Thanks to the advent of streaming, SiriusXM and other online radio avenues, fans can find the kind of music they want, when they want it. There’s even less dependence on terrestrial radio in order to carve out an audience, just ask Kacey Musgraves. As 2015 comes to a close, and Music Row shuts down for the rest of the year, it is that time to look back at the past 12 months or so and collect the Top 15 best country songs. As you’ll see below, there is a considerable group of superstars mixed with newcomers blended with some Americana power.
Without further adieu:
Her self-titled EP has been out for quite sometime, but it was not released to iTunes till this year. Her single is a soulful rendezvous paying tribute to Sirius XM and radio. Delightful.
Underwood really outdid herself here. Written by Jason White alone, the song is a distinctive delta blues-inspired work which unravels a narrative similar to a Bonnie & Clyde murder mystery. It's a vivid story-song, akin to Reba's earlier songs, and sees Underwood impressively layering her voice unlike anything she has ever previously recorded.
This song was absolutely unavoidable the past year. It permeated every aspect of culture and helped the four-piece band reassert themselves in the mainstream in a cool new way. The clever twist of the celebrity "girl crush" phenomenon ignited our imaginations and gave the song a needed boost into popularity.
Bentley seems to consistently fly under the radar. His radio success has been rather rocky throughout his career, but his Riser album threw caution to the wind. He made an impressive, emotional album, and the title track is one of the best songs ever released in country music.
As one of the most promising new female talents today, she has the whole package. Guyton's voice is unmatched by nearly anyone, except for Underwood, and that's a good thing. This emotional waltz caught everyone's attention, and despite losing steam at radio, it has set her superstar career in motion. It's only a matter of time.
He's resolved himself as the outsider of Nashville, and his surprise release following the CMA Awards is a testament to that. He lives by his own rules, even in his music. This standout track gives him room to focus on the lyrics, away from the clamoring, heavy production found on his last album. Of course, having Tedeschi's powerful voice on the recording is an added treat.
Very few newcomers are straight-up traditionalists, but Pitney gives reassurances that the tide is beginning to turn. He doesn't have a radio hit, yet, but the buzz is there for a true breakthrough in 2016. His songwriting is striking and realistic, succinctly capturing the world and his experiences.
Moore is the "Comeback Kid," in all sense of the term. Much like Musgraves, he doesn't necessarily need radio to further his career. His has the undying loyalty of his fans, supported by such high-quality, captivating songs like this. Just him and his guitar, there's nothing better than this.
Stapleton, the guy who singlehandedly change the country conversation this year, imprints his soul onto record unlike anyone else in music today. This is an especially moving track.
Former lead singer of '90s alt-pop outfit Sixpence None the Richer ("Kiss Me," "There She Goes"), Nash notches quite an impressive roots-driven solo album with The State I'm In, with this piano-peppered track as the real gem. Her vocal, too, is packed with heart and soul.
"I was looking at my son; he was about a year old at the time. It was around 8:30 when the verdict came out for Ferguson. He was sitting there with me and we were being father and son, just hanging out. I look up and seeing all these horrible things happening on the TV screen," Dylan said earlier this year about the song, which specifically addresses the needless violence all across the world. The song is sharply written and compellingly delivered.
Musgraves' knows a thing or two about being shafted at radio. Following her Top 10 single "Merry Go Round," the singer-songwriter has not managed the same success. But that doesn't matter, she's found her audience. In this Pageant Material track, she takes aim at the gatekeepers keeping her away from the airwaves.
The Rowdy has made a case for this Bay Area native as the next superstar female, and Cam's "Burning House" is a fine sampling of her debut LP Untamed, stacked with cutting lyrics and passionate melodies. Fire, indeed.
Combining a Dixie Chicks presence and a youthful glow, this Big Machine duo are songwriters, first and foremost. Their debut full-length was impressive modern country, doused with richness and delicious harmonies. This tender ballad is their finest moment so far. Next single?
Yes, this song was (technically) released last October as the fourth single from his self-titled album, but the music video didn't arrive until this past spring. Also, the song didn't peak until earlier this year. Simply put: Paslay's soulful performance here is one of the most underrated songs of the mainstream. Tragically, the song didn't even crack the Top 10 at radio. But his voice, the story, the arrangement is as fine as you'll find at radio.