The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161

180 Flatts Melt

“These Days”
Rascal Flatts
Peak: #1

It’s the pairing of aching nostalgia and all the power that comes with a Flatts country-pop ballad that makes this song so potent. – Tara Seetharam

179 Ashton

“Takin’ Off This Pain”
Ashton Shepherd
Peak: #20

Like a wide-eyed hybrid of Loretta Lynn and Jennifer Nettles, Shepherd burst onto the scene snapping her newly ring-free fingers at the clueless sap not treating her right. Next Decade, please take note: you’ve got a star in waiting. – Dan Milliken

178 Paisley Night

“Welcome to the Future”
Brad Paisley
Peak: #2

Paisley blends funky, fresh production with a powerful yet lighthearted depiction of the progress that marks our times. Refreshingly, the result is a politically-tinged song that doesn’t preach, but celebrates. – TS

177 Sara Fine

“A Real Fine Place to Start”
Sara Evans
Peak: #1

Evans simply soars on this perfect bubblegum hook, a hormone rush courtesy of the inimitable Radney Foster. – DM

176 Brad 5th

Brad Paisley
Peak: #1

One of the decade’s most polarizing singles, as evidenced by its inclusion in both this countdown and our recent one. Indeed, Paisley’s shamelessly pervy, creepy ditty has inspired much tut-tutting from those who equate quality with seriousness, or who simply don’t care for pervy, creepy things in general. For others, however, “Ticks” is just a hilariously wrong little novelty with some of the smokingest Telecaster riffs around. – DM

175 Pam Rhinestoned

“Band in the Window”
Pam Tillis
Peak: Did not chart

In this jaunty song, Pam Tillis pays tribute to the struggling hopefuls whose only platforms for sharing their music is in bar bands that can be seen through windows by passersby. It’s a celebration of Nashville’s vibrancy wherein talent can be found on every corner. – Leeann Ward

174 Keith Golden

“Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me”
Keith Urban
Peak: #1

Only Urban could strip a phrase like this of all its pomposity and turn it into a hook for an exhilarating song about open-road bliss. – TS

173 Sugarland Twice

“Something More”
Peak: #2

An anthem for those who believe that happiness is something we create. – Kevin Coyne

Tracy Rounds

“Ten Rounds With José Cuervo”
Tracy Byrd
Peak: #1

Byrd is contagiously entertaining on this boozy, purely fun number. – TS

171 Blake Barn

“Some Beach”
Blake Shelton
Peak: #1

The often cerebral Paul Overstreet helped write this catchy and amusing song that skates around cussing with “some beach” as the expression of choice instead of what is more likely to come out when one has had a bad-luck day like the one in this song. – LW

170 Willie Cowboys

“Cowboys are Frequently Secretly (Fond of Each Other)”
Willie Nelson
Peak: Did not chart

The Aughts have brought us some classic Willie, from reggae experiments to dead-on Western swing revivals to badass live sets. Also classic: his cover of Ned Sublette’s underground “gay cowboy” song, equal parts goofy satire and bold queer theory. “Say, what did you think all them saddles and boots was about?” – DM

179 Ashton

“Sounds So Good”
Ashton Shepherd
Peak: #21

“Sounds So Good” effectively illuminates the joys of summer activities by effectively focusing on their sounds, most notably that of a cooler slushing. – LW

169 Billy Doin'

“Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right”
Billy Currington
Peak: #1

Intimate, soulful and incredibly sensual – there’s not much more to say. Currington has never sounded so good. – TS

168 Womack More

“Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago”
Lee Ann Womack
Peak: #32

Beautifully frank, from the awesome title to the distinct little moments of bittersweet hindsight throughout. – DM

167 Reba 3

“Sweet Music Man”
Reba McEntire
Peak: #36

Kenny Rogers wrote a nice song that was marred by insufferable, dated eighties production. Fortunately, Reba McEntire had the good sense to update the song by eliminating the synthesizers, which uncovers a gem with a more organic, acoustic sound. – LW

165 Jamey Johnson

“High Cost of Living”
Jamey Johnson
Peak: #34

This song is dark for today’s sterile radio climate, and Johnson’s no-nonsense performance makes no effort to lighten the mood in any way. As a result, we get a glimpse into raw emotions and real consequences that make for a more authentic and enlightening song. – LW

164 Martina Waking

“For These Times”
Martina McBride
Peak: #35

McBride is no stranger to socially conscious songs, but there’s a sad honesty to this one that sets it apart from the others. It reads like a prayer for these often disheartening times in which we live, that we can’t and weren’t made to give up on. – TS

163 Sugarland Love

“Already Gone”
Peak: #1

Sure, they’ve got some silly-pops in the fridge, but few modern country acts write with the passion and intelligence of this duo at their best. “Already Gone” makes the insightful observation that we spend much of our lives playing catch-up to our hearts, and touches upon both the joys and tragedies that that tendency can bring. – DM

162 Terri Fearless

“No Fear”
Terri Clark

With this reflective song co-written by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Terri Clark shows that bravery and silence are not contradictory. – KC

165 Jamey Johnson

“In Color”
Jamey Johnson
Peak: #9

A song whose premise is a series of photographs may have fallen flat in the hands of another artist, but Johnson infuses it with poignant imagery and a heaping amount of understated conviction – and just like that, it comes alive. – TS

– – –


  1. “Welcome to the Future” is a lie. It is a crass, grabbing hand at the cash register on the coat tails of Hope and Change.

    And “In Color” – #161? I blush with shame for you.

  2. Another great set. The Rascal Flatts song is one of only a few of their hits that I actually like. I would have rated “Welcome to the Future” and “High Cost of Living” much higher though – maybe Top 50. Looking forward to tomorrow’s batch!

  3. I gotta say I am completely shocked to see “In Color” so low on the chart…thought for sure it would be in top 20. And even more shocked to see “Ticks” on the list at all.
    Looking forward to the next 20!

  4. “In Color” wasn’t even on my personal list. I like the song, but I liked 100 songs more than it in the past decade, including “High Cost of Living.”

  5. Ditto Leeann. I still like “In Color,” but it hasn’t really stood the test of time for me like other songs on Jamey’s album have.

  6. I don’t like “In Color.” The “should have seen it in color” hook just grates on me. It seems so cliche. The world isn’t black and white, its in color. I’ve heard this so many times. We even get “A picture’s worth a thousand words” as part of the lyrics. Ugh.

  7. “Ticks” ahead of “Welcome to the Future”? I would have had the latter much higher and the former wouldn’t have made the list.

    I like “No Fear”and I think “Fearless” was one of Terri Clark’s best albums.

    “Band in the Window” also appears on Lisa Brokop’s 2008 cd “Beautiful Tragedy”. Lisa co-wrote the song with Kim McLean. Lisa’s last single, which she wrote with Fred Wilhelm, was prophetically titled “(Just Another Song You Won’t Hear) On the Radio.”

  8. Interesting list, now that i’ve seen “Sweet Music Man” on here, no wonder “He Gets That from me” was a little lower. I’d have put “No Fear” and “Already Gone” a little higher up, but those are my personal favs.
    I’d have put “Anyway” instead of “For These Times,” I wasn’t too crazy over that song.

    Overall, this list is the one I like so far, with many of my favs ranking in the 180-161 group. :)

  9. My favorite kinda-related-to-Jamey-Johnson anecdote: While listening to “In Color” on the radio, my 30-something coworker asked me what war they were fighting in 1943. (And yes, she was completely serious.) Possibly one of the saddest moments of my life.

    Songs I was pleased to see: Sweet Music Man, Already Gone, Welcome to the Future, Sounds So Good (and Me and Emily in the last post). I’m not a big fan of Jamey Johnson, but I was surprised to see his two place so low.

    I think my personal Top Single of the Decade would have to be Top of the World, so I’m hoping that is included somewhere along the road.

  10. …the beauty of “in color” lies in the pictures that it evokes at the individual listeners level.
    to me it brings up “the waltons”, a john steinbeck novel, air-to-air combat in ww II, the latest pearl harbour movie, suburban bungalows and chevy bel airs, “the brady bunch” and a lot more. on top of that the melody is fine and jamey johnsons vocal performance is just right. this is a song that is on par with best of the classics. hence, it’s placed way too low – then again, so what?

  11. …also, with “ticks” and “in color” ranking so low, you guys really know how to build up some tension, even without a butcher’s knife and a blonde behind a shower curtain. kinda cool.

  12. I’m surprised Welcome to the Future isn’t higher. Brilliant cut.

    Oh and Cutting the Treacle – dial it down a bit. I’m gett sick of your condescending shtick.

  13. Just my opinion, but I think the perceived quality of “In Color” has been inflated due to the context of its release. Many (me included) feel that mainstream country has been unsatisfying lately, and Jamey has been a clear counterpoint to that trend. But if you set “In Color” up against some of the singles released earlier in the decade, when the bar was higher, it’s a harder call to make.

  14. I actually found the fairly low ranking of “In Color” surprising myself. Not that it was ever in any danger of being on my top 100 list, but I expected it would pop up on everyone else’s.

    It’s one of those songs where I can understand why it’s appreciated and loved without having a particular appreciation for it myself.

    It does seem that Jamey Johnson was the past year’s consensus pick, much like Miranda Lambert and Gretchen Wilson were before him. Or to go back earlier in the decade, Johnny Cash, Dixie Chicks (Home-era) and O Brother.

    Johnson doesn’t do it for me, and if I were to put him on a list, I’d be keeping up appearances. Glad so many others enjoy him, though. It’s always nice to see an artist that has both critical and commercial success.

  15. Stephen: “Oh and Cutting the Treacle . . . I’m gett[ing] sick of your condescending shtick.”

    Of course you are. You actually wrote “Welcome to the Future . . . Brilliant cut”. Which, of course, doesn’t make the song suck any less.

  16. I love several of the cts here as well. Great comments everyone.

    I have never gotten the hype of “In Color,” but it is a pretty decent song.

    I’m very surprised “These Days” didn’t rank higher. It’s the Flatts best effort in my opinion, and probably still one of my top favorite songs of all time.

  17. “Welcome to the Future” is a lie. It is a crass, grabbing hand at the cash register on the coat tails of Hope and Change.

    Care to substantiate? It’s hard to believe any record label sat around and decided that a song that references President Obama would make them “cash” in the country music industry.

    On another note, I tried to reasonably limit the number of singles by each artist on my list. If I hadn’t done that, “Ticks” would have been on there for sure. I love it.

  18. I always thought “Already Gone” was one of the best songs from Sugarland, imo. I also love “real fine place to start’ and “For These Times” is one of my overall favourite songs from Martina. Great list so far.

  19. Where to start, Tara. There’s so much to loathe about BP.

    First, this song is just brazenly calculated. That last verse: cross burnings then (when BP was in high school? Really? I grew up in the deep South at the same time as BP and black kids did not get crosses burned in the yard for dating a white cheerleader). And now ML (not MLK – but ML) would be proud. That verse. It’s just a shiny American flag pin fixed to a cheap KMart suit. Whether from the left or the right, feel good-ism will sell. And I would put nothing past the labels. Or Brad Paisley.

    Second, there’s nothing original about this song or the sentiment. It’s “Southern Voice” without the list (but at least Southern Voice was ballsy enough to take, as its name, the best damn gay newspaper in the South). It’s “It’s America” – nothing insightful. But at least Rodney Atkins doesn’t drown himself in pretension.

    Third, I just don’t care for Brad Paisley. “When I Get Where I’m Going”. He ripped it off the Judds – “When I Reach the Place I’m Going” – without credit and no one bothered to call him on it.

    Fourth, I can’t stand the parade of second-rate hollywood stars who seem to populate his videos. Even Clint Black wasn’t this desperate to bask in so much reflected faded glory when he married a b-lister.

    It’s as much Brad Paisley as it is the song.

  20. As funny a coincidence as it is, I doubt that the writers of “Southern Voice” realized their song shared a name with a prominent gay newspaper.

    I think the Paisley song would hardly be considered unique in a rock context (in fact, if Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi had done it, I bet it would have gotten a lot of flak), but I do think it’s something new for country music, which doesn’t see a lot of songs that celebrate the progression of society. Country music has often tended to romanticize the “good ol’ days” and ignore all the bad stuff that plagued them; Paisley’s song makes the suggestion that our best days are now, or ahead, because we’ve overcome some of that bad stuff.

    Still, I see where you’re coming from with it. I think it easily stands out in this year’s rather weak pool of singles, but it’s not perfect. I’d honestly find it a little boring without the third verse or the awesome production.

  21. Quoting Tom

    “December 15, 2009 at 6:15 pm
    …the beauty of “in color” lies in the pictures that it evokes at the individual listeners level.
    to me it brings up “the waltons”, a john steinbeck novel, air-to-air combat in ww II, the latest pearl harbour movie, suburban bungalows and chevy bel airs, “the brady bunch” and a lot more. on top of that the melody is fine and jamey johnsons vocal performance is just right. this is a song that is on par with best of the classics. hence, it’s placed way too low – then again, so what?”

    Great post Tom, I agree. “In Color” is a great song for the reasons you state and many more. One of the few highlights of the awards shows lately, and of the CMT/GAC countdowns and of country radio.

  22. Quoting Nicholas:

    December 15, 2009 at 4:50 pm
    Love that Sara Evans song… it and “Coalmine” are some of my favorite songs period ”

    I love ARFPTS too, and Coalmine deserved to chart and should have been a big hit. I’m hopefull it will appear and do well on this list.

  23. I love the progressive production on “Welcome to the Future too.” To me, it’s cool. I agree that the song simplifies things, but I disagree that it’s a cash grab, because as Tara pointed out, being at all positive toward Obama doesn’t exactly ingraciate a country music artist to its core audience. And that has nothing to do with his color, but his political party. I’m, frankly, surprised that it did as well as it did. I thought the record label was taking a huge chance in releasing it and expected it to tank. I’m pleased that I was wrong.

    As far as the cross burning, it’s possible that Paisley lied about the incident, but he claims that it did, indeed, happen. So, I have no reason to not take it at face value. I believe that if racism is alive and well here in Maine (which it surely is), it certainly existed 15 to 18 years ago in Virginia. I think to suggest otherwise is either naive or just inaccurate. Didn’t a judge in Louisianna, just recently, refuse to marry a couple because one was black and the other was white? That happened within the last couple months, in 2009.

    I actually think this is one of the better singles of 2009, but then, I had a hard time coming up with even 20 singles that I’ve liked in the last year.

  24. I have no doubt that cross burning still exists or that racism lurks behind every corner (what’s that I see behind my office door right now???). I completely doubt that Brad Paisley’s friend had a cross burn in his yard because he dated a high school cheerleader.

    And the song isn’t progressive (whatever that means). It’s coasting on the fumes of an American political event. It’s a 2009 “Point of Light”, but without the better Randy Travis vocal.

  25. And I should be clear too: the last verse is only so offensive because it is an obvious marketing move (at least Randy Travis had the good sense to try to keep “Point of Light” off his album). But the rest of the song is stupid too. The future is Obama, pac-man on Paisley’s phone and video-conferencing to Asia (really – that’s the future? who knew we were in the future when we’ve been video-conferencing for well over a decade?). There’s just nothing insightful or new in this song, and there’s nothing clever or interesting about how Paisley presents his Theme On The Future (“start with verse about me, then add verse about granddaddy, then add verse about all of us!”). But Paisley – like certain other artists – gets cool points for reasons that are unrelated to quality or authenticity.

  26. I do agree with Dan that the first two verses are pretty weak. As far as your other points, Treacle, I just don’t agree, which is typical for you and me.

    I don’t mind recycled themes as long as they’re done well. I think “When I Get Where I’m going” is superior to the Judds song. As far as Paisley not acknowledging that it’s “ripped off” from their song, he didn’t write it, so he probably doesn’t know from where the inspiration came. I don’t see a good comparison with “Welcome to the Future” and “Point of Light”, though “Point of Light” is a song that I like, no matter it’s association. I like the premise and the larger point of the song outside of the Point of Light initiative context. But then, songs like that hit my sweet spot, anyway.

  27. Treacle said: “But Paisley – like certain other artists – gets cool points for reasons that are unrelated to quality or authenticity.”

    I won’t deny that I like Brad Paisley, but I don’t think that we heap excessive praise on him as a site. Take a look at CU’s Paisley Artist page and you’ll see that the lukewarm to negative reviews of his music outweighs the positive, including three of my own single reviews:

    5th Gear
    “I’m Still A Guy”
    “Start A Band”
    “Waitin’ on A Woman”

  28. …indeed, leeann, cu is not the site for the die-hard paisley fans. kevin’s early reviews of paisley songs are classics by now. by the way, another refreshing little ambush from flipping the turtle. just love his/her controversial points of view.

  29. I’m not saying this site overly praises Paisley. But he is generally overly praised, see, e.g., CMA awards and nominations. I’m merely standing athwart music yelling “stop” (even when it’s yelling at an infrequent poz-Paisley post).

  30. I’m still waiting for Paisley to win entertainer at the CMAs. Since he can’t even snag that award, I don’t even know that he’s overly praised at the CMAs quite yet.

  31. LeeWard: “I’m still waiting for Paisley to win entertainer at the CMAs”

    Windward: Me too because that plus the fact that 1/3 of the human race is bleeding from eye sockets will confirm the apocalypse is then upon us.

  32. Leeann and Treacle, your banter has been quite entertaining.

    Though I typical enjoy Brad Paisley, I believe “Welcome to the Future” was one of the most overrated songs of the year. I’m guessing the reason it’s scoring so high on these end of the year reviews is because most of the folks who chime in to compile these lists have a liberal mindset and have embraced the track due to its progressive lyrics (much in the same way that I’m assuming the Dixie Chicks will be in the “Top 10” for at least one of their singles off Taking the Long Way) though, I doubt they will admit that is the sole reason. If this list were to reflect what a majority of country listeners perceive as the best albums from the past ten years, I think we would see an entirely different outcome.

  33. I guess it’s fair to think “Welcome to the Future” favors a “progressive” mindset, and I do think it’s been embraced by those who bring especially fond feelings about Obama into their experience of it.

    But I don’t think the song itself has a political leaning as much as a social one. I think it’s key that it doesn’t even make any mention of Obama himself; rather, it focuses on the fact that society’s attitude toward minorities has greatly progressed in a short time, which I think is something most people can get behind. I was really ambivalent about both major-party candidates in 2008, but it’s still incredibly significant to me that we have a black president only fifty years after Brown v. Board. Celebrating that is not the same as celebrating the man himself if you don’t care to.

  34. Ditto to what Dan said.

    Lisa said: “I’m guessing the reason it’s scoring so high on these end of the year reviews…”

    I hardly think 178 is a high ranking.

  35. I can also speak for myself and go on record to assure you that I’m not exactly pleased with Obama’s performance so far, but I still like Welcome to the Future’s sentiment.

  36. Well said, Dan.

    Leeann, I believe 178 out of tens of thousands of songs made over the past ten years is quite notable. It scored in the top 100 over on 9513. Also, please know I meant no offense in my overarching generalization…”most of the folks who compile these lists have a liberal mindset”…that’s just been my experience with the media overall.

  37. I think Paisley himself is fairly a-politcal, or at the very least, even handed. He seems to have high regard and contempt for both parties in equal measure. I base this on what I’ve seen at his shows, his background videos in the past have held up both JFK and Ronald Reagan as heroes,( as in When I Get Where I’m Going) if my memory serves me. And he’s skewered both sides in his concert (background) videos as well. ( as in I’ll Take You Back)

  38. Lisa,
    The9513 hasn’t done a decade singles list yet, as far as I know. You must be thinking of their album list, which included the album, American Saturday Night, which is not at all political in nature.

    In the interest of full, though unnecessary, disclosure, some of my beliefs are probably considered to be “liberal”, but I’m definitely a walking contradiction and it would probably drive a person mad to try to guess where I stand on most political issues. My own husband is regularly surprised.

  39. Well I don’t care about politics (right, left or center) when it comes to music other than it tends to crap up the music. And when it comes to politics, two things really piss me off: (1) the marketing of politics (“Welcome to the Future”, “Point of Light”); and (2) a trend I perceive of busting on some artists who are accused of leaning one way for apparently political reasons. Cole Sear saw dead people, and I see hidden political agendas.

    The one nice thing about Taking the Long Way is that it forced the agendas onto the table. Now it’s basically a pointless album (Come on – ask your neighbor right now to hum at least one song from it! And be honest when was the last time any of you listened to it without thinking “my God, that’s so Bush era”). But at least TTLW didn’t pretend to be anything more than what was apparent on its face.

    And speaking of the Chicks, they do have one song I find deeply offensive: “Long Time Gone”. But I’m holding my powder on that one, until it shows up on the list (and I’m confident it will – probably very high).

    By the by, Dan, I’m all for celebrating the Obama occasion. But I don’t like chaining it to a lie (Paisley’s friend’s cross-burning) or tacked on to a song about mobile phone games or videoconferencing. There’s probably a way to do it, but Alan Jackson must have been busy so we’re left with Brad Paisley’s second-rate co-write instead.

  40. Late to the party, I know, but I do want to point out that the credit for the “more organic, acoustic sound” of “Sweet Music Man” goes mainly to Alison Krauss, who not only arranged and produced the cut, but picked the song in the first place.

  41. eww, Ticks :P I admit, I’m not a huge Paisley fan. I don’t like most of his more “upbeat” hits. I do however love “When I get where I’m going” and “Whiskey Lullaby”. But “Ticks” and “Water”? Goodbye Radio, hello mp3 player. I don’t like “Alcohol” either. I do however like “I’m gonna miss her” and “Online”.

    Along a similar vein of “Ticks”, I really loved “Pickin Wildflowers”, although I couldn’t even tell you who it was by.

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