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Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” To the Top: Can They Stay There?

Few would dispute the notion that country duo Florida Georgia Line is currently the hottest act going in country music right now. Their hit song “Cruise”, according to Billboard, recently broke the record for consecutive number of months on the Hot Country Songs chart, sitting comfortably in that slot for the last 22 weeks. Not to mention that since “Cruise” was released, the whole get-a-hot-girl-into-your-pickup-truck theme has become a “thing” echoed by other male country artists trying to get in on the action—not the least of which is new-country royalty Blake Shelton himself (whose “Boys Round Here” made a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to unseat “Cruise” from the top spot).

Let’s face it—when your debut single sells over 4 million downloads, gives you a 22-week run at Number One on the charts (breaking a record that has stood since the late 1940s), and has other country artists effectively copying you, you’ve got something to brag about. Florida Georgia Line (aka Brian Kelly and Tyler Hubbard) have a lot to be proud of for only being into this thing for around three years.

The nagging question, though, is: can they stay on top after the overwhelming popularity of “Cruise” starts to fade? Because it will, eventually.

While the numbers are definitely impressive, there are a couple of extenuating factors behind the extended No. 1-run of “Cruise,” only one of which is under FGL’s control. First—Billboard changed the way it tabulated the charts last fall, expanding from pure radio airplay samples to include digital sales and Internet streams (the same dynamic that caused the “Harlem Shake” chart sensation last March). This makes it impossible to compare apples to oranges when you’re accounting for other songs who charted simply on airplay. Granted, the last time a song spent this long a time on this chart, they were charting by jukebox plays, so obviously something has to change to accommodate delivery systems. But it still makes it more difficult to compare.

Second—“Cruise” had actually already peaked at No. 1 on the Hot Country Chart in December and January of 2012-2013, and was on the way down, but then the guys re-released a pop/crossover version featuring Nelly. That breathed new life into an already popular song, and precipitated the resurgence on the charts. (The Nelly version is also currently at No. 10 on the Hot 100.) So that part constitutes a strategic business decision to boost sales and airplay, and it worked.

But here’s the thing: it’s only one song—and at this point, it’s actually overshadowing the duo’s other singles. They actually have two other songs on the Hot Country Charts—“Round Here” is at No. 6, and “Get Your Shine On” is at No. 22—but “Cruise” has become so dominant that it’s far too easy to classify the others simply as “their other songs” when actually having three songs on the Top 25 is a pretty good feat for most bands. “Cruise” is, in effect, competing with the band’s other two singles—and obviously winning. At this point, it would almost be better to see “Cruise” decline so their other singles can have a turn near the top. Otherwise, the danger increases for them to become one-hit wonders.

Here’s my point: Florida Georgia Line is a great band—I like ‘em—but in order for them to have longevity in this business, it has to start being less about “Cruise” and more about the duo themselves. It sounds ironic to say, but at this point the longer “Cruise” stays at No. 1, the more potential for damage, because the boys are going to have to work that much harder to keep their other music at the forefront. It can be done, but it may be easier said than done. The same smart business savvy that helped get “Cruise” its second run at No. 1 may now have to come into play to counteract the effects of that song. Otherwise, the tune that helped generate their monumental success might begin working against their future success.


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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Music blogger Rob Burkhardt has been a fan of country music since he was a child, cutting his teeth on the sounds of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Reba McIntyre and George Jones. In the words of the now-legendary Barbara Mandrell song, he was "country when country wasn't cool." Nowadays, Rob is both intrigued and excited about the mainstream crossover appeal of modern country, as seen in the success of artists like Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts and Lady Antebellum. Even so, Rob's personal tastes in country music remain "old school," tied to the great legends of country. When he's not blogging about country music, Rob Burkhardt holds a day job as a middle school teacher, and is an avid sports fan. He lives with his wife and two teenage girls in southern Ohio.

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