A PERSONAL PLAYLIST + COMMENTARY WRITTEN FOR A DEAR FRIEND
I tried to make some kind of fun theme but I don’t know that there is one. These are my top artists right now. That’s the base.
Here’s the structure: I went with an old classic to tee things off, then capped it off with a very new release that makes for a good closure piece. Between you have different new country artists’ songs in bundles of four songs, each separated by an old country classic that reminds me of their sound (the old influence seen in the new).
Hmmm…it’s an epic, modern burger. Delicious, tasty, savory. A new combination of classic flavors. You’ve got some refreshing elements, meaty portions, complementing sauces, light seasonings, and whatever other components one would naturally desire in a rave review meal. Tim McGraw is the big brioche bun top, Kelsea Ballerini is the thin bun bottom, then there’s all the good stuff in the middle, with the layers separated by the old classics. What’s nice about a Music City burger? You get all the juicy flavors with none of the calories, so eat it up! Have I hit a new level of cheesiness with my country music playlist? Seems so.
p.s. You know those “She’s so extra” memes circulating Instagram right now? I can’t help but be extra and over the top when it comes to certain things, so this commentary is clocking in at just under 2,600 words. If you never make it through it, I will not be offended! No obligation. I’m just happy I put a post on this freaking blog because it has been too long since I’ve typed out nonsense, especially non-tragic nonsense, so I was due.
To get you in the right mood. The song referenced in Taylor Swift’s Tim McGraw isn’t this one but this is my favorite song of Tim’s so he’s kicking off the playlist. Nothing is more country, to me, than this song. I’m a little kid experiencing big adult emotions all over again.
don’t take the girl | Nothing is more country, to me, than this song. I’m a little kid sitting in the front seat of a hot Oldsmobile, popping in cassette tapes and playing DJ while my mom drives all over again, feeling big adult emotions as I cry about Johnny and true love.
No commentary needed on this artist. Obviously. No one will ever top her. She’s the reigning queen (probably what Madonna was for my mom). Ed is contender for Spot #1 for top male artist, though I need to assess his older tunes before giving him his royal crown. Ed, however, is not country and so this will be the first and last mention of him. But like, I can’t not mention him.
mary’s song | Similar story structure like Tim’s song. A classic storytelling formula for country. Can’t go wrong!
tim mcgraw | I’m eternally grateful for / am completely indebted to you for telling me her first album was so good.
our song | Seriously, why am I even providing notes on her songs? You don’t need them.
picture to burn | “There’s no time for tears.” “You tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy, that’s fine.” “My daddy’s gonna show you how sorry you’ll be.” “Wasted time.” SO GOOD.
Taylor swift said (or so I read when I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame — there’s a Shania temporary exhibit featured right now), “I learned to think outside genre boxes and the status quo by watching her (Shania) reinvent herself. I’ll always be grateful for the chances and risks she took.” Shania is a badass, a true fighter and champion. She’s an incredible human.
any man of mine | Another cassette favorite of my childhood. And one of her songs she sang that was “her”, not what labels wanted her to be. You go, girl.
Kelsea is darling! She’s that skinny, cute, naive blonde that you want to hate but you can’t, no matter how much you want to! And I feel like her singles are nothing compared to the stuff on her album, so I’m sure she played it safe releasing sure-thing hits when her more vulnerable, “sincere” stuff is where it’s at. If you like these, I recommend Secondhand Smoke (her relationships won’t be like her parents’), Underage, Looking at Stars (kinda just cute — the line, “never seen a night this clear”), and then the others are just a peppy, light, good time. She’s refreshing, especially when one needs a break from the intensity Taylor provides.
xo | I like the line, “and I ain’t gonna be nobody’s second best, no.” And who doesn’t love a good play on words? This is a fun one, and hard one, to sing. I love when artists cram too many words into a tiny space. Challenging, full of passion.
square pegs | You do you.
first time | She wrote this one without any co-writers about getting stood up. I thought you’d like it as you mentioned how Taylor’s ballads are your faves, and those often don’t have cowriters. Also, look at Kelsea. What idiot stands her up? His loss, she’s engaged now, and she’s famous.
stilettos | Hurting but keeping composure. Classy. I love the lines, “little black dress to cover my mess”, and “pull myself together from the fallout of forever.”
When I hear Kelsea’s Underage, it reminds me of this song.
strawberry wine | It’s just a classic.
His album seems so from-the-heart, I love like every song. And his OC-California/I-went-to-CCCM-and-probably-played-in-the-worship-band sound seems so clear to me. I think that’s what I love about him. OC has given the world some great artists. Go SoCal! If you like the album, other faves I have are…um…all of them. Back on the Wagon, Memory Won’t Let me. I think you’d like Olivia Mae and Beautiful Believer, but mostly because we seem to have different faves on good albums.
sleep without you | I love how he trusts his girl, and knows she’s committed. And I love how he says, “slippin’ outcha high heels shoes”, or however you write it.
like i loved you | So good. Tears! Figuratively. “Don’t tell me we can be friends, still hang out on the weekends…” Oh, and this is his latest released song on the radio, as of this week.
you ain’t here to kiss me | “The flight attendant knows the look of love gone wrong so she’s pourin’ ’em a little strong.” This song paints a vivid picture to me. I love it.
mercy | So good. Tears! Literally. Not all the time, but God. So soulful. It’s that damn piano that does it to me.
I know Brett admired this guy, or I think I read in an article that this was one of his influences. Country wasn’t cool in Anaheim so good for him for sticking with it.
just to see you smile | I feel this influence could be in Brett’s writing. I’m might be making stuff up in my mind but it’s my playlist interpretation so there you go.
MADDIE & TAE
They are a little more country, a little less pop. They’re so cute! Fun to sing their songs. And I envy their sassy spirit. Their top song I haven’t included but it is called Girl in a Country Song and they wrote in in jest on how these boys in country music write about these girls the way they do…and they have a song about fishing where this city boy keeps swooning over a girl and all she wants to do is fish, so she pushes him in the lake. They are spunky and again, it’s hard to pick a fave from their album. They have more tangibles referenced, not vague words, which is very country (i.e. salmon shorts, california cherry cola). Their song No Place Like You was mine and CountryMan’s Our Song…I am happy I only cry half the time when I play it on guitar cuz its so good! But it’s not on the list below.
fly | It’s about being brave. I love it, and I love how many young girls love it too.
sierra | Who hasn’t known a Sierra? “It might not be Christian to be wishin what I’m wishin’…I hope I’m around when you get knocked up or knocked down” *insert laughing tears emoji*
after the storm blows through | It’s about being there for a friend in hard times. I think this is going in any future breakup kits or other “I’m here for you” cards/gifts I make for friends, along with the box of Kleenex and other go-to kit items.
your side of town | So fun to sing! Spunky.
I hear her in Maddie & Tae’s songs. It’s the spunk, I think.
cleopatra, queen of denial | Old country, new country…it’s all connected. A quick Google view says their music reminds at least one other person of 1990s Pam Tillis so I now feel validated as a music critic. New career, here I come!
His Montevello album…SO GOOD! I’m sounding like a broken record, which is ironic cuz this is playlist commentary for a digital streaming service. He does this talking/singing thing. When I first got to Nashville, his songs were always on the radio and I thought I hated him. Then, one day, I realized I loved him. So, that’s me and Sam. We go way back to summer of 2016. I guess he wrote for some big names before making a name for himself in Nashville, as most new artists do. His other songs have some reeeaallly good lines. He’s good with the words.
break up in a small town | Rough. Ugh.
ex to see | No commentary, really. The song tells the story.
cop car | “…would make a good story.” Yeah, I could almost see this happening for me but I’m terrified of breaking the law, so never mind, I take that back. But I do love a good story.
take your time | This is the song I hated that I now love, and is my measuring stick when I see guys at bars. Everyone goes to the honkytonks on the weekends (big-small town feel, I’m tellin’ ya!) and actually asks people out here, very different from my CA experience, and so this is my song tool to sort through the losers. I’m quality, you best believe it.
I had already planned to put a Kenny Chesney song here, and then I looked up facts about Sam Hunt, and learned he wrote for Kenny Chesney, along with some other big names, before getting his own big break. Man, I am on fire!
you had me from hello | I didn’t realize how much country I remembered from my childhood until I moved here. Sam obviously didn’t write this song but I’m sure he was listening to it just like me, which is why it comes through in his writing (to me, again, but that goes without being said, yet I feel the need to still explain my lack of credentials in these correlations).
They’re very popular. Or, I think they are? I don’t know. Brett and Kelsea are on tour with them now. I think Sam also has toured with them in the past? I tried getting into their music to justify buying a ticket to see Brett and Kelsea open for them but they’re a little more…meh. I dunno. Haven’t made up my mind yet. I’m sure they are great! I love two of their songs a lot. They are a little more in line with what people probably want to hear. *cue John Crist video for a good laugh*
bartender | It just resonates with late-20s life. Going out on Broadway, you see some girls like this, you see my friends out there like this…life is hard! *quick sidebar song of New Romantics by Taylor*
She Is | It’s good. I dunno.
747 | I seem to enjoy songs about flights for some reason.
it ain’t pretty | Such a cleanly-structured song (I do love order), and it almost hit home for like a nanosecond for me. Made me grateful for my level-headedness of not being someone who gets to that place. Yay.
Reba is BOMB. And still making music. I just heard this on the radio the other day and thought the word, “YASSS!” in all caps + the hallelujah hands emoji, which is weird because I don’t use that term, but I doubt Reba imagined she’d be where she is in life, so it’s all about flexibility and open-mindedness in the progression of life.
going out like that | I picture Reba just giving the Kelseas and Lady Antebellums (band member) of the world motherly country advice on getting their asses out there with their girls, not lettin’ no boy get her down. “Let’s go, girls! I got the Reba spirit and you need it too!”
This is a music video. When Kelsea wrote the song, she said (in an interview I watched briefly on Facebook) it’s structured in a way that would make it open to interpretation. It started as a story of lost love but it can be taken several directions. The video takes it to a very serious place. Very modern-day Don’t Take the Girl, in a (very loose) way, that made me cry. Crying…it seems to be a theme. If a song makes me have that strong of an emotional reaction, it’s a forever favorite. You’ll see.
Legends | Regardless of what any interview may say, this song is about falling in love, over time, on Broadway and I can’t be convinced otherwise. It was written by Kelsea and other writers, all who I probably rub shoulders with on Broadway on the regular, and I swear to God there are so many references to downtown. This city gets in you and you can’t help but have it come through in lyrics, or so is my theory. Since it’s her home city, even if that’s not what it’s about, it is because it’s inherent*
“Legends” – That’s a classic bar right next to the Ryman AKA the Carnegie Hall of the South / Mecca for Country Music (I have a mural pic of this place, it’s the bar I waited in before I ran over for my Ryman kiss). “Written down in permanent marker” – At Tootsies, a historic and famous honkytonk right next to Legends, there’s this wall where everyone has their names written and I ridiculously want to do that one day with someone, and now that I’ve heard this song, it must be a thing. “Middle of the madness, we were neon in a grey crowd” – Neon lights everywhere in hoppin’ downtown! “Didn’t do it for the fame or the glory but we went down in history”. I’ll stop with the line-by-line commentary. Anyway, I personally wrote my own story down there and me and CountryMan are forever legends in my romantic Nashville storytelling soul. Tragic, epic, amazing. We were legends.
Thoughts? Well done? Rare? I’d say both as 1) it’s a kickass playlist, even if only enjoyed by me, and 2) I’m pretty sure this is the first burger-referencing blog post on a playlist made about country music.
I can’t think of anything more country than a summer cheeseburger and some good music.