The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 5: #120-#101

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 5: #120-#101

120 Keith Urban Be Here

“Tonight I Wanna Cry”
Keith Urban
Peak: #2

A chillingly frank portrait of loneliness, awkward reference to “All By Myself” notwithstanding. Few mainstream vocalists today could pull off something this intense. – Dan Milliken

119 Loretta Van Lear Rose

“Portland, Oregon”
Loretta Lynn with Jack White
Peak: Did not chart

If you can take a healthy dose of dirty rock ‘n’ roll in your country, this is one of the coolest-sounding records of the decade, a classic one-night-stand duet. That it’s a very cross-generational pairing singing it would be creepy if not for the goofy smiles shining through Lynn’s and White’s performances. – DM

118 Montgomery Your Thing

“If You Ever Stop Loving Me”
Montgomery Gentry
Peak: #1

This charismatic band never encountered a better hook than this one, with an instant sing-along melody that is impossible to ignore. – Kevin Coyne

117 Terri Clark Pain

“I Just Wanna Be Mad”
Terri Clark
Peak: #2

A song that would have felt more at home in the 90s than in 2003, Clark’s playful plea is an encapsulation of all the female charm that’s missing from this decade’s mainstream country music. – Tara Seetharam

116 Brooks Dunn Steers

“The Long Goodbye”
Brooks & Dunn
Peak: #1

They often paint in broad strokes, but the portrait painted of this crumbling relationship is sympathetically detailed, with two decent people putting off the inevitable break-up. – KC

115 Chicks Fly

“Heartbreak Town”
Dixie Chicks
Peak: #23

“Heartbreak Town” could easily be a companion to Pam Tillis’ “Band in the Window.” While “Band in the Window” sounds more like a celebration, “Heartbreak Town” goes deeper and exposes the disappointment and heartbreak found in a town with so much talent that only a select number of people get to rise to the top. – Leeann Ward

114 Faith Hill Cry

Faith Hill
Peak: #12

It may not be as haunting as the Angie Aparo original, but Hill’s willingness to make her power ballads challenging and complex keeps her leagues beyond the pretenders. – KC

113 Gary Tough

“Life Ain’t Always Beautiful”
Gary Allan
Peak: #4

Allan turns these simple lyrics into a chilling inner dialogue that’s both painfully dark and genuinely hopeful. – TS

112 Pinmonkey Big Shiny Cars

“That Train Don’t Run”
Peak: Did not chart

The rootsy country-rock outfit named for some gag or other in The Simpsons revived this 1997 Matraca Berg single with awesome gusto, tearing into it with electric guitar, bright harmonies and dobro all ablaze. A must-hear. – DM

111 Dwight Blame

“Blame the Vain”
Dwight Yoakam
Peak: #58

While not produced by Pete Anderson, “Blame the Vain” harkens back to Yoakam’s signature rhythmic Bakersfield sound. Fruitlessly blaming everyone else for his failed relationship and, while he’s at it, all that’s wrong with the world, Yoakam finally concludes that he may have some ownership in things as well: “Oh and don’t you know that blame/Is always never enough/It just keeps you in the game/Till you’ve only got yourself left to bluff.” – LW

110 Craig I Love It

“Every Friday Afternoon”
Craig Morgan
Peak: #25

In one of the saddest singles of the decade, Morgan’s naturally plaintive voice perfectly captures the devastation of a father who is faced with the dilemma of his ex-wife moving far away from him with his little boy. Up until that point, he had him every weekend, but he now realizes that “there’s no way [he] can be there every Friday afternoon.” – LW

113 Gary Tough

“Best I Ever Had”
Gary Allan
Peak: #7

A decent soft rock song is transformed into a guilt-ridden meditation on death, solely by the vocalist who has chosen it as his vehicle to express his grief. – KC

108 Kenny Road Radio

“Beer in Mexico”
Kenny Chesney
Peak: #1

Part Buffett, part Mellencamp. Part frat boy drinking anthem, part sincere self-reflection. And it’s about hanging out down by the equator. Such a perfect encapsulation of Kenny Chesney’s musical identity from this decade that you could skip over the most of the rest of his work and still get the basic idea. One of his few self-written hits, too. – DM

107 Rascal Flatts Gang

“What Hurts the Most”
Rascal Flatts
Peak: #1

Angst-ridden power pop country done right. – KC

128 George Strait Just

“It Just Comes Natural”
George Strait
Peak: #1

This is simply a delightful celebration of love that “just comes natural”…or naturally. – LW

159 Shania Up

Shania Twain
Peak: #12

Twain’s incessantly peppy poppy positivity fully concentrated. – KC

104 Big Rich Between Hell

“Lost in This Moment”
Big & Rich
Peak: #1

There’s nothing extraordinarily unique about the lyrics in this wedding ballad – besides the fact that it’s the otherwise bad-ass Big & Rich singing them – but somehow they feel incredibly commanding against the duo’s power vocals. It’s just a beautiful song with beautiful harmonies, and I’m not ashamed to admit that lines like, “Bow our heads while the preacher talks to Jesus: ‘please bless this brand new life’” get me every time. – TS

103 James Otto Sunset Man

“Just Got Started Lovin’ You”
James Otto
Peak: #1

Otto’s suave performance and a purely addictive bass line makes for an irresistible piece of smoldering ear candy. – LW

146 Josh Turner Your

“Would You Go With Me”
Josh Turner
Peak: #1

There’s something endearing about the way Turner covers the theme of free-spirited love in this song – the whimsical lyrics contrast sweetly with his deep, sensible vocals. – TS

101 Patty Loveless Dreamin Dreams

“Keep Your Distance”
Patty Loveless
Peak: Did not chart

The best line of 2005 not played on country radio: “I played and I got stung. Now I’m biting back my tongue, and sweeping out the footprints where I strayed.”  I love Loveless the most when she taps into that Ronstadt growl. – KC

– – –


  1. Looking forward to the second half of the countdown. It’s gotta be good considering “Heartbreak Town”, “Cry”, “Portland, Oregon”, “The Long Goodbye” and “Best I Ever Had” couldn’t even crack the Top 100. Still surprised that peppered among these favorites are some songs I really don’t care for at all (“Beer In Mexico”, “If You Ever Stop Loving Me”, “I Just Wanna Be Mad” and “Lost In This Moment”). Very diverse contributions.

  2. We’re really getting into it right now. I’m a little surprised the Allan tracks and Heartbreak Town are already coming around. That Chicks track is one of my favorites in their catalog.

  3. Ah, my favorite just missing the top 100, Oh well. Keep Your Distance was the best single of 2005 in my opinion, and deserved to be a smash it.

  4. “Beer in Mexico” is basically the same song Kenny Chesney sings over and over, so I’m glad to see at least one Variation On Theme Of Hooch and Warm Weather made the list.

  5. …”blame the vain” peaking at #58 in 2005. i’m kinda afraid i totally missed a vintage chart- period somehow. since beer is never wrong, you might as well serve it in mexico and have a hit with it, however i don’t feel the same way about tractor-songs, folks.

  6. Tom: “since beer is never wrong, you might as well serve it in mexico and have a hit with it”

    Agreed! Definitely hit worthy! Just like “No Shoes, No Shirt”! Or “When the Sun Goes Down”! Or anything from “Be As You Are”! Hope they make the list too!

  7. That’s what I love about it – it brings an actual psychological dimension to Kenny’s whole party-boy persona while still being a fun song in its own way.

  8. Yep. We’re starting to get to the point on the list where the songs were often picked by at least two writers. “Beer in Mexico” is one of my favorites of Kenny. Actually, I love that album as a whole. I still wish “The Road and the Radio” had been a single.

  9. Fun fact: The Road And the Radio also has a cover of Randy Rogers Band’s “Somebody Take Me Home,” which was in the lower part of my personal singles list. Kenny’s version isn’t as good as RRB’s, but I love when mainstream artists grab material from Texas ones.

  10. Thank you for reminding me how much I love some of these songs. “It Just Comes Natural” is a great song. The title seems to sum up Strait’s whole career and persona. I was also very impressed with Gary Allan’s cover of “Best I Ever Had.” He totally blew the original out of the water.

  11. I’ve finally been inspired to look into Pinmonkey. I’ve liked what I’ve heard from the clips enough to buy their albums. I had no idea that they do a version of “Wrapped.”

  12. The picking process for this countdown made me realize that Faith Hill has put out a surprisingly strong amount of singles I like this decade. “Stealing Kisses”, “When the Lights Go Down” and “Like We Never Loved At All” all made my list, and I also really enjoy “If My Heart Had Wings”, “Cry”, “The Lucky One” and “Sunshine and Summertime.”

  13. I really like Susnhine and Summertime too! Perfect summer song! Right up there with Summertime by Kenny.
    Best I Ever Had is Gary’s best song in my opinion. So much emotion in that song. The music at the beginning is real eerie but a perfect match for the lyrics. Just an all around great song.

  14. …dan, apart from seconding your impression about faith hill’s singles, to me these various lists also served as a reminder how good, actually, gretchen wilson’s contributions were last decade. i hope she’ll find an elegant exit from that somewhat limiting redneck corner.

  15. I agree, Tom. I’m still pulling for Gretchen. I liked much of Here for the Party and keep holding out hope that she’ll learn some new tricks.

    Gotta say, since it’s listed here, the listening experience of “Lost in this Moment” has been forever altered for me by some thread at The 9513 where people were joking that it would make a great gay wedding song, a) because it features two men singing in harmony about “sealing our love with a kiss” and d b) because it would piss off John Rich, who doesn’t support gay marriage.

  16. Dan: “Gotta say, since it’s listed here, the listening experience of “Lost in this Moment” has been forever altered for me by some thread at The 9513 where people were joking that it would make a great gay wedding song, a) because it features two men singing in harmony about “sealing our love with a kiss” and d b) because it would piss off John Rich, who doesn’t support gay marriage.”

    Hmmm. . . I’m all for pissing off folks opposed to gay marriage (John Rich, Barack Obama, et al) but I’m pretty sure that idea is pretty much a straight man’s fantasy about what a gay wedding would be.

  17. it would have to be a fantasy if it involved big & rich. some things are strictly the province of straight couples, and a country song during part of the procession is one such thing. but anyway, who cares? there’s 2′ of snow on the ground and, consequently, alcohol to be consumed to ease the pain of shoveling.

  18. “some things are strictly the province of straight couples, and a country song during part of the procession is one such thing.”

    Man, that’s just silly.

  19. Of a gay wedding or a straight wedding, the one that will play “Keeper of the Stars” . . .

    But, of course, I can only speak from my experience. I defer to you on your experiences with gay and straight weddings.

  20. And, by the way, I think the discussion of whether two men getting married might play a John Rich song is a stupid one. But then it’s because gays and lesbians are going to have a harder time (1) to get married in the first place and (2) to have their marriages taken seriously. There’s a patronizing attitude – even among liberals – toward gay marriage. It pisses me off wherever I think I see it.

  21. Great list, as usual; there are some big surprises here.

    My picks: “Tonight I Wanna Cry,” “What Hurts The Most,” “It Just Comes Natural, “Just Got Started Lovin You.”

    There are some gems, as well as outright goofy choices in my opinion. You really think Shania and Kenny both deserve multiple spots on this list? They both have some of the worst songs to ever be recorded in my experience. Not to mention neither has great vocal or songwriting skills, either.

  22. Treacle, I don’t think I understand what you’re getting at anymore. Where does the patronizing part arise from?

    I suppose it bears reminding that the original comment about “Lost in this Moment” was, in fact, a joke, so this discussion isn’t based on any kind of serious belief about anything (and so, yes, is stupid). I doubt the song would actually be used at a wedding of two men, what with that “walk his daughter down the aisle” line, but I thought it was a funny comment someone made all the same.

  23. The patronizing element: the liberal’s idea of a joke about John Rich wherein the punchline is “and it’s a gay wedding!”

    Anyway, enough.

  24. The patronizing element: the liberal’s idea of a joke about John Rich wherein the punchline is “and it’s a gay wedding!”

    Hey now, who says that was a liberal’s joke?

  25. Line: “it would piss off John Rich, who doesn’t support gay marriage”

    Me: I don’t expect conservatives would be joking about pissing off John Rich re: his opposition to gay marriage. Do you?

  26. I know conservatives and liberals alike who dislike John Rich’s personality. I also know conservatives who support gay marriage.

  27. It’s a line from Cheaper by the Dozen (book – not movie). Lillian Moeller Gilbreth – tired of arguing with some family member – finally responds “Maybe so, dear. Maybe so.” It concedes nothing but it at least draws the conversation to a close.

  28. All right, so we’ve established that Cutting the Treacle likes certain things to be patronized and not others. Oy.

    To wrap the question of whether the original joke is patronizing or not, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I think most gay people are well aware that there are many who oppose marriage equality, and I think most of them can stand to see that attitude be mocked. It might have even been a gay person who made the original joke, for all I know.

  29. …i agree with you entirely, tara. when it comes to albums, kenny chesney leaves a lot to be desired but there’s a small number of songs i wouldn’t necessarily want hear from anybody else but him. then again, if you blink you might miss them.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Willie Nelson Not Slowing Down; Ralph Stanley’s Swan Song; The Lovell Sisters Trio Downsize | The 9513

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.