Are Zach Bryan and Kacey Musgraves the Next Country Artists Up for a Hot 100 No. 1?

By Billboard on

The Contenders is a midweek column that looks at artists aiming for the top of the Billboard charts, and the strategies behind their efforts. This week (for the upcoming charts dated Sept. 9), Zach Bryan and Kacey Musgraves’ new duet challenges Oliver Anthony Music’s reign at No. 1 – but they’re far from the only ones in the hunt.  

Zach Bryan feat. Kacey Musgraves, “I Remember Everything” (Belting Bronco/Warner): It’s nothing but good news for Americana sensation Zach Bryan these days. His self-titled, self-produced new album debuted on Friday (Aug. 25) to dynamite streaming numbers and strong reviews — with a debut atop the Billboard 200 albums chart likely within its sights — and this week, he announced a 2024 arenas-and-stadiums tour featuring veteran luminaries Jason Isbell and Sheryl Crow among the opening acts. Next week, he might be on deck for another career first: A Billboard Hot 100 No. 1.  

The album’s “I Remember Everything,” featuring the Grammy-beloved Kacey Musgraves, has led the daily charts on both Spotify and Apple Music since its Friday release, and has also climbed into the top five on the iTunes chart. As is typical of brand-new songs – particularly from format-ambiguous artists like Bryan – radio support thus far has been minimal, but with its streaming and sales numbers both so high and so steady, it might not need much airplay help to mount a serious charge for the No. 1 spot.  

Even if it doesn’t get there, it should still easily notch a new career high peak for both Bryan (who hit No. 10 earlier this year with “Something in the Orange”) and Musgraves, whose previous best on the Hot 100 was the modest No. 60 success of “Follow Your Arrow” in 2014. (Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart,” co-written by Musgraves and featuring her on backing vocals, hit No. 20 the year before.)  

Oliver Anthony Music, “Rich Men North of Richmond” (Self-Released): Oliver Anthony dismissed any notion of one-week-wonderdom this week by sticking atop the Hot 100 for a second frame, while also topping the Streaming Songs chart for the first time. He’s still pulling strong numbers on streaming (albeit not as strong as “Remember”) and still hanging atop the iTunes sales chart – but with numbers less sky-high than the tens of thousands he sold daily in the single’s debut week.  

The song’s performance is steady enough that a fall out of the top 20 (like Jason Aldean had with his similarly sales-boosted No. 1 “Try That in a Small Town” a few weeks earlier) is unlikely. But unless “Richmond” can catch a second wind in its virality to turn its sagging numbers around, its reign atop the chart is certainly vulnerable.  

Luke Combs, “Fast Car” (River House/Columbia Nashville/Columbia): Will it ever be Luke Combs’ time? The carousel of male country singers atop the Hot 100 this summer has seen Morgan Wallen, Jason Aldean and Oliver Anthony Music all take their turns – but Combs has been stuck at No. 2 for much of that time, spending its seventh nonconsecutive frame in the runner-up spot this week. Now, he risks getting lapped a fourth time — as Bryan’s new single is on pace to comfortably lead his in streams, and may pass him in sales as well.  

However, Combs is sure to have a major lead in one factor: airplay. His “Fast Car” continues to gain on Pop Airplay, moving 9-8 on the chart this week, while holding strong at No. 2 on the all-format Radio Songs chart; it’s also still top five on Country Airplay, after ruling for five frames. If his song continues to gain there while holding strong enough in streaming and sales, it might be able to fend off the advances of Bryan and Musgraves – or challenge them again the week after. 


Doja Cat, “Paint the Town Red” (Kemosabe/RCA): Among all the bearded white guys with guitars, pop and rap luminary Doja Cat is elbowing her way into the mix with new hit “Paint the Town Red.” The song jumps from 15-5 on the latest Hot 100, with major gains in streams, airplay and sales – with the former two carrying into this tracking week. If its velocity keeps up, it should be in contention to become Doja’s second No. 1 before too long – possibly as soon as next week, though she still has a sizable gap to close first.  

Taylor Swift, “Cruel Summer” (Republic): Seemingly all summer, Swifties have awaited their fearless leader making the final move — a music video, a new remix, something totally unexpected — to put “Cruel Summer” over the top on the Hot 100. It hasn’t arrived yet, though the song is still hanging strong at No. 4 on the chart, after reaching No. 3 and continuing to gain in airplay, still in range of the top spot should it get that one final big boost. But Swift’s window may be closing: The top of the Hot 100 is getting more crowded every week, and Labor Day is just around the corner. 

Morgan Wallen, “Last Night” (Big Loud/Mercury/Republic): Remember this one? Wallen’s 16-week Hot 100 conqueror has spent two weeks outside of the top spot now, but it’s hanging on at No. 3 on the chart, and still ranks in the top 10 on Digital Song Sales, Streaming Songs and Radio Songs. Plus, it’s spent multiple weeks outside the top spot and then rebounded to the summit twice already in the course of its nearly six-month chart run. Don’t assume it’s dead until you actually see the carcass.  

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