As 2023 comes to a close, many outlets are taking a look back at the last 12 months in country music. Billboard has released year-end reports, according to scores compiled through Billboard Boxscore data, giving insight into the artists, songs, albums, and more that dominated the genre.
Surprisingly, the top ten country albums of 2023 were created by just four different artists. Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen, and Taylor Swift each boast three of the top ten albums, and Zach Bryan claims one to round out the group.
Of the top ten, let’s take a closer look at the four biggest country albums of 2023:
Coming in at number four is Taylor Swift’s Speak Now (Taylor’s Version). This is a re-release of her 2010 album, Speak Now. Swift has been gradually re-recording and releasing each of her prior studio albums as a countermeasure against the purchase of the masters of her music. The album contained reimagined versions of the old songs as well as a handful of never-before-released songs “from the vault.” The album broke the global Spotify record for the most single-day streams for an album in 2023.
In third place is Zach Bryan’s major-label debut album, American Heartbreak, which contains his hit single “Something in the Orange.” The album debuted at number five on the US Billboard 200, and on the day of its release, achieved the most streams of any country album in 2022 on both Spotify and Apple Music. Bryan said about the album:
“This album to me is all the trials we face day-in and day out and I wrote all the stories on it hoping someone, somewhere might relate or some kid might pick up an instrument and replicate it in an effort to be an artist. Some songs are sad, some are happy, some are hopeful and some are hopeless, all of them mean something different to me and I pray they mean something to someone else.”
Landing just shy of the first place spot is Dangerous: The Double Album, by Morgan Wallen. It was Wallen’s second studio album and even though it was originally released in January 2021, it was able to maintain major momentum for the two years following. Dangerous: The Double Album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, and in March of 2022, established the all-time record for the longest duration in the number one spot (97 weeks) on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. Wallen said:
“The ‘double album’ idea started off as just a joke between me and my manager because we had accumulated so many songs over the past couple of years. Then quarantine hit, and we realized it might actually be possible to have enough time to make it happen.”
And the top country album of 2023 goes to… Morgan Wallen, again! Wallen’s third studio album, One Thing at A Time, contains a whopping 36 tracks including “Last Night” which became the highest streamed song of 2023 across all genres. The album was preceded by a three-song sampler which was released in December 2022 and spent 16 weeks on the top of the charts. The full album, like the previous, debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200. Wallen explained that One Thing at A Time “brings together the musical influences that have shaped him as an artist – country, alternative, and hip-hop.”