The Year in Country Charts 2020: Luke Combs Repeats as Top Artist of the Year

Luke Combs

2020’s top new country artist Gabby Barrett also owns the No. 1 title on the year-end Hot Country Songs ranking with “I Hope.”

Luke Combs is Billboard’s 2020 Top Country Artist of the year, as well as finishing first in the male-artist category. Combs repeats as the reigning artist in both categories from his wins in 2019.

Billboard’s year-end music recaps represent aggregated metrics for each artist, title, label and music contributor on the weekly charts dated Nov. 23, 2019, through Nov. 14, 2020. The rankings for Nielsen Music/MRC Data-based year-end 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 Nielsen Music/MRC Data.

Of the five major year-end country charts — Hot Country Songs, Country Airplay Songs, Top Country Albums, Country Streaming Songs and Country Digital Song Sales — Combs dominates all but Country Streaming Songs as the top artist of the year. On that tally, Morgan Wallen ranks first with Combs second.

Additionally, Wallen leaps from 7-2 in the overall top country artist category from 2019 to 2020.

As for Combs, the 30-year-old — who hails from North Carolina and records for River House/Columbia Nashville — has won a boatload of trophies and accolades since bursting onto the scene in 2015. Most recently, he earned two major prizes at the 2020 Country Music Association (CMA) Awards on Nov. 11: male vocalist of the year, and his second album What You See Is What You Get was christened best album.

The set debuted atop Top Country Albums and the all-genre Billboard 200 on the charts dated Nov. 23, 2019, with 172,000 equivalent album units earned. A new batch of tracks were added to the album on its Oct. 23, 2020, deluxe reissue, bringing the total number of songs to 23. That week, the album soared 21-1 for a second week atop the Billboard 200, and the set’s 102.3 million weekly streams for its songs broke its own record for the largest streaming week for a country album. It first set the record in its debut week (74 million clicks).

Plus, that same week, one of the new bonus tracks on the album, “Forever After All,” became just the sixth song to debut atop Hot Country Songs since the chart’s inception in 1958. The hybrid chart is powered by airplay, streaming and sales.

Over on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, Combs has snapped off nine consecutive career-opening leaders. He broke the record with his fifth single, “Beautiful Crazy,” which led for seven weeks commencing in March 2019.

Combs’ record-extending ninth straight Country Airplay No. 1, “Lovin’ on You,” dominated for four frames starting Sept. 5.

Strong ‘Bones’: Just as she was in 2019, Maren Morris is Billboard’s No. 1 female country artist of 2020, as well as the No. 4 overall country artist (up from No. 8 last year).

Morris repeats on the muscle of her crossover smash “The Bones.” The song became Morris’ first No. 1 on Hot Country Songs on the list dated March 14, 2020, in its 53rd week on the chart. Only Dan + Shay’s “Tequila” took a longer trip to the top, leading in its 54th frame (Feb. 2, 2019), with both songs aided by pop radio airplay in their ascents.

Morris told Billboard at the time of its coronation: “The fans have spoken on this one. It’s a real, gritty love song that I wrote years ago [with Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz]. I couldn’t be more proud that it’s become one of the biggest songs of my career to date.”

“The Bones” was aided on Billboard’s top 40, adult top 40 and adult contemporary radio charts by a remix with Hozier. The track topped the Adult Contemporary chart in September 2020 while peaking at No. 12 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. On Hot Country Songs, “The Bones” controlled the ranking for 19 weeks — the longest-running No. 1 by an un-accompanied female artist.

Bebe Rexha is still the overall queen in terms of weeks at No. 1 on the weekly Hot Country Songs chart, thanks to “Meant to Be,” her country and pop collaboration with duo Florida Georgia Line, leasing the penthouse for 50 weeks starting at the end of 2017 — the longest-running No. 1 in the chart’s history.

Also, “The Bones” became Morris’ fourth leader on Country Airplay where it dominated for two frames in February.

“The Bones” is the No. 2 Hot Country Songs title of 2020 behind singer-songwriter Gabby Barrett’s debut hit, “I Hope.” Barrett is Billboard’s top new artist of 2020 and No. 2 in the top female category. She ranks at No. 8 overall.

“I Hope” led the Country Airplay survey for a week in April and, supported by its remix with Charlie Puth, released that month, crossed to adult and pop radio.

Plus, with “The Bones” and “I Hope” in the top two positions as the top two Hot Country Songs titles of 2020, it marks the first time that women have taken the top two slots since Hot Country Songs transitioned to a hybrid airplay/streaming/sales chart in October 2012.

Also a first: Including Morris and Barrett, there are four female acts represented in the top 10 year-end Hot Country Songs chart for 2020: Maddie & Tae’s “Die From a Broken Heart” ranks at No. 8 and Carly Pearce and Lee Brice’s duet “I Hope You’re Happy Now” is No. 9.

Since 2012, when the list became a hybrid ranking, the previous high was in 2013 when three acts featuring women were in the year-end top 10: Blake Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here” featuring Pistol Annies and Friends was ranked at No. 3, Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift’s “Highway Don’t Care” (No. 6), and Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” (No. 8).

Dan + Shay Reigns as Top Duo/Group: 2020’s top country duo/group is Dan + Shay (Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney). The act finishes the year as the No. 10 overall country act.

The pair’s “10,000 Hours,” with Justin Bieber, is the No. 3 title on the Hot Country Songs year-end tally. “Hours” was written by Dan + Shay, Bieber, Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, Jessie Jo Dillon and Jordan Reynolds and produced by Smyers.

On the chart dated Jan. 25, 2020, “Hours” hit No. 1 on Country Airplay and led for two weeks. “Hours” marked the pair’s fourth consecutive No. 1. It was the act’s seventh-in-total Country Airplay chart-topper and the first for Bieber.

Meanwhile, “Hours’ reigned on Hot Country Songs for 21 weeks after blasting 40-1 in its second week on the tally dated Oct. 19, 2019.

Country Airplay’s No. 1 song of 2020 is Morgan Wallen’s “Chasin’ You,” which led the list dated May 23, 2020, for a week. Concurrently, it spent a full year on the survey after it debuted at No. 60 in August 2019. The song, which Wallen co-authored with Jamie Moore and Craig Wiseman, enjoyed 17 weeks inside the top 10 after arriving in the tier on April 11, when it hopped from 11-7.

Wallen, who records for Big Loud Records, places as the No. 2 artist in both the top overall category and male country artist tally. The 27-year-old, originally from Sneedville, Tenn., picked up the award for best new artist at the 2020 CMA Awards.

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