Top 40 Songs of 2008: #20-11
I hope you all enjoyed the holidays, now back to business. As we crack into the top twenty we find not only some of this year’s biggest hits, but some of the best and most popular of the year as well. The majority of these songs are well deserving of grade ranges from A+ to B+ and despite the success they may or may not have had they are the most deserving and praised hits of the year by both fans and critics.
#20: “Crazy Days” by Adam Gregory
Canadian star Adam Gregory’s American debut hit the top 40 this year by not only incorporating a new and fresh sound, but by drawing from an attractive and catchy hook both instrumentally and lyrically. Not only did Adam earn some credit at radio, but this song’s success also garnered him a new cult of American fans to add to his religiously devoted Canadian fan-base, making this song a success not because it was what radio wanted to play, but it’s what fans wanted to hear.
#19: “Learning How To Bend” by Gary Allan
Gary stands as one of the most significant voices in the genre. This comes from his ability to charge emotion, sincerity, and a little bit of roughneck personality into even the most difficult subjects to turn what started as just a song into something even bigger. His 2008 release from his recent album Living Hardwas no different. Gary took the position of a man still learning how to move on from his heartaches in order to give everything to another woman and does it with grace and style. Every note is filled with not only emotion, but obvious frustration, a sign that, as usual, Gary is able to take any situation and feel what his character feels with the same intensity and apply that to his artistry.
#18: “Already Gone” by Sugarland
It’s not easy taking on the subject of leaving because it comes in such a wide range of steps and forms. However Sugarland managed to pull this off quite well with a story about a young girl who leaves behind some of the best things in her life, including her mother, her innocence and her boyfriend in the very end. Jennifer Nettles takes on the power behind the song impressivelyby making it both believable and memorable, maybe even haunting at some points imprinting the image of the main character deep in the mind as a reminder to cherish those things that always seem to be in the way.
#17: “Invisibly Shaken” by Rodney Atkins
This countdown is not based off of purely the success of a single, thus the reason why Rodney Atkins’ streak breaking “Invisibly Shaken”, originally recorded by Lee Greenwood by the way, is included in the top 20. Although it didn’t reach the top 40 and ended an almost record matching streak of #1’s from a single album, Rodney’s powerful ballad was one of his most significant releases for a couple of reasons. For one it showed a side of Rodney that had only been seen once in his debut hit “Honesty” and was then overshadowed by a line of mid-tempo and high energy songs. Second it added a lot to country radio. It was a pure piano ballad, similar to the pure guitar feel of “Stay” by Sugarland, and explored the concept of a breakup by having a man completely torn apart but refusing to show it. Thus it explored the delicate nature of a man’s heart with more effectiveness than many of its predecessors and sounds as if the only reason it faltered at radio was because of bad timing in a changing genre.
#16: “Don’t ThinkI Don’t Think About It” by Darius Rucker
This song will go down in history for its achievement. Darius Rucker, lead singer for pop/rock band Hootie & The Blowfish, used his self-penned song to become the first African American to hit #1 on the country charts since Charlie Pride in 1983. However this was not the most impressive factor of this mid-tempo heartbreak song. The most impressive thing about this single was that it was able to generate a very country-sounding production quality that revealed Darius as a real country artist. Instead of becoming a carbon copy of the pop sound that he seemed to be familiar with, his debut country single took into account the legends that have inspired hundreds to create a very solid country music offering that reached its peak not because of Rucker’s stature as an established star, but because it became generally addictive.
#15: “Home” by Blake Shelton (featuring Miranda Lambert)
Blake’s take on the Michael Buble song may not have been the most traditional hit of the year, but it managed to pull off a very rare honor by becoming a #1 cover song. Blake has one of the most unique male voices in the business and his ability to take a powerful message and make it as real as can be shines brightly throughout this song as he experiences the pain of wanting to go back home instead of traveling like he has been. Backed by girlfriend Miranda Lambert, Blake’s take on the popular cover song was as touching a performance as he could ever have made it bringing in what has become his signature intensity to every line of Buble’s magical hit.
#14: “You Look Good In My Shirt” by Keith Urban
Originally included on his breakthrough sophomore album Golden Road,Keith Urban’s energetic crowd pleasing hit was re-recorded and included on his revised greatest hits project. It proved to be a pleaser on and off the stage by reaching #1 for Keith and breaking a 5 song streak of non-#1 hits for the former Entertainer of the Year. Plain and simple, this song is one of this years best because it showcases everything that it so great about Keith including his guitar playing, energetic personality, excellent taste for song hooks, and his unrivaled entertainment quality that even Kenny Chesney can’t compete with in the very end. After a few power ballads and more sophisticated songs that have established the true magic of Keith as an artist, his re-recording of this simple yet enjoyable tune has reminded the music world that underneath all the fancy stuff Keith is still just a fun loving performer at heart.
#13: “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown Band
As one of the year’s most inspiring stories, the Zac Brown Band scored a surprising debut #1 hit with a song lead singer Brown once sold to the band the Lost Trailers and recalled for his own soon after. Appropriately enough his version kicked the crap out of the Lost Trailer’s version and became an American anthem of pride in one’s own lifestyle and country. Incorporating impressive and talented instrumental work and an exciting and sincere vocal performance, this song is simply one of the best feel good songs of the new generation of country singers and spoke loudly to a nation of tired and faltering citizens, bringing spirits back up to a decent level of enjoyment and appreciation for everything they have.
#12: “Anything Goes” by Randy Houser
This was a good year for ballads in country music. One of the best was the debut hit from Randy Houser, “Anything Goes”. With a Ronnie Dunn-ish vocal performance that screams country and a production that recalls some of the best ballads of the 90s, Randy Houser took the persona of a heartbroken man who has lost everything by losing the girl he loves. With that fact in mind he simple explains his new philosophy that “anything goes when everything’s gone.” Although his debut album didn’t take full advantage of it, Randy’s debut hit revealed an artist quality capable of giving modern neo-traditionalists like Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley a good run for their money if applied properly.
#11: “More Like Her” by Miranda Lambert
Miranda cracks into the top 20 for the second time this year (the first being in “Home”) and barely misses the top 10 with another shining gem of a ballad that supports why she is the only really successful Nashville Star alumni thus far. As a writer and a performer Miranda is just very gifted. Her fourth release from her award winning album Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was a masterful ballad exploring the torture a woman feels within for being unable to match the woman who has replaced her in her former lover’s heart. She struggles with what she might have done wrong or how she should have been around him based on everything he seems to like about his new girl. Miranda’s ability to conform to her character and to bring out everything that’s going through her head, both lyrically and vocally, without going over the top is nothing short of artistry at its best.