The Best Singles of the Decade, Part Two: #75-#51

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 continues with big radio hits and Americana gems.

 

#75

“Stripes”

Brandy Clark

An undeniably original entry in the canon of country music cheating songs – a woman refrains from murdering her cheating spouse because “I don’t look good in orange and I hate stripes”. The premise may court a chuckle in some listeners, but the simmering rage in Clark’s performance would keep anyone from writing it off as novelty.  – Ben Foster

 

#74

“Neon”

Chris Young

Two decades after “Neon Moon” had us wallowing in Dunn’s loneliness, “Neon” lured us into a more blissful approach to heartache. It’s an anthem for those who aren’t so much trying to forget their troubles as they are content in their own defeat. Young’s voice sinks effortlessly into the neo-traditional arrangement, and by the time the last chorus hits, he’s melted the song into a sublime pool of resignation – a near-perfect encapsulation of those hazy, memory-drowning nights. – Tara Seetharam

 

 

#73

“American Kids”

Kenny Chesney

“American Kids” is one of Chesney’s catchiest songs with a delightful production. Also, while it’s still rooted in nostalgia, it’s not about beaches, islands or not being ready to commit to a relationship, which is always refreshing for a Chesney song.- Leeann Ward

 

#72

“That’s Important to Me”

Joey + Rory

The “laundry list” structure has often been used as a crutch by uninspired songwriters, but in the hands of Joey + Rory, it feels like anything but. Maybe it’s because the song feels less like a list than a vivid, compelling character portrait. Maybe it’s the subtle central message that people and relationships are more important than things. Or maybe it’s the way Joey Feek sings the song like she deeply feels every word of it. One thing is for sure: “That’s Important to Me” remains a defining standout moment in the career of a much-missed duo. – Ben Foster

 

#71

“Stronger Than the Truth”

Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire sings pure country as well as any traditionalist, but when it comes to embodying the heartache of an every women, she is simply without peer.  Put those two together, and you have one of the finest singles of her career, a heartbreaking lament of a married woman who put her faith and trust in the wrong man. – Kevin John Coyne

 

#70

“Ain’t No Little Girl”

Kasey Chambers

After surgery that could have ruined Chambers’ singing career, she emerged with a stronger vocal ability, shedding much of her nasal baby voice as a result. “Ain’t No Little Girl” demonstrated that fact with a soulful vocal performance that announced her shift to a more mature woman.- LW

 

#69

“Bottom of the River”

Delta Rae

On “Bottom of the River,” Delta Rae flip the script on the traditional country murder ballad by taking the point of view of the woman who’s being murdered; in this case, the woman’s been accused, perhaps correctly, of being a hill witch, and she has absolutely no intention of being drowned. Brittany Holljes gives an astonishing lead vocal performance (she lets out an out-of-nowhere, otherworldly wail in the second verse that is the most shocking delivery of the last decade, bar none), while the other members of this talented outfit engage in a call-and-response that brings to mind the angry mob that’s out for blood. That the only accompaniment is some found percussion heightens the tension; there’s simply nothing else released in the 2010s that sounds anything like “Bottom of the River.” – Jonathan Keefe

 

 

#68

“Safe and Sound”

Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars

Pop superstar Taylor Swift and Americana darlings The Civil Wars were one of the more unlikely collaborations of the 2010s. But the pairing turned out to work quite well, thanks to The Civil Wars bringing out the softer tones of Swift’s vocal sweet spot. – LW

 

#67

“Biscuits”

Kacey Musgraves

“Biscuits” plays like the flip side of “Follow Your Arrow”, in which Musgraves encouraged us to make our own choices without paying heed to criticism from others. In this twangy toe-tapper, Musgraves takes aim at those who are doing the criticizing. She lays bare the sheer pointlessness of needlessly tearing one another down, reflecting a theme that has long been prominent in her songwriting – the celebration of individuality. – BF

 

#66

“It Ain’t My Fault”

Brothers Osborne

Elevating the blameshift into an art form, Brothers Osborne walk the line of being exactly as clever as they need to be to make “It Ain’t My Fault” scan as charming, rather than standoffish or sleazy. What’s so compelling about the duo is that they aren’t afraid to rock harder than any mainstream country act ever has, but they also know their way around a memorable hook. “It Ain’t My Fault” is catchy as all hell, turning a lack of responsibility for one’s own actions into a stadium-ready singalong: When TJ growls, “I’m only guilty of a damn good time,” it’s an admission that rings of absolute truth. – JK

 

#65

“Little Red Wagon”

Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert’s fiesty cover of Audra Mae and the Almighty Sound’s “Little Red Wagon” showcased how far she’d come as a vocalist, as she delivered a confident anthem with a casual flair, as if her coolness is so self-evident that she doesn’t need to raise an eyebrow to assert it.  – KJC

 

#64

“Creepin'”

Eric Church

Taste is a fickle thing: When the crew here compiled our list of the best singles of 2012, I didn’t even have “Creepin’” in the top 50 of my long-list ballot. But “Creepin’,” with its minor-key opening, slithering rhythm section, and absolutely killer use of the natural meter of language, is a single that insinuates itself. Eight years later and, on any given day, it would be my choice for the best single from one of the most reliable hitmakers of the last decade. – JK

 

#63

“All Your’n”

Tyler Childers

It’s the hillbilly answer to Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up,” and I love every single ragged syllable that Tyler Childers drawls out with his don’t-you-dare-call-it-pretty tenor. Purists rankled at the production flourishes because how dare Childers release a single that didn’t sound like everything else he’d put out to this point in his career, but that church piano is a joyful noise, and that Hammond organ is the gospel truth. If someone’s going to holler, “I’ll love you ‘til my lungs give out,” it ought to sound like a sermon, and “All Your’n” is precisely what I want country music to sound like as we lurch forward into the uncertainty of the new decade. – JK

 

#62

“Every Girl in This Town”

Trisha Yearwood

Who’s going to sing to the young girls and validate their perspectives and experiences?  For a brief spell in 2019, it was Trisha Yearwood again.  “If they try to hold you down under that water, just come up baptized, baby. Let it make you stronger.”  – KJC

 

#61

“Got My Name Changed Back”

Pistol Annies

One of the runaway delights of the 21st century has been the Pistol Annies. “Got My Name Changed Back” is a highlight of their third album, which we didn’t know if we would ever get. It’s a joyful celebration of getting out of a toxic marriage. Those instrumental breakdowns and the group’s doo-wop harmonies throughout the song are simply delicious! – LW

 

#60

“May Your Kindness Remain”

Courtney Marie Andrews

Andrews has an extraordinary ability to fill a song with her voice, like watercolor bleeding across a canvas. In “May Your Kindness Remain,” she uses this gift to dignify kindness, delicately at first and then building to a clamoring climax that belongs in a church. But as much as she implores us, begs us, to lead with kindness, it’s not done sanctimoniously: Andrews is one of the best in the genre at extending empathy without pretense, and here, she paints kindness as a measure of success we can all attain. – TS

 

#59

“Highwomen”

The Highwomen featuring Yola

A powerful reimagining of the Jimmy Webb classic “Highwayman,” a reincarnation tale of roving men is transformed into a witnessing of forgotten women.  It’s a record that still haunts me, particularly Yola’s powerful embodiment of a slain freedom rider – “My mother asked me if that ride was worth my life.”  – KJC

 

#58

“Destination”

Nickel Creek

“Destination” was a perfect way for Nickel Creek to announce their comeback, after seven years of the three musicians taking time to find out who they were as individuals. The song is vibrant and fun, and it showed their growth while also letting us know that they were still the same talented band at their core.- LW

 

#57

“Kill a Word”

Eric Church featuring Rhiannon Giddens

“Kill a Word” imagines a world where humanity’s ugly underbelly is destroyed word by word, and grace isn’t required for battle. What if, Church supposes, you could tangibly slay hate, evil and temptation; eradicate fear, regret and disgrace? What if love and truth prevailed? Church approaches this concept with gritty resolve, the song’s jangly tune adding levity to the darkness. But it’s Giddons that provides the ultimate catharsis: She weaves indignant, soulful riffs into the last chorus that remind us that these words, and their power, still abound. – TS

 

#56

“Drinkin’ Man”

George Strait

This powerful narrative of an alcoholic that started young remains among Strait’s finest moments on record.  Trying to pin down what makes him so special is difficult to do.  The way he shows such empathy for the drinkin’ man and all those that are hurt by him helps point toward the answer. – KJC

 

#55

“Send it On Down”

Lee Ann Womack

In “Send it On Down,” Womack prays to Jesus to lift her out the small town that’s clipped her wings. But the song hints at something deeper: That maybe Womack’s inner demons, entwined though they may be with her surroundings, are the real reason she’s weighed down. Womack’s angelic, quivering soprano heightens this complexity, and you’re left wondering if salvation will ever find her. – TS

 

#54

“Humble and Kind”

Tim McGraw

The jewel of “Humble and Kind,” a Lori McKenna composition that McGraw layers with humility, is its circular message. You have mountains to climb, McGraw tells his child, places to fly to without the weight of bitterness or regret. Get there with integrity, and when you make it to the top, turn around and reach back because we are one humanity. It’s simple advice that McGraw treats with the reverence it deserves. – TS

 

#53

“See You Again”

Carrie Underwood

If you’re going to do an anthem that declares the certainty of life after death, it helps to have a singer who can deliver that conviction without even a hint of doubt.  If she’s got a powerful enough voice to reach the heavens?  Even better. – KJC

 

#52

“Hanging Up My Heart”

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell

“Hangin’ Up My Heart” is bouncy on the surface, but it is actually about guarding against future heartache. Harris’ and Crowell’s voices sound like they’re having a lot of fun as they finally teamed together for an album. Their voices are vibrant and feel like they’re meant to be singing together. – LW

 

#51

“Rain is a Good Thing”

Luke Bryan

Before Luke Bryan turned into a butt shaking bro, he had a promising charm that was found in Billy Currington’s “Good Directions”, which Bryan co-wrote, and in his own “Rain is a Good Thing.”  The cheeky single is a circuitous ode to rain that celebrates the frivolous fun that rain can help instigate. – 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

 

1 Comment

  1. Favorites here:

    Brandy Clark’s Stripes

    Tim McGraw’s Humble & Kind penned solely by Lori McKenna,

    Joey & Rory – That’s Important to Me (didn’t know about it til i saw this list.)

    Eric Church’s Kill a Word

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