There are ten songs on this recap list and they range from A-list superstars like Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley to new singles from rising talents like Tenille Arts and LANCO.
Lindsay Ell - “Criminal” (Stoney Creek Records)
This single, which has served as the crazy talented Lindsay Ell’s breakout hit from the mighty fine 2017 album The Project, has a slinky groove to it that makes it one of the year’s best ear-worms to date.
Chris Janson - “Drunk Girl” (Warner Bros. Records)
You want to know how an artist builds their career into A-list superstar status? Have the gumption to not only write (with Tom Douglas and Scooter Carusoe) a song which is not only lyrically altruistic but does it with the lyrical double switch. An engaging vocal matched to the lilting melody tells you what country music is about. No wonder the Opry invited him to be their new member. Simply stunning.
Tenille Arts - “Moment Of Weakness” (Independent)
If radio success was all about great songs and pure talent, well, Tenille Arts would be “#1 with a bullet.” Blessed with an emotive, rich voice that recalls Martina McBride in places, Arts sings the pants off this power ballad and hopefully will benefit from some sort of radio success or get picked up by a bigger label to bring this one to the stratosphere.
Maren Morris - “Rich” (Columbia Nashville)
There’s that familiar Steve Miller Band “The Joker” like groove to the percussive backbeat on this, the fourth and final single from Hero, Morris’ debut album. This track, which has been edited for radio consumption, works for me and is a bit of cheeky fun but it’s also something that is sure to be polarizing to more traditional-minded country music fans.
Trent Harmon - “You Got ‘Em All” (Big Machine Records)
The reigning winner of American Idol, Trent Harmon finally gets to follow-up his debut Top 30 hit “There’s A Girl.” This one, co-written by Harmon, is a sweetly romantic ballad that is exactly the kind of song country radio loves and it has some distinct Keith Urban-like vibes to my ear (which is never a bad thing).
LANCO - “Born To Love You” (Arista Records)
This follow-up to the breakout #1 single “Greatest Love Story” benefits from the production of Jay Joyce. There’s a pulsating melodic groove, interesting instrumentals and a strong vocal from frontman Brandon Lancaster. Simply put, it’s the right follow-up from the simple story of “Greatest Love Story” and a smart lyrical successor as well as it basically continues the same story in a different way.
Brett Young - “Mercy” (BMLG Records)
With three of the biggest hits in all of country music the past year and a half, Brett Young is about to go four for four with “Mercy.” While it was risky to release a third ballad in a row, Brett Young excels at these kinds of songs and if Kenny Rogers and Collin Raye could make long lasting careers on these types of songs, so can Brett Young.
Blake Shelton - “I Lived It” (Warner Bros. Records)
While he’s one of country music’s biggest stars, Blake has often felt like he was on autopilot with half of his hits and records the past few years (even if they were still good songs). This one, with a traditional (90s) country feel to the melody and lyrics certainly feels like it’s not one of those songs. Blake sings the nostalgic lyric and delivers.
Dierks Bentley - “Woman, Amen” (Capitol Records Nashville)
After releasing some of the most mainstream songs of his career over the past couple of years, Dierks Bentley’s latest single blends everything we’ve loved about his past hits from “What Was I Thinkin’” to the critical success of “Up On A Ridge” and “Riser” with just a bit of the wholly contemporary vibe and we come out with a strong lyrically and melodically anthemic single. I’d be shocked if this didn’t hit.
Brothers Osborne - “Shoot Me Straight”
Quite simply, this song — and the forthcoming Port Saint Joe album it comes from — is pure fire. A blast of fresh air from one of country music’s best talents.