Discussion: Key Singles of the 00’s (So Far)

Maybe a week ago, Kevin, Leeann, Blake, Lynn and I had an e-mail discussion in which we (well, mostly Kevin) fleshed out some of our plans for the site’s near and somewhat less-near future. One of the ideas that came up during that discussion was the possibility of a “Decade in Review” feature in 2010, which would naturally include run-downs of the 00’s finest offerings in singles and albums.

That’s obviously quite a ways off, but impatient as I am, I can’t help but get excited about the prospects. It’s going to mean putting a real historical perspective on material we’ve been accustomed to thinking about in the short-term, and separating the glut of forgettable radio filler from the releases that truly defined their given periods or artists, that bucked or redefined conventions, and that won’t make us grimace twenty years from now when we look back on the annals of the genre. Sounds fun, right?

Now, when I think about country music in the new millennium, Kenny Chesney is the first artist that comes to mind. Not because he’s one of my favorites, mind you (I can’t say he is), but because he has basically made the genre his commercial B-word for the better part of the decade, and that’s pretty hard to ignore.

On the other hand, it’s hard to predict how history will look back on Chesney’s actual music. He’s had hits-a-plenty, of course, but can we really name even one single of his that stands head-and-shoulders above the pack, the way we can with his iconic forerunners? What will become his “Friends in Low Places” or, perhaps more appropriately, his “Margaritaville”? Has he even had a single that memorable and defining yet?

Possibly, if you ask me. Though it wasn’t his biggest smash ever, I think “Beer in Mexico” is the quintessential Kenny Chesney hit, the single best representation of his artistry and appeal. All the trademark elements are there: you’ve got the Buffett/Mellencamp influences, the big arena chorus, the “tropical escapism” theme. The song manages emotional substance with an eloquently simple lyric, the way a lot of classic country does, but you can still see yourself getting drunk to it at a concert. It was a #1, of course. And as icing, it was actually written by Chesney himself, which is frequently not the case with his hits. I can’t imagine a more perfect candidate for “signature hit” status, and if Chesney must go down in our genre’s history, I think that’s the song he should go down with.

But let’s hear from y’all. What do you think have been some of the definitive singles released in the past decade, and – if you’re feeling especially scholarly – what makes them so? They can be big hits, medium hits, or dang good songs that flopped or never charted, just as long as you can make a good case for their place in history. We’ll probably do albums later, so hold tight there!



  1. I think Sugarland’s ‘Stay’ will be remembered 20 years from now. Same with ‘Whiskey Lullaby’ and ‘Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?’.

    There are others I know, but I’ll let someone else have a crack at it …

  2. Songs of the 2000’s to me:

    Beer for My Men by Toby Keith and Willie
    Hontytonkbadonkadonk by Trace Adkins
    Stay by Sugarland

    Hmmm…does “She Thinks My Tractors Sexy” by Kenny count? 1999?

  3. First two songs that popped into my mind were both by Carrie Underwood. I think “Before He Cheats” and “Jesus, Take the Wheel” have definitely been two great hits of the decade.

    Also, ‘Stay’ by Sugarland is a good one, it basically launched their status in country music to superstars. And of course anything by the Dixie Chicks should be included! haha

  4. Sorry I meant to comment on Kenny’s signature song but I clicked submit too soon. For me, I was saw ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ as Kenny’s signature song. I really don’t know why…I just do! Haha I think that’s about the time he really took off.

  5. In reference to Kenny Chesney, we agree with your analysis of “Beer In Mexico” as well as Aaron’s suggestion of “When The Sun Goes Down.” We’d also throw “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” into that mix, and like it or not, Carson’s right, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” will always be one of the first songs people associate with Chesney.

  6. as far as kenny chesney goes i would say “the good stuff” would be my choice for his defining song. It just seems to get right what some of his other songs, such as “Don’t Blink,” miss.

  7. As for Kenny the first song I think of when I hear his name is “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” and that’s still his most played song on my radio station.

    I’d like to think that in another, le’t say 20 years we’ll still be talking about Sugarland’s “Stay” it one of the only one’s I can honestly say will be remembered. I’m sure Rascal Flatts “Bless The Broken Road” will also be remembered. It’s weird but I can’t really think of a George Strait song that’s good enough to be remembered (from this decade of course). The closest I come is “Give It Away” otherwise there’s not much.

  8. Y’all are coming up with some great ones. Here are a few others that came to mind while I was writing:

    Gretchen Wilson, “Redneck Woman” – Her career was a flash in the pan, but I think this song deserves to stand the test of time. Its success basically prompted an entire ‘hick’ movement that still lingers today, and while I dislike that movement, I think there’s a lot to be said for the way the song conveys its message of self-acceptance. It’s a keeper.

    Keith Urban, “Somebody Like You” – It was a giant smash, defined his signature sound (an observation I continually steal from Kevin), and may still be the single truest distillation of one of the decade’s major superstars, though it’s not my all-time favorite.

    Ryan Adams, “New York, New York” – A great fan favorite, plus it has the historical relevance of having its video shot with the backdrop of the Twin towers mere days before 9/11.

    Some other easy ones I’d just get out of the way:

    Tim McGraw, “Live Like You Were Dying”
    Lee Ann Womack, “I May Hate Myself in the Morning”
    Josh Turner, “Long Black Train”
    The Soggy Bottom Boys, “Man of Constant Sorrow”
    Rascal Flatts, “I’m Movin’ On”
    Alan Jackson, “Drive”
    Big & Rich, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”
    Dixie Chicks, “Long Time Gone”

    Keep picking those brains!

  9. Dixie Chicks – Not Ready to Make Nice

    I think the most I will remember this decade for is Bush, the War, and the “Comments heard ’round the world.” I mean in a year that was full of really bad (And now dated) songs like Courtesy of the Red White and Blue and Darryl Worley’s Have you Forgotten), the chicks song and whole image just stands out bright and clear. Not only the song, but the CD is spawned (One of the first times I actually rushed out to get a CD was Taking the Long Way) and the controversy that same year with Reba. It might not have been the biggest single they’ve had on radio, but I think it’s one that really defined the country music world during this decade.

  10. “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. Do I need to explain?

    “There Is No Arizona” and “When I Think About Angels” by Jamie O’Neal. She deserves more number 1’s than these two, but these two are still popular today!

    “Breathe” by Faith Hill was released in November of 99, but it was a hit in 2000, so it deserves to be mentioned.

    “Without You” and “Travelin’ Soldier” by The Dixie Chicks haven’t been mentioned yet, and they definitely should. Two amazing songs from an amazing group of ladies.

  11. Ok I thought of a couple more that I think will or should be remembered.

    Big & Rich – “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy) – I don’t think much of the rest of their music will be remembered but this one definatley will.

    Blake Shelton – “Austin” – it’s one of his biggest hits, might be his biggest and he deresves at least one song to be remembered.

    Brooks & Dunn – “Red Dirt Road” – it’s probably their best single released this decade.

    Gary Allan – “Songs About Rain” – It’s a great song and probably his most played recurrent.

    Little Big Town – “Boondocks” – They ma not be one hit wonders but they will probably be remembered as such. I don’t think “Bring It On Home” had enough of an impact.

    Mark Wills – “19 Somethin'” – I’m not sure about anywhere else, but this song was a huge hit in my hometown, It’ll probably be remembered here at least for quite a while.

    Patty Loveless – “On Your Way Home” – Ma not have been the biggest hit, but it’ll be remembered as a classic.

    Travis Tritt – “Three Wooden Crosses” – It’s his only song that made any significant charting during the decade but it’s one of the best singles of the decade to hit #1.

    Sara Evans – “Suds In The Bucket” – She’s had one #1 per album since her sophmore, and I think this is the best of the bunch.

    Taylor Swift – “Teardrops On My Guitar” – It’s the song that broke her in to the pop realm and I think it’s going to be remembered long after everybody forgets about “Tim McGraw”.

  12. There are so many to agree and disagree with, but I will just state the one’s that stand out for me:

    Tim McGraw – “Live Like You Were Dying”, this one should touch everyone since cancer is everywhere and it is so poinent.

    Tim McGraw – “If Your Reading This”, will always stand out for me. Watching the awards live on TV and seeing all the families at the end and ctying it really represent the state of the country in this decade.

    Shania Twain – “Forever and For Always”, my wedding song so that’s self explainatory.

    Gary Allen – “Learning How To Bend”, I don’t know why but this is one of my fav songs, I love the words the meaning and melody.

    Kenny Chesney – “Don’t Blink”, I’m not a fan of his but this song makes me want to do it all before there is no more time.

    Trace Atkins – “Your Gonna Miss This”, this one came out right before I had my daughter so it holds a special place in mine and my husbands heart, we sing it to her and dance all the time.

    Dixie Chicks – “Not Ready to Make Nice”, just a very moving song given the background story.

    Alan Jackson – “Remember When”, just a great love song, it’s a real country song that tells a great story.

    Carrie Underwood – Now don’t get mad people I have three for her all with good reason. “Jesus Take The Wheel”, great song and it was her coming out song and it was just huge everywhere in all genres, not my personal fav but merits being on the list. “Before He Cheats”, this is and obvious one, just have to say the biggest crossover song in country music. Last is my fav “So Small”, I love sound of it, love meaning behind it, her voice and range are amazing, I listen to it when ever life seems to suck then I realise how much I have and how insignificant most problems really are.

    Gosh you guys really gave a great topic this time, one could go on forever, there is just so many great artist and so many great songs but I’ll stop here before it turns into a novel.

  13. Kenny’s had some fine moments, but none that I would elevate to greatest-ever status by any stretch. The ones that show the best artistic expression, in my view, are “The Good Stuff” and “That’s Why I’m Here” (from ’97), but since he’s known for his albums in the 2000s have been Buffett buffets, “Beer in Mexico” or “No Shoes..” are probably more indicative of his signature style.

    This is a fine question. I promise to stew on it and get back to you.

  14. Judging the decade purely from a historical perspective, a handful of songs are clear milestones. While my list of “best” songs of the decade will be different, here goes:

    “I Hope You Dance,” Lee Ann Womack: A poetic ode to living a rich existence, a chart-topping smash on country and pop radio, a triple-crown winner (ACM, CMA, Grammy), and spawned a popular book and the opportunity for Womack to perform at the Nobel Peace prize ceremony. Womack’s sales exploded and have never again reached the same level.
    “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” Alan Jackson: The most eloquent artistic statement made in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, celebrated nationally, and not just within country music.
    “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” Soggy Bottom Boys: Sparked the bluegrass revival that temporarily brought the music into the forefront, culminating in a Grammy for the movie soundtrack in 2002.
    “Hurt,” Johnny Cash: Cash’s last bow in the spotlight, boosting his mainstream presence (even MTV played the classic video). Haunting, heartbreaking and incredibly human.
    “Redneck Woman,” Gretchen Wilson: After a period of struggle for women on country radio, Wilson blasted out of the gate with a raucous anthem that gave females a counterbalance to the popular beauties in the genre at the time and , for better or worse, launched the genre into a rural, redneck phase that continues today.
    “Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood: A country smash and a pop phenomenon, having a huge impact on Underwood’s album sales and establishing her as a fully-fledged star who can stray from the sweet-and-innocent schtick.

    These songs all have plenty of artistic heft, and, considering creative value, I’d add “Whiskey Lullaby,” “Long Time Gone,” “I May Hate Myself in the Morning,” “On Your Way Home,” “Drive,” and “Travelin’ Soldier” to my list. I promise to amend my comment if I remember any other songs.

  15. Tim McGraw, “Live Like You Were Dying”
    Lee Ann Womack, “I Hope You Dance”
    Josh Turner, “Long Black Train”
    The Soggy Bottom Boys, “Man of Constant Sorrow”
    Alan Jackson, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning”
    Big & Rich, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”
    Gretchen Wilson, “Redneck Woman”
    Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss, “Whiskey Lullaby”
    Keith Urban, “Somebody Like You”

    Carrie Underwood, “Jesus Take the Wheel” — not so much for the song itself as for the fact that it solidified a new model for breaking acts.

    If we’re talking about stuff that reflected changes in society, I think Darryl Worley’s relatively little-discussed “I Just Came Back from a War” marked the point at which mainstream country decided the Iraq war might not have been such a great idea after all.

    And just to be selfish, my favorite country singles of the ’00s:
    Dixie Chicks, “Top of the World”
    Little Big Town, “Boondocks”
    Jamey Johnson, “In Color”
    Miranda Lambert, “Kerosene”

  16. Where to begin?

    “Where were you when the World Stopped Turning?”
    “Travelin Soldier”
    “Jesus Take the Wheel”
    “I hope you Dance”
    “Youre Gonna Miss This” and “Then They Do”
    “Whiskey Lullaby”

    And if y’all will allow me to go back to ’99 one time…clay Walker’s “Chain of Love”

    A lot of great songs have been mentioned..I could add more

  17. Excluding Chris’ selfish picks, I’d have to agree with all of his choices.

    For some that haven’t been mentioned, I’d add:

    Alan Jackson, “Remember When”
    Randy Travis, “Three Wooden Crosses”
    Tim McGraw, “The Cowboy In Me”
    Toby Keith, “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This” or “How Do You Like Me Now?!”
    Brad Paisley & Dolly Parton, “When I Get Where I’m Going”

    What about “More Than A Memory?” Maybe not necessarily for song quality, but it was the first song to ever debut at #1 on Billboard.

    A few ditties always last and Joe Nichols’ “Brokenheartsville” might have that potential. Or Dierks Bentley’s “What Was I Thinkin’.”

  18. “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way” – LeAnn Rimes
    “Travelin’ Soldier” – The Dixie Chicks
    “Angry All the Time” and “Live Like You Were Dying” – Tim McGraw
    “Forgive” – Rebecca Lynn Howard
    “Somebody Like You” – Keith Urban
    “Best I Ever Had” – Gary Allan

  19. @Brady: Good call on “More than a Memory.” Also, “How Do You Like Me Now?” really helped Toby turn the corner, so in terms of his development, I think it’s his most important song.

  20. Hmmm…can’t help but notice a lack of our new Artist of the Decade, King George Strait. I’d throw in “Give It Away” and maybe “I Hate Everything” or “The Best Day.”

  21. theres too many but here are a few:

    “Concrete Angel” Martina McBride
    “Before He Cheats” Carrie Underwood
    “Real Live Woman” Trisha Yearwood (in 2000s right?)
    “Where Were You” Alan Jackson
    “Jesus Take The Wheel” Carrie Underwood
    “Stay” Sugarland
    “Suds In The Bucket” Sara Evans
    “Forever And For Always” Shania Twain!!!! :)
    “Somebody” Reba McEntire
    “Because Of You” Reba (w/ kelly c.) (it helped to bring Reba back ;))
    and many many more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. For Chesney, I think he will always be remembered for “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”, although I think “That’s Why I’m Here” is a more deserving song for him. As for his 00 singles I think “Who You’d Be Today” would be the best for quality of his, but “No Shoes, No Shirt…” is probably his most popular.

    Dixie Chicks
    -Long Time Gone – their comeback song.
    -Travelin Solider- it was dealt with war when America was in war, and also has ties to their rise and how the single tumbled off the charts after the comment.
    -Top Of The World – this should have been a single and it’s a shame that many other people have not heard this masterpiece.
    -Not Ready To Make Nice- it is their best artistic statement.
    -Voice Inside My Head – one of their best songs of 00’s.

    Lee Ann Womack
    -I Hope You Dance – with it’s popularity and great statement, I would still consider this the song that defined the 00’s.
    -Something Worth Leaving Behind- another great statement dealing with life, and an overlooked hit.
    -Twenty Years & Two Husbands Ago – One of Womack’s best sad songs.

    -Georgia Rain – probably the best known song from Trisha of the 00’s and a great song.
    -Let The Wind Chase You, Dreaming Fields, and Sing You Back To Me, are some of her best songs of the decade.

    -I’m A Survivor- her show’s theme song and a early hit of the decade.
    -I’m Gonna Take That Mountain, Somebody, and He Gets That for Me, are her other signature hits of the decade.
    -For this last quarter of the decade I’d say The Only Promise That Remains and Because Of You.

    LeAnn Rimes
    -I Need You – Probably her best single from the early part of the decade.
    – Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way – I’d say this was her best sad song.
    – Nothin’ Better To Do – signature comeback song.
    -What I Cannot Change – speaks for itself.

    Shania Twain
    -It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing – her best sad song in of the decade.
    -Forever And For Always – her best song of the decade so far :)

    Garth Brooks
    -When You Come Back To Me Again – after he lost his mom, this was one of the best songs of the decade in tribute of the ones you lose.
    -Wild Horses(don’t know if this counts but it was released as a single in 2000.)
    -Wrapped Up In You and Why Ain’t I Running, they speak for themselves.
    -More Than A Memory – I’d peg this one as his signature one of the decade, as it was his biggest hit.

    Faith Hill
    -Breathe(it became a hit in 2000 as someone said so I’d consider it her signature song for the decade.)
    -Cry, When The Lights Go Down, Stronger, and You’re Still Here are the best songs off her Cry album, and her best sad songs of the decade.
    -Stealing Kisses and Like We Never Loved At All seem like other signature hits of hers.

    Tim McGraw
    -My Next Thirty Years, Angry All The Time, The Cowboy In Me, Red Ragtop, Live Like You Were Dying are the best out of the decade for me.

    Taylor Swift
    -“Tim McGraw” – it talks about a country artist, and is a great song.
    -“Teardrops On My Guitar” – it’s a great anthem for the people that don’t get the girl or guy.
    Even thought “Love Story” looks like her big hit of the decade, I’m banking on “You’re Not Sorry” to beat that one out, as it is one of Taylor’s finest hours.

    Carrie Underwood
    “Before He Cheats” – like Gretchen had done in 2004, Carrie brought woman back to country music after a long hiatus with a great anthem for woman who have been done wrong.
    “Jesus Take The Wheel” – even though it wasn’t as big as a hit it still is one of her best songs so far.
    “Wasted” – A great follow-up to “Before He Cheats”
    “Just A Dream” – country is known for it’s cheating songs, but the ones about a loved one that’s best are much better, which Carrie captures in this fine effort.

    Martina McBride
    Blessed – I’d pry consider this her signature hit of the 00’s, and a great hit.
    When God Fearin Woman Get The Blues – it may not have been a major hit but it certainly added some sass to Martina’s catalog.
    Concrete Angel – this brought child abuse to the forefront in 2003, and made us all realize that we should be more proactive about protecting children.
    This One’s For The Girls – when radio was booming with men, Martina released this song for another anthem to the girls.

    Other Alan and Toby songs mentioned I also agree with.

    That’s it for me, and man I realized how long this post is. Does this count as spam? :/

  23. Great picks … I second Reba’s ‘I’m A Survivor’. Not only does it get lots of recurrent airplay at radio, the Lifetime network airs the show about 12 times a day, so that song has a completely separate audience than just country music listeners …

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