Staind frontman-turned-country singer Aaron Lewis made a surprise launch into the upper echelons of Billboard's Hot 100 chart this week, with his track "Am I The Only One" debuting in the Top 15 on the chart, as well as reaching No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. Stained previously hit the Top 5 on Billboard's Hot 100 back in 2001 with "It's Been Awhile," and followed that with other rock chart hits including "So Far Away" and "Right Here."
The last time Lewis appeared on the Hot Country Songs chart was in 2011-2013, with songs including "Country Boy" (which featured now-deceased country legends George Jones and Charlie Daniels), as well as "Endless Summer" and "Forever."
In "Am I The Only One," which Lewis co-wrote with former Trick Pony member Ira Dean as well as hit songwriter Jeffrey Steele, Lewis sings, “Am I the only one not brainwashed? / Making my way through the land of the lost/Who still gives a s*** and worries ’bout his kids / As they try to undo all the things he did.”
The song's right-wing-leaning lyrics also take aim at statues being taken down, flags being burned, and Springsteen songs. According to Billboard, the track has surged up the charts in large part due to promotion from platforms such as Fox News and SiriusXM's Patriot Radio, as well as the track's release leading up to the July 4th holiday. In an interview with Fox & Friends, Lewis told the outlet of what inspired the song, saying, "I lived through the last year and a half with you and everybody else in this country and I found myself on many occasions...sitting and scratching my head and wondering what is going on in this amazing country that we have."
The viral success of "Am I The Only One" comes at a time when country music is in the midst of a reckoning on several fronts, including racial equality, gender equality and equality for the LGBTQ community, and a time when some progress has been made within the genre. The CMT Music Awards, Country Music Association Awards and Academy of Country Music Awards each had black/white host pairings over the past year, with Mickey Guyton becoming the first Black artist to co-host the ACM Awards (she co-hosted alongside Keith Urban) since Charley Pride in the 1980s. At last year's CMA Awards, Darius Rucker was the first Black artist to co-host the awards show (he hosted alongside Reba McEntire) since Pride did the honors in 1975. Guyton also made history at the Grammy Awards his year as the first Black solo female artist to earn a Grammy nomination in a country music category, when her song "Black Like Me" was nominated for Best Country Solo Performance (notably, the Pointer Sisters won a Grammy in 1974 for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for "Fairytale," while Charley Pride earned several Grammy nominations--and one win--in country categories during his career).
Back in 2018, Kane Brown and Jimmie Allen made history as Allen's debut single "Best Shot" reached No. 1 on country radio in the same week that Brown's album Experiment was topping both Billboard's Country Albums chart and the Top 200 albums chart.
Earlier this year, T.J. Osborne of Brothers Osborne also came out publicly as gay, sharing his story with TIME; Brothers Osborne soon followed the news with the touching song "Younger Me." Brooke Eden revealed her love story with her longtime girlfriend Hilary Hoover (they are now engaged), and had a historic moment on the Grand Ole Opry when she welcomed Trisha Yearwood to perform Yearwood's signature hit "She's In Love With The Boy" on the Opry stage--during the performance, which was livestreamed and aired on WSM Radio, Yearwood opted to change the pronouns of the song to reflect Eden's own story.
At the same time, country artist Morgan Wallen also saw consumption of his Dangerous: The Double Album surge after his music was dropped from country radio stations and he saw an industry backlash following the emergence of a video from TMZ in February that showed Wallen uttering a racial slur outside his home. According to the newly-released MRC Data 2021 Mid-Year Report (via Billboard), Dangerous: The Double Album was the most popular country album in the United States for the first-half of the year (Jan. 1-July 1, 2021), spending 10 weeks atop the Billboard 200 chart and earning 2.108 million equivalent album units in the first half of the year.
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