Feel free to like and enjoy any of the following songs as it suits your pleasure. But you should know there is much, much better out there and you are really missing out. Truthfully, you should only really worry if you like the first song on this list, because you, my friend, have absolutely free-fallen over the edge into the pit of bad music and might just be too far gone to be pulled out of that deep, dark abyss.
Moonshine Bandits - "My Kind of Country" - (If ya feel like me let me hear ya say, HEY, if ya feel like me, if ya feel like me let me hear ya say, HEY, this is my kind of country) - I believe this was technically released in 2011, but the video was made in 2012 and spent a day (maybe more) as CMT.com's most-viewed music video. I don't think I've ever been more surprised that people actually liked a song than I was with this one. It is truly terrible. The singers can't sing (or rap). And the lyrics? They could have been written in a class called "The Basics of Second Grade" -- no structure, no form, the laziest rhymes. If country radio had picked this up it would have solidified even more the opinion floating around among many that the format simply can't be taken seriously anymore. And so for future reference: we will all know the end has come for country radio when they cross the line of playing Moonshine Bandits. There would just be no turning back after that. The best (worst) part of this song is the pleasant enough acoustic melody at the beginning and how HUGELY misleading it is. Just wait until the twenty-second mark. Friends, you've been warned. I think the joke is on everybody. It's got to be.
Brantley Gilbert - "Kick It In The Sticks" - (It’s BYOB, and I got all we need, yeah boy I’m bout to show me a city slicker how to kick it in the sticks with the critters) - This is not country music. This is bad modern rock for angsty high schoolers. Something country radio got right this year was that they flat out refused to play this song. Thank you, corporate controllers, for once not being corporate pushovers. Also, Brantley Gilbert does not have a good voice.
Tim McGraw - "Truck Yeah" - (Chillin' in the back room, hangin' with my whole crew, sippin' on a cold brew, hey now!) The worst thing Tim McGraw has ever done and the worst single released to country radio this year. He should be embarrassed for recording this stupid, substance-less abomination.
"Beer With Jesus" - I don't know anybody who
wouldn't genuinely want to sit down and have a beer with the savior, but I'll be damned if that imagined experience doesn't deserve a better song than this. It contains no depth or insight; it simply recycles the overdone sentiment of "Oh Lord, how could you forgive someone like me?" and questions like "Do you hear my prayers?" and "What happens when we die?" There's nothing necessarily wrong with that sentiment and those questions, but it never hurt to at least come up with a mildly creative way to state them. Singing it with the country-accent notch turned to eleven doesn't make it more meaningful, it only serves to make the song's pandering all the more obvious. Jesus never seemed so dull and uninteresting.
Darius Rucker - "True Believers" - Similar to "Beer With Jesus" in that it says nothing new about a subject that has been sung about to death in all genres of music: the "they said we'd never make it but look at us now" kind of song. Darius Rucker's country music career has a lot of potential, but he's gone from releasing a few good singles at the start of it to releasing songs with choruses so egregiously cliche that you can hardly bear to listen. The best anthems don't try so hard to be anthems. True love never seemed so boring and vague.
Michael Dean Church - "That's How We Roll" - I'd never heard of this guy, but this song is yet another "countrier than thou" cliche-ridden checklist song. Bocephus, creeks, dirt roads, and the phrase "crank it on up" all make appearances. The chorus tries desperately to be catchy, repeating words like "know, know, know" and "roll, roll, roll," but it comes off exactly as it is: totally uninspired.
"She Cranks My Tractor" - (I go fast, she hollers faster, she's the first one up the hayloft ladder, a girl like that's what a country boy's after, she cranks she cranks she cranks my tractor) - Read those lyrics again. Honestly. What the shit? "Cowboys and Angels" was decent by country radio standards and gave hope to listeners that neo-traditionalism wasn't completely dead on the airwaves. Then Lynch went and spat straight into his own eye when he released this hard-to-believe-it's-not-a-joke song that Kenny Chesney could probably sue him over. Disappointing and utterly unsurprising.
Craig Morgan - "Corn Star" - (Cut off jeans and a tight tank top with a big red mower on it, make you wanna be a farmer don't it?) - Craig Morgan proved three things with this song: 1) He's trying way too hard to get radio to play his new stuff, 2) He will sink to any level to try and make that happen, and 3) Radio is not going to play his new stuff anymore. Just like Tim McGraw, Morgan should be embarrassed for releasing this song, but as a fast track to a country radio comeback, one honestly can't really blame him for giving this a try. Country radio has played far, far worse.
James Wesley - "Walking Contradiction" - (I love my momma, hell-raisin' Christian, a midnight running walking contradiction) - Wesley has a fairly good voice but a vision severely lacking creativity when it comes to recording singles. "Walking Contradiction" takes a little bit of "Beer With Jesus" and a little bit of "That's How We Roll," mixes the themes from those two songs together, and hopes the masses eat it up. And is it just me, or do a million songs start with pretty much this exact same guitar riff?
Parmalee - "Musta Had A Good Time" - You know whether you are going to love or hate this song from the opening hard rock riff. And I know whether I'm going to love or hate you by how you feel about this song (just kidding). But whether you love it or hate it, you should immediately be able to recognize that it is not country music. I am not completely against odes to nights about getting wasted and forgetting what happened, but this song wears is shallowness and trashiness on its sleeve. I don't even want to know how they came up with their band name.
Miranda Lambert - "Fastest Girl In Town" - I have much respect for Miranda Lambert and she seems to be one of the few "real deals" in mainstream country music. But something about this song rubbed me wrong from the beginning. It's mostly due to the massively cluttered hard rock production, but the boring lyrics that try too hard to be clever don't help the cause either. She's better than this.
Now that the bad stuff's out of the way, stay tuned for a few upcoming posts on what I think are songs of the year in general, and also the best singles released to country radio in 2012.