Jon Pardi is an original in the country genre. You’d be hard-pressed to find a modern-day artist who more expertly encapsulates traditionalism while simultaneously incorporating so much unique, signature style. Pardi delivers classic country with rock swagger and a California sunburn; his guitarwork sizzles like Dwight Yoakam’s, and he can turn a phrase like George Strait.
Just three albums into his career, Pardi already has a stout catalog of hits to choose from. Read on for our top 10 favorites.
This script-flipping ballad off Pardi’s 2019 Heartache Medication is an homage to Western imagery and classic cowboy tropes - it’s full of fiddle and lonesome heartbreak, and the music video centers around a woman on horseback, set against a Western mountainscape - but differs from most cowboy narratives in one important way. This time around, it’s a nomadic woman who gets restless and leaves the relationship, and the cowboy who’s left heartbroken.
If you’re looking for a grungy country banger to crank up on a Friday night, look no further than 'Paycheck', a song that proves that a song doesn’t have to be complicated to be great. From the sing-a-long lyrics - “I got cash, yeah / Should I save it, no” - to a rocking guitar solo, Pardi keeps the tempo and the good vibes coming on this stand-out album cut from his 2016 album, California Sunrise.
By 2017, many fans had Pardi pegged as a straight-ahead traditionalist, but he proved ‘em all wrong with the release of 'Heartache on the Dance Floor', a top-10 country radio hit that featured a crooning, R&B-influenced melody that could easily have felt at home on a Thomas Rhett album. Some appreciated the switch-up, while others favour Pardi’s more traditional work: But no matter which side of the traditional/modern country divide you favor, you’ve got to respect Pardi’s commitment to keeping fans on their toes.
There’s perhaps no better example of how Pardi updates traditional country with modern-day swagger than 'Oughta Know That', a thumping album cut off Heartache Medication. The song opens with the kind of muffled, pounding beat you’d hear from the street outside a house party in full swing, and by the first chorus, the good-timing fun of this danceable drink-a-long tune is already in full swing.
The title track of his 2019 album, ‘Heartache Medication’ became Pardi’s third No. 1 country radio hit, and for good reason: It’s a classic good-timing heartbreak tune that the singer says takes cues from George Strait circa the 1980s. Fun fact: The music video for ‘Heartache Medication’ features Pardi dancing with his then-girlfriend Summer Duncan, who he marred in 2020.
Pardi’s second song to go No. 1, 'Dirt On My Boots' features what just might be the most-recognized lyric of his career so far: “I can get cleaned up if you ask me / But I can only get so fancy.” It’s always a big moment in the singer’s show when this song comes up in the set list, and the song, off California Sunrise, is Pardi at his toe-tapping, beat-thumping, fiddle-filled best.
In 2014, Pardi introduced a mainstream audience to his signature blend of hard-rocking country and hard-hitting truth with his debut album, Write You a Song. One of the finest cuts off the track list is 'What I Can’t Put Down', a hard-rocking tribute to hard-to-break habits. Though the single never made it into the Top 30 at country radio, it remains a stand-out in Pardi’s discography, and gave fans one of their first tastes of the kind of song they could look forward to from Pardi in the years ahead.
It’s been well established that Pardi’s a master at tempo, but he’s also a stellar balladeer. Case in point: 'She Ain’t in It', one of his most subdued singles, and a stand-out track off California Sunrise. Pardi conjures the ghost of country heartbreak songs past, offering a powerful reminder of classics like George Jones’ 'The Grand Tour' and Charley Pride’s 'Where Do I Put Her Memory', In fact, the song is so true-blue country that it was originally on hold for George Strait.
You might not hear it on country radio, but this deep cut off Heartache Medication is one of the finest and most personal songs of Pardi’s career. A bluegrass-flavored, mid-tempo ballad that meditates on grief, love and hope, 'Starlight' was written about Pardi’s love for his grandmother. In terms of both subject matter and style, it’s a bit of a left choice for a Jon Pardi album, but he knew he had to cut it after he sent the song to be played at a friend’s funeral and saw the impact it had on listeners.
Jon Pardi earned his first No. 1 hit with his mainstream breakout, 'Head Over Boots', in late 2015; nearly seven years later, the song still stands out. It’s a love song - a relative rarity in Pardi’s discography - and showcases his ability to avoid over-complicating simple, good music. While some might call it a little cheesy, 'Head Over Boots' is a sugary sweet classic, and established Pardi as a powerful country traditionalist with a knack for making well-worn subject matter feel fresh and essential.
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