Best of 2017
A rich year of music has us doubling our list of the year’s best singles. Here are the songs that make up the bottom half of our Top 40 Singles of 2017, as voted on by staff writers Kevin John Coyne, Sam Gazdziak, Jonathan Keefe, and Leeann Ward.
The Best Singles of 2017, Part One: #40-#21
Written by Jason Eady, Kelley Mickwee, and Jamie Wilson
#17 – LW
With the help of a driving acoustic production, Eady tries to drive from his heartbreak to a “lighter shade of blue.” – Leeann Ward
“Second One to Know”
Written by Mike Henderson and Chris Stapleton
#17 – SG
Chris Stapleton gets well-deserved love for his vocals and songwriting skills, but his guitar-playing prowess deserves some mention as well. The country-blues of “Second One to Know” gives love to the lost art of country lead guitar. -Sam Gazdziak
“When Someone Stops Loving You”
Little Big Town
Written by Chase McGill, Lori McKenna, and Jimi Westbrook
#16 – KJC
Few acts do the forlorn ballad as well as Little Big Town. “When Somone Stops Loving You” doesn’t reach the forlorn depths of their earlier single, “Kiss Goodbye,” but it comes remarkably close. – Kevin John Coyne
Written by Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, and Mark Wystrach
#16 – JK
To the consternation of authenticity fetishists and to the delight of those who’ve been clamoring for aesthetic variety and for something better than slightly-better-than-Cole-Swindell songcraft on the airwaves, Midland’s debut single was one of the precious few bright spots at country radio in 2017. – Jonathan Keefe
“All On My Mind”
Written by Johnny McDaid and Ed Sheeran
#16 – SG
A few country singers have attempted to mix in a little soul with their country, but the results come off tepid at best. Newcomer East shows them how it’s done with this scorching performance. “All On My Mind” also features the best use of a string quartet in country music this year. – SG
“Speak to a Girl”
Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
Written by Shy Carter, Dave Gibson, and Joe Spargur
#14 – KJC
There’s a fire between Tim and Faith when they join forces on a record, and it makes them more than the sum of their individual parts. This was the record that Keith Urban’s “Female” wanted to be. – KJC
“Life’s About to Get Good”
Written by Shania Twain
#13 – KJC
In some perfect world on another timeline, Shania Twain’s Now came with a second disc that had the same songs produced by Alison Krauss. You have to cut through the muddled pop production to get to her razor sharp songwriting, which allows bitterness to surface for the first time. It’s worth the effort. – KJC
“Burn the Bed”
Written by Candi Carpenter, Jerilyn Sawyer and Alden Witt
#12 – LW
She’s not just bitter (“Most people take out the trash, they don’t bring it home”), but also deeply wounded (“Did you take my pictures down or did I have to watch?”), and ultimately traumatized by the betrayal (“I don’t want to wash the sheets, I want to burn the bed.”) – LW
William Michael Morgan
Written by Andrew Dorff, Mark Irwin, and Josh Kear
#11 – JK
Morgan reaches for his Bug-Out Bag on this charming, cleverly-written single about indulging in the urge to go off the grid for a hot second. Unfortunately, radio programmers were eager to oblige, and what should have been one of the year’s biggest hits went largely MIA. – JK
“All the Trouble”
Lee Ann Womack
Written by Jay Knowles and Adam Wright
# 18 – JK | #19 – LW
“All the Trouble”announces Womack’s transition to another new phase in her career. As she wails the titular line, we hear her transform from pleasant country singer to soulful, bluesy badass. – LW
Written by Evan Felker
# 10 – JK
Its staggering opening stanza—“I remember smelling smoke / I woke up, I was choking / Lorrie grabbed the baby and we made it safe outside / She never missed a note / Took a breath and cleared her throat / And wrapped him in a Carhartt coat she found out in my ride”— sets the stage for tragedy. But “The Housefire” is ultimately a song about resilience, of how we choose to move forward when most of what we value is reduced to ash and rubble. – JK
Written by Brandi Carlile, David Cobb, Phillip Hanseroth, and Timothy Hanseroth
#9 – SG
An absolute stunner of a song, “The Joke” should be required listening for anyone who’s feeling bullied, belittled or weighed down by life. Carlisle’s vocal performance is soaring and gorgeous. – SG
Little Big Town
Written by Lori McKenna and Hailey Whitters
#8 – LW
“Happy People” is full of wise advice. What’s more, the advice is compassionate and vital for us to heed in these divisive times. “You ain’t ever gonna be it by taking someone else’s away,” and “No time for greed; if they need some, give ’em a slice and we’ll all be happy people” are thrilling sentiments to hear in country music. – LW
“Hope the High Road”
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Written by Jason Isbell
#12 – SG | #20 – KJC
Jason Isbell insisted on removing all doubt this year regarding him being the strongest songwriter on the planet. The band can’t quite keep up with the nuances of his pen on this track, but the sentiment still remains as powerful on record as it is on sheet music. – KJC
“Cut Your Groove”
Written by Oscar Charles and Charlie Worsham
#6 – JK
By all rights, “Cut Your Groove” should have been Worsham’s breakthrough hit: Its message of self-actualization is built upon novel imagery and clever turns-of-phrase, Worsham busts out some surprising growls in his fully invested performance, and the arrangement even includes an on-trend, What-Sturgill-Simpson-Hath-Wrought brass section. – JK
Written by Jeff Bhasker, Cam, and Tyler Johnson
#5 – SG
Cheating songs are a time-honored tradition in country music. “Diane” gives a new perspective by telling the age-old story from the point of view of the unwitting other woman. – SG
“Good Girl Down”
Written by Wanda Jackson, Vanessa Olivarez, and Angaleena Presley
#4 – SG
Presley combines a memorable, slinky arrangement with cutting kiss-off lyrics to make a memorable song. With her two solo albums, Pistol Annies contributions and other songwriting credits, Presley has become one of Nashville’s MVPs. – SG
“We Should Be Friends”
Written by Miranda Lambert
#11 – KJC | #15 – LW
I’m not a Southerner, though I did spend enough time down there to know that using “Bless your heart” as a negative is as Southern as sweet tea. This is the kind of down home pride I can get on board with. – KJC
“Round Here Buzz”
Written by Eric Church, Luke Dick, and Jeff Hyde
#11 – LW | #15 – KJC
As nostalgia songs go, “Round Here Buzz” is clever and stays away from idealized history. The sadness of purposefully feeling and leaning into the nostalgia of a lost high school love is real and palpable. – LW
Written by Tim James, Kendell Marvel, and Chris Stapleton
#12 – KJC | #13 – JK
Dave Cobb’s restrained to-a-fault production choices don’t always play to Chris Stapleton’s considerable strengths. On “Either Way,” however, Cobb just stays the hell out of the way of Stapleton and his acoustic guitar, as Stapleton gives a masterful performance that impresses for both its technical skill and raw emotion. – JK
Great collection of singles here. Angaleena Presley, Brandi Carlile, Charlie Worsham, Eric Church, and Jason Eady continue to push the boundaries of country music with solid musicianship. And my personal favorite country acts still have a lot left in the tank. Shania Twain still got it with her amazing songwriting. Tim McGraw & Faith Hill (especially, Faith) still have their amazing chemistry. Miranda Lambert continue to climb the ranks among the all time great female country artists with her fantastic, The Weight Of These Wings album. Little Big Town still dropping amazing single after amazing single. They are my favorite country group currently.
Never heard “Burn the Bed,” but I’m going to have to hunt that one down, just for that quoted lyric.
“Missing” was one of my favorite songs from William Michael Morgan’s Vinyl. That whole album was quite good. I hate to see that radio programmers aren’t warming up to him.
“Hope the High Road” was a song we all desperately needed this year, from a masterpiece of an album.
I was wondering, did Jimi really solely write “When Someone Stops Loving You”? Turns out the writers are Chase McGill, Lindsey, and McKenna.
Also the name of Keith Urban’s single is “Female”, not “Daughter”.
Liked the 2 LBT songs, Wm Michael Morgan’s “Missing”, Midland’s “Drinking Problem”, Cam’s “Diane” and Candi Carpenter’s “Burn the Bed”.
@hyc, Thanks for the corrections. The post has been updated to reflect them.
William Michael Morgan’s “Missing” failing to take off at radio is one of my biggest disappointments of the year. That song is just so refreshingly country compared to what’s mostly dominated at radio in the last few years. Of course, that’s probably what hurt its chances, too. I really wish WMM could be enjoying the same success that Jon Pardi and Midland are having so far.
“Burn The Bed” is definitely one of my favorites here, too. I’ve been wondering when we’ll hear anything else from Candi Carpenter.
Love Cam’s “Diane,” as well. I’m really hoping it can become a hit in 2018. The 60’s pop influence is very refreshing, as is the unique spin on the old cheating theme.
Glad to see Shania’s “Life’s About To Get Good” on here as well. It’s really too bad that her comeback hasn’t been as big as it should’ve been, at least as far as radio success is concerned. I actually really enjoy her new album, despite it being much more pop than country. The songs are still lyrically better than most other recent mainstream releases, imo, and I’ll gladly take her over Sam Hunt, Walker Hayes, or Kelsea Ballerini any day.