Popular Music History, Vol 13, No 1-2 (2020)

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

Jada Watson
Issued Date: 5 Feb 2021

Abstract


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.

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DOI: 10.1558/pomh.39428

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