Why do we only have the top 10 songs of 2014 listed? Because we only have 10 fingers, and it just gets too complicated when toes are involved. Nonetheless, we think these 10 songs are hands down the best of 2014.
10. “Like a Cowboy” by Randy Houser
Randy Houser is Nashville’s worst-kept secret. We’re hoping so anyway. Known for years in Music City as one of the best male vocalists in the format, he defied the tailgate, moonshine, tank-top trend with this beautiful, in-your-face country song and made magic. Randy’s soaring vocal on this ballad, riddled with heartache and imagery, gives us goose bumps every time.
9. “Leave the Night On “ by Sam Hunt
With a title as clever as “Leave the Night On,” it’s hard for a song to live up to its own expectations, but this party tune actually exceeded them. “Leave the Night On” paints a much clearer picture of living in the moment than any bro-ish tune of a similar theme, and it’s all about the details in the lyrics, like Just kissed the clock 2:22, that make you feel like you’re right in the car with Sam. And just like the girl in the song, Sam got the beat right for “Leave the Night On.”
8. “American Kids” by Kenny Chesney
Leave it to Kenny Chesney to return to the spotlight with something outside of the standard country music box. After laying low between singles, he brought the good-time vibes with “American Kids.” From the infectious chorus to the throwback lyrics that will get you reminiscing and the hand-clapping, the song brings all of the fun you need front and center.
7. “Turtles All the Way Down” by Sturgill Simpson
A quick Google search will break down the epistemology of the metaphor this song takes its title from, but if you prefer to experience your country music sans Internet research, hit play on “Turtles All the Way Down” and get ready to take a hallucinogenic-filled, philosophical ride through the space-time continuum. While the song’s theme of our cosmic insignificance may be depressing, Sturgill’s baritone and swaggeristic songwriting are the antidotal uppers that will have you pressing repeat on this tune.
6. “Automatic” by Miranda Lambert
It’s interesting that two of the year’s best tunes, this and “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” hearken back to a simpler life when society was much less complicated. Miranda and co-writers Nicolle Galyon and Natalie Hemby took the “Automatic” concept and made something of substance from it, beyond a mere complaint of what we’ve lost because of modern technology and the prattle of constant communication. This deserved all the awards and accolades it’s garnered over the past year.
5. “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” by Tim Mcgraw (with Faith Hill)
Every time this hit came on the radio, we time-traveled back to when country music ideals were a bit purer and more authentic. And to be able to go from the raucous “Truck Yeah” to the techno “Lookin’ for That Girl,” it also reminded us of the incredible versatility of Tim. And Faith’s harmonies wrap around you like Grandma’s quilt.
4. “Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie & Tae
In the year of #yesallwomen, it somehow fell to teenage Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye to drive the message home in country music. Their debut, “Girl in a Country Song,” proved to be so much more than novelty—it’s a sneaky bit of subversion, using bro-country tactics to underscore how silly the whole thing has become. Whether Maddie & Tae intended it or not, the tune also became a sort of feminist anthem that demanded respect from men and something better for women than being a pretty, nameless prop.
3. “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” by Glen Campbell
We’re not including this to be patronizing or because it’s the last song that Glen will ever record. It’s simply an outstanding cut, full of brutal honesty and emotion from a man who’s come to grips with his ultimate fate. The tune was penned for the documentary film on Glen’s life, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, and is deemed a likely candidate for an Oscar nomination.
2. “Give Me Back My Hometown” by Eric Church
When you dissect the elements of “Give Me Back My Hometown,” Eric Church’s second single from The Outsiders, there’s nothing blaringly revolutionary about it—acoustic guitar, banjo accompaniment, baritone vocals, miss-the-girl lyrics. However, the totality of the elements—duh—and the connection you feel with Eric’s nostalgic, haunting delivery is what makes this thought-provoking song work so well and why it landed at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart.
1. “I Don’t Dance” by Lee Brice
Where many of country’s top male artists armored themselves in 2014 by acting like tough guys, legitimate tough guy Lee Brice repeatedly shed any trace of that and emerged as one of the format’s most sensitive singers. “I Don’t Dance,” his wedding song for wife Sara, says it’s not in his nature to dance but it doesn’t matter because he’s comfortable doing anything when she’s there. Talking about that level of devotion takes a real man.