A Country Music Conversation: Sirius Top 1000 Country Songs of All Time, #30-#21

It’s a great day to be two posts away from the end of this list.

 

#30

Travis Tritt, “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive”

#1 | 2000

KJC:  If I was going to have a Darrell Scott-penned song this high, it would be “Long Time Gone.”  But this is still one of Tritt’s best moments on record and it has stood the test of time as one of his most popular hits.  Too High

JK: Tritt sings this with conviction because that’s what he always does, but some of the writing here is just so hackneyed. It never bothered me that this was a massive hit– far worse records have been, as this list has highlighted about 400 times– but no way should this be his highest entry or anywhere near the top 30. Far Too High

ZK: Tritt uses that huge voice of his for one of the most joyously refreshing singles of the decade. Where did this guy go? I wouldn’t say it’s the 30th best single in country music history, but I’m not that mad about it. Too High 

 

#29

Loretta Lynn, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”

#1 | 1970

JK: Anything lower than the top 10 for this record is an outright insult. Is it my favorite of Lynn’s? No. But it’s her signature song for all the right reasons and is one of the genre’s definitive recordings from when it still reflected the reality of lived experiences instead of checklists of unchallenging signifiers. Too Low

ZK: This, however, I am mad about. I’m not as mad as when I saw Dolly Parton’s similar masterpiece, “Coat of Many Colors,” slotted way back yonder, but my God. Too Low 

KJC: I don’t think that #29 is egregious, but it feels that way because of at least a dozen songs above it that have no business being in its company.  It’s just a little bit Too Low

 

#28

Johnny Lee, “Lookin’ For Love”

#1 | 1980

ZK: This Urban Cowboy-era staple is  charming, but way too cutesy to be a top 30 all-timer. Guess I wouldn’t have been mad at seeing Buh Wheat’s “Wookin’ Pa Nub” here, though. Too High 

KJC: The best original song on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack is Anne Murray’s “Could I Have This Dance,” and even that would be Too High

 

JK: Delighted that I wasn’t the one to bring in the Buh Wheat reference. Look, this is a terrific record. But how can someone seriously say they’re going to make a point of saying it’s better or more significant than “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Come on. Too High

 

#27

Florida Georgia Line, “Cruise”

#1 | 2012

KJC:  You can’t accurately document the history of country music without “Cruise.”  Then again, you can’t accurately document the history of Patsy Cline without the plane crash.  Doesn’t mean that we have to celebrate either one of them.  Too High

JK: I’ll concede that the hook, if reflecting a deep streak of stupidity, is well-constructed. Slot it at like #990 on impact and then never look back. Far Too High

ZK: I don’t begrudge this single for ushering in a dark period in country music history we’re still trying to recover from, honestly. That hook is undeniable, and as a stupid standalone single, it’s fine enough. It’s just that it ushered in a slew of copycats that leaned even heavier on the misogyny and furthered an already sharp decline in female voices on the airwaves. Bro-country shouldn’t necessarily be automatically used as a pejorative, but the acts that got it right were few and far between. I’d love to go with a So Wrong ranking, but I’ll have to concede with Too High. 

 

#26

Conway Twitty, “Hello Darlin’”

#1 | 1970

JK: I assumed it’d be Twitty’s highest entry but, as with Kenny Rogers and Johnny Paycheck last round, it wouldn’t be my personal choice. But do I think this is indefensible? Hardly. About Right

ZK: Not a personal favorite of mine, if only for being too whiny, but to see an actual classic in the top 30 here … be still, my beating heart. Too High 

KJC:   This is a classic that is very worthy of its lofty position here, even if I’d personally place “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” here instead.  About Right

 

#25

Lee Greenwood, “God Bless the U.S.A.”

#7 | 1984

ZK: …Siriusly? So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

KJC: They’ll drag Lee Greenwood’s tired ass out to sing this song every time there’s a national tragedy.  He’s the ambulance chaser of American heartache.  Again, you can’t tell the story of country music without this record.  But God, does some of that story suck.  Too High

JK: Interesting to see that chart peak. Had it been released in the last 20 years, when this brand of jingoism rebranded as patriotism became the norm for country radio, it would have set records for its stay at #1. On impact alone, I’d keep it on the list, but the callow artlessness of it is a forever problem. Far Too High

 

#24

Luke Bryan, “Play it Again”

#1 | 2014

KJC:  I’d rather not play it again, and I think that “Drink a Beer” and “Drunk On You” are more than enough to represent Luke Bryan on this list.  So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: No. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

ZK: A song about resorting to the radio dial to find a song you really like … from 2013. Look, I myself will cling to my CDs until the day I die, but at least I know what a YouTube is. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

#23

Waylon Jennings, “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)”

#1 | 1977

JK: God help me, I’d actually considered that they’d forgotten this one, so it’s a pleasant surprise in this batch to see this ranked About Right.

ZK: Credit where credit is due. They really got the buddy duets right here, even in placement. Self-referential in a way that doesn’t feel overbearing or takes itself too seriously, this is just one of the great sing-a-longs. About Right 

KJC: There’s got to be a Waylon & Willie song up this high, even if it’s only credited to Waylon, so it might as well be this one.  This list’s ridiculous overinclusion of Outlaw songs has tired me out, though.  About Right

 

#22

Eric Church, “Drink in My Hand”

#1 | 2011

ZK: Back when Eric Church needed a No. 1 hit. I guess I’d include it on impact alone, but it’s too conventional to really reflect the breadth of his artistry. Too High 

KJC: See Jonathan below, because I can’t top that.  So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

JK: Controversial opinion time: There is no current artist who has been more wildly overpraised than Eric Church, the genre’s ultimate tryhard. He has some terrific songs– particularly as album cuts– but he’s just as prone to half-assed songwriting that peddles unconvincing outlaw posturing as readily as the Bros of the era peddle toxic masculinity. Including this song at all, let alone ranking it ahead of the actual legends he namechecks all the time? Absurd. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)

 

#21

Keith Whitley, “When You Say Nothing at All”

#1 | 1988

KJC:  Like “Forever and Ever, Amen,” this could be anywhere between #5 and #50 and I’d say, yeah, that’s About Right 

JK: Co-signing what Zack wrote below, to the letter. About Right

ZK: Says a lot when, even at No. 21, I wouldn’t quibble with the original or its iconic cover by Alison Krauss. Hell, you could have them back-to-back and I’d allow it. About Right

Previous: #40-#31 | Next: #20-#11

16 Comments

  1. “Play It Again” might be one of my biggest guilty pleasure songs ever. It’s melody and hook I find insanely catchy and the song was everywhere in 2014.

    That being said I would probably slot in the Top 500 along with “Cruise” but then again my country music listening goes to as far back as some 90s songs and mainly 2000 onwards.

  2. As much as I love Travis Tritt, I can’t agree this is a top 30. Nice, upbeat, great voice, but not the transcendent kind of song a ranking this high demands. Coal Miner’s Daughter is deserving. I’m reminded of KJC’s fair point that anything deservedly in the top 50 can be thought of as about right, although I think this could be up a bit. No problems here though. Lookin’ For Love is nice, great, but also overly slick, a bit too Nashville Sound, and therefore too high. There’s simply nothing transcendent about Cruise. Nice song, a bit fluffy, but in no way do you listen to 10 seconds and recognize it as transcendent. Maybe #700 or so. Hello Darlin’ is one of those songs you know is special within 5 seconds, but I think it’s just a touch high. No problems though.

    I’m not in the group who dislikes God Bless the USA, but I still recognize it as a bit campy, a bit cliched, ergo, a bit high. Maybe top 100. Play it Again? No thanks. I don’t know if I’d have it on the list anywhere. Luckenbach strikes me as a bit high but I’m not losing sleep over it. Drink in My Head where Eric Church’s nasally rendition channels Steve Urkel. And such a vacuous song is in the top 30? I’ve meant for months to figure out what artists are where so I could come up with a line like, “Eric Church has more in the top 30 than __________ has in the top 100.” No matter, it’s obvious this has no business this high. I’ve mentioned my un-fandom of Keith Whitley, and I have to say, Nothing At All is simply too high. And I mean hundreds of places. Alison Krauss’ version is much better IMHO.

  3. To have ‘Cruise” above Coal Miner’s Daughter” and only one spot below “Hello darlin” is indefensible. it maybe belongs around 995.
    i love “Luchenback” but its too high. It belongs around 150.
    Keith Whitley is a legendary voice gone too soon. This song is maybe a little too high, but i’m not arguing about it.

  4. I could not agree more on JK’s comments regarding Eric Church, particularly the “genre’s ultimate try-hard” line. I remember hearing the hype of “The Outsiders” album and listening to it…and I honestly laughed at it like I do some of Florida Georgia Line’s worst stuff. That album, particularly the second half, just goes so over the top with the “outlaw/rock and roll/dark” imagery, and I just couldn’t take it seriously. You can tell that he was trying to make a masterpiece with it…but I couldn’t connect with hardly any of it, sans a couple of songs. A lot of his stuff is more “style than substance to me”, just in a different way than most country mainstream acts nowadays.

    It’s why I think “Mr. Misunderstood” is easily my favorite album of his. I think that album is Church at his most reflective about life, and some of the messages that have always been in his work come off in a more relatable way. Even the stuff that deviates from that (Chattanooga Lucy, Knives of New Orleans) sound better, because it’s not surrounded with likeminded material. I think if Church went more in that direction…like he did with “Monsters”…his stuff would click with me more than it does.

  5. I basically agree with the consensus or majority opinions here, other than “God Bless The USA” which I think is a little TOO HIGH. Had MCA had their heads on straight, they would have timed its release for the Fourth of July holiday and it would have reached #1.

    Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing At All” is one of those songs that I might place anywhere from 10 to 100 depending on my mood at the time I was doing the evaluating. I like the Alison Krauss version, too – I’d have it just outside my top 200

  6. Coal Miners and Hello Darlin are too low. God Bless the USA and Luckenbach, and When you say Nothing at All are about right. All of the others should not be in the top 500

  7. …i kinda wonder, who the not-stoned person was in that sirius panel. every once in a while they’re almost not missing the mark completely. god bless the sirius ones and the usa, of course.

  8. Re. “Cruise”: If memory serves me right, this piece of tripe broke the 63-year stranglehold that Hank Snow had in terms of longest-running #1 hit on the Billboard C&W singles chart with “I’m Movin’ On”, which spent something like 21 weeks in the penthouse. I would guess Hank’s doing somersaults in his resting place knowing that that pair of chucklenuts called Florida-Georgia Line Broke that record; but at least a lot of artists and bands, from Elvis to the Rolling Stones and Emmylou Harris, had the good taste to cover his song over the decades.

    Re. “Luckenbach”: Another great entry on this list for A Man Called Hoss, aided and abetted by his good friend the Red Headed Stranger.

    Re. “Coal Miner’s Daughter”: It would have needed to be up in the Top 100 anyway because it is Loretta’s signature song. It is certainly damned essential (IMHO).

    Re. “Play It Again”: Ehhhhhhhh….no. We’ve been drowning in Bromeisters for a decade now, and Luke Bryan’s radio presence is one of the reasons why.

  9. Since then, “Body Like a Back Road” and then “Meant to Be” each passed “Cruise” for most weeks at #1, and “I Hope” is now in third. But the Hot Country Songs chart is meaningless as it factors in all-genre performance and each of those songs either were aided by multiple remix versions (Nelly, Charlie Puth), or just were outright pop songs (“Meant to Be”).

  10. I’ve always liked “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” but I wouldn’t rank it as Travis Tritt’s best song, nor would I have it anywhere near this high on the list. Though it’s also not my personal top favorite from Tritt, I’d be fine with seeing “Anymore” here instead.

    Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing At All” is pretty much in the same class as “Forever And Ever, Amen” for me. It can be anywhere in the top 40, and I’d be fine with it. Yet another classic record featuring some excellent dobro, and a legendary baritone voice. Besides Don Williams and Trisha Yearwood, Keith was also a perfect match for Garth Fundis, and it’s a shame we never got to hear more music from the great pairing.

    “Lookin’ For Love” may be a bit too high, but I’m personally fine with it. It’s been one of my favorites ever since I first heard it on one of my parents old mix tapes when I was little. It’s also probably the most essential record from the Urban Cowboy era.

    “Luckenbach, Texas” is my other personal favorite from Waylon behind “Amanda,” so I’m pretty glad to see they got this one about right.

    “Hello Darlin'” is also about right.

    I agree that “God Bless The USA” is too high. I just think it’s kind of unfortunate that this song pretty much overshadowed the rest of Lee’s discography, to the point where many probably think he’s a one hit wonder. I personally like a lot of his other songs like “Hearts Aren’t Made To Break (They’re Made To Love),” “Holdin’ A Good Hand,” “Dixie Road,” “It Turns Me Inside Out,” etc. I even have his 1992 album, Love’s On The Way, which I quite like.

    I agree with Jonathan, PSU Mike, and others when it comes to Eric Church. I happen to enjoy a lot of the guy’s music, and I consider him one of the better current mainstream country artists, but he is most definitely overpraised. Garth Brooks he ain’t. “Drink In My Hand” is fun for sure, but I wouldn’t consider it one of his top records, nor would I ever put it this high on the list. On he other hand, I absolutely love “Springsteen,” but I agree with others that his album cuts tend to be his best songs. Personally, I really like his first two albums, along with Mr. Misunderstood.

    I’ll admit “Play It Again” was one of my guilty pleasures during the Bro-country era. It kind of reminded me of the times when you actually had to listen to the radio often to catch your favorite songs (unless you recorded them on tape like I did, ha! :) ) That being said, Top 30? Ummm…that’s a big fat NO for me.

    A REALLY big part of me wants to say So Wrong Doesn’t Belong for “Cruise” simply because it kicked off what is arguably the absolute WORST trend the genre has ever seen. Even today, the black eye its given to country music has still yet to heal, imo, and the influence of that style can still be heard all over country radio (in my area, at least) even if others try to claim it’s dead. Now, if we pretended that this song didn’t start that godawful trend and looked at it as a standalone song, I reckon it’s okay as a fun summertime, windows rolled down type of number, even though Tyler Hubbard’s exaggerated southern drawl always annoyed the heck out of me. Put it somewhere in the 900’s (Heck, at 1,000 if you want. “I Don’t Call Him Daddy” is a MUCH better song, anyway) and be done with it.

    Erik and Stephen H. – That Billboard Hot Country Songs chart has been a joke ever since they changed the rules, and I don’t really take it seriously anymore.

  11. It was curious that the rules changed right as “We Are Never Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Getting Back Together” was in the process of bombing as the lead country single off of “Red”. Factor in pop performance, and all of a sudden it’s a several-month number one. I’m sure the methodology change was coincidental, but the optics are poor.

    I’m surprised Sirius didn’t include that song just because of the impact in terms of how songs were marketed for mass consumption (which the impact on the genre is the only reason to include “Cruise” this high, and this list was made just as that impact was becoming clear).

  12. I agree that it’s a bit difficult to take Billboard Charts as serious as I used to. Does anyone think there will be a better alternative soon?

  13. I don’t anticipate the chart itself changing, but the Joel Whitburn book uses the Billboard Country Airplay chart now as its way of reporting country chart hits, and only adds the “Hot Country Songs” position as an endnote.

    So using the two songs above, “We Are Never Getting Back Together” is listed as a #13 hit and “Cruise” is listed as a 3 week #1 hit.

  14. Yes, I should have added the comment about the airplay chart; I have the BDS site on bookmark. It has its issues but it’s worlds better than the new HCS chart.

  15. This is a really strange set of songs. While #40-31 wasn’t perfect, overall, the selections in that group made more sense than this.

    I’ve always enjoyed “It’s a Great Day to be Alive,” but it’s neither a Top-30 song nor Travis Tritt’s best song.

    I love both Keith Whitley’s and Alison Krauss’ version of “When You Say Nothing at All.”

    Good to see I’m not the only non-fan of Eric Church. I’ve tried, but I’ve never understood the hype and there’s just something about his voice that I don’t enjoy.

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