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Top 10 Best Modern Country Artists

VO: Matt Campbell
Script written by QV Hough Whether they’re traditional or millennial or just doing their own thing, all of these country musicians have become 21st century icons. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Modern Country Artists. For this list, it’s all about that sweet, sweet country music.. Special thanks to our user Austin Young for suggesting this idea, check out the voting page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/search/modern%20country%20artists
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Top 10 Modern Country Artists


Top 10 Modern Country Artists

Whether they’re traditional or millennial or just doing their own thing, all of these country musicians have become 21st century icons. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Modern Country Artists. 
For this list, it’s all about that sweet, sweet country music.. So even though Taylor Swift originally emerged in the genre, we’re excluding her based on her notable crossover to pop music. We will be focusing on acts that have released their most notable releases in the 2000s. Now, let’s get this hoedown started!

#10: Luke Bryan

Emerging on the scene with his 2007 debut I’ll Stay Me, this Georgia native later won Top New Artist at the Academy of Country Music Awards. While Luke Bryan’s commercial appeal and baritone vocals have made him a beloved figure within his genre, his third album Tailgates & Tanlines made him a star when it managed to reach #2 on the Billboard 200, thus introducing him to wider audience. Sure, the down home country vibe and soulful vocals complement each other quite well, but it’s the performance style of Bryan that really gets audiences fired up. Incidentally, he was named the ACM Entertainer of the Year in 2015, establishing a legacy in country music when it seems that he’s only just getting started. 

#9: Jason Aldean

This guy came out swinging from the start. In 2005, Jason Aldean’s self-titled debut not only led to a Top New Male Vocalist win at the ACM Awards, but the album sold over 1.5 million copies. Perhaps it’s the radio-friendly hits that has led to crossover success, but Aldean’s remarkable vocals and traditional themes that make him one of the more standout artists of his generation. While, for now, he seems to have peaked chart-wise with the massive success of 2010’s My Kinda Party, Aldean continues to rack up the accolades on a yearly basis while demonstrating his durability as the genre continues to evolve. 

#8: Lady Antebellum

Six albums into their career, Nashville based band Lady Antebellum continuously remain atop the country charts. Winning five Grammy’s in 2011 - led by the mega hit Need You Now - Lady Antebellum became an unmistakable part of a larger narrative in pop culture. It’s their existential love songs that often leave fans breathless at live shows, and only time will tell how the band will hold up down the road. But given the success of their first three #1 albums, Lady Antebellum has undoubtedly touched many in the country music community and beyond, making them one of the most important groups of their time.

#7: Miranda Lambert

Born and raised in Texas, this charismatic country gal earned a following while competing in the reality series “Nashville Star” back in 2003. Although she finished in third place, she gained enough clout to land a record deal, culminating with a modern country classic in Kerosene. Since then, she’s maintained a consistent presence on the charts, sparked by her enriching country twang and magnetic stage presence. And with 2014’s Platinum debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts, Miranda Lambert’s edgy yet evocative brand extended beyond her core genre.

#6: Kenny Chesney

In country music, it’s not uncommon for artists to release new material every couple of years, but this man has really been putting in the work. Four time winner of the ACM Entertainer of the Year award and four time winner of the CMA Entertainer of the Year award, Kenny Chesney was essentially the last great country icon before the digital age arrived. Of course, it’s that unmistakable Kenny Chesney tone that makes him perhaps the most bankable country artist of his time. Moreover, he’s a unique talent in that he retains a youthful presence on stage while conveying a sense of maturity through his words. Kenny knows to have a good time, but his experience within the industry lends weight to every line.  

#5: Blake Shelton

Certainly a man that has evolved from his early mullet years, Blake Shelton is also known for his brash personality. While his popularity grew immensely as a judge on NBC’s “The Voice”, he’s long been a legit country star, dating back to his 2001 self-titled debut. In comparison to musicians that balance the line between country and pop, Blake tends to lean heavily towards country. But in terms of performance and the art of vocal delivery, he’s a true pro. Given his excellence within his particular genre, aspiring country musicians take note of Blake’s advice, along with young artists from outside the country industry as well. 

#4: Tim McGraw

Already a country icon by the turn of the 21st century, this Louisiana native remains a major force in the music industry. Lyrically, Tim McGraw often touches on traditional country themes, with his poignant tone bringing weight to his lyrics. He’s an artist that oozes authenticity, and his resume exemplifies a man able to keep up with some of the younger and more pop-oriented artists. As the husband of fellow country artist Faith Hill, McGraw’s love songs connect on a deeper level with die-hard fans, as he conveys the natural demeanor of a guy conveying a sense of truth. Furthermore, his work ethic and reputation set the bar for emerging artists.

#3: Carrie Underwood

As the 2005 winner of “American Idol,” this singer transformed from a wide-eyed Oklahoma girl into one the first reality TV stars of the century. With the release of her first single “Jesus, Take the Wheel”, it became more than evident that Carrie Underwood had the chops to become a country legend. Year after year, she’s at the top of the charts, racking up a multitude of #1 hits while establishing herself as a beloved awards host alongside Brad Paisley. Considering the backstory of Carrie Underwood, fans understand her journey on a fundamental level, yet she continues to find new ways to show her audience something brand new. And perhaps most importantly, she’s stayed true to her country roots.

#2: Keith Urban

Born in New Zealand, this Australia-based crooner doesn’t exactly represent the traditional career arc of a typical country music artist. But with the release of 2002’s “Someone Like You”, Keith Urban infused an invigorating new sound into American country music. Image is certainly part of the equation for Keith Urban, and like Blake Shelton, he’s also developed new talent on reality TV. But at the core of Urban’s music is a lively energy that moved country in a new direction. Incidentally, Keith’s ethereal vocals are only enhanced by his masterful artistry on the guitar. He’s a transformative musician, one that respects the traditions of the genre while maintaining a fresh aesthetic all his own. 
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
Eric Church
Zac Brown Band
Chris Stapleton
Dierks Bentley
Rascal Flatts
Kacey Musgraves

#1: Brad Paisley

With his typical sense of humour, Brad Paisley’s iconic 2002 single “I’m Gonna Miss Her” launched him into the public eye and showcased both his artistry and endearing personality. Incidentally, it’s his easy-going vibe and traditional get-up that harkens back to the older days of the genre. But while Paisley’s natural charisma has played a role in his success, he’s managed to keep up with the times, adapting to the scene and evolving his craft. In turn, he’s inexplicably reached #1 time and time again with each new release. And as the trends of the genre continue to change, Paisley remains THE central figure of modern country music.
So, do you agree with our selections? Which country artist do you think has the most durability? For more twangy Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com. 
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