The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Conclusion: #20-#1

by

December 24, 2009

#20
“Not Ready to Make Nice”
Dixie Chicks
2006
Peak: #36

It’s easy to label this as a transitory response of a song, whose quality is stamped by context and time, but to do so is to undermine its carefully crafted layers of universal emotion. Anger is only the outer coating of the song – beneath it lies a tender-to-the-touch complex of feelings:  pain and disgust, confusion and resolve, stubbornness and defeat. “Not Ready to Make Nice” may always recall a certain unfortunate episode in country music history, but its theme – that sometimes there’s a price to pay for standing up for what you believe – is timeless. – Tara Seetharam

#19
“Probably Wouldn’t Be this Way”
LeAnn Rimes
2005
Peak: #3

A striking portrait of grief that alternates between phases of desolation, disillusionment and gratitude. Rimes’ interpretation of the lyrics is chillingly precise. – TS

#18
“On Your Way Home”
Patty Loveless
2003
Peak: #29

While it has a very tasteful production, “On Your Way Home” is one of the most understatedly bitter songs this decade. “Where do you go on your way home?” Loveless sardonically asks. The song is rife with deliciously vindictive lines, including “If you keep on lyin’ to me, I might stay here just to spite you.” – Leeann Ward

#17
“Travelin’ Soldier”
Dixie Chicks
2003
Peak: #1

A simple, heartbreaking tale of young romance crushed under the weight of war. It’s the story between the lines that drives home the tragedy, as both main characters have a palpable sense of loneliness that they finally find relief from in one another just before they are ripped permanently apart. – Dan Milliken

#16
“Red Ragtop”
Tim McGraw
2002
Peak: #5

Not an abstract reflection on the freedom of choice so much as an exploration of the consequences that flow from having made a difficult one at a young age. – Kevin Coyne

#15
“September When It Comes”
Rosanne Cash with Johnny Cash
2003
Peak: Did not chart

This song is a beautiful reflection of Johnny and Rosanne Cash’s complex father-daughter relationship. It’s also eerily prophetic. Tinged with self-reflection and regret, it’s heartbreaking to hear Johnny sing: “I cannot move a mountain now/I can no longer run/I cannot be who I was then/In a way, I never was.” – LW

#14
“Three Wooden Crosses”
Randy Travis
2002
Peak: #1

“A farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher.” So begins one of the greatest story songs of the last ten years, a fable Aesop would’ve sold his liver to write had Aesop been a Christian compatibilist. The song lets you know early on that only one of its four main characters is making it out alive, and the gradual exploration of why is compelling enough to turn even the most skeptical heart to putty, if only for three glorious minutes. – DM

#13
“Top of the World”
Dixie Chicks
2003
Peak: Did not chart

The live recording won them a Grammy, but it’s the studio version that is a masterpiece. Natalie Maines sings in the voice of a man who is beyond the grave and beyond the ability to fix his mistakes, but will never be beyond the guilt and regret that comes with having failed so terribly during his time on Earth. – KC

#12
“Long Black Train”
Josh Turner
2003
Peak: #13

Josh Turner burst onto the country music landscape in a huge way with this rousing gospel number that unabashedly adopts the fundamentals of praise-and-worship-style presentation. Akin to the singability of “I Saw the Light”, “Long Black Train”‘s mainstream appeal is found in its inspiring energy, which Turner presents with strength and sincerity rather than unsettling preachiness. – LW

#11
“Drive (For Daddy Gene)”
Alan Jackson
2002
Peak: #1

Jackson’s late father received the heartiest “well done, Dad” in country music history with this beautiful illustration of the parent-child relationship at its best. – DM

#10
“I Told You So”
Keith Urban
2007
Peak: #2

Urban sings the heck out of this cheeky lover’s plea, but the real mark of his artistry is the infectious, Celtic-flavored production that powers the song and turns it into an invigorating anthem quite unlike anything we’ve heard before in country music. – TS

#9
“Hurt”
Johnny Cash
2003
Peak: #56

An otherworldly catharsis of grief that hangs in the air long after the track has ended. – DM

#8
“Stay”
Sugarland
2007
Peak: #2

With a vocal as bare naked as her songwriting, Nettles has nowhere to hide from her desperation. Nor does the listener. – KC

#7
“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”
Alan Jackson
2001
Peak: #1

Eight years after 9/11, it’s become easy to take this response song for granted, to lose sight of the striking truth of its observations, the healing it provided for a grieving nation at the time of its release. Bound as it is to the event it addresses, “Where Were You” cannot travel forward into the future the way other songs on this countdown can; its full impact will remain locked in the memories of those of us who lived through September 11th, 2001, and will never be experienced quite so deeply ever again. But as long as we’re the ones writing history, let us not forget just how deep that was. – DM

#6
“I May Hate Myself in the Morning”
Lee Ann Womack
2004
Peak: #10

If this anthem of preemptive regret had ended after the last time she sings, “I’m gonna love you tonight”, it would still be a classic. But the minute-plus instrumental outro lifts it into the heavens, with a fiddle and steel guitar fade-out that is nothing short of country music nirvana. – KC

#5
“If You’re Reading This”
Tim McGraw
2007
Peak: #3

This recording of McGraw’s performance at the 2007 ACM Awards is one of the most graceful, acutely touching tributes to our fallen soldiers ever released, in country music or otherwise. In letter form, a soldier delicately traces his journey from physical home to spiritual home, while comfortingly reaching out to those who are mourning his death. The song and celebrated performance represent a shining moment of humanity in country music. – TS

#4
“Before He Cheats”
Carrie Underwood
2006
Peak: #1

“Before He Cheats” is country-pop done very right. Underwood momentarily abandons her typically squeaky-clean style to deliver this vengeful revenge anthem with flare and appropriate gusto, making for one of the decade’s most memorable moments. – LW

#3
“I’m Movin’ On”
Rascal Flatts
2001
Peak: #4

This early single is the most staggeringly introspective song in its performing group’s catalog, outlining an inner battle of someone for whom it’s taken losing everything to see the value in anything.  The lyrics alone are gripping, but they’re paired with an emotive, melancholy melody that is one of the best-composed of the decade. – TS

#2
“Whiskey Lullaby”
Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss
2004
Peak: #3

As Paisley himself has rightly acknowledged, one of the smartest career moves that he’s ever made is to invite the angelic Alison Krauss to sing on this depressing song of drinking, heartbreak and death. As the 2000s goes, this is the most daring mainstream release by a popular artist. Paisley is known for his silly jocularity, but when he gets serious, he does it to great effect, which results here in one of the most respected songs of the past ten years. – LW

#1
“Long Time Gone”
Dixie Chicks
2002
Peak: #2

All right, so Country Universe loves its Chicks. But make no mistake: “Long Time Gone” earned every bit of this spot on its own merits. The lead release from Home, it came zooming in at the peak of the Chicks’ mainstream popularity and made as bold a statement to the country music world as the group would ever make.

There was the sound, for starters: feisty, swinging bluegrass-folk, with nary a drum beat to be found and stellar harmonies around every corner. There was the song: a deceptively plucky Darrell Scott story of dried up past days and even drier dreams. And of course, there was that final verse, in which the washed-up narrator decries the lack of soul in much of the super-polished music currently dominating country radio. It all flew boldly in the face of everything that institution was (and still is) about, but got played anyway, such was the Chicks’ star and the single’s undeniable charms.

As we look forward to the next decade of country music, “Long Time Gone” is the kind of song we’ll continue to keep our eyes out for, the kind people will still want to sing along to decades down the line, that makes all the less admirable efforts worth wading through and reminds us why we fell in love with country music in the first place. We hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at the decade’s greatest singles, and urge you to go out and enjoy that last good bit of 2009 while you still can – ’cause after all, it ain’t comin’ back again. – DM

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  1. ZackNo Gravatar says:

    excellent end to an excellent list!!
    I completely forgot about “SWIC” and “Stay”!!

    I must agree with this list, “Long Time Gone” was my favorite of the decade.

    Did “Want To” ever make the list? Don’t remember if it did.

  2. BobNo Gravatar says:

    There are a lot of really good selections on this list. But I find it incredible that CU couldn’t find a spot among 201 songs for Hal Ketchum’s “In Front Of The Alamo”. The song was reviewed by Jim Malec of the 9513 on June 18th, 2007 as follows:

    “Hal Ketchum is one hell of a storyteller. And if you ask me, his latest, “In Front Of The Alamo,” is the best single I’ve heard so far this year. Featuring a brilliant support vocal from LeAnn Rimes, this song does everything right. Lyrically, it is a lesson in excellence, accomplishing in just over three minutes what most songs never do. On the production side it’s damn near perfect, even down to the mix (the short but fitting instrumental parts are well-played and perfectly placed).

    It just doesn’t get much better than this.

    Thumbs Up”

    This song, solely written by Gary Burr, would have been #1 for me.

    By the way, here’s the CU review:

    Hal Ketchum, “In Front of the Alamo”

    by Kevin John Coyne

    July 6, 2007

    Hal Ketchum, “In Front of the Alamo”

    He was one of the oldest of the new country stars, and there was always an aura of wisdom about him from the start. Here, he writes a beautifully sympathetic portrait of a woman leaving a bad relationship behind. After all, what better a place to make a stand than in front of the Alamo? Before you worry that this is one of those over-the-top country numbers with a tortured metaphor, it’s actually wonderfully understated. The character is so believable that it seems just a happy accident that she makes a tough choice in front of a historical landmark.

    Country radio just sounded better when Ketchum was on it. It’s so good to hear his voice again.

    Grade: A-

    More on other songs omitted later.

  3. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Having started this site by myself five years ago, it humbles me how much better it is with Leeann, Dan, Tara (and William) in tow.

    Yes, we love our Chicks. I’m amazed that of the four contributing writers, I’m the only one who DIDN’T have a Chicks single at #1 on my decade list!

  4. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar says:

    25. “September When It Comes,” Rosanne Cash & Johnny Cash
    24. “Real Live Woman,” Trisha Yearwood (2000)
    23. “Born to Fly,” Sara Evans (2000)
    22. “Monday Morning Church,” Alan Jackson (2004)
    21. “Long Black Train,” Josh Turner (2003)
    20. “Stay,” Sugarland (2007)
    19. “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger,” Lee Ann Womack (2001)
    18. “Nothin’ Better to Do,” Leann Rimes (2007)
    17. “Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood (2006)
    16. “Stupid Boy,” Keith Urban (2006)
    15. “Kerosene,” Miranda Lambert (2005)
    14. “Redneck Woman,” Gretchen Wilson (2004)
    13. “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” Soggy Bottom Boys (2001)
    12. “Drive,” Alan Jackson (2002)
    11. “On Your Way Home,” Patty Loveless (2003)
    10. “Alcohol,” Brad Paisley (2005)
    9. “I May Hate Myself in the Morning,” Lee Ann Womack (2004)
    8. “In Color,” Jamey Johnson (2008)
    7. “Famous in a Small Town,” Miranda Lambert (2007)
    6. “Top of the World,” Dixie Chicks (2003)
    5. “I Hope You Dance,” Lee Ann Womack & Sons of the Desert (2000)
    4. “Travelin’ Soldier,” Dixie Chicks (2002)
    3. “Hurt,” Johnny Cash (2002)
    2. “Whiskey Lullaby,” Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss (2004)
    1. “Long Time Gone,” Dixie Chicks (2002)

  5. I just have to say that this list was truly a pleasure to compile and flesh out with the staff. More so than the album countdown, this one allowed us to really explore what it is that binds us to good music. Huge thanks to everyone who read it and kept an open mind about our collectively diverse taste. We really appreciate it!

  6. MichaelNo Gravatar says:

    Sad to see the list end but this final batch of 20, like the others before it, contained many of my favorites (Dixie Chicks, Patty, Roseanne, Lee Ann and, um, LeAnn) and some interesting surprises that, although I may not always agree with, I can respect the reasoning behind their high ranking (Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Sugarland). I was also surprised at how old some of these songs are. It’s been almost 10 years but in my mind, it seems like they were released yesterday. I loved the write up for “Long Time Gone”, Dan. Perfect. Thanks again guys and Happy New Year.

  7. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    I have been enjoying this list over the past two weeks, and I have to say that with a few exceptions, I think it’s been dead on. The only glaring issue to me was that Nickel Creek wasn’t higher up with “When You Come Back Down”.

    Thanks so much for all that you folks do here. When I think of country music, I think of Country Universe.

  8. Cory DeSteinNo Gravatar says:

    Well, I love those Chick songs! And of course Patty Loveless.

  9. SheepNo Gravatar says:

    Nice work. However, there are a few songs that didn’t make the list that I believed should’ve:

    Lady A – “Need You Now”
    Sugarland – “Want To”
    Dierks Bentley – “Come A Little Closer”
    George Strait – “Living For The Night”
    Brad Paisley – “Alcohol”
    Brad Paisley – “American Saturday Night”

    Three of them were 2009 songs, and I saw barely any 2009 songs on this list. Although it was a weak year, there were a few great ones.

  10. JoJoNo Gravatar says:

    Excellent top 20!!!

  11. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    It seems fitting that “Long Time Gone” should top the list, for two reasons, in my opinion. One is because that last verse rightfully chided the industry for thinking much more about making fast bucks than maintaining tradition. And the second reason is that the song got so high on the C&W singles chart with lyrics as barbed in tone as that. It really spells out both the successes and the failures of the country music industry in this first decade of the 21st century (IMHO).

  12. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    I’m especially happy about On Your Way Home and Whiskey Lullaby making the top 20.

    Thanks to all for putting together an interesting and thoughtful list.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

  13. MarcNo Gravatar says:

    HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

  14. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    So “Long Time Gone” is #1. But it’s a lie. I remember the Chicks interviewed when that came out, and all you’d hear was how steeped they were in country music. Then, after they involved themselves in the political end of entertainment, they talked about how they weren’t really into country music at all. They’re liars, and this song is their original sin. I don’t care if an artist wants to play politics. But if you say the music you purported to make honestly was something less than that, then the hell with you. And so, the hell with the Chicks.

  15. NicolasNo Gravatar says:

    ^ People can change their opinions. Especially after a wake up call like that was.
    ———

    Anyways, great list! I’m not surprised to see so much Dixie Chicks near the top, because they have some AMAZING music. I want them to get working on another album soon, lol.

  16. JaneNo Gravatar says:

    ahh, I just knew somehow Long Time Gone would be number one. Gosh, that song is just awesome! The rest of the list is very good too.

  17. JonNo Gravatar says:

    Great list guys! Thanks very much for putting this all together!

    Now that Blake mentioned it, did I miss Leann’s I Hope You Dance on the list?

  18. JeffNo Gravatar says:

    really nice list. i looked over the entire list and i didn’t have a head-scratching moment. Merry Christmas to all the writers at country universe

  19. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    OK, here’s my top 5

    1. Travelin Soldier
    2. Your Man
    3. Where were you When the World Stopped Turning
    4. If You’re Goin through Hell
    5. Drive

  20. Cory DeSteinNo Gravatar says:

    Here is my top 5….it lacks variety, but in my opinion thrives in quality!
    5.Long Time Gone-Dixie Chicks
    4.Real Live Woman-Trisha Yearwood
    3.Where Are You Now-Trisha Yearwood
    2.Top of the World-Dixie Chicks
    1.I Dont Paint Myself Into Corners-Trisha Yearwood

    The Dixie Chicks and Trisha produced all of the music that I readily bought this decade. The 90s I would have had much more variety but I lived off their music mostly

  21. HerpesNo Gravatar says:

    Most country songs I do not like. I would rather swim in a pool full of boogers than listen to country music. But I admit i do like Carrie Underwood and “Before He Cheats.” That is a good song.

  22. Mike M.No Gravatar says:

    Was “The Good Stuff” on the list? I don’t remember seeing it. That was my number one song of the decade and maybe all-time. I was also hoping to see “Two Pink Lines” somewhere on the list. Other than that you guys did one hell of a job. It’s has to be pretty tough to put together a list like this.

  23. JonNo Gravatar says:

    Anyone who likes Paisley & Krauss’s version of “Whiskey Lullabye” really ought to check out the original one, recorded by Melonie Cannon.

  24. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    I refrained from posting until the list was completed – I basically agree with the list as to the songs included, although not necessarily as to position within the list (and “Not Ready To Make Nice” would be near the top of my worst songs of the decade – unless I was compiling a list of Best Songs by Snotty Five Year Olds).

    It wasn’t a very good decade for singles and I’d rate about half of these as “mediocre” whereas for a similar list of 1990s singles, I’d probably rate about 25@ as mediocre

    Two notable omissions: (1) “Long Slow Kisses” (especially the original album version) by Jeff Bates which would be in my top ten and (2) The Notorious Cherry Bombs’ “It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long” which I would call the best single or song of the decade

  25. MikeNo Gravatar says:

    That Rascal Flatts song is way to high, maybe, a top 50 song and that’s it. Also, I think there are a number of Keith Urban songs to put ahead of I Told You So; You’ll Think of Me, Making Memories of US, Stupid Boy and Tonight I Wanna Cry all should be ahead there.

    I also agree that In Front of the Alamo should have been posted somewhere on this top portion of the list. That said, was an interesting read as with most things on this site, good work guys and gals.

  26. JonNo Gravatar says:

    I know there will be debates forever on the positions of certain songs on the list (like this song should have been #5 instead of that song, etc.), but what about the songs that didn’t make the list entirely?

    I’m curious, if you CU staff will indulge – since this list is a compilation of 4 writers that I’m assuming all have varied tastes, what are the songs that made your personal lists that didn’t make this list at all, assuming there were some. If you don’t mind. Thanks.

  27. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    The list had 200 slots, so most of my songs from my top 100 were on there. A couple of my personal choices that didn’t make the cut (all of which were below #70 on my list):
    - Sugarland, Want To
    - Toby Keith, A Little Too Late
    - Notorious Cherry Bombs, It’s Hard to Kiss…
    - George Strait, How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls
    - Tim McGraw, My Old Friend and Back When
    - Randy Houser, Anything Goes

    There was a lot of diversity on our lists, though not any real disagreement on the list that resulted from merging them. There’s such a level of mutual respect among us that we walked away with more of an appreciation of songs that we didn’t care for.

  28. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    People can change their opinions. Especially after a wake up call like that was.

    I certainly changed my opinion of the Chicks.

    This is mostly solid list. It’s a bit too heavy on the Dixie Chicks, though I like all of the songs except for “Not Ready To Make Nice” which is possibly the most self-indulgent song in the history of country music. I do have to take exception with a Rascal Flatts song being in the top 5 though. Seriously, guys??

  29. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    “I’m Movin’ On” was in the top fifteen of my personal list. I’m not a fan of Rascal Flatts overall, but that song is amazing. The only reason for not including it on the list would be to appease people who would react like you’re reacting to it.

  30. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I think “I’m Movin’ On” is a good song that RF was lucky enough to sing.

  31. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Yep. I was surprised to find myself putting “I’m Movin’ On” as high as I did, but it probably would’ve made it there regardless of who sang it (provided they didn’t totally screw it up, which the Flatts didn’t that time). I think it’s at least as good as the Hank Snow song of the same name, and that’s one of the genre’s classic songs.

    I was concerned about the amount of Chicks at first, too, to be totally frank. At first glance, it just looks like favoritism. But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with it. Home really was an outstanding album song-wise, and again, if “Long Time Gone”, “Travelin’ Soldier”, “Top of the World” and “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)” had all been released as singles by different artists, they probably all would still have made my list. I couldn’t honestly withhold them just because they came from the same source. If one act clearly outshines others in terms of great music in a particular time, that should be acknowledged. It would be hard to complain if the Beatles or Stones placed a number of songs in the “Greatest Rock Singles of the 60′s” (not that the Chicks are at that level, but you get the idea).

    I’ve never cared much for “Not Ready to Make Nice” myself. It’s a well-written song in many respects, and I understand why many people like it. It would certainly earn a high spot on a list of the most historically significant songs of the decade, too. It just comes off a bit like overkill to me. I much prefer “The Long Way Around”, which also addresses the issue but puts it in a more thoughtful, universal context. But that’s just my opinion.

    Here are the ones from my list that didn’t make the final cut:
    - Randy Houser, “Anything Goes”
    - Notorious Cherry Bombs, “It’s Hard to Kiss…”
    - Reckless Kelly, “Ragged As the Road”
    - Sunny Sweeney, “If I Could”
    - Allison Moorer, “Send Down An Angel”
    - Ryan Adams, “Let It Ride”
    - Jason Aldean, “Amarillo Sky”
    - Bruce Robison, “All Over But the Cryin’”
    - Randy Rogers Band, “Somebody Take Me Home”
    - Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”

    I also didn’t include “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”, which was simply an oversight on my part. Shoulda woulda coulda.

    My comments are too long. There’s a New Years resolution in the making.

  32. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    ” I think it’s at least as good as the Hank Snow song of the same name, and that’s one of the genre’s classic songs”

    Heresy

  33. [...] Country Universe capped its countdown of the 201 greatest singles of the decade with the top 20. [...]

  34. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    …Well, maybe almost as good. :)

  35. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    These are the songs that I had on my personal list that didn’t make it on the collective one. They were all below #70:

    Notorious Cherry Bombs, It’s Hard To Kiss the Lips…
    Garth Brooks, Beer Run
    Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band, Banjo Boy
    Keith Anderson, Pickin’ Wildflowers
    Buddy Jewell, Sweet Southern Comfort
    Eric Church, Two Pink Lines
    Reckless Kelly, Ragged as the Road
    Trent Summar and the New Row Mob, Horseshoes and Handgrenades
    Josh Turner, Another Try
    Brian McComas, “99.9% Sure”
    Sara Evans, Cheatin’

  36. BobNo Gravatar says:

    Aside from my dismay already expressed over the absence of HK’s Alamo song, I liked the singles list a lot more than the albums. Some other songs I would have included in no particular order:

    Diamond Rio – One More Day
    Jamie O’Neal – There is No Arizona
    Jimmy Wayne – Stay Gone
    Pinmonkey – Barbed Wire and Roses
    Steve Azar – Waitin’ On Joe
    Ty Herndon – Right About Now
    Andy Griggs – If Heaven
    Terri Clark – Girls Lie Too
    Carolina Rain – Dealin’
    Billy Currington – People Are Crazy
    David Nail – Red Light
    Mark McGuinn – She Doesn’t Dance

    You can’t please everybody but my guess is that very few country music fans would not find your efforts very entertaining. Thanks to all.

  37. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    The feedback, good and critical, is all very much appreciated, y’all! Keep it up!

  38. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I should add that I agree with Dan’s comments regarding the many Chicks songs on this list, as well as preferring “Long Way Around” to “Not Ready to Make Nice.” I think it’s more historically significant rather than a particularly well crafted, timeless song.

    I think the Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood songs are the best songs from two of the most popular country artists of the decade. What’s more, I think they are good songs despite or because of the artists who sang them.

  39. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Ditto to Dan! Thanks to everyone for making this a great year for Country Universe.

  40. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    To Bob,
    I agree that the Ketchum song is a great one. It didn’t make my personal list of best songs of the decade, but I agree that it may have deserved to nonetheless. It was admittedly an oversight on my part not to even have considered it. I can’t find it on Amazon as a digital download. Do you know where I can find it? I only know about it from Kevin’s review.

  41. JonNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks guys, for answering my question.

    Before He Cheats may be Underwood’s best song of her career, and I have no problems it being placed so high. Many attribute the greatness of the song to her growling vocals and undeniably catchy hook, but I think the lyrics of Before He Cheats is way underrated. It’s a very well-written song about cheating, paranoia and revenge.

    Gretchen Wilson must be banging her head somewhere turning this song down, thinking it wasn’t “bad” enough.

  42. BobNo Gravatar says:

    Leeann, I bought the single on I-Tunes. It’s still available there. HK’s cd “One More Midnight” was released only in the UK in ’07. One of the 13 tracks listed was “Alamo”. The cd was supposed to be released in the U.S. but never was. I heard “In Front of the Alamo” on the radio and liked it so much I didn’t want to wait for the cd.

  43. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Ah…iTunes…we aren’t on speaking terms right now. Everytime I try to download an album from them (when I can’t find it on Amazon), some of the tracks won’t download. Itunes will always fix my problem, but the repeat annoyance is tiresome at this point.

  44. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    Before He Cheats may be Underwood’s best song of her career, and I have no problems it being placed so high. Many attribute the greatness of the song to her growling vocals and undeniably catchy hook, but I think the lyrics of Before He Cheats is way underrated. It’s a very well-written song about cheating, paranoia and revenge.

    I wonder how many people would really like this song if the genders of the protagonist and the cheating lover were reversed.

  45. JoJoNo Gravatar says:

    I just realized “Holes In The Floor Of Heaven” did not make the list. Is it from the 90′s?? Great song!

  46. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Yup, “Holes in the Floor of Heaven” was 1998.

    It’s true that “Before He Cheats” probably wouldn’t be very appealing from a male perspective, because we’re more prone as a society to take vicious acts by men seriously. That may or may not be fair. On the other hand, a lot of people like Jamey Johnson’s “Mowin’ Down the Roses.” Flowers are admittedly less provocative fodder for vandalism than someone’s car, but the concept is there. There are also other songs people like that involve men outright killing their women; Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues” comes to mind.

  47. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading this list from start to finish. I didn’t always comment, but be sure I was always lurking and reading. I don’t totally agree with this list, but what two people would? You reminded me of a lot of great songs, and for that I am grateful.

    Oh, and even though I love this site and its writers, I think Blake’s top 25 fits my own tastes better.

  48. Johnny Cash Junkie, Buck Owens FreakNo Gravatar says:

    Pardon me while I puke. What a let down to a great countdown. The Dixie Chicks at #1 with such a middle of the road song, topping out songs that really mattered. I promise you that 20 years from now, Hurt will matter. Where Were You will matter. Long Time Gone will be, simply, long forgotten.

  49. Canadian BoyNo Gravatar says:

    OKay, well I’m really late on commenting, but I guess that’s what I get for being a horrible procrastinator.
    A great top 20! Glad to see some Dixie Chicks love. The only song I wouldn’t have included in my own top 20 is “Not Ready To Make Nice”, which don’t get me wrong I like a lot I just would have replaced it with “Without You” which is sadly missing from the list. I probably would have swaped the order of “Travelin’ Soldier”, “Top of the World” and “Long Time Gone”, placing “Top of the World” at the top. Regardless, I’m glad to see that they are all accounted for.

  50. KNo Gravatar says:

    I would’ve chosen to put either ““Whiskey Lullaby,” “I’m Movin On,” or “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” for number, but there were some excellent choices here. Thanks for putting out such an incredible, but diverse list everyone.

    This was a great way to show the diverse, but collective tastes of your writers- “it all begins and ends with a great song” as they say.

    I had forgotten about many of these songs, but this was a refreshing reminder. The latter half of the decade has been weaker, but it’s nice to be reminded that great music really is timeless.

  51. PatrickNo Gravatar says:

    @Johnny Cash Junkie: Personally, I think Long Time Gone is a great song! Hurt is overrated. I never cared for the original and I don’t really care for the Johnny Cash cover. He’s had plenty of better songs

  52. Allan GibbsNo Gravatar says:

    These “anti-mainstream” lists make me laugh.

    Music does NOT have to achieve chart success to be great, but your list takes it to a Grammy “We’re so cool for picking this obscure song” level.

    Congrats, you’re cool. And out of touch with the typical country fan.

  53. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Allan,

    I have not tallied the entries on the other sections of this feature, but this particular run has 20 songs on it and 15 of them reached the top 15 on the charts.

  54. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    And out of touch with the typical country fan.

    Now there’s a badge of honor if ever there was one.

  55. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    In addition to Leeann’s radio stat, all but two of the tracks came from albums that at least sold gold. Sounds like you’re a bit out of touch with the typical country fan. (As is country radio, too much of the time!)

  56. KatieRNo Gravatar says:

    I’m as big a Chicks fan as anyone, but Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” was the song of the decade for myself. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

  57. MichaelNo Gravatar says:

    Great list, but here are a few I think were robbed.

    Brad Paisley- Letter To Me
    Martina McBride- Concrete Angel
    Martina McBride- A Broken Wing
    Craig Morgan- Almost Home
    Taylor Swift- Change
    Lee Ann Womack- I Hope You Dance

    Other than that, it was awesome.

  58. GuzpraNo Gravatar says:

    nice songlist, especially the one from Leann Rimes and Rascal Flatts :)

  59. Yeah I always love Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood though :D

  60. [...] ago, we named the Dixie Chicks’ Home and ”Long Time Gone” the best album and single, respectively, of the previous decade. I’m particularly fond of Dan’s write-up for [...]

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