I’ve got eighteen curse words about the placement of #521, and a dozen of them are too explicit to print.
Rodney Atkins, “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)”
#1 | 2006
JK: A marginal talent who got real, real lucky with his first hit. Better produced than many of the chart-toppers of its era, if nothing else. Too High
KJC: His signature song has earned its placement on the list. It’s just Too High.
ZK: Many of Atkins’ hits haven’t aged well, but this has always been an inspirational song with an actual kick to it. Too High
Willie Nelson, “The Party’s Over”
#24 | 1967
KJC: One of the central flaws of this list is it picked a small handful of artists and told their entire story, which edged out compelling hits from artists not in that small handful. This didn’t need to be here. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: I like this inclusion as a testament to Nelson’s stylistic diversity. But wow, is it over-ranked in relation to his other entries. Too High
ZK: As wonderfully written as anything else in his discography, which is why I’m sad it’s ruined by an awkward marriage of Nashville Sound production and Nelson’s delivery. Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy it’s here; I’m just glad the rest of his discography didn’t end up sounding like this. Too High?
Mel McDaniel, “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On”
#1 | 1984
JK: Another example of how the genre’s men used to be able to sing about lust without being gross or sleazy. Lord, have mercy, indeed. About Right
KJC: It doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of “Louisiana Saturday Night,” but few records do, anyway. This record is evidence that McDaniel could’ve been a big hitmaker if he’d gotten his hands on the rights songs more often. About Right
ZK: Because every genre has its share of good ass anthems. Too High
Thomas Rhett, “It Goes Like This”
#2 | 2013
KJC: Fine, put it in the bottom one hundred. Too High
JK: The only positive I can offer is that, when I first read the title, I had a moment of panic that it was going to be a spin on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and then a sense of relief that it was merely as run-of-the-mill bad as everything else in Rhett’s catalogue. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: It’s far from the worst song in his discography, but it was his first real “hit,” so …
Damn you, nepotism. Oh, almost forgot the obligatory “Thomas Rhett can’t sing” comment. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Merle Haggard, “Ramblin’ Fever”
#2 | 1977
JK: Not my favorite Haggard entry, but it’s still far too good to be ranked one slot above anything by Thomas Rhett. Too High
KJC: Hard to argue against a Haggard inclusion, as I’m on the record in my belief that he’s the greatest male artist in country music history. This one’s Too High, though.
ZK: It’s a shame this only really cuts loose toward the end. Thematically, Haggard has more interesting songs in this vein in his discography. With 1000 selections, it probably deserves to be here, but it’s Too High.
Hank Williams, Jr., “All My Rowdy Friends are Coming Over Tonight”
#10 | 1984
KJC: This might be the exact moment where Williams Jr. transitioned from artist to personality, as the entire conceit of the song is play off the far superior “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down.” There’s none of the pathos of “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” here, but there’s a gloriously cheesy video that would make Robert Palmer blush. That’s something, I guess. Too High
JK: A shockingly low placement, but I’ll concede my bias that this is one of the first country singles I remember loving as a kid. Too Low
ZK: Aside from a few singles, I will gladly get down with ’80s Hank Williams Jr. Too Low
Kenny Chesney, “Living in Fast Forward”
#1 | 2006
JK: I cannot fathom thinking this is better than “Anything But Mine.” So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: Hi, I’m “Who You’d Be Today,” one of the finest singles in Chesney’s catalog and the single that preceded this one. I’ve got a video that KJC still can’t get through without crying, too. I should be here and not my follow-up. So Wrong (This Song)
ZK: He’s still got some good selections left on this list, so we can most certainly fast forward through this one. So Wrong (This Song)
Tompall Glaser, “Put Another Log On the Fire (Male Chauvinist National Anthem)”
#21 | 1975
KJC: Funny and forward-thinking for its time, but way Too High.
JK: More tongue-in-cheek than I remembered, but his version of “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again” would be in my top 5 entries, and it isn’t on here at all, so… So Wrong (This Song)
ZK: It’s a self-aware lampoon with an undercooked composition, but as the only Glaser cut featured here? Nah, Sirius could have done better … which is a general observation, really. So Wrong (This Song)
Keith Urban, “Better Life”
#1 | 2005
JK: The best of Urban’s uptempo cuts, with a terrific little guitjo figure and a narrative that actually speaks to the country tradition. No one of his era did this brand of pop-country better, and hits like this draw into sharp relief the bloated, overwrought self-importance of his more recent output. Too Low
KJC: It still sounds fresh today, with that signature sound that nobody was able to match and that Urban himself hasn’t tried to live up to in many, many years. That being said, this sound was captured definitively by “Somebody Like You,” and this variation on it is just Too High.
ZK: 2000s Keith Urban is the equivalent of ear candy, and while I enjoy the bright-eyed optimism of this song, I’ve always considered it one of Urban’s more forgettable cuts. So “Wrong” (This Song)
Kathy Mattea, “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses”
#1 | 1988
KJC: This list should have five Kathy Mattea songs, minimum. This is the only one. For the record, it should be: “Where’ve You Been” in the top 100, this one in the top 200, and then “Love at the Five and Dime,” “Walking Away a Winner,” and “Come From the Heart” at respectable positions on the rest of the list. Mattea’s “Five and Dime” arguably kicked open the door for the wave of female artists that saddled country, folk, and seventies rock. She’s a criminally underappreciated artist who deserved better than this one entry that is bafflingly Too Low.
JK: Country music has always done right by truck drivers, and this is far and away the best song in that vein. That it’s only like my seventh or eighth favorite Mattea single is a testament to the depth of her underrated career. She’s a treasure, and the warmth in her delivery here simply never gets old. Too Low
ZK: Truthfully, I can’t get that mad at this list. It’s a bizarre hodgepodge of fun in its own weird way. Seeing this only top out here, though, is enough to make my blood boil. Too Low