2017 was a huge year in country music. Several new stars made waves with smash hit albums and singles. As we wrap up 2017, we take a look back at the best country singles released this year.
20. “Broken Halos” by Chris Stapleton
Stapleton’s earthy voice is a perfect pairing for lyrics that contain as much heartache as his sound. The track is from his album From A Room: Volume I; notably, this album won the CMA Award for Album of the Year. “Halos” is an honest recognition of some of the hard truths of life.
His lyrics express that some things can’t be understood–Don’t go looking for the reasons / Don’t go asking Jesus why. The track didn’t chart exceptionally high, but neither did his album. Regardless, both are 2017 stunners.
19. “Light It Up” by Luke Bryan
This single definitely takes a modern approach to country love. Back in the day, stars used to croon about seeing their lovers through the shades or waiting for the phone to ring. Bryan’s plea, however, is for his lover to light up his cell phone.
It’s a chorus anyone with text messaging relates to: I get so neurotic about it baby / ‘Cause I know you’re reading your phone / I can’t help from going crazy / Thinking you might not be all alone / I wake up, I check it / I shower and I check it / I feel the buzz in my truck / And I almost wreck it / I always got it on me / Just in case you want me / So, if you’re looking for my love / Then light it up.
The song is from Bryan’s album due to be released in early-December 2017.
18. “Marry Me” by Thomas Rhett
From the title, one would assume this is a love song, perfect for a wedding. (Train, the indie/pop group, recorded a different “Marry Me” that springs to mind). This one isn’t. Instead, like any good classic country ballad, this one takes heartache to an epic level.
The song is actually about a man preparing for his love to get married–to another man. Rhett shared with Billboard that he was inspired by a breakup that occurred between him and Lauren, who is now his wife. He said they both almost married other people, and this song was his thoughts about that.
He also shared that he’s a “sucker for a sad song.” Only listen to this one if you are one, too!
17. “Like I Loved You” by Brett Young
This California country star was also nominated for the CMA New Artist of the Year Award. “Like I Loved You” was written by Young and Jesse Lee. (Lee also wrote Kelsea Ballerini’s hit “Peter Pan.”)
The song almost didn’t get written because the two were having so much trouble finishing it. However, Young told The Boot that they started sharing relationship stories over lunch, and soon the song was writing itself.
It’s the story of a breakup and the residual feelings of love and pain.
16. “Written in the Sand” by Old Dominion
“Written in the Sand” was penned by Matthew Ramsey with Old Dominion bandmates Trevor Rosen and Brad Tursi, along with producer Shane McAnally. The song is from OD’s new album Happy Endings, which released in late summer.
The song is about a man desperately trying to define his relationship with the woman he’s seeing. Turn me on, turn me off, then you turn me back on by the weekend /
And you won’t say the words that I want but you flirt when you’re drinkin’ / I see those bubbles pop up like you’re texting then they disappear / Let’s cut through the shit then let’s get to what we’re doing here.
The accompanying video has the lyrics appearing as texts on the phone of the woman as she goes throughout her day. Though text bubbles appear at the end (as though she’s writing her response), the viewer doesn’t get the satisfaction of ever reading a reply.
15. “The Rest of Our Life” by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
Nashville’s power couple isn’t done singing their love to each other. Their new song celebrates the idea of a lifelong partnership, beginning with a proposal.
I got something to run past you / I just hope I say it right / So I take your hand and ask you / Have you made plans for the rest of your life?
But the song doesn’t stop there. The chorus notes that even with the changes that come with age (gray hairs and extra pounds), the two will always be young together. It’s a fitting song for the middle-aged couple, who just scheduled additional tour dates for their Soul2Soul: The World Tour next year.
14. “The Fighter” by Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood
This song comes from Urban’s 2016 album, Ripcord. However, “The Fighter” wasn’t officially released as a single until early 2017. The song has Urban and Underwood alternating lines, singing to each other.
The track centers on two people fighting for each other. In interviews, Urban shared the inspiration for the song. A lot of those really simple, tough lines in ‘The Fighter’ are straight from early in my relationship with Nic,” he said. “What she needs, and it’s in the song, is for me to stay, to be close, to hear her.”
He also told CMT that he wanted to reflect open communication in the track: “I was thinking about how long it’d been since I heard a song with a guy and girl actually speaking back and forth to each other.”
13. “Legends” by Kelsea Ballerini
2017 has been a great year for Ballerini. She had the honor of turning on the pink Opry lights for the Grande Ole Opry breast cancer fundraiser. And she was nominated for the CMA New Artist of the Year Award.
Her single, “Legends” deals with heartbreak-gone-wrong. (It’s the perfect country setup, right?) She couches the relationship as a story they wrote together. But as is the case in anything that becomes legends, death is part of the story.
We were legends / Loving you baby, it was heaven / What everyone wondered, we never questioned / Closed our eyes and took on the world together / Do you remember…Yeah, we were legends / And we wrote our own story.
12. “I’ll Name the Dogs” – Blake Shelton
Number 12 on our list is definitely on the lighter side of life! Blake Shelton‘s “I’ll Name the Dogs” is another relationship song, but this one takes a more positive spin.
In it, he proposes a life together as he divvies up the “responsibilities” of the household. In this case, that means he gets to name the dogs! The chorus is a cute rhyme scheme that encapsulates the feel of the song:
I’ll hang the pictures, you hang the stars / You pick the paint, I’ll pick a guitar / Sing you a song out there with the crickets and the frogs / You name the babies and I’ll name the dogs, yeah
11. “Unforgettable” by Thomas Rhett
This song gives hope to every woman who’s ever felt dismayed that their boyfriend doesn’t notice all the little things.
Thomas Rhett wrote the song with Jesse Frasure, Shane McAnally, and Ashley Gorley while the three of them were on the road together. It’s the story of a man reminiscing about all the small details he noticed the night he fell in love with his woman.
I remember every detail / From your blue jeans to your shoes / Girl, that night was just like you / Unforgettable.
Of course, don’t get your hopes up too high. In an interview, Rhett admitted that Ashley was the one who came up with the main chorus lines. Leave it to a woman to write the song men should sing.
10. “Yours if You Want It” by Rascal Flatts
Released in February of this year, this song scored Rascal Flatts their 17th No. 1 song. The track is part of their latest studio album, Back to Us. It was co-written by Andrew Dorff and Jonathon Singleton, though sadly released after Dorff’s death.
This song definitely showcases the sound that originally sent Rascal Flatts to the top of the charts. However, it also has a slightly more contemporary feel. It’s a catchy, feel-good song about a man offering his heart to a woman. With an upbeat tempo and easy lyrics, it’s easy to see why this one took off.
9. “I Could Use a Love Song” by Maren Morris
The “My Church” singer took a different tact in “I Could Use a Love Song.” This gut-wrenching country ballad definitely puts heartbreak front-and-center. Part of her 2016 album, Hero, it was released as a single in spring 2017.
The lyrics focus on coping with a breakup. And as Rolling Stone points out, Morris frequently introduces “I Could Use a Love Song” as being the result of a breakup. Sometimes fact is better than fiction.
The accompanying video sets the song against the story of a happy couple whose world falls apart when the woman decides to move away to pursue her dream. This also parallels Morris’ experience of the world when she moved away to Nashville.
Definitely one for the break-up collection.
8. “Craving You” by Thomas Rhett, featuring Maren Morris
This single released the same week as “I Could Use a Love Song,” thus putting Morris squarely in the public eye of country music.
“Craving You” is one of those obsession-looks-like-love songs that finds its way into both country and pop. The lyrics are undeniably weighty.
You’re like that cigarette / That shot of 100 proof / No matter how much I get / I’m always craving / That feeling when we kiss / The way your body moves / No matter how much I get / I’m always craving you / Craving you
The video adds another layer of intensity to the song. In it, Rhett and Morris crack skulls and wield guns in production that is something like Bonnie and Clyde meets Grand Theft Auto.
7. “Losing Sleep” by Chris Young
“Losing Sleep” is off of Young’s album of the same name. The album charted better than the song. Still, it wasn’t a bad showing for the guy who was also recently inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
“Losing Sleep” is quite sensual, and definitely alludes to the notion of, well, sex.
Fall into me / Let me breathe the air you breathe / I can take you anywhere you want to be / When it comes to us / Every single touch is something special / When we’re wrapped up in those sheets / Yeah we’re winning when we’re losing / When we’re losing sleep
What’s not to love?
6. “In Case You Didn’t Know” by Brett Young
Young’s singe is a straightforward country love song. Nothing too fancy. Nothing too dramatic. It’s just a slow ballad of him expressing love.
In case you didn’t know / Baby, I’m crazy bout you / And I would be lying if I said / That I could live this life without you / Even though I don’t tell you all the time / You had my heart a long long time ago / In case you didn’t know
Fans definitely took to the song. It went RIAA platinum-certified, meaning one million sales.
Funny story about the song: Young couldn’t get writers to sit down with him, so he offered them a trip to Mexico. it worked. They wrote “In Case You Didn’t Know” on their last night there.
5. “When It Rains It Pours” by Luke Combs
Another hit from Combs’ debut album This One’s for You, this song was a follow-up to Combs’ No. 1 hit “Hurricane.”
Combs told CMT that he didn’t want the song to be sad, even though it is a breakup song. “It’s not dreary. Somebody breaks up with this fella and he ends up having the best week of his life. It’s just a fun upbeat thing. I hope people love it.”
In fact, not only is the song not dreary, but it is just the opposite! It’s also a fun play on words because normally that phrase is talking about negative events in life. But not in Combs’ words. Check out the lyrics:
I was caller No. 5 on the radio station / Won a four-day, three-night vacation / Deep-sea senorita fishin’ down in Panama / I ain’t gotta see my ex-future-mother-in-law anymore / Oh lord, when it rains it pours
4. “Tin Man” by Miranda Lambert
For any country music fans that also happen to adore The Wizard of Oz, “Tin Man” is a beautiful retelling of that character’s story. Where in the Land of Oz the Tin Man wished for a heart, Lambert tells him that he had it all wrong.
Hey there, Mr. Tin Man / You don’t know how lucky you are / I’ve been on the road that you’re on / It didn’t get me very far / You ain’t missing nothing / Cause love is so damn hard / Take it from me, darling / You don’t want a heart
Lambert’s Texas drawl and pitch-perfect vocals are the perfect match for the eerily beautiful song. “Tin Man” was nominated for the CMA Single of the Year. And though it didn’t win, Lambert took home the prize for Female Vocalist of the Year.
3. “Better Man” by Little Big Town
Not only did Taylor Swift write “Better Man,” but she actually sent it to Little Big Town. The band was immediately excited. And Taste of Country reported that they also decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth. The “Girl Crush” singers just took the song and ran with it.
Some people think that the song is about domestic violence, but LBT doesn’t think so. However, it definitely centers on the theme that no one knows better than Swift: breakups. In this case, it’s a woman wishing she could be back with her man–if only he were a better man.
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can feel you again / But I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man / And I know why we had to say goodbye / Like the back of my hand / And I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
2. “Blue Ain’t Your Color” by Keith Urban
In some ways, “Blue Ain’t Your Color” is reminiscent of George Strait’s “You Look So Good in Love.” Both songs discuss what love (or lack thereof) can do to a woman’s countenance. In Urban’s version, blue just isn’t her color.
Blue looks good on the sky / Looks good on that neon buzzin’ on the wall / But darling, it don’t match your eyes / I’m tellin’ you / You don’t need that guy / It’s so black and white / He’s stealin’ your thunder / Baby, blue ain’t your color
The song was a huge hit for Urban, and also won him the CMA for Single of the Year.
1. Body Like A Back Road” by Sam Hunt
Though the song didn’t take home the CMA Single of the Year Award, Sam Hunt definitely scored big with this “Body Like A Back Road.” The Washington Post recalled just how big: In early August, the track had held for 25 consecutive weeks on the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, the longest No. 1 streak in history.
Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, and Zach Crowell co-wrote the song with Hunt. The song was released in February and just kept going up on the charts. It offers listeners simple, straightforward lyrics that resonated with fans.
Body like a back road, drivin’ with my eyes closed / I know every curve like the back of my hand / Doin’ 15 in a 30, I ain’t in no hurry / I’mma take it slow just as fast as I can
As we wrap up 2017, here’s hoping 2018 continues to produce the caliber of country singles we got to experience this year!