The sound of country music has changed drastically over the last century, and even more so in the last 20 years. Today, one might be more likely to hear electronic keyboards and computer-programmed drum beats on their local country radio station than the whine of a pedal steel guitar. Yet listeners across the globe continue to be drawn to the famously American genre — both today’s pop-oriented version and the more traditional sounds of yesterday.
The status of country pop over the last few years is perhaps best understood by the song “Meant to Be” by Brooklyn-born singer Bebe Rexha and country duo Florida Georgia Line. The song, which utilizes modern pop music production techniques, may sound more appropriate in a club than an old fashioned honky tonk. Yet the song broke the record for most weeks spent at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in 2018. “Meant to Be” — which remains on the chart — spent a total of 50 weeks at No. 1, illustrating the exceptional popularity of this strain of country music.
Fans of more traditional country music need not fret, however, as there are numerous musicians putting out new, popular music that employs more conventional instrumentation and sounds. Grammy-award winning musician Chris Stapleton — whose solo work would largely be considered “authentic” country — has had 17 songs in the Hot Country charts since he released his debut solo album in 2015. Singer and songwriter Luke Combs has similarly found great success playing in a familiar style of country.
Older, more established country artists also continue to be popular. George Strait, whose new album “Honky Tonk Time Machine” is scheduled to be released at the end of the March, has maintained a strong presence in popular country. He is touring this year. Country legends Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton have also appeared on the country charts in recent years.
To determine the 100 most popular country music stars, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed artist performance on the Billboard Hot Country Songs music chart for the past three years from the week of Feb. 6, 2016 through the week of Feb. 9, 2019. We then created an index using the number of weeks an artist spent on the chart during that period, the positions the artist held on the charts, and the number of page views each artist’s Wikipedia page received over the past two years, a reflection of each musician/group’s popularity. The number of weeks each artist spent on the Hot Country charts is tallied by the weeks each song spent on the charts, so if an artist had two singles on the chart during one week it would count as two total weeks.
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