Top 10 Songs of 2011
The Top 10 Songs of 2011 were decided using staff opinions, reader feedback, sales data and chart positions. To be considered for this list, a song had to be released as a single in 2011. All 10 of these hits grab you with a catchy hook or a powerful message and never let go. They're from established veterans like Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley, and relative newcomers like the Eli Young Band and Luke Bryan. The only thing these songs have in common is their undeniable ability to force listeners to turn the radio up -- way up.
Chesney heard this song in 2003 but didn't fully appreciate it until he was nursing a broken heart years later. The lyrics are pure poetry, and Grace Potter's harmonies bring beauty and hope to Chesney's depression. "You and tequila make me crazy / You’re like poison in my blood / One more night could kill me, baby / One is one too many / One more is never enough,” they sing. The song was nominated for a Song of the Year CMA Award, but lost out to 'If I Die Young' by the Band Perry. Even so, it kicks off our list of the Top 10 Songs of 2011.
Ronnie Dunn's second single from his self-titled solo album holds the pulse of America between the verse and chorus. Songwriter Phillip Coleman was mowing yards and taking odd jobs to feed his family when he put the words together in 2008. Dunn held on to it for this project, but ran into a roadblock when his record label suggested he wasn't believable. "I can’t imagine someone thinking that,” Dunn tells Taste of Country. “I mean, I grew up a poor kid … I grew up in a trailer house in New Mexico. Don’t pull that. Made me furious.” “I got a strong back / Steel toes / I rarely call in sick / A good truck / What I don’t know / I catch on real quick / I work weekends / If I have to / Nights and holidays / Give you 40 / And then some / Whatever it takes / Three dollars and change at the pump / Cost of livin’s high and goin’ up," he sings. It's as good a vocal performance as Dunn's ever delivered.
At first, this Paisley hit felt like just another special event song, but after frequent listens it became somewhat of a summer anthem, much like Alabama's 'Dixieland Delight,' which Paisley samples liberally. This two-week No. 1 hit made Alabama relevant again, and as a result the legends are pondering a comeback and maybe even some new music. One of the finer 2011 awards show moments was watching Paisley perform 'Old Alabama' with Alabama at the 2011 ACM Awards, which helped secure the tune a spot on our top songs of 2011 list.
Rodney Atkins hit proved to be more contagious than cooties. Clever rhyming and a spirit of independence on a long, hot summer day made this song a must-listen during the summer of 2011. One can almost feel the breeze blowing through the open car windows as the setting sun pushes you to drive just a little faster. "And it makes me wanna take a back road / Makes me wanna take the long way home / Put a little gravel in my travel / Unwind, unravel all night long," Atkins sings during this two-week chart topper from an album of the same name.
It was a long road to No. 1 for the Eli Young Band this year. 'Crazy Girl' has been one of the year's top selling singles, but it took over eight months for the song to top the country music charts. Liz Rose and Lee Brice wrote this song, and the band picked it up because it sounded unlike anything they'd heard or recorded before. "Crazy girl, don’t you know that I love you / And I wouldn’t dream of goin’ nowhere / Silly woman, come here, let me hold you / Have I told you lately / I love you like crazy, girl," they sing. Look for this song to be featured in many of 2011's most played songs lists.
A performance of this hit at the 2011 CMT Music Awards served notice to fans that Luke Bryan was an artist poised to leap the chasm between star and superstar. While 'Country Girl' was never a chart-topper, it was one of our top songs of 2011, and one of the year's most undeniable toe-tappers. Actually, it was more of a toe-tapper/hip-shaker/throw your hands up and get crazy-maker. "Shake it for the birds, shake it for the bees / Shake it for the catfish swimmin' down deep in the creek / For the crickets and the critters and the squirrels / Shake it to the moon, shake it for me girl," Bryan sings. He brings just enough humor to the lyric to avoid coming off as crass or sexist.
Justin Moore's second career No. 1 may wind up being the song that defines his career. It's certainly the most powerful the young singer has put out to date. This hit from 'Outlaws Like Me' tells a sweet story of a man hoping for just a few more minutes with the people he loves. By the end, one is reaching for the box of tissues. "If Heaven wasn't so far away / I'd pack up the kids and go for the day / Introduce them to their grandpa / And watch them laugh at the way he talked," he sings to begin the chorus, before going on to becoming one of 2011's top songs.
Taylor Swift's 2011 CMA Song of the Year nominated hit is also one of the most important in terms of the right message at the right time. Much like Ronnie Dunn did with 'Cost of Livin',' Swift had the right response for an issue facing Americans, although hers wasn't intentional. 'Mean' wound up being recognized as a great anti-bullying message wrapped up in a catchy, easy-to-digest hook. "Someday I'll be living in a big ol' city / And all you're ever gonna be is mean / Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me / And all you're ever gonna be is mean," she sings.
Paisley had to convince Carrie Underwood that this song would be a special moment in time. It seems obvious now. Underwood soars, and Paisley matches her in terms of passion and yearning on this love song, one of our top songs of 2011. It's a unique message that will strike anyone who's been a relationship that's grown tired upside the head. "But I don't want to settle for good not great / I miss the way that it felt back then I wanna feel that way again / Been so long that you'd forget the way I used to kiss your neck / Remind me, remind me," they sing. It is one of the year's true goose bump moments.
'Honey Bee' spent almost a month at No. 1 on the Billboard country music chart and went gold quicker than Shelton could tweet about it. It was a hit from the very first spin on radio, and Shelton's high-profile gig as mentor on NBC's 'The Voice' this year only added fuel to the fire. On a strictly analytical basis, it's hard to argue any other song is the No. 1 song of 2011, and since we still can't get it out of our heads -- in a good way -- we conceded to the numbers.