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HomeMusicZach Bryan Pissed that “Pink Skies” Sent to Pop Radio

Zach Bryan Pissed that “Pink Skies” Sent to Pop Radio

Zach Bryan released a new song on Friday, May 24th called “Pink Skies” ahead of his new album The Great American Bar Scene expected later this year, and the song is already off to a roaring start. It’s expected to debut high on the Billboard Hot 100 next week, and perhaps crown the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

But on Tuesday, May 28th, it was reported that “Pink Skies” was sent to Top 40 pop radio as a single, and it seems like Zach Bryan is not too happy about it. Zach might not be too happy with his label Warner Records either.

After US Radio Updater reported the pop radio add, Zach Bryan responded in a host of tweets, “This is f–ked, I never approved this, why is Pink Skies at Pop radio? I’m not a f–king Pop artist, or country artist leave me out of this. PINK SKIES IS NOT A POP SONG!”

Listening to “Pink Skies,” it’s clearly not what anyone would consider “pop,” though it’s not exactly 100% country either. This is the whole reason Saving Country Music recently drafted a Country Music Dewey Decimal System so that many of the arguments and misunderstandings about genre could be more easily resolved.

With it’s prominent country instrumentation, but clear singer/songwriter structure and approach, “Pink Skies” could easily be categorized in 570.2, or “Country-Inspired Americana.” You could also put it in 570.1, or 570.15. Also, because Zach Bryan is from Oklahoma and the song does mix elements of country with folk/singer/songwriter, you could also put it in 550.7, “Red Dirt.”

But regardless of what you call it, Warner Records sending “Pink Skies” to pop radio as opposed to country has much deeper implications. Perhaps they were planning to send it to country too, where it would likely perform okay. But as we’ve seen over Zach’s career so far, country radio has been lukewarm on Zach’s songs that have otherwise been some of the most popular in the entire format in a given year.

Zach Bryan’s 2022 single “Something in the Orange” is an incredible 7-times Certified Platinum and also spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart that measures overall consumption. But the best it could do on country radio was #20. Zach’s 2023 single “I Remember Everything” with Kacey Musgraves is 2-times Platinum and counting, spent 17 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Song chart, but could only eek out a #26 showing on country radio.

Zach Bryan is far and away the 2nd most popular artist on the country format behind Morgan Wallen. And though Zach may not fit snugly in country and certainly is an outlier in the mainstream, he’s much more country than he is anything else, and definitely more country than pop, no matter his own protestations or anyone else’s.

But since Bryan is not of Music Row and the conventional mainstream country music system, they’re reluctant to embrace him. We’ve seen this same attitude from country music award shows when it comes to Zach.

Through this “Pink Skies” discussion, Zach Bryan is also signaling frustrations with his label. He said late last week that once he was done with his deal with Warner, he wanted to record an album of Jason Isbell covers. He also said during his tweet storm Tuesday evening, “I have one record left after ‘The Great American Bar Scene,’ if it’s acoustic don’t mind it.”

Then Zach said later, “guys you have to send songs to radio, like you have to be like, ‘yeah I’m okay with that,’ going which way or the other,” explaining to the public that “Pink Skies” being sent to pop must have been purposeful by his label, and against his will.

This is all somewhat reminiscent of the fake controversy surrounding Beyoncé’s single “Texas Hold ‘Em.” As the media and Beyoncé Stans made a national narrative out of how country radio wasn’t playing the single initially, her label initially only sent the single to pop, while the metadata on the song had the song categorized as pop as well.

Mainstream country radio stations only play what they’re sent from labels to play, and often only play it at a level commensurate with how much promotion they put behind the single. If Warner Record had tried to push “Something in the Orange” to #1 on country radio, it probably would have eventually gotten there.

But Zach Bryan doesn’t need country radio like other performers. He’s excelling without it. If anything, country radio needs Zach Bryan to remain relevant to what listeners want to hear. But the mainstream country radio format is so stuck in an antiquated system, they don’t understand the new paradigm of viral appeal and how to incorporate it. They’re still only playing what major labels tell them to.

Though it’s not exactly the same scenario, Zach Bryan’s reaction is similar to another artist that was signed to Warner. Randy Travis once lost it when he found out his third studio album Old 8X10 from 1988 was charting on the pop charts. “The folks at Warner were celebrating, but I was irate. ‘Pop charts? What’s it doing on there? Get it off there,’ I said sternly. ‘I’m not a pop singer! I’m a country singer.’”

When they explained to Randy that his album was the #5 album in the USA in all genres, and that’s why it was charting in “pop,” Randy responded, “Oh. Okay. I guess that’s all right then.” 

It’s likely Warner saw a greater opportunity to find traction for Zach Bryan on Top 40 mainstream radio as opposed to country, at least initially. From a strictly strategic standpoint, they might not be wrong. But for decades, country artists sending songs to pop has been considered as sort of a sellout move, and only acceptable when artists crossover naturally simply from becoming so popular.

At this point, Zach Bryan is one of the most popular artists in all of music, not just country. And as he says himself, he doesn’t consider himself a “country” artist, but a singer/songwriter, which puts him more in the vein of folk and Americana.

But right now, this style of singer/songwriter music like Zach Bryan, Noah Kahan, and other surging artists like Wyatt Flores are playing is one of the most popular styles in all of music. It’s becoming the “pop” of this era, simply from its widespread popularity. In this instance, it isn’t a sign of selling out. It’s a sign of success.

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