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The Year in Country Charts 2021: Morgan Wallen Reigns as Top Country Artist

On the strength of the chart success of his second studio set, Dangerous: The Double Album; Morgan Wallen rules as Billboard‘s Top Country Artist of 2021 as well as top country male…

On the strength of the chart success of his second studio set, Dangerous: The Double Album; Morgan Wallen rules as Billboard’s Top Country Artist of 2021 as well as top country male artist.

Wallen dethrones Luke Combs, who finishes as runner-up in both columns; Combs ruled as Top Country Artist in 2019 and 2020.

Billboard’s year-end music recaps represent aggregated metrics for each artist, title, label and music contributor on the weekly charts dated Nov. 21, 2020, through Nov. 13, 2021. The rankings for MRC Data-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-November time period, account for some of the difference between these lists and the calendar-year recaps that are independently compiled by MRC Data.

Explore All of Billboard’s 2021 Year-End Charts

Wallen’s Dangerous LP is the No. 1 Top Country Albums title of 2021. The 30-track album also dominates as the top title on the all-genre year-end Billboard 200 Albums recap. The last country artist to crown the year-end Billboard 200 Albums ranking was Taylor Swift’s Fearless in 2009. The only other country album by a male artist to rank as the year-end Billboard 200 No. 1 is Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind in 1992.

The 28-year-old Wallen, who hails from eastern Tennessee, started off the year with a strong debut atop both Top Country Albums and the Billboard 200 with Dangerous, following its release on Jan. 8. Dangerous blasted in at No. 1 on the lists dated Jan. 23 with 265,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Jan. 14, according to MRC Data.

“This is absolutely insane,” Wallen told Billboard at the time. “When we decided to go for it with a double album, I knew we were taking a risk, but I believed in the music and hoped it would be something y’all loved. This goes way beyond any of my expectations.”

On Feb. 2, in the middle of the album’s fourth week of release, a video emerged showing Wallen using the N-word. He subsequently issued an apology. Reaction was swift, and his music was removed from dozens of high-profile playlists on streamers such as Apple Music and Spotify, and multiple radio groups dropped his music. However, on the Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums chart, the album posted a gain in units earned during its fourth week, and held at No. 1 on both charts. It ultimately spent 10 weeks atop the Billboard 200 and 38 weeks at No. 1 on Top Country Albums during the 2021 chart year (of its to-date 39 weeks at No. 1).

That said, his run on the Country Airplay chart was halted, after he had notched his first four No. 1s on the chart, all consecutively, beginning in June 2018.

Subsequently, the set’s “Sand in My Boots” was promoted as a single by Wallen’s label, Big Loud. It debuted on Country Airplay in July and reached No. 14 by November, marking his highest rank since the LP’s “7 Summers” in February (No. 15).

As for Combs, now a full-fledged star who won the coveted entertainer of the year award at the 55th annual Country Music Association Awards on Nov. 12, his hit “Forever After All” is the top song of 2021 on Billboard’s airplay-, streaming- and sales-based Hot Country Songs chart and the No. 2 Country Airplay song of the year. “Forever,” which became Combs’ record-extending 11th consecutive career-opening Country Airplay No. 1 in June, dominated for six weeks.

The 31-year-old Combs, who grew up in Asheville, NC, has now rattled off 13 straight Country Airplay No. 1s: “Cold Beer Calling My Name,” his feature with Jameson Rodgers, was his 12th, and “Cold as You” became his 13th uninterrupted No. 1 on the Nov. 27 dated survey.

On Country Streaming Songs, “Forever” finishes as the No. 1 song for 2021.

As for the country leading ladies, the top female artist for 2021 is Gabby Barrett, who was the Top New Artist of 2020 and the No. 2 country female artist of 2020 behind Maren Morris.

Barrett, just 21 years old, topped Hot Country Songs for four weeks beginning on the April 10-dated ranking with “The Good Ones,” which she co-wrote with Zach Kale, Emily Landis and Jim McCormick. Concurrently, “The Good Ones” led Country Airplay for three frames beginning April 17.

“The Good Ones” is the No. 3 title for 2021 on Hot Country Songs.

Just as they achieved in 2020 and again in 2021, Billboard’s Top Duo or Group in 2021 is Dan + Shay.

The pair, comprised of Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney scored three top 10s on Hot Country Songs this year: “I Should Probably Go to Bed” and the holiday track “Take Me Home for Christmas” both reached the tier in January, peaking at Nos. 4 and 2 respectively, while “Glad You Exist” reached No. 2 in August, bringing the act’s top 10 count to 11.

Over on Country Airplay, “Glad You Exist” dominated for a week in August while “I Should Probably Go to Bed” peaked at No. 2 in January. On the radio-fueled Country Airplay list, the duo has banked nine top 10s so far, with all but one (“Bed”) topping the tally.

You ‘Oughta Know’ Lainey Wilson: Billboard’s Top New Country Artist for the second year in a row is a woman, as singer-songwriter Lainey Wilson finishes No. 1 (following Barrett from 2020). Released on Broken Bow Records, Wilson’s debut entry on Country Airplay “Things a Man Oughta Know” reached the Country Airplay summit on the Sept. 25-dated chart.

“I know the hard work is just beginning,” Wilson said that week. “It’s time to roll up my sleeves.”

That’s What ‘Friends’ Are For: The No. 1 Country Airplay song of the year belongs to Chris Young and Kane Brown, whose collaboration “Famous Friends” led Country Airplay for one week in July.

While it leased the penthouse for a week, the duet remained in the Country Airplay top five for a span of 15 weeks; only Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road,” has spent more time there (16 frames starting in May 2017).

‘Fancy’ Way to End: Finally, the No. 2 song of the year on Hot Country Songs is Walker Hayes’ viral hit “Fancy Like.” The track also crowned Country Airplay; it’s his first leader on both surveys.

The song, which was co-penned by Hayes, is the No. 1 track of the year on Country Digital Song Sales.

Initially, Hayes posted videos of himself dancing to the song with his six kids on TikTok, gaining traction, and his throng of followers has steadily grown to more than 2 million.

“Fancy,” which shouts out Applebee’s menu items, received a synch in a commercial for the chain, only adding to its momentum. Since its release on May 7, “Fancy” has sold more than 400,000 downloads.