Why “The Git Up” Is “Meant To Be”
I have a lot of place memories associated with songs over the years, but I hear the bulk of new songs the same way—sitting at the computer, often after opening an e-mail blast at midnight on Friday. Blanco Brown’s “The Git Up” was an exception. It was the first song playing when I went to check out Nashville-area WYCZ (YoCo 96.7) last month. “The Git Up” wasn’t first song played on YoCo, veteran music producer Pollo Da Don’s hybrid of Country, Pop, Hip-Hop and anything else to which you can two-step. (That was Kane Brown’s “Heaven.”) But it is certainly a defining song.
In the month since I first heard it, Top 40 has been relatively quick on “The Git Up.” As of July 11, it’s up 46-40 airplay, according to Nielsen BDSRadio. Early supporters include many of the secondary Southern markets where both Country and R&B crossovers have started in the past: Lafayette, La., (where it’s around 50 spins on both the Mainstream and Rhythmic Top 40), Columbia, S.C., and Greenville, S.C. WFLZ Tampa has spread it to KSLZ (Z107.7) St. Louis, something which happened with regularity 20 years ago. WKXJ (Kiss 103.7) Chattanooga, Tenn.—known for playing a line-dance remix of “Rocky Top” in its early days—is there, too. And now the question is what Country radio will do.
“The Git Up” is not “Old Town Road,” which ran its course as a pop and R&B radio record without much sustained Country airplay beyond the Bobby Bones syndicated show and WMAD Madison, Wis. “The Git Up” began its life on a Country label (BBR; Warners is now promoting it to CHR). It will be officially worked to Country radio, “impacting” early next week. It is already No. 1 on the Billboard Country Songs chart, where “Old Town Road” ultimately was ruled ineligible to chart.
“The Git Up” is not one of the pop-inflected snap Country hits that have caused the format’s PDs so much consternation for the last two years. While Sam Hunt made active records, most of the languid songs that followed from other artists were less galvanizing. If you didn’t like Hip-Hop’s influence, they were a provocation, but they didn’t add excitement to the format. It’s not unlike the format itself—a few stations use crossovers well, a few are effectively “pure country,” many are in-between.
At this writing, “The Git Up” is actually down in Country spins from last week—not atypical for a song at this point in its development. The spin loss is mostly as a result of syndicated Bones airplay (which also spiked up and down for “Old Town Road” over its radio run). KUPL (The Bull) Portland, Ore., WPAW (The Wolf) Greensboro, N.C., and KUPL Salt Lake City are playing it. KNUC (The Bull) Seattle, spun it, then seemingly backed off. That said, “The Git Up” was tied for fourth most-added this week, a week ahead of its “add date,” with five adds.
(Update: It’s two weeks later and the song is now up 70-60 at Country and +229 spins. There are now markets where one Country station has nudged the other into playing the song, including Madison, where WMAD stood by itself on “Old Town Road.” The song is up 36-30 +911 spins at CHR, not yet in that #20-22 range where the songs truly in play begin, but headed there with dispatch.)
Over the last few months, Top 40 has come, seemingly, to the understanding that waiting around to decide whether a song is a real hit is less applicable in the streaming age. The result has mostly been releases by name artists moving into sub-power quickly, but the change also benefitted “Old Town Road.” The term “event record” used to be reserved for a song involving a superstar (or two) that radio might not consider a true hit but still had to let listeners hear—e.g., David Bowie & Mick Jagger’s “Dancing in the Street.” Now any song that makes it to radio, but not power, is an event record.
By contrast, Country, once a format rife with quick-lived novelty reaction records, somehow moved most of them on to the same tentative track as those passive ballads that take 40 weeks to climb the charts. Shelly West’s “Jose Cuervo” took 13 weeks to reach No. 1 in the early ‘80s. Tracy Byrd’s “Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo” needed 27 weeks in 2002, at a time when the format was also short on reaction records. Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long”—less a novelty than an outlier–took so long at Country that it peaked in the fall.
As with Top 40, there’s a faster track for some songs at Country now, but reaction records aren’t always on it. I was having hallway discussions about Hardy’s “Rednecker” at Country Radio Seminar in February. Five months later, it’s still hanging in at No. 30 airplay, +48 spins. Stations are still grappling with the long-term prospects of a song that only had to supply some fun and novelty for a while.
“The Git Up” will be around for a while, if only because wedding/event DJs will guarantee you hear it for the next decade or so. But as a radio record, it certainly makes more sense now than in 30 weeks. Certain stations will consider it risky no matter what – some for its hip-hop elements, some for its twanginess, many for its novelty—even in four months. But the reward for seizing a cultural moment is likely greater now than in four months. And if this song can change the way Country incubates new hits—separate from the question of how long it should hold on to them once established—everybody will benefit.
There’s also an advantage to having the song grow and peak at both Country and Top 40 on similar time frames. Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant To Be”—a pleasant enough record that seemed like one of many similar songs in its category at CHR—became a bigger hit in both Country and Top 40 for being supported at both. Once Country PDs decide what to do about Blanco Brown, they can turn their attention to Kane Brown & Marshmello’s CHR single, “One Thing Right.” Or Brown’s LP cut, “Short Skirt Weather,” which some stations are going off the menu to play like a single.
As in Lafayette, once “The Git Up” gets on the radio, it will likely spread quickly across formats. (Both Radio Disney and Radio Disney Country were early supporters.) There’s one market where “The Git Up” hasn’t yet happened on the radio but where it seems inevitable. Houston has a decades-long history of unlikely songs crossing between formats (most recently Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” becoming a hit on Urban AC KMJQ) and dance clubs that mix Country and Top 40. Once “The Git Up” gets played on one Houston station, it will end up in about four different formats. Then again, the dance floor is like Houston in a lot more markets these days.
(Update: KMJQ is now playing the song 16x a week. KRBE has just kicked in as well. And there are other markets including Boston–actually a good Country crossover market–where the song is both on CHR WODS (Amp 103) and Country WBWL. It’s also spread from Country to CHR in Greensboro.)