Top 10 Country Music News Stories Of 2023 [RANKED]

Take a look back at the biggest country music news stories of 2023.

2023 was a huge year for country music. From marriages, record-breaking song and album releases, and jaw-dropping performances to controversy, boycotts and triumphant stage returns, the genre saw its share of history made during the past twelve months.

We’ve rounded up our 10 biggest news stories of the year, and threw in some honorable mentions for good measure. See our list below.

10. Maren Morris Quits Country Music

Maren Morris/YouTube

In mid-September, Maren Morris indicated that she was leaving country music behind. She told the LA Times that she has long felt distanced from the genre and the politics she feels it represents.

“I thought I’d like to burn it to the ground and start over,” Morris told the outlet of country music. “But it’s burning itself down without my help.”

She later clarified her remarks during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. When asked if she was leaving country music, Morris responded:

“No, no, no. I’m taking the good parts with me and all are welcome. But, yeah, there were just some facets of it that I didn’t really jibe with anymore. So, I’m a lot happier now.”

Read the full story HERE.

9. Carrie Underwood Brings Out Axl Rose For Epic “Welcome To The Jungle” Duet

Jeff Johnson Images

During a March stop on her Denim & Rhinestones Tour, Carrie Underwood surprised fans by inviting Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose on stage. The pair teamed up to cover GNR’s 1987 hit “Welcome To The Jungle.”

Carrie has long been a fan of rock music and incorporates covers into each of her concerts. Axl’s surprise tour appearance wasn’t the first time the rock legend joined Underwood on stage. Axl had previously joined the American Idol champ during her 2022 set at Stagecoach to sing “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

YouTube video

Watch Carrie and Axle sing “Welcome To The Jungle” HERE.

8. Chris Stapleton Made Grown Men Cry With Super Bowl National Anthem Performance

Singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl isn’t for the faint of heart. Artists either dream of having the honor or hope they’re never asked. The pressure is real.

But, country superstar Chris Stapleton had nothing to worry about as he stood center field with his guitar in hand to kick off Super Bowl LVII in February. As he sang, cameras panned the faces of players and coaches, many of whom were seen with tears in their eyes.

Perhaps the most touching moment was when the camera settled on the face of Eagles head coach, Nick Sirianni, who made no effort to hide the tears running down his face.

Philadelphia Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni cries as Chris Stapleton sing the national anthem.
NFL/YouTube

Watch Chris Stapleton’s memorable national anthem performance HERE.

7. Miranda Lambert Stops Concert To Call Out Distracting Fans

During a summer concert at Planet Hollywood’s Bakkt Theater in Las Vegas, Miranda Lambert stopped mid-song to call out some fans in the crowd.

The singer had just began singing her 2016 hit “Tin Man” when she abruptly stopped, apologized to her band then turned her attention to some women near the stage.

“I’m gonna stop right here for a second, I’m sorry. These girls are worried about their selfie and not listening to the song. It’s pissing me off a little bit,” Miranda said. “I don’t like it. At all. We’re here to hear some country music tonight. I’m singing some country d*** music.”

Miranda’s reaction was equally praised and criticized by fans. Some called her “mean-spirited” and threatened to boycott future concerts, but others thought she had done the right thing by calling out the distracting fans. See the moment unfold HERE.

6. Iam Tongi Delivers Emotional American Idol Finale Performance

American Idol/YouTube

Moments before being named the winner of American Idol Season 21, Iam Tongi was joined on stage by James Blunt to sing Blunt’s heartbreaking song “Monsters.”

Tongi sang the tune in honor of his dad during his Idol audition, and managed to keep the tears at bay. But he couldn’t contain his emotion when it was time for him to perform it during the season finale. With emotions running high, the pressure of the finale on his shoulders, and memories of his dad at the front of his mind, Tongi’s tears flowed as he struggled to make it through the song.

RELATED: THE STORY BEHIND “MONSTERS,” THE SONG THAT HAD IDOL AUDIENCE IN TEARS

The camera scanned the audience and Jelly Roll could be seen with tears streaming down his face as he sat next to Iam’s mother. Once again the judges were crying, with Katy Perry barely keeping it together.

Watch the emotional performance HERE.

5. “Yellowstone” Announces That Season 5 Will Be Its Last

CBS Sunday Morning / YouTube

After months of rumors, Paramount announced that the fifth season of “Yellowstone” was going to be its last. The record-breaking cable television drama aired its midseason finale in January and was supposed to return with the second half of Season 5 this summer. But personal issues and a passion project for lead actor Kevin Costner led him to end his run on the show. Instead of continuing the series without him, creator Taylor Sheridan chose to end the series.

The show is reportedly scheduled to finish filming in the spring of 2024 and will air later in the year.

Read more about this story HERE.

4. Kid Rock Reacts To New Bud Light Can

Kid Rock reacts to Bud Light's Dylan Mulvaney can
Kid Rock / Instagram

Without officially calling for a boycott, Kid Rock’s reaction to a Bud Light can sparked one of the largest outcries against a company than we’ve seen in recent years.

After transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney promoted a partnership with Bud Light in early April, Kid Rock reacted by shooting up cases of the beer and delivering an explicit message to the company. The musician never called for fans to retaliate or boycott Bud Light or its parent company, Anheuser-Busch. But the attention he brought to Mulvaney’s partnership with Bud Light sparked outrage and resulted in a boycott that had a major impact on the company’s status as America’s favorite beer.

Watch Kid Rock’s reaction to Bud Light’s partnership with Dylan Mulvaney HERE.

3. Jason Aldean Sparks Controversy With “Try That In A Small Town”

Jason Aldean found himself as the target of racist allegations following the summer release of the music video for his song “Try That In A Small Town.”

Critics claimed that the song and video promote gun violence and condemns the Black Lives Matter movement. Others who oppose Aldean’s outspoken conservative views made accusations calling “Try That In a Small Town” a “modern lynching song.”

Those claims were partly due to the video being filmed in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, where numerous incidents of racially motivated violence took place a century ago. Despite the backlash, “Try That In A Small Town” shot to the top of the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart, giving the singer his first No. 1 on that chart.

Read more about this Jason Aldean story HERE.

2. Unknown Artist Oliver Anthony Dominates Charts With Blue Collar Anthem

2023 saw the launch of Oliver Anthony Music who went from an unknown blue collar worker from West Virginia to a household name within a matter of days. The artist, whose real name is Christopher Lunsford, released a video for his self-penned tune, “Rich Men North Of Richmond.”

The politically charged song became one of the biggest viral hits of the year and thrust Lunsford into the spotlight. Part of the artists appeal is his outspokenness and unwillingness to cave to the pressures of the music business. He made history as the first artist to ever debut atop Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100 chart without any previous chart placement.

“Rich Men North Of Richmond” has more than 100 million views on YouTube to date, and Lunsford recently celebrated a milestone on the platform when he welcomed his 1 millionth follower.

Read more about Oliver Anthony Music’s incredible success story HERE.

1. Toby Keith Delivers First Televised Performance Since Cancer Diagnosis

Mickey Bernal/NBC via Getty Images

In late September, roughly two years after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, Toby Keith took the stage at the inaugural People’s Choice Country Awards. Keith was on-hand to accept the Country Icon award and stayed on stage to perform “Don’t Let The Old Man In.”

Toby’s appearance marked his first televised performance since his diagnosis, and is arguably the single most emotional and exciting country music moment of 2023. Fans rejoiced to see Toby back on stage and showed their support by sending “Don’t Let The Old Man In” to the top of the Country Digital Song Sales chart. It marked Toby’s second No. 1 on that chart, and his first in more than a decade.

Watch Toby Keith’s performance of “Don’t Let The Old Man In” at the PCCAs HERE.

Other stories that had a profound impact on country music news in 2023 include the deaths of Lisa Marie Presley and Jimmy Buffet.

Lisa Marie Presley, the only daughter of Elvis Presley, died in January at the age of 54. TMZ was the first to report that paramedics responded to Presley’s Calabasas, California, home and performed CPR after she went into “full cardiac arrest.” Presley was transported to a local hospital after showing “signs of life” following CPR. She died at the hospital shortly after.

Read more about Lisa Marie Presley’s death HERE.

Jimmy Buffet died “peacefully” in September at the age of 76. The “Margaritaville” singer had been privately fighting cancer for four years prior to his death.

Sources close to Buffett told the TMZ that he had been diagnosed with skin cancer four years ago and that it turned into lymphoma which ultimately led to his death. Another friend shared, “He lived his life in the sun, literally and figuratively.”

Read more about Jimmy Buffet’s death HERE.

RELATED: FOOTAGE RELEASED OF JIMMY BUFFET’S FINAL PERFORMANCE 

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