It was, by all accounts, a very good year to be Eric Church, Jason Aldean or Luke Bryan. But which of them was the year's top country artist overall? It depends on which year-end chart statistics you consult.
Church, whose The Outsiders garnered four Grammy nominations, had the best-selling album of 2014, according to year-to-date Nielsen Soundscan figures, and the LP was Billboard's Number Four country album of the year (on a chart that's topped by three 2013 releases). Selling an impressive 288,000 copies in its debut week back in February, the collection continues to make an impact, having taken home the award for Album of the Year at this week's first-ever American Country Countdown Awards. The Outsiders has since been certified platinum, for sales in excess of one million. Church's Outsiders World Tour, with openers Dwight Yoakam and Halestorm, has, according to Pollstar, sold an impressive 382,112 tickets over 33 shows.
Jason Aldean's Old Boots, New Dirt was the fourth-best-selling album according to Soundscan figures, and the Number Seven country LP of 2014, per Billboard's tabulations. Released in October, the album debuted at Number One on the multi-genre Billboard 200 as well as the Top Country Albums chart. It was the first country LP to ship one million units for the year, which put Aldean in the company of pop heavyweights Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Sam Smith. The newly-crowned ACC Artist of the Year also had the Number Two song of 2014 on the Hot Country Songs chart with "Burnin' It Down," which was the Georgia native's first ever to top the all-genre Digital Songs chart.
Taking part in the Number One country song of 2014, "This Is How We Roll," with Florida Georgia Line, was just one aspect of Luke Bryan's incredible 2014, as he ended the year being crowned Billboard's top country act and top male artist. Bryan's Crash My Party album was the second best-selling of 2014, according to Soundscan, and the Top Country Album of the year on Billboard's survey. The LP has sold 2.3 million copies since its August 2013 release and notched an impressive 4.4 million in individual track sales during 2014, including "Drink a Beer," and "Play It Again," which between them topped the charts for 14 weeks.
With his second Number One single, "Beat of the Music," Brett Eldredge topped the year's Country Airplay chart, spending a total of 39 weeks on the list with the hit that was also crowned ACC Song of the Year. Eldredge was named New Artist of the Year at the CMA Awards in November.
The year wasn't exactly overflowing with female acts when it came to chart action and country radio airplay. Miranda Lambert, who had Billboard's eighth best-selling album of 2014 with Platinum, was the Number Seven country act of the year, and the only solo female act among the Top 10. Lambert was also the only solo female artist to earn a Top Five hit ("Automatic") on Billboard's Country Airplay chart.
But, for one of country music's most iconic female artists, it was a huge year across the pond. Dolly Parton's Blue Smoke… The Best of, the UK release of her most recent studio album, which also includes a compilation of some of her most memorable hits, has been certified platinum. Three of the new tracks from that album, "Try," "Home," and Parton's cover of Bon Jovi's "Lay Your Hands on Me" all reached the Top 30 in UK airplay, while the album's title track also hit the Top 40. Parton triumphed at England's legendary Glastonbury Music festival this past summer, which also marked the Country Music Hall of Famer's 50th anniversary of graduating high school and moving to Nashville to pursue her country music dreams.