Outside of the USA and the Blake Shelton fandom in The Voice, the country genre goes unnoticed. But if the song is right, regardless of where record producers and radio programmers classify the sound, it will break borders and get mainstream attention. Here are 15 country tracks that proved genres are nothing but arbitrary distinctions.
If I Die Young by The Band Perry
The beauty of country music is that little is left to the imagination. Songwriting is generally explicit and heavily detailed that any room for misinterpretation disappears. Talking about dying can come off as morbid. But The Band Perry pulls off romantic.
Jesus Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood
Had Carrie Underwood not competed in American Idol, would this single have taken off? She left a legacy with this track. Even today, the title has been a common phrase for people who just let fate run its course and hope the odds are in their favor.
Not Ready to Make Nice by The Dixie Chicks
If the Dixie Chicks didn’t oppose the Bush administration publicly, the song would not have generated attention. Despite death threats and country radio boycotting their music, the trio soldiered on. The Recording Academy generously rewarded them with Grammys as they took all the general field awards they were eligible for.
There You’ll Be by Faith Hill
For a time, it seemed like Faith Hill would follow Shania’s footsteps. Her sound boredered on pop and “allegiance” to the country sound was in question. After all, she helmed one of the most epic soundtrack singles for Pearl Harbor. In my view, this was the female version of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”.
Cruise (Remix) by Florida Georgia Line Featuring Nelly
Nelly is no stranger to blending country and hip-hop. His single “Over and Over” with Tim McGraw remains one of his masterpieces. “Cruise” did both artists well – Florida Georgia Line got introduced to audiences outside of country and Nelly’s stagnating career got a resurgence.
Wanted by Hunter Hayes
While I was making the list, I noticed ballads tend to crossover the easiest. I guess at our core, we are just hopeless romantics. “Wanted” was simple and made me feel desired and longed for. It helps that Hunter Hayes is smooth and charming.
Don’t You Wanna Stay by Jason Aldean Featuring Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson has numerous ties to country music. But her duet with Jason Aldean gave her footing in this genre. Even outside of country, this stands as one of the best romantic ballads by a duo.
Picture by Kid Rock Featuring Sheryl Crow
Even though Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow began outside country music, they hardly faced resistance when their collaboration dominated the airwaves. They were even nominated for Vocal Event of the Year at the 2003 Country Music Association Awards.
Need You Now by Lady Antebellum
If I ever needed a song for drunk calling, “Need You Now” would be my choice. I’m sure many people relate their situations, past or present, to Lady Antebellum’s breakout track. It certainly is one of the best pieces of music ever written and released.
How Do I Live by LeAnn Rimes
LeAnn Rimes was deemed too young to have gone through the experiences written in the song. Hence, Trisha Yearwood was asked to release a version of “How Do I Live”. In the end, LeAnn’s age hardly mattered as her rendition was the one embraced by the public.
Girl Crush by Little Big Town
Country artists have been known to be traditional and conservative. The subject matter of a girl crush got people talking. It raised eyebrows and drew attention. That’s not to say the sound wasn’t spectacular. But the song needed a push for the mainstream public to take notice.
Amazed by Lonestar
Although a remixed version, “Amazed” is one of the only few country songs to ever top the US Hot 100. After doing research, I found out the song was initially offered to Boyz II Men. Why the material fared so well makes more sense now. Boyz II Men were the resident crooners of the 90s decade and they would’ve been offered some great pieces first.
What Hurts the Most by Rascal Flatts
Ironically, the single about falling short is the track that introduced Rascal Flatts to a wider fanbase. “What Hurts the Most” puts into song the pain many of the heartbroken experience. Unfortunately, coming close doesn’t take away any of the pain and even aggravates it.
You’re Still the One by Shania Twain
In my lifetime, Shania Twain was the first artist to test the waters of crossing over. No artist can match the impact she has made to country and pop music at the same time during her prime. The entirety of the song is awesome. It’s fun to note the narration at the beginning of the track – a classic feature 90s songs will be remembered for.
You Belong with Me by Taylor Swift
Before Taylor Swift fully embraced pop, she was a country darling that blurred lines. “You Belong with Me” has the storytelling country music is known for. However, the beat was clearly pop music. This and “Love Story” began her tug-of-war with her country and pop identity.