The 2010s are officially coming to an end, so it's time to look back on all of the spectacular tunes that country music fans have been treated to over the past decade.
The past several years have seen veteran artists such as Eric Church and Miranda Lambert continue to churn out some of the best music of their careers, while Americana favorites Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell have attracted huge audiences outside of the Nashville mainstream. They've also seen newer artists such as Thomas Rhett and Cole Swindell establish themselves as both respectable songwriters and song-selectors.
From heart-tugging ballads to tunes that make their listeners want to dance, the best country songs of the 2010s make us proud -- really proud -- to be fans of country music.
Combs' ascent to rising superstar status has been a real joy to watch, and fans all over the world are obsessed with his affable, laid-back vibe. At the tail end of the decade, he recorded what might be the best drinking anthem of the 2010s in "Beer Never Broke My Heart," a true juggernaut of a song that was certified platinum a mere two months after its release.
Stapleton co-wrote "Nobody to Blame" and included it on his freshman album, Traveller; the song, which became his first Top 10 hit, laments the mistakes that resulted in a breakup. Although Stapleton had written plenty of hits for other artists -- Kenny Chesney, Josh Turner, George Strait and others -- it was "Nobody to Blame" and its predecessor, his first record's title track, that made people notice Stapleton as an artist himself, and resulted in the singer winning a handful of trophies, including three CMA Awards.
Intended to be a love letter to her children, "Humble and Kind" was written by Lori McKenna while she was sitting at her dining room table. She never dreamed that it would turn into one of the biggest hits of her songwriting career.
"I was thinking about what we want the kids to know, and honestly how they don’t always listen to the things we say," McKenna tells The Boot of the inspiration for the song. "I just thought, 'I’m going to write it down.' Honestly, it’s a very simple song, and it’s really just this list of things that I wanted to make sure we told them, in this rhyme form."
McGraw included "Humble and Kind" on his 2015 album, Damn Country Music, and McKenna later released it on her own record, The Bird and the Rifle. The song won both of them numerous awards, including Best Country Song at the Grammys and Song of the Year at the CMA Awards.
Swindell earned his fifth consecutive No. 1 hit with "You Should Be Here," which was the title track of his sophomore album. Written with Ashley Gorley about the loss of Swindell's father, the song -- along with its heart-touching, personal video -- became an anthem for others who have experienced personal loss.
"I’m not the only one who has ever lost somebody; I’m not the only one who was missing somebody," Swindell tells The Boot. "That’s what I love about country music, that’s what I love about songwriters, is being able to put out those words, those feelings. From the first lyric and note of the song, it’s got that feeling about it, and that’s what we tried to do."
This multi-platinum-selling, multi-week No. 1 hit is, in some ways, autobiographical for Church; however, the artist he was seeing wasn't Bruce Springsteen.
"I went to a concert when I was younger with a girl, and to this day, when I hear that artist, it’s the soundtrack to that girl. I never think about her any other time, except when that song is on," Church tells The Boot. "That’s where the “Springsteen” came from, and he seemed to be the perfect guy to craft that story around because of my love for him … I have such a reverence for Bruce Springsteen’s career and how he’s built it."
"The House That Built Me," written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, was originally intended for Lambert's then-boyfriend, Blake Shelton. However, "I heard this song and I cried for two hours," Lambert recalls.
"When a song hits you like that, you know it's gonna affect other people the same way ... I don't really cry when I listen to music, but that song definitely hit me really hard," she adds. "[So,] I asked Blake if I could have it."
"The House That Built Me," which was Lambert's first No. 1 hit, received Best Female Country Vocal Performance at the Grammys.
Controversial to some, but loved by almost everyone -- that's "Girl Crush." Its painfully honest lyrics -- "I want to taste her lips / Yeah, cause they taste like you / I want to drown myself / In a bottle of her perfume" -- come from a unique point of view; because of some misinterpretations, "Girl Crush" was pulled from some stations' airwaves due to listeners' protests, but that opposition certainly didn't affect the song's success.
Written by Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose, "Girl Crush" appears on Little Big Town's 2014 album Pain Killer. It became a multi-platinum No. 1 hit, and landed in the Top 30 on the pop charts as well. In addition, the song earned LBT trophies at both the Grammy Awards and the CMA Awards.
The smash single from Carlile's stunning 2018 album By The Way, I Forgive You, "The Joke" was nominated for four Grammy Awards and won two of them, including Best American Roots Song. In addition to the song's gorgeous lyricism and uplifting, inclusive message, its accompanying music video is also one of the decade's best.
The second single from Musgraves' debut album, Same Trailer Different Park, "Follow Your Arrow" was a surprise success on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, peaking at #10. More than its chart performance, though, the song's message transcended genre lines and attracted fans of all types and stripes.
At its absolute core, country music tells real-life stories, and Isbell's "Cover Me Up" is one of its best, period. A love song written about the singer-songwriter's battle with addiction and relationship with wife and fellow musician Amanda Shires, "Cover Me Up" features a simple melody and heart-wrenching lyrics, paired with Isbell's powerful voice to create a tear-jerking tune that's impossible to dislike.
Nothing makes the heart swell more than hearing the crowd at a live show cheer and clap when Isbell sings the lyric "I sobered up / I swore off that stuff, forever this time." But despite its deeply personal tale, "Cover Me Up" has also found new life as a frequently covered song: Most recently, Morgan Wallen has been making headlines for his goosebump-inducing take on one of Isbell's signature songs.