The Year in Country Charts: Sam Hunt Rides 'Back Road' to Top Artist & Song Honors

Sam Hunt, 2017
Eric Ryan Anderson

Sam Hunt photographed on June 9, 2017 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. 

Plus, Chris Stapleton boasts 2017's top two country albums.

On the strength of his massive hit "Body Like a Back Road," Sam Hunt is Billboard's Top Country Artist of 2017.

"Body" is also the No. 1 hit of the year on all of Billboard's country songs charts: Hot Country Songs, Country Airplay, Country Streaming Songs and Country Digital Song Sales.

Explore All of Billboard's 2017 Year-End Charts

Hunt made history, as his playful, R&B-flavored smash, which he co-wrote with Zach Crowell, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, reigned for a record 34 weeks on Billboard's multi-metric Hot Country Songs chart, which blends sales, streaming and airplay data. It surpassed Florida Georgia Line's debut single "Cruise," which camped out in the penthouse for 24 weeks in 2012-13.

"Body" hit No. 1 on Feb. 25 (a week after debuting at No. 2) and reigned through Oct. 14. (As of the Dec. 16-dated chart, it has spent all 44 of its weeks on the survey in the top five.)

"I don't think breaking the record at the top of the Hot Country Songs chart was the goal when Hunt released the song," Cindy Mabe, Universal Music Group Nashville president, told Billboard earlier this year. "But, as summer met Sam's 15 in a 30 Tour, combined with the pent-up demand for new music, this record has become part of culture and [a] sexy soundtrack for the summer. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg of what's coming for Sam Hunt."

Along the way, "Body" scored other significant milestones. On Country Streaming Songs, it wrested the record for the most weeks at No. 1 (also 34) from "Cruise" (33). It also claimed the mark on Country Digital Song Sales, dominating for 31 weeks and passing, guess who? "Cruise" (25).

On Billboard's radio-powered Country Airplay list, "Body" ruled for three weeks starting on the chart dated May 6. Country Airplay is not normally where songs linger in the top tier. Showing its uncommon power, "Body" ranked in the top five for 16 weeks, setting yet another record.

Helped by pop radio crossover support, the song also hit No. 6 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, marking the first country song to reach the region since (surprise!) "Cruise" (No. 4, 2013).

While Hunt has yet to release a follow-up LP to his 2014 debut Montevallo, which generated four Hot Country Songs No. 1s, led by the 11-week leader "Take Your Time," "Body" is one of two songs that Hunt released in 2017. "Drinkin' Too Much," dedicated to his then-fiancee and now-wife, Hannah Lee Fowler, was released on New Year's Eve 2016, and debuted and peaked at No. 16 on the Jan. 28-dated Hot Country Songs list.

Miranda Lambert, Leading Lady: Billboard's Top Female Country Artist of 2017 is Miranda Lambert, who nabbed the trophy for female vocalist of the year at the 2017 Country Music Association Awards on Nov. 8, her seventh career win.

On the Top Country Albums chart dated Dec. 10, 2016 (the second week of Billboard's 2017 chart year), Lambert's sixth studio set, The Weight of These Wings, arrived as her sixth No. 1 and led for three weeks. Lambert is the second artist in the Top Country Albums chart's 54-year history to post six consecutive career-opening No. 1s, tying Carrie Underwood.

Wings marks Lambert's first release since her 2015 divorce from Blake Shelton; she co-wrote 20 of its 24 tracks. To date, the set has produced three singles: lead track "Vice" started and peaked at No. 2 on Hot Country Songs, followed by "We Should Be Friends" (No. 25 peak) and "Tin Man" (No. 15).

FGL's 'All' Right: Repeating its 2016 win, Florida Georgia Line is Billboard's Top Country Duo/Group of 2017. The pair (Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley) rolled their 10th and 11th Country Airplay No. 1s in the chart year; "May We All," featuring Tim McGraw, led for two weeks, and another collaboration, "God, Your Mama, And Me," featuring Backstreet Boys, reigned for one.

"Waking up to a No. 1 song is the most amazing feeling, and to share this moment with Backstreet Boys is surreal," Hubbard told Billboard upon hearing the news back in June. "We can't thank them enough for being a part of this song."

With "Mama," Backstreet Boys earned their first Country Airplay No. 1, a feat that fellow late-'90s/early-2000s hit-making boy band *NSYNC never achieved. The latter act, as featured on Alabama's "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You," hit No. 3 in 1999.

Luke Launched: Billboard's Top New Country Artist of the year is Luke Combs, who scored Country Airplay No. 1s with his first two singles.

"Hurricane" reached the top on the chart dated May 27 for its first of a two-week stay. When the 27-year-old singer-songwriter placed his second single, "When It Rains It Pours," atop Country Airplay on the tally dated Nov. 4 for its first of two weeks, he became the first artist to top the tally with two maiden entries since Kelsea Ballerini, who led with "Love Me Like You Mean It" and "Dibs" in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Combs became the first male artist to go two-for-two from the start since Sam Hunt, with "Leave the Night On" and "Take Your Time" in 2014 and 2015.

On Hot Country Songs, "Rains" became Combs' first leader when it climbed 2-1 on the chart dated Nov. 25.

'Room' for 2 by Stapleton: Chris Stapleton, the No. 2 Top Country Artist of the year, behind Sam Hunt, claims the top two titles on the year-end Top Country Albums chart.

Stapleton's 2015 debut set, Traveller, ranks at No. 1. It has led the weekly survey for 29 weeks to-date and placed in the top 10 each week since it reached No. 1 for the first time on the chart dated Nov. 21, 2015.

This year, Stapleton released follow-up From a Room: Volume 1. Produced by Dave Cobb, it arrived at No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart dated May 27. The set, which won album of the year at the CMA Awards, has logged eight weeks atop Top Country Albums to-date.

From A Room: Volume 2 was released Dec. 1. Both editions were recorded at Nashville's historic RCA Studio A.

Billboard's year-end music recaps are based on chart performance between the Dec. 3, 2016 and Nov. 25, 2017-dated charts. Data registered before or after a title's chart run are not considered in these standings. That methodology detail, and the December-November time period, account for some of the differences between these lists and the calendar-year recaps that are compiled independently by Nielsen Music.

Billboard Year in Music 2017


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.