The 20 Best Country Songs of 2018: Critics' Picks


In 2018, regardless of nation radio’s continued snub of many feminine artists, their various voices continued to soar, discovering favor by means of award reveals (particularly the 2019 Grammy nominations) and on the street.

No different music reigned as supreme as Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha’s genre-crossing “Meant To Be,” which held down the highest spot on Country Songs for a record-setting 50 weeks, however others left simply as robust a mark on listeners — together with entries from two former American Idol winners who hit emotional bull’s eyes this 12 months. Love songs — falling out and in — dominated the charts as typical, however a number of artists additionally sought to offer phrases of solace in troubled instances, or at the very least let listeners know they weren’t alone when it got here to wrestling their demons.

Here are the Billboard employees and contributors’ 20 favourite nation songs of the 12 months. 

20. Pistol Annies, "Got My Name Changed Back"

From the opening lyrics of "It takes a choose to get married, takes a choose to get divorced/ Well the final couple years, spent a lotta time in courtroom," we acknowledge that the trio behind Pistol Annies — Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley — haven't returned with their first new music in 5 years to make issues comfy for the institution. A name to motion to these languishing in dangerous private conditions, the music is a reminder that generally it's price a full afternoon spent on the DMV to be freed from the toxicity in your life. – ISAAC WEEKS

19. Thomas Rhett, ‘Marry Me’

It’s exceedingly uncommon today to listen to a music that also surprises with out a hint of novelty. Credit Thomas Rhett for writing an affecting love music with a wrenching lyrical twist — the refrain reveals that the music title isn't a request of Rhett's to his real love, however somewhat one thing he laments that she "don't wanna" do — that’s as heartbreaking as his previous hits have been constructive and light-weight. — CHUCK DAUPHIN

18. Eric Church, "Desperate Man"

Eric Church has develop into as near an Outlaw in mainstream nation music as you're more likely to get in 2018, permitting every new album to observe no matter muse the singer is following in the meanwhile. "Desperate Man," title observe from Church's newest album, follows the identical path of unpredictable inspiration, mixing the musical stylings of Sticky Fingers-era Rolling Stones with the spiritual markings discovered within the lyrics of U2, ringed in pleas of desperation by means of lyrics like "I've walked glass barefooted / Strolled 'cross the satan's sizzling coal." — I.W.

17. Carly Pearce, "Hide the Wine"

After introducing herself with the heartfelt "Every Little Thing," Carly Pearce switched gears with swampy follow-up "Hide the Wine." The infectious tune options Pearce singing about an ex she merely can't resist. So, she hides the "Two-Buck Chuck and the excessive greenback good things too" to not be tempted by his clean methods. "Hide the Wine" embodies a touch of bluegrass with foot-stomping rhythms, hovering guitar components and sultry vocals, making it certainly one of 2018's finest barn burners. — ANNIE REUTER

16. Chris Stapleton, "Broken Halos"

"Broken Halos" obtained the Grammy Award for finest nation music earlier this 12 months, and it’s simple to see why.  Bolstered by Stapleton’s velvety, craving vocals, ”Broken Halos” poignantly addresses these we've misplaced and the necessity for acceptance — as uneasy as it could be — as he croons, "Don't go on the lookout for the explanations / Don't go asking Jesus why / We're not meant to know the solutions.” — A.R.

15. Ashley McBryde, "A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega"

Picture this: a conventional feminine nation singer making followers of everybody from critics to Garth Brooks along with her back-to-basics, stripped-down method. The Arkansas native managed to even make the highest 30 on the Country Airplay charts—no small feat for a feminine artist today — with this heartfelt mid-tempo ballad a couple of bar that serves as a refuge far past serving drinks. — C.D.

14. Jake Owen, "Down to the Honkytonk"

Jake Owen continues his regular profession of releasing feel-good music with this love letter to honky tonks all over the place, particularly Nashville’s Lower Broadway. With a definite rhythmic singing model backed by an infectious beat, Owen admits he may not go down in historical past as somebody followers will title their infants after, however he'll nonetheless "go right down to the honkytonk." — A.R.

13. Kenny Chesney & David Lee Murphy, "Everything’s Gonna Be Alright"

David Lee Murphy — who created two of the most important hits of the 1990s with “Dust on the Bottle” and “Party Crowd” — discovered himself the comeback story of the 12 months this positive-vibed single with longtime collaborator and good friend Kenny Chesney. The easy-going shuffler’s lyrics specific a sentiment that might make Alfred E. Neuman smile huge: Don’t sweat the small stuff. And on the finish of the day, it’s all small stuff. — C.D.

12. Old Dominion, "Hotel Key"

With their 4 earlier Country Airplay No. 1s, Old Dominion have proved to be each cheeky and romantic, and their fifth chart-topper is their flirtiest hit but. The bouncy, shiny guitar riff units the tone for the playful narrative in “Hotel Key,” a lighthearted tackle a short-lived rendezvous, one which makes listeners want that they had their very own whirlwind romance story to inform. — TAYLOR WEATHERBY

11. Florida Georgia Line & Bebe Rexha, "Meant to Be"

Florida Georgia Line proceed to showcase their potential to show pop stars into nation hitmakers (Backstreet Boys, anybody?) with their duet on Bebe Rexha's "Meant to Be", a music they cowrote and recorded for Rexha's third EP, 2017's All Your Fault: Pt. 2. The ode’s timeless message of going with the stream, regardless of a heartbreak or two, helped the music reign for a record-setting 50 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, in addition to large crossover success, with the music peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. —  I.W.

10. Dan + Shay, "Speechless"

The dreamy piano mixed with Shay Mooney’s passionate vocals make “Speechless” a quintessential ballad for any romantic event — particularly because of its video, which options footage from each Dan and Shay’s weddings. No lower than Demi Lovato declared herself a fan of the music’s clean crescendo into its dynamic refrain, taking to Twitter to declare “Speechless” certainly one of her 2018 favorites. Fans agreed, serving to the duo land their first Hot Country Songs No. 1. —  T.W.

9. Kelsea Ballerini, "I Hate Love Songs"

Unsentimental doesn’t even start to explain this waltz from Ballerini’s sophomore album, the Grammy-nominated Unapologetically. She decries all romantic stereotypes, declaring that “cupid is silly” and “your eyes can’t maintain stars.” She and her man had been drunk once they met, so she will’t even keep in mind their anniversary, however their love nonetheless rises above the cliches on this keeper, co-written with Trevor Rosen and Shane McAnally. — C.D.

eight. Luke Combs, "Beautiful Crazy"

Still a newcomer, Luke Combs has rapidly develop into a mainstay at nation radio, with 4 Country Airplay No. 1s within the final two years. "Beautiful Crazy” might have failed to achieve the summit, however the North Carolina native wins the woman on this minimize from Combs' deluxe-reissued debut, This One's for You Too, as he adoringly sings of a girl who wears her coronary heart on her sleeve and whose unpredictability proves intoxicating. "Yeah she's loopy however her loopy's lovely to me," he belts. Soaring pedal metal and delicate percussion give a stripped down really feel, whereas permitting Combs' vocals to shine. — A.R.

7. Dierks Bentley, "Woman, Amen"

With the primary single from 2018’s The Mountain, Dierks Bentley gave discover that listeners had been about to enter terrain far faraway from the extra pop-driven sounds discovered on his final album, 2016's Black. Though there’s considerably of a rock affect discovered on "Woman" — a touch of Mumford & Sons right here, a little bit of The Lumineers there, and a propulsive beat courtesy of Soundgarden’s Matt Chamberlain — the music is way nearer to the singer's bluegrass background, with lyrics that acknowledge "This world has a method of shaking your religion/ I've been damaged many times". — I.W.

6 Jason Aldean feat. Miranda Lambert, "Drowns the Whiskey"

It’s not every single day you get two of nation’s true superstars on the identical observe, but it surely’s magic when it occurs, and “Drowns the Whiskey” is proof – or ought to we are saying, 80 proof. Aldean’s deep vocals are complemented by Lambert’s twangy harmonies, giving the music’s lovelorn sentiment added depth with the male/feminine distinction. Whiskey-drinking heartbreak songs are a nation specialty, however that is one which hits you proper within the feels, with the conclusion that generally no quantity of alcohol can remedy a damaged coronary heart. — T.W.

5. Jordan Davis, "Singles You Up"

Breakout nation star Jordan Davis burst onto the scene in 2018 with one of many catchiest songs of the 12 months. The phrase “singles you up” (i.e. breaks up with you) might sound foolish to grammar fanatics — and should not truly be a profitable strategy to land a woman — but it surely’s actually memorable, and newcomer Jordan Davis sells it brilliantly along with his spirited Louisiana drawl, backed by frisky guitars and an irresistible melody. Davis took “Singles You Up” all the best way to No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart, serving to earn the singer Billboard’s high new nation artist honors for 2018. — T.W.

four. Kacey Musgraves, "Slow Burn"

While it could have formally been the fourth single off of Kacey Musgraves' prolific Golden Hour album, "Slow Burn" captured listeners' consideration from the second the set hit cabinets in March, because the sultry LP opener signaled a change in artistic path for the Grammy-nominated singer. The vary of feeling related to a brand new love current in "Slow Burn" — from lust to wistfulness — made the tune the make-out music of the summer season, for nation followers each younger and previous. — I.W.

three. Scotty McCreery, "Five More Minutes"

After dropping his deal in 2016 with the one document label he had recognized (Mercury Nashville) since profitable Season Ten of American Idol in 2011, Scotty McCreery was left holding the very best batch of songs he had ever written, and determined the one factor left to do was self-release his favourite of the bunch with out label backing. "Five More Minutes,” impressed by the lack of his grandfather, grew to become a declaration of independence from an artist who matured from a blue-chip prospect to an influence participant. After linking with Triple Tigers, McCreery’s new label dwelling helped him take the poignant observe to the highest of Country Airplay.  — I.W.

2. Kane Brown, "Heaven"

Kane Brown’s buttery voice could make anybody swoon, however up till the deluxe launch of his debut album final October, he didn’t have a single that fairly matched his wealthy croon. Enter “Heaven,” a dreamy quantity that mixes the singer-songwriter’s impactful vocals with a waltzing guitar lick, to make for one of many 12 months’s most starry-eyed love songs in any style. While the newly married nation star could also be singing about his spouse, his honest ardour is so transcendent it feels as if he’s singing straight to each listener on this Country Airplay chart-topper. — T.W.

1. Carrie Underwood, ‘Cry Pretty’

All eyes had been on Carrie Underwood earlier this 12 months because the celebrity revealed November 2017 fall left her “trying a bit of totally different.” But when she launched the impassioned title observe and lead single from her sixth studio album, Underwood’s hovering vocal potential regained the highlight. The music’s weak message of permitting your feelings to take over function extra than simply an anthem for anybody experiencing a tough patch – it’s Underwood’s clarion name that it doesn’t matter what she's going by means of, she’s going to at all times have the ability to ship a surprising, chill-inducing efficiency. —  T.W.