Top 11 Country Songs of 2011
With 2011 about to come to a close, it’s time to reflect on what a year it’s been for country music! New artists have emerged with memorable songs, while veteran chart-toppers have proven they still know how to churn out the hits. So, take a break from the Christmas shopping, pour a glass of eggnog, and drink a toast (or 11) to our favorite tunes of the past year.
11. ‘Crazy Girl,’ Eli Young Band
The debut single from ‘Life at Best,’ Eli Young Band’s first album on new label Republic Nashville, this Lee Brice-penned tune is Billboard’s top country single of 2011. It took eight months for ‘Crazy Girl’ to reach the country chart’s penthouse, and we think it’s crazy it didn’t get there sooner. Regardless, the infectious love song scored the four-man band from Texas their first No. 1 single and also became their first platinum-selling hit.
Deana Carter and Matraca Berg wrote ‘You and Tequila,’ and both included it on their own CDs. But it was Kenny’s version, with ethereal vocal assistance from Grace Potter, that gave it a fast ride to the Top 5. The potent chorus suggests “one is one too many, one more is never enough,” which could apply to listening to the song as well. And make that a double for its equally intoxicating, CMA award-winning video.
9. ‘Hell on Heels,’ Pistol Annies
As if Miranda Lambert didn’t spend enough time on the charts, or in the studio, the Texas native started Pistol Annies with two of her closest girlfriends, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe. The title track of their debut album, written by the three ladies, asserts “I’m hell on heels, say what you will / I’ve done made the devil a deal / He made me pretty, he made me smart / And I’m going to break me a million hearts.” It may apply to any one of them but most likely refers to all three.
8. ‘Look It Up,’ Ashton Shepherd
‘Where Country Grows’ returned Ashton to the airwaves after a three-year absence. A sassy number from the album that commands, “Get gone, the word is ‘over’ / Look it up,” this is one the happily-married mother of two was thrilled to sing in honor of her single girlfriends. “There’s so many people who’ve gone through not very good situations, and sometimes you just need a song like that to just pick you up out of it, especially if you’re going through the hurting part,” she tells The Boot. “It’s really not a mad song, it’s almost like I sing it with a smile … because I really am ‘over it’ in that character.”
7. ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night,’ Jake Owen
We’d bet Jake had plenty of nights celebrating this song, since it became his first No. 1 hit. The country heartthrob knew the title track of his third album, which reached the top of the charts as well, was a smash, but was surprised by just how successful it became. “I didn’t know it would be this big,” he told The Boot. “I’ve had hits on the radio, but this is different. I keep telling folks, there’s a difference between a hit song and a career song, and this is a career song.”
Although this scorching ballad never made it on an album, it nevertheless proved an instant hit with fans thanks to the video of Jaron and Big Kenny performing the tune. Co-written by the two the day they first met, the song encourages dishonesty, if only for a moment, saying “Tell me that you love me one more time / Just lie to me, oh, lie to me / I still love your beautiful lies.” We love ’em, too, and — no offense to John Rich, but we’d love to hear another duet from Jaron & Big Kenny, whose vocal blend is simply beautiful.
5. ‘Mean,’ Taylor Swift
With the third single from ‘Speak Now,’ Taylor deviated from her usual themes of love won and lost, turning her pen on those who’ve done her wrong. Admitting she conceived the catchy tune on a “really, really bad day,” the rumination on lies and humiliation earned Taylor a CMA award nomination for Song of the Year and Grammy nod for Best Country Solo Performance.
4. ‘Colder Weather,’ Zac Brown Band
A break from the group’s more carefree songs such as ‘Chicken Fried’ and ‘Toes,’ this sentimental tearjerker was co-written by Zac and frequent collaborator Wyatt Durette, along with ZBB bandmate Coy Bowles and Southern Ground artist Levi Lowrey. Inspired by Wyatt’s own true story of failing to get the girl because of geographical and metaphorical distance, ‘Colder Weather’ easily became the group’s sixth No. 1 hit.
3. ‘Threaten Me With Heaven,’ Vince Gill
The Country Hall of Famer’s latest tune is one of hope and faith, inspired by something his step-kids’ grandfather said upon learning bad news about his health. Vince and wife Amy Grant enlisted the help of her guitar player, Will Owsley, to pen the tune. Tragically, Will took his own life before ‘Threaten’ was released earlier this year. “The song has a profound impact on me now,” Vince notes. “In my lifetime, ‘Go Rest High on That Mountain’ has been the song that helped a lot of people through their grief. I think this one will in turn hopefully do the same thing. It’s a powerful, powerful song.”
Brad wrote most of ‘Old Alabama’ before he considered including the legendary band on the song. Realizing their epic hit, ‘Mountain Music,’ would be the perfect bridge, he called Alabama’s lead singer, Randy Owen, and invited the group into the studio to sing on it with him. Name-checking a handful of the iconic country crooners’ biggest hits, Brad sums up the experience of sharing a studio with them in one word: “mind-blowing.”
1. ‘I’m Gonna Love You Through It,’ Martina McBride
The kind of heart-tugging tune for which she’s become well-known, this song eloquently promises unwavering support for someone battling cancer. Inspired by the true story of the mother of one of the co-writers of the tune, Sonya Isaacs, Martina included celebrity cancer survivors Sheryl Crow, Hoda Kotb and Robin Roberts, plus cancer activist Katie Couric in the video. (Watch it below.) Martina said she hoped the tune “will offer hope and inspiration to so many people who are going through or have been through cancer and the people who love them through it.” We believe she succeeded.
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