This was the decade that brought back the single. Not that it ever fully went away, as radio still played the promotional ones and video outlets the filmed ones. But actual commercial singles had gone the way of the dodo, until the digital revolution suddenly made them practical again. Why buy the whole album when you can just get the song that you want?
The devastation this has brought to record company bottom lines was probably unavoidable anyway, given the realities of post-Napster society. But technology has its perks. Now you can buy the songs on this list with a click of the mouse!
And what a list it is: 201 singles that run the gamut, from genuine hits that topped the charts to songs spun only by renegade DJs working the night shift. Here’s how we compiled it: four Country Universe writers ranked their personal favorite 100 singles, with an inverted point system applied (#1 on a list meant 100 points, while #100 on the list meant 1 point.) The songs were then ranked by number of total points, greatest to least. Ties were broken by the number of lists the song appeared on, then by highest individual ranking.
There was more consensus than usual for CU, and we all agreed on one thing: this list was a heck of a lot of fun to compile. We hope you enjoy it, too!
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 1: #201-#181
#201 “I Run To You”
There’s a palpable intensity to this song that grips me every time I listen to it. Love isn’t always characterized by peacefulness, and the song’s pulsing production perfectly conveys the urgency, desperation and passion that often accompanies it. – Tara Seetharam (more…)
Marcel. His songs are often silly and his voice is unpolished, though irresistibly charming, but he is also capable of turning a phrase.
In his latest song, “Believin’”, which is similar in perspective to Jo Dee Messina’s “I’m Alright,” Marcel reveals the struggles that he has undergone as the result of a largely disappointing and mostly unsuccessful music career. While he holds out hope, he acknowledges that it hasn’t been easy or glamorous: “Don’t have two pennies to rub, but my card still slides./What good is life if you’re not livin’?/Makin’ minimum payments is part of my cadence,/Just waitin’ to get back what I’ve given.”
The song’s content certainly comes from an honest place and Marcel’s delivery is palpably sincere. Furthermore, while some of the lyrics are rather unoriginal, particularly the chorus, there are other parts of the song where the lyrics are actually intriguing. The song, however, greatly suffers from a hokey melody and an uninspiring production that cannot be overlooked when it comes right down to it, no matter how much I may be pulling for him.
Here are my favorite singles of 2008. As Dan has done, I lifted the entries that I had already written from our collective list for this article.
#20: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Please Read The Letter”
The album from which this song comes seems like an unlikely collaboration. It, however, somehow works as one of the best albums of the decade and any song from it would make my top twenty singles list this year.
#19: Hank Williams III, “Six Pack of Beer”
Hank Williams III is known for relishing a rebel persona and this attitude is often reflected in his music.More often than not, his songs contain observations wrapped in harsh lyrics that cause me to wince, but his production and voice, which are both more comparable to Hank Sr. than Hank III’s father, still draws me to his music, nonetheless. This song, however, is simply pure ear candy. There’s nothing in it that makes me feel like I have to turn it down in mixed company as is the case with so many other Hank III songs. It’s nice sometimes.
#18: Jason Michael Carroll, “I Can Sleep When I’m Dead”
I’m not much of a Jason Michael Carroll fan, but there’s just something about this song that is infectious. The rapid and frenzied production matches its premise, “I can sleep when I’m dead.”
#17: Gary Allan, “Learning How To Bend”
As Dan has pointed out, these aren’t words that most men would say without feeling extremely awkward. The intriguing thing about Gary Allan is that he can get away with it without anyone unfairly questioning his masculinity. He sings this song with fine vocal execution and hits those falsetto notes with incredible ease.
#16: Carrie Underwood, “Just A Dream”
While I could live with a more understated melody that sounded less like it was written by Diane Warren, I can’t help recognize that Underwood’s performance is just right for this intense song. I can only imagine that it aptly captures both the hazy confusion and blunt pain that accompanies the sudden loss of a significant other. I know it’s how I would feel.
The list continues today with the next ten entries, a collection of hits, could’ve been hits and should’ve been hits. Adventurous radio programmers, take note.
Little Big Town, “Fine Line”
There’s a fine line between imitation and tribute, and Little Big Town lands on the proper side of the balance. Karen Fairchild steps forward on this flashback to ’70s SoCal country-rock, and her biting, expressive performance matches perfectly with an admonishment of a distant lover. Very fine, indeed. – BB
This ridiculous but fun single just sounds like a Willie Nelson song. While it’s a 2008 single, it sounds as though it could have been recorded at the height of Nelson’s career. Moreover, Willie’s voice sounds as strong as ever here. – LW
The Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs & Ashley Monroe, “Old Enough”
A thrilling, organic collaboration that sounds cooler and more convincing with each listen. It probably hasn’t gotten enough exposure to be remembered several years down the line, but it’s one of 2008′s most compelling arguments for the uncanning of country music. – DM
Eddy Arnold, “To Life”
A glorious swan song from an incomparable talent. When it charted shortly after his death, Arnold became the only artist in history to hit the country singles chart in seven different decades. – KJC
Full disclosure: I’m a big Marcel fan. I say this because it’s pretty hard to make an clear, rational case for his music in a review. I just like it. It makes me smile. It makes me laugh. It’s ridiculous and makes perfect sense at the same time.
Give it a listen. You’ll love it or you’ll hate it. As for me, I’ll be hitting repeat for the rest of the evening.