Ten singles from the likes of Luke Bryan, Jerrod Niemann, Chris Young, Joanna Smith, Hunter Hayes, Kristen Kelly, Thomas Rhett, Claudia Lee and Carrie Underwood go under the microscope this week!
This week we take a look at 10 recent or soon-to-be-released country chart singles and it’s a mix of fresh names, established names and artists who are on labels big and small. There are quite a few contenders for ‘best single’ of the week and while Jerrod Niemann and Chris Young put up a great fight, in the end Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted” takes home the tile as the best new single of the week.
Joanna Smith – We Can’t Be Friends
Being worked to the Music Row “secondary” (smaller town) markets before moving to the bigger markets, “We Can’t Be Friends” is the first ballad amongst Joanna’s three releases for Sony Music Nashville. The other two songs, “Gettin’ Married” and “Georgia Mud” showed off her spitfire personality and “We Can’t Be Friends” shows the other side of her artistry. With a simple, direct lyric that manages to tell an oft-used story in a new way, “We Can’t Be Friends” is really gorgeous ballad that reminds me of some of Lee Ann Womack’s best. – Marc Erickson
Jerrod Niemann – “Shinin’ On Me”
The lead single from Jerrod’s upcoming sophomore album, “Shinin’ On Me” is a song of pure, joyful fun. The song, like Neal McCoy’s recent single “A-OK,” is about enjoying life and living in the here and now. It’s a message that says to not take life too seriously and to enjoy what you have here and now for nothing is given to us in the future.
Chris Young – “Neon”
From the very first time I heard this song on his album of the same name (read review here), I knew that the song was destined to be released as a single. I just didn’t expect to hear “Neon” released after “Tomorrow” and “You” and for the spring/summer season. But y’know what? It is the kind of timeless mid-tempo ballad that always works well and the traditionalist sound of the melody and vocal (with steel guitar fills that are more than window dressing). It’s an elegant piece of country music that talks about a man’s affinity for the neon glow found in dark bars because it helps him get over heartache,
Hunter Hayes – “Wanted”
While “Storm Warning” was a great opening salvo, “Wanted” is the song that is going to make Hunter Hayes, one of the music world’s most talented artists to arrive in years – that’s right – years. Fans of powerful, romantic songs about love will enjoy this song and although it’s completely a modern country/pop song, it’s one of the best songs of that type to come along since perhaps “Bless The Broken Road” from Hunter’s idols Rascal Flatts.
Thomas Rhett – “Something To Do With My Hands”
The production on the song is interesting, complete with a DJ mix in the intro and while not traditional country in any way, the song will never be confused as something that pop or rock radio would ever want to play. Vocally, Thomas Rhett has –as one would expect- a voice that recalls his father Peach Picker and 90s country star Rhett Akins and that southern twang helps affirm that Thomas Rhett is a country singer. The lyrics are tight (if not the opposite to “Keep Your Hands To Yourself”), the production is crisp and the vocal is strong. There’s nothing to suggest that this song will be anything but the first of at least a handful of hits for Thomas Rhett.
Keith Urban – For You
The song played over the end title sequence of the #1 movie in America last week, Act of Valor, “For You” is Keith Urban doing what he does. It’s a guitar driven power ballad that was inspired by a screening of the film. It finds Keith willing to give his life and do anything possible to keep his family safe and sound. It’s a song that is relatable to more people than those who have fought to keep America free.
Carrie Underwood – “Good Girl”
While the song isn’t remotely ‘traditional country’ and isn’t too far removed melodically from the rhythmic pop songs that are dominating pop music airwaves right now, there’s also no denying the fantastic vocal delivery Underwood provides on “Good Girl.” Without a shadow of a doubt this is the best up tempo vocal that Carrie Underwood has given country radio, including “Last Name” and “Before He Cheats.” This song, while thematically similar to “Cowboy Casanova,” also rivals “Before He Cheats” as the best-written tempo song of Carrie’s career.
Claudia Lee – “Hollywood Sunset”
Like rising star Jana Kramer, Claudia Lee is a star of a WB TV show. As poised as Taylor Swift was at 15, Claudia has an idea of who she is as a singer and songwriter and presents a well crafted, if a bit strangely produced, single that is currently rising up the charts. The voice and the talent to succeed are here and I have to wonder what would happen if Claudia (who self-financed and released her debut album) were to work with a producer like Nathan Chapman or Dann Huff. That being said, the Hart of Dixie actress definitely is talented and this song is still very strong.
Luke Bryan – “Drunk On You”
The lyrics are downright cheesy in places (“girl you make my speakers go boom boom”) but the choice of this song as single #3 from the Gold (soon to be platinum) tailgates & tanlines was pretty predictable. This isn’t the first time that love has been compared to being drunk but it might be the most youthful discussion the topic has ever seen and it’s certainly something the college-age fans will downright love and relate to as they live in the moment. Already off to a nice start at radio and digital markets, there’s likely nothing that’ll keep this single from a Top 5 and/or #1 hit status sometime in July/August.
Kristen Kelly – “My Ex-Old Man”
This is one cool sounding single. The melody recalls classic hits of the distant past but it also has a sunny disposition to it as well. It finds a woman discussing why she’s at a bar drinking away the drama in her life, that was started by her husband when he cheated with the narrator’s best friend. It’s a real life relationship and rather than getting all “Gunpowder and Lead” about it, Kristen keeps upbeat about the whole affair. The song is different enough to get traction at radio and given her Texas roots, the song is likely to garner lots of support there. Hopefully, this is the first of a long string of hits from a talented and unique singer/songwriter.
Bonus Single from recent weeks:
JT Hodges – “Goodbyes Made You Mine”
JT Hodges hit the Top 40 at country radio late in 2011 with the strong and fun “Hunt You Down” and that was enough to make him yet another one of the 15 new artists to watch in 2012 and this single, unlike Tyler Farr’s above, is a great reason why. It’s melodic, relentlessly catchy with rapid-fire verses which discuss all the ways old relationships made the girl right for him with the a catchy Keith Urban-like chorus which tells the girl he’s everything that those guys weren’t and that the ‘goodbyes made you mine.” It’s the kind of song that just sounds good coming out of a car’s speakers or an office radio setting so I can’t see how this one’s NOT a hit.
Other Weekly Single Recaps: