On Friday, the nominees for the 61st Grammy Awards will be released. While we don’t know the nominations yet, Texas artists have dominated 2018 both critically and commercially, and we can expect them to be featured in categories like Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Rap Album, Best Country Album, and Best Rap/Sung Performance. And thanks to recently released year-end data, we have a better sense of just how popular those artists actually are with listeners.
Both Apple Music and Spotify released data of what people listened to this year. While Spotify’s year-end release is generated by algorithms, Apple’s numbers contain both editorial awards and listener data. The two components help tell the two most significant stories in Texas music: Kacey Musgraves, who won Apple’s Album of the Year award for her Golden Hour, and Post Malone, whose “Rockstar (feat. 21 Savage)” and “Psycho (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)” made up 40 percent of the chart’s five top global songs (both achieved the same result on Spotify as well). Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys was also the second most-played album of 2018 on both Apple and Spotify.
Digging further into the data, Texans are overrepresented on the top 100 tracks on each service, with twenty songs on Spotify and nineteen on Apple Music. A sizable chunk are from Post Malone, who has eight tracks on Apple Music and seven on Spotify. Khalid is good for five songs on Apple’s charts, mostly from the stunning collection of duets he’s released over the past twelve months (2017 standout “Young, Dumb, and Broke” is still in the mix, too). Spotify’s list also includes two guest appearances from Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez’s “Back To You” and her Marshmello collaboration “Wolves,” Maren Morris’s pop crossover “The Middle,” and Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect Duet.”
Spotify’s album list doesn’t go deep—it’s only five long, with Beerbongs & Bentleys at #2—but Apple’s reveals some interesting information worth parsing. Only one track from Travis Scott’s Astroworld (“Sicko Mode”) made the 100 most-played songs of the year list, but the album itself was the fifth most popular, behind Drake, Post Malone, Cardi B, and XXXtentacion, all of whom have many tracks on the singles list. We can read from that that Scott’s fans tend to listen to him in full, while the other acts succeed based on the strength of their singles. That’s consistent with Scott’s persona as more of an artist than a hitmaker—although he currently holds the #1 album and #1 single in the country, so he’s doing a good job of both.
One act that doesn’t top many charts is The Carters, the premium collaboration from Jay Z and Beyoncé that surprise-dropped an album this summer to a largely indifferent audience. While Everything is Love places on the top 100 list, it comes in at a middling #38. That’s behind releases like Khalid’s American Teen (#12), which was nearly a year old at the start of the year, and Scott’s 2016 album Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (#34). No single tracks from the album appear on either Apple’s or Spotify’s lists, either.
Beyond what we learn from the listener data, Kacey Musgraves continues to win over critics. Golden Hour both won the Album of the Year award from Apple Music and took home that honor last month at the Country Music Awards, notching Musgraves’s first win in that category. She’s also been all over the early December year-end lists: #3 on NPR’s list of the best albums of the year, #4 from Vulture, and #1 from Stereogum. Given the crossover pedigree, Golden Hour is a virtual lock for an Album of the Year nomination on Friday, and it’s got a strong shot of winning.
Musgraves isn’t alone in being a surprising Texas country crossover critical darling. While the album only came out in November, Interstate Gospel—the third album from the Miranda Lambert-led supergroup The Pistol Annies—is making a robust showing on year-end lists, too, taking the #13 spot on NPR’s list, the #3 spot from Vulture, and #9 from The Ringer.
More lists will trickle out in the coming days and weeks, but it all adds up to a particularly impressive year for Texas artists. The Grammy nominations for a top-level category could even conceivably select only Texan nominees: Golden Hour, Beerbongs & Bentleys, and Astroworld are all strong contenders for Album of the Year, and The Carters’ Everything Is Love and the Lukas Nelson-penned A Star Is Born soundtrack have decent shots as well. (Interstate Gospel, released after the cut-off date for awards consideration, will have to wait until next year.)
That’s not how the nominations will play out in reality—hit albums from Drake, Sam Smith, Arctic Monkeys, Eminem, Camila Cabello, Ariana Grande, and Shawn Mendes are going to nab at least a few of those slots—but it’s still a heck of a time for Texas music.