Discussion: Billboard’s 2008 Year-End Charts

Earlier this week, Billboard announced the year-end charts in all musical genres. Billboard’s chart year runs from the first week of December (2007) to the last week of November (2008), and the country albums list provides an interesting commentary on the current state of the genre.  Below is the list of the 25 best-selling country albums of the year.

1. Long Road Out Of Eden, Eagles
2. Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift
3. Carnival Ride, Carrie Underwood
4. The Ultimate Hits, Garth Brooks
5. Still Feels Good, Rascal Flatts
6. Love On The Inside, Sugarland
7. Enjoy The Ride, Sugarland
8. Raising Sand, Robert Plant / Alison Krauss
9. Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates, Kenny Chesney
10. Reba Duets, Reba McEntire
11. Greatest Hits, Keith Urban
12. Troubadour, George Strait
13. Fearless, Taylor Swift
14. Good Time, Alan Jackson
15. American Man: Greatest Hits Volume II, Trace Adkins
16. 22 More Hits, George Strait
17. 5th Gear, Brad Paisley
18. 35 Biggest Hits, Toby Keith
19. Some Hearts, Carrie Underwood
20. Everything Is Fine, Josh Turner
21. Lucky Old Sun, Kenny Chesney
22. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Miranda Lambert
23. Sunset Man, James Otto
24. Living Hard, Gary Allan
25. Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum

*Eagles’ Long Road Out Of Eden sold 2,051,352 units in 2008. Underwood’s Some Hearts led the list in 2007 (2,288,319) and 2006 (3,721,786). As of November 30, 2008, Long Road Out Of Eden had sold 3,133,855 units.
*Thirteen of the 25 albums have sold over one million units.  Otto and Lady Antebellum are under 400,000 units.
*Sugarland’s Love on the Inside is the best-selling album released in 2008.  Only ten of the top 25 albums were issued in the chart year.  (Adkins, Chesney (Lucky Old Sun), Jackson, Keith (35 Biggest Hits), Lady Antebellum, Otto, Strait (22 More Hits), Strait (Troubadour), Sugarland (Love on the Inside), Swift (Fearless))
*On the albums list (counting Plant/Krauss as a combined act), 20 artists are included.  (Chesney, Strait, Sugarland, Swift and Underwood all have two entries.)
*Five of last year’s top ten albums are featured again on the 2008 list (Carnival Ride, Long Road Out Of Eden, Enjoy the Ride, Still Feels Good, Taylor Swift)
*Two 2006 discs (Enjoy the Ride, Taylor Swift).continued to sell well, and November 2005’s Some Hearts shows staying power.
*Only one new act (Lady Antebellum) cracked the top 25.
*The youngest artist on the list is Swift, 19. Plant, at 60, is the oldest.
*Taylor Swift owns both the youngest (Fearless, three weeks) and second-oldest (Taylor Swift, 111 weeks) albums on the chart.  Some Hearts reached #1 in November 2005 and has remained on the chart for 156 weeks.
*Swift’s self-titled debut album finished at #2 in 2008, a slight improvement from its third place finish last year.
*Eighteen albums debuted at #1 in 2008. Only Good Time, Troubadour, Lady Antebellum, Love on the Inside and Fearless are in the year-end Top 25.
*Ten albums on the chart were released by acts including one female member (Lady Antebellum, Lambert, McEntire, Plant/Krauss, Sugarland (2), Swift (2), Underwood (2)).
*Five greatest hits collections made the cut (Adkins, Brooks, Keith, Strait, Urban).
*Lambert’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, released in May 2007, finished #41 on the 2007 chart.  Her inclusion on several year-end critics’ lists (Rolling Stone, Village Voice, and Nashville Scene, among others), her ACM victory for Album of the Year and her first top ten single (“Gunpowder and Lead”) all boosted her sophomore set to gold status by the summer of 2008.
*All 2008 CMA Award winners are represented, while only two ACM victors are absent. (Best New Male Artist Jack Ingram and Top Vocal Duo Brooks & Dunn). Four of the five CMA Album of the Year nominees (Brooks & Dunn Cowboy Town) are included.
*For the first time since 1993, Tim McGraw failed to place in the year-end top 25 with either a studio album or greatest hits collection.
*Five albums are still included in the top ten of the current Billboard country album chart. (Carnival Ride, Fearless, Love on the Inside, Lucky Old Sun, Taylor Swift)

Questions? Comments?


  1. I always find the Billboard year-end chart a little confusing, since the sales of the Christmas season from the previous year skew the numbers so much. It will be interesting to see what the Jan-Dec numbers look like. I think last Christmas was the last hurrah for Some Hearts, and the Brooks and McEntire sets didn’t put up huge numbers this year.

  2. I still can’t understand for the life of me how the Eagles get classified as Country. It’s oldies/classic rock/soft rock. Taylor Swift gets a pair of boots loooonng before the Eagles.

  3. Marc,

    It’s country because they targeted country for their singles from that album. Still, given that logic, why isn’t Kid Rock’s “Rock And Roll Jesus” here?


  4. The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt have more to do with the contemporary sound of country music than most mainstream country acts from the same era.

    The connection was fully explored on the 1994 CMA Album of the Year winner, Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles, but even back in the seventies, they had a top ten country hit (“Lyin’ Eyes”) and were nominated for CMA Vocal Group of the Year.

    As far as the classification goes, when the album Long Road out of Eden was released, it was being promoted to country radio. Billboard’s a trade magazine for the industry, so their classifications are often based around what makes the most sense from that perspective.

    I find it interesting that after winning the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance last year, the Eagles submitted the album in the pop field. They did submit another track for consideration for Best Country Vocal Performance this year, but it didn’t make the cut.

  5. You have to give Taylor Swift props for having the 13th best selling country album of the year. It was released in what, mid November?

    This list also demonstrates how hard it is for new acts to sell big these days. That’s fairly established and very radio-friendly bunch.

  6. @Lynn:

    Swift’s Fearless was released on November 11 and just passed the one-million mark in sales. That album is the early favorite to finish #1 in the 2009 chart cycle, and I see it selling about two million copies next year.

    As mentioned, Lady A is the only new act to crack the list, and no artist who debuted in 2007 was on this chart.

  7. Matt B., makes sense, maybe we can get 50 Cent to do an album full of “country” to sit on the “Country Charts” as “Country Music” too :P

  8. Did anyone notice a couple of those ‘facts’ were wrong?

    *Three 2006 discs continued to sell well, all landing in the top 20. (Enjoy the Ride, Some Hearts, Taylor Swift).

    ‘Some Hearts’ was released in November 2005.

    *Taylor Swift owns both the youngest (Fearless, three weeks) and oldest (Taylor Swift, 111 weeks) albums on the chart.

    ‘Some Hearts’ is still older.

    That just annoyed me.

  9. Interesting list. Regarding Kid Rock, what does that way for the industry when Kid Rock’s All Summer Long has a good possibility to be the top country song of the year? That thing was played so much and I wouldn’t even classify it as country. It was more pop than anything else. Nice to see the Horizon Award winners on the list though. I really hope they go far since they were probably my favorite new group this year.

  10. @Beth: Errors fixed. Thanks. Some Hearts just slipped my mind.

    Some Hearts, released on November 15, 2005, remained on the Billboard 200 Albums chart for 137 weeks, ranking 2nd behind only Shania Twain’s Come On Over (151 weeks) for longevity in the last ten years. That album is at 6.6 or 6.7 million copies right now.

  11. @Chris D., Enjoy The Ride has spent much of the past year in the top 10 of the album chart, even after the release of Love On The Inside. Nice run-down of the list though.

    And thanks for clarifying that this list is indeed based on sales …

  12. Thanks for fixing that, Blake! I hope it wasn’t too much trouble for you. :)

    I originally thought Billboard wrote that, and I was like ‘woah, we have a problem!’

  13. @Beth: I would’ve loved Billboard’s fact-checkers on the article. :) At least it allowed me to expound more on the remarkable streak of Some Hearts. In today’s market, the numbers are impressive. In the next year, I would expect her to hit seven million.

  14. Some hearts has already surpassed 7x platinum in May 08′ and has still been selling since.

    If Taylor “Fearless” is #1 in 09′ it will be a long year for country music fans. That just means there won’t be alot of good music next year.

    Does everyone just over look Miranda or what, I just wish she would shoot up the charts as she should. She needs a real label boost.

    Excited to see what Shania brings to the table in 09′.

    I have had way to much and enough Kenny.

  15. @vp: Some Hearts is 7-times platinum, correct, but that represents 7,000,000 units distributed to retail outlets by the record company. Actual sales are around 6.6 million, but I expect 7 million won’t be too difficult.

  16. I’m super happy Lady A cracked the top 25…kinda surprised James Otto ranked higher than them. But still yay for Lady A! They are definitely my favorite new group of the year! I’m also glad to see Josh Turner on the list! I wouldn’t pick him to be in the 25 considering radio hasn’t been that great to him recently…so good for him too!!

  17. I agree with Kevin’s take on The Eagles and their influence on Country music. They are foundational to the modern Country-rock sound. I’ve told people for a few years now that the best Rock music can be found in the Country format, and I think the Eagles had a lot to do with that.

    And as Kevin indicated, Travis Tritt, Clint Black, Trisha Yearwood and others honored their country-rock roots with “Common Thread” an album of Eagles covers. And I agree about Linda Ronstadt as well…She was a huge influence on Trisha Yearwood and Patty Loveless, among others.

    Brad Paisley kind of alluded to Eagle’s influence on the CMAs when he basically called them “well diggers”..

    And with songs like Lying Eyes, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Take It Easy, Tequila Sunrise, New Kid In Town, and that whole 2nd album, the Desperado Doolin-Dalton cowboy album they did,… I’m glad the Eagles are finally ADMITTING they are Country!

    Any of those songs, plus the amazing “How Long” would actually be among the most Country sounding songs on Country radio if they were re-released today.

  18. Oh, and “Already Gone” was real Country sounding….

    We need more high-flyin’ harmonies, Eagles style in Country music today!

  19. Astute observation, Steve. I think Sugarland’s music just drips with Eagles influences – especially harmony-laden tracks such as ‘Already Gone’ and ‘Genevieve’ from their Love On The Inside album.

  20. As Kevin noted: “The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt have more to do with the contemporary sound of country music than most mainstream country acts from the same era.”

    That’s true and that’s why Country music is overrun with acts such as Rascal Flatts, Jessica Simpson, Emerson Road and other such mediocre pablum. While I think that Ronstadt has exerted some positive influence on the genre, the influence of the Eagles has been essentially negative. The Eagles output of the 1970s and 1980s was nihilistic crap. Their new album, which I have heard since someone gave it to me as a present, is somewhat better but still nothing outstanding.

    Acts that have the Eagles as their sole or primary influence I find unlistenable. Acts that use them for flavoring, along with the influences of Buck Owens. Merle Haggard, etc usually produce better music.

    I understand “different strokes for different folks” and I listen to a lot of non-country music but if I could eliminate the Eagles from the musical scene of the 70s and start over, I suspect today’s Country Music would be considerably better and a lot less vapid and pretentious

  21. Fear not, vp – there will always be good country music being made – you just won’t find it played on FM country radio. There are artists around who are every bit the equal of Loretta Lynn, Eddy Arnold or Johnny Paycheck. You just need to look around to find them

    Listen to some of the sample clips on http://www.cdbaby.com. Modern real country is out there, but it’s being issued on indy labels or is being self-produced

  22. JR Journey, Thanks for the compliment..

    Paul, I cant believe you blame the Eagles for Jessica Simpson, and Rascall Flatts.

    They sound NOTHING like the Country-sounding songs that I listed by the Eagles in post #18…

    And you conveniently overlook the New Traditionalist artists like Clint Black who participated in the “Common Thread” album…I think the artists who contributed to that album are a far better reflection of the influence of the Eagles, than are Jessica Simpson and Rascall Flatts…are you kidding me?!

    I think you are placing blame in the wrong direction for much of today’s vapid sounding “country” music. I believe the blame lies in the excessive Pop influence, not the Country-Rock influence…and the Pop influence can be traced back to Shania, Faith and Martina in the nineties, as well as to the country-pop lounge singers of the eighties and seventies. But at least the three ladies I mentioned have given us some high-quality Pop-Country.

    No, I think whenever Country is mixed with Rock and Blues it is a good thing..That gives us wonderful music from folks like Patty Loveless (especially her early Honky Tonk sound, but dang, I love Patty’s Mountain and Traditional sound too!), Trisha Yearwood’s recent Bluesy stuff, and even edgier folks like Hayes Carll, Jamey Johnson, James Otto, and the early stuff of Big$Rich.

    It is when Country becomes overly diluted with Pop that it becomes vapid and amorphous.

    And I stand by my earlier statement…the Eagles “How Long” with its long notes and high-flyin’ harmonies sounds far more Country than much of what’s on “country” radio today, including the folks you mentioned.

  23. “For the first time since 1993, Tim McGraw failed to place in the year-end top 25 with either a studio album or greatest hits collection.”

    Wow, Curb is really torpedoing his career.

  24. Paul, getting back to the Eagles…I gave it some more thought and I guess it’s WHICH Eagles’ influence one is referring to…

    I have to admit, that I can hear a connection between “Best of My Love” and “Take it to the Limit” to the music of Rascall Flatts…

    But that’s not what I think of when I think of the Eagles…to me the Eagles more characteristic sound is reflected in Take it Easy and the other songs I mentioned in post #18.

    And from their current album, “How Long” vs. “Busy Being Fabulous” …Busy Being Fabulous ain’t all that fabulous, to my ears anyway.

    “How Long” is amazingly reminiscent of their truer Country sound like the “Already Gone” etc.

  25. I think Linda Ronstadt influenced a generation of female country singers, many that were clearly not in her league. Ronstadt recorded a lot of authentic country music, but the part that was appropriated by most country singers was the belting and the rocking. While I can certainly see her influence on Patty Loveless, especially after seeing Patty in concert recently, Loveless already had a firm footing in authentic country music. Today’s singers are more influenced by Faith Hill types, and mostly what I hear are pop singers being marketed as country. I don’t see today’s pop/country divas turning out albums that compare with Heart Like a Wheel, Prisoner in Disguise, Feels Like Home, or even Hand Sown.. Home Grown– at least not the ones that are getting radio exposure.

  26. I agree Partidge…Patty acknowledges Linda Ronstadt as one of her major influences, along with George Jones and the Stanley Brothers among others.

    One can especially hear Linda’s influence on Patty in her performance of the duet she did with Dwight Yoakam “Send a Message to My Heart”…

    But I would say that Linda’s almost in Patty’s league when it comes to singing good Country music, rather than the converse….Linda may be more versatile when covering other genres though.

    That’s great you saw Patty in concert…I saw her for the first time this year in Morristown NJ, she did 20 great songs altogether, (more than some younger headliners) but I thought the absolute highlight was her six song sub-set of Sleepless Nights songs.. she NAILED them, sounding even better than the record…especially her closer/encore of Cold Cold Heart… For many reasons, this was the best concert by any artist that I ever saw!

    But with regard to Linda’s influence on modern Country, I agree with your main point that most of the ladies nowadays sound more like Faith Hill than Linda Ronstadt. With the another exception however, the amazing Trisha Yearwood. Trisha also lists Linda Ronstadt as one of her musical heroes, and does her justice!

  27. Allmusic has now released their 2008 album top list. As one commenter pointed out, a lot of greatest hits/reissues.. but some interesting choices and obvious omissions too. (No Patty).

    You can find it here

  28. COMMON THREAD was one of those industry get-togethers in which artists assemble to fawn over other artists. No doubt some of the artists on COMMON THREAD regard the Eagles as a primary influence, but for others that is pure B.S.

    Blues have always been an influence in country music dating back to Jimmie Rodgers. Ernest Tubb and Gene Autry were using the blues in their music long before any of the Eagles were born. Rock, however, is a pollutant in country music, kind of like using cigar ashes for flavoring in a recipe.

    The pop divas of the 90s (Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Martina McBride, were listening more to the Eagles than to Webb Pierce or Buck Ownes , so yes, I can blame the Jessica Simpsons on the Eagles, if only indirectly.

    That “Lying Eyes”, “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “Take It Easy”, “Tequila Sunrise” and “New Kid In Town” would be considered among the the most country sounding music on radio today simply tells you how far downhill the commercial genre has slid. Other than “Peaceful Easy Feeling” most of their songs received very little country airplay at the time they were released, except perhaps on the left coast

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