Country Music in the 2010s: A Look Back at the Biggest Artists, Moments + More
The 2010s are just about over, and they've given country music fans plenty of spectacular music to hear. The country sounds of this decade fall all across the spectrum of what the genre can be: strong, traditional-sounding voices; new, progressive songwriters; pop-, hip-hop- and EDM-influenced acts; and more.
Read on for more from the second decade of the new millennium.
Country Music Milestones of the 2010s
Jan. 1, 2010: Jimmy Wayne begins his 1,700-mile Meet Me Halfway Walk, from Nashville, Tenn., to Phoenix, Ariz., to raise awareness about youth aging out of the foster care system. He finished the walk on Aug. 1, with a broken foot, and after learning during the trek that he'd been dropped from his record label.
Jan. 26, 2010: Lady Antebellum release their sophomore album, Need You Now. The record spawned three No. 1 singles, including its title track, which remains the biggest-selling single of the trio's career.
Jan. 31, 2010: Taylor Swift sets a Grammy Awards record. With her all-genre Album of the Year victory for her sophomore album, Fearless, the then-20-year-old became the youngest country artist, and youngest act of any genre, to ever win Album of the Year at the Grammys.
April 16, 2010: Alan Jackson earns a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was joined at the event by his wife Denise and three daughters, Mattie, Ali and Dani.
April 18, 2010: Carrie Underwood becomes the first woman in the history of the ACM Awards to win ACM Entertainer of the Year twice. Her first victory in that category came in 2009.
May 3, 2010: Chely Wright comes out as gay. She was one of the first mainstream country acts to do so.
Sept. 2, 2010: Brooks & Dunn play their final concert, after announcing in 2009 that they were splitting up. In 2015, the duo reunited for an ongoing Las Vegas residency with McEntire, Reba, Brooks & Dunn: Together in Vegas, and in 2019, they released a new album, Reboot, featuring their biggest hits turned into duets with rising stars.
Sept. 28, 2010: The Grand Ole Opry House re-opens following Nashville's May 2010 flood. The venue needed to undergo extensive repairs and renovations following a 13-inch rainfall on May 1-2, 2010, which caused the Cumberland River to overflow.
Dec. 13, 2010: The Band Perry earn their first No. 1 single. "If I Die Young" was the second single from the sibling trio's debut album, and was written by Kimberly Perry.
Feb. 8, 2011: Thompson Square release their debut album. Thompson Square includes the first chart-topping hit for the married duo, made up of Kiefer and Shawna Thompson, "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not."
April 26, 2011: The Voice premieres on NBC. Blake Shelton has been one of the show's four coaches since that inaugural season.
May 25, 2011: Scotty McCreery wins American Idol. Lauren Alaina places second.
June 2, 2011: Shania Twain receives her Hollywood Walk of Fame star. Twain's star was unveiled by President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Leron Gubler and model and actress Bo Derek.
June 22, 2011: Glen Campbell reveals his Alzheimer's disease diagnosis. The music icon continued with his plans to embark on a farewell tour, playing his final show on Nov. 30, 2012. He lived with the disease for a number of years, progressing through its stages, before dying on Aug. 8, 2017.
July 26, 2011: Eric Church releases Chief. His third studio album, the record contains his massive hit "Springsteen" and sent Church to a new level of success.
Aug. 6, 2011: The Oak Ridge Boys join the Grand Ole Opry. The country quartet's induction came more than 70 years after the original version of the quartet (then known as the Oak Ridge Quartet) first appeared on the hallowed stage.
Aug. 13, 2011: The stage collapses at the Indiana State Fair, moments before Sugarland were scheduled to perform, killing seven people and injuring dozens more. Although the cause of the stage's collapse was later determined to be due, at least in part, to poor assembly, several lawsuits were filed against Sugarland following the tragedy, since their contract gave them the final say on whether or not to cancel the show; one mass lawsuit filed involved 44 survivors and family members of four of the seven deceased. More than two and a half years after the lawsuit was filed, Sugarland, along with Live Nation and 16 other defendants, settled out of court for $39 million; the State of Indiana paid $11 million to victims as well.
Oct. 8, 2011: Rascal Flatts are inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Little Jimmy Dickens helped do the honors.
January 2012: Dustin Lynch releases his debut single, "Cowboys and Angels." Josh Leo and Tim Nichols co-wrote the track.
July 16, 2012: Florida Georgia Line sign with Republic Nashville. The duo has gone on to superstardom, ever since setting a Billboard Hot Country Songs chart record with their debut single, "Cruise."
Sept. 6, 2012: Vince Gill earns a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Gill was joined for his Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony by his wife, Amy Grant, along with his daughter, Jenny Gill, producer Tony Brown and longtime friend (and fellow Oklahoma native) Reba McEntire.
Sept. 26, 2012: George Strait announces his retirement from touring. The King of Country Music's The Cowboy Rides Away Tour kicked off in January of 2013 and ran through June of 2014. Strait has since returned to the stage, playing concerts here and there and mounting a Las Vegas residency, but he has not toured on a larger scale.
Oct. 10, 2012: Nashville premieres on ABC. The TV drama ran on the network for four seasons, then was picked up by CMT for an additional two seasons following its cancellation by ABC.
March 19, 2013: Kacey Musgraves releases Same Trailer Different Park. The Texas native co-produced the record with Luke Laird and Shane McAnally; the latter also co-wrote the bulk of the album with her, although Josh Osborne ("Silver Lining") and Brandy Clark ("Follow Your Arrow") also get several songwriting credits each.
April 6, 2013: George Jones performs his final concert, at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tenn. Shortly after the show, the country legend entered the hospital, where he remained until he passed away 20 days later, on April 26, 2013.
May 19, 2013: Trace Adkins wins the sixth season of The Celebrity Apprentice. The country star qualified to be on the show after finishing second to Piers Morgan in the first season of The Celebrity Apprentice; this time around, however, Adkins beat magician Penn Jillette to earn the victory.
May 21, 2013: Kellie Pickler wins Season 16 of Dancing With the Stars. She and dancing partner Derek Hough received perfect 30-point scores on all three of their final dances.
May 31, 2013: Cassadee Pope releases her debut country single, "Wasting All These Tears." The former lead singer of pop-punk band Hey Monday, Pope won Season 3 of The Voice in 2012.
June 18, 2013: Danielle Bradbery wins The Voice Season 4. At the time, she was the youngest competitor to win the TV singing competition.
July 7, 2013: Randy Travis is taken to Baylor Medical Center in McKinney, Texas, while suffering from viral cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure. He was transferred to The Heart Hospital at Baylor in Plano and had begun to show signs of improvement when he suffered a stroke, which required emergency surgery, on July 10.
Aug. 23, 2013: Linda Ronstadt reveals she has Parkinson's disease. She was officially diagnosed with Parkinson's in early 2013, but had been having trouble with her voice for years before that.
April 10, 2014: Linda Ronstadt is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She doesn't attend, due to illness.
July 10, 2014: Garth Brooks announces that he's coming out of retirement to release new music and embark on a tour. His three-year World Tour began in September of 2014 and ran until December of 2017.
Oct. 27, 2014: Taylor Swift releases 1989, her first pure-pop project. The record quickly goes platinum and launches Swift's career to another level.
May 2015: Radio consultant Keith Hill begins "tomatogate" by comparing country music's female artists to tomatoes in a salad. He receives criticism from throughout the industry, including from a number of artists.
June 22, 2015: Kelsea Ballerini's debut single, "Love Me Like You Mean It," hits No. 1. She's the first woman to top the charts with her debut single since Carrie Underwood did so in 2006.
July 18, 2015: Little Big Town's "Girl Crush" breaks the record for weeks at No. 1 on the country charts for a song by a group of three or more members. The song caused controversy when released due to its lyrics.
July 20, 2015: Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton announce their divorce. The couple had been married for four years.
Aug. 3, 2015: Reba McEntire reveals that she is separating from her husband and manager, Narvel Blackstock. Their divorce was finalized by the end of the year.
Sept. 25, 2015: Kenny Rogers announces that he's retiring. In the spring of 2018, health issues officially took the country icon off the road.
November 2015: Eric Church surprise-releases Mr. Misunderstood. Unannounced, Church Choir fan club members began receiving the new music digitally and through the mail; Church officially announced and explained the project at the 2015 CMA Awards on Nov. 4.
Nov. 4, 2015: Chris Stapleton's star quickly rises following his performance with Justin Timberlake during the 2015 CMA Awards. That night, Stapleton -- then still relatively unknown -- won Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and New Artist of the Year as well.
Jan. 26, 2016: Thomas Rhett's "Die a Happy Man" spends its sixth week at No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart. Rhett is the first artist to reach that milestone since Taylor Swift did it with "Our Song" in 2007.
June 1, 2016: The Dixie Chicks launch the North American leg of their DCX MMXVI World Tour. The tour is the Chicks' first in the U.S. in a decade.
April 3, 2017: Luke Bryan hits No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart with his single "Fast." The song makes him the first-ever artist to earn six No. 1 singles from the same album.
April 11, 2017: Alabama's Jeff Cook reveals that he has Parkinson's disease. Due to the diagnosis, Cook officially retires from touring with the trio.
May 11, 2017: Loretta Lynn suffers a stroke. She postpones numerous concerts, as well as the release of her album Wouldn't It Be Great.
June 2017: Sam Hunt's "Body Like a Back Road" spends its 20th week at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart. The song spends a total of 34 weeks at the top of the chart, making Hunt the solo artist with the longest run there -- and, until August of 2018, the artist with the longest time spent at No. 1 on that chart, period.
Aug. 14, 2017: Taylor Swift wins her lawsuit vs. former Denver radio DJ David Mueller. Mueller had originally sued Swift, claiming that her allegations that he groped her during a 2013 meet and greet cost him his job, and she counter-sued. A jury determined that Swift was, indeed, groped by Mueller, and found that Swift's mother Andrea and her radio rep, Frank Bell, did not interfere with Mueller's employment at Denver radio station KYGO-FM. The jury awarded Swift the symbolic $1 she asked for in her countersuit; they awarded Mueller nothing.
Sept. 8, 2017: Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry dies in a helicopter crash in New Jersey. Gentry was riding in the helicopter at the Medford-area venue where he and duo partner Eddie Montgomery were scheduled to perform that night; according to 9-1-1 audio, the helicopter was experiencing "mechanical issues" prior to crashing, and went down as emergency crews arrived at the scene.
Oct. 1, 2017: A gunman opens fire on the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nev., during Jason Aldean's headlining, festival-closing set. Fifty-eight people died and hundreds more were injured in what is the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the U.S.
July 25, 2018: Reba McEntire is announced as a 2018 Kennedy Center Honors recipient. She officially received the recognition in December.
Nov. 20, 2018: Jimmie Allen's "Best Shot" hits No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart. He is the first black artist to top that chart with his debut single.
Feb. 10, 2019: Kacey Musgraves takes home all four of the Grammy Awards for which she was nominated, including the all-genre Album of the Year honor.
March 2019: Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" gains traction on the TikTok app, debuts at No. 19 on the Hot Country Songs chart, then is removed from chart consideration for not being "country enough," per Billboard. However, the rapper and Billy Ray Cyrus' remix of Lil Nas X's original becomes a megahit, setting a record for most weeks at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 in late July.
April 14, 2019: Hal Ketchum's wife uses Facebook to announce that her husband has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and will be retiring.
April 16, 2019: Kelsea Ballerini becomes the youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry.
The Best of Country Music in the 2010s
Top 10 Country and Americana Music Videos of the 2010s: The best country music videos of this decade defy categorization. The 2010s' country music videos run the gambit from somber to soulful to side-splittingly hilarious.
Top 10 Country Songs of the 2010s: From heart-tugging ballads to tunes that make their listeners want to dance, the best country songs of the 2010s make us proud -- really proud -- to be fans of country music.
10 Best Country and Americana Live Acts of the 2010s: If you were a country fan in the 2010s, chances are that some of these artists were on your must-see-live list. These performers shone onstage: They captivated audiences big and small, set new touring records and redefined the possibilities of what a live show could be.
Top 10 Country Albums of the 2010s: The years since 2010 have given fans everything from early-career, still-country-but-a-little-pop Taylor Swift to the moody, atmospheric songs of Sturgill Simpson -- not to mention the wide range of sounds in between.
5 Underrated Country and Americana Albums of the 2010s: these picks work because they are mainstream successes that have aged mighty well, were overlooked as a one-hit album, and are a couple of reminders of the less obvious music to be found from a decade misinterpreted as a "bro-country" wasteland.
Top 10 Country Artists of the 2010s: The contrast in artists influenced by pop, rock and other styles of music and the crop of dedicated traditionalists maintaining the classic country sound has helped create the biggest and most diverse audience that country music has ever seen.
The 10 Most Unforgettable Country Music Moments of the 2010s: My oh my, how things change in a decade. The 2010s were chock full of unforgettable country music moments: From comebacks to retirements; from exciting debuts to heartbreaking losses, it was a busy 10 years.