Why Country Music Dominated 2023's Charts

Switched on Pop

14-11-2023 • 47 mins

Country music's had a massive year. Seriously, not since 1958 have we seen so many country tunes topping the Hot 100 in a single year – and it's not been without its share of controversy. Leading this country music revival? Morgan Wallen, for starters. He bounced back from being shunned for dropping a racial slur with his number one single “Last Night.” Then there's Jason Aldean with “Try That in a Small Town,” a song and music video that which unsubtly lynching references. Next up, newcomer Oliver Anthony Music dropped “Richmond North of Richmond,” weaving in QAnon references and welfare shaming into a track largely about government distrust. On a lighter but still contentious note, Luke Combs covered the mega 90s hit “Fast Car,” turning Tracy Chapman into the first black woman with a number one country hit. And let's not forget Zach Bryan and Kacey Musgraves' beautiful duet “I Remember Everything” about a past romance, which also climbed to the top. Many of these songs have just been nominated for Grammys, including “Last Night,” “Fast Car,” and “I Remember Everything.” When all this started happening, we were scratching our heads. Country songs topping the Hot 100? Sure, but not this many in quick succession. Something felt different. And we think we've finally figured it out after diving into Chris Molanphy's new book: Old Town Road. Chris, a music and charts critic, author of Slate’s Why Is This Song No. 1 column, and host of the excellent music podcast Hit Parade, explores country music's chart history in his latest book “Old Town Road,” part of Duke's Single Series. He zeroes in on Lil Nas X's 2018 “Old Town Road” and its 2019 Billy Ray Cyrus-amped remix as a case study. So, to get the lowdown on 2023's country chart toppers, we've got to rewind to 2018 and re-examine “Old Town Road” with Chris Molanphy's insights. SONGS DISCUSSED Lil Nas X - Old Town Road Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus - Old Town Road remix Morgan Waller - Last Night Jason Aldean - Try That In A Small Town Oliver Anthony Music - Rich Men North of Richmond Luke Combs - Fast Car Zach Bryan, Kacey Musgraves - I Remember Everything  Lil Nas X - Sonic Shit Nine Inch Nails - 34 Ghosts IV Billy Ray Cyrus - Achy Breaky Heart Luke Bryan - Light It Up Morgan Wallen - Thinking’ Bout Me Jason Aldean - Burnin’ It Down  DeFord Bailey - Fox Chase Carter Family - Can The Circle Be Unbroken  Bill Monroe - Mule Skinner Blues  Hank Williams - Wealth Won’t Save Your Soul  Ray Charles - You Are My Sunshine Pine Ridge Boys - You Are My Sunshine Patsy Cline - Crazy  Lionel Richie - Stuck On You  Blano Brown - The Git Up  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices