This section is elevated by thoughtful inclusions from Vern Gosdin and Mel McDaniel.
Kenny Chesney, “Big Star”
#2 | 2003
KJC: Songs about striving for stardom are only interesting when they focus on the struggle. “Big Star” felt particularly egregious when it hit the radio in the aftermath of women being purged from the format. Seventeen years later, the idea of there being a country music meritocracy that allows for women to get ahead if they just work hard is spectacularly ridiculous. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: What are you gonna tell her when she’s wrong, Kenny? So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: A song about how hard work will get you all that you want and more. What a crock of shit. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Mel McDaniel, “Louisiana Saturday Night”
#7 | 1981
JK: This one still gets a decent amount of recurrent airplay, even on the local current country stations, and rightfully so. Everything about this record works, and it sounds better than any of the contemporary hits it rubs elbows with on today’s playlists. Too Low
ZK: This is one of those entries that you just hope makes it – one that wasn’t necessarily a huge hit but felt like it regardless. Easily one of the most fun singles of the ’80s, and in country music in general. I can’t argue with the placement. About Right
KJC: A swampland classic that wasn’t a massive radio hit back in the day, but is now a rightfully revered immortal hit. About Right
Jason Aldean, “When She Says Baby”
#2 | 2013
ZK: Imagine thinking this is better than “Seven Year Ache,” or “Jolene,” or … So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: Oh, look. Another bro country hit where the woman only exists to bring happiness to the man and has no agency of her own. Yay. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: Just utterly useless. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Loretta Lynn, “Fist City”
#1 | 1968
KJC: It’s hard not to wonder what Lynn herself thinks about there being less space now for assertive women on the radio than there was when she was breaking down barriers in the sixties. I think this song peaks too early, as it never gets better than “The man I love, when he picks up trash, he puts it in the garbage can.” But it’s still a classic. About Right
JK: It’s a classic, of course, but I find it interesting how elevated it has become within Lynn’s catalogue over the last decade or so. I wouldn’t put it ahead of, say, “Rated X,” but this is still About Right.
ZK: I can’t complain much with the chosen Loretta Lynn cuts here. I’d argue she performed this sort of song better elsewhere, but it definitely deserves a spot here – just not “after the fire is gone.” Too High
Taylor Swift, “Our Song”
#1 | 2007
JK: Swift grew into the greatness that was ascribed to her prematurely. “Our Song” is marvelously constructed because that’s what she’s always been best at, but the writing and performance were obvious liabilities at the time that have, thankfully, become outliers in a tremendous catalogue. I’m looking forward to hearing her upcoming re-recordings of this and other singles from her first three albums. On impact, this can stay, but it’s far Too High.
ZK: I grew up with Taylor Swift’s music, but I didn’t really appreciate it until she left the country genre. As a kid, it just didn’t speak to me. Looking back, there’s a youthful exuberance to this that helps it shine above some of the technical limitations. I’m not sure I’d have it in the top half – especially not above “Back to December” – but I’m not mad it’s here. Too High
KJC: Among her big country radio hits, this one’s essential, but I think it’s a bit Too High
Tim McGraw, “Indian Outlaw”
#8 | 1994
ZK: How anyone thought this was a good single – let alone a breakthrough single – deserves to be, as Jonathan once said, fired out of a cannon straight into the sun. Yes, it was commercially successful; that’s not the point. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: The best part of this song was cribbed from Paul Revere & The Raiders. The rest of it is proof of McGraw’s ability to make tasteless material more appetizing than it has any right to be. But McGraw has way too many excellent singles to waste space on this historical footnote. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: Absolutely heinous trash. Everyone involved in it should be ashamed. So Wrong (Shouldn’t Exist)
Lonestar, “Walking in Memphis”
#8 | 2003
KJC: It’s fine, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Marc Cohn original or the Cher cover. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: Richie McDonald can sell an overwrought pop power-ballad well enough, but he’s out of his depth on this attempt at blue-eyed soul. If they’d included Cohn’s original in the 900-1000 range, I’d have arched an eyebrow but might have let them get away with it. But this? No. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: This is one of very few Lonestar cuts I’d include on this list in general, and likely the only time I’d ever call the band “soulful.” It’s a great cover that’s just a tad Too High.
Vern Gosdin, “Set ‘Em Up Joe”
#1 | 1988
JK: Shocking that this is ranked correctly, but now I’m mad all over again that we’ve already covered “Chiseled in Stone” ages ago. About Right
ZK: Vern Gosdin is one of those cool anomalies for his time – both in sound and in age – that we took for granted. This is a fine classic, ranked far Too Low, Joe.
KJC: Gosdin’s entries were perfectly culled for this list. This has the right placement, but I’m still sore that “Chiseled in Stone” was hundreds of entries ago. About Right
Sawyer Brown, “The Race is On”
#5 | 1989
ZK: A fine cover, but hardly necessary when the George Jones version sits in the 100s, and I’m not even sure I’d rank it in the top half of this list regardless. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: I love the energy of this cover, which I dare say has more urgency than the George Jones original. But you left off “All These Years” for this?? So Wrong (This Song)
JK: I agree with Kevin’s heresy that it improves on Jones’ original. I also agree that it should be replaced by one of the ballads like “Cafe On The Corner.” So Wrong (This Song)
Brooks & Dunn, “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You”
#1 | 2001
KJC: They had an underperforming album with a mediocre cover of “Missing You,” and then lost Vocal Duo one time to Montgomery Gentry. That this pedestrian hit was presented as some legendary comeback says more about the power of marketing than it does about this boring record. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: Ronnie Dunn gives one of his best vocal performances on a song that doesn’t command that effort. He elevates the song and overcomes the bombastic production. I’d keep it on impact and for Dunn, but in the first 100 entries. Far Too High
ZK: One of their coolest-sounding hits, for sure, but hardly essential for the top half. I feel like I’ve repeated that, oh, a good four or five times today. Too High
Previous: #400-#391 | Next: #380-#371
Fist City and Louisiana Saturday Night are the only two on this list that belongs this high up. Both are classics IMO.
I love Brooks & Dunn and I actually like Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You alright. And it was a big hit for them. But I wouldn’t put it among their best songs. It certainly doesn’t compare to some of their earlier classic hits.
Vern Gosdin is way too low. Louisiana Saturday Night a bit low. I think almost every song Tim McGraw has done sucks, and Indian Outlaw sucks more than most. The rest are pretty boring. Seriously, we’re 400 spots ahead of When I Call Your Name?
I love that Louisiana Saturday Night is included here. That whole album is great (and I indirectly discovered the album though one of ZK’s Best Hit Songs articles).
I’ve always maintained that Cher’s version of Walking in Memphis is the best version. I’m not a fan of the Lonestar version.
Ain’t Nothing About You is ok, but could easily be replaced by a number of other B&D songs that are much better.
“Our Song” probably to this day my favorite Taylor Swift single, just something about it just exudes youth energy and yet also has enough clever lines in it (the bridge in particular) that makes it so easy to love it. Also 9 year old me would listen to the song at every turn when it was out.
Vern Gosdin, Mel McDaniel, and Sawyer Brown are my favorites here in an otherwise very weak group, once again.
It’s pretty cool how Vern was able to make quite the successful comeback in the late 80’s already well into his 50’s. It’s sad to think there’s no way anything like that could happen today. I echo everyone else here that “Set Em Up Joe” is way too low. I’ve must’ve missed the batch where “Chiseled In Stone” showed up, but it’s disappointing (not surprising, though) to learn that it’s ranked so low.
Sawyer Brown’s cover of “The Race Is On” has always been a personal favorite since it’s one of the earliest songs I remember liking when I was little. My parents even have a video tape somewhere of me at five years old singing it at the top of my lungs over and over, lol. Not sure I’d go as far to say that it’s better than the original, but I do enjoy both equally, and this was quite a good rendition. Still a shame that none of their ballads made it, though. “All These Years” and “Cafe On The Corner” are definitely both deserving.
Always loved “Louisiana Saturday Night,” and it’s still such a fun listen. I’m also surprised to learn that it wasn’t actually as big of a hit on the charts as the recurrent play it’s gotten over the years suggests. Used to still hear it regularly on one of my stations up until around the late 90’s or early 00’s.
“Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You” is not bad, and I consider it to be one of their better 2000’s efforts, but it’s still nowhere near being one of B&D’s best of all time, especially when compared to their 90’s classics. “Every River” is my personal favorite single from Steers & Stripes and probably my favorite of their 00’s singles. After that album, hardly any of their singles were worth getting excited about except “Red Dirt Road” and “It’s Getting Better All The Time,” imo.
Once again, when I think about the quality music Tim McGraw put out in the 90’s, “Indian Outlaw” is NOT one of the songs that comes to mind. Not A Moment Too Soon is not a bad album (especially by today’s standards) but it did produce most of my least favorites of his 90’s singles. Two of them have now shown up here, and I’m pretty sure the third one’s on the way soon. Btw, it’s getting to be quite annoying that when it comes to 90’s country, people seem to remember the ditties and novelty songs the most, while many of the excellent ballads from that era appear to be more forgotten.
“Big Star” never did a thing for me, and I especially found it to be too lightweight and forgettable for the topic it was trying to address. But mostly I just found it utterly boring. And yes, it’s aged terribly, as far as the message goes. This was also when I was starting to think of Kenny as overrated.
I quite like much of Taylor’s early country singles (that first album is pretty good, especially) and “Our Song” is a fun listen, but definitely shouldn’t be in the top 400. I know Taylor was the one most of the purists hated back then, but after all we’ve had thrown at us in this past decade, I now long for the days when she was seen as the least traditional artist on country radio.
Seeing all these interchangeable Aldean songs on the list, especially now in the top 400, is such a joke. Are there really people who think this is a better song than “Chiseled In Stone,” “When I Call Your Name,” “I Believe In You,” “Jolene,” etc.?
Hope everyone here had a Happy Thanksgiving, btw!
Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” was spectacular. The Lonestar cover not so much. Frankly, I think they really went off the rails after John Rich left. I know they had huge success with the reinvention of their sound after JR left, but I liked the early stuff better.
Love the Vern Gosdin tune, but I was always a bit nonplussed never to hear the ET song played right after it. Heheheh.
I can’t imagine that particular Aldean song was even better than “Amarillo Sky” or “The Truth,” let alone better than, well, any of the songs behind it on this list.
Re. “Set ‘Em Up Joe”: There’s a certain wryness to Vern Gosdin’s delivery of that song that makes it work the way it does. And it’s a perfect combination of 1950s and 1980s type honky-tonk (IMHO).
Re. “When She Says Baby”: I don’t know how the industry ever let these guys with these redneck smirks like Jason Aldean through their damned doors, but stuff like this both smears the sound and the image of the music…and it’s been allowed to for too many years now (IMHO).
Re. “Our Song”: At the risk of sounding like I’m bashing her, the honest truth is that, right out of the chute with this song, I had enormous problems with Taylor. No one can dispute her ability to market herself to her target audience, but, from the beginning, I have found her to have the most downright irritating voice of any female singer ever. Maybe it’s the stuff she writes songs about, or the production, or simply having been unable to project her voice well, but that’s how I have felt. That said, though, she has had moments–“Back To September”; “Begin Again”; and the more recent “Betty”–where she has gotten into a folk/country vibe similar to what Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell were each doing in the Laurel Canyon of 1971. I don’t know if I could ever be a full-fledged fan of Taylor’s (that ship may have sailed), but I’m willing to acknowledge there’s reason for hope….
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #140-#121
December 16, 2009 Dan Milliken Decade in Review 27
131 Lonestar Greatest Hits
“Walking in Memphis”
Speaking of surprisingly great covers of pop songs, Richie McDonald’s performance of this Marc Cohn hit is so commanding and soulful that it makes the original – which was already solid – sound like a demo. Arguably Lonestar’s finest moment. – DM
agree with DM. Saw Lonestar with Jamie “There Is No Arizona” O’Neal at the Bloomsburg Fair (outdoor stage) on 9/26/01. Jamie & Richie McDonald were both great. I never missed John Rich.
The Pistolero – I’m pretty much with you on Lonestar being at their best when John Rich was still a member. I did like a few of their singles off Lonely Grill (“Smile,” “What About Now”) but for the most part, I found the soccer mom phase of their careers boring. My favorite early Lonestar tunes are “Tequila Talkin'” “Runnin’ Away With My Heart,” “Hearbroke Everyday,” (featuring John Rich on lead), “Come Cryin’ To Me,” “You Walked In,” and what I consider their best recording of all time, “Everything’s Changed.”
I didn’t notice a functional difference in Lonestar when John Rich left. I echo the affection for “Everything’s Changed,” which was easily my favorite single of theirs up until that point. I liked everything off of Lonely Grill. Then I lost interest with “I’m Already There.” I don’t recall if I liked anything after that upon original release, but a look at their singles discography elicits only two reactions: “Don’t like it” and “Don’t remember it.”
I do think that every Rascal Flatts single I’ve enjoyed – and there have been maybe five of them? – would’ve been better if Richie McDonald was the lead singer on them.
Largely agree with the reviewers’ comments
Vern Gosdin’s “Set “em Up Joe’ was a tribute to two Ernest Tubb songs, ‘Walking The Floor Over You” and “Two Glasses, Joe”
Vern was a class act. About two years before he died, Vern (through his website) offered a collection of 101 of his songs (original recordings) at a quite reasonable price to advance purchasers. The set was expected to be available by November (in time for Christmas); however, for whatever reason the set was not completed in time. In order to not disappoint those who purchased the set, Vern Gosdin Music sent those who ordered in advance an earlier 3 CD (75 song) set along with a letter explaining that the new collection would be sent within 60 days. The 3 CD set was excellent, and the larger remastered set was excellent and was worth the wait.
Re: “The Race Is On”, probably the best cover of the song was by classic pop balladeer Jack Jones (no relation to George Jones, but the son of movie star and tenor Alan Jones whose “Donkey Serenade” was a monster hit in 1938). Jack’s version reached #15 on Billboard’s pop chart and #1 on the easy listening chart.
Some good placements here (Louisiana Saturday Night, for example) and some really bad ones (How the hell can “Set Em Up Joe” be higher than “Chiseled in Stone?” “Walking in Memphis” also doesnt belong IMO