There are pretty much two big stories in “mainstream” country music so far in 2018: Chris Stapleton, and country-pop collaborations (Chris, Carrie, Maren,FGL,etc) impacting pop/all-genre charts.
Already in 2018, Chris achieved personal bests in pop (#9 on Billboard Hot 100 for “Say Something” with Justin Timberlake), country (#9 on Billboard country airplay), and Americana (“Midnight Train to Memphis” was #1 on the first two weeks of the Americana Music Association Singles chart, which debuted last month). This week, he became the first artist to achieve 1-2-3 on a Billboard country album weekly sales chart since Garth Brooks in 1992. The 1-2-3 also holds true for Billboard’s Americana chart.
Although Carrie Underwood’s current song with Ludacris isn’t to my taste, it is one of the highest-profile songs associated with a country artist so far this year. I did watch American Idol the year Carrie was a contestant, in part because of Bo Bice, an Alabama contestant she beat out. Bo left a job at a music store to compete on the show, and my first cousin filled the vacated position. Alabamian Taylor Hicks won the next year (2006). Taylor now hosts a cable food/travel show , and released a song last year that I included in a block of songs with numbers in the title: Six Strings and Diamond Rings
Carrie Underwood’s debut album in 2005 was an incredible success, recognized by Billboard as the top-selling country album that decade. One of the singles on that album was written by Morgane Stapleton (who also sang backup vocals): Don’t Forget to Remember Me As a fun bit of trivia, Carrie Underwood once voiced a character on Sesame Street: Carrie Underworm