2015 may be in your rearview mirror, but you can still take one last glance back at the top albums, songs and videos of the year as selected by Nash Country Weekly. It’s worth another look, we promise.
Life is one grand, sweet song, so let’s start the music with our Top 10 Songs of 2015.
10. “Break Up in a Small Town” Sam Hunt
Written by Sam Hunt, Zach Crowell, Shane McAnally
Small-town breakups mean you’ll see your ex everywhere you go. Fortunately, Sam makes the pain palatable. With its über-urban production and rappy recitation, “Break Up in a Small Town” may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but as a musical piece of work with a storybook country theme, it’s another darn impressive single from the Grammy-nominated artist who is making talk-singing his modus operandi.
9. “Break Up With Him” Old Dominion
Written by Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Whit Sellers, Geoff Sprung, Brad Tursi
A song imploring someone to end a relationship shouldn’t make anyone feel as good as “Break Up With Him” does, but between the toe-tapping groove and the slyly flirtatious lyric, this tune is too much fun. Old Dominion found a way to be clever and contemporary without subscribing to the trend’s formulas and clichés.
8. “Love Me Like You Mean It” Kelsea Ballerini
Written by Kelsea Ballerini, Josh Kerr, Forest Glen Whitehead, Lance Carpenter
Kelsea Ballerini burst onto the scene in 2015 with a dynamic, fun and empowering contemporary single that captured radio’s attention and listeners’ ears. Kelsea scored her first No. 1 with “Love Me Like You Mean It,” but the hit also became the first No. 1 debut by a female artist since Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel” in 2006, making it arguably the most significant single of the past year.
7. “Die a Happy Man” Thomas Rhett
Written by Thomas Rhett, Sean Douglas, Joe Spargur
The relationship between country and R&B is long and true, and Thomas Rhett does a brilliant job marrying the two in “Die a Happy Man.” Simultaneously slow, smooth, sweet and sexy, “Die a Happy Man” says what a lot of guys wish they could say and what every girl wants to hear.
6. “Riser” Dierks Bentley
Written by Travis Meadows, Steve Moakler
“Riser” broke from the bro-country mold—causing many to breathe a sigh of relief for that reason alone—to deliver a message of hope and determination against all odds. The hero is not exactly saying “I will survive,” but he does offer the reassurance and comfort that he’s strong enough to hold you through the winter and mean enough to stare your demons down.
5. “Dime Store Cowgirl” Kacey Musgraves
Written by Kacey Musgraves, Luke Laird, Shane McAnally
Kacey Musgraves turned her critical gaze inward for “Dime Store Cowgirl,” seemingly responding directly to those who thought she went too far by challenging traditional values with songs like “Follow Your Arrow.” But while admitting that maybe she got “too big for my britches,” the song shows that she still refuses to be anything other than herself—daring, honest and 100 percent country.
4. “Like a Wrecking Ball” Eric Church
Written by Eric Church, Casey Beathard
You don’t have to be a student of Freud to figure out the message, at least not with lyrics like That whole house is gonna be shakin’ and Wanna rock you baby like a wrecking ball. It’s quite upfront about the intent and the production is decidedly untraditional, but it all works together in a finely crafted song.
3. “Traveller” Chris Stapleton
Written by Chris Stapleton
Chris wrote “Traveller” on a cross-country road trip he took with his wife after his father passed away. While she slept, Chris drove through the New Mexico desert and whispered the verses into his phone so as not to wake her. The result turned out to be the lead track off of his 2015 album of the same name. “Traveller” has a pure, organic flavor that traditionalists crave, and it’s served up nicely with a side of lingering pedal steel and Chris’ wearily perfect vocals, making it a road trip everyone should take.
2. “Burning House” Cam
Written by Cam, Tyler Johnson, Jeff Bhasker
Country newcomer Cam scorched on her 2015 single “Burning House,” a ballad fraught with raw emotion about trying to hold on to the pieces of a broken relationship. With the simple accompaniment of piano and strings, the song relies on Cam’s smoldering vocals instead of overproduction, much the same way that Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” drove its point home. While Cam’s first single in 2015, “My Mistake,” stalled on the charts, “Burning House” exposed her for what she is—a damn fine talent.
1. “Girl Crush” Little Big Town
Written by Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose
Technically, “Girl Crush” was released Dec. 15, 2014, but it peaked in 2015 as the CMA Song and Single of the Year. Along the way, it stirred up more than a little controversy with its misinterpreted theme, but that didn’t take away from the fact that it is a beautifully crafted tune that LBT ignited with their four-part harmonies, led by Karen Fairchild. And while Karen is out front with her aching vocals, it’s the choral contributions of Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet and Kimberly Schlapman that give the song such dynamic energy. When you hear “Girl Crush” live, it blows you away—actually, it crushes you.