Grading the Charts in … COUNTRY MUSIC!

1. Hunter Hayes, “Wanted”


Hunter Hayes is a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, who started his career as a child performing zydeco classics and Hank Williams songs. He has opened for Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, and The Flaming Lips. This video portrays him as a sensitive country Bieber minting songs to win the hearts of lonely tween girls.

Grade: C+

Best YouTube Comment: “I went to a dance last night, and this song played. No one asked me to dance. Only a selected group of guys asked girls. I was hoping some guy would make me feel wanted but none of them did. It’s painful to watch all the other girls feel wanted, when I was rejected. It’s such a beautiful song, I wish I had someone to share it with.” — brownieshortie

2. Josh Turner, “Time Is Love”


This is my new catchphrase. Gonna leave all situations from now on with “Time is love, gotta run!” (immediately loses all friends).

Grade: C

Best YouTube Comment: “JOSH TURNER Y U NO GO HOME?” — gloriaolivarez

3. Jason Aldean, “Take a Little Ride”


I kept mishearing “slide your pretty little self on over” as “pretty little cell phone” and didn’t really want to be corrected. Tess Lynch asked me about the meaning of the lyric “pretty pink toes on the dash” and we jointly decided it’s either the color of his female driving companion’s pedicure or a weirdly explicit reference to her being white. Tess also hates songs about “having a lot of time and nothing to do.” When I asked for another example, she listed “Bubble Toes” by Jack Johnson and we accidentally started compiling a mixtape of songs with weird lyrics about toes. (Aren’t all lyrics about toes kind of weird? Toes are very weird.) As with any country video that features trucks doing mud drags, the comments section is mostly a brutal battle over the relative merits of Ford and Chevy (occasionally Dodge). The lyric “Swing by the Quik Stop, grab a couple Rocky tops” was apparently originally “Shiner Bock,” but since Aldean has an endorsement deal with Coors he suddenly changed it and asked radio to play the new version. I will be sure to start asking for “Rocky tops” now. Dug the song anyway.

Grade: A-

Best YouTube Comment: “I dont know wat world you are from but im from the south and down here takin a ride with your girl and goin muddin and cutting circles in a field is bout as country as it gets js” — dodge79w

4. Little Big Town, “Pontoon”


You had me at “coozie.” You had me again with the dancing fairy back tattoo. I’m so sick of summer and all signifiers thereof, but this relaxed-fit, Jimmy Buffett–redolent pop-country jam with mandolin, wah-wah, and a drum loop had me scrambling for the nearest inner tube and a Corona. It chugs along just lazily enough, motorboatin’.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “It’s like a bunch of seniors escaped from a nursing home and they’re partying on a boat trying to be young again. They need to be directed to the nearest early bird special =)” — BirchTBarlow

5. Jana Kramer, “Why Ya Wanna”


Jana Kramer is an actress who you may remember from her role as Noelle Davenport on Friday Night Lights. Jana was married to Johnathon Schaech (who was married to Christina Applegate before that) after meeting on the set of Prom Night, but they divorced after a month of marriage. This video is what I imagine Taylor Swift’s bittersweet daydreams are like: bike rides in sundresses, rowboats, magic-hour-lit forests, cathartic crying, and comforting cups of tea at quaint little local diners.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “ya sergio. why did you have to show up in that damn sweatshirt that i loved, and why did you have to go in for a hug. huhh? why couldn’t you have just left me alone.” — stephaniesmith

6. Dustin Lynch, “Cowboys and Angels”


Once Upon a Time Instagram West. Dustin has a nice baritone and is serving some rough-trade realness in his cowboy gear.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “ohhh shit, after I saw this guy, I found out that I am gay lol” — soladetenis

7. Carrie Underwood, “Blown Away”


Carrie Underwood is giving her best “Janie’s Got a Gun” for this bombastic anthem about incest awareness. This isn’t so much a country song as it is a big-voiced pop-rock belter that will go straight to Glee and be worked into some sort of horribly offensive commentary on child sexual abuse. I love the American Gothic Wizard of Oz theme of the video and when Underwood starts doing frantic loop-de-loops with her voice toward the end.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “I have always hated all female country artist. But one night coming back from my hunting club I heard this song. Half asleep hearing this song it blew my mind. This is the best song I’ve heard in a long time. I’m now a Carrie Underwood fan.” — JackassJr14

8. Keith Urban, “For You”


WAR IS SWEET (JK). This is Keith Urban’s contribution to the soundtrack of Act of Valor, that jingoistic movie about the Navy that uses real Navy SEALs alongside actors and is enjoying a second round of popularity on DVD. The film is a long paid advertisement for the Navy padded out with half-baked military thriller action and glazed with a Tecumseh quote.

Grade: F

Best YouTube Comment: “14 year old girl, when I turn 18 I’m definitely going off to the army” — TeamMerpie

9. Easton Corbin, “Lovin’ You Is Fun”


Nice to see a Technics turntable in a country video. The lyric “my heart’s never smiled so hard” makes my blood turn into Popsicles. Easton Corbin’s voice has an earnestness to it that eventually won me over.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “I’m from Denmark and I love country music and I love USA. Been there 2 times and everytime I listen to country music I dream myself back to the american highways ;)” — XTRMSystems

10. Miranda Lambert, “Fastest Girl in Town”


My sister Miranda and her best friend Danica Patrick hustle some dudes at the pool hall and embark on a wild chase with lesbian undertones the likes of which we haven’t seen since Aerosmith’s “Crazy.” Danica Patrick should star in a straight-to-DVD sequel to Drive. I love Miranda Lambert and her sass, but this is not her strongest effort.

Grade: C+

Best YouTube Comment: “okay Miranda steals your car and burns down your house Carrie destroys your car and Taylor Swift trashes your house completely boys watch out!!!” — horselandcom123

Filed Under: Billboard, Carrie Underwood, Country Music, Grading the Charts, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Top Ten

Photo on 2014-01-10 at 12.58 #3

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ mollylambert