The year 2014 has been an exciting time in the history of country music. Superstar Garth Brooks began his highly anticipated comeback, two country songstresses teamed up for an unforgettably saucy song, and there were, of course, lots of country singles released to the airwaves.
While many great artists dropped top-notch songs, we at The Boot have compiled a list of what we believe are the best songs of 2014, including everyone from new artists like Maddie & Tae to bona fide superstars like Carrie Underwood and Kacey Musgraves.
Underwood's 'Something in the Water' is the first single from her 'Greatest Hits: Decade #1' album, a celebratory record for her past 10 years of phenomenal success. Not only is it a beautiful song that hit No. 1 on the charts, it's also an unapologetic ode to her religious beliefs -- and an inspirational way to close out 2014.
'I Hold On' debuted in September 2013 and performed well on the charts through the new year, receiving a gold certification from the RIAA in the spring and a platinum certification in early December. The track holds special significance to Bentley, who says it was inspired by a road trip with his dad 20 years ago.
“I’ve said from the beginning, if you want to know who I am in three minutes and thirty seconds, play this song,” Bentley admits. “The fact that country radio and the fans got on board for this one, and that I’m getting such great feedback to the entire album, is so overwhelming.”
'Neon Light' was the lead single off Shelton's 'Bringing Back the Sunshine' album. He broke his own record with the song, scoring his 13th consecutive No. 1 single and making him the artist with the most consecutive No. 1 songs on the Billboard and Mediabase country charts since the beginning of monitored airplay. Plus, this album and song are a return to Shelton's roots: drinking and heartbreak.
As he poignantly says, "As a country singer, I gotta get back to singing about getting drunk because there’s people out there -- and I’ve been one of them -- that have had their heart broken, or they’ve had a tough day at work, or they get stabbed in the back.”
The lack of female country artists hitting radio was a big topic of conversation in 2014. One of the solutions: Women fighting together against the grain. Underwood and Lambert teamed up in a big way for 'Somethin' Bad,' the first No. 1 by a duo of solo women in two decades; it was Underwood's 13th No. 1 and Lambert's fifth. The song reminded fans that country women can rock just as hard as the guys, and the stars' performances at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards and CMT Music Awards solidified that fact.
Church delivered in his second single from 'The Outsiders.' It was his highest debut on the charts, hit No. 1 on the U.S. Country Airplay chart and was nominated for a CMA Award. The song is a softer side of Church's musicality and shows that the country rocker is as fantastic at vulnerability as he is at riling up an arena.
'Meanwhile, Back a Mamas,' the second single from McGraw's 'Sundown Heaven Town,' peaked at No. 2 on the charts, but the simple, beautiful, familial song won country fans' hearts in every way -- because, after all, it's Tim and Faith! Each song the country couple puts out is eagerly received, and this one, no doubt, will always have a special place in fans' hearts. McGraw and Hill debuted the hit at the 2014 ACM Awards.
New country duo Maddie & Tae (Maddie Marlow and Taylor Elizabeth Dye) dared to do something in country music that hasn't yet been done: They debuted a satirical song about bro-country, name-checking some of country's biggest stars right now, like Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Tyler Farr, Luke Bryan and more. The song became the first single by a female duo to reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart since 'My, Oh My' by the Wreckers in 2007. Sung from a female vantage point, the tune explores the perspective of a girl featured in a country song: How does she really feel about wearing those cut-off shorts? Although the track was met with some pushback from male country singers, the song's satirical nature and honest lyrics landed it in our list of the Best Songs of 2014.
The FGL guys revved their hit-making engines and kicked up a lot traction with their song 'Dirt': It debuted at No. 16 on the Country Airplay chart and became the highest airplay debut by a country duo. It's their most traditional-sounding country track to date, giving the band a real feeling of solidarity. As the first single off their sophomore record 'Anything Goes,' 'Dirt' set expectations high the second time around.
There's the potential for a lot of babies to be born nine months after Aldean's 'Burnin' It Down' dropped. After all, the singer himself admits he considers this song to be "baby-making music." Written by Nashville songwriters Rodney Clawson and Chris Tompkins, as well as Florida Georgia Line members Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, this song proved it wasn't too hot to handle for Aldean fans. The steamy hit shot from No. 42 to the top spot in its second week and was certified platinum nine weeks after its release -- the fastest single of 2014 to accomplish that feat.
Musgraves' anthem of acceptance was richly rewarded in 2014. She performed it at the 2014 Grammy Awards, and it nabbed Song of the Year at the 2014 CMA Awards -- a moment that, according to many, marked a shift in country music's acceptance of homosexuality and other topics that are typically shied away from in the industry.
"I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this award means so much because our genre was built on simple, good songs about real life. And that's what this was," Musgraves said while accepting the CMA Award. "And it was because of the fans that connected with it who spread it and took it farther than I ever could."
The tune is from Musgraves' 'Same Trailer, Different Park' record, which was released in early 2013, but both it and 'Follow Your Arrow' went gold this year.