping the country chart; it’s the sixth chart-topper, however, for Florida Georgia Line, who previously logged 24 weeks at Number One with the genre-defying “Cruise” in 2013. Rexha and the duo, which consists of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, are also moving up on the Pop Songs and Country Airplay charts, and reached the Top 40 on the multi-genre Hot 100 this week as well.
Although controversial and unpopular in segments of the country-music community, the idea of pop-leaning songs and artists infiltrating the country chart is hardly a new phenomenon. In 1944, when Billboard, the music industry’s chart bible, introduced its first country-music chart (then called the Juke Box Folk Records chart), the very first acts to hit Number One were not exactly country legends. They were, in fact, crooner Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, for their collaboration on “Pistol Packin’ Mama.” In the nearly 74 years since its debut, the chart – and the formula to determine its occupants – has evolved, with names that have included “Country & Western,” “Hot C&W Sides,” “Hot Country Singles” and the current “Hot Country Songs.”
While the separate Country Airplay chart tracks just
that – airplay at country radio stations – in October 2012 the methodology for compiling
the Hot Country Songs rankings was altered to combine digital downloads and
streaming data with airplay from all radio formats, meaning Brooks’ “More
Than a Memory” is the only track that debuted atop the chart before this
new method was introduced. The current Number One on the Country Airplay chart? Another Brooks song, “Ask Me How I Know.”