Sure, we put up with a lot of crap over the past year on country radio, but there was still some great country music made, and a small handful even found its way onto radio. Now that we’re done venting our hatred for the bad singles, it’s time to celebrate the good ones. The following is the first of two lists that look back on the greatest and most memorable singles that we heard over the past year.
There are my favorite singles of the year, listed in no particular order, and I want to hear about yours too. Please leave a comment.
Easton Corbin, “Roll with It”
Summer songs are generally made of the same fiber, but Easton’s performance of “Roll with It” exudes more than enough laid-back charm to lift it high above the competition. While country radio was playing the heck out of “Water,” “Roll with It” was a breath of fresh air.
Joey + Rory, “That’s Important to Me”
The fact that country radio consistently ignores this talented duo is nothing short of criminal. A song like “That’s Important to Me” could have gone terribly wrong if not handled this well. But instead of being a trite and meaningless cliche-pile, Joey + Rory go for naturalness and authenticity with much more personal-sounding lyrics. “That’s Important to Me” exemplifies the country sincerity that makes Joey + Rory such a lovable duo, and the soft piano and dobro make it even more of a treat.
Laura Bell Bundy, “Giddy On Up”
Yes, you read that right. This can be a polarizing single. Maybe you loved it; maybe you couldn’t stand it. But I can guarantee one thing: Once you heard it, you didn’t forget it. On paper it might seem like just another typical caught-her-man-cheating song, but Laura totally sells the vocals. Her performance is bold, sassy, spunky, and bursting with charisma and personality. And while things like horn sections in a kiss-off country song might not float everybody’s boat, it’s another sign that Laura is an artist who dares to stand out from the pack. Isn’t that the kind of artistic quality we usually ask for?
Mary Chapin Carpenter, “I Put My Ring Back On”
A gently-rocking tune that sounds reminiscent of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s heyday as a country radio hitmaker. It has a positive message of persevering in a relationship, and being realistic in one’s expectations, delivered through one of Mary Chapin’s finest vocal performances. Besides that, it’s catchy. If this song had been released in 1993, I’m willing to bet it would have been a huge hit.
Dierks Bentley, “Draw Me a Map”
Dierks gives a plaintive and emotional delivery of a great song. The stripped-down bluegrass instrumentation, not to mention the angelic voice of Alison Krauss, adds further to the song’s emotional impact. The song seems even more appealing when you consider the risk that Dierks took in having this song shipped to country radio at a time when the airwaves are dominated by loudness and inanity, thus daring radio to play something different and better.
Sara Evans, “A Little Bit Stronger”
Sara’s performance on this track is toned back, but at the same time layered with aching emotion. The song portrays a woman who is nursing a broken heart, but who has the strength to shake off feelings of self-pity, refusing to act as the victim. With each step she takes in pushing her ex-lover out of her mind, she gets “a little bit stronger.” It’s a winning blend of heartache with progressively dawning optimism.
Jerrod Niemann, “What Do You Want”
There are plenty of reasons to love this single, from the subtle pulsing production to the raw and honest lyrics. But what really makes this single is Jerrod’s vocal delivery, which is fully connected to the tortured emotions expressed in the song’s lyrics, making “What Do You Want” one of the most potent releases of the year.
Taylor Swift, “Fearless”
“Fearless” perfectly captures the elation of a young romance, and this young barely-over-twenty starlet is the perfect one to deliver such a song. The breezy mandolin-laced production makes the song a joyously relaxing experience. When a song like this comes on the radio, you just sigh, lean back, close your eyes, and let it take you to a better place.
Luke Bryan, “Rain Is a Good Thing”
A big thanks to Luke Bryan for giving country radio a much-needed blast of personality with this crazy fun single. All that fiddling would typically reel me in on its own, but quirky and clever lyrics are also a plus. (You can let the kids think that it really is just about rain)