The Twenty Best Singles of 2022

Best of 2022:

The Preamble: Lunatic Country Music Person(s) in the Wild

The Ten Best Albums of 2022 | The Twenty Best Singles of 2022

After eighteen years of ranked lists, we are taking a new approach this year.  We present to you the Twenty Best Singles of 2022, with only one ranking: the overall Single of the Year.   The rest of the top twenty is presented alphabetically by title, with honorable mentions included at the bottom of the list.

Contributing votes to this list were Kevin John Coyne, Michelle Ivey, Jonathan Keefe, Zack Kephart, and Tara Seetharam.

The Twenty Best Singles of 2022

Country Universe

Single of the Year

“Whiskey Sour”

Kane Brown

Written by Adam Craig, Jaxson Free, and Josh Hoge 

The line, “I’ve never been a somber soul, but part of me ain’t here no more, and I’ve been trying to find him ever since,” is the moment on which “Whiskey Sour” transforms from a surprising but effective trad-country pivot into an all-timer. This is as extraordinary a record as any country A-lister has released in the 18 years I’ve been writing about country music. If, say, Jason Isbell or Joshua Ray Walker had written that exact line, there are an awful lot of people who’d be falling over themselves to hail their songwriting brilliance as a fait accompli once again.

Brown didn’t write the line, but he had the wherewithal to record it and to deliver it with a real sense of weight that few, if any, of his contemporaries on country radio could hope to match, not that they’d ever bother to record a song like this in the first place. — Jonathan Keefe [Full review]

Completing our Top Twenty Singles of 2022, alphabetically by title:

“All I Needed”

American Aquarium

Written by Carl Anderson and BJ Barham

On the very short shortlist of the best honest-to-God bands in country music, American Aquarium are better than just about anyone at splitting the difference between pure honky-tonk and thundering heartland rock. “All I Needed” is perhaps the catchiest single of the band’s storied career. It’s a marvel of simple construction and confident musicianship. While it’s one of many singles in 2022 to sound like a 90s throwback, it’s one of the few singles that actually demonstrates an understanding of more than just the surface-level aesthetics that made 90s country great. Perhaps the highest praise I can give “All I Needed” is that it fully holds its own in the presence of one particular 90s hit: “The Song Remembers When,” still the gold standard for songs-about-songs like this. — JK

“Angel Band – Jubilee Version”

Tyler Childers

Written by Tyler Childers

The hill I will die on in 2022 is the defense of Tyler Childers’ “Angel Band” against a shallow and culturally ignorant line of criticism based upon the song’s theology. In fact, I went longform on our Twitter account to outline why all of the bro-types who are mad that Childers’ doesn’t just keep re-releasing “Feathered Indians” from his Purgatory album are missing the very specific point of what Childers has intentionally done with this song. – JK

“Bonfire at Tina’s”

Ashley McBryde featuring Brandy Clark, Caylee Hammack, and Pillbox Patti

Written by Brandy Clark, Benjy Davis, Connie Harrington, Nicolette Hayford, Ashley McBryde, and Aaron Raitiere

All of the soundalike men who clog radio playlists Mike & The Moonpies were just talking about? Haven’t STFU about proverbial small towns in what feels like a lifetime, and, despite their insistence on the virtues of those places, they’ve rarely, if ever, imparted a real sense of humanity for the living and breathing people who live there. Ashley McBryde and the women of Lindeville lay bare that failure with a single riveting line that deserves to be repeated here in its entirety: “Small town women aren’t built to get along / But you burn, one, boy, you burn us all.”

In a world where the country music industry hadn’t spent the last two decades doubling-down on open contempt for women with interior lives and independent agency, the soaring chorus and perfectly constructed hook would make “Bonfire at Tina’s” one of the year’s biggest hits. Alas, Lindeville might exist in some multiverse timeline, but it’s a work of fiction in this one. So, instead, this will go down as one of the year’s best and most important and ignored singles, a treatise on how contemporary feminism isn’t always about burning down the patriarchy but is just as much about women who are sick to death of men’s bullshit getting together to “light it up” in solidarity. — JK [Full review]

“Built on Bones”

Emily Scott Robinson

Written by Alisa Amador, Violet Bell, and Emily Scott Robinson

Emily Scott Robinson sliding into witchy territory for a Halloween-inspired side project really doesn’t come across as much of a surprise – not when you consider what she did with last year’s excellent American Siren.

But, I mean, it’s still awesome, especially when she and collaborators Alisa Amador and Violet Bell have the sort of soft-spoken, echoing tone that could be described as haunting – literally. More specifically, this is the start of a song cycle for the Witches of Shakespeare’s MacBeth, so the idea of a songwriter creating her own prophecy and nailing the creaking ominous tension with not only bloodstained content, but also a tense restraint eventually fleshed-out by strings and violin, is just magnificent. — Zack Kephart [Full Review]


Taylor Swift

Written by Aaron Dessner and Taylor Swift

As much as I’m enjoying Midnights, Swift’s full-throated return to innovative contemporary pop, I also love that the ghosts of folklore and evermore are still around to haunt us.  “Carolina” is a dark, sparse, and cutting track that again demonstrates that Swift could be everyone’s favorite Americana staple if she wanted to.  Personally, I think Reputation and Midnights feature songwriting just as sharp as her 2020 twinners and “Carolina,” but for those who can’t cut through the pop clutter to get to the lyrical brilliance underneath, “Carolina” lays it all bare. – Kevin John Coyne

“C’mon Baby, Cry”

Orville Peck

Written by Tobias Jesso Jr., Orville Peck, and Chris Stracey 

A song on which Peck begs a would-be suitor for an emotional release and gives an outsized performance to match, “C’mon Baby, Cry” finds The Masked Singer showcasing the full breadth of his vocal range to stunning effect. When Peck is at his best, he transcends the more gimmicky aspects of his image and creates music that is truly subversive. Here, he uses a sonic palette that evokes hypermasculine “cowboy” and “western” culture while challenging the conventional gender-normed notion that men should ever stifle their expressions of emotion. – JK

“Common Law”

Zoe Cummins & Gabe Lee

Written by Zoe Cummins, Stefanie Joyce, and Andrew Scott Wills

It compares favorably those old country duets that featured plenty of banter and excellent chemistry between the performers, only here, it’s sold with plenty of wry venom and social commentary that probably wouldn’t have flown back then. After all, “Stand By Your Man” this most certainly isn’t, even if both parties stay in the relationship for their own selfish desires.

It’s far from a dead relationship, but it’s certainly toxic as hell in the best way possible. And that’s the thing – both Cummins and Lee have the sort of ragged, hangdog charisma needed to sell this with a haggard charm, where they’ve beaten each other down and only stay together because divorce would run them both further into the ground in some way or another. Between sharp-witted writing from Cummins and Lee’s expressive production that turns this into a barn-burning honky-tonk cut that would have fit in well on Lee’s own Honky Tonk Hell, it’s just such a phenomenally well-balanced cut across the board. — ZK [Full review]


“Dead People’s Things”

Crystal Bowersox

Written by Crystal Bowersox

A concept so pure that it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been written before, “Dead People’s Things” is perhaps the best example of how country music in 2022 embraced the idea of transience. Bowersox, who has long deserved far, far better than she’s gotten from the music industry, offers just a stunning slant rhyme here: “I go to thrift stores, estate sales, and auctions / To take home what people can’t take in their coffins.” She’s been left to scavenge in the aftermath of a break-up, and, rather than wallowing in self-pity or trying to romanticize her efforts, she comes to the recognition that she’s simply following the natural order. “It all ends up as dead people’s things,” she observes at the song’s conclusion, and it’s both devastating and beautiful. – JK

“The Driver”

Drive-By Truckers

Written by Patterson Hood

“The Driver” isn’t the first recitation Drive-By Truckers have released– they’re good for one every couple of albums– but it’s the one with the most politically volatile narrative. Patterson Hood sneers his way through a litany of atrocities he’s observed when he, “used to go out driving sometimes late into the night / Trying to make sense of the pieces of [his] life.” The sum effect of these journeys is that the driver’s identity has become inseparable from all he’s seen, both for good and evil: Whether its an endless West Texas vista he’s soaking in or a car full of Klansmen scattering in his headlights, it’s all just waiting for some unexpected stimulus to evoke a memory. – JK

“Feel Like Going Home”

Miko Marks and the Resurrectors

Written by Miko Marks, Justin Phipps, and Steve Wyreman

Miko Marks is making up for the time in the limelight that was denied her. She put out two of the finest albums of 2021, and she’s already back with the lead single from a new project for 2022. And “Feel Like Going Home” is a departure from the brilliant Our Country and Race Records EP, in that it highlights a different texture of Marks’ extraordinary voice. This single is a slice of vintage Southern Soul, and Marks leans into the raspiest edges of her timbre as she belts and testifies over a stirring gospel choir and blistering arrangement from her ace backing band, The Resurrectors. She recorded some of the finest country music of the last year, and she’s never sounded better or more free than she does here. — JK [Full review]

“Hell Yeah”

Little Big Town

Written by Cory Crowder, Tyler Hubbard, Phillip Sweet, and Jimi Westbrook

This is Little Big Town’s strongest effort in years. It fully delivers on all of their best qualities as a vocal group, with an understated groove that belies the intensity of the emotional content. How nobody thought of this before – “I’m still here in hell, yeah” – is a mystery to me.  They know they’ve struck gold, so they don’t go overboard with the production or lean too heavily on their layered harmonies. By holding back, they’ve rarely sounded better.  — KJC [Full review]

“Here Tonight”


Written by Banditos

A triumph of humanism, “Here Tonight” is told from the perspective of a bartender at a desolate honky-tonk populated by aging outcasts who are searching for moments of ephemeral joy or clarity in unlikely company. Banditos, who’ve been kicking around for about a decade and should have a far bigger following to show for it than they do, meet the moment they’ve created: The band’s arrangement foregrounds disparate instruments– including banjo, guiro, toy piano, and saxophone– into a husky, rough-and-tumble Southern Rock barnburner. “Here Tonight” is catchy as hell and even a bit whimsical. As always, frontwoman Mary Beth Richardson turns in a scorching performance that empathizes with each of the characters she’s interacting with, before letting loose with a rafters-shaking wail in the chorus. She’s a brilliant singer, and fans of Alabama Shakes, Drive-By Truckers, and Tami Neilson are overdue to take notice of Richardson and her rowdy crew. — JK [Full review]


Caitlyn Smith

Written by Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Decilveo, and Caitlyn Smith

Smith’s never sounded as fully in control of her voice as she does on “High,” delivering a performance of range, control, and passion that’s as impressive as any I’ve heard from a mainstream country star in a decade. Her reading of the song’s verses is mournful and heady (the twinge of bitterness when she sings, “You, like a neon light / Shining through a door that a can’t keep closed,” is especially fraught), only to explode into a wail of swirling emotions in the chorus.

Smith’s powerhouse singing is matched by the production. “High” is a song about intrusive thoughts, and it’s structurally perfect how the first dynamic shift comes out of nowhere. Smith’s backed by a fairly limited arrangement when the song opens; a full choir’s worth of harmony vocal tracks and a thundering percussion line hit in the middle of a word in the first chorus, transforming the song into something entirely different than what it had been up until that point. From there, it takes off melodically and dynamically, and it’s all simply extraordinary. Smith has taken a song she co-wrote for one of the biggest stars in pop music and roped it back into the country genre where it truly belongs, and we’re all the luckier for it. — JK [Full review]

“How Much a Heart Can Hold”

LeAnn Rimes

Written by Darrell Brown, David Baerwald, and LeAnn Rimes

While God’s Work was largely an album of progressive pop that wrestles with big questions of faith, LeAnn Rimes’ latest album also included a stunning, spare country ballad that reaffirms her status as a generational talent who’s rarely been given her proper due. Singing with restraint and vulnerability over a simple arrangement of just a piano and fiddle, Rimes marvels at how each contact with her partner reveals more and more about her capacity to love. Vocally, she sounds as amazing as she ever has, but “How Much A Heart Can Hold” is yet another example of how Rimes has matured into one of the most distinctive songwriters of her era. – JK

“I Can’t Love You Anymore”

Maren Morris

Written by Ryan Hurd, Greg Kurstin, and Maren Morris

The best compliment I can give to Maren Morris is that she passes the nineties women test: an ability to deliver excellent material with empathy and carefulness, so the vocal talent is readily apparent but it doesn’t get in the way of the song.  “I Can’t Love You Anymore” is her finest radio single to date, powered by a humbled gratitude for a partner that makes her stronger through his love and his example.   With Morris putting herself  in so much professional and personal danger by standing up for the most marginalized among us, it’s a relief to know that someone has her back.  – KJC

“Love Will Tear Us Apart”

Amythyst Kiah

Written by Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, and Bernard Sumner

I have some musical blind spots, where my knowledge of something’s significance can’t override the fact that I don’t enjoy listening to it.  Led Zeppelin fall into that category, alongside most seventies rock cut from that cloth.  So do The Clash and Joy Division.  They get my respect, but they don’t get my listening time… I never, ever thought someone could do something with “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”

Amythyst Kiah did.  I’m in awe that there was an achingly beautiful acoustic ballad waiting underneath the layers of early eighties industrial indie rock or whatever the hell Joy Division was.  In the hallmark of a great cover, it’s even made me revisit the original with a new understanding and appreciation for it. God, she’s good.  — KJC [Full review]

“Middle of a Heart”

Adeem the Artist

Written by Adeem the Artist and Kyle Bingham

Adeem the Artist’s steady hand in examining their own identity through recent work has resulted in some truly moving material, and in looking outward this time around, they amplify that same empathetic scope that’s always bolstered their writing perspective. On “Middle of a Heart,” they do so by honoring a real-life friend who, though self-admittedly different from them in nearly every regard, is still a human shaped by personal experiences – familiar ones here, like learning how to hunt with his father, get married, and go off to war.

But they’re milestones of life with actual weight behind them, from taking an animal’s life to taking responsibility for someone else’s life … and then actually taking another’s life; the ending is expected, but still brutal.

They’re all themes we’ve heard sung about in country songs before, but never quite with this much of a connective tissue or in ways that reveal the fuller scope of what coming into one’s own really means, personal consequences of how it shapes us and all. And though expected that this song leans heavily on more straightforward, traditional production, it still carries so much muted warmth in reflecting the overall heaviness of this song’s message. Uncomfortable, but a song worth confronting regardless. — ZK [Full review]

“Other Side”

Wynonna featuring Waxahatchee

Written by Katie Crutchfield, Cactus Moser, and Wynonna

Released in the aftermath of her mother’s harrowing death, “Other Side” is the epitome of Wynonna’s duality right now, in her own words: “broken and blessed.”  Her collaboration with Waxahatchee expresses both vulnerability and resilience, demonstrating how she’s coming out stronger on the other side of her heartbreak. Her expressiveness as a vocalist has never been stronger, as the power vocals of her youth have been nuanced, tempered by time, tragedy, and hard-earned wisdom. – KJC

“Too Much of a Woman”

Roberta Lea

Written by Roberta Lea

The construction of “Too Much of a Woman” is just flawless: The melody and arrangement set Roberta Lea up to deliver the song’s hook at the end of the chorus, and that hook is an indelible kiss-off. Lea has described this song as, “a diss track for misogyny,” and I don’t know that I can improve on that. But I’ll say that, in a world where black women actually had the financial backing to get a single played on country radio, “Too Much of a Woman” sure sounds like a massive hit waiting to happen… Lea’s a far better singer than many of her contemporaries on radio, though, and it’s hard to imagine anyone improving on her delivery of this declaration of self-worth. — JK [Full review]

“Trouble Finds a Girl”

Jenny Mitchell featuring Tami Neilson

Written by Jenny Mitchell and Tami Neilson

To paraphrase William Blake, “Trouble Finds a Girl” is a song of experience, and Mitchell sings with the weariness of someone who’s been through and seen some shit. She trades verses with Neilson, a kindred spirit in both her perspective and her technical gifts. Their interplay functions as a private conversation between two women who are sharing their own truths.

Over the course of the song, though, their resolve builds, and what begins as a conversation transforms into a rallying cry of solidarity and empowerment. By the time Mitchell and Neilson lead a gospel choir in exultations of, “Burn it down!” they’ve more than made their case for why that’s exactly what needs to happen and why they’re the dynamic voices to lead the charge. — JK [Full review]

Honorable Mentions

“12th of June,” Lyle Lovett

“Beyond the Stars,” Tami Neilson featuring Willie Nelson

“Blood,” Kaitlin Butts

“Jersey Giant,” Elle King

“Longneck Way to Go,” Midland featuring Jon Pardi

“Lose Yourself,” Kasey Chambers

“The Man Was Burning,” Jake Blount

“(Remember Me) I’m the One Who Loves You,” Watkins Family Band featuring Fiona Apple

“Sweet Symphony,” Joy Oladokun featuring Chris Stapleton

“We Did,” SACHA

Best of 2022:

The Preamble: Lunatic Country Music Person(s) in the Wild

The Ten Best Albums of 2022 | The Twenty Best Singles of 2022

1 Comment

  1. Its great to see Common Law getting much-deserved love but ZK seems to have misunderstood the meaning of the song in a pretty big way! Its not about a couple thats too broke divorce. They’re too broke to get married!!! Its a song about common law marriage. (Aka theyre not actually married in an legal or religious sense but some courts will still grant the couple marital rights since they’ve lived together for so long). The central genius of the song is that it really cleverly and lovingly portrays a non-traditional kind of relationship that doesnt appear often in country music. And i wouldnt call it toxic, either! flawed yes (as they say) but thats just realistic and human! Not toxic :)

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