Here you go. My least favorite country singles of 2011. You’ll see some huge hits here. But remember it isn’t about chart performance, but rather about quality:
40. Ronnie Dunn – “Bleed Red”
On his solo debut Dunn could’ve worn any hat. But he choose to go down the route of being over-produced and turned into a pop balladeer. And “We all bleed red” is such a statement of the obvious, it hardly bares drugging up in a song.
39. Jason Michael Carroll – “Numbers”
This is exactly why people hate country music. A laundry list of numerical symbols? Seriously, just how lazy can songwriting get?
38. Keith Urban – “You Gonna Fly”
On its own this isn’t a bad song. But I’m including it here for the simple fact it showcases an artist continuing to coast on their merits with yet another sound alike rocker that has become the norm. Urban will always be hailed for his guitar playing and entertaining abilities but not for his diversity in song selection. He just isn’t exciting anymore.
37. Luke Bryan – “I Don’t Want This Night To End”
A guy and a girl are rockin’ in a truck as if no other modes of transportation exist. Of course, she’s “so damn hot” he can’t stand it. He may not want this night to end, but this song surely can.
36. Jake Owen – “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”
A marriage of 80s rock with banjos coupled with a disposable tale of having fun with not only your buddies but the requisite hot babe, too. I Don’t Wanna Grow Up may be the smartest line in a country song all year.
35. Rodney Atkins – “Take A Back Road”
If it’s come to rhyming “gravel” and “travel” in the same chorus, than maybe the world really is coming to an end. At least we have an infectious beat to welcome us to the end of existence as we know it.
34. Toby Keith – “Somewhere Else”
An attempt at making a country version of the Jason Maraz style of breezy pop, “Somewhere Else” sounded good upon its release, but aged into a bland, forgettable, and embarrassing stab at appealing to the current generation. A good effort, but it ultimately failed.
33. Thompson Square – “I Got You”
The only positive aspect of this song is they got to share lead vocals. There could be some promise there in the future. But if all they can offer is molded after this – too loud production and weak lyrics than I can’t buy what they have to sell.
32. Sugarland – “Tonight”
Baby Girl may just have been evicted from the Ritz.
31. Darius Rucker – “I Got Nothin'”
For three singles now, Rucker has been coasting and getting by on his charm. The schtick finally ran dry on this tune about a failing relationship finding the man begging for time to think of something to say in order to keep his woman from walking out. He never does think of anything to say and in turn either does the song. I see what he was trying to do, but he lost out on execution. In turn he’s been rewarded with his worst charting single. See a pattern here?
30. Hunter Hayes – “Storm Warning”
Hailed as a prodigy, he played every instrument on his debut album himself, Hayes seems to be a lot of build-up and little pay off. If this is the best he has to offer, than I see little reason to dig deeper and check out his album. Lets see if another single manages to change my mind. Heck, single #2 did wonders for my impression of The Band Perry.
29. Martina McBride – “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”
It seems odd and disrespectful to cancer suffers and survivors everywhere to speak negatively about a song meant as an anthem in their fight. But when the tune is so heavy handed, such criticisms are justified.
My problem here isn’t McBride’s need to sing another social activism song, but the writers need to cram the subject matter down our throats. What irks me is the line “To hide what the cancer took from her” as if we need another reminder of the subject matter. If only Ben Hayslip, Sonya Isaacs, and Jimmy Yeary had toned down the specific references to (and use of the word) cancer, this might’ve been a slam dunk.
28. Eli Young Band – “Crazy Girl”
Leave it to Dan Milliken and Ben Foster to single handedly reverse my view of this song. Of course, that’s why they’re brilliant at what they do.
27. Kenny Chesney – “Reality”
How can an artist be this glaringly inconsistent? Only in modern country can we go from “You and Tequila” to “Reality.” Chesney knows how to craft songs that become anthems for his stadium flocking devotees that don’t hold up when released to radio. He’s proven he is way better than sinking to this level.
26. Eric Church – “Drink In My Hand”
He’s working his butt off at a dead end job. In true Johnny Paycheck fashion, he lets his boss have it, telling him he can “shove that overtime up his can.” In a world where securing a job is near-impossible, he should be lucky for the work he does have. But in the end he’s just another greedy ass looking for his piece of the American dream.
Church is just as distasteful as the man he’s singing about. Why oh why would he and producer Jay Joyce give this song that driving dream beat? It’s so pounding and annoying it makes an already ignorant song darn near unlistenable.
25. Kenny Chesney – “Live A Little”
“I need to live a little/have some fun/spend some time/looking out for number one.” Okay, I get that. But like “Reality,” what’s the point? There’s no substance here to carry this song. It’s just another bland, boring, and ultimately forgotten pander attempt to his disciples.
24. Reba McEntire – “If I Were A Boy”
Add McEntire to the list of country artists covering pop songs. Also, add McEntire to the list of artists acting out desperate acts to remain relevant. This might have worked for both Beyonce and CMT Unplugged, but it doesn’t work in this context. She needs to get better quickly or I’m putting her on my bad list with Alan Jackson.
23. Gretchen Wilson – “I’d Love To Be Your Last”
A surprise come from nowhere 2011 Grammy nominee, “Be Your Last” served as category filler without much merit. Wilson barely sings above a whisper here but instead of showcasing something new, she continues to make us wonder about what could and should have been.
22. Brad Paisley – “Camouflage”
Novelty songs work because they stand as a diversion from the serious fare that builds singers into artists and artists into legends. But when you’ve made a career out of them, the schtick is bound to run dry very quickly. And it did, a long, long time ago.
It’s too bad too. I love the production on this song. But I cannot pass a song on production alone, especially with lyrics like these.
21. Trace Adkins – “Million Dollar View”
oooh. Here’s a soloman masterpiece about a home, it’s million dollar view, and how the presence of God in our lives enhances our existence. It’s so good, I can’t believe this wasn’t recorded by someone years ago.
Oh wait. It’s a Trace Adkins song. Then this “Million Dollar View” is of a scantily clad woman lying on a bed, turning on her man. Never have my hopes been so high regarding what a song could and should have been.
20. Joe Nichols – “Take It Off”
Another disposable co-write from The Peach Pickers. Not an original concept to country music, this list, or Nichols’s catalog of singles. He, like country music, can do far better.
19. Blake Shelton – “God Gave Me You”
He’s thanking his girl for being his saving grace and the great martyr of love. A nice sentiment by itself so why would Shelton and producer Scott Hendricks wrap this pleasant little tune in a wall of sound so loud it drowns out anything positive about the lyrics and Shelton’s vocal performance? It’s moments like this that prove Shelton will always be good but fall far short of being great.
18. Montgomery Gentry – “Where I Come From”
Oooh! A song about small-town roots. An ode to where someone’s from. This is so exciting. I’ve always wondered about these things. And who’s this Dallas Davidson guy who wrote it? He’s so good, he must be Kris Kristofferson’s long lost son. Song of the year for sure.
Yah. But on a serious note, if life’s circumstances had gone the other way, MG would’ve been history. I’d rather have them recording anything than have seen Eddie’s life cut short from cancer. But they could’ve gone down a far less cliched root than this for their comeback, couldn’t they have?
17. Julie Roberts – “NASCAR Party”
So it wasn’t a single, but this little tune did serve as introduction to her album Alive. And it’s the poorest introduction to any record I can think of in a long, long, time. Buy the album. She’s so much better than what she displays here.
16. Hank Williams, Jr – “Keep The Change”
This isn’t the first time a battered star has taken to song after getting in trouble for making political statements. But it is the first time such a song has only added insult to injury. “Keep The Change” is a poorly written and executed excuse for hating the status quo. Everyone’s been calling Williams an angry old man. I’m now inclined to believe them.
15. Craig Morgan – “This Ole Boy”
Morgan grew surprisingly effective with 2010’s “This Ain’t Nothin.'” But those type of sting you in your gut type songs aren’t his wheel house. Its sad to think “This Old Boy” is classic Morgan and another reason to change the station.
14. Eric Church – “Homeboy”
Forget the lyrics here. I can’t even get passed the too-loud and very dirty production. Mr. Church, what happened to you between albums? I’m not liking this change.
13. Jake Owen – “Alone With You”
Owen spends the majority of the chorus begging his woman not to “put your hands under my shirt” and to refrain from putting her lips to his mouth. He’s resisting sex yet continuing down the path of not growing up. Unless he goes back to his “Startin’ With Me” glory, I’m not buying what Owen has for sale.
12. Dierks Bentley – “Am I The Only One”
In just one year after Up On The Ridge, Bentley resorts to pandering in order to regain his insider status at country radio. He’s the only one among his group of friends who wants to drink and party it up, and it’s easy to see why. They’ve grown up while he’s regressed back to his early twenties. Bentley’s better than this in every way, shape, and form.
11. Tim McGraw featuring Gwyneth Paltrow – “Me and Tennessee”
Written by Chris Martin (Paltrow’s husband and Coldplay frontman), this poorly constructed song shows little inspiration, a lack of chemistry between Paltrow and McGraw’s voices, and a lack of credibility given the subject matter. Plus, I’m still trying to figure out what this one is about.
10. Rascal Flatts featuring Natasha Bettingfield – “Easy”
The worst country duet of the year goes so wrong in so many ways, it isn’t even funny. I hate when Gary LeVox takes to singing high and I can’t believe how poor Bettingfield sounds here and she’s at least a good singer. The sooner this is forgotten, the better for me.
9. Shania Twain – “Today Is Your Day”
Today may be our day but it certainly isn’t Twain’s. This slick pop confection is easily her worst single – bad production, horribly processed vocal, and a feeble attempt at sounding inspirational. If only she had tried, she might’ve had a good chance at a comeback. But if this is the best she could do, her time is better spent away from the music industry.
8. Brad Paisley featuring Alabama “Old Alabama”
My problem with “Old Alabama” isn’t the intent but the execution. I have no problem with someone wanting to pay tribute to Alabama, they’re one of the greatest bands in country music history and a personal favorite of mine. But when that tribute turns out like a second rate attempt at something great, therein lies the issue. There isn’t anything special about the song nor was it constructed in a way that honors Alabama, but rather uses them as a metaphor for the relationship between the two characters in the story.
When Paisley gets to the chorus and starts rattling off classic Alabama songs like “Feels so Right,” “Love In The First Degree,” and “Dixieland Delight,” it comes off more corny than anything else.
But I give Paisley credit for honoring someone actually associated with country music, so many fail to do that these days.
7. Brantley Gilbert – “Country Must Be Country Wide”
Gilbert has cleverly disguised his addition to the “I’m Country” linage by trying to make the point country music is universally loved because in “every state/there’s a station/playing Cash, Hank, Willie, and Waylon.”
Well, if it were 1985, such a statement would prove correct. But he’s only showing his ignorance by thinking country radio still cares about its legends in 2011. And that country fans made this song a hit only shows that lyrical content isn’t as high a priority as it used to or should be.
6. Blake Shelton – “Honey Bee”
Not as horrific as “Hillbilly Bone” or as promising as “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking,” “Honey Bee” is an okay concept executed poorly. The lazy and unintelligent lyrics complete with the “I’ll be your…you be my” parings add up to nothing more than pure froth. How this did so well and has so much industry backing (a Grammy nomination, REALLY?!) will be a mystery I’ll be trying to figure out for years to come.
5. Justin Moore – “Bait A Hook”
She’s taken her boyfriend home to meet her friends and family. It’s an adjustment seeing as he comes from a world where people drive Priuses, eat sushi, and can’t hold their liquor past two umbrella drinks.
But what she didn’t count on was the wrath of her ex-boyfriend, apparently jealous of her new-found love, at least enough to fault him for not being manly enough. Moore plays the ex-boyfriend role well here portraying the jerk perfectly.
Problem is, Moore’s idea of a “real man” is subjective past the point of ignorance. He makes so many blanketed statements he can’t back up with experience even going as far as to say it sounds like relationship sucks. He might have a different attitude if he laid off the Jack Daniels and took his baited hook out of the water every now and then.
4. Luke Bryan – “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)”
With Doin’ My Thing, Bryan proved he could be a worthy successor to the brand of country music Tim McGraw perfected in the 90s. So why, in just one single, would he throw away all the good he was building?
Sure, “Country Girl” is a fun song in its own right, but coming from a guy who’s a 35 year-old married father of two? I have a problem when men refuse to act their age and embrace a frat-boy culture long past it being “cute.” It’s time for Bryan to grow up and embrace his current lifestyle in both his personal life and in song.
3. Alan Jackson – “Long Way To Go”
In a career that took off with the line, “Cowboys Don’t Cry/And Heroes Don’t Die” you’d never anticipate a ditty celebrating “A Bug in my Margarita.” Jackson has gone horribly wrong as of late, tarnishing his legacy with songs so below his caliber, he’s practically committed career suicide. If this is the best he has to offer country radio, than he really does have a “Long Way To Go” getting back into our good graces.
2. Jason Aldean – “Dirt Road Anthem”
Only twice in the past 30 years has a song come alone to change the course of country music. Randy Travis ushered in an era of neo-traditionalism with “On The Other Hand” in 1985, and Shania Twain brought 80s rock down home with “Any Man of Mine” ten years later. With “Dirt Road Anthem” Aldean may have just added his name to that list. Let the hick-hop revolution begin.
The wild success of this song – essentially a down-home rap song – shows another shift all together. Now we’ve gone away from tradition and we’re making fun of those who helped get us where we are today. Am I the only one who hears blasphemy in the line “swerving like I’m George Jones?” I mean really, what has country music come to?
1. Toby Keith – “Red Solo Cup”
With one 3 and a half minute ode to the famous plastic party staple, Keith has likely recorded his signature song. It has everything modern country fans love – inane lyrics centered around their true passion of drinking beer.
But more than just another drinking song, “Red Solo Cup” seeks to inform, teaching you all you need to know about this modern marvel from their various colors to their shelf-life before biodegrading (who knew it was 14 years?!)
On the surface it’s a cleaver song that displays a level of intelligence that The Warren and Beaver Brothers could even come up with it. But really, it adds up to nothing more than trite filler. The whole song is cringe-worthy in execution from the silly production to Keith’s embarrassing vocal performance. If this is an example of country music’s commercial future than the apocalypse really is upon us.
Tags: Alabama, Alan Jackson, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Brantly Gilbert, Craig Morgan, Dallas Davidson, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, Eli Young Band, Eric Church, Gretchen Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hank Williams Jr, Hunter Hayes, Jason Aldean, Jason Michael Carroll, Joe Nichols, Julie Roberts, Justin Moore, Kenny Chesney, Kris Kristofferson, Luke Bryan, Martina McBride, Montgomery Gentry, Natasha Bettingfield, Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire, Rodney Atkins, Ronnie Dunn, Shania Twain, Sugarland, The Peach Pickers, Thompson Square, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Trace Adkins