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Top 10 Country Artists of the 2000s (Based on No. 1 Hits)

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Compiling this list of the top 10 country artists of the 2000s wasn’t extremely difficult because those who made the list were head-and-shoulders above the rest in terms of No. 1 hits. Wherever there was a tie, I used the total number of top ten hits that artist had during the decade as the tie-breaker.

What struck me the most after viewing this list is that Carrie Underwood is the only woman on it. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Sugarland and Taylor Swift, two relatively new artists who easily would have made this list if they’d come onto the scene just a year or two earlier.

10. Brooks and Dunn

Rehearsals for Academy of Country Music Awards - Day 2
Kevin Winter / Staff/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
After failing to ignite the charts as solo artists in the ‘80s, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn teamed up as a duo in 1991, and they were an instant success. Their first five albums all went multi-platinum, setting the stage for Brooks and Dunn to become the most dynamic duo in country music history.

9. Carrie Underwood

Exploding onto the national landscape with her fourth season victory on American Idol, Carrie Underwood went straight into the studio to record her debut country album. Released in November 2005, Some Hearts went on to sell over seven million copies, becoming the fastest-selling debut country album in history.

8. George Strait

Referred to as the King of Country, George Strait burst onto the scene in 1981 after his debut album, Strait Country, yielded three top 20 hits. His sophomore album, Strait from the Heart, spawned four top ten singles, including his first two No. 1 hits. Strait has been nominated for more CMA and ACM awards than any other artist.

7. Alan Jackson

Arista Nashville
Alan Jackson’s big break in country music came after his flight attendant wife, Denise, bumped into Glen Campbell at an airport. She gave Campbell a demo of her husband’s songs, and Campbell hired Jackson to his publishing company. From 1991 through the end of 2009, Jackson has racked up 25 No. 1 hits.

6. Keith Urban

Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, Keith Urban first started learning the guitar at six. He won a number of talent contests in elementary school and eventually found chart-topping success with his music in Australia. Yet Nashville was always Urban’s ultimate goal because it was the home of the music he loved more than anything.

5. Tim McGraw

The tale of the tape for Tim McGraw says it all. By the end of 2009, his trophy case had 3 Grammys, 14 Academy of Country Music awards, 11 Country Music Association awards and 10 American Music awards. He has sold more than 40 million albums, and his 2006 Soul2Soul Tour with wife, Faith Hill , remains the highest grossing country music tour on record.

4. Rascal Flatts

Founded in Columbus, Ohio by Gary LeVox (lead vocals), Jay DeMarcus (bass, keyboards, vocals) and Joe Don Rooney (guitar, vocals), Rascal Flatts hit the ground running after their debut album, Rascal Flatts, went double-platinum. Their next three albums, Melt , Feels Like Today and Me and My Gang sold in excess of 13 million units, making them the most successful country group of the decade.

3. Brad Paisley

Arista Nashville
From 2000 to 2009, Brad Paisley won three Grammys, as well as three Male Vocalist Awards from both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. Beginning with his 1991 debut album, Who Needs Pictures , every album he released during the decade was certified gold or higher. Paisley notched an unprecedented string of 10 consecutive No. 1 country hits between 2005 and 2009.

2. Kenny Chesney

Unlike most of the stars on this list, Kenny Chesney was not an immediate success when he first hit the airwaves back in 1994. His climb to the top required hard work, perseverance and a great deal of patience. During the 2000s, Chesney was named Entertainer of the Year four times by the Country Music Association and three times by the Academy of Country Music.

1. Toby Keith

Show Dog Nashville
Much like Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith’s rise to the top of country music was one based on consistent workman-like effort and a real passion for his music. Keith is a gifted songwriter with a real knack for speaking to the common man. After nine years of very solid chart success, Keith’s career shot through the roof after the release of 2002’s patriotic anthem “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American).”
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