The Best Singles of the Decade, Part One: #100-#76

The Best of the Decade, 2010-2019

Albums

#100-#76 | #75-#51 | #50-#26 | #25-#1

Singles

#100-#76 | #75-#51 | #50-#26 | #25-#1

Our Best Singles of the Decade list kicks off with the first 25 entries.

 

#100

“Shotgun Rider”

Tim McGraw

A bit of nineties McGraw magic, “Shotgun Rider” recalls everything great about his definitive run of hits from his glory days.  – Kevin John Coyne

 

#99

“Black Myself”

Our Native Daughters

American roots supergroup Our Native Daughters contrasts the pie in the sky glory promised by the American Dream with the relentless prejudice inflicted on black Americans, then pivots into an empowering anthem of resilience.  – KJC

 

#98

“Roll With It”

Easton Corbin

There’s nothing wrong with a good summer song; it’s just rare to actually hear a good summer song. But Corbin gets right what many artists get wrong – instead of loud and rowdy, he goes for relaxed, laid-back and romantic. Add an arrangement that channels Alan Jackson, and you’ve got a single that still sounds great ten years after its release.   – Ben Foster

 

#97

“Get High”

Brandy Clark

Country music’s legacy of drinking songs are rarely as self reflective as this song of escapism. The woman in this song hates her job, loves her kids and is bored with her husband. So she turns to smoking pot to
escape from the stresses and doldrums of life. The particularly interesting part of “Get High” is that she does not celebrate it. She’s just grateful for it. She laughs at the days when she used to judge women who smoked in their kitchens. She wishes to be that naive person again, but also thanks God for the Mary Jane at the end of the day. – Leeann Ward

 

#96

“Love Can Go to Hell”

Brandy Clark

This gem from Brandy Clark’s sophomore set lays the blame of a love gone wrong on that reckless feeling itself. – KJC

 

#95

“Blue Ridge Mountain Song”

Alan Jackson

A tender tale of a young love that blossoms and fades on the side of a blue ridge mountain. – KJC

 

#94

“Long Time Gone”

Billie Joe + Norah

It was surprising and delightful  to hear Green Day rocker Billie Joe Armstrong mellowing himself out to collaborate with Norah Jones on this Everly Brothers country weeper. Their harmonies are delicious, and it is satisfying hearing them slide into falsetto with such ease. Without knowing their backgrounds, it would not have been a stretch to think that they were an alt country duo. – LW

 

#93

“Blue, Blue Day”

Mandy Barnett featuring Alison Krauss

Two of the finest voices the country genre has ever known join in exquisite harmony to pay tribute to Don Gibson. “Blue, Blue Day” is a masterclass in melancholy, with flourishes of fiddle, pedal, and harmonica all adding to its sorrowful vibe. But Barnett’s languid phrasing and spot-on interpretive instincts remain the focus: The production and Krauss’ perfect backing vocals keep Barnett from sounding alone on this record, but she sure sounds lonesome. – Jonathan Keefe

 

#92

“Bittersweet”

Kasey Chambers featuring Bernard Fanning

A gorgeous duet about a scorned lover and her sheepish ex-beau dancing around giving their failed romance another try. – KJC

 

#91

“My Mistake”

Cam

Cam shrugs off the consequences of a one night stand in “My Mistake,” a swirl of alcohol, free will and sex-positivity set to a clean, country-pop arrangement. There’s an undeniable thrill to the song, a joyfulness that comes with knowing and seizing your sense of agency. – Tara Seetharam

 

#90

“Codeine”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

An early indication of Isbell’s emerging greatness, “Codeine” paints a harrowing picture of a woman slipping into addiction as a man who loves her – but not quite enough to intervene on her behalf – watches on. – KJC

 

#89

“Good Girl”

Carrie Underwood

“Good Girl” has all the trimmings of an early Underwood record –raucous production, bombastic vocals, indignance over a two-faced man–, but its structural twists and turns give her newfound momentum. Underwood is a steely force throughout, snapping from acrobatic choruses to an a Capella closing that serves her final warning. It remains the most electrifying up-tempo single in her catalogue. – TS

 

#88

“My Church”

Maren Morris

A rousing celebration of the redemptive power of music and the spiritual connection it can create in any listener. The central metaphor is clever, the arrangement cool and swampy, but it’s the joy and enthusiasm in Morris’s performance that lifts the song into the heavens. – BF

#87

“Borrowed”

LeAnn Rimes

As sympathetic a portrayal of the other woman as anything I’ve heard since Tanya Tucker’s “Soon.” – KJC

 

#86

“What We Ain’t Got”

Jake Owen

The release of a vulnerable straight piano ballad was a pleasant surprise coming from Jake Owen, one of the pillars of bro country culture. Owen’s performance wrings out every drop of sensitive and vulnerable emotion of a man who is mourning the loss of a relationship that he had taken for granted. “What We Ain’t Got” reminds us that Owen actually has one of the best voices in modern country music. – LW

 

#85

“Let it Go”

George Strait

This breezy number about appreciating life and letting go of what weighs you down has a poignancy to it, courtesy of Strait’s weathered with wisdom vocal. – KJC

 

#84

“Record Year”

Eric Church

An ode to the power of vinyl from someone who clearly has a collection of them from before they were hip again. – KJC

 

#83

“Traveling Alone”

Jason Isbell

The sing-along melody almost masks the utter loneliness of a man who has let his life spiral into such self-destruction that a “street girl” sent him on his way without taking his money. I might even argue that the desperation of this song is even more of a gut punch than Isbell’s “Elephant”, which is about a man caring for a woman dying of cancer. – LW

 

#82

“I Put My Ring Back On”

Mary Chapin Carpenter

For one glorious moment in 2010, we saw the return of the Mary Chapin Carpenter of the nineties. Carpenter tells a story of reconciliation and forgiveness through her signature warm, comforting vocal style, while the infectious melody and catchy guitar hook wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Come On Come On or Stones in the Road. Had it been released fifteen years earlier, it’s easy to imagine “I Put My Ring Back On” being a hit. – BF

 

#81

“Takin’ Pills”

Pistol Annies

The Pistol Annies play with their own artistic personas on this standout moment from their debut, which combines self-awareness with a slyly self-deprecating sense of humor. Since the lyrics depict the day-to-day life of a band on the road, it’s only fitting that it be backed by a rollicking roadhouse arrangement. – BF

 

#80

“Barton Hollow”

The Civil Wars

The best Americana of the last decade was, more often than not, distinctive for having an actual pulse, and few country or country-adjacent singles boast the percussive stomp of The Civil Wars’ debut record. “Barton Hollow” hinges on the tension between the sweetness of Joy Williams’ high harmonies and John Paul White’s bluesy growl. The rhythm section propels them ever forward as they try to outrun a seedy past that is forever at their heels, and, at times, the two vocalists sound as though they’re singing two entirely different songs. It’s wondrously effective, but perhaps it was a harbinger that The Civil Wars weren’t going to last a duo. – JK

 

#79

“Ours”

Taylor Swift

The acoustic-based arrangement is a perfect fit for a lyric that conveys the simple comfort and security of being in love. While Swift’s vocal limitations often drew criticism in country music circles, “Ours” brings out the quiet, understated sincerity that has long been one of her greatest strengths as a vocalist. – BF

 

#78

“Plant White Roses”

Kelly Hogan

For the second time in her career, Kelly Hogan took a song by the most incisive wiseass in indie-rock, Stephin Merritt, and roped it into the country genre where it rightfully belonged. Hogan puts the easy power in her voice to perfect use in the gospel-tinged choruses of “Plant White Roses,” but it’s her phrasing in the verses that further elevates the single into a should-be classic. There are scant few lines from the last decade more devastating or flawlessly delivered than, “You’re all I need / But you need more than country songs / You need to be gettin’ along.” With “Plant White Roses,” Hogan turned in the best single in this vein since Gene Watson’s “Farewell Party.” – JK

 

#77

“Colder Weather”

Zac Brown Band

In this elegant piano ballad, a troubadour caught between the woman he needs and the lifestyle he craves makes her a repeated hollow promise. Brown conveys this struggle so beautifully that even though you know his loneliness is self-imposed –that the warmer weather will never melt his gypsy soul– you can’t help but empathize with his longing for connection. – TS

 

#76

“Traveller”

Chris Stapleton

Bluegrass’s loss was country music’s great gain when Stapleton left the Steel Drivers to pursue a solo country music career! The title song from his wildly successful album explores the feeling of restlessness and the need to keep moving. Stapleton’s soulful voice and the song’s compelling production makes the wandering life feel invigorating.  His wife, Morgane Stapleton, provides gorgeous background vocals. – LW

 

The Best of the Decade, 2010-2019

Albums

#100-#76 | #75-#51 | #50-#26 | #25-#1

Singles

#100-#76 | #75-#51 | #50-#26 | #25-#1

 

2 Comments

  1. One of my favorite songs in this group is Jake Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got” (Travis Meadows & Travis Jerome Goff). I’ve never been a fan of his but a friend of mine gave me his Greatest Hits album just over a year ago. According to my i-tunes library, I’ve played the song 35 times and no other song from the GH cd more than twice.

    Other favorite songs here include Brandy Clark’s “Get High” and “Love Can Go to Hell”, Zac Brown’s Colder Weather and Eric Church’s Record Year.

  2. … when i come across such curated lists of songs – which i find a commendable and rather captivating effort – i always wonder, whether they would in the end actually make a radio program that appealed to a wider country radio audience – i.e. the mainstream. would, for example, a radio day consisting of these upcoming 100 choices (in random order) really make an overall significantly more pleasant and satisfying listening experience than today’s average country radio day that one would come across anywhere, any time in the market. i’m just not quite sure there.

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