Country music is probably more popular now than ever. There are several reasons for this: It has broadened its base and reached new audiences, perhaps because it has come to sound more like mainstream pop music; and it has moved beyond stereotypes of pickup trucks, guns, and beer to address new topics — including racism and domestic abuse. (To track the music’s evolution over the past half-century or so, consider every country music album of the year since 1967.)
In addition, country has attracted artists from other genres — such as former NSYNC vocalist Justin Timberlake, who has performed with Chris Stapleton, and country rapper Lil Nas X — who may have done more to transform the music’s image than anybody else.
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the most popular country musicians right now, and it’s an incredibly diverse and sometimes surprising one. It includes long-established superstars such as Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson; icons who haven’t been with us for a while, such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash; and more recent arrivals such as Lady A (formerly known as Lady Antebellum) and Miranda Lambert. A few groups also known for rock (like The Byrds and The Grateful Dead) have been included since they have also recorded country music.
To identify the most popular country musicians right now, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from Chartmetric on country musicians and their Chartmetric Cross Platform Performance (CPP). CPP score is based on overall performance relative to musicians in all musical categories on the following nine platforms: Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, Deezer, Soundcloud; Instagram, Facebook; Twitter, and Wikipedia. The lower the CPP score, the closer the artist is to being one of the most popular in any genre. Monthly Spotify and Youtube visits and the number of followers on social media is also from the Chartmetric data.
Lil Nas X and some other crossover artists are missing because we have included only those musicians for whom “country” is the primary genre according to Chartmetric, the source of our information. However, the performers who are included add up to a roster of the best-loved stars of this kind of great American music. (Speaking of stars, see the best movies for fans of country music.)
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