Brothers Osborne, "It Ain't My Fault"
It’s not the most intelligent single of the year, but what it lacks in that area it more than makes up for in boot stomping energy and attitude. John Osborne’s fiery guitar solo is pretty killer, and to hear TJ Osborne sing in his usual lower register helps to give this song a lot of gritty passion. Heck, they're already dethroned Florida Georgia Line as the vocal duo of the year, and between that and their new single, "Shoot Me Straight", I for one am VERY excited to see what 2018 has in store for Brothers Osborne. - Zackary Kephart
Midland, "Drinkin' Problem"
There was no bigger debut artist on Country radio in 2017 than Texas trio, Midland. Their debut single reached #1 on Mediabase, which isn’t shocking for a Big Machine Records promoted artist, but considering “Drinkin’ Problem” is a total throwback country song, it stood out on 2017 country radio.
It’s a typical country song about drinking from the title and first few lines, but once the chorus starts, the listener realizes that this song’s lyrical cleverness was hard to match from other 2017 singles.
“They keep on talkin', drawing conclusions, they call it a problem, I call it a solution”
It’s not a good song because it was a traditional song on 2017 radio. It’s a good song because it’s execution in instrumentation, production and lyrics were excellent and Midland slides into our 2017 best of list. - Chris Baggs
Luke Combs, "When It Rains It Pours"
One listen to the second single from Sony Music Nashville artist Luke Combs and you’re immediately transported back to early 2000’s country radio; its sound and subject reminds me of country radio from 15 years ago, especially Blake Shelton’s “Playboys Of The Southwestern World,” which hit the top 30 in 2003…only Luke’s was a huge #1 single in 2017.
“When It Rains It Pours” is a descriptive story about a narrator that hits a massive streak of good luck after his girl leaves him. The song’s series of events reads more the stuff of fantasy but songs that can transport the listener to another world, are a winner in my book. Country music has its share of making the most out of a breakup. Combs’ hit single proves a funny song can also crack our best -f lists. - CB
Charlie Worsham, "Cut Your Groove"
Yeah, it’s kind of a sappy, crappy motivational “do your thing” song. However, much like Eric Church did with “Record Year”, Charlie Worsham frames a familiar concept around musical language, and that makes for more interesting examples, one-liners and overall flow as well. Charlie also went a little more soulful for his latest album, and that often resulted in songs with very luscious, sometimes elegant production. With those crisp horns and solid acoustic melody bolstering the song, it's a shame that this couldn't have been a hit, because it's one of Charlie's best. - ZK
John Mayer, "In The Blood"
John Mayer gave us one of the biggest surprises of the year, delivering a top-flight country single to radio. While not a success commercially, "In the Blood" is an exceptional display of depth, emotion, and authenticity, depicting familial bonds in relation to personal profile. Backed by a largely acoustic production and a stellar vocal, Mayer absolutely knocked this one out of the park. - Markus Meyer
Brett Young, "In Case You Didn't Know"
We all know the saying, “where words fail, music speaks,” but there aren’t many songs as good at letting a person let their significant other know how they really feel, than Brett Young’s mega-hit “In Case You Didn’t Know.”
“Baby I know that you've been wondering, mmm, so here goes nothing, in case you didn't know, baby I'm crazy bout you, and I would be lying if I said, that I could live this life without you, even though I don't tell you all the time, you had my heart a long, long time ago, in case you didn't know”.
The song’s production and instrumentation don’t overdo it, which is appropriate for this track. I know it says exactly how I feel about my girlfriend and I’m sure millions of others felt the same. His debut album isn’t perfection, but this song’s message is. - CB
Trace Adkins, "Watered Down"
If you were to look in a dictionary and look up "hit and miss", I'm pretty sure you'd see a picture of Trace Adkins. While he has released a lot of questionable singles in his time, songs like "Watered Down" also show that Trace has recorded some of the best the genre has to offer. The production is crisp and warm, inviting you in with the tasteful instrumentation. Moreover, it’s refreshing to hear someone looking forward to the days ahead rather than try and capture their youth. That's not even the only time we'll see that on this list! Regardless, Trace was on point with this track, and it deserves to be praised. - ZK
Midland, "Make A Little"
Midland make’s our list again with the sophomore single from their debut album, On The Rocks.
This catchy tune reminds those who remember, the days of 80’s and 90’s Country radio; perhaps something Dwight Yoakam would record back in his prime.
“Make a Little” doesn’t come close to reinventing the wheel from a lyrical standpoint but it’s subtle charm in those lyrics and throwback sound, which doesn’t rely on drum loops or a throbbing backbeat, makes the listener realize there is a place on mainstream country radio for actual country music. Get up and two-step! - CB
Carly Pearce, "Every Little Thing"
Carly Pearce broke onto the scene this year with what is an exceptional single in "Every Little Thing". Atmospheric and raw, the record thrives in exuding emotion. Pearce demonstrates strong vocal and evocative talent, making for a thoroughly enjoyable record from an act to keep an eye on. - MM
Runaway June, "Wild West"
We’ve heard the western clichés before and to be honest, “Wild West” by Wheelhouse Records trio Runaway June hits on most of them.
However, the rest of the track is pretty close to perfection as a 2017 country radio single can get. The song thrives on a sound that is reminiscent of early-to-mid 2000’s country radio, led by plenty of steel guitar and fiddle, which take a listener back to old western America.
But the song thrives the most with its superb melody and beautiful vocals by lead vocalist Naomi Cooke. Her delivery is spot-on with every note and make it an easy entry into our best list. - CB
Brad Paisley, "Last Time For Everything"
What sucks about this year's list is that a lot of these songs signal the beginning of the end for some artists, and unfortunately when it comes to his chart success, Brad Paisley is in that club. Simply put, this deserved far better than its paltry top twenty peak. The song is also one of his best singles in quite some time. It tackles the feeling of life never slowing down from a unique perspective with a great hook, and considering Brad’s own career, a lot of the references made here (such as the Prince one) feel earned. Radio might not appreciate you anymore, Brad. However, if you keep putting out quality stuff such as this, I'm sure the fans will reward you. - ZK
Montgomery Gentry, "Better Me"
Enhanced by the tragedy surrounding Troy Gentry earlier in 2017, "Better Me" is absolutely one of the duo's strongest efforts in some time. A lesson is self-reflection and improvement, "Better Me" is a record that exudes hope. Backed by a restrained country-rock production, it's well worth your time to give this one a listen. - MM
Lee Brice, "Boy"
Lee Brice could have easily played his comeback as safe. After all, his last two singles didn't connect nearly as much as past hits. However, Lee Brice returned in a big way this summer when he released "Boy". Sure, the theme is simple and has been done numerous times in Country music. However, it’s not so much reassuring his boy through false promises that everything’s going to be magically alright everyday. It’s about reassuring him that there are natural phases of life that he’ll experience as well as be able to watch when he has his own boy. The song even gives enough of a clue to insinuate that the learning process doesn’t end at parenting. Welcome back, Lee. It's good to have you. - ZK
Chris Stapleton, "Broken Halos"
Chris Stapleton takes a lyric of depth and emotion, and makes it truly exceptional with his powerhouse vocal. Wrapping a song about remembering those that have passed with a passionate vocal and an acoustic production, "Broken Halos" is an absolutely outstanding record. - MM
Luke Bryan, "Fast"
What Luke Bryan gave us with "Fast" is one of his finest moments. It's a reflective record that tells us to live life to the fullest, because it can fly by. Bryan puts in a top-notch vocal performance, and is enhanced by a melancholic, restrained production. This is the stuff Bryan should be producing with his platform as an A-list mainstream act. - MM
Miranda Lambert, "Tin Man"
"Tin Man" finds Miranda Lambert at her absolute best. Vulnerable, intelligent, and impassioned, it's a record that encompasses country music's best traits. As good as her rocking up-tempos can be, Lambert is an artist that's at her best when subdued, and nowhere is that better showcased than here on one of the year's finest moments. - MM
Alan Jackson, "The Older I Get"
As artists grow older, we don't expect as much out of them. After all, they already gave us their best during their prime. More often than not though, artists will sometimes release quality singles that match up with their best long after the spotlight is gone. Alan Jackson hasn't had a number one hit in nearly a decade (wow does that hurt to say), but as he sings about in "The Older I Get", he's not bitter about his days ahead. He's looking forward to them in a way that puts a different spin on the whole "growing older" theme in country music. Alan Jackson is the artist we don't deserve, and yet our lives are instantly made better by his music. - ZK
Maren Morris feat. Vince Gill, "Dear Hate"
While this may be the only song that was never an “official” single, we'd be remiss not to at least mention it. 2017 was marred with a diverse number of tragedies which unfortunately included mass shootings. Granted, nobody can stop a natural disaster, but man-made ones such as those shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Maybe it is “cheesy” to say that love’s going to conquer all at the end of the day, but at the end of the day when we’re reminded of the life we’re given and the people who we’ve been blessed to know, you certainly can’t say hate is going to dominate our lives or choose how we live. That’s the message of this song. - ZK
Thomas Rhett, "Marry Me"
Despite a reputation as a run-of-the-mill bro, Rhett demonstrated true growth with his 2017 album Life Changes, and with "Marry Me", we have the finest track off said album. A devastating song with a clever twist, revealing that the narrator failed to act on his love for the woman in question. With a crisp pop-country production backing it up, and evocative performance from Rhett, we get what was my favorite single of the year, and the best of his career to-date. - MM
Jon Pardi, "She Ain't In It"
Not many artists were hotter on Country radio in 2017 than Jon Pardi of UMG Nashville.
Pardi followed up a couple huge upbeat #1 singles (“Dirt On My Boots” and “Heartache On The Dance Floor”) with the fourth single from California Sunrise, a powerful throwback sounding tune, with painful lyrics that addresses a man trying to eliminate the memory of his lost relationship.
The song relies on laidback production and a haunting fiddle, accompanied by a steel guitar solo that George Strait would be proud of. Pardi’s vocals aren’t the best but they’re unique, and his delivery of this song drives it home as one of the year’s best singles. - CB