These are the true top seven country music artists

Any list of the top artists surely needs to reflect better those who are producing great country music album after album, year after year.

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Country music is in the headlines again with Beyonce and her new songs “16 Carriages” and “Texas Hold ‘Em." Her songs have opened the debate on what is country music and who are the top artists. Do those two singles make Beyonce a full-blown country music artist? Surely the answer is no. In which case the list of top country music artists needs a fresh look. 

In September 2023 Business Insider published a list of the top-selling country artists. It was based on the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported album sales figures. That list though seemed to be stretching the definition of who is a country music artist. It possibly overlooked some who fit the hat, boots, and country style far better. Here’s their top five. 

  1. Garth Brooks 
  2. Elvis Presley 
  3. George Strait
  4. Taylor Swift
  5. Neil Diamond

Business Insider does not seem to understand the meaning of the term country artist

But taking that point above about Beyonce, do all of those five really count as true country music stars?  The list includes artists who have country music roots or songs but were better known for pop or rock and roll. If the bulk of their sales came from non-country music, should they count for this ranking purpose? That's got to be a no. 

In this case, the revised and purer country music top-selling album artists would change. Brooks remains top for sure, whatever the definition. George Strait is still in the top five too. But Elvis, Taylor Swift, and Neil Diamond should be replaced.

The top seven country music artists

  1. Garth Brooks (162m)
  2. The Eagles (120m)
  3. George Strait (69.5m)
  4. Alabama (49m)
  5. Shania Twain (48m)
  6. Kenny Rogers (47.5m)
  7. Alan Jackson (44.5m)

The list is extended to seven places so that you can see the top five solo artists alongside the two groups.  Both The Eagles and Alabama have an element of rock within their music, but they both have country music at their core. The list now becomes a truer reflection of the top country music acts based on album sales. 

It’s still perhaps surprising that the likes of Dolly Parton (8.5m), Willie Nelson (31.5m) or maybe even Johnny Cash (23.5m) aren't included. Lower album sales (as shown) are the simple answer. In fact, there would be others, like Reba McEntire (41m) and Tim McGraw (40m) ahead of those legendary names.

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