Grading the Good Old American Country Music Charts

1. Luke Bryan, “Drunk on You”

This is the second part of a narrative that began in Luke Bryan’s “I Don’t Want This Night to End.” After the titular night ended, Bryan went back on tour buzzed on longing and left tickets in every town for the mysterious sexy drifter girl, who has so far never shown up to claim them (UNTIL NOW). This is brilliant because it includes flashbacks to the last video, thereby making us nostalgic for that time we listened to that other Luke Bryan song. Plus the phrase “pour a little Crown in a Dixie cup” is perfect and fun to say. The romance of that one ideal night they spent tailgating under a full moon together is amplified into some mythical feeling that any real girl would find hard to live up to. Even the girl that makes your speakers go boom boom and gets you high on summertime.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “GOD Bless america luke is my solution to a lot of things in life he might be better than sex who knows haha” — phsycopathichomie

2. Eli Young Band, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”

The Eli Young Band are here from Denton, Texas, to mine your veins for wistfulness, remembering when they fell in love with their very first guitar. This is a great Springsteen-y summer anthem with ringing guitar parts and pedal steel furbelows. It’s big but not bombastic, and sentimental without being twee. For fans of Wilco and Tom Petty’s sweet ’90s output.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “To bond with people you have never met through your music is the ultimate reward! That’s why we do it! Just so people can feel what you feel inside! I love this song!” — tj8400

3. Brantley Gilbert, “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do”

The dreaded tour video with Brantley playfully getting in the camera’s face backstage (heavy-metal tour video style). Touring is lonely, even with a leather bracelet, a spiked cuff, and a skull ring. You’d think a successful musician’s life would be glamorous and fun, but every rose has its thorn.

Grade: C

Best YouTube Comment: “My girl is amazing. Knowing how much she means to me makes me cry. I love you Myrna.” — TheeUrbanGentleman

4. Eric Church, “Springsteen”

Speaking of Springsteen, this Eric Church song is about being nostalgic for your glory days, which involved listening to a lot of Springsteen. Bruce Springsteen is awesome, and everyone is allowed to love him and feel like he is their own personal Springsteen, even The Killers and David Brooks. Church sings about “back when I was gasoline” and emulates Springsteen’s voice in the bridge. The video evokes mixtapes, garage bands, and teenage suburban nights spent aimlessly driving around. Worked on me!

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “making me tear up thinking about my bros friend that was basically my bro i havent seen him in a long time love you travis i know you will always have my back” — HuntingChicks

5. Dierks Bentley, “5-1-5-0″

Just muddin’ around with Dierks. There’s something about making the police code for an involuntary psychiatric hold into a joke for the chorus that sits the wrong way with me, although it’s not too different from the countless other songs about craziness and love that I love. It seems tacky. LOL, the mental health care system is totally jacked! I always was a David Lee Roth girl.

Grade: D

Best YouTube Comment: “this song sucks. fuck this piece of shit.” — ihatebottomtierfrats

6. Kenny Chesney, “Come Over”

Kenny Chesney is cool because he alternates between Jimmy Buffett–type party-at-the-beach songs and these sad/drunk/desperate-to-see-you/I’ve-been-listening-to-Leonard Cohen-in-my-hotel-room-all-night jams. The video is a cross between Lana Del Rey’s recent JFK assassination opus “National Anthem” and Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” with high-fashion heartbreak on a haunted rap yacht as Kenny begs his lady to come back, promising that they don’t have to “fix each other” or “say forever” as long as they can funk until the dawn. Kenny also finally takes off his signature hat and vulnerably rubs his bald head on her hosiery.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “Pit Bulls Stunt Double” — Gemba68

7. Gloriana, “(Kissed You) Good Night”

We invoked the Cabo Wabo spirit of Sammy Hagar earlier, and will now say that Rachel Reinert is the Hagar of Gloriana. Gloriana became successful with lead singer Cheyenne Kimball (she had an MTV reality show in 2006) and the Gossin brothers, peaking when they opened for Taylor Swift. Now it’s Reinert and the Gossin Bros. attempting to re-create the magic of the first incarnation of Gloriana and maybe get some of that Lady Antebellum money.

Grade: C+

Best YouTube Comment: “I love this song. There’s a lot of emotion in it. I like the video and the cool old houses with the covered porch. I’m glad the guy goes back for the girl, pushes her against the wall. It’s very sexy.” — mohottie30

8. Toby Keith, “Beers Ago”

Who needs a video? There’s a landscape and evocative lyrics about Jerry Jeff Walker and wintergreen Skoal. Toby Keith has a similar effect on me as David Lee Roth, in that I love him despite/because of his sleaziness, and it makes me feel confused inside. This is fine, but it’s not his best song. I guess I’m thinking about Van Halen a lot today. Might as well!

Grade: B-

Best YouTube Comment: “Taylor Swift could break Justin Biebers jaw” — bowmanblaine1

9. Tim McGraw, “Better Than I Used to Be”

I can’t get over Tim McGraw’s album being named Emotional Traffic. Emotional Traffic! Think about what that could mean. It’s everything. It was Tim’s last record for indie label Curb Records (who he’s been with since his debut), and they held the album back until 2012. This beautiful song was first recorded by Sammy Kershaw. Tim proves he has depth and rubs some of the shine off his handsome good-guy image. The organ stabs and slide guitar take it into classic territory.

Grade: A+

Best YouTube Comment: “This song spoke some very loud volumes to me personally (kinda like Billy Joel’s music).”

10. The Band Perry, “Postcard From Paris”

This is hilarious because they’re styled like The Make Up in the New Orleans sequences (white belts!). The Reid brothers’ Allston mod haircuts will never not make me laugh, especially since the music they make is so far from mod. I would like Courtney Love to cover this song so I can hear her sing the part that goes “I AM RUINED.”

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “is Hollywood next for Kimberly?????” — thomas2good1

Filed Under: Grading the Charts

Photo on 2014-01-10 at 12.58 #3

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ mollylambert