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25 Best Country Songs of 2014

Little Big Town’s shocker, Keith Urban’s rocker and more of the songs stuck in our heads this year

Blake Shelton Ashley Monroe Lonely Tonight The Voice

Ashley Monroe and Blake Shelton perform "Lonely Tonight" on 'The Voice'

NBC Universal

Little Big Town professed a provocative crush. Trisha Yearwood came out of retirement swinging. Kenny Chesney made us all feel 16 again. And Nikki Lane made good of being bad. Our picks for the top country radio releases of 2014 include the predictable love lost, love found and love-to-drink story lines, but it also dives into delectable, largely uncharted country territory.

Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert, “Automatic”

Lambert, who just cracked 30 last year, seems a little young to be hopping on the nostalgia train, but she shows you don't have to be in your golden years to yearn for a time when things were just a little less fast-paced. On this wistful track from Platinum, she deftly ties in missing Polaroid pictures and handwritten notes with a seemingly bygone attitude of civility that included waiting your turn and working for your success. If she weren't a millennial herself, the song could sound fusty, but Lambert's youth keeps it from turning into a "get off my lawn" rant.

Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney, “American Kids”

Few artists have dipped into the well of nostalgia with more success than Chesney. But what made this kicky, catchy tune remarkable is the way it allowed him to ruminate on the old days and yet produce what may be his freshest, most contemporary-sounding single ever — without pandering to current trends. Written by the Midas touch trio of Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, and alluding to Chesney favorites like John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen and Elton John, the hook-laden ditty boasts one of the country star's most nimble vocals to date and reassures that whatever we lived through back in the day may have left us "a little messed up, but we're all all right."

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