Grading the Top 10 in … COUNTRY!

1. Tim McGraw, “One of Those Nights”


From the intro I thought this was going to be a Lynyrd Skynyrd–type Southern-rock barn burner. Instead it settles down into a slow-paced last dance at last call underneath a star cluster of disco balls.
Grade: B-
Best YouTube Comment: “I don’t understand how ppl can hate country music. All it takes is giving it a chance dang it!” —HelenJaguey

2. Little Big Town, “Tornado”


Little Big Town are a country-music Cinderella story who broke through in a big way this year with “Pontoon,” their first no. 1 hit. After 10 years stuck in development hell with a go-nowhere major record deal, they built a reputation by releasing albums on a series of smaller labels and are now on Capitol’s Nashville branch. Southern Gothic revenge tale “Tornado” shows off some wide-ranging influences, with dubby flourishes and a pseudo-industrial stomping electronic beat.
Grade: A
Best YouTube Comment: “Not real big on country, but I like this band. That chick can sing. I love her voice.” —menacinggesture

3. Carrie Underwood, “Two Black Cadillacs”


Carrie Underwood has made revenge narratives her specialty, ever since “Before He Cheats” became her signature song. “Two Black Cadillacs” is like the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” meets Diabolique. Carrie Underwood turned 30 this year, and apparently hated the idea so much that she would only refer to it as “the first anniversary of my twenty-ninth birthday.” She is married to hockey player Mike Fisher, which means her married name is Carrie Fisher.
Grade: B
Best YouTube Comment: “For everyone that didn’t watch the behind the scenes video. Carrie & the mistress found out he was lying to both of them & cheating. THEY didn’t kill him. His car did. She said she loved the movie Christine, in which the car killed people. That’s what the basis of the video was.” —MarblesKermit

4. The Band Perry, “Better Dig Two”


Noticing a theme developing on this chart? I guess March is the month when grudges and debts are settled. For “Better Dig Two,” the Band Perry pick banjos over spooky claps and surging chords, singing dark lyrics about nooses and meth while wearing Beetlejuice-inspired fashion in a gray fog. Gothic Americana is in style.
Grade: A
Best YouTube Comment: “This is the crazy bitch anthem” —DoHRealYY

5. Blake Shelton, “Sure Be Cool If You Did”


Presumably inspired by Matthew McConaughey’s character Wooderson’s line “It’d be a lot cooler if you did” from Dazed & Confused, which McConaughey says in his perfect Texas drawl after asking Mitch if he has a joint and learning that the answer is no. Blake turns it from a weed-related slogan into a more general partying and drinking-related one (via a “pink lemonade shooter”), which isn’t too surprising if you’ve ever heard any Blake Shelton songs. This sounds like snap music. If Nelly is really serious about that pop-rock comeback, he should throw a verse on this for a remix immediately.
Grade: B-
Best YouTube Comment: “Some hoe sang this to my boyfriend…right. In. Front. Of. Me.” —SavanahA

6. Hunter Hayes, “Somebody’s Heartbreak”


Hunter Hayes is a 21-year-old bleach-blond Tiger Beat pinup babe who fused country with sorority-girl music (John Mayer, Dispatch, etc.), and it’s a terrifying combination more deadly than a billion British boy bands. Date Taylor Swift already, why don’t ya?
Grade: C
Best YouTube Comment: “it’s great to have someone that can sing but for him to be hot it’s a gift from god” —cheyenneoscher

7. Lee Brice, “I Drive Your Truck”


Songwriters Connie Harrington, Jimmy Yeary, and Jessi Alexander wrote this tear-jerking big ol’ ballad about a death in a military family after hearing a radio interview with grieving parents who mourned the loss of their son by driving his truck around, which they said enabled them to feel his presence and remember him. This song is built to make a drunk dude cry, or at least think about throwing away the half-empty bottle of Gatorade that’s been kicking around the truck for a few months.
Grade: A-
Best YouTube Comment: “I lost a good buddy of mine a month ago last Monday it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through when I’m in town I look for his truck to come flying past me revvin the pipes at me” —wildman5411

8. Dierks Bentley, “Tip It on Back”


Dierks Bentley looks like a blond Jeremy Sisto and excels at slaying working-class weekend warrior anthems like this one. I Shazamed this song when I first heard it playing in a gas station convenience store. I could probably have pretended to be more embarrassed when the name “Dierks Bentley” popped up, but instead I went home and listened to it a few hundred more times. TIP IT ON BACK, Y’ALL!
Grade: A
Best YouTube Comment: “Tip it on back. Country boy.” —Redsoxfan252591

9. Lady Antebellum, “Downtown”


I really hoped this was going to be a cover of SWV’s ode to cunnilingus (it was not). Instead it features Beth Behrs from 2 Broke Girls and the Los Feliz newsstand where I get the tabloids every week! Unfortunately this song is kind of horrible, and despite what the “Sabotage” segment within the video might lead you to believe, there is nobody in Lady Antebellum with the last name Garcia (or Cash).
Grade: D
Best YouTube Comment: “So they are Californian cops, with a New Jersey accent, and a Latino last name?!” —neonlights777

10. Kacey Musgraves, “Merry Go ‘Round”


Ooh, a liberal country song from Kacey Musgraves, who placed seventh on the fifth season of Nashville Star. This is her solo debut single from album Same Trailer Different Park. She also wrote the Miranda Lambert single “Mama’s Broken Heart,” which is also working its way up this chart. Stock footage goes a long way toward making this video interesting to watch repeatedly. It’s country with a nose ring and hipster bangs.
Grade: B-
Best YouTube Comment: “Ah, a song about reality…the glamour of small town or country life…bored until we’re buried” —MasLilPickYouTub

Filed Under: Billboard, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Country Music, Grading the Charts, Top Ten

Photo on 2014-01-10 at 12.58 #3

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

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