BILLBOARD: The Year in Country Charts

Stapleton’s “Traveller” is 2016’s leading title on Top Country Albums & Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.” is the year-end No. 1 on Hot Country Songs.

Chris Stapleton is Billboard‘s top Country artist of 2016, as well as the top male Country artist, while his LP Traveller is the year’s No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart.

Carrie Underwood, as she was in 2015, is the top female Country artist (No. 5 overall), Florida Georgia Line is the top Country duo/group (No. 3 overall), while boasting the year-end No. 1 on Hot Country Songs, “H.O.L.Y.,” and Maren Morris is 2016’s top new Country artist (No. 17 overall).

Stapleton’s roll can be traced, in large part, back to Nov. 4, 2015, when he performed at the 49th Annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards. According to Nielsen, 13.4 million viewers, many surely hearing of the artist for the first time, watched as he took home three trophies, in each of the categories in which he was a nominee: male vocalist, new artist and album of the year, for Traveller.

Additional fireworks were supplied when Justin Timberlake joined Stapleton for a rousing performance of the latter’s “Traveller” and “Tennessee Whiskey” and the former’s “Drink You Away.”

Stapleton had arrived at the CMA Awards without the benefit of much traction at country radio. (His debut single, “What Are You Listening To?,” had peaked at No. 46 on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart in 2013.) Following the CMAs, Traveller, after debuting at No. 2 on the Top Country Albums chart dated May 23, 2015, at No. 2, vaulted 25-1 (Nov. 21); on the all-genre Billboard 200, the LP became the first title ever to re-enter at No. 1.

Stapleton also scored his first Hot Country Songs No. 1, as “Whiskey” re-entered the Nov. 21 list on top (also marking the first No. 1 re-entry on the survey).

In April 2016, Stapleton achieved his first Country Airplay top 10, as “Nobody to Blame,” rose to No. 10. By the end of the year, “Parachute” followed the song into the top 20.

Stapleton is reportedly recording his second album for Mercury Nashville, with Dave Cobb returning as producer. The set is slated for a 2017 release.

CARRIE CARRIED ON: Top female Country artist of 2016 Underwood rolled up her 25th straight top 10 on both Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay, “Dirty Laundry,” from her album Storyteller, during the year.

Underwood’s run of 25 top 10s on the charts encompasses all of her country singles promoted to the format (excluding holiday fare), beginning with “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” her first of 15 Country Airplay No. 1s and 14 Hot Country songs leaders, in 2006. She extended the longest streak of top 10 promoted singles from a career’s start on both charts.

In March, Underwood earned her first Country Airplay No. 1 since 2012 when “Heartbeat” hit the summit. “Church Bells” then rang out at No. 1 in July.

Underwood is also the No. 4 Top Country Albums artist of the year, below leader Stapleton, Blake Shelton (No. 2) and Joey + Rory (No. 3).

A BLESSED YEAR: Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.” is not only No. 1 for 2016 on Hot Country Songs, but also on Country Digital Song Sales. The lead single from the pair’s third LP, Dig Your Roots (with its inspirational “high on loving you” hook), spent 18 weeks atop Hot Country Songs beginning May 21, the third-longest reign in the chart’s 58-year history. The twosome of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley also have rights to the longest-ruling Hot Country Songs No. 1: debut single “Cruise” dominated for 24 weeks in 2012-13.

Dig Your Roots bowed atop Top Country Albums (dated Sept. 17). “We’ve poured our heart into this project, and to see the fans react the way they have is unbelievable,” Hubbard told Billboard upon hearing the news.

The set became FGL’s third Top Country Albums leader, following Anything Goes(Nov. 1, 2014) and Here’s to the Good Times (June 29, 2013).


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