As the 51st Annual CMA Awards approach, what better time to look back at the fifty years that came before?
For five days, we will be counting down the fifty winners of the CMA Single of the Year, ten a day, worst to best, as voted on by Country Universe writers Kevin John Coyne, Leeann Ward, Jonathan Keefe, and Sam Gazdziak.
We kick things off today with the first ten entries in our countdown, which we collectively view as the least significant winners of this prestigious award.
Top Fifty CMA Single of the Year Winners
Florida Georgia Line
Sometimes one can listen to a song after a long layoff and gain a new appreciation for it, to discover a layer of nuance or subtlety that may have been overlooked. Then there’s “Cruise,” which remains a terrible, terrible song and helped usher in one of the least artistically satisfying periods in country music’s long and storied history. Thanks for nothing, guys. – Sam Gazdziak
“I Run to You”
“Holes in the Floor of Heaven”
It was emotionally rewarding to see Steve Wariner finally celebrated at the CMA Awards after two decades on the country charts. But as this list will prove repeatedly, maudlin sentiments, topical songs, and novelty records rarely age well. This old tearjerker has lost its potency over time. – Kevin John Coyne
Little Big Town
“Pontoon” was a song that people either loved to hate or hated to love. The production is delightfully quirky and the melody catchy, but the witless attempts at innuendos made it a controversial choice for Single of the Year in 2012, especially up against decidedly stronger singles like Dierks Bentley’s “Home” or Eric Church’s “Springsteen”. – Leeann Ward
“Achy Breaky Heart”
Billy Ray Cyrus
Country’s equivalent of Los Del Rio’s “Macarena,” “Achy Breaky Heart” was an obvious novelty track married to an easy-for-drunks-to-do-at-a-wed
“Die a Happy Man”
Like most Thomas Rhett songs, “Die a Happy Man” is an inoffensive, listenable pop-centric tune. It’s a fine romantic ballad, but calling it a “Song of the Year” would seem a bit of an overreach. – SG
Cal Smith would probably be higher on this list if he’d won the trophy for “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking,” but alas, it’s the emotionally manipulative “Country Bumpkin” that earned him his biggest industry award. He does his best to sell it, but repeatedly rhyming “bumpkin” with “pumpkin” while marking a woman falling in love, and then giving birth, and then dying is hard to take seriously. – KJC
“The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.”
To hear such exuberance in a song is a bit jarring in these times. There’s no cynicism in it, just pure joy and gratitude. As much as we need that now, a song with such expressions of happiness would seem too silly today, but still somehow managed to resonate during the unrest of the early seventies.- LW
John Michael Montgomery
He’s local, so I’m supposed to root for John Michael Montgomery, but he’s one of the 90s’ more baffling success stories: Literally any other Hat Act— let’s say Ty England, because why JMM and not him?— could have turned the cloying, gauzy “I Swear” into a hit and a wedding standard just as competently. – JK
In a perfect world, Miranda Lambert would be competing in 2017 with “Vice” instead of “Tin Man,” and then she’d have a shot at winning this again with a song worthy of her talent. “Automatic” is a bizarre exercise in nostalgia for things that weren’t as good, like Rand McNally maps and having to wait in line to pay for gas. I know country music is supposed to glorify the good old days, but we never heard Loretta Lynn pining for iceboxes and outhouses. – KJC