Tuesday Open Thread: Hits That Should've Been

With Sunday's popular topic being songs that should be released as singles, here's a different spin on the same topic: What are some songs that labels overlooked, missing a potential hit?

I'm putting up two for consideration, given the very different circumstances.

First, Pam Tillis' “Mandolin Rain”, from her 1995 set All of This Love.  I kept waiting for this one, assuming it would be the follow-up to lead single “Deep Down.”  But that was followed by “The River and the Highway”, and then “It's Lonely Out There.”  All of those singles were top fifteen hits, but then Arista seriously stumbled, and instead of the majestic “Mandolin Rain”, they sent out the clunker “Betty's Got a Bass Boat”, which bombed.   Ne

edless to say, there was no fifth single from the set, and a great hit never got its chance, even though she sang it on the 1996 CMA Awards.

The second hit that should've been?  “Truth No. 2”, which was supposed to be the fourth single from the Dixie Chicks' Home.   Just as it was being readied for release, to follow-up the #1 hit “Travelin' Soldier”, something happened that made the label change their mind about releasing a song where Natalie Maines sings the line, “You don't like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth.”     A real shame, since the song is amazing and Patty Griffin deserved the royalties!

What are some of the other hits that should've been?



  1. I guess these are supposed to be from albums which are no longer being tapped for singles, Right? If that’s the case then the first one that comes to mind is Big & Rich’s “Love Train” which was my favorite song off of their first album. Next how about Chalee Tennison’s “Parading In The Rain” it’s such a fun song with a cool hook. Chris Young’s “Flowers” was another I was sure would be released but never came. Danielle Peck “Kiss You On The Mouth”, There was even rumors that this one would be released but it never came. And of course there was Jo Dee Messina’s “It Gets Better” which I think is still the best song she’s recorded.

  2. I can think of several songs that should have been released as singles.
    (I Will) Start All Over Again-Diamond Rio
    Two Pump Texaco-Diamond Rio
    Redneck Love Gone Bad-Diamond Rio
    Wild Horses-Garth Brooks-his original recording of this was never released as a single
    Most songs from Common Thread: The Songs Of The Eagles
    Silver Wings-Pam Tillis-From Mama’s Hungry Eyes

  3. “My Infinite Love” was the best song on Geore Strait’s HONKYTONKVILLE album – no idea why it wasn’t released as a single

  4. i’m not entirely sure about their (missed) hit potential but they all made it on one of my self-made cd’s for long road trips:

    alan jackson – dancing all around it (high mileage)
    lee ann womack – montgomery to memphis (lee ann womack)
    tanya tucker – it hurts like love (complicated)
    joe diffie – i’m willing to try (life’s so funny)
    dwight yoakam – one more night (gone)
    ken mellons – learning to live without you (ken mellons)
    garth brooks – that ol’ wind (fresh horses)
    mark wills – emily harper (wish you were here)
    travis tritt – if hell had a jukebox (it’s all about to change)

  5. “Strangers” by Martina McBride (The Way That I Am): I believe McBride wanted this song to follow “Independence Day,” but her label decided to release “Heart Trouble” instead.

    “Stronger” by Faith Hill (Cry). I’m not sure if radio would have played this, but it remains one of her most soulful performances in my opinion.

    “Try Me Again” by Trisha Yearwood (Real Live Woman). MCA only released two singles from this album, but both of them were outstanding. I think they should have released this song as a third, both because it remains a great performance and because it was a stellar album that deserved more success.

    “Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis” by Wynonna (What the World Needs Now is Love)

  6. The title track to Gary Allan’s See If I Care. I don’t know if it necessarily would have done that well as a single, but it was such a superb showcase of Allan’s talent that I can’t believe it never got a shot. And on the subject of Allan, another single or two from Tough All Over would have been awesome, though it’s hardly the most radio-friendly album. I guess I would’ve picked “Ring” or “What Kind Of Fool” from that set, though it would have been a hoot to see him release something darker like “I Just Got Back From Hell.”

    Josh Turner might have had a hit with his cover of “Lord Have Mercy On A Country Boy”…but again, for the sake of adventurousness, I would have loved to see him put out “Loretta Lynn’s Lincoln.”

    Keith Urban had a bunch of single-worthy songs off of Love, Pain… as well. “Shine,” though 100% pop, would have been huge, and I personally liked his cover of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” a lot. I hesitate to mention “Raise The Barn,” as it didn’t hold up for me over time, but it had potential too.

  7. Joseph,

    I agree with all of your picks. I think that after “Try Me Again”, “Come Back When it Ain’t Rainin'” would’ve been a good fourth single.

  8. Joseph stole mine :(

    just kidding though “stronger” is one of my favorite faith songs

    and i also agree that real live woman should have had more singles released….”come back when it ain’t rainin” and “try me again” would have been great to hear on the radio

  9. I agree about Keith Urban’s “Shine”, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, and “Raise the Barn”. They all would have been great singles.

    Also, Big & Rich’s Live This Life is an amazing song. Whether radio would have picked up on it is a good question, but it is definitely a hit that should’ve been.

  10. “That Old Wind” was a single? Right?

    Some of my picks would be:
    “Angels Fall Sometimes”, Josh Turner
    “Sorry”, Gary Allan
    “I Just Got Back From Hell”, Gary Allan
    “Ring”, Gary Allan
    “Nickajack Cave”, Gary Allan
    “Lonely For Awhile”, Jon Randall
    “All The Things We’ve Never Done”, Martina McBride (exact title?)
    “Time Well Wasted”, Brad Paisley
    “Live This Life”, Big And Rich
    “I Hope”, The Dixie Chicks (Actually, was that song released?)

    There are lots more that I can’t think of right now.

    PS. I think some of Tim McGraw’s releases from his latest album were mistakes. There was much better material on it than what he released with the exception of “I Need You.” So, now some people think of him as somewhat of a “has been” when he could have had some better hits if the right songs had been released.

  11. Greyhound Bound for Nowhere – Miranda Lambert, Kerosene. A sad, soulful song that probably wouldn’t have made it big, but it shows off her ability to switch gears in something more serious.

    Good Girls go to Heaven – Brooks & Dunn, Steers & Stripes. Good, fun, rockin’ country.

  12. I definitely agree with you on the Chicks’ “Truth No. 2.” I have to add “Top of the World,” though it might’ve made a better pop/alt-country hit with its dark lyrics.

  13. Leeann – “I Hope” was released prior to Taking The Long Way and scored them a Grammy nod for Best Country Performance by a Group or Duo, but it peaked at #54. “Top of the World” was a single too, apparently (this is according to Wikipedia), but failed to chart at all. Country music tragedies happen everyday.

  14. Yeah, I suspected that “I Hope” was a single; i just couldn’t remember. I remember that it was nominated for a Grammy, now that you ention it.

  15. leeann,

    “that ol’ wind” was a single, indeed. it was the 6th release from the fresh horses album and i had probably already given up all hope that this little beauty would ever be released as a single. eventually, it reached #4 in the charts. sorry, i didn’t mean to confuse anyone.

  16. good choice bobby, “don’t tell momma” is so over the top country music, it almost hurts. for that reason and because gary allan sings it perfectly i doubt it that someone else will ever go near that gem.

  17. I think Ty Herndon recorded it as well…I’m almost thinking that someone else did too. I’m so-so about the song, really.

  18. Miss Kitty, Dan M.,

    “Top of the World” was a video single, meaning that they made a video for it but never serviced it to radio. It was played on VH1 and is featured as a bonus on their live DVD.

    Interestingly, they submitted the live version of “Top of the World” for consideration by NARAS, and they won a Grammy for it. It was actually their first post-controversy Grammy.

  19. “Don’t Tell Mama” has been recorded by The Grascals and Doug Stone as well.

    I think that Mark Wills could’ve had hits with “What Hurts The Most” and “Somebody.” Not surprisingly they were hits with others.

    Billy Yates had a hit single with “Flowers” (his only USA one). He also wrote “My Infinite Love” and has both songs on his “Favorites” CD.

    Garth recorded “You Can’t Help Who You Love” on his “The Lost Sessions” and it’s a classic song (Marcus Hummon and Steve Wariner wrote it).

    I think James Otto should’ve been able to release “Song Of The Violin” off of his debut record. Also, “Long Way Down” (which is on Andy Griggs’ latest CD) was great too.

    I always thought that “Boy Becomes A Man” from Emerson Drive’s “Countrified” CD was radio worthy.

    Jamey Johnson doing “She’s All Lady” is a classic.

    Kevin, I agree about “Mandolin Rain.”

    I think Collin Raye’s “The Time Machine” is a classic that was never recorded by anyone else. If I was an A&R, I would be getting that Gary Burr song to a star of today. The fact that it’s on the same Collin Raye Record (I Think About You) that gave birth to six singles (four Top 5) is amazing. That’s a classic record.

    I also still wonder why his cover of Journey’s “Open Arms” wasn’t given a true shot at radio.

    Chris Cagle wrote and recorded a song called “Hey Y’all” that is pure summertime drivin’ fun. It’s the kind of song he excels at and radio would’ve ate it up. Perhaps another ‘southern rock’ like band will cover it. It’s a hit.

    I’m kinda surprised that “We’re Young And Beautiful” wasn’t released by Carrie Underwood. I know MANY people who love that song, including my mother.

    I am surprised that Brooks & Dunn didn’t release “Again.” This Radney Foster song is great and Ronnie Dunn sings the hell out of it.

    Bobby Pinson “Nothin’ Happens In This Town” and then “Shadows Of The Heartland” both are great songs.

    I’ll stop here. I could go on forever…

  20. Speaking of Radney Foster, I’ve always liked “Godspeed” by the Dixie Chicks. And I like “Again” by B&D. For some reason, I thought it was a single…probably because it sounds like one.

  21. Just out of curiosity, how does a song get selected to be a single? Does the artist/label choose it, or does radio play determine it?

  22. I think Sugarland could have milked a couple of more singles from Enjoy the Ride before releasing anything from the follow-up album. “One Blue Sky” is one of the best songs on the CD, and given the run of bad weather in the Midwest lately – highly topical. When I heard about the flooding woes, I immediately thought of this song. Perhaps the subject matter was just too heavy for their label to dream of it getting regular airplay.

    If they wanted something a little more lightweight and feel-good for summertime, “County Line” would have been terrific. A real fun song to drive and sing along to. I have a lot more fun listening to that than “All I Want To Do.” Actually, almost anything on Enjoy the Ride would have been preferable to AIWTD.

    I wish the Dixie Chicks had released “Easy Silence” from Taking the Long Way. A beautiful song that deserved to be listened to on radio somewhere, country or otherwise.

  23. J.,

    Usually a single is chosen by labels but if an artist gets to a certain level they will typically be able to choose the singles too. IE Keith Urban and Brad Paisley choosing older album songs. Sometimes, a new artist get complete autonomy from the get-go.

  24. Personally, I was so glad they stopped releasing singles off Sugarland’s “Enjoy the Ride”. It drives me crazy when a label releases half a cd or so as singles…. that are played adnauseum. I have to admit that I was surprised they stopped with “Stay” as the final say from that cd but overall glad that they had new material ready.

    Sidebar: I love topics like this cuz they really bring my attention to music I might not otherwise delve into. So thanks for all the tips! Great tastes!

  25. “Gimme The Good Stuff” from Trisha’s “Jasper County” definitely had hit-potential.
    I believe it would have done alot better than “Tryin’ To Love You”.

  26. I was looking and listening through my Itunes library and remembered a couple more. Trace Adkin’s should have released “Find Me A Preacher” from the Songs About Me album the album has some really good songs on it that were over shadowed by HTBD. Also Terri Clark had a lot of potential hits off of her Life Goes On album, “I Wish He’d Been Drinkin’ Whiskey”, “Honky Tonk Song”, “Travelin’ Soul”, and “Everybody’s Gotta Go Sometime” were all radio ready. I especially hope sombody records IWHBDW because it’s a really good song. Susan Haynes had a hit in the waiting with “Long Way To Memphis”. And last but not least Lee Ann Womack’s “When You Get To Me” is a song I can’t believe they passed up sending out as a single. The song has hit written all over it.

  27. A little off topic, but speaking of Susan Haynes, “Drinkng in My Sunday Dress” is a great song. Shame it never clicked with the mainstream. I remember first seeing the video, too. Moving from room to room to bar to whatever…..very good video. It captured the spirit of song, perfectly.

  28. “The Grandpa That I Know” by Patty Loveless. I think this is the best cut on an album this decade and no one ever heard it. I believe it would have sold a lot of records for her too.

  29. From 1996: Bobbie Cryner’s “You’d Think He’d Know Me Better” is one of my all-time favorite songs. It went to #56 but should have been a smash. Lorrie Morgan covered it, but it didn’t touch the original.

  30. I just thought that I’m surprised Dierks never released “So So Long” from his second album.

  31. I know you guys will probably hate me for this, but Kenny Chesney “Never Gonna Feel Like That Again” from No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems. Great song and would’ve definately been a hit.

  32. In response to Joseph mentioning Trisha’s “Try Me Again” as a song that should have been released as a single: It might have worked, but remember that Trisha almost didn’t even record it because to her it was almost a sacred song because of the writing credit: Linda Ronstadt.

  33. alan jackson – the sounds
    gary allan – just got back from hell
    josh turner – backwoods boy
    brooks and dunn – just another neon night
    jamey johnson – she’s all lady
    jamey johnson – redneck side of me
    jamey johnson – they call me country
    jamey johnson – my saving grace
    bobby pinson – i’m fine either way
    trent tomlinson – the bottle
    alan jackson – dancing all around it
    tracy lawrence – one step ahead of the storm
    brooks and dunn – you’re my angel
    bobby pinson – dont think i dont think about it
    george strait – She’ll leave you with a smile (the one from carrying your love with me)
    montgomery gentry – she loved me
    willie nelson – last stand in open country
    tim mcgraw – how bad do you want it
    dierks bentley – forget about you
    gary allan – what i’d say
    gary allan – a showman’s life
    toby keith – burning moonlight
    toby keith – white rose
    tim mcgraw – trouble with never
    tim mcgraw – seventeen
    tim mcgraw – forget about us
    kenny chesney – old bird dog
    kenny chesney – life is good
    montgomery gentry – lonesome
    montgomery gentry – it’s all good
    trace adkins – high
    trace adkins – the stubborn one
    trace adkins – Ain’t No Woman Like You
    trace adkins – dreaming out loud
    shooter jennings – some rowdy women
    shooter jennings – it aint easy
    shooter jennings – slow train
    chris knight – framed
    jack ingram – biloxi
    sammy kershaw – shootin the bull
    gary allan – no man in his wrong heart
    brad paisley – out in the parking lot
    tracy lawrence – that was us
    clay walker – money aint everything
    clay walker – down by the riverside
    wade hayes – dont make me come to tulsa
    wade hayes – kentucky bluebird
    wade hayes – hurts dont it
    rhett akins – friday night in dixie
    chris cagle – walmart parking lot
    trent willmon – love dont have to be so hard
    trent willmon – island
    dwight yoakam – she’ll remember
    dwight yoakam – blame the vain
    dwight yoakam – wild ride
    sugarland – county line
    tracy lawrence – long wet kiss
    tracy lawrence – life dont have to be so hard
    kenny chesney – from hillbilly heaven to honky tonk hell
    kenny chesney – she gets that way
    kenny chesney – back where i come from
    kenny chesney – high and dry
    josh turner – jacksonville
    josh turner – in my dreams
    randy travis – horse called music
    randy travis – one word song
    joe diffie – juniors in love
    garth brooks – victim of the game
    garth brooks – in lonesome dove
    jason aldean – lonesome usa
    jason aldean – good to go
    jason aldean – i believe in ghosts
    big and rich – rollin
    big and rich – saved
    big and rich – six foot town
    jake owen – the bad in me
    jeff bates – country enough
    jeff bates – my mississippi
    Most of these were way better than the singles that were released off of the albums. just think these werent played but rascal flatts was cranking out the usual cookie cutter pop. you know waylon never made music for soccer mom’s

  34. …stop bashing these soccer moms – they’re the only hope for soccer fans around the globe to see a decent match by a male us-team some day.

    nice list by the way.

  35. After writing a somewhat negative review for Billy Ray Cyrus’ newest song, I was thinking about a song that I actually really like by him. “Trail Of Tears” is one that I wish could have been a hit. Unfortunately, it had no chance, just because of its bluegrass-ish production alone. It’s a song that he wrote in honor of Native Americans. I’m not sure if there was a certain person who motivated it, but it was inspired nonetheless. The production was great and he sang it with appropriate reverence, without the bombastic vocals. I wish he’d make more music with those qualities.

  36. miranda lambert- what about georgia <<great song
    miranda lambert- crazy ex-girlfriend
    brad paisley- it did
    brad paisley- time well wasted
    Now i know many of you aren’t fond of the younguns but I think:
    taylor swift- mary’s song <<one of her best songs ever, tells a story.
    taylor swift- stay beautiful
    kellie pickler- didn’t you know how much i loved you
    kellie pickler- small town girl

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