Greatness comes in twos this year, as ten different artists make dual appearances on this list. Perhaps this demonstrates a greater truth about 2010. Sure, there was some good music, but greatness was concentrated among a smaller group of artists than usual.
As is the annual tradition, we’ll reveal this year’s forty best singles, ten at a time. Check back tomorrow for Part 2.
The Best Singles of 2010, Part 1: #40-#31
The Flatts boys return to their roots with this bright, infectious slice of country-pop. Bonus points for keeping both Gary LeVox’s voice and Dann Huff’s production in check. – Tara Seetharam
That’s Important to Me
Joey + Rory
So far, Joey+Rory’s calling card has been their ability to exude authenticity through their songs with a naturalness and warmth as convincingly as a certain mother-daughter duo of the eighties, The Judds. Only, unlike the Judds, this partnership’s perceived connection isn’t marred by real accounts of strife and familial discord. Instead, by all accounts, Joey and Rory’s love is as sweet as their musical harmonies suggest. And this song is a nice encapsulation of what makes them who they are as a duo, both in a personal and professional sense. – Leeann Ward
Where Do I Go From You
Walker’s voice has matured so much over the past decade. Thankfully, he still has preserved his playful way with a melody, resulting in records like this that elevate radio fodder into something more than just filler. – Kevin John Coyne
Back to December
She ran from love “when fear crept into [her] mind,” but fear has long since given way to sorrowful regret. Swift knows there’s probably no reversing her mistake, but gets the grief off her chest anyway, with a chorus that sounds almost as nervous as you’d imagine the real-life plea to. – Dan Milliken
My disdain for the duo’s label remains strong, as their lack of quality control let a terrible album reach the marketplace. But kudos to the folks who are picking the singles, as The Incredible Machine must sound like a great piece of work to radio listeners who’ve only heard the album’s two singles. It’s not quite “What it Feels Like For a Girl”, but as modern-day post-feminist explorations of gender go, “Little Miss” is very good. – KC
Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer
He ain’t cut out to sing great ballads. He’s not the type to make deep and introspective albums. But he’s pretty good – no, pretty great – at laid back songs like this. – KC
A story of shared humanity, brought to life by Underwood’s spot-on vocal interpretation. This is the first single in her catalog to slice through to the person behind the artist, and the payoff –striking, palpable personal conviction– is rich. – TS
In an unusual accomplishment, Keith Urban manages to allow a drum machine to enhance a song rather than destroy it. What’s more, this lively Radney Foster penned celebration of commitment is both infectious and refreshing. When it comes to a new relationship, we don’t know what to expect, so the best choice is to be all in and present. – LW
Pray For You
Jaron and The Long Road to Love
If we’re going to bring a college-boy mentality to country music – heck, Hootie’s already in the house anyway – let’s have it be as satisfyingly clever as it is juvenile. – KC
From a Table Away
Seeing the man she loves visibly enthralled by the wife he claims he’s leaving, the man’s mistress finally realizes how badly she’s being used. Sort of like “Stay” with more reserved narration. This is the kind of country single we don’t hear much anymore, with traditional-leaning vocals and production that work only enough to capture the song’s natural pathos, never overcooking things. – DM
Check out the rest of the list:
I’m trying to stick to my plan of shying away from bashing the songs and albums I didn’t care for, so I’ll restrict my comment to one song on your list that I *did* enjoy.
“That’s Important to Me” wasn’t the greatest recording of the year, but it was clearly the work of Joey + Rory. It reflects their image, their known values and it rings of authenticity. It’s got a clear, clean, organic sound and was genuinely refreshing to hear. I can see why it might not rate any higher with you (plural sense here), but for my money it was easily top 10 material for actually having a discernible identity.
…”pray for you” was one the much needed answers to counter the almost braindead backwoods-ballyhoo-orgy of the first half of 2010. i still grin a little, when i see flower pots on window sills.
I know you’re not supposed to take it seriously, but “Pray For You” really does nothing for me except for make me a little angry. I hadn’t thought of it on the college mentality level, though, which helps.
I can understand that reaction to “Pray For You.” I probably would’ve had it myself, if the song hadn’t instantly reminded me of the far more mean-spirited Christine Lavin track, “Regretting What I Said…”
Amazing what a woman in glasses can get away with!
It seems that Taylor took such a dressing down for her extreme vocal inadequacies at the Grammys last time that she finally took the hint and tried to sing better on “Back To December.” I’m not yet convinced to cut her any slack, but there’s a first time for everything.
Sugarland–thumbs down. Enough said.
As for Carrie–I suppose a lot of people will like “Temporary Home”; I, however, consider it standard issue Hallmark message material.
Georgia Middleman co-wrote Keith Urban’s “I’m In” with Radney Foster 12 years ago. It was a non-charting single for Radney in 1998 and a single by the Kinley’s in 2000 which peaked at #35.
Guess i still have a bit of that college boy mentality 43 years after graduating cause I love “Pray for You”. A friend of mine, 10 years older than me, called it a “panic”, an expression I haven’t heard in many years.
My other favorite here is “From a Table Away”.
This list is kind of a mixed bag as far as my personal tastes go. I loved “Why Wait,” “That’s Important to Me,” “Little Miss,” “Back to December,” and “From a Table Away,” but there are a few that would be swapped out of my personal list.
I won’t deny that the “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer” character is one that Billy plays well. I admit that I would be tempted to dismiss that song merely for the simplicity of its theme, but I think the real problem is that there’s no listener payoff at the end, and the paint-by-number lyrics just seem devoid of cleverness to me. As Karlie Justus put it, the song just “plods in circles.”
Couldn’t stand the arrangement on “I’m In.” I echo Erik North’s thoughts on “Temporary Home.” I appreciated and enjoyed the novelty of “Pray for You,” but I wouldn’t count it among my favorites of the year.
Not bad thus far, “Temporary Home” would probably be my favorite from this set. Though, so far, the list is not a bad cross between critically acclaimed and critically acclaimed/radio hits.
“Why Wait” is a great song, but it became a disappointment because the rest of the album didn’t live up to the single’s promise. Biggest surprise of the year for me was “I’m In,” which is one of my favorite country songs from the 90s in its Kinleys version.
Great beginning although Sunny Sweeney’s “A Table Away” is ranked much higher on my personal list. I love that song!
“Pray For You” did come out of nowhere, I was not expecting to see it make this list nor did I have included it on mine. I found it forgettable.
Great songs from Sugarland, Joey + Rory, and Carrie Underwood as well. Three bright moments for them this year.
While I loved “Why Wait,” I would have to agree that the rest of the album was a disappointment. The songs just all seemed to run together, all sounding the same. It wasn’t unlistenable, but it was pretty boring.
Tempoary Home was a great single for country music this year. This single shows Underwood really does have country roots.
Since you didn’t include cowboy cassanova in your 2009 llist I thought you would have it somewhere in the 2010 list. I think the song was a big hit and should have been in one of the lists. What didn’t you like about this song?
So many things…
I love Sunny Sweeney’s “A Table Away”. Has to be one of the better country songs I’ve heard in a while. Definitely in my top 10 of the year. (speaking of, it’s on the radio now ;)).
And your writeup on Sugarland’s “Little Miss” is spot on.
I feel like I must not be able to fairly judge Carrie, b/c I’ve seen many ppl who love “Temporary Home”, but I’m not one of them. Maybe I’m too hard on her? But beyond a few songs, I don’t see her appeal.