While artists like Brett Young and Luke Combs enjoyed their fourth consecutive No. 1 singles in 2018, others including Jordan Davis and Abby Anderson released their debut singles to country radio. This year also marked the return of the Pistol Annies as well as several standout collaborations. Miranda Lambert joined Jason Aldean on “Drowns the Whiskey” while David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney collaborated on the feel-good “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” And we can’t forget the massive crossover hit and 50-week No. 1 “Meant to Be” with Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha.
Here are our favorite songs of 2018 (in alphabetical order):
Abby Anderson – “Make Him Wait”
Texas native Abby Anderson made her introduction into country music earlier this year with her standout debut single, “Make Him Wait.” A soaring piano ballad that urges women to take it slow when it comes to love, her lyrics strike a chord. “Before that first kiss, he’s gotta hold your hand,” she croons. “You can’t get it back when you give yourself away / Yeah, a boy’s gonna run but a real man’s gonna stay / Girl, make him wait.”
Brett Young – “Mercy”
Brett Young’s emotional vocals on this stirring ballad evoke the pain a breakup often brings. His slowed singing style alongside delicate piano accompaniment struck a chord with listeners and it’s easy to see why. A standout song, “Mercy” is the last single off his debut album. A two-week No. 1 hit, the track also became Young’s fourth consecutive chart topper.
Carrie Underwood – “Cry Pretty”
Carrie Underwood made her triumphant return to radio earlier this year with the spellbinding single, “Cry Pretty.” The touching ballad has the singer in a vulnerable state as she explains that no one — not even her — can cry pretty. With notes that showcase her ability at vocal gymnastics, this is the best we’ve heard Underwood sound on a single to date.
Dan + Shay – “Tequila”
A song that had country fans and artists alike praising, Dan + Shay’s “Tequila” pulls on the heartstrings. “Tequila” has a man admitting that he can’t taste the spirit without thinking of a former lover. Soaring harmonies from Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney further impress and showcase the duo’s evident staying power. The song became such a smash that pop radio has embraced it, making it a multi-genre hit.
David Lee Murphy feat. Kenny Chesney – “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”
David Lee Murphy catapulted back onto country radio this year with the infectious “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” The lighthearted tune, which features Kenny Chesney, asks the listener to take a deep breath and don’t hit the panic button. A sentiment we all need. Murphy’s first solo chart topper since 1995’s “Dust On the Bottle,” the song was also named Musical Event of the Year at the 2018 CMA Awards.
The second single off Dierks Bentley’s latest album, the standout “Burning Man” has the vocalist singing of life’s struggles and triumphs. With a thumping beat, white-hot guitar accompaniment (from John Osborne) and added vocals from Brothers Osborne, “Burning Man” promises to be a highlight in Bentley’s live show. Penned by Luke Dick and Bobby Pinson, Bentley makes the song uniquely his own with slowed vocals and striking musicianship.
Florida Georgia Line feat. Bebe Rexha – “Meant to Be”
Holding strong at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for an unprecedented 50 consecutive weeks, “Meant to Be” was a crossover smash for Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha. The infectious lyrics and hand-snapped beat made the track an immediate ear-worm and it’s relatable lyrics had us all singing, “If it’s meant to be it’ll be, it’ll be / Baby just let it be” all year long.
Jason Aldean feat. Miranda Lambert – “Drowns the Whiskey”
This heartbreaker has Jason Aldean lamenting of how he can’t seem to get over an ex no matter the amount of whiskey he consumes. “Whiskey’s supposed to drown the memory / I’ve gone from one to one too many,” Aldean croons. Miranda Lambert assists throughout the song and provides striking backing vocals that manages to enhance the hurt within the song’s lyrics. A standout duet, their collaboration went number one and is sure to become a modern classic.
Jordan Davis – “Singles You Up”
“Singles You Up” launched Jordan Davis onto the country music scene late last year and the debut single also became his first chart topper in April. The catchy track showcases Davis’ ability to combine vivid lyrics with slick beats for a memorable song, but don’t let this feel-good track fool you as there’s also plenty of depth on his album, Home State.
Kacey Musgraves – “Space Cowboy”
One of the best written songs released this year, Kacey Musgraves’ “Space Cowboy” paints the picture of a relationship that’s on the rocks. Instead of staying bitter, the country starlet urges her man to leave if he wants his space with colorful imagery. “Sunsets fade and love does too / Yeah, we had our day in the sun / When a horse wants to run ain’t no sense in closing the gate / So you can have your space, cowboy,” she sings on the chorus.
Kane Brown – “Heaven”
Kane Brown proved his staying power this year with his second No. 1 single. “Heaven.” The track showcased the singer’s more sentimental side as he sings of how he can’t imagine anywhere he’d rather be than laying next to his girl. While the song highlights his booming vocals and knack for clever songwriting, its success also helped Brown become the first artist to top Billboard’s five country charts simultaneously when it debuted at No. 1 on the publication’s Country Digital Songs chart.
Luke Bryan – “Most People Are Good”
Luke Bryan is well known for his party songs, and his sentimental ballads sometimes get overlooked. His three-week No. 1 hit “Most People Are Good” was a welcome addition to his catalog. The song sees Bryan singing of how he believes kids should stay kids as long as they can and the importance of working hard for what you want in life. “I believe you love who you love, ain’t nothin’ you should ever be ashamed of / I believe this world ain’t half as bad as it looks,” he sings on the uplifting chorus.
Luke Combs – “She Got the Best of Me”
Luke Combs garnered his fourth consecutive chart topper with this four-week No. 1 hit. A fan favorite, “She Got the Best of Me” has Combs singing of slowly getting over an ex with the help of an old trusty guitar. Written by Combs, Rob Snyder and Channing Wilson, “She Got the Best of Me” showcases the singer’s rich vocals alongside soaring guitar parts tailor-made for a singalong (and air guitar performance).
Maren Morris – “Rich”
This tongue-in-cheek track has Maren Morris singing about a man she can’t rely on. If she made money from all the lies he has told her over the years, she’d be rich with a “Benz in the driveway, yacht in the water.” It’s a unique take on a relationship that begs the listener to sing along with its infectious chorus. The final single from her debut album (which peaked at No. 2 on the charts), it also marked the end of Morris’s “Hero” era, as the singer noted on Twitter, saying, “Super bittersweet but who am I kidding? It’s way more sweet than bitter.”
Old Dominion – “Written In the Sand”
Old Dominion are well known for their songwriting chops and this is best evidenced on “Written In the Sand.” A No. 1 single penned by the band’s Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen and Brad Tursi with Shane McAnally, the song has a man trying to figure out where his relationship is headed. “Are we just a backseat, trying to get it while we can? / Are we names in a tattoo, or just a number on a hand? / Are we last-call kissing or will we be reminiscing with each other for the next 40 years? / Are we written in the stars, baby, or are we written in the sand?” they sing wistfully on the chorus.
Pistol Annies – “Got My Name Changed Back”
It has been a long five years since the Pistol Annies have released new music and “Got My Name Changed Back,” the lead single off their latest studio album, proved that some things are well worth the wait. The upbeat divorce party song has the three women singing triumphantly of a marriage gone awry alongside memorable guitar picking (and Miranda’s washboard playing). “Well I got me an ex that I adored / But he got along good with a couple road whores,” they sing. The ex-wife isn’t sad, though. In fact she and her girlfriends celebrate her newfound freedom together at the DMV. “Got My Name Changed Back” is the divorce song we didn’t know we needed.
Scotty McCreery – “Five More Minutes”
Scotty McCreery knew he had a hit on his hands with the nostalgic “Five More Minutes.” In fact, he bought back the publishing rights of the song after losing his first record deal and decided to release it independently. He was right. The heartfelt song struck a chord with listeners and became the singer’s first No. 1 hit earlier this year. “Out of every song that I was willing to bet my career on, ‘Five More Minutes’ was that,” McCreery told Sounds Like Nashville at his No. 1 party. “This one was special from the moment we wrote it.
Thomas Rhett – “Marry Me”
On this heartbreaking piano ballad, TR sings of a girl who has her whole wedding planned out. At first it seems like he’s the groom, but as the story develops there’s a twist. Rhett has said he wrote the song from the perspective of what would have happened if he never told his wife Lauren how he felt about her years ago. The heart-wrenching song leaves a lasting mark on the listener and urges them to think twice as to not wind up like the man in the story.