(Last edition’s list of the best hits of 2007 can be found here)
Let’s hop in the time machine folks, because we’re going back to 2005 …
I’ve got a few online friends who would say that 2005 was one of the best years for modern Country music, and looking back, I can’t say I disagree. The only frustrating part of it all is that in terms of the “hits” that year, Billboard’s year end list cut off many of the best (ultimately meaning just my personal favorite) songs that year. As such, I was torn on how to approach this list, because with 2007’s list last week, I based my picks off of Billboard’s year end list. I figured I would do the same for all of these lists. Like I said though, there were many wonderful songs that didn’t make it, and considering that Mediabase has no online archives for its 2005 year end list, my actual top ten for 2005 is going to look somewhat different than the list I’m compiling today.
I know, I could just label this “the best songs in general” of 2005 instead of the “best hits.” If I did that though, I know I’d unfairly be leaving off a lot more great songs, and I’m honestly not too up to date on what the charts were like back then (basically, unlike say 2007-2011, I don’t know a lot of the lower charting songs that were likely great). Therefore, I decided to just go with Billboard’s list for the sake of consistency, but knowing that songs such as Blaine Larsen’s “How Do You Get That Lonely”, Tim McGraw’s “My Old Friend”, and Trace Adkins’ “Arlington” (among so many others) aren’t here does sting a little bit.
I think that’s enough complaining though. After all, this feature is simply meant to be a fun blast to the past and nothing to get too worked up about. Plus, it’s not like I struggled to actually make a top ten for this year. Heck, there are still a slew of honorable mentions, so let’s get to them, shall we?
Toby Keith – “Honkytonk U”
It might just be here for that cool Waylon-esque groove, but this song also showed that Toby Keith could actually have a likable personality every now and then.
Blake Shelton – “Some Beach”
Put together a winning combination of humorous lyrics and a likable personality behind the microphone, and you have one of Blake Shelton’s finest songs.
Brooks & Dunn – “It’s Getting Better All The Time”
Damn, Ronnie Dunn can really nail a piano ballad
Sara Evans – “A Real Fine Place To Start”
When I was combing through the list of singles for this list, some of them stuck with me more than I originally remember. This is one of those singles.
And now onto the list!
10. Montgomery Gentry – “Gone” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 10 – how fitting)
This is the kind of kiss-off track I can really get into, because at its core, “Gone” is just a fun, lighthearted ball of energy. It makes me smile every time that riff kicks in and leads into a song with some seriously descriptive imagery (fitting in mentions of freight trains and a Civil War solider getting “bang banged” serves to add some color to the song). It’s one of the duo’s most iconic songs, and while it wasn’t made to be a lighthearted track by any means, hot damn is it fun.
9. Dierks Bentley – “Lot Of Leavin (Left To Do)” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 16)
I praised one other song on this list already for adopting somewhat of a Waylon Jennings like groove, and I’ll be praising another one right now. Like Montgomery Gentry’s song above, this really shouldn’t be as fun as this is, but Dierks’ likable personality shines through here. Hey, at least he’s honest from a lyrical standpoint …
8. Tim McGraw – “Do You Want Fries With That” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 32)
Oh hey, look, we’re not done with songs that are just a ton of fun. You know what I love about a lot of Country songs in the 2000’s? I love just how specific some of these situations are, like an angry man having to wait on his ex-wife’s new boyfriend at a fast food restaurant. Now THAT’s a blueprint for a potentially hilarious song, and lo and behold, this track is just laden with some deserved sass and laughs. I would have preferred to put “My Old Friend” on this list as well, but this is also another high quality single from McGraw.
7. Trisha Yearwood – “Georgia Rain” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 56)
Oh hey, look, we’re not done with songs that are … ok, yes we are. Granted, summer romances are by no means a new topic in Country music, but Trisha Yearwood’s “Georgia Rain” is simply a mesmerizing story song. The passion felt by the two young lovers makes it seem like they’ll be together forever, and yet as we find out later on, all good things come to an end. They’re both adults and have moved on, but to hear her recount a night that meant so much to her with such raw passion really makes this a standout. Plus, as always, Yearwood sounds fan-freakin’-tastic.
6. Blake Shelton – “Goodbye Time” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 47)
We usually remember 2000’s Blake Shelton for his good natured corniness and affable sense of humor. However, hits such as “The Baby” and his version of “Home” prove that the singer is one hell of an emotive interpreter as well. There’s not much to say about his cover of Conway Twitty’s “Goodbye Time” other than he absolutely nails this vocally. The chorus leads to one of his most passionate performances ever.
5. Jamie O’ Neal – “Somebody’s Hero” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 23)
I come to appreciate this song more with each passing year. As the son of a single mother, I understand the sentiment of feeling like a hero to her (and vice versa) all too well. Hell, I even see it with my grandparents now that I’m taking care of them after all the years they spent taking care of me as a kid. I don’t think a lot of other songs accurately capture the journey (and eventual switch) that occurs between being a kid relying on your parents for everything and eventually returning the favor. It’s relatable for many, and it’s an excellent representation of Country music telling the truth.
4. Sugarland – “Baby Girl” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 7)
When I gave my shout-out to Sara Evans in the honorable mentions, I mentioned how some tracks sounded better upon re-listen. “Baby Girl” is one that I was referring to, only now it takes on an entirely new meaning. It’s always been a good song, but as a kid, truly finding success and happiness with something you love just (understandably) didn’t speak to me. When I look at this little website and all the articles I’ve written over the past couple years, the feeling of being happy just doing something you love doing really gets to me, even if it may not mean anything. It’s not about me though. Jennifer Nettles can safely say now that her motivation did pay off, and considering that Nettles delivers a hell of a vocal performance as always, “Baby Girl” was a song that had to be on this list.
3. George Strait – “You’ll Be There” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 20)
It’s hard to find any flaws with the King’s discography, but one criticism that has surfaced on occasion is Strait’s willingness to play it safe. Personally, I don’t understand that criticism, because a song like “You’ll Be There” proves the king can tackle something with depth to some pretty great extents. This message to a friend in the great beyond shows Strait getting spiritual, and when that elegant chorus kicks in (the strings and electric guitar are blended in so well), it’s hard not to feel something from this track. It’s easily one of his most underrated singles to date.
2. Gary Allan – “Best I Ever Had” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 45)
Gary Allan has always been known as one of the kings of sad songs, but nothing quite compares to the tragedy he endured in 2005. I won’t go into detail with that (not the time or place), but from the ruins of that came what was easily his best album to date (and one of my favorites ever) with Tough All Over. “Best I Ever Had” isn’t “just” a cover song. It’s a song that’s almost painfully too relatable for Gary to sing as he mentions his love for his wife as well as wonders if there was anything he could have done. When I talked about Kellie Pickler’s “I Wonder” last week, I mentioned how there are certain tracks that just feel too painfully intimate and real to really discuss from an outsider’s perspective, and I’m going to have to apply that rule here as well.
1. Alan Jackson – “Monday Morning Church” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 34)
Before I really begin, can I just take a minute to realize that I had to choose between George Strait, Gary Allan, and Alan Jackson for my No. 1 pick?!? Ironically enough all three songs deal with the death of a loved one in some manner. George Strait looks on with optimism that he’ll see his friend again someday while Gary Allan is hurting from a loved one gone too soon. “Monday Morning Church” is more in line with Gary Allan in the way the narrator just can’t seem to cope or move on after the death of his significant other. I won’t get too preachy here but I am a religious guy. So is the narrator of this song. I’ve been there though (I think most people have). There are times where it feels like there’s nobody there to help us and that God isn’t really our friend sometimes. Maybe we just forget, or maybe we intentionally don’t believe because we’ve been handed a bad hand. Whatever your ultimate conclusion with this song may be, Jackson excellently portrays the very real struggle with moving on after a tragedy. His love for his significant other meant more to him than religion or really anything else in this life, and even if you don’t agree, it’s hard not to understand I guess. Excellent work Mr. Jackson.