Matthew Berinato/ Shervin Lainez/ Caylee Robillard
It’s hard to believe we’re about to put 2023 in the rearview mirror.
And really, it has been a great year for country music — from mainstream to indepdenent country, Texas to Appalachia and beyond, there was so much great stuff released over the last 12 months or so that I’m having an incredibly hard time narrowing down my top 40 albums of the year (our list is coming soon, by the way).
With so many great records obviously comes thousands of great songs that will never get a chance at country radio, even if they’re released on a major label by a mainstream country artist, which is part of the tragedy of being a music fan.
It feels like so often the songs that I love the most are deep cuts which never become radio singles, and really, I only care because I just want everyone to love some of them as much as I do.
And that’s not to say a song topping the country charts makes it “good,” but it does mean that a lot of people are listening to it and like it enough to help it reach the top spot, though the whole radio discussion is a story for a whole separate post.
This article is really more about sharing some underrated songs I love, from albums that I really loved, with all of you, in case you missed it on your playlist or never had a chance to really dive into some of this music yet.
Without further ado, let’s get into it… here are five of my favorite deep cuts that I think should, and still could be, hit singles.
“Nothin’ Crazy” — Megan Moroney
I still have this one on repeat. Megan Moroney released her debut studio album Lucky earlier this year, and “Nothin’ Crazy” was included on the deluxe version which came out in September.
Featuring her friend Mackenzie Carpenter, Meg details the beginning of a new relationship and how the guy she’s talking to doesn’t want anything “crazy,” referencing his past relationship with an ex… she initially agrees, though they seemingly have very different definitions of the word “crazy” (relatable).
It’s so damn fun, and the production is incredibly catchy. While Meg had a lot of success with her first #1 hit “Tennessee Orange,” and will likely follow it up with her current radio single “I’m Not Pretty,” I still have hope that “Nothin’ Crazy” might still get a fair shot at country radio when the time comes for her to pick another single.
“27 Club” — Morgan Wade
An abolsute stunner of a song that never fails to stop me in my tracks, Morgan Wade included “27 Club” on her sophomore studio album Psychopath.
Per the usual, Morgan’s stunning vocals take center stage and the honest, poignant lyrics shine as she addresses her mental health struggles in reference to the “27 Club” (hence the title), a commonly-used list of legendary musicians that have passed away at the age of 27, including Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse and more.
While it’s definitely a long shot that we’d ever hear a song like this on mainstream radio due to the intense and dark subject matter, it certainly deserves to be a big ‘ol hit in my book, for whatever that’s worth. It’s easily one of, if not my absolute favorite, songs she’s ever put out.
“That’s Why We Fight” — Ella Langley (feat. Koe Wetzel)
Featuring Texas rocker Koe Wetzel, who Ella has opened for quite a bit this year, it’s a really fun song that focuses on a toxic relationship that pretty much only works because the makin’ up makes all the fighting worth it, if ya know what I mean.
Backed with some very loud and rock and roll production, it’s the one song on this list that is currently an official single (but has mostly been played on satellite/Texas radio), so it’s still possible that we could see it have some success at mainstream country radio (if they’ll actually play it consistently, and they should).
I hear no reason why this shouldn’t be Ella’s first country radio smash hit…
“Every Time I Drink” — Lukas Nelson & POTR
You absolutely have to hear this one at a live show to get the full effect, but “Every Time I Drink” is a hit and so dynamic and exciting in terms of the production.
Written by frontman Lukas Nelson and included on the band’s recent eighth studio album Sticks & Stones, the lyrics are cheeky and relatable, and never fail to make me laugh at the same time:
“Every time I drink, I think of her In the mornin’, her memory drains away Livin’ is easy now, but it might get worse ‘Cause every time I drink, I think of her”
Seriously, even though Lukas is on a smaller, independent label, I think it needs to be at the top of the country radio charts ASAP.
“Fishnets” — Treaty Oak Revival
Our most recently-released song on this list, Treaty Oak Revival put out one of the best albums this year with Have A Nice Day, and “Fishnets” is an easy standout for me.
The West Texas country rock outfit has already seen success in the Lone Star state and greater Texas/Red Dirt scene, but they’re poised for a breakout far beyond that niche.
Frontman Sam Canty delivers the lyrics so sincerely with his unique and distinct voice, as he tells the story of a girl who “had a dream with a dress so she didn’t have wear them fishnets on her legs.”
While it also definitely contains subject matter you don’t tend to hear as much on mainstream country radio, I haven’t been able to stop listening to this song and hope it can become a hit at Texas radio at the very least.
That’ll do it for some of my favorite singles released this year. Honestly, I could’ve kept going, because overall, I think we’re in a pretty good spot with the country genre and were blessed with a ton of great music this year.
What are some of your favorite singles released in 2023?