It's been awhile since we took a trip down Nashville way, so what say we all saddle up and take a look at Billboard's country Top 10 for the week of January 21, 2008? Unlike the rock and pop charts, there's still a fair bit of turnover at country radio, so if you haven't been listening to your local fake-cowboy station, prepare to meet a few new friends. Extra bonus: No T-Pain!
1. Taylor Swift, “Our Song” (Big Machine)
Like Taylor Swift herself, “Our Song” has some damn nice legs; it’s been bouncing around the upper reaches of various country music- and video-related charts since last September. Much as we’d hate to quibble with the overpowering success of a cute blonde, in this case, we simply can’t. Long may she twang.
2. Sugarland, “Stay”
Sugarland is all right and everything, but fans of guitarist Kristian Bush’s previous band – the sales-starved Billy Pilgrim – know he’s a fine singer and songwriter in his own right; it can be difficult to listen to Jennifer Nettles sing without wishing she’d just be quiet and get out of Bush’s way. Still, there’s nothing wrong with this adulteress’ lament, and the video – which features Nettles fighting back tears, and failing – makes a case for “Stay” as a country “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
3. Rascal Flatts, “Winner
at a Losing Game” (Lyric Street)
The Flatts formula – take Diane Warren-style ballad, add pedal steel, rinse, repeat – has been making them truckloads of money for so long that it’s hard to begrudge them for beating it into the ground with each successive release. On the other hand, “Winner at a Losing Game” is awfully goddamn boring.
Montgomery Gentry, “What
Do Ya Think About That” (Columbia)
We know the “that” he’s referring to in this song’s title isn’t “hunting a tame bear in an enclosed pen,” but we’ll still take this opportunity to tell Troy Gentry that we think he’s an enormous douchebag for what he did, and we hope he winds up doing time for it. Also, this song is corny as hell. We’d like to see you get in a bear-infested pen without a gun, Troy. Survival of the fittest. What do ya think about that?
5. Brad Paisley, “Letter
to Me” (Arista Nashville)
Everything people make fun of about country music – the well-timed strings, the heart-tugging message, the down-to-earthiness of it all – is here in “Letter to Me,” but it’s all so well-crafted that it’s hard to argue with. Paisley’s got a nice, fluid voice, and hell, who wouldn’t mind writing their 17-year-old self a letter?
6. Keith Urban, “Everybody”
“Everybody needs somebody sometimes”? Really, Keith? You don’t say. Why, that’s just the sort of pretend-profound crap you probably hear in…oh, right. Rehab. Given that Urban has done much better than this – and probably will go on to do better in the future – we’ll give him a mulligan for this dishwater-dull ballad, so long as he promises to never let it happen again.
Gary Allan, “Watching
Airplanes” (MCA Nashville)
Seven songs into the chart, and this is the first time we’re hearing a mandolin high in the mix? Shame on you, Nashville. “Watching Airplanes” is Allan’s latest slice of Garth Brooks-inspired country – it’s got widescreen production and a melody to match – and bodes well for his latest album, Living Hard.
8. Billy Ray Cyrus with Miley Cyrus, “Ready,
Set, Don’t Go” (Walt Disney)
Poor Billy Ray Cyrus. The guy who was setting country-radio airplay records 15 years ago has been reduced to releasing a retooled version of a single that was already plainly about his more-famous daughter – giving her equal time in the vocal spotlight – in order to earn his highest chart berth of the new millennium. That being said, this ode to fatherly love isn’t terrible, even if it is terribly mawkish. Think Joe Simpson listens to this song much?
9. Kenny Chesney, “Shiftwork”
Everyone knows the country Top 10 can’t go more than a month or two without playing host to a song about the American Workin’ Man, and there’s nothing wrong with slipping the line “a big ol’ pile of shiftwork” into a song – but Christ if Chesney’s silly Jimmy Buffett shtick doesn’t leave us wanting to knee him in the Adam’s apple. This YouTube comment sums it all up beautifully: “What's Kenny know about shiftwork? He's been on the beach the last ten years counting his money, rubbing suntan lotion on Tim McGraw’s back.”
Rodney Atkins, “Cleaning
This Gun (Come On in Boy)” (Curb)
It’s awfully hard to take a song’s protagonist seriously when the first thing he tells you is that he doesn’t know more than a sentence from the Declaration of Independence – but then again, what’s scarier to a teenage suitor than an idiot father who stays up cleaning his gun all night? Point well taken, Rodney. Point well taken.