Chad’s Top Ten Country Songs of 2016 [Videos]
Here we go! Let the debate begin. I am ready to share my annual list of the Top Ten Country Songs of the Year. Honestly, it was a pretty good year and we got introduced to some incredible young country music talent. You're going to find some brand new names on this list. Of course, you'll find some familiar names too . . . including one artist that will likely draw the ire of country music purists. Are you ready? Here we go!
#10- Make You Mine- High Valley
I am a huge fan of Mumford and Sons and have always thought their music could translate easily and well to mainstream country. And, you know what? I was right. While Mumford and Sons didn't make the crossover attempt themselves, High Valley essentially adopted their trademark sound and let 'er rip on the radio. The result? This rollicking and driving country music anthem that's a blend of folk, dance, country and gospel. It's all I ever needed, wanted in a song.
#9- You Ain't Here to Kiss Me- Brett Young
While "Sleep Without You" truly put him on the country music map (and the charts), his ode to regret "You Ain't Here to Kiss Me" put him on my radar. I heard Brett Young explain and perform this song during 2016's CMA Music Festival. I was walking across downtown Nashville with Jaclyn. The heat was BLAZING. My thighs were still burning from our 300-mile bike ride from St. Jude to Owensboro. I had a horrible (and unfortunately placed) rash. I couldn't feel my hands because I had nerve damage from the ride. And literally nothing could have stood in my way of making it to the air conditioned media center. Except for this song from this voice. It stopped me in my tracks and I am still humming it six months later.
#8- Wanna Be That Song- Brett Eldredge
Well, it's clear. With a string of country music hits and a Christmas CD that was more Sinatra than Hank, Brett Eldredge has proven that he can literally sing ANYTHING. And, boy, aren't we glad we have him in country? While Old Dominion had a huge hit on their hands with "Song for Another Time", I actually preferred this tribute to the power of a song. I'll admit. The Chicago Cubs references in the video were a little weird for me (I get it. He's a fan). But this song makes me believe that Brett Eldredge is right where he belongs. On country radio . . . churning out amazing country songs that make us high, make us dance, and make us fall.
#7- A Million Reasons- Lady Gaga
Okay, before you start, let me explain. LOL! I understand that country music fans can be a touch territorial. That was clearly evident at the ACM Awards when Beyonce performed with the Dixie Chicks. I personally thought they rocked and it was one of the highlights of the night. Some other fans weren't . . . well . . . fans at all. And that's likely going to be the case with this pick. But, again, hear me out. There's a reason that Lady Gaga kicked off her 2016 Dive Bar Tour in Nashville. While we weren't looking, she rounded up one of Nashville's go-to songwriters. And she and Hillary Lindsey penned a ballad that is laced with all the makings of a country music powerhouse. Gaga pours her heart out over highways and driveways and bows down to pray and begs the Lord to cut through worn-out leather. And the song, already packed with country-flavored themes and analogies, slowly builds like it's an original score from a classic Western. I get it, Country Fans. Gaga gives you a million reasons to walk away . . . but this is one good, great reason to make you stay. This is one of the best songs of the year. Country. Pop. Rock. Period.
#6- Record Year/Kill A Word- Eric Church
What can I say? A couple of years ago, Eric Church topped my Top Ten list with "Give Me Back My Hometown." He seems to make the list every single year. And the reason why is simple. I think Eric is the smartest and most clever songwriter working in country music today. And the songbook he and his team are building is one legends are made of. No one writes and sings like this guy and his two 2016 releases, as different as they are lyrically and musically, are proof. Eric Church, for my money, is the most important and innovative artist in country music right now. For all the folks out there vying to be remembered, THIS is the guy country music historians are going to write about and immortalize. He's brilliant. And, I'm hoping for endless record years.
#5- Humble and Kind- Tim McGraw
If you had asked me earlier this year, "Chad, what's your favorite Tim McGraw song?" I would have answered, without hesitation, "Please Remember Me." But, it seems Tim McGraw is getting better with age. We know he's in ridiculously good physical shape, but his career is just as ripped. And in a year marked by divisiveness, McGraw, country's elder statesman, released this amazing reminder that we all just need to get along. The message of the song (and beautifully directed and cast video) was plain and clear. Always stay humble and kind.
#4- Sober Saturday Night- Chris Young featuring Vince Gill
Well, here we go again. Chris Young seems to always croon his way onto my list. It's no secret. I love this man's voice. I think he has the best voice in this business and he's got a great ear for a great song too. And, in the case of "Sober Saturday Night," country's best baritone joined forces with country's most revered tenor. The result? Hardly sobering. The first time I heard this song I was "all messed up and all strung out" on the power of it. "Sober Saturday Night" is a great twist on country's most tried and true lyric. Instead of drinking away his pain, Chris Young is wallowing in the agony of sobriety and heartbreak. And we're feeling every note of the song with him.
#3- Somebody Else Will- Justin Moore
Obviously, Justin had a huge hit in 2016 with "You Look Like I Need a Drink." But his follow-up to that smash is one of my absolute favorite songs of the year. Justin Moore is a relatively tiny guy with a massive voice and I love the wear he can just tear into a song like it's a ribeye steak. And that's exactly what he does in this expertly crafted song about a guy who sees a girl at a bar and knows he has to act or else. And the chord progression in the chorus of "Somebody Else Will" is genius. It's full of momentum and, note by note, step by step, you can just musically feel Justin willing himself to get the nerve to take "a chance of her lips and lean in." He knows somebody else will steal that kiss and he's not about to let it happen.
#2- 80's Mercedes- Maren Morris
Okay, let me say that I could easily have put "My Church" in my Top Ten this year. I mean, is there a better ode to country music than that Maren Morris song? I doubt it. But, for me, "80's Mercedes" is a better song. It's home to the absolute best hook of the year. You know you've written one hell of an anthem when you get grown men to grab hold of their steering wheels and sing "Feel like a hard-to-get starlet when I'm driving" at the top of their lungs. Trust me! I sang the crap out of the chorus of this song and I guarantee you I turned a few heads without even trying. I have a hunch you did too! I may not have had a white leather jacket, but this brought out every ounce of my neon soul.
#1- It Don't Hurt Like It Used To- Billy Currington
While I sang along endlessly to every song I listed in this year's Top Ten list, none got more out my lungs than this one. When I learned he was headlining the 2016 Big O Music Festival, I wondered if Billy would sell tickets. He's a great singer, but he's one of those artists that fans aren't quick to identify. With Currington, you likely couldn't recall his hits off the top of your head, but you would know them if you heard them. For much of his career, he's been that kind of artist. But this song . . . HOLY COW! It was a monster hit. And the reason why is simple. Everyone I know can relate to it. Raise your hand if you've had your heart dragged through the Alabama dirt? I have and I'm not even from Alabama. LOL! But, in the chorus of "It Don't Hurt Like It Used To", Billy starts to break free from the rut. With chants of "Hey! Hey" his voice is in full command of the radio and he lets loose a rebounding rally cry that just reverberates through the speakers. And, Billy, you're right! It don't hurt like it used to.