10 Most Important Songs of 2014
They weren't all hits -- in fact, one of the songs on this list of the most important songs of 2014 didn't even crack the charts. However, each made an impact in a much more meaningful way.
Blake Shelton, Garth Brooks and Florida Georgia Line all landed songs that bumped country music from its axis in 2014. This list is full of songs that changed the genre in some way, featuring lyrics with great social importance. Scroll through to find out what Jake Owen and Maddie & Tae have in common and why Shelton's 'My Eyes' was so dang influential.
Jake Owen has had to fight for this song at every stage, and now he's beginning to reap the benefits. 'What We Ain't Got' is a sparse, piano-based ballad that finds the normally high-spirited singer showing his scars. It stands out like ink on a white sofa when it comes on the radio. Slowly -- very slowly -- it's climbing the charts, and as it does, more and more singers and songwriters are stepping forward to thank him. They say there's new reason to believe a song with real emotional depth can work between songs about trucks, beer and women in blue jean cutoffs.
Sam Hunt's debut is country's most flagrant mix of twang and R&B. Billy Currington had being doing that more subtly for years, but Hunt is leading the new R&B revolution. He's not alone. Singers like Dustin Lynch and Old Dominion also sound good riding lush velvet melodies. This could be the next big thing.
The CMA Song of the Year nominee released his biography in under four minutes. 'I Hold On' is Dierks Bentley's most personal song to date, and it launched his career to new levels in 2014. If Bentley begins to collect major awards show hardware in 2015 or 2016, point to this song as the reason why.
Florida Georgia Line's first album was full of hits that lacked emotional depth. To sustain a long-lasting career the duo needed something fans could bite into, and they found it with 'Dirt.' The chart-topper set critics back and paved a new direction for Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. The ballad is one of a few songs that helped push country radio away from frothy party songs -- albeit only slightly -- in 2014.
Glen Campbell's farewell put a face on Alzheimer's disease. Throughout the year, he and his family have bravely shared the painful details of how the disease steals memories and mental functions. 'I'm Not Gonna Miss You' provided one final punch. The ballad is as beautiful as it is bittersweet. The song is sure to live on as long as Alzheimer's does.
No song split country fans down the middle like Chase Rice's 'Ready Set Roll.' It embraced everything some people hate: hip-hop, synthetic sounds, objectification of women -- on its way to a Top 5 peak. However, the reason the song is important has more to do with how Rice released and promoted it. It's been years since an independent artist notched a hit song. Rice is sort of the Macklemore of country music, meaning he's not reliant on a label or traditional means of getting his music to fans. Others will surely follow his lead.
It's a two-for-one for Garth Brooks. 'People Loving People' was important because it was Brooks' first new single in seven years, but the song wasn't the hit he hoped it'd be. In fact, given the hype around the legend's comeback, it was kind of a flop. 'Mom,' the second single from 'Man Against Machine,' won't be. The song is the powerful ballad fans were yearning for.
There has been one female artist to notch a No. 1 hit in 2014, but she did it as a featured artist. Gwen Sebastian teamed with Blake Shelton for the sexy hit 'My Eyes' this year. Shelton's dedication to helping new female artists is not talked about nearly enough. That he chose his former Team Blake member instead of a more well-known hitmaker proves his commitment. Country needs more of this from its leading men.
The 2014 Song of the Year CMA winner didn't crack the Top 40, but it went Gold and proved to be one of the most-talked about non-hits of the last decade. Slowly, the country music industry is beginning to accept gay artists and songwriters. More and more are coming forward and still finding success (see Brandy Clark). Every movement needs an anthem, and Kacey Musgraves' song embraces that role.
Two cute teens from Texas and Oklahoma are responsible for the most jaw-dropping moment of 2014. 'Girl in a Country Song' is the sort of song that will either make you a star or get you banished. Maddie & Tae took the risk, and are watching their statement sit near the top of Billboard's airplay chart. They'd be the first all-female duo to do that since the Wreckers in 2006, but the song's importance lies in the way it gave country men a kick in the butt this year.