The country singles charts so far in 2017 have highlighted a rather impressive balance of newer artists (Lauren Alaina, Jon Pardi, Brett Young) and familiar faces (Blake Shelton, Thomas Rhett, Little Big Town). Some of those charting songs have been surprising sonic detours — Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban's stellar "The Fighter" boasts electronic elements — while plenty of others have stuck to a no-frills, meat-and-potatoes country sound.
No matter what your speed, however, chances are good that you've found a new favorite song somewhere on the charts during the first half of this year. Below, The Boot counts down 2017's Top 5 country songs (so far).
"In Case You Didn't Know"Brett Young
Young's success is a long time coming: The Nashville-via-California artist was in his mid-30s before signing a record deal. He released his self-titled debut album last year, and the second single from said record, "In Case You Didn't Know," has struck a chord — probably because its deeply romantic lyrics, spoken by a stoic protagonist who drops his reticent veneer and confesses his affection, are relatable and vulnerable. Low-key instrumentation focused on languid acoustic guitars and bluesy electric accents adds the right amount of mood for Young's confessional delivery.
Stapleton no doubt felt some pressure trying to follow up his smash 2015 album Traveller; however, that isn't obvious in the execution of From A Room: Volume 1, which easily debuted at No. 1 overall on the Billboard 200 chart. Exhibit A: the stripped-down, striking "Either Way," a song that Lee Ann Womack originally recorded in 2008. Backed by just a solitary acoustic guitar, Stapleton is invested in the song's tortured decision — should the protagonist try to salvage a flagging relationship? — and unleashes one of his trademark anguished, heart-wrenching vocal performances.
Rhett has been moving in a poppier direction for a while now, a fact underscored by the bold "Craving You," the first single from his forthcoming album. Not only is the tune co-written by Julian Bunetta, who's best known for penning tunes for One Direction, but the song's video is akin to a big-budget thriller movie. The song itself is an irresistible duet with Maren Morris, with sleek electronic production and intrigue-laden electric guitars; in fact, it wouldn't sound out of place on an '80s Miami Vice soundtrack.
Lambert's acoustic performance of "Tin Man" at the 2017 ACM Awards was a stunning highlight, as it underscored the song's raw grief at the dissolution of a loving relationship.
"Hey there, Mr. Tin Man," Lambert sings in "Tin Man," her voice steady but heartbroken as she addressed the Wizard of Oz character who lacks the organ. "I'm glad we talked this out / You can take mine if you want it / It's in pieces now."
The version of the song on Lambert's The Weight of These Wings double album is just as sparse, although the tune has subtle, atmospheric percussion adding melancholy.
If you can't get this song out of your head, you're not alone: "Body Like a Back Road" has spent a staggering 17 weeks (and counting!) atop the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 2017. Inspired by Hunt's then-fiancee, now-wife Hannah Lee Fowler — and written by Hunt, Zach Crowell, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne — the song is a laid-back, country tune tinged with funky flourishes and sultry lyrics.