LeAnn Rimes, “Swingin’”
How would you treat an eighties hit that’s mostly loved for being cheesy and outdated to the point of being charming? LeAnn updates it into a wild and funky jam session. Add a fiery and energetic vocal, and it all just works like magic.
Taylor Swift, “Back to December”
Yes, it’s about a boy. But that doesn’t stop “Back to December” from being one of the most emotionally hard-hitting songs of Taylor’s career. It’s also one of her most personal and openly honest compositions yet, as she lays bear her faults and regrets regarding a painful breakup. While she still harbors a desire to be reconciled to her lover, she is willing to accept the cold hard reality that there may be no going back.
Laura Bell Bundy, “Drop On By”
It’s no surprise than Laura Bell Bundy has strong interpretive abilities – honed on Broadway, no less – and this single showcases such abilities at their strongest. She delivers this longing lover’s plea in a sultry whisper of a performance. Add a genre-blending arrangement that combines country, blues, and jazz, and the result could hardly be finer.
Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson, “As She’s Walking Away”
A scene plays out in which a young man (Zac Brown) trips over himself in an attempt to converse with a woman. An older and wiser man (Alan Jackson) then offers the encouraging advice “Don’t be falling in love as she’s walking away.” The interplay between the two vocalists makes it seem as if the scene is playing out right before our eyes. The band’s tight harmonies backed by fiddle and guitar only do more to make this such a broadly charming single.
Rascal Flatts, “Why Wait”
Normally, Rascal Flatts would be on the “Worst” list, but this year they were able to trade places with George Strait. “Why Wait” is an infectious throwback to the days when Rascal Flatts could deliver a great pop-country hook like nobody else.
Randy Rogers Band, “Steal You Away”
A great hook is definitely not a bad thing. But when an act can rise above the need for a catchy hook, and instead pull all of the weight with sincerity and great lyrics, the result is something even more special. The Randy Rogers Band’s “Steal You Away” is a shining example of that fact.
Sugarland, “Stuck Like Glue”
The term “ear candy” may sometimes be used in a derogatory manner, but Sugarland’s ditty “Stuck Like Glue” is ear candy in its absolute finest form. It could have been an embarrassing disaster in the hands of anyone less goofy than Jennifer Nettles, but she breathes enough energy and personality into it to make it ridiculously charming and infectious. This is NOT a guilty pleasure. I can say with no guilt at all that I love this song, and consider it one of the best and most memorable singles of 2010.
Little Big Town, “Little White Church”
Little Big Town makes a comeback thanks to their ability to take strong lyrics, add uber-cool production with funky guitar licks and hand claps, and turn it all into a killer performance like this. Bonus points for rhyming “No more chicken and gravy” with “Ain’t gonna have your baby.”
Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”
This is one song that did not top the charts because of the identity of the artist (In fact, Miranda previously had a rather spotty relationship with country radio). It did not top the charts because of some pop-country hook that made the radio gods think it would have wide appeal. Rather, this song topped the charts because it connected with people. Though 2010 was not a stellar year for mainstream country music, the success of Miranda’s “House” was one instance in which a great song and a great performance were given their deserved recognition. Thus, “The House That Built Me” is the song has come to define Miranda Lambert’s career. In later years, when we think of country music in the year 2010, we will think of Miranda’s “The House That Built Me.”
Those were my favorites. Please leave a comment below, and tell me about yours.