Top Fifty CMA Single of the Year Winners, Part Two: #40-#31

Our countdown of CMA Single of the Year winners continues with #40-#31.

Top Fifty CMA Single of the Year Winners

Part One: #50-41 | Part Two: #40-#31 | Part Three: #30-#21

Part Four: #20-#11 | Part Five #10-#1

#40
“Need You Now”

Lady Antebellum

2010

The vocal interplay between Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott has always been one of Lady Antebellum’s biggest strengths, and they are in peak form on this song. The sense of loneliness on their vocals adds some emotional depth to the tale of a late-night hook-up. – Sam Gazdziak

#39
“I Saw God Today”

George Strait

2008

“I Saw God Today” tells the story of a man whose birth of his child helps him see God in the details, which is a nice enough sentiment, but the song is not packaged in a particularly memorable way. Because of its general blandness, it won’t go down in history as one of George Strait’s most memorable hits. – Leeann Ward

#38
“Heaven’s Just a Sin Away”

The Kendalls

1978

A charming spin on country’s familiar trope of feeling at least a little guilty about a life of sin, The Kendalls’ biggest hit sounds less dated than many singles of its era. Kelly Willis’ cover from the early 90s sounded far more lived-in and raw than this version, though. – Jonathan Keefe

#37
“There Goes My Everything”

Jack Greene

1967

Listening to a song like this in 2017 is a reminder that a song from 50 years ago can serve as a small time capsule for that era. Greene’s performance is wonderful and the music is stellar, but casually referring to his wife as his possession is telling of that time. – LW

#36
“Believe”

Brooks & Dunn

2006

Released around the peak of country music’s religious revival – it competed against “Jesus, Take the Wheel” for this award – “Believe” is a rare Brooks & Dunn record of substance and potency. The old man mentoring the young musician has been done a million times before, but in this incarnation, the mentor’s impact is so much more than learning a few chords.  – Kevin John Coyne

#35
“Check Yes or No”

George Strait

1996

A blessing and curse of the nineties was that mainstream country seemed less cynical about what they would embrace in terms of simple, sweet songs promoting lasting love. The singable “Check Yes or No” would be a laughing stock if sent out to country radio today, but both radio and awards shows happily embraced it 22 years ago. – LW

#34
“A Little Good News”

Anne Murray

1984

The biggest problem of the Song of the Year category is the tendency to confuse maudlin sentiments with actual emotional content. Such is the case with this song by Anne Murray. Sadly, the news hasn’t improved much since this one won the CMA award in 1984. – SG

#33
“Swingin'”

John Anderson

1983

One of the first songs I remember loving as a kid, “Swingin’” is very much a product of its time: Those campy backing vocals are everything great about early-80s production. But the sentiment— of finding love under the most ordinary of circumstances, when people are doing yard work and prepping chicken to fry— is timeless, and John Anderson’s unmistakable warble elevates anything he sings. – JK

#32
“Bop”

Dan Seals

1986

It’s a bubble-gum song, no two ways about it, and this 31-year-old, 1950s-inspired song hasn’t aged particularly well. That being said, it remains a charmer and a remembrance that Seals was one of country music’s top hitmakers for close to a decade. – SG

#31
“Live Like You Were Dying”

Tim McGraw

2004

“Live Like You Were Dying” is one of those epic country ballads that simply overwhelm the competition at award shows. Tim McGraw takes a composition that could’ve sounded schmaltzy in lesser hands, perhaps because he’s one of the rare contemporary singers who knows how to elevate a lyric without getting in the way of it.  – KJC

10 Comments

  1. Just want to say, I’m really enjoying this feature! The only pick I might disagree on is “I Saw God Today” only because I don’t find it bland at all. Then again, I also have a lot of nostalgia value tied to that song. Also, John Anderson in general has always been underrated (in my opinion), so it’s nice to see some love for “Swingin'”. Again, really enjoying this!

  2. Re. “There Goes My Everything”–I take it as being true that its lyrics do reflect a certain mindset of its time, though I’m willing to believe it’s the love that is lost perhaps as much as the woman in question. And I would also state that the song became a standard pretty much right out of the box, given that Engelbert Humperdinck took it to #20 on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1967 with his cover (and Elvis also recorded it quite well for his 1971 album Elvis Country).

  3. I agree with TMD. I heard George Strait sing I Saw God Today in concert several years ago; hearing it sung from the stage perhaps leaves a stronger emotional impact than listening to a recording of the song does.

  4. I’m confused by a few things in this grouping.

    First of all, I am surprised in general that “Need You Now” is down at #40, but especially in reading its write-up compared to #39 as “NYN” seemingly gets more praise than the song ranked higher.

    Secondly, why does the Anne Murray write-up talk about Song when you are reviewing Single winners?

  5. Man. I love Dan Seals, and “Bop” has always been a favorite…but I’d love to know why they nominated that song and not “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold).”

  6. “There Goes My Everything” would be much higher on my list – probably top three or four. Interpreting the lyric as possessive is much too literal. The narrator is lamenting the loss of the only one who truly mattered to him. Greene was a superlative singer and this may not have been his best recording, even though it was his only song to receive a CMA award. Writer Dallas Frazier largely dominated the charts during the late 1960s

  7. @Jason,

    Regarding #40 vs. #39…

    Rankings based on multiple lists shake out in such a way that a song can have a higher ranking on one or two personal lists, but still end up lower than a song that ranked lower but more consistently on each list.

    But put another way…Lady Antebellum in peak form is still significantly below less memorable George Strait.

    Just my personal take, “Need You Now” was the third time the same theme won Single of the Year, following “Help Me Make it Through the Night” and “I May Hate Myself in the Morning.” I think it is the least effective of the three, perhaps because it sounds to me like a college age drunk dial instead of deep adult loneliness.

  8. Agree completely with the pistolero concerning Bop and Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold). Love them both, but Glitters was definitely a far superior song.

    There Goes My Everything is such a classic. Still as beautiful and meaningful today as when it was released.

  9. “I Saw God Today” should be way higher. But everyone makes mistakes like the CMA as this list proves!

  10. “Believe” (Ronnie Dunn & Craig Wiseman), “Live Like You Were Dying”(Tim Nichols & Craig Wiseman) and “A Little Good News” (Tommy Rocco, Charlie Black, and Rory Michael Bourke) are my favorites in this group. I love the lines in Believe, “You can’t tell me it all ends
    In a slow ride in a hearse.”

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