Could you please add Chase Rice to the list?
Shit! How'd I forget him. I'll add him in the dishonorable mentions.
Mine are a little different*1: Sam Hunt (His breakout success is not only detrimental to the core sound of country/"country" radio, but his idea of what's "respectful" to women is as well and the frequent blabbering on and on about even if he's not country at all, that he's a good songwriter. Between songs like "Take Your Time" and "Breakup In A Small Town" becoming hits and the ugly subject matter of "Ex To See" and "Single For The Summer", and most everything else being metro-bro cliches...............Sam Hunt is the single most insufferable country/"country" face at the moment.2: Old Dominion (Aside from the merely forgettable and generic "Nowhere Fast" and the clumsy ode to nostalgia in "Song From Another Time", their entire debut album "Meat and Candy" is constructed off of wet blanketed douche rocket handbook come-ons. That's becoming pretty much the norm on terrestrial country/"country" radio as is, but when paired with overtly sterile, saccharine production courtesy of Shane McAnally, it often tries to romanticize such douchedom and makes it even more hard to stomach than, say, Jason Aldean's straight-forward lack of subtlety. With "Snapback" rising quickly now, Old Dominion is a new name we'll have to contend with throughout 2016.)3: Luke Bryan (With enviable name recognition, an "Entertainer of the Year" title to his name and the ability to send any single to #1 in less than fifteen weeks no matter what as of late, Bryan deserves to be ranked this high after using his privilege to cut his worst album to date in "Kill The Lights". Sure, it consists of the first album track I've truly enjoyed of his since his debut album in "To The Moon And Back". But when all of the singles anchoring the album thus far are among his absolute worst and we still have the title track and "Move" in the wing, this will likely amount to the single most useless, disposable and intelligence-insulting era for an A-list male country/"country" artist in history. Bryan is now viewed widely as a gatekeeper, and his poor judge of character and terrible song selection is tragic to behold.)4: Thomas Rhett (Rhett is successfully emerging to headliner status now, and it's looking likely he may get even bigger during this next year thanks to crossover airplay for "Die A Happy Man" (aka "Thinking Out Loud II"). And how did he get here? By shamelessly appropriating the metro-bro trend, outright stealing from Sam Cooke ("Crash & Burn") and most blatantly piggybacking off of Ed Sheeran's massive recent success. Not to mention "Tangled Up" is among 2015's worst albums between the gutless production, fangirl pandering with the lyrics and an utter lack of identity and integrity. You've been warned: 2016 will be an even bigger year for Rhett.)5: Chase Rice (He would be ranked higher if he was more of a radio presence but, mercifully, he remains stuck in this irrelevant "Fifty Weeks On The Chart With The Same Single Before Dropping Off The Face Of The Planet" status. Because if his airplay had any more potency and he was rifling through singles faster, he would be guaranteed #2 only behind Sam Hunt, behind the most sterile production out there, mind-bogglingly awful metaphors and associations including "Fifty Shades of Gray" and U-Turns, and the fact through it all Rice's delivery is utterly bereft of charisma in how bored and pissy he sounds. Rice has since stated his debut album isn't actually representative of him and to expect a more mature sophomore album. Here's hoping he's not exaggerating.)
6: Jason Aldean (He has easily been the most obnoxious country/"country" personality when it comes to public life between how hew smugly responds to the press and the blackfacing incident. So why is he ONLY at #6? Because unlike the five names above, he's at least trying (at least 50%) when it comes to song selection. It's easy to get caught up in the fact "Old Boots, New Dirt" is by far the most pointless and disposable singles era for Aldean to date with not a single standout among them and a default to the redneck mac daddy lovemaking machine theme, but overlook that the latter half of the album actually consists of solid cuts like "Don't Change Gone", "Two Night Town", "Too Fast" and the title track. Unlike many of his most insufferable peers, he has and continues to prove he has an ear for decent song selection and it has to count for something that these sort of tracks find their way to his albums. Now if only he would damn well let them define his single eras instead of throwaways like "Burnin' It Down" and "Tonight Looks Good On You".)7: Cole Swindell (Honestly, my main gripe with Swindell is how shamelessly milquetoast he is. Aside from the outright misogyny of "Ain't Worth The Whiskey", however, Swindell is just way too awkward and lame to outright hate. It doesn't excuse his lyrical crimes against humanity, surely, but you just kind of get the sense he'll be long forgotten about before long anyway and his laid-back disposition makes his version of ineptitude easier to swallow.)8: Easton Corbin (Yeah, I know. You're thinking "A travesty! How dare you place him above Florida Georgia Line!". And I fully stand by this selection. Since his critically-glowing debut where the press tirelessly compared him to George Strait and he had a chip on his shoulder with a pair of breakout hit singles and being heralded as a torch-bearer for the neo-traditional revival.................Corbin has simply backslided era by era. Now, he has released his worst album yet with "About To Get Real" and uses that chip on his shoulder to...............cut dated bro-country tripe like "Yup", "Damn Girl", "aby Be My Love Song" and "Guys & Girls". Even the normally reliable traditional-ish production has been largely compromised by generic, modern sonic tweaking. Yeah, Corbin is still Corbin vocally, but these songs do not give Corbin the breathing space to exhibit his strengths and instead confine himself to shameful mediocrity and trend-chasing. Corbin has easily been the single most disappointing downfall among all country artists who emerged at the turn of the decade.)
9: Florida Georgia Line (Yeah, I know what you're thinking: "What gives? Why are they this low on your list?". To me, it comes down to two things. Firstly, their personality has just never really struck me as overtly douchey. To me, it's more blissful idiocy. When I listen to their tracks (with a few noteworthy exceptions), they generally seem more fascinated with their surroundings than on the girls aside from a few cursory details. There's a sure sort of populist aura surrounding this duo that gives them a novelty sort of likeability much like Bill & Ted. At the end of the day, "Sun Daze" and "Good Good" are still atrocious tracks, but I just find it easier to roll my eyes then laugh it off with them as opposed to the play-it-way-too-seriousness of Sam Hunt and the die-hard chauvinism of Old Dominion. And secondly, there are sure signs the duo is transitioning towards (at least relatively) more mature material. Rounding up this album era with "Confession" was a smart move as it is the album's second-best song by far behind "Dirt" and, expectedly, it is moving and selling very strongly. I refuse to let them off the hook for "This Is How We Roll" and "Sun Daze" most notably, but all in all they're just more likeable than the names listed higher that are responsible for trash trends.10: Kelsea Ballerini (She's barely scraping the Top Ten only because I still get the sense she's widely irrelevant despite a #1 single and a possible chart-topping follow-up to her name. "The First Time" had a pathetic opening week in sales, and to this day has barely registered a pulse relative to other A and B-list chart rivals. It's obvious Black River Entertainment has wet dreams about making her the next Taylor Swift, but.......................the general listening public just doesn't really care. Really, Ballerini is only here because 1) her lead two singles are just THAT terrible, and 2) the fact she is the most successful breakout female singer/songwriter in country/"country" radio over the past year is an insult in itself when virtually every other name in the hat (besides RaeLynn) is more worthy than her. Still, don't be surprised if this turns out to be her only appearance in the Top Ten.)
*****Dishonorable Mentions*****Chris Young (Much like Easton Corbin, he must be called out for how shockingly he has fallen from former grace. Unlike Corbin however, who has done so via terrible song selection and trend-chasing, Chris Young's has come about settling for nothing more than being the Daughtry of country radio. That is: utterly interchangeable, vapid, dull-as-dishwasher, soulless corporate pap. And that's simply unforgivable. Chris Young has one of the best vocals among males in country/"country" music, and is entirely capable of selling a wider range of emotion and slices of life. Instead, we get a few more re-treads of the already instantly forgettable "Who I Am With You" with songs like the lead single "I'm Comin' Over" and "Think Of You", and pointless written-by-committee, throwaway ditties including "Sunshine Overtime" and "Underdogs". Chris, snap out of this stupor!)Chris Lane (He's spared for now only because his lead single is only in the earlier stages of its run. But yeah: his EP reveals signs of consummate horror on the horizon.)Sarah Buxton (I saw you included Dallas Davidson among your Dishonorable Mentions, but when it came to songwriters this past year that pissed me off, it couldn't help but feel Davidson had a more quiet year than usual in terms of chart presence. On the other hand, I've regularly seen a familiar name crop up who previously co-wrote Keith Urban's "Stupid Boy" and a string of her own decent, likeable solo songs that has infuriated me in how she has stone cold sold-out: Sarah Buxton. She's responsible for co-writing the two worst tracks off of Florida Georgia Line's "Anything Goes" ("Sun Daze", "Good Good") as well as....................you guessed it...................Chris Lane's "Fix". Oh, what a small, crazy world! The Peach Pickers may still suck big time, but no songwriter pissed me off more than Sarah Buxton this past year only because she has proven she is capable of much better in the past and has squandered it.)
Thanks Nadia. That's very thorough and full of good points. ...and it probably took twice as long as my graphic. I hope you're writing for some blog or site somewhere.