Just as he did in 2021 and 2022, 30-year-old singer-songwriter Morgan Wallen is Billboard’s Top Country Artist. Concurrently, the Sneedville, Tenn.-born star is Billboard’s Top Country Artist – Male. He also wraps the year with No. 1 placings on the year-end recaps for Hot Country Songs, Hot Country Songs Artists, Country Airplay Artists, Country Airplay Songs, Country Digital Song Sales Artists, Country Streaming Songs, Country Streaming Songs Artists, Top Country Albums Artists and Top Country Albums.
Wallen won the day in plenty of categories in 2023, and if there’s one area where he added to his portfolio, it’s pop radio, where the country star is officially a crossover artist now on the strength of “Last Night,” which reached No. 5 on both Pop Airplay and Adult Pop Airplay.
“Last Night,” which is the leading song of the year on the streaming-, airplay and sales based Hot Country Songs chart as well as the top Country Airplay track of the year, also became Wallen’s first song to top the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. It’s also the year-end No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs recap.
In March, “Last Night” — which was authored by John Byron, Ashley Gorley, Jacob Kasher Hindlin and Ryan Vojtesak — blasted from 5-1 on the Hot 100, marking the artist’s first leader on the all-format list. “Last Night” is from his 36-track album, One Thing at a Time, released March 3.
When “Last Night” led the Hot 100 for its first week on the March 18 dated tally, it was also stationed atop Hot Country Songs.
It marked the first track to lead both tallies since Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” on the charts dated Nov. 27, 2021 – and the first by a solo male unaccompanied by any other acts in more than 42 years, since Eddie Rabbitt’s “I Love a Rainy Night” ruled Hot Country Songs for a week in January 1981 and the Hot 100 for two weeks that February-March.
“Last Night” dominated Hot Country Songs for 25 frames commencing in February, becoming the fourth-longest-ruling title since the chart was launched in 1958. The longest is Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s crossover smash, “Meant to Be,” which spent a whopping 50 weeks in the penthouse beginning in December 2017.
“Last Night” is also the year-end No. 1 on Country Airplay Songs. It dominated the weekly chart for eight weeks starting in May, giving the artist his ninth of 10 No. 1s. He added his 10th in October with “Thinkin’ Bout Me.”
Wallen’s One Thing at a Time album, which houses 36 songs, opened atop Top Country Albums as well as the all-genre Billboard 200 with the largest streaming week ever for a country album, as well as the biggest week by equivalent album units (501,000 in the tracking week of March 3-9, according to Luminate) for any album, among all genres.
The artist made history that week by taking over Hot Country Songs with an unprecedented nine tracks in that week’s top 10.
One Thing at a Time is both No. 1 on the year-end Top Country Albums recap and the all-genre Billboard 200 Albums roundup.
Swift Leads Women: On the strength of her release of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), Taylor Swift is country music’s top woman of 2023. Speak Now is the No. 4 LP on the Top Country Albums list of the year.
Released July 7, the set — the third of Swift’s planned six re-recorded albums — arrived with 716,000 equivalent album units earned, with 507,000 in traditional album sales.
With Speak Now, Swift earned her eighth No. 1 on Top Country Albums. Also that week, Swift lobbed seven songs into the Hot Country Songs top 10.
Megan Moroney Shines: Singer-songwriter Megan Moroney, who hails from Savannah, Ga., scored her first top 10 on the weekly Top Country Albums chart in May when her first entry, Lucky, arrived at its No. 10 peak with 18,000 equivalent album units.
The set marked the first top 10 debut for a woman’s first title on the chart since Gabby Barrett’s debut LP Goldmine arrived at No. 4 in July 2020.
Moroney, a graduate of the University of Georgia, also claimed her first top 10 on Country Airplay as well as Hot Country Songs with rookie appearance “Tennessee Orange,” which hit No. 4 on Country Airplay and No. 10 on Hot Country Songs.
There’s no doubt that 2023 was a huge year for country music.
In July, country songs filled the top three rankings on the Hot 100: Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” topped the list, followed by Wallen’s “Last Night,” with Luke Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” at No. 3.
It marked the first time that country hits occupied the Hot 100’s top three spots in a single week, dating to the chart’s inception in August 1958.
A little controversy also hovered over one of country music’s top stars. Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” created a stir when its video was pulled from rotation by CMT after just three days on the air, creating a firestorm of media coverage.
Aldean addressed the polarized response to the video during his Highway Desperado Tour stop July 21 at Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center. “It’s been a long week and I’ve seen a lot of stuff suggesting I’m this, suggesting I’m that,” he told the crowd. “I feel like everybody’s entitled to their opinion. You can think something all you want to; it doesn’t mean it’s true. What I am is a proud American. I’m proud to be from here … I love my country, I love my family, and I will do anything to protect that, I can tell you that right now.”
The contention didn’t hurt sales. “Try That in a Small Town” is the No. 1 title for 2023 on Country Digital Song Sales. On the July 29 dated tally, “Small Town” hit No. 1 with 228,000 sold. It became Aldean’s first Hot 100 leader while also reigning on Hot Country Songs for two weeks, becoming the artist’s 10th No. 1 on the latter list.
Meanwhile, the No. 2 Hot Country Songs title of 2023 is Luke Combs’ version of Chapman’s Hot 100 top 10 from 1987, “Fast Car.”
Combs’ update of “Fast Car” led Hot Country Songs for its first of four weeks on the Sept. 30 dated survey giving the artist his sixth No. 1. Here’s what Combs told Billboard when he heard the news: “What an awesome way to end the ride for ‘Fast Car’,” said the artist. “It has been so cool to see everyone enjoying this song over the past few months, whether it was people who were hearing the song for the first time or people [for whom] it brought back memories of Tracy’s timeless recording. I’m just glad this song got another life because it deserves to be around forever; it will always be one of my favorites. I’m glad we got to park Tracy’s song at the top of the Hot Country Songs chart, where it should be.”
Billboard’s year-end music recaps represent aggregated metrics for each artist, title, label and music contributor on the weekly charts from Nov. 19, 2022, through Oct. 21, 2023. Rankings for Luminate-based recaps reflect equivalent album units, airplay, sales or streaming during the weeks that the titles appeared on a respective chart during the tracking year. Any activity registered before or after a title’s chart run isn’t considered in these rankings. That methodology detail, and the November-October time period, account for some of the difference between these lists and the calendar-year recaps that are independently compiled by Luminate.
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