The countdown concludes with a wide range of classics, including breakthrough hits, signature songs, and exciting later career gems from long-established icons of the genre.
“(Who Says) You Can’t Have it All”
Written by Alan Jackson and Jim McBride
LW #10 | BF #5 | JK #38
What makes a better country song than a stark naked light bulb, one lonely pillow on a double bed, a mournful fiddle and steel guitar? Jackson’s “(Who Says) You Can’t Have It All” is one of the finest exhibits to present as the answer to that question. – Leeann Ward
Our Best of 1994 Singles List continues with Part Three, which includes the ten songs that just missed the top ten! This section includes several #1 singles and signature hits, but kicks off with one of those should’ve been hits by a should’ve been star.
Joy Lynn White
Written by Dennis Linde
JK #9 | SG #18 | KJC #39
A brash, fiery vocalist with an instantly recognizable timbre and sense of phrasing, White revels in the forthright sexuality of “Wild Love” and has the pipes to match the track’s blistering arrangement. White may never have cracked the top 40 at radio, but the influence of her vocal style is all over Natalie Maines’ singing, and “Wild Love” foretold the hard rock turn the genre would take a decade or so later. – Jonathan Keefe
The list continues with big hits from Clay Walker, Neal McCoy, and Mary Chapin Carpenter, along with should’ve been hits from Carlene Carter and Merle Haggard.
“Daddy Never was the Cadillac Kind”
Written by Dave Gibson and Bernie Nelson
KJC #10 | JK #22 | SG #39
Confederate Railroad made it big by balancing party anthems with thoughtful songs about growing up in the south. This was their best “growing up” song, a thoughtful tribute from a son to his late father. As tends to happen, the lessons taught to us in our youth aren’t fully appreciated or understood until it’s too late to truly say “thank you.” – Kevin John Coyne
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
- The Band Perry, “Gentle on My Mind”
- Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, “Somethin’ Bad”
- Little Big Town, “Day Drinking”
- Tim McGraw featuring Faith Hill, “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s”
- Keith Urban featuring Eric Church, “Raise ‘Em Up”
Best American Roots Performance
- Greg Allman & Taj Mahal, “Statesboro Blues”
- Rosanne Cash, “A Feather’s not a Bird”
- Billy Childs featuring Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas, “And When I Die”
- Keb’ Mo’ featuring the California Feet Warmers, “The Old Me Better”
- Nickel Creek, “Destination”
Best Country Solo Performance
- Eric Church, “Give Me Back My Hometown”
- Hunter Hayes, “Invisible”
- Miranda Lambert, “Automatic”
- Carrie Underwood, “Something in the Water”
- Keith Urban, “Cop Car”
Best New Artist includes last year’s actual best new artist!
- Iggy Azalea
- Brandy Clark (!!!!)
- Sam Smith
Best Americana Album
- Rosanne Cash, The River & The Thread
- John Haitt, Terms of My Surrender
- Keb’ Mo’, Bluesamericana
- Nickel Creek, A Dotted Line
- Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
Best Country Song
- “American Kids” – Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird, and Shane McAnally
- “Automatic” – Nicolle Galyon, Natalie Hemby, and Miranda Lambert
- “Give Me Back My Hometown” – Eric Church and Luke Laird
- “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” -Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
- “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” – Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston, and Jeffrey Steele
The best lineup for Best Country Album that we can remember:
- Dierks Bentley, Riser
- Eric Church, The Outsiders
- Brandy Clark, 12 Stories
- Miranda Lambert, Platinum
- Lee Ann Womack, The Way I’m Livin’
Record of the Year includes a former country artist and a CMA Awards duet partner:
Our Best of 1994 Singles List kicks off today with the bottom quarter of our top forty. The list was compiled by weighing each individual writer’s choices, with preference given to songs that appeared on multiple lists. Each writer’s individual ranking is listed under the songwriter credits.
Bonus retro fun: Check out those cassette singles covers!
“Livin’ on Love”
Written by Alan Jackson
SG #14 | JK #23 | BF #37
Country music has, historically, given voice to those disenfranchised by poverty, validating and finding the value in the struggles of economic hardship. What elevates the appropriately bare-bones narrative of “Livin’ on Love” is the warmth and real sense of empathy in Jackson’s performance. – Jonathan Keefe
Country Universe has reviewed more than a thousand singles during its ten year run. Some of them have been real turkeys. Here are some of the worst, with highlights and links to the original reviews.
“Party Like Cowboyz”
Big & Rich
Reviewed on December 12, 2012
“Yes, from the opening cry of ‘Come on, cowboys and cowgirls, it’s time to par-tay!’ to the stupid ‘Z’ slapped onto the end of the title, this is just bad, bad, bad.” – Ben Foster
Written by Don Sampson and Wynn Varble
Simply put, “Mom” is the best single that Garth Brooks has released since the first term of the Bill Clinton administration.
Got your head around that yet? Good. Now process this: The best single Garth Brooks has released since the first term of the Bill Clinton administration is a Bonnie Tyler cover.
“Eat Sleep Love You Repeat”
Written by Ryan Bizarri and Walker Hayes
I don’t think anybody does “Aw, Shucks” country better than Rodney Atkins.
Whether that’s a compliment or an indictment depends on your level of appreciation for simple-minded sincerity. Personally, I find it endearing when it’s done reasonably well.
PrizeFighter: Hit After Hit
PrizeFighter: Hit after Hit includes the first set of new material from Trisha Yearwood in seven years. That new material, six tracks in total, is uniformly excellent and often extraordinary, adding to her already impressive legacy as the genre’s finest singer and interpreter of the last thirty years. What a pity that the rest of the collection cheapens and sullies that legacy.
Let’s start with those wonderful new tracks. The lead single and title cut, “PrizeFighter”, is an inspiring, get back up when you fall power anthem, featuring supporting vocals by Kelly Clarkson. In true Trisha form, the preview track is better than just about anything else on the radio today, yet still only hints at the treasures that await on the rest of the album.
As part of our tenth anniversary, the staff of Country Universe decided to celebrate a year that came ten years before our decade-old website: 1994. What can we say? We always look forward to looking backward!
Over the next few days, we’ll reveal our choices for the forty best singles and twenty best albums of 1994. We considered all charted singles and albums for inclusion on our list, along with additional selections that didn’t chart but are of notable critical and/or historical significance.