It's been kind of a crazy year in the world of country music. We've had a ton of new music from artists we had never heard of until this year. And we had superstars like Miranda Lambert and Eric Church struggling to climb the charts. However, as unpredictable as 2017 was in the world of country, I am ready to share my annual list of the Top Ten Country Songs of the Year.  Here we go!  And, like always, I invite you to chime in.  Feel free to agree or disagree.

#10- Tin Man- Miranda Lambert

Well, this song has labored to climb up the country music charts and I just don't understand why.   Miranda's tribute to the heart of the Tin Man stalled out near a poppy field on the Yellow Brick Road and finally came to rest at #15.  But this song is incredibly well-written and performed.  Look.  It's no secret.  Miranda fans have had to work through her divorce with her and the road has been turbulent at times.  It's clear her heart was broken and she's been struggling to stitch it back together.  I mean, look at these lyrics.

Hey there, Mr. Tin Man
Glad we talked this out
You can take mine if you want it
It's in pieces now

By the way there, Mr. Tin Man
If you don't mind the scars
You give me your armor
And you can have my heart

I know her fans loved "Gunpowder and Lead" Miranda and that feisty demeanor made her a star.  But, you have to appreciate the artistry of devastated Miranda. She's not afraid to wear her heart or feelings on her guitar.

#9- No Such Thing as a Broken Heart- Old Dominion

I am not sure if you have noticed,  but there has been a changing of the guard in country music.  For roughly the last ten years, Zac Brown Band has been the preeminent band in the genre.  But they're on the verge of being replaced with some guys serving up some Meat and Candy.  On that CD, Old Dominion busted out some big hits like "Snapback" and "Song for Another Time."  The first song out of the gates from their new CD Happy Endings happens to be one of the best songs of the year.  "No Such Thing as a Broken Heart" has a clap track underneath it that you just can't escape.  You'll want to clap along, snap along and sing along.  The guys from Old Dominion have ripped a page out of the Zac Brown Band's playbook.  No song they have released sounds like the one before it.  These guys are true innovators and constantly push the boundaries of their own brand.  I can't wait to hear what's next.


#8- You Broke Up With Me- Walker Hayes

My friend Lisa Sumner, from down in Cadiz, Kentucky, messaged me one morning and said, "Hey!  You guys need to start playing my song!"  I asked, "Which song?"  She answered, "You Broke Up With Me by Walker Hayes!!"  We listened.  And, you know what?  She was right.  We started playing it.  And we haven't stopped yet.  This song is a blast . . . from the whistled intro, to its nearly rapped verses and the hip hop-infused swagger of its chorus.  Walker Hayes is like the love child of Sam Hunt and Florida Georgia Line.  He definitely is riding the wave of "new country."  In my book, he has scored a TEN!  While in his real life he's married and has a half dozen kids, in "You Broke Up With Me" he's perfectly content "doing what a bachelor do" and singing one of the most unique and infectious country songs of the year.


#7- Hurricane-  Luke Combs

I honestly feel guilty celebrating a hurricane of any sort after the meteorological year we had and the destruction we received from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.  But those monsters stormed the Caribbean like Luke Combs stormed the country chart.  His "Hurricane" was an absolute musical force of nature this year.   And it hailed the arrival of a guy who tied some records with his first solo release.  "Hurricane" churned at the top of the Billboard Country Airplay Chart for consecutive weeks . . . making him the first male solo act since Darius Rucker back in 2008 to spend multiple weeks at #1 with his debut single.  Not bad company.  And, given the fact that Combs' follow-up, "When It Rains It Pours," barrelled to the top spot as well, country could very well be experiencing its second big storm named "Luke."


#6- Woke Up in Nashville- Seth Ennis

I'm not sure why this song didn't quite make it.  Maybe it's because Brett Young had a breakout year and there are some definite similarities in subject and style?  Well, there's room on my countdown for both (we're getting to Brett) and, honestly, I suggest we make room for both of these lovelorn guys in country music too. Seth Ennis can sing!  And this country power ballad does everything correctly.  He hits all the right notes lyrically and vocally. The guy wakes up in Nashville for crying out loud.  And he wakes up to realize that he's chasing fame in Music City and basically "sleep walking in the Tennessee dark" without the girl of his dreams.  He thought everything he wanted was in Nashville.  And then, well, he woke up.


#5- What Ifs- Kane Brown featuring Lauren Alaina

Oh, I have resisted jumping on the Kane train.  I admit it.  And, I'll be honest.  I still don't really get it.  I'm not sold on Kane's vocal ability.  I don't necessarily understand the appeal.  But here's what I do know.  I absolutely love this song.  And, he and Lauren Alaina, by joining forces on this surprise chart topper (Yes!  It hit #1.) have made their stands as the fresh new faces of country music.  And country needs them.  We know Lauren can sing.  If you watched her American Idol audition or if you have seen her in concert (she stole the show at the 2016 Big O Music Fest), you know she can literally blow the rafters out of a concert hall.  Her voice is INCREDIBLE!  And Kane has undeniable swagger.  And sometimes swagger's enough, especially when it has this kind of impact.  As a format, country needs to appeal to young listeners.  Many of our superstars are pushing 50 and beyond.  And Kane and Lauren are the perfect combination to achieve the effect.  They are bringing youth, spunk and charisma to country.  And they absolutely brought all of the above to "What Ifs."


#4- Like I Loved You- Brett Young

At a conference recently in Nashville, the question was posed to me . .. "Of the 'B' level acts currently in country music, who do you think has the greatest chance of becoming a superstar?"  My quick answer . . . Brett Young.  This guy has it all, doesn't he?  He's got the look (ask my friend and coworker Emily who is slightly obsessed), the voice, the sound and a knack for writing songs that appeal to country's female demographic.  And this particular one applies to the guys too, right?  Is there anyone out there who doesn't relate to "Like I Loved You."  Loving someone more than you're getting loved back is a universal theme.  It's happened to all of us.  And Brett nails the emotion, the hurt and the seething anger you feel when someone suggests, "We can still be friends."


#3- Female- Keith Urban

I would probably drink this man's bath water.  LOL!  I say that because everything Keith Urban touches turns to gold.  He is as relevant today as he was when he first broke onto the scene and into the Top Ten back in 2000 with "Your Everything."  Do you realize that he hasn't missed the Top Ten . . . once . . . since?  His track record is indisputable and his catalog of hits is unmatched.  This man knows a hit song when he hears one, writes one and sings one.  And he's literally getting better with age.  And "Female" is a song for the ages.  Women, for a variety of reasons you're aware of, have dominated media headlines in 2017.  Powerful and prominent women have been vilified and objectified, but have taken matters into their own hands to march on Washington, launch the #MeToo campaign and take public stands against the men who have violated their rights and spirits.  In Keith Urban, they have found a magnificent ally.  In "Female" he sings an anthem written to celebrate all women, everywhere.  In so many ways, this could be the most important and appropriately timed song of 2017.

 #2-  Diane- Cam

You know, I was starting to worry about Cam.  After setting the country world on fire, literally and figuratively, with "Burning House", it appeared she may flame out.  While I personally loved her follow-up, "Mayday", it didn't gain much traction on the airwaves and its lack of success made many wonder if Cam was destined for one-hit-wonder status.  That's always a threat when an unknown has nearly immediate chart success and fails to follow it up.  It took her a while, but Cam has followed it up.  And this end-of-the-year release just barreled its way onto my list.  I absolutely LOVE this song.  Amazingly clever (it's told from the viewpoint of the other woman in the "Jolene" saga) and it's propelled by a Mumford and Sons-inspired arrangement and Cam's powerhouse vocals.  We knew Cam could sing a smoldering ballad, but she can anchor a rousing romp too?  That's exactly what "Diane" is and Cam schools it.  Roll down the windows and crank this up!


#1-  Heartache on the Dance Floor- Jon Pardi

When I started compiling this list, this song was always going to be my Number One.  Jon Pardi has all the makings of country's next superstar.  He can write, he can play and his voice is as unique as any you'll hear on the radio.  I cannot even begin to tell you how many times, over the last six months or so, I have broken out into song asking, "Where you at? Where you at? Where you at tonight?"  It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that Pardi's lyrics contain these words- "So, I'm right here right now.  Humming this little song."  I've been humming this song since the day I heard it for the first time.  Pardi has an ear and a voice for radio.  And I'll gladly play the crap out of this song on WBKR. For me, it's the single best country song of the year.  This is a song I put on to sing along.

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