Must-Listens for December: The Shotgun Seat Team Picks

Our December favorites range from buzzy new artists like Walker Hayes and Morgan Wallen to established stars like Chris Young and Kelsea Ballerini.

Lydia: “Shut Up Kenny” by Walker Hayes

If you’re about to skip by this song because of the title, stop – you’ve got to listen to the lyrics. After listening to the song you’ll clearly see just how clever Walker Hayes is. He uses his admiration and love for all things Kenny Chesney to create a very relatable song. I challenge any haters of Hayes’ out-of-the-box lyrical style to use an open mind and really listen to what he’s saying. Anyone who has a love for music or a particular artist knows the feeling of hearing their songs and being instantly taken over by a memory… good or bad, the song hits you and transports you back to a particular place in time. Written by Hayes, Pete Good and AJ Babcock, and with the Shane McAnally seal of approval you’ve just got to give it a listen.

Key Lyrics: “Come on, Kenny man you know I like your music but I hate the way I love the way it hurts when I listen to it / I know I need to rip the radio out the dash but I can’t / Damn, shut up Kenny.”  

Markus: It Must Be Christmas by Chris Young

It’s finally that time of year when the Christmas music can get pulled out! One of my personal favorites is last year’s Chris Young Christmas project, It Must Be Christmas. It’s a warm batch of familiar, and original tunes that bring out the best aspects of the season. Young sounds more than comfortable behind the mic, and sings over a traditionally-tinged production style that suits the largely-classic nature of the compositions. His duets with Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley perfectly utilizes everyone’s talents perfectly, while the title-track, as well as classics such as “The Christmas Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” are performed admirably. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable batch of songs that will surely become a holiday staple of mine for years to come.

Lisa: “In Between” by Kelsea Ballerini

This track on Ballerini’s sophomore album Unapologetically showcases both her vocals and writing ability in their purest and most authentic form. In the song (co-written with Jimmy Robbins and Shane McAnally) Ballerini puts into words the feelings of so many teenagers and twenty-somethings as she describes her current emotions surrounding coming into adulthood in the most honest way.
Key Lyrics: “In between, hometown and a neon city / In between, underestimated and overexpectated / Who I was and who I’m gonna be.

Amanda: “Ready or Not” by Josh Dorr

Josh Dorr gives everyone a much needed lesson in what unconditional love is supposed to look like in “Ready or Not,” a song he co-wrote with Ryan Hurd. The song, which is featured on Dorr’s Sundancer EP, released just last month, paints the perfect picture of what it means to love someone and stand by them through every obstacle life decides to throw their way. The song takes its listeners through one couple’s inspiring love story as they overcome the daily struggles of parenthood and financial hardship because they have one another to lean on: “I’m gonna love you through the good times and the bad/there ain’t nothin in this world that’s changing that.” Sadly, the song takes a gut wrenching turn in the last verse that will rip your heart right out of you, as Dorr describes the heartbreaking reality of what it’s like to watch helplessly as  your significant other passes.

“Ready or Not” is a rollercoaster of emotions that will leave listeners in complete awe because of how real and powerful the message that Dorr and Hurd convey is, and is made even more so thanks to Dorr’s raw vocals. (If you’re not left even a little shattered after hearing this song, you might want to get your heart checked.) “Ready or Not” is easily one of the best songs of the year, and Josh Dorr and Ryan Hurd deserve every bit of applause for creating this masterpiece.

Natalie: ’18th and Portland’ EP by Savannah Conley
I was introduced to Savannah Conley’s music at last week’s Low Country Sound show at the Basement East, which featured a killer lineup of Brent Cobb, Anderson East, Brandi Carlile, and she totally rocked it. I added her to my playlists immediately afterwards. Her vocals are stunning and light, even as she sings about heartbreak and hardship, and her overall performance reminded me of artists like Margo Price, Brandy Clark, and Miranda Lambert. Her EP 18th and Portland offers a good taste of her artistry, but she’s truly one watch (or even better, to catch at a live show!). “Waitin’ My Life Away” is a personal favorite.

Annie: “Up Down” by Morgan Wallen
This song is 100% jam, 100% toss some brews back with your hometown friends over the holidays, 100% creative twist on doing so. I’ve had this Brad Clawson / Michael Hardy / CJ Solar co-write on loop recently and that play count is only going to rise through December.