The Shotgun Seat’s Top 20 Singles of 2018

Welcome to The Shotgun Seat’s annual year-end features! We’ll recap the year’s best singles and albums, starting with the former in our top 20 singles list. Four of our writers—Annie Dineen, Markus Meyer, Lydia Simonetti, and Amanda Walsh—ranked their 20 favorite singles, resulting in the list below. Let us know what your favorite music from 2018 was, and here’s to a great year in 2019!

 

#20

Brothers Osborne – “Shoot Me Straight”

Individual Rankings: #5 – Lydia

This is a boot-stomping, sing at the top of your lungs, get completely lost in the awesome guitar work of John Osborne, full-fledged jam. The album version is nearly 7 minutes long and fits perfectly into their live show. For those who may lose interest, never fear—the 3-minute radio version certainly does the trick.  Starting out bluesy and soulful, the song then crashes into an electrified chorus that never seems to come back down.  – Lydia Simonetti

 

#19

Dan + Shay – “Tequila”

Individual Rankings: #5 – Annie

The boys crossed over to pop radio with this one, and it was a joy every time those opening piano chords graced the airwaves. Shay Mooney is one of the best vocalists in country, and through this song (and the stunning accompanying video) they paint a picture of a moment fresh as the powdery Colorado snow. – Annie Dineen

#18

Cam – “Road to Happiness”

Individual Rankings: #5 – Markus

Deeply reflective and meaningful, “Road to Happiness” is elevated by a crisp and succinct acoustic guitar backing, while Cam’s vocals are in top form. With an outstanding use of meter coupled with an ingrained sense of melancholy in the performance, it’s a true winner and maybe the best representative of Cam’s talents to-date.  – Markus Meyer

 

#17

Lauren Duski – “Costume Party”

Individual Rankings: #4 – Amanda

The Voice Season 12 runner-up made a bold but significant statement with her debut single, shining a much needed light on what self-doubt and insecurities actually look like. As she so fearlessly sings the line, “I’m stepping out of my own way/Out of this masquerade,” Duski gifts her listeners with the confidence to follow in her footsteps and stop hiding behind our own masks. Written from a place of complete vulnerability, “Costume Party” is one of the most raw and emotional songs to bless the ears of not just music fans, but the industry as a whole. – Amanda Walsh

 

#16

Eric Church – “Desperate Man”

Individual Rankings: #3 – Lydia

As the lead single and title track, Eric Church’s “Desperate Man” got fans stoked for what was to come with his upcoming album.  The song has a classic-rock feel which many have likened to the Stone’s “Sympathy For The Devil.”  His ability to rock you with his bad-ass sound and lyrics is displayed on this one.  “Yeah, I’m a half-cock, full-tilt, scarred-hands-to-the-hilt, don’t-push-me, grown-ass man.” – LS

 

#15

Kacey Musgraves – “Space Cowboy”

Individual Rankings: #2 – Markus

An airy production props up the stellar melody and clever lyric. The title hook is as good as any writing you’ll hear in country music, while Musgraves’ performance exudes a deep sense of melancholy and begrudging acceptance. It’s a brilliant slice of pop-country, and the best of an already-decorated career for Musgraves. – MM

 

#14

Song Suffragettes – “Time’s Up”

Individual Rankings: #2 – Amanda

What’s arguably the most important song released in 2018 comes from a group of young women who are all a part of a weekly songwriters showcase in Nashville known as Song Suffragettes. These exceptional women are singers and songwriters who have been taking Nashville and the music industry as a whole by storm, together and individually making their voices heard. Using their talents, strengths, determination, knowledge, and their resilience, they continue to fight to be given the same opportunity as their male counterparts. They’re not asking for special treatment, but rather the same opportunity to either sink or swim that male artists are being given. 

Initially inspired by the #MeToo movement and created as a way to help raise money for the Time’s Up Legal Defense Team Fund, the song’s powerful message about gender inequality and sexual misconduct against women has allowed Song Suffragettes to not only raise awareness about the ongoing problems women face, but also write a check for $10,000 to the organization. Written by Kalie Shorr and Lacey Green, the song saw substantial attention after its release in January of 2018 and features the voices of 23 Song Suffragettes. With an equally bold music video that accompanied the single’s release, “Time’s Up” is a song that was long overdue. – AW

#13

Devin Dawson – “Asking For a Friend”

Individual Rankings: #10 – Lydia; #13 – Markus

With a beautiful dialog of what-if’s between himself and the object of his desire, this one has you rooting for the underdog.  It’s a sweet, fresh take on the classic trying-to-win-you-over story. – LS

 

#12

Jillian Jacqueline feat. Keith Urban – “If I Were You”

Individual Rankings: #10 – Annie; #12 – Lydia

Jillian Jacqueline has developed a strong sense of personality through her breakup-infused Side A and new-romantic Side B, with “If I Were You” gracefully bridging the gap. Her voice shines and pairs well with the feature from Urban, conveying the mixed emotion perfectly. – AD

 

#11

Chris Janson – “Drunk Girl”

Individual Rankings: #1 – Markus

Poignant and oh-so powerful. “Drunk Girl” encompasses a growing public issue in our society, and does so with tact and maturity. It represents artistic growth from an artist who always had it in him, and yet regularly pandered to the lowest commercial denominator. “Drunk Girl” is a beautiful moment and a highlight for the genre in 2018. – MM

 

#10

Lacy Cavalier – “Cheating On U”

Individual Rankings: #1 – Annie

I’ve loved being asked about year-end lists this year because as soon as it came out I knew it would be at the top of my list: “Cheating On U.” Lacy Cavalier employs specific details and honest confessions with ease on the song, conveying the underbelly of a post-breakup perfectly. – AD

 

#9

Ryan Kinder – “Stay”

Individual Rankings: #1 – Amanda

Ryan Kinder has the kind of voice that stays with you long after he’s finished singing. No matter the subject matter he’s singing about, his passion is always undeniable, and that (among many other reasons) makes his music all the more irresistible. On the third track of his EP, The Road, Kinder’s passion runs especially deep as he begs his lover to stay with him after everyone else has let him down. There’s a certain vulnerability that lies underneath his desperate pleas that’s so relatable we can’t help but feel that loneliness that echoes in every note. In fact, the only thing more impressive than the depth with which Kinder sings with is his ability to nail those high notes in such a way that almost mirrors pop-rock icons, like John Mayer and Rob Thomas, while still holding onto that southern wholesomeness his music is so firmly rooted in. – AW

 

#8

Sugarland feat. Taylor Swift – “Babe”

Individual Rankings: #5 – Amanda; #16 – Markus

After the award-winning success she saw from writing Little Big Town’s The Breaker hit, “Better Man,” Taylor Swift once again proves that although she’s musically swimming in the deep end of the pop music world, her songwriting roots will forever be in the country music pool. With some help from Train frontman, Pat Monahan, the “Shake It Off” singer penned the contagiously catchy second single on Sugarland’s comeback album, and earned herself a spot singing background vocals on it after the Grammy-winning duo insisted on it. A hit before fans ever even heard it, “Babe” is full of infectious melodies and simple but heartbreaking lyrics that leave a deep imprint (“I break down every time you call / We’re a wreck, you’re the wrecking ball”), making it irresistible and an easy track to have stuck on repeat in your head. Then again, did we really expect anything less from the super talents of Swift, Monahan, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush? – AW

 

#7

Justin Moore – “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home”

Individual Rankings: #3 – Amanda; #14 – Markus

As the Arkansas native returned to his roots for this release, fans of the singer’s early work should be thrilled since it was his original sound that initially made him a favorite of many. Together with co-writers Paul DiGiovanni, Jeremy Stover, and Chase McGill, Justin Moore uses his knack for storytelling to describe how family and friends honor their fallen hero whose life was lost while serving their country overseas. Moore and company paint what I can only imagine is a hauntingly accurate picture of what trying to cope with an inconceivable pain really looks like. For those who have lost a loved one in the military, this song will no doubt hit you the hardest. – AW

 

#6

Tenille Townes – “Somebody’s Daughter”

Individual Rankings: #4 – Markus; #11 – Lydia

With a garage band-esque backing arrangement and a fiery vocal, Tenille Townes emerged on the scene in 2018 as one of the most promising newcomers in country music. The lyric, which paints the picture of a homeless woman on the road side, is equal parts inquisitive and compassionate, and evoking a very real sense of humanity and connection. The explosive vocal adds a punch to the record, which turned out to be one of 2018’s finest moments. – MM

 

#5

Kip Moore – “Last Shot”

Individual Rankings: #2 – Lydia; #11 – Annie

Kip Moore is one of those artists whose distinct personality comes through his music.  He’s one to lay it out there for the world to hear and has no regrets.  “Last Shot” is another reminder of what a passionate songwriter he is.  Describing what he’d do if he had one last moment with someone.  “If you were my last shot, last shot of whiskey, I’d press you to my lips, take a little sip, swirl you around and around and ’round, then I’d shoot you down.” – LS

 

#4

Dierks Bentley feat. Brothers Osborne – “Burning Man”

Individual Rankings: #1 – Lydia; #8 – Markus

I literally can’t get enough of this song.  Straight out of the gate it’s got me on my feet.  I mean come on, Dierks Bentley with Brothers Osborne can do nothing but energize you.  This collaboration is spot on. – LS

 

#3

Jason Aldean feat. Miranda Lambert – “Drowns the Whiskey”

Individual Rankings: #8 – Annie; #9 – Lydia; #12 – Markus

“Drowns the Whiskey” is a win simply with the collaboration of country mega-stars Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert.  Beyond the wow factor, the song has legs.  It’s beautifully nostalgic and certainly commands your attention. – LS

 

#2

Cole Swindell – “Break Up in the End”

Individual Rankings: #2 – Annie; #3 – Markus

In one of the year’s bigger surprises, Cole Swindell hit an absolute homerun with “Break Up in the End”. Further distancing himself from bro-country, and even stripping down from the heavier-handed and less nuanced work of his sophomore project, “Break Up in the End” is a touching ode to lost love. It’s a mature viewpoint on the end of a relationship, backed with conviction from Swindell and a sparse acoustic arrangement. It’s by far Swindell’s best commercial release, and a standout on country radio. – MM

 

#1

Thomas Rhett – “Sixteen”

Individual Rankings: #4 – Annie; #7 – Markus, Lydia

“Sixteen” may resemble a standard country format: each verse portraying a different age, the plot (and the protagonist’s wisdom) advancing in each. But the details Rhett employs make this song and its main character so perfectly expressive: “Now that I can drive, finally feel alive, but I’ve got this curfew.” Each verse takes you right back to finally learning to drive, or missing out something because you’re not quite 21 like your friends and dying to be just a little bit older. Simply, it’s succinct, special, and well delivered. – AD