CU's Top Singles of 2012

2012Something you probably already know about us here at Country Universe:  We love country music.  A lot.  While truly great country music has become scarce on country radio, we are fortunate to live in an age in which modern technology has made great music more accessible than ever, regardless of whether Top 40 radio dares touch it.

At the close of each year we separate the grain from the chaff, and share the music we discovered over the past year that made us glad that we stuck with our genre of choice.  We at Country Universe have put our heads together to create the following lists of favorite singles and albums of 2012.

Seven writers – Kevin Coyne, Leeann Ward, Dan Milliken, Tara Seetharam, Jonathan Keefe, Sam Gazdziak, and myself –  individually listed our twenty favorite albums and singles of 2012, and used a points system to combine our individual lists into collective lists.  Our Best of 2012 feature will include countdowns of forty albums and forty singles.  Today we reveal our Top 40 Singles, with our Top 40 Albums countdown to follow shortly thereafter.  Enjoy, and please be sure to share your own favorites in the comments section.  Thank you to all for being a part of the Country Universe family in 2012.  We look forward to sharing more great music in 2013.

 

#40
“Southern Comfort Zone”
Brad Paisley

Individual rankings:  Jonathan – #13;  Leeann – #20

Brad Paisley has never been one for subtlety, and “Southern Comfort Zone,” with its tacky gospel-choir-singing-“Dixie” coda and Kings of Leon arena-rock chorus, is perhaps his most graceless and didactic effort.  But sometimes it takes the subtlety and precision of a sledgehammer to get one’s point across, especially when your point is a thoughtful and sincere charge to consider how unfamiliar experiences can both reinforce and challenge your core beliefs (a point Paisley makes, it’s worth mentioning, while straying significantly from his trademark aesthetic), and when that point has to be made while trying to shout over a bunch of Ed Hardy-dressed hacks whose entire “artistry” hinges on perpetuating ugly rural-versus-urban class conflicts over music that sounds like a Metallica cover band.  No, it isn’t a single I particularly like listening to, but it’s one I fundamentally respect for challenging what became country’s status quo in 2012. - Jonathan Keefe


#39
“Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)”
Gary Allan

Individual rankings:  Sam – #8

The title is a little trite and sounds like something that Dr. Phil might say, but Allan’s vocal performance and a moody arrangement make this song a winner. - Sam Gazdziak

#38
Goodbye In Her Eyes”
Zac Brown Band

Individual rankings:  Sam – #14;  Leeann – #18

“Goodbye in Her Eyes” is, hands down, the coolest-sounding sad song on the radio in 2012. – Leeann Ward

#37
“In Between Jobs”
Todd Snider

Individual rankings:  Jonathan – #6

An update of “Working Man’s Blues” for the modern economic crisis, Todd Snider’s “In Between Jobs” glides along the sleaziest of blues riffs and slowly reveals his frustrated, unemployed narrator’s intentions. Spoiler alert: He doesn’t plan on staging a “We Are the 99%” protest outside the home of the wealthy man he’s addressing. - Jonathan Keefe

#36
“You Go Your Way”
Alan Jackson

Individual rankings:  Kevin – #13;  Sam – #18

“You go your way, and I’ll go crazy,” Jackson sings.  It’s too bad that Jackson has fallen out of radio’s good graces, because this beautiful heartbreaker deserved to be another of his #1 singles. - Sam Gazdziak

#35
“Born to Be Blue”
The Mavericks

Individual rankings:  Ben – #17;  Dan – #18;  Tara – #20

A slice of throwback 50’s pop that reminds us how blissfully therapeutic it feels to pair heartache with a sweet, simple melody. - Tara Seetharam

#34
“Closer”
Mindy Smith

Individual rankings:  Leeann – #12;  Dan – #14

Much like Alison Krauss, to whom Mindy Smith is often compared, you’ll rarely hear Smith’s pretty voice singing upbeat, frivolous songs.  Instead, she tends toward the introspective and even melancholy.  The Swampy “Closer” showcases both tones, but it’s blended with some hopeful optimism as well. - Leeann Ward

#33
“Drunk On You”
Luke Bryan

Individual rankings:  Dan – #12;  Kevin – #14

In reality, I don’t think any woman could take a guy seriously if he told her that “you make my speakers go boom-boom.”  Funny how the best country music is far more forgiving than reality. - Kevin John Coyne

#32
“Cruise”
Florida Georgia Line

Individual rankings:  Dan – #3

Sorry, people with taste; there’s (I mean – there’z) a reason this abomination is riding high. It’s the catchiest country sing-along since “Wagon Wheel.” - Dan Milliken

#31
“When I’m Gone”
Joey + Rory

Individual rankings:  Kevin – #12;  Ben – #12

A pensive meditation on the process of grief, delivered through one of Joey Martin Feek’s most deeply moving performances on record.  While it obviously had no chance at country radio, “When I’m Gone” is nonetheless a standout career achievement for this exceptionally talented husband-and-wife duo.  - Ben Foster

#30
“Postcard from Paris”
The Band Perry

Individual rankings:  Ben – #11;  Sam – #13

In spite of their occasional misfires, “Postcard from Paris” is a moment in which the Perry siblings are able to effectively marry their lovably quirky nature to a lyrical concept that actually works – and works beautifully, with a titular analogy that’s both clever and effective, and a refrain that bites subtly but sharply (“The meanest thing you ever did is come around…and now I’m ruined”).  Finish it off with an arrangement that sounds like something off of the Dixie Chicks’ Fly, and everybody wins.  - Ben Foster

#29
“When It Pleases You”
Sara Watkins

Individual rankings:  Dan – #10;  Leeann – #17

With slow, seething ire, Watkins faces the truth that she’s giving her whole heart to a relationship and getting jack back.  “I call you when I want to hear –,” she sighs, “– my voice whisper…in your voicemail’s ear.” - Dan Milliken

#28
“Live and Die”

The Avett Brothers

Individual rankings:  Sam – #2

The lead single from The Avetts Brothers’ new album was the perfect middle ground between their charmingly rough-around-the-edges independent albums and their more polished I and Love and You release from 2010.  There is something about the Avetts singing sentimental, romantic lyrics over the strumming of a banjo that’s just so right- Sam Gazdziak

#27
“Is It Already Time?”
Wade Hayes

Individual rankings:  Kevin – #10;  Dan – #15

A to-the-point account of getting a diagnosis out of nowhere and suddenly having to stare down one’s own mortality. - Dan Milliken

#26
“Safe & Sound”
Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars

Individual rankings:  Leeann – #10;  Jonathan – #14

The soft production and gentle melody of “Safe & Sound” compliment Taylor Swift’s wispy voice rather than competing against it, as is prone to happen in many of Swift’s recordings.  The addition of The Civil Wars’ sublime vocal support greatly elevates a recording that would have been pretty good without them, but turns out to be even better with them. - Leeann Ward

#25
“I Like Girls That Drink Beer”
Toby Keith

Individual rankings:  Kevin – #9;  Leeann – #16

Keith revisits the classic uptown girl/downtown boy pairing that’s resulted in so many great country records in years gone by. - Kevin John Coyne

#24
“Plant White Roses”
Kelly Hogan

Individual rankings:  Jonathan – #1

Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields is one of pop music’s most sardonic, morose songwriters, prone to declarations like, “Plant white roses, and plan to cry/If I can’t spend my life with you, I want to die.” But Kelly

Hogan, best known for her work singing back-up with Neko Case, is a such a gifted interpretive singer that she’s able to find the humanity in Merritt’s sad-sack narrators, and it’s her multifaceted, nuanced reading of “Plant White Roses” that ropes the song into the country genre. - Jonathan Keefe

#23
“Good Girl”
Carrie Underwood

Individual rankings:  Kevin – #6;  Dan – #16

A rockin’ little record that exudes Underwood’s growing confidence as a singer and a songwriter.  A much-needed shot of adrenaline into the arm of country radio. - Kevin John Coyne

#22
“Hello Cruel World”
Gretchen Peters

Individual rankings:  Ben – #8;  Sam – #12

An insightful, slyly self-deprecating take on middle age and mortality, with the narrator musing “I’m not dead, but I’m damaged goods, and it’s getting late.”  A clever pun of a title hook reflects the narrator’s resolve to make peace with the past, and to keep moving forward.  - Ben Foster

#21
“Dig Gravedigger Dig”
Corb Lund

Individual rankings:  Sam – #4;  Jonathan – #18

Lund gives a little love to the gravedigging profession with this bluesy stomper.  It’s perhaps a little twisted, but more country songs could stand to reference rigor mortis these days. - Sam Gazdziak

#20
“I’m a Mess”
Rodney Crowell

Individual rankings:  Leeann – #4;  Kevin – #16

From his collaborative project with Mary Karr that includes many esteemed guest artists, this Rodney Crowell-performed cut emerges as one of the strongest.  With a production that would neatly fit on one of his albums of the 2000’s, the lyric suits the chaos that its title suggests. - Leeann Ward

#19
“Fly Over States”
Jason Aldean

Individual rankings:  Tara – #7;  Dan – #9

Aldean relaxes his badass-hicktown-pride muscles for a moment and reveals the beating heart beneath.  It’s like a heartland-rock “Colors of the Wind” – and what could be more badass than that- Dan Milliken

#18
“Even If It Breaks Your Heart”
Eli Young Band

Individual rankings:  Sam – #5;  Tara – #16;  Jonathan – #16;  Dan – #20

The song was written by Will Hoge and Eric Paslay, but the Eli Young Band made this tale about preservation and hope their own.  Given the ups and downs and should’ve-been-hits that the Texas group has seen in its career, they’ve lived this song. - Sam Gazdziak

#17
“Two Black Cadillacs”
Carrie Underwood

Individual rankings:  Kevin – #4;  Tara – #4;  Ben – #18

A haunting Southern Gothic tale of revenge, heavy on the catharsis and light on the narrative.  Underwood fills in the gaps with a spot-on performance – imbuing it with chilling fury, sinister joy, and just enough poise to suggest she knows tantalizingly more than we do. - Tara Seetharam

#16
“Beer Money”
Kip Moore

Individual rankings:  Dan – #8;  Tara – #9;  Kevin – #11  Ben – #19

The year’s finest blue-collar drinkin’ song, crackling with desperation and sexual friction. - Dan Milliken

#15
“Better Dig Two”
The Band Perry

Individual rankings:  Jonathan – #7;  Leeann – #9;  Dan – #11;  Tara – #19

The second most surprising moment in country music in 2012 was that The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two” finds producer Dann Huff, known for his heavy hand at the mixing board and his affinity for maudlin arrangements, doing an on-point impression of Rick Rubin.  But the most surprising moment in country music in 2012 has to be the casual reference to crystal meth in the single’s second verse.  Artists like Drive-By Truckers and Hank III have addressed rural America’s drug of choice for years now, but who would’ve ever expected that the exceedingly polite, ridiculously coiffed Perry siblings – and not, say, Eric Church in full “outlaw” drag – would’ve been the ones to bring a parallel between one of the nastiest, most damaging of vices and the addictive powers of love to country radio?  Or that they’d pull off such a thing with the kind of authority and conviction that make “Better Dig Two” so searing?  This isn’t a wistful fantasy about what happens if the narrator dies young; it’s an open threat of how things very likely will end. – Jonathan Keefe

#14
“I Just Come Here for the Music”
Don Williams featuring Alison Krauss

Individual rankings:  Ben – #6;  Sam – #7;  Dan – #17;  Kevin – #20

Don Williams’ return from retirement was a nice surprise in and of itself.  And So It Goes found Williams still at the top of his game, and this duet with Krauss is one of the many highlights.  His deep baritone and her angelic harmonies blend beautifully. - Sam Gazdziak

#13
“The Dreaming Fields”
Matraca Berg

Individual rankings:  Ben – #2;  Leeann – #6;  Jonathan – #10

In one of the finest songs by one of country music’s finest songwriters, Matraca Berg lays bare her feelings of wistfulness over the loss of a family farm embodying scores of memories.  “The Dreaming Fields” boasts a deeply compelling melody, a chillingly effective arrangement, and a gut-wrenching vocal performance.  I may not know the first thing about farming, but one thing I do understand is the meaning of a memory.  This song rips my heart out. - Ben Foster

#12
“Springsteen”
Eric Church

Individual rankings:  Dan – #6;  Tara – #6;  Leeann – #15;  Jonathan – #17;  Ben – #20

The song was a pretty piece of nostalgia to begin with. But Jay Joyce’s hypnotic groove lifts the record to a higher ground, giving it the same sort of spiritual beauty often attributed to its namesake’s best work. - Dan Milliken

#11
“Blown Away”
Carrie Underwood

Individual rankings:  Kevin – #2;  Dan – #7;  Tara – #14;  Ben – #15

An epic single with both a theme and a production big enough to contain the overwhelming vocal powerhouse that is Carrie Underwood.  Give her points for being courageous enough to tackle this topic on record, but get down on your knees and offer praise and gratitude for being talented enough to pull it off. - Kevin John Coyne

#10
“The Wind”

Zac Brown Band

Individual rankings:  Jonathan – #2;  Tara – #11;  Leeann – #13;  Ben – #14;  Sam – #19

With an impressive string of Top 2 hits and a couple of platinum-plus albums to their credit, Zac Brown Band had earned the opportunity to take a risk leading up to the release of their third studio album.  While Uncaged had no shortage of obvious radio hits, the band, who have always been more of a “Southern” band than a proper “country” outfit, chose to prove their genre bona fides by releasing “The Wind.”  A fast-picking, freewheeling romp, “The Wind” sets the ideal stage for a “hoedown” vs. “hootenanny” debate. The song’s breakneck speed and clever turns-of-phrase may have proved too much for radio, where it became the band’s first single to miss the Top 10, but it’s a single that highlighted the real breadth of Zac Brown Band’s range. - Jonathan Keefe

#9
“The Sound of a Million Dreams”
David Nail

Individual rankings:  Tara – #1;  Kevin – #8;  Ben – #9;  Dan – #19

With an arrangement as rich as its sentiment, “The Sound of a Million Dreams” is an elegant tribute to songs, punctuated by a searing second verse.  Billy Joel could have mastered this piano ballad, but he wouldn’t have delivered it with such painfully earnest hope.  And in an era where too many artists have the audacity to present us with career-low music, Nail’s unapologetic faith in the power of his craft is deeply, depressingly refreshing. - Tara Seetharam

#8
“Creepin'”
Eric Church

Individual rankings:  Sam – #1;  Dan – #2;  Leeann – #8;  Tara – #15

With an ominous vibe and distorted vocals, Church manages to come up with a unique song in an increasingly cookie-cutter genre.  From the opening “bom bom bom bah-dom” to its searing guitar solos, “Creepin’” is one of the year’s most distinctive singles in any genre.  When all to many “country-rock” songs are really just rock songs about country things, “Creepin’” really does manage to blend the two elements into something new and exciting. - Sam Gazdziak

#7
“Neon”
Chris Young

Individual rankings:  Tara – #3;  Dan – #5;  Leeann – #7;  Jonathan – #8;  Ben – #13

Young’s ode to a bar gracefully treads the line between vintage and current, packed with clever imagery and backed by a sturdy neotraditional arrangement.  But don’t pity the patron a la “Neon Moon” – Young trades Ronnie Dunn’s loneliness for sweet, boozy contentment.  Note by note, he melts the entire song into a sublime pool of resignation, a near-perfect encapsulation of those hazy, memory-drowning nights. - Tara Seetharam

#6
“Takin’ Pills”
Pistol Annies

Individual rankings:  Jonathan – #3;  Leeann – #5;  Sam – #9;  Tara – #10;  Ben – #10

Miranda Lambert’s critical clout took a considerable hit in 2012 as a result of back-to-back career-worst singles, but the second proper single from the Pistol Annies was plenty strong enough to keep Lambert associated with some of the smartest, most self-aware songwriting in modern country.  “Takin’ Pills” finds the Annies having an absolute ball in playing dress-up, and the song is all the better because they give their audience credit for knowing exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.  During a year when so many acts were preoccupied with misguided notions of authenticity, to hear the Annies flaunt their artifice so brazenly made for a welcome change of pace.  It’s a shame — albeit an unsurprising one — that country radio still won’t give them the time of day. - Jonathan Keefe

#5
“Like a Rose”
Ashley Monroe

Individual rankings:  Leeann – #1;  Ben – #5;  Jonathan – #9;  Sam – #10;  Tara – #13

Hearing a new country song from Ashley Monroe, as a solo artist, has been a long time coming.  While the wait has been tough, the payoff has certainly been worth it.  “Like A Rose”, the first song that the public has been able to hear from her upcoming 2013 album, is a crisply produced, sharply written and exquisitely sung gem.  High praise for a song that may unfortunately ultimately slip under the radar, but such praise is easily warranted here. - Leeann Ward

#4
“Drinkin’ Man”
George Strait

Individual rankings:  Kevin – #3;  Ben – #3;  Tara – #5;  Jonathan – #5;  Leeann – #11

There are few bright spots that come with the knowledge that Strait is in the twilight of his career, with retirement seeming more likely with each passing year.  One particularly shiny one is that Strait’s become something of a vanguard in these final years.  “Drinkin’ Man” is challenging, compelling, and subtly powerful, not adjectives typically associated with his remarkable thirty years of hits.  He’s always been good, but he’s rarely been this interesting. - Kevin John Coyne

#3
“What Have I Done”
LeAnn Rimes

Individual rankings:  Tara – #2;  Leeann – #3;  Dan – #4;  Ben – #4;  Kevin – #5

Music’s finest quality is its ability to express the intangible – the smallest trace of thought, the slightest nuance of emotion.  “What Have I Done” is a striking example of this, a quiet shuffle of pain, regret and reflection that, if only for a few minutes, elevates a well-known story to a three-dimensional reality.  The lyrics are sharp and unadorned, but the song’s soul is Rimes’ layered performance, easily the most compelling of the year. - Tara Seetharam

#2
“So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore”
Alan Jackson

Individual rankings:  Kevin – #1;  Ben – #1;  Jonathan – #4;  Tara – #8;  Sam – #11

Had it been released fifteen or twenty years ago, “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore” would stand a much greater chance at being remembered as the classic it is.  Shameful #25 chart peak aside, this is an achingly beautiful, finely detailed story of a man who is willing to let his reputation fall into ruins for the sake of allowing his former lover to move on without him, resigning himself to a despondent, heartbroken existence in which nothing matters to him at all except the happiness of the one he loves.  A steel guitar, a nakedly sincere vocal, and the dark, bitter, aching truth – It’s everything a great country record should be.  A timeless career highlight from a true country music legend. - Ben Foster

#1
“Merry Go ‘Round”
Kacey Musgraves

Individual rankings:  Dan – #1;  Leeann – #2;  Sam – #3;  Kevin – #7;  Ben – #7;  Tara – #12

In a single masterful stroke, Musgraves cuts to the fearful, defeated heart of countless small-towners – countless any-towners, really.  The nursery-rhyme chorus is country poetry of the highest order, illustrating in a few simple lines how we compromise ourselves rather than face the unknown, turning to one distraction or another until we almost don’t notice the years rolling by, our dreams collecting dust.

It would have been a standout single in most any era of country music.  That it’s managed to go Top 20 in this era – in which the mainstream anxiously evades things that are smart, challenging, new, and female – feels like a small miracle, and speaks to the timeless power of great music to transcend meaningless boundaries.  It’s the most impressive debut country single in recent memory, and an enticing challenge to an ever-reductive Music Row:  Truth and creativity can still win out in 2012. - Dan Milliken

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47 Comments

Filed under Best of 2012

47 Responses to CU's Top Singles of 2012

  1. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar

    My rankings for some of these:

    “Postcard From Paris”- #8

    “(Every Storm) Runs Out Of Rain”- #21

    “Southern Comfort Zone”- #37

    “Cruise”- #17

  2. CollinNo Gravatar

    I’m sorry, but “Good Girl” doesn’t deserve to even be close to this list. We all know that Carrie can sing, but the writing is so one dimensional that is almost becomes comical. He’s no good…because he’ll break your heart…because he’s no good? That’s it? Come on.

    There are other rankings that I disagree with (Really, Gary Allan at #39 and Zac Brown at #38?), but Carrie Underwood’s worst song since the disaster that was “Undo It” doesn’t deserve to ever be rewarded in any way.

  3. bobNo Gravatar

    Favorites in this first group include the songs from Zac Brown, Band Perry and Wade Hayes.

    Happy BD Suzy Bogguss.

  4. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar

    Well done as usual guys :)

    My top 10:

    01. Jason Aldean- “Fly Over States”

    02. Eric Church- “Springsteen”

    03. Big & Rich- “That’s Why I Pray”

    04. Tim McGraw- “Better Than I Used To Be”

    05. George Strait- “Drinkin’ Man”

    06. Chris Young- “Neon”

    07. Toby Keith- “Beers Ago”

    08. The Band Perry- “Postcard From Paris”

    09. Kacey Musgraves- “Merry Go Round”

    10. Thomas Rhett- “Beer With Jesus”

  5. KarlyNo Gravatar

    Excellent list and commentary as usual, guys!

    I especially loved Tara’s blurb on Carrie’s “Two Black Cadilacs.”

    My top ten:

    1. Alan Jackson- “So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore”
    2. The Band Perry- “Better Dig Two”
    3. Carrie Underwood- “Blown Away”
    4. Carrie Underwood- “Two Black Cadillacs”
    5. Gary Allan- “Every Heartache (Runs Outta Rain)
    8. Rascal Flatts- “Come Wake Me Up”
    9. Little Big Town- “Pontoon”
    10. Jason Aldean- “Fly Over States”

    Outside the top ten, but songs I still loved:

    Eli Young Band- “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”
    The Band Perry- “Postcard From Paris”
    Thompson Square- “Glass”
    Kenny Chesney- “El Cerrito Place”
    Tim McGraw- “Better Than I Used To Be”
    Kristen Kelly- “Ex Old Man”
    Chris Young- “Neon”
    Tim McGraw- “Better Than I Used To Be”
    Rascal Flatts- “Changed”

  6. MikeNo Gravatar

    I think Blown Away deserves a top 5 position.
    And Good Girl deserves a better position too! Im ok with Two Black Cadillacs since its a new single , and its one of the better songs I hear in the last years!

  7. TenaNo Gravatar

    My five favs:
    1. Takin’ Pills
    2. When I’m Gone
    3. Every Storm
    4. Better Dig Two
    5. Neon

  8. DiamondNo Gravatar

    I don’t have a list to post, but thanks to Ben and the other writers here, I have spent today listening (and enjoying) several songs I had not heard before.

  9. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar

    The rest of my top 20:

    11. Dean Brody- “Canadian Girls”

    12. Blake Shelton- “Over”

    13. Phil Vassar- “Don’t Miss Your Life”

    14. David Nail- “The Sound Of A Million Dreams”

    15. Gloriana- “(Kissed You) Good Night”

    16. Lady Antebellum- “Dancin’ Away With My Heart”

    17. Florida Georgia Line- “Cruise”

    18. Kip Moore- “Beer Money”

    19. Justin Moore- “Til My Last Day”

    20. Carrie Underwood- “Blown Away”

  10. klarkNo Gravatar

    I might be a minority here but “Begin Again” deserves to be in that list in my opinion.

    Yet I agree with the top ten.

  11. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar

    I also think “Begin Again” is a very strong record as well.

    Probably #23 for me.

  12. BrandyNo Gravatar

    Ben Foster I have lost all respect for you and CU for calling Over You and Fastest Girl in Town Miranda’s career worst video, You must be insane.Over You should be 1st in the list and FGIT top 10 easily !

  13. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar

    As a Miranda fan, even I admit, those weren’t her best efforts at all.

    I hate comments like yours Brandy, because it makes it seem like you think that Ben and all of CU can’t have a different opinion than you.

    I know I’m commenting alot :)

  14. BobNo Gravatar

    Good Girl is not country or good for that matter, Half these people nobody ever heard of, Did you get drunk Ben, Only 2 you got right was Pistol Annies and Ashley Monroe and you didnt include Over You by Miranda, Your list and CU are bogus !

  15. bobNo Gravatar

    Now that the full top 40 has been posted, I’ll mention a few songs that I feel could have been included:

    Lee Brice – “A Woman Like You”
    Kristen Kelly – “Ex Old Man”
    Thompson Square – “Glass”
    Gloriana – “Can’t Shake You”

    I love “The Dreaming Fields” but Matraca’s rendition for me doesn’t compare to Trisha Yearwood’s.

    I liked more than half of the top 20, especially the entries for Musgraves, Monroe, Nail, ZBB, BP, Don w AK & EYB.

    Great job by all. Thanks and Happy New Year.

  16. TomNo Gravatar

    …ain’t it bad enough that the united states are about to go over a fiscal cliff? was it really necessary to have me teetering at the brink of losing all hope for the reccuring lists of all lists in country universe? hell, no!

    …but it was kinda worth it. nice work, folks.

  17. Just to reiterate, this list was a collaborative effort between seven writers. It’s not all me. I didn’t write the “Takin’ Pills” blurb with which Brandy took issue, though I do agree with it, and though I had considered “Good Girl” for inclusion on my personal Top 20 list, it didn’t make my final cut. We don’t expect everyone to agree with our rankings, but that’s why we welcome reader feedback.

    And yes, as Bob noted above, many of these artists will be new discoveries for our readers, but I think that’s part of the value of this feature, in that it can help introduce people to talented artists whom they might not have discovered otherwise.

    As for “Begin Again,” it was submitted by one of our writers, but didn’t get enough points to make the final list.

  18. klarkNo Gravatar

    “Over You” as the best country single of 2012? Give me a break?! hahaha..
    Lastly, never did the staff here say that those two have the worst video, these songs are just meh.

  19. KeithNo Gravatar

    I really enjoyed reading this. There were some discoveries in here that I hadn’t heard before, so thanks! I definitely would have included David Nail’s version of “Someone Like You” somewhere in the middle and Jana Kramer’s “Why Ya Wanna” somewhere at the bottom. Could have left off Kip Moore, Florida Georgia Line, and Luke Bryan, too.

    Also, ditto on bob’s comment on “The Dreaming Fields.”

  20. Sam G.No Gravatar

    I didn’t put any of Miranda Lambert’s singles on my list this year because she and/or her record label seemed bound and determined to release every average to subpar song on an otherwise good album as a single. Now that they’ve worked through the junk and “Mama’s Broken Heart” is the new release, I can see giving her some love for the 2013 lists.

  21. ScottNo Gravatar

    “Drinkin Man” is the best song in a long time to not be a hit.

  22. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar

    The fact that “Drinkin’ Man” peaked at #37 is a complete joke.

  23. GatorNo Gravatar

    I’m surprised that Jonathan did not include “Merry Go Round” on his list of top singles, is there a reason why Mr. Keefe?

    Also, is there going to be any input on the other new LeAnn single, “Borrowed,” I’d love to hear others thoughts on that song.

    Finally, I may add my glee at the presence of Kacey and Ashley on this list, them and LeAnn are the albums I’m anticipating and think should be good for next year. I look forward to seing the albums list!

  24. BrianNo Gravatar

    But sometimes it takes the subtlety and precision of a sledgehammer to get one’s point across, especially when your point is a thoughtful and sincere charge to consider how unfamiliar experiences can both reinforce and challenge your core beliefs

    ____________________________________________

    Not according to Ben.

  25. Jonathan KeefeNo Gravatar

    I’ve championed Miranda Lambert’s output as loudly and as passionately as anyone here or anywhere else since the first time I saw her perform on Nashville Star and from the first time I heard “Me and Charlie Talking,” and I stand fully behind my statement that “Over You” and “Fastest Girl in Town” are the two worst singles (I don’t get worked up about music videos either way) of her career to date.

    I was the lone voter for “Begin Again,” but I didn’t rank it highly enough for it to crack the top 40. I am very, very curious to see how Swift ranks on this year’s Nashville Scene critics’ poll.

    I don’t think anyone would disagree that Trisha Yearwood’s version of “The Dreaming Fields” is even better than Matraca Berg’s, but that doesn’t mean Matraca’s isn’t just lovely in its own right. Big Machine totally botched the single releases from Trisha’s Heaven, Heartache, & The Power of Love album, and it would have been nice to have seen her gorgeous rendition of the song get a shot at radio. Even though radio surely would’ve ignored it anyway.

    I didn’t vote for “Merry Go Round” because there were simply 20-plus singles that I like better; I do like its production a whole lot and think it’s a very encouraging sign, in terms of tone and gender balance, that it has gained traction at radio.

  26. wmcmNo Gravatar

    @Collin: I agree with you about Undo It but I liked Good Girl. Not enough for it to make my year end top 20 but I think it sounds musically fresh. I don’t think the lyrics are great but they don’t bother me. I didn’t miss specifics about how the guy’s deceiving the girl or how the girl’s deceiving herself this time. I *did* like the implication that the good girl had let herself get snowed by societal pressure to find The One.

    Am I the only one who wasn’t surprised by the fact that it was Dann Huff not Rick Rubin who produced The Band Perry? When I listened to it the 1st time I was surprised by how Rick Rubin had given into the generic rock/country trend and then it all made sense when I realized the producer was actually Dann Huff. I’m talking about the chorus. As far as the verses, the production pretty much follows the demo and I guess I don’t feel like giving Dann Huff credit for that.

    Over You and Fastest Girl In Town were below average singles period and not just by the higher standards Miranda’s set for herself throughout her career. I love Mama’s Broken Heart as a song but Miranda’s version of it leaves me a cold. Too loud. I guess I was just more used to the Kacey Musgraves version which is much more sensitive to the lyrics.

    My top 20 singles of 2012:

    1 – Merry Go Ground, Kacey Musgraves
    2- So You Don’t Have To Love My Anymore, Alan Jackson
    3 – Creepin, Eric Church
    4 – Neon, Chris Young
    5 – Keep Your Heart Young, Brandi Carlile
    6 – Blown Away, Carrie Underwood
    7 – September, Corb Lund
    8 – On The Outskirts Of Town, Time Jumpers
    9 – That Wasn’t Me, Brandi Carlile
    10 – Better Dig Two, The Band Perry
    11 – I’ll Sing About Mine, Josh Abbott Band
    12 – Drinkin Man, George Strait
    13 – Springsteen, Eric Church
    14 – Two Black Cadillacs, Carrie Underwood
    15 – The Wind, Zac Brown Band
    16 – The Sound Of A Million Dreams, David Nail
    17 – 100 Proof, Kellie Pickler
    18 – Lovin You Is Fun, Easton Corbin
    19 – Tornado, Little Big Town
    20 – Southern Comfort Zone, Brad Paisley

  27. Louie MNo Gravatar

    Great list all in all. But I’m surprised about the absence of “Pontoon” in the top singles list. Well it is not necessarily a critically-acclaimed song. But “Pontoon” has just been an ubiquitous hit and if not one of the defining country singles of 2012.

  28. GatorNo Gravatar

    Thank you for clearing that up Jonathan. I was just surprised, seems like it would fall in line with your praises of Miranda from my past readings of your reviews.

  29. BrandyNo Gravatar

    I hope when you people have someone die thats close to you that you will remember what a beautiful song and video Over You is. CMA Song of the Year ! No way Good Girl a pop video should be on this list

  30. BobNo Gravatar

    Klark you are a joke, Hell yes they are the best to but seems your staff here at this media rag like the lets get drunk and stupid songs. Your lame opinions are lame anyway.

  31. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar

    Classy

  32. BobNo Gravatar

    klark is just meh

  33. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar

    Miranda fans, you aren’t exactly gaining credibility by repeating the same insult over and over again.

    Just sayin’.

  34. Brandy, I wouldn’t be too quick to assume that people who dislike “Over You” have never lost anyone close to them.

  35. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar

    ^To tack onto the conversation above, I have to admit I can’t connect with “Merry Go Round” the way others have, though I recognize it’s a fantastic song. It’s the same way I felt about “A Table Away” a few years back.

  36. BrandyNo Gravatar

    Ben Foster, Your right of course and im truly sorry I said that and I ask for your forgiveness or anyone elses on here I might have offended. Makus, Why dont you guys have someway to delete posts that are sometimes made out of anger and later we wish we hadnt said them, This would help with the confusion, Thanks !

  37. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar

    I’ve always thought that would be a good idea Brandy.

    I would do that, if I wrote for this site (which is a life goal for me by the way Kevin).

  38. BrandyNo Gravatar

    Markus I thought you did when I wrote that,Then I saw the Editors and Contributors on the side and your name wasnt listed and I thought, this is a prime example why they need this feature lol.Anyway good luck and maybe you will get that job !

  39. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar

    Haha, thanks!

  40. Markus MeyerNo Gravatar

    Haha, thanks!

  41. JonNo Gravatar

    Awesome job guys, great list!

    My personal #1 is Better Dig Two by Band Perry, although Merry Go Round is a very, very solid choice. I agree with most of the list.

    I would have thought 100 Proof would sneak in there somewhere around the low to mid teens. I would have left off Good Girl, but the last two Underwood singles are strong choices and IMO deserves to be in the list.

  42. Motown MikeNo Gravatar

    My top ten for 2012 would be as follows..

    1) When I’m Gone
    2) So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore
    3) Merry Go Round
    4) What Have I Done
    5)Drinkin’ Man
    6)Postcard From Paris
    7) Neon
    8) Is It Already Time
    9) Safe and Sound
    10) The Dreaming Fields

  43. Motown MikeNo Gravatar

    I’m also surprised that “Don’t Rush” with Kelly Clarkson and Vince Gill was absent from your list.

  44. “Don’t Rush” was on the low end of two of our writers’ lists, but it came up shy in the final tally. I had it on one draft of my list, but it got squeezed out as I ended up finding more than twenty songs that I liked more. I do like the song a lot though.

  45. The Clarkson song was #19 on my individual list, but didn’t make the cut of the final cumulative list.