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
“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
“The Last Thing on My Mind”
Given her allegiance to country music’s history and personal association with both Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, you might think this was a cover of that duo’s first top ten hit. Instead, it’s a very modern-sounding song with a modern-day woman who never thinks about the guy she’s left behind until right before she goes to sleep, when “something in my broken heart rewinds” as she lies in an “empty bed as big as Arkansas.” – Kevin Coyne
It’s the sweetest tribute to all the parts that make the whole of Paisley’s love for his wife. Some are small (“she’s ‘I want a piece of chocolate’”), and some are large (“she’s the hand that I’m holding when I’m on my knees and praying”) – but each is as endearing as the next. – TS
“Drinkin’ Me Lonely”
“Drinkin’ Me Lonely” is a great drinking song with killer falsetto that helps to contribute to the narrator’s dreary mood. – Leeann Ward
Peak: #7 (still charting)
Swift speaks directly to the fragile emotional core underlying her own boy-centric outlook. It’s her most explicitly youth-oriented song yet, yet it’s also her most mature. – Dan Milliken
“On the Rocks”
Peak: Did not chart
The Wrights are a more sassy husband-wife duo than the beloved Joey + Rory, but they are charming nonetheless. The catchy and bluesy “On the Rocks” is a biting assessment of a relationship gone bad, but there seems to be a hint of love underneath the exchanged derision. – LW
“A Feelin’ Like That”
A rocking blast of adrenaline, as Allan realizes that no thrill in the world – be it skydiving, running with bulls, speeding at night with closed eyes – is intense enough to displace the memory of his past love. He’s supercharged with righteous lust for that memory, and leaves you thinking there’s nothing he won’t do to make it real again. – DM
“I’m Just Talkin’ About Tonight”
Keith does his best to negotiate a rendezvous with charming bravado and hilarious results. – KC
“Nothin’ to Lose”
This tongue-in-cheek, mile-a-minute toe-tapper is cleverly written and infectiously performed – reminiscent of the bouncy country songs from the 90’s that I’ve so missed. – TS
“Out of the Rain”
Peak: Did not chart
About that moment of clarity when you realize that the only way to progress is to get yourself out of the destructive situation you’re in. The song doesn’t advocate avoiding problems entirely, but acknowledges that some are impossible to solve as long as you remain in the emotional thick of them. – DM
“He Gets That From Me”
The heartbreak queen at her heartbreaking best, mourning a lost husband while celebrating his presence living on in their child. – KC
Peak: Did not chart
He’s an acquired taste, as few like their country balladeers to be so relentlessly earnest. But this one gets me every time. – KC
Underwood’s most underrated single and my personal favorite, “So Small” is an earnest ode to what matters most in life, wrapped in a beautiful, swelling melody. The gospel undertones add an element of soul to the song, and suggest a deeper ‘love’ than the lyrics spell out. – TS
Funny how a song about how you don’t have to be perfect is close enough to perfect itself. – KC
“What a Beautiful Day”
This upbeat chronicle of the life of a relationship is both clever and entertaining. The underlying piano riff is addictive as well. – LW
Rebecca Lynn Howard
I understand the appeal of subtlety, but sometimes you just need to belt it out. This is one of those times. – KC
Ol’ Red” is one of those cool story songs, complete with a plot twist, that country music is known for. – LW
“Me and Emily”
One of country music’s great one-hit wonders, although even this one barely broke the Top 20. Proctor’s tale of a mother and daughter fleeing an abusive home brims with warmth and maternal love, even as it acknowledges the tense uncertainty of the duo’s future. – DM
Peak: Did not chart
Parton teams up with Nickel Creek to turn Collective Soul’s classic rock song into a timeless acoustic gospel number. She’s rarely sounded so inspired. – DM
“Mine All Mine”
Bittersweet regret and tight family harmonies have always been a killer combination in country music. They work so well here that even the phrase “my bad” doesn’t seem out of place. – KC
You don’t want to mess with this self-professed crazy ex-girlfriend. She’ll take you down! – LW
– – –
- The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 1: #201-#181
- The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161
- The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 3: #160-#141
- The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #140-#121
- The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 6: #100-#81
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade. Well, I’m pretty sure I won’t be seeing any other “201 Best of” lists in the coming weeks.
Should be entertaining! I really enjoyed the dichotomy of CU and the9513 in the albums lists.
Rebecca Lynn Howard deserved a better fate than she received. She sang the fire out of “Forgive.” Great single.
I totally agree with “Perfect”, “Mine All Mine” (One of my fave Shedaisy songs), and “So Small” (Again, one of my favourite Carrie songs)
Love “Forgive”,”He Gets That From Me”, “Me and Emily” and “The Only Thing On My Mind. “. Hope to see more Patty and Reba furtur up the list! My pick for number one is” Whisky Luliby” or “I May Hate Myself In The Morning”. Love those songs!
“She’s Everything” sucks. It sucked when Billy Joel sang it (“She’s Always a Woman”), it sucked when Garth Brooks covered it (“She’s Every Woman”), and it sucked when Brad Paisley did a cover of a cover. Paisley – like the Dixie Chicks – is frequently derivative.
Paisley – like the Dixie Chicks – is frequently derivative.
The implication being that this is inherently bad? You must think a lot of music is bad, then.
So far, so good!!
Glad to see the Wrights on the list, they deserve much more attention then they receive. They’re great in concert too.
And Blake Shelton’s Ole Red is just a great song, and the music video is nothing less than a mini-movie. :) One of my all time favorite videos.
This is awesome, another great feature, more great reading at CU! Thanks folks!
I like Country Universe so much because I think it is one of the most unbiased and objective country music blog sites. On other sites, it is obvious there is a clear bias for (and against) certain artists. Liking this list so far! Can’t wait to see the top 50 or so! Keep up the great work here!
Ooooh! 201 Singles? I’m excited! I’m pleased to see Patty Loveless’ “The Last Thing On My Mind”, Rachel Proctor’s “Me and Emily” and even Josh Gracin’s “Nothin’ To Lose” in this first bunch. The only song I strongly dislike is the one chosen to kick it all off, Lady Antebellum’s “I Run To You”.
Tara Seetharam: “The implication being that this is inherently bad?”
Me: not necessarily. A cover album is derivative, but doesn’t have to be bad. This Brad Paisley song, though, is bad.
Tara Seetharam: “You must think a lot of music is bad, then”
Me: Sort of. Probably 90% of what you hear on the radio is white noise until you get to a song you like. Doesn’t mean all those other songs are bad – they’re just not good.
Interesting to see how you guys compiled it!!
I’m surprised to see “So Small” on here, wouldn’t think that it would chart. It’s one of her more forgettable hits, but I enjoy it just as much.
Glad to see representation from different artists on here, I might be checking out a lot of this music, since I like to use these kinds of lists to find new music.
I personally would have put “White Horse” instead of “Fifteen” on the list, because I didn’t really like “Fifteen,” and “WH” is one of my few favs from her.
“Teardrops” and “Tim McGraw” are the only other Swift singles I’d figure on making this chart.
I feel “Perfect” and “He Gets That From Me,” especially “He Gets That From Me” should be ranked higher than they are… but that’s just me.
Overall, good start and can’t wait to see more!! :)
Also, I’m glad to see “Mine All Mine” on here, one of my favorite SHeDAISY songs, it’s probably close to where I’d have put it, maybe a little higher on my list (if I had the time to make one!)
I appriciate the time and effort you all put into tthese lists, they are entertaining and fun for us to read!!
Great Start. Looking forward to the rest.
Yay I’ve been looking forward to this list! Very excited to see Lady A’s “I Run to You” make the list! Im hoping “Need You Now” can hopefully sneak onto the list somehow. I look forward to seeing more of Reba and Carrie as the list goes on. Also, the SheDAISY song is definitely one of my favorites by them! Can’t wait to see who fills the rest of the list!
There are some great choices here- nice job guys!
My favorites are “Mine All Mine, “Me And Emily, Forgive, “So Small and “Fifteen.”
Swift isn’t a decent singer, but I’m always struck by the scincerity and strike between reflection and storytelling in the song.