No, I haven’t forgotten about this feature. Truth be told, I decided to scale it back a bit. Doing one of these every week is fun, sure, but it also gets to a point where I’m just saturating you all with cheap lists, and that’s not the point of this. The point of this is to have a fun blast to the past, and while that has (hopefully) been the case for you all, I think it’s better to savor the music we have for a little bit longer.
Therefore, for now, I’m scaling this back to a bi-weekly feature. This will give me more time as well to go over another year, especially one that I’m unfamiliar with (I’m currently attempting one for the 90’s and wow … this will take awhile).
Yes, this is another list from the 2000’s. What can I say? I haven’t had enough time to absorb another year, and while there are a lot of years with some easy classics to choose from, I’d rather take my time than feel rushed with it. To be fair, this is a somewhat of a different era than the previous ones I’ve done (2005 and 2007). This was when Country music was in that weird phase of becoming more commercialized while also maintaining a strong sense of quality. The music was moving away from neo-traditional, for sure, but quality wise, I still think this was an especially strong year. Many would likely disagree with me on that.
The rules are still the same. I’m basing my picks off of Billboard’s year end chart, and these picks are solely mine. I expect disagreement, so feel free to share your top ten. Anyway, we’re going to be counting down some honorable mentions first. Let’s start with…
Lee Brice – “Love Like Crazy”
If you find it cheesy, I get it. We’ll just agree to disagree.
Chris Young – “The Man I Want To Be”
I really miss this side of Chris Young. A lot. On a sidenote, I really like the beginning of this video.
Jerrod Niemann – “Lover, Lover”
Hey! Speaking of Country artists I used to really like …
Carrie Underwood – “Temporary Home”
I don’t really have a lot to say about this. It speaks for itself.
George Strait – “The Breath You Take”
I understand that I’m going to be in the minority on this one. I don’t care.
Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson – “As She’s Walking Away”
I’ve never loved this as much as everyone else, but I’ll acknowledge it’s pretty good. Plus, I’ve got to have Alan Jackson somewhere on this list.
On with the list!
10. Miranda Lambert – “White Liar” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 45)
Oh how I miss the days when this would come on when I was with my mother in the car. She’d always crank it up, and the sound of that sweet steel guitar always made me smile. Plus, for a cheating song, this is incredibly well written, with a surprise hook at the end that really adds a unique flavor to this song. Revolution is still my favorite era for Miranda Lambert, and that will be evident soon enough.
9. Martina McBride – Wrong Baby Wrong (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 52)
I don’t know. Blame it on nostalgia I guess, but I like this. I said before that the quality of this year was still strong, and I wasn’t just referring to lyrical masterpieces when I said that. Pop-Country has a bad reputation for being utterly pointless (which I don’t agree with), but come on, it’s not meant to blow your doors down. Sometimes, a good song can go down easy enough. This song is catchy as heck, and considering the artist we have handling this, this is a strong example of why modern Pop-Country isn’t so bad.
8. Little Big Town – “Little White Church” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 23)
Oh hey, another song where I can see people disagreeing with me. Cool. Really, the execution is what sells this. Karen Fairchild just delivers this with such a fun, fiery sass that yeah, is pretty over the top, but that’s the point. My God too, did they ever get it right in terms of the groove on this song, because it’s seriously got a Country-Rock edge that manages to also be dark and fun at the same time. Yeah, this was solid as hell.
7. Toby Keith – “Cryin’ For Me (Wayman’s Song)” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 57)
I’ve never been a huge Toby Keith fan. but even I won’t deny that this is one of his best songs to date. The song manages to blend in some strings, saxophone and pedal steel to craft something that’s heartbreaking and yet relaxing all at the same time. I also like how the song speaks to the sentiment of us not wanting our loved ones to be sad once we’re gone because let’s face it, that won’t happen. It’s healthy to remember the good times, but it’s also healthy to cry.
6. Craig Morgan – “This Ain’t Nothin'” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 49)
I’ve seen critics of this song say that this song is overwrought, but I don’t agree. The entire point of the song isn’t to show how some old man is better than us just because he’s seen more loss than we have or possibly ever will. No, the point is just to be grateful for what you have and to not act like every instance is the end of the world. It manages to convey two very simple themes in a way that’s nuanced and unique. This is one of Craig Morgan’s best songs.
5. Lady Antebellum – “Need You Now” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 48)
Yeah, you kind of had to expect this one to show up. While I haven’t much cared for Lady Antebellum for a couple years now, there’s no denying that they were at their absolute best with this song. There’s some actual emotional stakes here from both Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, and the production equals out to some pure Pop-Country perfection. I haven’t said anything that hasn’t already been said about this song, but yeah, it was a huge hit for a damn good reason.
4. Zac Brown Band – “Highway 20 Ride” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 14)
Ironically enough I can’t get into Zac Brown Band’s other song about connecting with one’s father (“My Old Man”), and yet I love this. Perhaps it’s because it’s framed more as a story with characters instead of something personal. Plus, it’s rare that you hear a modern Country song tackle the concept of divorce, let alone in a real way such as this. Plus, I love how the narrator here isn’t angry that his son is essentially shunning him for the entire incident. He just wants him to understand what happened, and while that may not happen for several years, he’s perfectly well aware of that. Like any good parent, he’s just watching out for his kid.
3. Keith Urban – “‘Til Summer Comes Around” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 13)
I’ll say it – 2000’s Keith Urban was really, really good. Sure, he might not have been the artist you’d turn to if you were looking for a super serious song, but he was consistent as heck. However, a song like “‘Til Summer Comes Around” shows just how damn good he could handle sadder songs too. I get it, summer relationship songs are nothing new, but there’s just something about the ominous mood to this that makes it a leader in the clubhouse of its category. The guitar work gives off a regretful vibe, and Urban himself delivers a passionate performance.
2. Jason Aldean – “The Truth” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 32)
Yeah, I don’t know what to say that hasn’t been said about this. It just might be the best song Jason Aldean has ever put out, hands down. There’s just something heartbreaking about hearing a guy pretty much admit he’s on the verge of having a break down because of a failed relationship, especially when the only person he’s telling this to is the person who was involved in the relationship with him. Plus, while I hate to sound like an old fart traditionalist, it’s so damn nice to hear Aldean cover a true Country song, not because of personal tastes, but because the style fits more in his wheelhouse than I think even he realizes. Yeah, this is a truly excellent song. It could have easily been No. 1 had it not been for…
1. Miranda Lambert – “The House That Built Me” (Billboard Year End Peak: No. 11)
Sometimes I wonder which Country songs of the modern age are truly going to be remembered as classics. Yeah, “Cruise” will be remembered, but for the wrong reasons, and that’s unfortunately what I could say about many more songs. I mean it when I say that “The House That Built Me” is one of few modern Country songs that I think will be remembered thirty years down the road (and beyond). It’s truly perfect in every way. While it’s of course fun to hear Lambert bring out her fiery edge on songs like “White Liar”, “Kerosene”, and “Gunpowder and Lead”, she also is skilled at handling some absolutely vulnerable tracks. They say home is where the heart is, and I believe that’s true. Even when that childhood home we loved has changed, the memories of the past will always be embedded in our minds, and thankfully, nobody can ever take those away. Really, in terms of every area you could judge a song on, this is perfect in every which way. This was an easy choice for the best hit song of 2010.