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Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” Kelsea Ballerini’s “Love Me” Surge on Sales Chart

Little Big Town (NBC)

Valuable exposure has sent two country singles soaring up the iTunes single sales chart.

— Thanks to a sales pace that has increased steadily for nearly 48 hours, Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” one of the two singles, is now #1 among country tracks and #13 on iTunes’ all-genre chart.

The furious surge can be attributed to a pair of factors.

One was a performance during Tuesday’s edition of NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

A given for a Little Big Town vocal showcase, the performance received rave reviews, and the positive enthusiasm translated into sales momentum.

Impact also originates in a controversy surrounding the song’s lyrical construct.

Despite good reviews, strong sales and the fact that it comes from an established act that topped country radio with preceding single “Day Drinking,” the song has been a lukewarm performer on the Mediabase and Billboard airplay charts. The snail’s pace ascent has been a talking point within music circles for the past several weeks, and a series of recent articles helped to illuminate the issue.

Citing country radio programmers, the articles attribute the song’s struggle to complaints from listeners. Those listeners, programmers allege, are taking issue with the manner in which the song’s narrator expresses her jealousy.

To illustrate exactly how much she covets a particular man, the narrator explains that she has a “girl crush” on his current lover. So envious, the narrator even expresses a desire to taste the woman’s lips — because they surely taste like the man for whom she pines.

While the message of jealousy related to her heterosexual lust seems quite clear, some listeners are apparently dwelling on–and objecting to–the surface-level homosexuality (a woman expressing her desire to kiss another woman). Unsurprising given the conservative nature of the format (Kacey Musgraves’ CMA-winning “Follow Your Arrow,” which advises listeners to “kiss lots of boys or kiss lots of girls, if that’s something you’re into,” elicited similar objections in 2013 and 2014), the complaints are reportedly stalling the song’s radio ascent.

An article in Thursday’s Billboard country airplay update argues that the talk of content-related objections is overblown and not notably impeding the song’s radio success. But regardless of validity, the controversy has made “Girl Crush” the country genre’s prime topic of conversation, and an iTunes surge has resulted.

— Following a showcase during Thursday morning’s “TODAY” Show, Kelsea Ballerini’s “Love Me Like You Mean It” has also improved its position on the iTunes sales chart.

Ballerini’s breakthrough single, which has been steadily gaining momentum at country radio, was identified as a pick from Hoda Kotb’s “iHoda Playlist.” The talk show host played the song–and danced along–during the fourth hour of Thursday morning’s “TODAY.”

The exposure provided a sales boost for the song, which ascended from the ~#100 ballpark into the Top 60 of the all-genre single sales chart.

The song has started to slip from its iTunes peak–it was down to #64 at press time–but the big picture value of the awareness boost cannot be ignored. As names like Hoda Kotb and Taylor Swift help introduce “Love Me Like You Mean It” to wider audiences, the stocks of the song and Ballerini herself significantly rise.

Written by Brian Cantor

Brian Cantor is the editor-in-chief for Headline Planet. He has been a leading reporter in the music, movie, television and sporting spaces since 2002.

Brian's reporting has been cited by major websites like BuzzFeed, Billboard, the New Yorker and The Fader -- and shared by celebrities like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj.

Contact Brian at brian.cantor[at]headlineplanet.com.

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