Luke Bryan has been kicking the dust up for nearly a decade, leading the charge of hip-hop-loving bros who make modern music not just for honky-tonks, but stadiums, too. With Kill the Lights hitting stores today — and its first single sitting at the top of the charts — country music's reigning Entertainer of the Year is all but a guaranteed to continue his redneck rule. We asked our readers to pay tribute to the affable star by listing some of their favorite Luke Bryan songs, and they responded in droves. Here are the Top 10 songs by the Georgia native that you're most likely to "play it again, play it again, play it again."
A no-RSVP-required bash kicked off Bryan's most successful album (so far), 2013's Crash My Party — the third best-selling LP of all genres that year. In the title track, the singer reaches out to an ex who called it off for reasons unspecified, inviting her to wreck his plans, make him cancel boys' night and give up front row seats for a concert. The pining narrator doesn't tell us whether she followed through, but either way, the party keeps raging. Bryan premiered "Crash My Party" at the 2013 ACM Awards, with the song peaking at Number One and becoming country music's fourth biggest hit of 2013.
The country music superstar kicks up dust and doubles down on his tried-and-true narrative of back roads, boots and bars on the first single off his new album, Kill the Lights. Fueled by Eighties rock swagger and a quirky Middle East-inspired lick that evokes Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On," the song shot to Number One on both the Billboard and Mediabase charts — just in time for the LP's release. This is Bryan's 13th chart-topping single, and a nice middle finger to critics who claim that fans have grown weary of party down-in-a-cornfield fare. The 39-year-old entertainer had so much faith in this track that it's the namesake for his current Kick the Dust Up Tour — a supersized trek of stadiums and arenas.
Bryan's 2009 album Doin' My Thing yielded a slew of hits, including this track, his second consecutive Number One radio single. The guitar parts of this uptempo heartbreaker move between a hard-headed buzz — embodying the narrator's sudden realization that his relationship might be over — and a pleasant jangle that encourages him to move on. He squeezes too many syllables into the hook, which has the effect of recreating the abrupt whiplash he experiences the first time he sees the object of his affections in someone else's truck.
Bryan has never been ashamed to admit his favorite way of getting around. "We Rode in Trucks," the second single of his career, uses his pickup to tour through small-town life, describing a place where "you either grew up on a farm or wished you did" and a time when "we were poor, we were ugly, we were all best friends." Yes, it waxes nostalgic for the good times, but it also shines a candle to the hard work and hard living that marked where the good times went bad. "We thought tobacco and beer in a can was all it would take be like our old man," begins one verse. "Then I saw how it made my mama cry." The song has become one of Bryan's most beloved, but back in 2007 — the year when all Brad Paisley wanted was a car — it didn't even reach the Top 30.
Bryan makes an intimate weekend epic on this Crash My Party single. It's like a roller coaster, it's like a song, it's like the great wide open — no metaphor is big enough to capture the highs and lows of this lightning-fast liason. Bryan's register is well-suited for haggard heartbreak, but the most devastating part is that his ex has him "twisted like an old beach roller coaster": This singer's always been at home on the beach — see his Spring Break EP series — so she hit him where it hurts the most.
"I Don't Want This Night to End" was the second single to be released from Bryan's massive Tailgates and Tanlines LP, and strikes a romantic chord with its lyrics about a magical first date. Written by Bryan and the Peach Pickers (celebrated writers Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson and Ben Hayslip), the tone is set right away with a beauty of an opening couplet: "Girl I know I don't know you/But your pretty little eyes so blue are pulling me in/Like the moon on your skin" — cue the swoon. Girls want to be romanced by him, and guys feel they could be him. "I Don't Want This Night to End" hit the top of the Country Airplay charts in February of 2012, marking the singer's third Number One single.
When a tune opens with the line, "Hey girl," you kind of know what you're in for. But in 2011, you probably didn't expect it from nice guy/family man Bryan. Yet here he was, unapologetically belting out lyrics like, "Country girl, shake it for me," in a lasciviously catchy, banjo-meets-dance club track co-written with Dallas Davidson. More than a few critics were quick to label the song as sexist, but if the ladies were encouraged to jiggle their backsides, Bryan was an equal opportunity offender, shaking his own moneymaker like a Polaroid picture, with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek — so to speak. "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)" will forever be known as the song that unleashed the superstar's inner Elvis.
Taken from Bryan's third album, Tailgates and Tanlines, "Drunk on You" hits all the emotional sweet spots while reminiscing on (or dreaming about) the perfect summer night: parties by the lake, skinny dipping, dancing on a flatbed truck in the moonlight. . . The touchstones here might resonate strongest with 20-somethings, but they are not without broader appeal. Opening lyrics, "Cottonwood falling like snow in July," add a surprisingly poetic touch, and a bit of Southern charm to an otherwise rowdy party. And it's in this fratboy-meets-modern poet mix that Bryan shines.
The king of party anthems has a serious side, too, and his packed stadium crowds are reminded of it when he sits down at the piano. For the lead single from 2009’s Doin' My Thing, Bryan waxes poetic on the insecurities that can come later in a relationship, with help from co-writers Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum (Lady A's Hillary Scott provides backing vocals). The singer sells the soaring ballad with clever use of enjambment, sending the chorus tumbling forward and hitting the highest notes of his repertoire. He was ahead of his time with this one, too: "Do I" provided a template for similarly percussive, sugary hooks on recent radio hits by Dustin Lynch and Sam Hunt.
Despite the deceptively party hardy title, "Drink a Beer" is a gorgeously understated ballad that showcases Bryan at his most vulnerable. When he closes his eyes and croons about sitting on a pier, watching the sunset and raising a glass to a recently deceased loved one, he's remembering his late brother and sister, both of whom died suddenly in separate incidents. Bryan didn’t write this song – Jim Beavers and Chris Stapleton did – but this is undoubtedly his story. The Georgia native usually keeps his personal life pretty close to the vest, but for three minutes and 22 seconds, he opens his heart in a way that just might make critics of his many hip swivels forgive him.