Howdy y’all! Welcome back through the swinging doors of Honky Tonk Haven, be sure to pull up a bar stool and make yourselves at home. Today, Honky Tonk Haven will be giving its first every Country Music State of the Union address, the most prestigious State of the Union address since the real thing if I do say so myself. 2017 was, as always, an up and down year for the country music industry. During this State of the Union, we’ll take a look back at the highs and lows of the past year, and examine everything from the very best songs of 2017 that are destined to become classics, to the songs that are about as bad as a warm flat beer (we’re looking at you Sam Hunt). We’ll also pay tribute and remember the Honky Tonk Heroes we lost this past year, legends such as the great Glen Campbell and Don Williams. So, gather round, friends, family, and all those who care about country music, and let’s take a look back at last year in country music.
Best Country Songs of the 2017 billboard top 100
At the end of every year, the good folks over at billboard.com release a list of the 100 hottest country music songs of the entire year. This list uses a combination of radio airplay, song downloads, total sales, and audience demand to determine what where the most popular songs of the entire year. The entire list can be seen here. While there were some truly awful songs to grace the top 100 list (more on that later), there were still a number of songs that embody everything a good country song is supposed to be, songs from artists who continue to fight the good fight for country music. Here are a few of our favorites that we feel like are worth highlighting.
- Tin Man by Miranda Lambert (Listen Here) #43 of 100
- Say what you will about Miranda Lambert, but this young lady from Longview, Texas sure knows how to write and sing a helluva country song. Tin Man is an emotional ballad of hurt and lost love, a song that really nails what a sad country song is supposed to be all about. The song is built around a clever hook, in which Miranda tells the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz he would never want a heart if he knew how badly they hurt after they break. Listeners can hear the raw emotion in Miranda’s voice, and it sits as one of 2017’s best songs.
- My Old Man by Zac Brown Band (Listen Here) #44 of 100
- The popular Georgia based Zac Brown Band got back on track after a few weak singles with the release of the fantastic My Old Man. Almost every little kid looks up to their father or grandfather growing up, and most of us cherish the memories and life lessons that our superhero dads pass on to us throughout our life. Zac Brown Band perfectly nails this universal theme of father son relationships with My Old Man. A true country song in every sense of the word. (Song gets bonus points for the awesome Dale Sr., Dale Jr video that was released along with it. Watch that here.)
- Today by Brad Paisley (Listen Here) #50 of 100
- Actually released by Brad Paisley in 2016, this number one hit continued to be popular the following year, and with very good reason. Brad Paisley is a master of at crafting impactful country music, songs that really capture ideas and themes that everyone can relate too. Today reminds listeners to cherish those happy moments that stick with us for a life time, the kind of memories that folks can carry with them through life’s many difficult storms. Life isn’t always easy, but every now and then we are blessed with moments that make everything worth it. Bravo to Brad Paisley on another homerun song.
- Broken Halos by Chris Stapleton (Listen here) #58
- The bearded, bluesy outlaw that some are calling the next savior of country music continued his hot streak into 2017 with the release of Broken Halos. Broken Halos is a song that comes across as many things, from blues, to twangy outlaw country, to southern gospel. Dealing with themes of life, death, and asking the good lord “why”, Broken Halos serves as a reminder of why Chris Stapleton has taken the country world by storm.
- Other Honky Tonk Haven Favorites from the Top 100
- Better Man by Little Big Town (#10),
- Heartache of the Dance Floor by Jon Pardi (#15)
- Any Old Bar Stool by Jason Aldean (#20)
- If I Told You by Darius Rucker (#32)
- Hometown Girl By Josh Turner (#38)
- Round Here Buzz by Eric Church (#46)
- Kill a Word by Eric Chruch (#48)
- Sober Saturday Night by Chris Young (#53)
- Ask Me How I Know by Garth Brooks (#54)
- Last Time For Everything by Brad Paisley (#70)
- How I’ll Always Be by Tim McGraw (#83)
- Outta Style by Aaron Watson (#84)
- Parachute by Chris Stapleton (#86)
- Holdin’ Her by Chris Janson (#87)
- Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton (#98)
Worst Country Songs of the billboard top 100
For every good song that made the top 100 list in 2017, there was a bad one to go along with it. Seriously y’all, there was so much bland garbage that made its way onto country radio this year that we aren’t even going to list them here because it would get too depressing. No, we here at Honky Tonk Haven only want to single out the worst of the worst, in hopes that songs as bad as these never make their way onto country radio again.
- Body Like a Back Road by Sam Hunt (#1)
- Look, I’m sure Sam Hunt is a very nice guy. I’m sure he never meant to release what is possibly the worst country song of all time, but the sad fact is that he did. His name is forever tarnished in my book, marred by the travesty that is Body Like a Back Road. Nothing about this song sounds country. It’s shallow, the lyrics are awful, and there ain’t a single fiddle or steel guitar at any point. It’s not that all pop country is garbage, it’s just this song literally does everything a good country song shouldn’t do. Great country songs deal with human emotion, or tell relatable human stories in serious or even humorous ways. They are supposed to make listeners feel something, and all Body Like a Back Road does is make me feel angry. In short, this song is about as country as a dinner without sweet tea and grits.
- God, Your Mama, and Me by Florida Georgia Line (#14)
- I’ll be honest with y’all, there are a handful of FGL songs that I consider some of my favorite guilty pleasure songs. These songs are not by any means country classics, but they are catchy enough or have enough substance that I’ll give em a spin every now and then (songs like Dirt, May We All, Confession). God, Your Mama, and Me however, is not one of those songs. In fact, it’s awful. Any time you have the Backstreet boys backing you up IN A COUNTRY SONG something has obviously gone terribly wrong. Look, I love God and my Mama, those are two of my very favorite things! But you know what I don’t like? FGL and the backstreet boys in the same song singing about them. The song comes across as cheesy, and doesn’t have any sort of country music melody in the slightest.
- Light it Up by Luke Bryan (#56)
- Oh Luke, what happened buddy? Some of Mr. Bryan’s earlier country songs are actually pretty good. All My Friends Say, Drinkin’ Beer and Wastin’ Bullets, and pretty much the entire Tailgates and Tanlines album dominated my music playlist in high school. In fact, I’ll just admit it, I enjoy a lot of Luke Bryan’s stuff. If that gets my kicked out of certain some “real country fans” circle so be it. However, if there is one Luke Bryan song I cannot and will not defend, its Light it Up. The song is just poorly written and the melody is awful. It’s also just kind of weird a tune, considering he’s basically signing about obsessing over his cellphone after his woman leaves. Skip Light it Up entirely and listen to Luke Bryan’s newest song, Most People Are Good
Remembering This Year’s Country Greats That Passed Away
The only thing more important to country music than the music itself is the people who play it and create it, and during this last year we unfortunately lost some of country music’s all-time greats. Glen Campbell passed away this past year at 81 years old, and he leaves behind a legacy that will never be forgotten. I implore country fans young and old to go back and listen to some of his tunes, because they are truly classics in every sense of the word. Southern Nights, Wichita Lineman, Gentle on My Mind, and of course Rhinestone Cowboy should be included in every country songs collection. His final ever album release, fittingly titled Adios, is also country gold. Give the title track a listen here.
The great Don Williams also went home to Jesus in 2017, at 78 years old. Williams is a current member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he leaves behind a hall of fame worthy collection of songs. Our personal favorites at Honky Tonk Haven are Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good, Amanda, and Tulsa Time. Other notable country stars that passed away in 2017 include Mel Tellis, the singer of Coca Cola Cowboy (one of my all-time favorite songs), and Troy Gentrey of Montgomery Gentry, who passed away at 50 years old in a tragic helicopter crash. Listen to Gentry’s final song here, the uplifting tune Better Me.
To all those who have impacted country music over the years and have finished their race, know that you will never be forgotten and your music will play on forever. Honky Tonk Haven kindly reminds you to pour some out for the ones we’ve lost the next time you’re having a cold beer.
If there is one final thing that all country fans should remember when looking back at 2017 and forward into 2018, it’s to always keep searching for new and exciting music. Some of country music’s best material of 2017 never found its way to mainstream radio, including the release of Turnpike Troubadours new album A Long Way From Your Heart. The point I’m trying to make is country music fans need to keep exploring beyond what’s playing on the radio at the moment. There is an entire world of great country songs from artists like Aaron Watson, Cody Jinks, Cody Johnson, and more that are just as good if not better than what’s on the top of the country charts. As 2018 kicks into high gear, keep a keen eye on all the different kinds of country music releases, because who knows, you may just find your brand new favorite artist.