950 down, 50 to go.
Darius Rucker, “Alright”
#1 | 2009
KJC: Rucker’s had a pretty lengthy radio career at this point, so I understand him being represented on the list. But two singles would suffice, and this one’s not necessary at all. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: The thing about Rucker is that he’s never really had any one single that does justice to his actual vocal talent. This is such a nothing of a song that Rucker sings fine enough, but it is utterly inconsequential. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
ZK: All-wrong. There’s being happy with less, and then there’s just being a damn cheapskate. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Brooks & Dunn, “My Maria”
#1 | 1996
JK: I do think Ronnie Dunn’s badass falsetto, paired with Kix Brooks’ backing vocals, improves on the original version by a pretty huge margin. A massive hit that really did get people talking about Dunn as a tremendous singer in a way that they, unjustly, hadn’t before. I’d have a couple of their hits in my top 100, but I do think this is Too High, though it was a massive hit for them.
ZK: I, too, can actually think of a few singles of theirs that belong about here. And this is, undoubtedly, the best version of this infectious little number. But top 100? I really want to, but I can’t, and I want to apologize to Ronnie Dunn’s gorgeous falsetto for that. Too High
KJC: This was an enormous radio hit and helped power the duo to their first Entertainer of the Year trophies, even if its host album continued the trend of selling a million units less than its predecessor. Definitely belongs on the list, but this is Too High
Patsy Cline, “Walking After Midnight”
#2 | 1957
ZK: There are certain lists where one could largely debate the placement of certain classics as being too low or high, provided they get to all of the good stuff. It doesn’t discount the merits of the list so much as it encourages healthy debate and discussion. Here … well, look what the fuck got ranked ahead of this. Too Low
KJC: This placement is just fine, in my opinion. Even if it’s surrounded by lesser songs, #58 is About Right for a historical ranking of the record.
JK: What Kevin said: This seems pretty correct if you consider it in a vacuum. But that’s hard when so much of this list needs to be jettisoned into the empty vacuum of deep space. About Right
Zac Brown Band, “Chicken Fried”
#1 | 2008
KJC: Catchy as all get out, and indicative of a playful style that would produce plenty more entertaining hits. But it’s still Too High
JK: I’m not mad at this inclusion at all: This got their foot in the door with the mainstream and, for at least a couple of albums, they were as good as anyone in contemporary country. It’s so far from their best, though, and I’d have slotted it way back in the 800s or something. Absurdly Too High.
ZK: A classic bait-and-switch single of the better variety, and one that, awful as it is, led to one of the most commercially and artistically fruitful careers of the very early 2010s. Ain’t no way I like my chicken fried this much, though. Too High
Willie Nelson, “Always On My Mind”
#1 | 1982
JK: My second-favorite Nelson single– we’ve already covered the first, because of course we have– and a testament to his extraordinary and truly inimitable gifts as an interpreter. We’re closing in on the top of the list, and this is still a bit Too Low.
ZK: Voice has always mattered to a large degree in country music, and I don’t just mean in terms of technical abilities. Nelson’s offbeat charm and emotive subtlety has arguably never been as strong as it is here, and even this high up, this feels all Too Low.
KJC: I think this is his finest moment on record, even though he didn’t write it. So many had recorded this before, including all-time greats like Elvis Presley and Brenda Lee, but Willie Nelson was the first who fully understood that this song isn’t about a love that’s died, but a love in danger of dying, and presented it as the inner monologue of a man who truly does love his partner but simply doesn’t know how to say it or show it. Too Low
Eli Young Band, “Crazy Girl”
#1 | 2011
ZK: Crazier list.
(Wouldn’t have minded seeing “When it Rains” somewhere on this list, though). So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: Another big hit that deserves inclusion, but it’s like they forgot the “9” before the “55.” Too High
JK: I like this band well enough, but I don’t think I’d have included more than one song of theirs in the top 1000, and it damn sure wouldn’t have been this one. My God. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton, “Islands in the Stream”
#1 | 1983
KJC: I’m old enough for this to have been on the radio when I was very young, so for me, it’s not campy or “so bad it’s good.” It’s just really good! Kenny and Dolly are simply magic together, and she makes this record come alive. Those trills when she coos, “No more will you cry. Baby I will hurt you never”? Those trills give me chills. A much beloved duet worthy of its classic status. About Right
JK: Like Kevin, this is a record I grew up with and have enjoyed for pretty well my entire life. Unlike Kevin, I don’t think I would put it this high. Top 500? Absolutely. Almost in the top 50? I can’t bring myself to do it. Too High
ZK: Campy as hell, but still so joyously hard to hate that it falls into the “so bad it’s good” territory. Which means we need to slot it waaay back yonder. Too High
Johnny Cash, “Sunday Morning Coming Down”
#1 | 1970
JK: What should be Cash’s highest-ranked entry, without reservation, and of course they screwed that right up just like they did his entire oeuvre. Too Low
ZK: No. 53, and this list still manages to surprise me. This is a top 10 record, where Kris Kristofferson’s poetic depression meets Cash’s gruff demeanor for a transcendental sadness that is arguably their collective best effort. Too Low
KJC: As I’ve written already, I think the Cash rankings are a bit askew, even in the top hundred. I’d swap this with “Ring of Fire” at #18. Too Low
Taylor Swift, “Tim McGraw”
#6 | 2006
ZK: I’d have to concur with Kevin that “Mean” should be her highest-ranked song, especially as someone who thinks Speak Now is still her best album to date. I get including the hit that started it all, though, even if its absolutely the wrong choice here. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
KJC: I can’t think of any Taylor Swift song that should be in the top hundred of this list, though I can make a strong case for “Blank Space” on a list of the best pop songs of all time. Her highest-ranked song on this tally should be “Mean,” which was all the way down at #931. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: I recently covered Swift’s self-titled debut, and it’s easy to hear the potential in her early songwriting. The extent to which she’s developed her voice as both a singer and songwriter has made for a riveting career arc and some of the finest pop music produced this century. But that first album? It ain’t good. It wasn’t good then, and it doesn’t hold up in the rest of her catalogue. No way on God’s green Earth does this song need to be on this list at all, though I’ll say she’s yet another artist they really did not do right by. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
David Allan Coe, “You Never Even Called Me By My Name”
#8 | 1975
KJC: Oh hey, the patron saint of Morgan Wallen, all the way up at #51. The inclusion of “The Ride” and of two of his songwriting compositions were more than enough David Allan Coe for this list. So Wrong (Doesn’t Belong)
JK: It’s such a damn good song– even more so without the last verse, though I get it– and the production is tremendous. Almost 40 years later, it still lands as a rousing singalong and gets a ton of recurrent airplay. I’m going to grit my teeth and say Too High but not egregiously so. But God, is he problematic.
ZK: Fine, if we have to include one by him. Ain’t no way it’s a No. 51 song just because it hypes itself up as such, though. Too High