Looking back five years, this list will feature artists that are more familiar to recent country fans than those on earlier features. I was impressed overall by the quality of the entries here, and I remember 2002 being my favorite country music year since the mid-nineties. Unfortunately, things were going to go downhill fast, but a list where even Rascal Flatts has a song I like is no small feat.
Top 20 Country Songs
November 23, 2002
A worthy breakthrough hit for this neo-traditionalist, his understated delivery is refreshing. A-
“The Good Stuff”
A modern classic and a signature hit for Chesney, it was still hanging in the top twenty after thirty weeks. A+.
A laundry list of pop culture from the seventies and eighties. This stuff makes for great VH1 specials, but as a country song? Meh. C.
“A Lot of Things Different”
Chesney’s second hit in the top twenty is a mournful look back at a life full of regrets. Heavy stuff, but quite good. A-.
“Strong Enough to Be Your Man”
This is about as generic as Tritt’s ever gotten, a surprisingly personality-free love song. C
Brooks & Dunn
God bless ’em for covering Kim Richey and getting some exposure for one of her better compositions. Her original version is far superior, but a good song is a good song. B+
“I Just Wanna Be Mad”
Clark’s huge comeback single was equal parts wit and honesty. It’s the blueprint that BNA should be following as they look for another song to get her back to the top of the charts. A
“Fall into Me”
Cheesy country-pop without charm or distinction. D
Rebecca Lynn Howard
“Forgive. That’s a mighty big word for such a small man.” It’s one of the most cutting dismissals of a cheating husband in country music history, and unfortunately the only hit to date for the very talented Howard. A
“Where Would You Be”
McBride successfully revisits the themes and sounds of her earlier hit “Whatever You Say”, and once again makes the rafters ring with a jaw-dropping vocal performance. A-.
Delving into a difficult subject matter, McGraw’s classic hit does so with sincerity and realism, illuminating moral issues rather than preaching about them. A+
A wonderful, organic sounding record that showcases their talents as musicians and harmonists. B+
“I’m Gonna Getcha Good!”
During my first month as a blogger, I described Shania’s music as “Twain Cocaine.” By all laws of logic and reason, I should find a song like this ridiculous, but good God, her hooks are addictive. Seriously, I was going to give it a low mark, then I played it again. She got me good. A
“Who’s Your Daddy?”
He’s always been one of my favorite artists, but when he was putting out pap like this, I was embarrassed to admit it. C
“Work in Progress”
Overshadowed by the pair of signature hits from this set that preceded it, this great little record has almost been forgotten. Shame, as it’s Jackson at his up-tempo best. A-
They’re better at channeling John Mellencamp than Kenny Chesney, aren’t they? Catchy, fun. One of their best hits. B+
“She’ll Leave You With a Smile”
As is the case with so many George Strait singles, this sounded great at the time but doesn’t really distinguish itself from his long catalog of hits. B
They’re not exactly known for doing covers, despite the fact that a good chunk of the cuts on their first three Sony albums had been recorded before. Here, they transform the Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac chestnut into a country classic, as their three-part harmonies bring out nuances in the melody that weren’t there before. A+
A solid song performed well. It’s not timeless like its predecessor, “I’m Movin’ On”, but it remains one of their best singles ever. B+
“Somebody Like You”
It’s the single that took Urban from rising star to superstar, and established what is now his signature sound. It still sounds fresh today. A