As is tradition, myself and my good friend Zackary Kephart (of The Musical Divide and Country Universe) count down our least favorite singles of the year. As a broad comment, this year was not so much a horrible one for mainstream country as it was uninspiring. New artists come out of the woodwork with generic word salads while the usual culprits remain in standard form. There will be ample celebration of the highlights, but for now, here are the 20 worst radio singles of the year that was 2020.
Little Big Town, "Wine, Beer, Whiskey"
As someone who will gladly defend Little Big Town’s Nightfall album, this is the most disappointing entry, for me. Beyond just being a clunky, sloppily mixed single where Jimi Westbrook’s performance is beyond over-the-top, it’s a sour drinking song that was only released as a summer single to try and salvage the band’s momentum in an otherwise tough time. In other words, Capitol Nashville has no idea to market them anymore, and the sooner the band escapes into the night, the better we’ll all be for it - especially when, again, Nightfall houses some of their best work; this just ain’t it. - Zackary Kephart
Kelsea Ballerini, "hole in the bottle"
I do think that Kelsea Ballerini has made strides artistically since the "Dibs" days, but I do not think that is represented by this track. I think the production grates and the melody feels jarring, and I don't think it suits her somewhat limited vocal range. It just doesn't have much to say and what it does, it doesn't do well. - Markus Meyer
Dylan Scott, "Nobody"
I'm not convinced that Dylan Scott has ever had an original thought. I'm not sure what the point of this is. I'm not sure what the point of any of his singles are. He's a perfectly capable vocalists that exaggerates for no reason, and does so on top of production and songwriting copy-pasted from every other crappy top 20 hit from a white guy with a silly haircut. I just don't see any appeal. - MM
Jason Aldean, "Got What I Got"
To be frank, Jason Aldean just does not have the skillset to pull this off. He's too inherently mad to do slowed down, sexy songs. Sometimes his anger works! It just doesn't here, and it's incredibly awkward to listen to. The production feels a little clunky and it makes for a weird listen that gets worse with time. - MM
Robert Counts, "What Do I Know"
You don’t know this guy, and given how there are only around 4,593 new, generic male artists that enter the fray every year, I can’t say I blame you. The production and performance leans into Jason Aldean’s worst tendencies of being a dark, overly serious, angry song, where the sentiment just feels misplaced all around. It’s macho posturing at its worst, and while this type of attitude is, unfortunately, a prevalent philosophy for certain country fans, it doesn’t represent the genre at its absolute best, thankfully. What do I know? I know this sucks. - ZK
Dustin Lynch, "Momma's House"
I'm sorry but what is there left to say about this guy. He's completely content just phoning it in, even though I'm not convinced anyone cares about his music anymore. This isn't actually one of his more offensive lyrics but he ruins it with his siganture slathering of autotune and production that sounds like a computer breaking down. Obligatory reference to "Cowboys and Angels" and what a letdown he's been since. - MM
Easton Corbin, "Turn Up"
Remember when, in 2015, Easton Corbin released a dated bro-country project in About to Get Real? Well, he’s basically doing the same thing again in 2020 with “Turn Up,” and this time around, it’s like a living incarnation of that Steve Buscemi “how do you do, fellow kids?” meme. “Let’s turn up and get lit like the kids do, my fellow lady friend!” - ZK
Lee Brice, "One of Them Girls"
I'm usually a big defender of Lee Brice. I think he's one of the good guys and unlike many of his peers, he has some legit vocal talent. It just baffles me how big this was. It's just middle-of-the-road fluff about his girl, who just so happens to apparently be the exact same as eveyr other girl described on country radio. It's completely unmemorable in every way. Bud light labels and hometowns and parties. Good one! Waste of talent. - MM
Florida Georgia Line, "Long Live"
Whew … I mean, Cledus T. Judd and Weird Al couldn’t have written a better Florida Georgia Line parody, I tell you. Wait, you’re telling me this is an actual Florida Georgia Line single? Oh, my. In all seriousness, what analysis must one offer to explain why their sixty-millionth song in this bro-country vein is bad? It just speaks for itself sometimes. - ZK
Parmalee feat. Blanco Brown, "Just the Way"
Songwriting by committee, almost literally. There’s no chemistry here between the two acts desperately yearning for relevancy on this tired, predictable schlock, derivative of the worst traits “boyfriend country” has had to offer so far. Also, my fellow dudes, we really need to retire the whole “God made this woman just for me” trope – it’s not nearly as endearing as you think it is, coming from, again, a fellow dude. Why is this even a duet? Are they really sharing the same woman? - ZK
Sam Hunt, "Hard to Forget"
Believe it or not, I don’t dislike Sam Hunt’s music solely for its lack of a “country” sound – it’s just bad, no matter how you cut it. The Webb Pierce sample isn’t innovative, though it gives Sam Hunt one of the few decent melodies he’s ever had. But the song is just a mess, from the brighter, chipper tones – bolstered by a sing-a-long toward the end, no less - that contradict the otherwise dour theme, to the mix of chintzy-sounding drum machines and guitars that clash with the fiddle and dobro. It isn’t nearly the worst song off Southside, or even Hunt’s worst single. But it’s his most bizarre, and it absolutely deserves its place here. - ZK
Dan + Shay, "I Should Probably Go to Bed"
The schtick is old. "Tequila" was really good and everything since has sounded identical. There is zero substantive difference between this and "Speechless" and "All to Myself" and "10,000 Hours". Find something new to talk about! They have immense vocal talent but you can only do the exact same song so many times. Beyond boring and unoriginal, to the point where it's infuriating. It's also 0% country, but that ship sailed long ago. - MM
Keith Urban, "God Whispered Your Name"
I’m copying and pasting my blurb from “Just The Way” to reiterate to my fellow dudes that, y’all, God isn’t cranking out women in Heaven’s factory for us. Otherwise, this has to be the most painfully boring entry on this list, hampered by a lack of real groove or melody and only made worse by Keith Urban’s twee, saccharine delivery. It’s the embodiment of boyfriend country at its absolute worst, which, at that level, is basically a NyQuil replacement. - ZK
Luke Bryan, "One Margarita"
To some extent, you have to commend Luke Bryan for not even trying to hide it. He knows he'll make millions off stuff like this and he just keeps cranking it out. A blatant grift with diminishing returns. It's annoying as all hell, is not fun to listen to, and isn't saying anything Bryan hasn't done 1000 times already. Sad but not surprising, and for my money the worst thing released in 2020. - MM
Kane Brown, "Cool Again"
Just so grating and a poor represenation of Brown's abilities. Same old same old. He misses loving this girl in the summer. Cheap pop production. No one will remember this in two years. Not much more to say that hasn't been repeated throughout these entries because they're all the exact same. Rather pointless. - MM
Darius Rucker, "Beers and Sunshine"
Here’s the thing – most of these are bad singles by equally bad artists. Darius Rucker, though? He’s got a great voice, and while his material has always been more inconsistent than I’d prefer, it’s never been as bad as “Beers & Sunshine.” Beyond that God-awful hook that Blake Shelton already proved wasn’t all that funny more than a decade ago, it’s another summer single with some of the most dour, contradicting production I’ve heard all year. Even Rucker doesn’t sound like he cares, like this was just an attempt at releasing a vapid ode to escapism during the pandemic. A sad case, indeed, and “B.S.” of another variety. - ZK
Cole Swindell, "Single Saturday Night"
Cole Swindell has the occasional good track but man, when he's bad he is bad. His vocal talent is already so limited and it really stands out here. Not even remotely catchy and the production is laughably bad and sloppy. From an artist who is usually mediocre, this is a truly awful and anger-inducing effort. - MM
Niko Moon, "Good Time"
I don't really know who Niko Moon is and I do not care to find anything else out. He appears to have no actual ability and it sounds like a parody song. If you can't tell, it's about having a good time, so it's a pretty creative track. I expect we won't be hearing from him again when he's replaced by generic white bro #4632 next week, but my goodness this is just embarrassing. Hopefully if we ignore it'll just go away. - MM
Walker Hayes, "Trash My Heart"
This has to be Walker Hayes’ last bid for radio airplay, and if so, good riddance. I will not miss your half-assed, half-spoken delivery devoid of any charisma, your word choice that, like Easton Corbin, often embodies that aforementioned Steve Buscemi meme, or your God-awful, clunky-as-Hell production. He constantly echos the word “trash” throughout this song, and if that doesn’t speak for itself, I don’t know what does. - ZK
Florida Georgia Line, "I Love My Country"
I’ll be blunt, if my blurbs for these scream as half-assed, it’s because I just did not have the energy for most mainstream country singles this year – the ones that were hits, at least. It’s a genre that prides itself on speaking to real life problems, but this year, all country radio had to offer was either boring-as-fuck boyfriend country, which we’ve discussed here already, or bro-country revivals aimed at taking attention away from the global pandemic.
Look, I don’t begrudge anyone who needed more than a bit of escapism this year. But there were way better options than this, from singles that didn’t become chart hits to quite a bit of music found beyond one’s radio dial. Another way of saying that, to me, nothing this year quite spoke to that disconnect than Florida Georgia Line’s “I Love My Country.” Most people noticed it ripped off Kane Brown’s “Short Skirt Weather”; my mind immediately thought of Chris Young’s “Raised on Country.” Either way, you’ve heard this song from this duo before, a tepid attempt at recapturing any former glory they once had. “Cruise” forever defines their legacy, and, as far as the music goes, proves that they haven’t able to be much more than frat-bros partying it up with not a care in the world, at least, you know, in song. Moreover, “I Love My Country” is another shot for them to denounce their critics through their feigned “authenticity,” and speaking as one, I just didn’t care. I collectively found most mainstream singles disappointing and boring this year; this was just bad. - ZK