Lauren Alaina, "Road Less Travelled"
I won’t lie, the production on ‘Road Less Traveled” is a little over bearing and the drum beat is what’s the new trend at Country radio…but “Road Less Traveled’s” message was easily one of the strongest of the year and its lyrics, particularly its chorus lyrics, was genius by today’s standards. Be yourself. Dare to live differently from the masses. Do what you love. Lauren’s vocals have never been questioned and it shines on “Road Less Traveled". - Chris Baggs
Brandy Clark, "Love Can Go To Hell"
I quite enjoy the more liquid, breezy tones of this song, and as always, Brandy's penmanship is always an asset. A far cry from the more stripped down acoustic leanings of her last offering, 12 Stories, sure, but this is a true example of artistical evolution from one of the brightest stars in the genre right now. - Zackary Kephart
Mark Chesnutt, "She Oughta Miss Me By Now")
Alright, admittedly I'm just glad to have Mark Chesnutt back in action more than anything else. However, the melody on this track is solid, and the lyricism is what drives it home. It isn't out of arrogance that he believes his lover will come back to him, but rather out of denial that she's moved on while he can't. Mark was a master at heartbreak on his comeback album, 'Tradition Lives', and this was one of the highlights. Glad to see radio caught on to it... (smirk). - ZK
Tim McGraw, "How I'll Always Be"
Well the line about not being all about that trendy crap aside, this is another solid single from Tim that's helping to continue his reign as one of the torch bearers of quality within mainstream country music. - ZK
The follow-up to the mega-hit "Burning House", "Mayday" might just be an improvement on the universaly acclaimed breakout. With an intricate vocal backed by a mostly-acoustic production and clever-yet-emotional lyrical content, it's near perfection coming from one of country's brightest young stars. - Markus Meyer
Brothers Osborne, "21 Summer"
It’s not this revisited summer love subject that earns “21 Summer” a spot on this list, it’s the haunting instrumentation, production and harmonies. T.J. Osborne’s deep vocals was made for a song like this. Its melody flows smoothly through the heart-broken lyrics. If you’re driving down a road some summer night, this is the song you want on your speakers. - CB
Billy Currington, "It Don't Hurt Like It Used To"
Has Billy Currington ever sounded better? I'm not sure he has. Currington puts in blisteringly confident performance over a wonderfully melancholic lyric and a stomping production. The melody is the cherry on top of this well deserved #1 hit. - MM
Artists of Then, Now, & Forever, "Forever Country"
What could have been a jumbled mess was my personal highlight of the year. A startlingly good collaboration between multiple generations, blended by a seamless modern-yet-traditional production. It's a beautiful tribute to the genre we all love, and an absolutely unforgettable record. - MM
RaeLynn, "Love Triangle"
Colour me surprised. At the start of the year, I would have never predicted that RaeLynn, of the dreadful "God Made Girls", would be near the top in terms of 2016's best moments. An absolutely stunning lyric is propped up by a killer melody, solid production, and a strong vocal (relative to RaeLynn standards) make this a dynamite single. - MM
Craig Campbell, "Outskirts of Heaven"
“Outskirts of Heaven” transforms you back to the Country music of 15-20 years ago, other than a brief electric guitar solo during the bridge. But the production doesn’t get much better these days and the lyrics depict vivid thoughts in the listener’s mind of what the outskirts of the afterlife would be like. Craig’s best vocal performance land a spot on our list. - CB
Cody Jinks, "I'm Not the Devil"
One of the year's best-written songs, sung by one of the genre's better performers. Traditional country with a bit of an edge, and one of the highlights off of country music's best albums this year. - MM
Candi Carpenter, "Burn The Bed"
While it's barely over two minutes in length, this track absolutely smolders from start to finish. The haunting, ghostly production provides a real, ominous and melancholic vibe to the track, and there are some fantastic one-liners here as well. It's yet another fine example of the resurgence of quality in mainstream country music. - ZK
Dean Brody, "Time"
Think about how old you are…now think about regrets…if you can’t think of any, chances are you’re not trying very hard. Once moments pass by in our lives, they’re nothing more than memories, and they’re never coming back. Canadian Country artist Dean Brody’s late 2016 single takes a common subject but lyrically crafts it to hit the listener in the gut. Dean’s had some fantastic singles in his career but this might be his best yet. - CB
Aaron Watson, "Bluebonnets (Julia's Song)"
A song this deep and personal doesn't really make me feel qualified to sum it up in a mere few sentences. I'll say this, have a listen for yourself and just try and tell me you didn't feel something from it. I bet you'll lose. - ZK
Josh Abbott Band feat. Carly Pearce, "Wasn't That Drunk"
“Wasn’t That Drunk” was the first single for Reviver Records new 1608 radio promotion team. It features the female vocals of Carly Pearce, who had a developmental deal with Sony Nashville in 2012-2013. The song’s stellar vocals match the intimacy of the lyrics, which take on a different approach for two people coming together. The song’s instrumentation and production seal the deal for what is our best duet of 2016. - CB
Alan Jackson, "The One You're Waitin' On"
A simple ballad turned into a stunning record by a masterful performance from Alan Jackson. The production and melody are as good as anything these days, while the lyrics are toned down but effective. In his commercial prime, this could have been a classic, and honestly, it should have been today. - MM
William Michael Morgan, "Missing"
Halle-freakin-lujah, a song that's got a message attached to it AND is a hell of a lot of fun to boot. I know that I can personally relate to the feeling of needing to get away from everything, even when nothing is necessarily wrong in life, and this song captures that feeling almost perfectly. - ZK
Tim McGraw, "Humble and Kind"
A stunning display of the power of simplicity. It's a song that says simply to be kind, and yet it turned out to be one of 2016's most touching moment. McGraw turns in a stellar performance of the universal-message turned mega-smash, making the Lori McKenna written tune one of the most memorable records of the past several years. - MM
Eric Church feat. Rhiannon Giddens, "Kill a Word"
We’re all familiar with the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”…Eric Church’s third single from Mr. Misunderstood takes issue with that myth. The truth is words can hurt. Words do hurt. Once something is said, it can never be unspoken. Forgiving is the easy part but forgetting is impossible. Church’s message of the hurtful nature of words was arguably the most creative release of 2016. - CB
Eric Church, "Record Year"
In past years, Eric Church has alienated certain critics from enjoying his music due to his image and/or sound. This year was the year where he really honed in on what made him unique however, and it resulted in a much more unified, positive critical consensus. What I love about this track is that it's personal - he's a man who's drowning his sorrows in vinyls rather than booze, and really, that's something I'd do too. Eric Church really stepped up his game this year, and I couldn't be more excited to see where he goes next. - ZK