Home Music Music Country Lists

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.

Play video
5

Eric Church, “Give Me Back My Hometown”

The centerpiece of Eric Church's acclaimed album The Outsiders is a stadium-ready sing-along written with as much poetic nostalgia as his breakthrough hit, "Springsteen." Penned with Luke Laird, "Give Me Back My Hometown" is a small-town American anthem for the age of endless suburbs, chain stores and strip malls couched in the standard country narrative in which everything in the narrator's town reminds him of a long-lost ex. The key moment? When Church slips in the oddly poignant detail that the local Pizza Hut was his go-to high school date spot: "All the colors of my youth, the red, the green, the hope, the truth," he sings in his most truly Springsteen moment to date, and also his most moving.

Play video
4

Sturgill Simpson, “Turtles All the Way Down”

Psychedelic country is nothing new, but the proudly illicit consumption in the lead track to Sturgill Simpson's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music surely helped attract some early buzz to the album widely heralded as one of the best of 2014. "Turtles All the Way Down" is many things. Part twisted travelogue ("Met the devil in Seattle and spent nine months inside the lion's den"), part half-baked philosophy seminar ("Our souls must roam to and through that myth we call space and time"), "Turtles" serves as Simpson's grand mission statement for the rich storytelling and sentimentality that define this promising new artist.

Play video
3

Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”

For their second single off Pain Killer, Little Big Town introduced one of the boldest songs not only of their career, but of recent country music memory. In a haunting exploration of jealousy, the song's narrator refrains from resenting the woman who has stolen her man, instead developing a burning "girl crush" on her. "I want to taste her lips/'cause they taste like you," Karen Fairchild sings in a minimalist, soulful arrangement that finds the group doubling down on its signature four-part harmonies. They're some of the more shocking — and refreshing — Music Row lyrics in years.  

Play video
2

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.

Play video
1

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."

Show Comments