Keith Urban's lucky No. 1 'Break'; Sister Hazel goes country

Kelly Clarkson Chokes Up During 'Idol' Performance
Kelly Clarkson Chokes Up During 'Idol' Performance

Keith Urban's "Break on Me" vaults 6-1 to become his 19th No. 1 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart (dated March 12). The song surges by 12 percent to 44.6 million audience impressions in the tracking week, according to Nielsen Music.

Upon hearing the news, Urban told Billboard, "I'm amazed, I'm touched, and I'm deeply moved by these 19 No. 1s. All I can say is wow and thanks to country radio and Capitol. I'm so grateful that I get to do what I do. I love it more and more. I want to say thank you to my father, too. He put country music in my blood. I wish he were here to see this."

Urban's No. 1s sum lifts him into a tie for fifth place with Brad Paisley for the most Country Airplay leaders in the chart's 26-year history, passing Garth Brooks (18). Tim McGraw leads with 27, followed by Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson and George Strait (26 each); Blake Shelton (21); and Brooks & Dunn and Toby Keith (20 each).

"Break" makes the biggest jump to the top this decade and the greatest since Rascal Flatts' "Here Comes Goodbye" also roared 6-1 on April 25, 2009. Ricky Van Shelton boasts the biggest positional surge to No. 1 in the chart's archives, having hurtled 9-1 with "Keep It Between the Lines" (Oct. 12, 1991).

Penned by Ross Copperman and Jon Nite, "Break" is the second single from Urban's forthcoming album Ripcord. Launch track "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" peaked at No. 2 on both Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs. Back as a celebrity judge for the final season of Fox's American Idol (with Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr.), Urban is gearing up for his Ripcord World Tour, beginning June 2 in Kansas City, Mo., and featuring opening acts Maren Morris and Brett Eldredge.

Urban first reached No. 1 on Country Airplay with "But for the Grace of God" in 2001 and has maintained his clout since. "There's no question that the songs that Keith records are the most important reason for his success. But he is a big factor, too," WWQM Madison, Wis., pd Fletcher Keyes tells Billboard. "Artistically, he weaves from one lane to another, in a positive and exciting way. He's also ever-present in other media with a positive, caring persona."

Adds Universal Music Group Nashville chairman/CEO Mike Dungan, "Keith continues to bring fresh, challenging, game-changing life to everything he does."

SWEET SIXTEEN: On Hot Country Songs, Thomas Rhett's "Die a Happy Man" holds the No. 1 spot for a 16th week (the last 15 in succession). The song is now tied for the third-most weeks at No. 1, dating to the chart's 1958 inception as an all-encompassing genre ranking, with Buck Owens' "Love's Gonna Live Here" (1963). Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" (2012-13) reigns with 24 weeks on top, followed by Leroy Van Dyke's "Walk On By" (19 weeks, 1961).

A LITTLE BIT ROCK: While Chris Stapleton leads Top Country Albums for a 14th week with Traveller (44,000), veteran pop/rock group Sister Hazel makes its Top Country Albums debut, as Lighter in the Dark (Croakin' Poets) arrives at No. 4 (8,000). The 14-song set includes a collaboration with another artist that has made the transition to country, Darius Rucker (of Hootie & The Blowfish), who is featured on the set's "Prettiest Girl at the Dance." The LP also starts at No. 3 on Folk Albums and No. 12 on Top Rock Albums.

HIGH PRAISE: On Country Digital Songs, Maren Morris lifts 4-1 with her debut single, "My Church" (34,000 downloads sold). The country music anthem is Morris' first No. 1 on a Billboard songs chart.

Says SMN executive vp promotion/artist development Steve Hodges, "When the perfect storm aligns, it's fun to watch a hit rise to the top. The audience is reacting [to "Church"], then buying it."

This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.