Hayden Panettiere has a top 40 country hit, but is it real?  In an art-imitates-life-imitates-art way, Big Machine Records, home to such artists as Taylor Swift, released “Telescope,” a song Panettiere’s character, Juliette Barnes, sang on the ABC series “Nashville.” 

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The label released the tune, slightly slicked up for radio, under Panettiere’s name and shot a video that in no way ties in with the television show. So it’s entirely possible that people are hearing the song on the radio or seeing the video on CMT and thinking, “Oh, that girl from ‘Heroes’ has gone country,” without know that there’s a connection.

We’re used to songs released from non-reality television shows by now: “Glee” does it every week. “Smash” has tried it as well. What’s interesting about Panettiere’s case is that Big Machine is clearly testing the waters to see if she can have her own country career outside of “Nashville.”  She’s young, she’s cute, she can marginally sing... hey, it’s worked before.

The song debuted on Billboard Country Airplay’s chart two weeks ago at No. 51. Last week, it moved to 45 and on this week’s chart, released Monday night, it leaps to No. 39 with a bullet. Note that this is Billboard’s Airplay chart, not the Billboard Country Songs chart. There is now a big distinction to be made between the two since Billboard changed its reporting structure a few weeks ago.

Billboard’s Country Airplay chart is, as the name implies, based solely on airplay from 126 monitored country stations. Billboard Country Songs chart now incorporates digital download sales and streaming, as well as airplay, into the calculations.  On last week’s Billboard Country Songs chart, “Telescope” was No. 43. This week’s Billboard Country Songs chart will come out on Wednesday.

Will “Telescope,” the lead single from the forthcoming “The Music of Nashville: Original Soundtrack,” be a real radio hit or just a novelty?  Probably somewhere closer to a novelty.  “Telescope” received 360 plays this week, up 60 from the week before.  The telling number there is the low number of increased plays from the previous week. For example,  Chris Young, who is coming off a series of No. 1s, is at No. 36 with “I Can Take If From There.” The song received 567 spins, up 100 from the week before. Tim McGraw’s “One Of Those Nights” is at No. 33 with 648. That’s 420 more plays that it got last week when it debuted on the chart at No. 44.

For a sense of perspective, this week’s No. 1 song on Country Airplay, Luke Bryan’s “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” received 5,839 plays.

Hillary Lindsey and C. R. Barlowe wrote  “Telescope,” and they’re collectively behind such hits as Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take The Wheel,” Swift’s “Fearless” and “Untouchable,” and Lady Antebellum’s “American Honey,” so it passes the sniff test there.  But we can’t help wondering how the song would have turned out if someone with more sass, such as a Miranda Lambert, had cut it.

Plus, the video looks like it was shot for $3.95 (though we had to laugh at the quick shot of a map of Nashville so folks can try to connect the dots). Panettiere seems very uncomfortable as she hogties her cheating beau and hangs him up like a slab of meat. It’s a horrible concept, badly delivered.

 However, it's foolish to bet against Big Machine head honcho Scott Borchetta, who can be relentless when it comes to pursuing a hit. He told Billboard.com that when time allows, Panettiere will be out visiting radio stations promoting the song, just like any other brand new artist.

If we had to make a prediction, we say “Telescope” tops out no higher than 25. When’s Connie Britton’s single coming? Oh yeah, radio doesn’t play “heritage” acts anymore.