Artist - George Strait 2

The Best Country Song Lyrics

February 14, 2024 4:53 pm GMT
Last Edited February 16, 2024 3:33 pm GMT

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Prolific songwriter Harlan Howard said it best - “Country music is three chords and the truth”. At its core, a country song’s only as good as its lyricism, which is often inspired by real-life romance, heartbreak, loss, revenge, gratitude and resilience.

To celebrate the enduring power of country, Holler is spotlighting 20 of the finest, well-crafted storytelling tunes in the genre. From singles to No. 1 hits to deep cuts, this list will take you on a trip down memory lane and introduce you to some hidden gems.

Here are The 20 Best Country Song Lyrics, according to Holler:

2016 | Curb Records

‘Clean Up On Aisle Five’ by Mo Pitney

‘Clean Up On Aisle Five’ drips with melancholy as Pitney pines for a permanent reunion with his old flame, beyond their chance encounter at the supermarket’s fifth aisle.

“And if I wasn't standing in that store, I might have laid right on that floor and cried / I heard that voice, I saw that smile / Clean up on aisle five,” Pitney recounts vulnerably with an almost audible tear in his voice.

2012 | Sony Music Nashville

‘Stop Cheatin’ On Me’ by Kellie Pickler

Here, Kellie Pickler plays a wife who’s learned that her lover’s been cheating on her. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she tells him straight up: “Stop cheatin’ on me, it ain’t that hard to do / Stop cheatin’ on me, or I’ll start cheatin’ on you.” Chris Stapleton and his wife Morgane penned this with Liz Rose, and the former two sing background vocals on Pickler’s rootsy 2012 recording, too.

2010 | Capitol Records Nashville

‘American Honey’ by Lady A

If there’s a word to aptly encapsulate “American Honey,” it’s ‘nostalgia’. Spawned from their acclaimed sophomore record Need You Now, the tender ode takes listeners back to simpler times devoid of life entanglements. “Get caught in the race / Of this crazy life / Trying to be everything can make you lose your mind / I just wanna go back in time / To American honey.”

Capitol Records | 2009

‘Those I've Loved’ by Eric Church

When you think of the best Eric Church songs, you’ll probably think of ‘Springsteen’, ‘Drink In My Hand’ and other chart-topping hits. But we're changing it up and spotlighting a deep cut: ‘Those I’ve Loved’. Appearing 2009’s Carolina, the Brett Beaver-penned ballad finds Church reflecting on the indispensable role his loved ones have played in his formative years.

“You see, they're my best friends, they're the life I live / And I hope they've put a smile on the face / Of those that I've loved along the way / 'Cause I wouldn't be the man I am today / If not for those I've loved along the way,” Church emotes in the revelatory chorus.

1984 | MCA

‘Somebody Should Leave’ by Reba McEntire

It’s not every day you hear a wistful ballad about divorce and the devastation it inflicts on the family. Penned by Harlan Howard and Chris Rains, ‘Somebody Should Leave’ finds McEntire lamenting the bleak state of her marriage as their “love dies quietly.”

What makes this a standout tune is the ache in McEntire’s delivery, as she highlights the sad fact that “you need the kids and they need me”. Saying goodbye is never easy, but it becomes harder when children are involved, as the country icon recounts.

19 Recordings | 2012

‘Forever Changed’ by Carrie Underwood

This moving ballad is told from the perspective of a daughter who recounts her mother’s life journey, from falling in love to getting married and having a child, to succumbing to the effects of Alzheimer's.

However, “It’s not a sad song”, says Carrie Underwood. “It’s a beautiful song about those big moments in our lives that change who we are forever”. Unfortunately, 2012's ‘Forever Changed’ is a song Underwood has hardly ever performed on-stage.

2008 | Capitol Records

‘You're Gonna Miss This’ by Trace Adkins

Adkins reminds listeners to slow down and appreciate life’s milestones and precious moments in his 2008 No. 1 hit. Penned by top songwriters, Ashley Gorley and Lee Thomas Miller, the track offers a powerful message that’ll hit home with many.

“You're gonna miss this / You're gonna want this back / You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast / These are some good times / So take a good look around / You may not know it now / But you're gonna miss this.” Whatever your “this” is, never forget to slow down - hit pause and enjoy life because, as Adkins posits, “You’re gonna miss this” one day.

Curb Records | 1985

‘Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Old Days)’ by The Judds

It seems like nostalgia’s a thematic blueprint in some of the best country songs, right? Here, Naomi and Wynonna Judd reminisce on the times when “lovers really stayed together”, “people really always kept promises”, “families really prayed together” and fathers stood by their families no matter what. These intangibles may be simple, but sometimes, they mean the most.

1998 | Capitol Records Nashville

‘Holes In The Floor Of Heaven’ by Steve Wariner

Wariner’s mournful track finds him assuming the persona of a heartbroken man missing his grandma and wife, both of whom have departed before him. Thankfully, there are “holes in the floor of heaven”, because when it rains on emotional days, he’s reminded of their unwavering presence in his life. Equal parts beautiful and painful, the song went on to win the CMA and ACM awards for Song of the Year in 1998.

2008 | UMG

‘People Are Crazy’ by Billy Currington

Whether you’re in a bar or on a road trip, a singalong will be elicited as soon as Billy Currington’s track comes on. Here, Currington narrates his encounter with an old man at the bar and all they talked about. The greatest plot twist arrives at the end, when the latter passes on and ends up willing all his assets to Currington, a stranger whom he met just before passing. The odds of that happening in real life are pretty slim, but the song’s packed with relatable messages like the celebratory hook: “God is great, beer is good, people are crazy.” Cheers to that, Currington.

Sony Music Entertainment | 2003

‘Whiskey Lullaby’ by Brad Paisley ft. Allison Kraus

‘Whiskey Lullaby’ is hands down one of the most heart-wrenching duets in country music history. It details a couple’s debilitating breakup, which causes both spouses to end their lives after drowning their sorrows away. The plaintive track, which Bill Anderson and Jon Randall wrote, was crowned Song of the Year at the 2005 CMA Awards.

BMG Entertainment | 2002

‘Drive (For Daddy Gene)’ by Alan Jackson

While ‘Drive’ was solely penned by Jackson for his late father, its sentimental undertones make it universally accessible. Most of us remember the lessons inculcated in us by our paternal figures, and in this song, Jackson sings about how that invaluable guidance is passed on in the family line, from his dad to him and to his daughters.

Arista / RCA Records | 2015

‘Burning House’ by Cam

Heartbreak and regret take center stage in ‘Burning House’. Penned by Cam, Tyler Johnson and Jeff Bhasker, the song follows the protagonist as she dashes into a burning house in her dream to save an ex whom she’s done wrong.

While the blazing home is imagined, the agony stems from Cam’s real-life, post-breakup guilt. ‘Burning House’ notched a Grammy nomination and is the California native’s biggest song to date.

Warner Bros | 1987

‘Forever And Ever, Amen’ by Randy Travis

Penned by Paul Overstreet and Country Music Hall of Famer Don Schlitz, Travis’ ‘Forever and Ever, Amen’ has transcended generations and become a romantic staple in the genre.

Instead of opting for a dramatic or complicated narrative, the songwriters choose a simple story in which the lead character professes to his lover: “If you wonder how long I'll be faithful / I'll be happy to tell you again / I'm gonna love you forever and ever / Forever and ever, amen”.

Sony | 1974

‘Jolene’ by Dolly Parton

‘Jolene’ tells the tale of a woman who’s “beggin’” another woman not to snag her man away from her. Instead of painting the protagonist as a scorned, vengeance-filled woman, Parton comes from a place of grace as she pleads for the lady to call it quits. “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene / I'm beggin' of you, please don't take my man / Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene / Please don't take him just because you can,” Parton sings candidly over an almost-lilting rhythm in the chorus.

MCA Nashville | 1990

‘Love Without End, Amen’ by George Strait

Paternal figures get some lovin’ on George Strait’s 1990 tune, ‘Love Without End, Amen’. The five-week chart-topper spotlights a father’s eternal love and guidance in their children’s lives, and how “daddies don't just love their children every now and then”. Why? Because their love is simply “a love without end, amen”.

Curb | 2004

‘Live Like You Were Dying’ by Tim McGraw

It’s always good to be reminded to slow down and do meaningful things in this rat race of life - as is reflected in McGraw’s hit. Authored by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman, this powerful number follows a cancer-stricken persona's journey to knock out all the items on his bucket list. “I loved deeper / And I spoke sweeter / And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying / And he said, ‘Someday I hope you get the chance / To live like you were dying’”, goes the soaring, stop-you-in-your-tracks chorus.

Sony | 1980

‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ by George Jones

The age-old wedding vow of “‘til death do us part” is the centerpiece of George Jones’ 1980 hit, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Often dubbed one of the saddest songs in country music history, the forlorn ode chronicles a man’s demise and the enduring love he’s carried for his significant other until his last breath.

“He stopped loving her today / They placed a wreath upon his door / And soon they'll carry him away / He stopped loving her today”, Jones renders in the anguish-soaked chorus.

1991 | Epic

‘Love, Me’ by Collin Raye

Starting off unassumingly simple, Raye adopts a first-person narrative lens as he recounts finding “a note my grandma wrote back in 1923”. Just as listeners begin wondering about the context of the memo, the poignant plot twist arrives: Grandma wrote the letter to Grandpa to read in the event she passes on before he did, which unfortunately happened.

“If you get there before I do, don't give up on me / I'll meet you when my chores are through / I don't know how long I'll be / But I'm not gonna let you down / Darling, wait and see / And between now and then, till I see you again, I'll be loving you / Love, me,” goes the plaintive yet beautiful chorus.

Sony Music Entertainment | 2009

‘The House That Built Me’ by Miranda Lambert

2010’s ‘The House That Built Me’ is underpinned by a sense of pining and longing for home. Over stripped-back acoustic guitar strums, Miranda Lambert narrates her childhood and the core memories forged in the very house she grew up in. Though it’s since been sold to someone else, she manages to enter the home for a visit that takes her (and listeners) back in time.

“If I could just come in, I swear I'll leave / Won't take nothin' but a memory / From the house that built me”, Lambert sings as she echoes all our sentiments to return to simpler times.

Written by Jeremy Chua
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