Mainstream Country's 10 Worst Songs of 2015

Hate to pick on Brad Paisley, but "Crushin' It" was just bad.
Hate to pick on Brad Paisley, but "Crushin' It" was just bad.

As much fun as it is to complain about country music, there is no shame in loving this entirely American genre that has produced such talents as Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. Country music is, at its best, the best music in the world. At its worst, though, bad country ranges from mortifyingly entertaining to downright cringe-worthy. It feels like we’ve seen a whole lot more of the “bad” than the good lately, so much so that when a good country album is finally released, it oversaturates country radio to a point where no one wants to listen to the damn thing anymore. But perhaps we should be grateful. As good as releases from Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town were this year, there were some real duds on the country charts.

This list is in no way an exhaustive list of the worst country songs of 2015. That one would probably need to be around 100 tracks long, especially when you consider the sheer number of people who are able to record a song, post it to Facebook and then release it to iTunes. Some of the artists on this list also released some of country’s best songs of the year, because these ten terrible songs were also among the year’s most successful tracks. In the face of all this undeserved commercial success, country music should be pretty embarrassed that these songs ruled the airwaves this year.

COLE SWINDELL, “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey”

Aside from the fact that this song is just one big, long grammatical error, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The woman in this song isn’t worth a half-handle of Kentucky Deluxe, but is somehow worth writing this terrible song about? Swindell somehow even manages to invoke raising a glass in support of the troops in this break-up song, which seems particularly acrobatic, if obnoxious.

RAELYNN, “God Made Girls”

With the release of “God Made Girls,” RaeLynn proved that in country music, it isn’t just the men who enjoy infantilizing women. This song is incredibly demeaning and patronizing, but the idea that women were created by God to wear pretty skirts, cry, hold boys’ hands and give them a reason to wash their fucking trucks is so wrapped up in RaeLynn’s saccharine voice that it sounds almost innocent. It’s not.  

KANE BROWN, “Used to Love You Sober”

This country-music Facebook sensation made it big on the Internet recording videos of country covers, and eventually, his own tunes. Unfortunately, the steely-blue-eyed Brown should’ve probably stuck with other folks’ songs. “Used to Love You Sober” is another of those songs that really don’t make any sense. The metaphor — being “drunk in love” — sounds pretty decent until you really start thinking about it. Brown has a pretty good voice, reminiscent of Josh Turner's, but its juxtaposition with out-of-place snare beats and terrible songwriting does not produce a good result.

LUKE BRYAN, “Kick the Dust Up”

No countdown of the year’s worst country songs would be complete without the presence of Luke Bryan, even if his most recent release was arguably less egregious than the last. Still, Bryan keeps pandering to the party-boy stereotype with “Kick the Dust Up.” Aside from the fact that the phrase “let’s fill it up-up” is an actual lyric in this song, it’s also pretty ridiculous for someone who is over 40 to be pretending that he’s living this frat-boy life. Go home and watch Matlock, Grandpa Luke. No one believes that you’re out raging on the tailgate anymore.

KEITH URBAN, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”

For this song to be authentic coming from Keith Urban, it would need to be titled “Kangaroos, Nicole Kidman and Vegemite.” This fool is from Australia, not Dirt Clod, Kentucky. Keith Urban is decidedly not singing along with “American Pie” or a “Kris Kristofferson Sunday morning” or riding around on anyone’s tractor. The idea of learning everything one needs to know from a 1980s pop-rocker, a tractor and the Bible is certainly appealing to a certain subset of country fans, but the bizarre, soulful backbeat paired with an Australian singing about very played-out American stereotypes is really sort of beyond the kind of pandering to Middle America that country fans are used to.

DUSTIN LYNCH, “Hell of a Night”

This song, like so many other bro-country tunes, is about trying to bang a girl in a truck. There is little more substance than that; it's a well-established bro-country trope by now. Lynch is so passionate about his truck and the back roads being the perfect session for a booty call, it’s almost harder whose tailgate he’s more excited about – the truck or the chick. Either way, this particular subgenre needs to just die.

SAM HUNT, “House Party”

For the love of Conway Twitty and everything else that is holy, the fact that Sam Hunt has been crowned country’s new crooner is such a disappointment. Hunt’s “Take Your Time,” the song that could be heard every three seconds on country radio this year, is quite mediocre if inoffensive, but “House Party” is literally devoid of substance or country relevance. Without the terrible banjo, this is a One Direction song.

BRAD PAISLEY, "Crushin’ It"

This kind of charming double entendre is exactly why people love Brad Paisley, but that charm is starting to wear real thin. An old white dude in Wranglers singing about crushin’ beer cans is decidedly not one of country music’s finer moments, especially when you consider that Paisley is an actually talented guy (remember “Whiskey Lullaby?”) who took the easy way out and writes terrible songs because they make him lots of money.

GRANGER SMITH, “Backroad Song”

Country love songs have taken a turn for the worse, but writing an ode to unpaved roads feels like a new low. Let us not forget that Granger Smith got his start on Facebook as Earl Dibbles Jr., a purportedly funny parody of a country boy who recorded videos of his “satirical” songs. Now that he’s decided to stick with a more serious aesthetic, this song will leave you kind of wishing that he hadn’t.

MIRANDA LAMBERT, “Little Red Wagon”

Miranda Lambert is one of the best artists in country music, now or ever, but “Little Red Wagon” is beneath someone of her talent. Lambert’s appeal is wrapped up in her take-no-shit, Texas-girl authenticity, which is why hearing her sing “you can’t step to this backyard swagga” feels out of place and totally ridiculous. This song got significantly more hype and radio play in 2015 than many of the other, stronger tracks from her 2014 release Platinum, and that’s a real shame.

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