Top 10 Country Music Songs of 2016
The year 2016 hasn’t been an ordinary one, as The Boot’s countdown of country music’s best new songs of 2016 proves; after all, it isn’t every year that Beyonce makes an appearance on a country music-focused list! But, in 2016, she does, along with nine other men and women who helped define the genre this year.
It’s been quite a year for solo artists; in fact, there isn’t a single duo or group on this list! But from Maren Morris‘ career-breaking tune to a song with a message that we all desperately need, The Boot’s Top 10 Country Music Songs of 2016 list sums up this busy, good music-filled, a-little-bit-crazy year.
Kip Moore — who co-wrote “Cigarette” along with Chris Stapleton and the Cadillac Three‘s Jaren Johnston — was inspired to write this song when he saw the lipstick that a stranger left on her cigarette. Moore has also said he regrets not holding onto the bluesy-rock number for himself, but it’s hard to imagine anyone but Ballard singing its lyrics: “I wanna be the fire / That’s takin’ you higher / Girl, you can leave me or let me burn / I wanna be your cigarette, cigarette.”
References to guns, whiskey, the Bible and the Second Amendment? You wouldn’t be surprised to hear lyrics like “With his gun, with his head held high / He told me not to cry / My daddy said shoot / Oh, my daddy said shoot” set to this sort of melody on country radio if they were sung by someone such as Miranda Lambert or Kacey Musgraves — but when Beyonce is the artist singing them, all bets are off. The internet erupted in controversy following Queen Bey’s rollicking, rocking performance of “Daddy Lessons” with the Dixie Chicks at the 2016 CMA Awards, but here at The Boot, we have two thoughts: One, “Daddy Lessons” is a country song, and two, it’s a really, really good one.
It was tough picking Bentley’s top tune for 2016, but “Black” is emblematic of the work he put out this year. The song was the third single off of his album of the same name (named for his wife, Cassidy Black), and the singer says that the track was “really central to forming the rest of the project.” Plus, with lyrics like “Black like a sky with no stars / Just find me and fall into my arms / And make my world go black / Hit me like a heart attack,” how can you go wrong?
Underwood has become a master of the “revenge on the cheating ex” song. But this time, after finding “that lipstick on your collar” that “ain’t my shade of pink” (among much other incriminating evidence), instead of taking a Louisville slugger to the cheater’s car, the singer’s kicking him to the curb and airing his dirty (literally) laundry instead. Either way, Underwood makes getting back at your ex sound like a really good time!
… and speaking of women sending feisty, foot-tapping kiss-offs to their exes, there’s Price. The Americana stunner exploded this year with songs such as “Four Years of Chances” and “Hurtin’ (on the Bottle),” after pawning her wedding ring and selling her car to pay for studio time in Memphis. Price sings of heartbreak in this tune — “I gave you four years of chances / To try and fill a happy home / But now one more may as well be a million and one” — but her musical gamble paid off (and she got her ring back).
With winter starting to show up in most states, Urban’s nostalgic celebration of adolescent summers spent “singin’ out the window on the backroads,” “sippin’ on the Lokos” and “swingin’ out on the line” may be just the thing listeners need to remind themselves of warmer weather. The uptempo anthem was the third single from Urban’s latest album, Ripcord, to hit No. 1.
Morris’ can’t-help-but-sing-along hit “My Church” has been huge for the rising star: The song hit No. 1 on the Country Digital Songs chart and earned Morris two Grammy nominations (not to mention a bevy of CMA Awards nods, and the trophy for New Artist of the Year). We’re thinking Morris definitely has a little something to sing “hallelujah” about! Can we get an “amen”?
Plenty of country breakup songs find their narrators at the bottom of a bottle, but the narrator in “Record Year” finds his solace in a stack of records. He may have lost the girl, but he’s “rediscovered Red Headed Stranger / Got down with old James Brown / And found New Grass Revival,” among others. The trade-off may have been worth it.
Lambert’s long-awaited answer to ex-husband Blake Shelton‘s album If I’m Honest came in the form of “Vice,” the first single from her double album, The Weight of These Wings. “If you need me / I’ll be where my reputation don’t precede me,” she sings. “Maybe I’m addicted to goodbyes / Another vice.” The song has been doing work, too: It recently notched the country star two Grammy nods!
Let’s get serious for a second: 2016 has been a difficult year for a lot of people, whether due to its charged and contentious political climate or the deaths of dozens of beloved celebrities and historical figures (and plenty in between). With the last 12 months as a backdrop, McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” and its positive, life-affirming message couldn’t have come along a better time. The artist’s performance of the song at the 2016 CMA Awards (during which Lori McKenna, who wrote it, won Song of the Year) was powerful and simple, and contained a message we should all carry with us: “Always stay humble and kind.”