(July 23, 2021). Last week, Billboard magazine and other news media were all abuzz over the high chart début of “Am I The Only One,” the right-wing, liberal-bashing, country ballad by Aaron Lewis, the former and once-again lead singer of the ‘90s nu-metal rock group Staind.
Lewis’ MAGA mad-libbing, dog-whistle blowing, country tune had entered the all-genre Hot 100 chart at a lofty No. 14 – not bad for a somber ballad with a few f-bombs thrown in by an artist who hadn’t seen the chart since 2011 (and who hadn’t seen it before then since 2001; I wonder if there are any other artists whose only three chart hits each came ten years apart). The song’s début was practically fueled solely by sales with very little streaming and radio support (the record label isn’t officially beginning its radio push until July 26).
The unexpected chart début made national headlines with many outlets wondering aloud whether the splashy entry was signaling a growing conservative movement that was now beginning to manifest itself in popular music and on the Billboard charts. Never mind that most of its first-week sales activity was driven by the free promos it received from Fox News, SiriusXM’s Patriot Radio and right-wing social media platforms, or that it was released on July 2 – two days before the country’s most patriotic holiday.
Seven days after its chart debut, the angry little tune Lewis dedicated to “all the patriots” plummeted completely off the chart from that No. 14 perch, suggesting that all of last week’s hype may have been just a tad bit premature. In a turntable-flipping scenario, the same song that rhetorically asks: “Am I the only one who quits singing along every time they play a Bruce Springsteen song?” got booted from the Hot 100 after just one week.
Question: are we the only ones who guessed that Lewis’ now-biggest solo hit was nothing more than a Fox News-induced flash in the pan with no real chart legs to stand on?
The Boss rarely had it this bad. It’s almost like America stopped singing along to Lewis’ song after just a couple listens. Rarely do pop and politics match…especially when those politics are as divisive as they are today. While Big Machine Label Group – the company that released the single – may be defending Lewis’ song, America has clearly responded (or not) in the tune’s second week.
The Hot 100 chart has a relatively low floor when it comes to sales points required for entry these days: “Am I The Only One” just needed a modest 59,000 copies sold with very little streaming and radio play mixed in to achieve that No. 14 rank. So its sales really had to have tanked in Week 2 for it to disappear from the chart altogether this week.
The news of Lewis’ chart exit flew under the radar as neither Billboard nor any of the other chart-watching publications that covered Lewis’ high debut even mentioned the song’s sudden plummet.
No fewer than five Billboard staffers had pondered last week “the hunger” the public must have for “this kind of America First balladry.” Right-wing Breitbart News tweeted that the song is “speaking to millions of people.”
About the song’s chart tumble? Crickets.
Let’s just say that falling from a No. 14 début one week to completely off the chart the next is probably not a first in the streaming era, but it is newsworthy. It’s the pop chart’s equivalent of being booed offstage before finishing a concert performance, something with which the Staind frontman is familiar.
In 2019, Lewis was showered with boos and forced to leave the stage before finishing a solo set in Pharr, Texas. That reportedly happened because, while performing and attempting to get the audience to quiet down, someone suggested he call for quiet in Spanish, prompting him to respond, “I don’t speak Spanish – I’m American.”
That from a man who attributes “every racist law that’s ever been put in place” to Democrats. And now we get a purportedly patriotic song that whines over confederate statues being torn down – statues of men who literally attacked the United States less than two hundred years ago while fighting against the freedoms for which this country was aiming.
Angry Lewis’ song suggests that everyone around him is “brainwashed,” particularly in the following line where he asks – again rhetorically – “Am I the only one not brainwashed, makin’ my way through the land of the lost, who still gives a shit and worries about his kids as they try to undo all the things he did?”
There’s little doubt who’s the “he” in that last line. Oh, by the way, did I mention that Lewis is a staunch supporter of a certain former president who incited an attack on the institution that symbolizes American freedoms the most – during a ceremony that caps one of the most democratic voting processes in the world?
As Lewis’ label begins the country radio campaign for “Am I The Only One,” it’s possible we haven’t seen the last of MAGA’s latest anthem (at least the late Laura Branigan can rest easier knowing there’s a potential replacement for her “Gloria” being played at future Trump rallies). Lewis’ label’s marketing could reignite sales and push the song back onto the Hot 100. Although any resurgence will not likely be as high as what generated last week’s chart rank, the radio exposure will no doubt stir up more interest (and, in full disclosure, the song still ranks pretty high on the country song digital downloads list – at No. 3 this week from No. 1 a week ago).
Are we the only ones who think that kind of patriotism is just batshit crazy?
DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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