Parker McCollum is often styled and promoted as a slick, ball-cap-wearing heartbreaker that would’ve thrived during the bro-country era of the 2010s.
Yet as soon as you delve into his discography, you realise this couldn’t be further from the truth. You'll find music that’s drenched in neo-traditional, Strait-like influences, rich, sinuous lyricism and - crucially - only one lyric referencing ‘beer’.
With four albums’ worth of songs to choose from, the young star has made it tricky to pin down his most rewarding cuts - but we’ve given it a go nonetheless. Here is Holler's list of the 15 best Parker McCollum songs.
‘To Be Loved By You’ was Parker McCollum’s second No. 1 single, following in the footsteps of the chart-topping juggernaut that was ‘Pretty Heart’.
Although it arguably lacks the balance and elegance of his Never Enough material, ‘To Be Loved By You’ finds McCollum zeroing in on his sweet-spot between a tragic narrative and a catchy, energising melody.
Any song that boasts the penmanship of Chris Stapleton is worth listening to.
But, as well as featuring top-tier songwriting, ‘Like A Cowboy’ also showcases Parker McCollum’s impressive vocal dexterity. Similarly to ‘Things I Never Told You’ and ‘Lessons From An Old Man’, the tempo slows drastically and flirts dangerously with tedium - with McCollum rescues it with his signature gravitas.
One of McCollum’s many high-energy ear worms, ‘Wait Outside’ is another James Dean moment for the cool, swaggering Texan.
McCollum reassumes his role as the alluring bad boy, as he professes that he’ll love his partner long after they’ve died and she’s passed through the pearly gates - all before charmingly quipping, “I will love you in Heaven / I'll just have to wait outside”.
One of McCollum’s very first offerings, ‘Meet You in the Middle’ is a jaunty, twangy cruise through the wide open expanses of Southeast Texas. It began his penchant for songs about hugging the yellow lines of the highway, instead of holding the lover he’s left lonely at home.
‘Meet You in the Middle’ comes to a dramatic, visceral head in the third verse, highlighting how McCollum’s early releases leaned much closer to Americana and folk than Nashvillian country.
From the simmering, modulated opening to the blazing wildfire that lets rip in the chorus, ‘Burn It Down’ is a heartbreak track with an edge.
The Texan stares unblinkingly into the smouldering embers of a faltering relationship, before he proceeds to coldly light a match underneath all the hopes and dreams he once shared with his love.
After hearing uptempo Never Enough firecrackers such as ‘Speed’ and ‘Handle On You’, Parker McCollum jarringly slams on the brakes for ‘Things I Never Told You’.
Refreshingly, he never succumbs to the temptation to ramp up the pace on this enchanting confessional that's directed towards his mother. He movingly lists all the mistakes he’s made, before ending on a tear-jerking note of gratitude (“I wouldn't be half the man I am / If you hadn't loved this boy”).
Since signing to a major label in 2019, Parker McCollum’s sound has - understandably - been polished with a sleek, radio-friendly sheen.
However, as successful as his more mainstream releases have been, his independent Probably Wrong project and its Limestone Kid predecessor will always hold a special place in fans’ hearts.
‘Learn to Fly’ is one of the many highlights on Probably Wrong, with McCollum exploring a distinctly Texan, alt-country avenue.
Opening with a captivating vocal that floats across a sparse, gentle acoustic guitar riff, ‘Dallas’ unfurls into a rumination on the tension between the pull of the road and the pull of the heart.
McCollum’s musings pivot around the key ultimatum, “If I don’t leave Dallas / I guess that means that I should be alone”.
A return to McCollum’s electrifying, high-octane material, ‘I Ain’t Going Nowhere’ is a rare happy-ending love-song in the ‘Pretty Heart’ hitmaker’s discography.
Endearingly, he reaffirms his undying love for his wife via a turbo-charged ear worm of a hook. ‘I Ain’t Going Nowhere’ feels like the more mature, settled-down sibling of the self-doubting ‘Love You Like That’.
The finale of his independently released 2017 record, Probably Wrong, ‘Hell of a Year’ is McCollum at his self-reflective, broken-hearted best.
Unlike so many in the bro-country wave that preceded him, McCollum spends much of his time blaming his own flaws and imperfections for the relationship’s demise.
He just seems so darn sad about it though that the listener can’t help but forgive him; “It's been a hell of a year, how did you see / Who I was and who I was gonna be?”.
One of the handful of singles released ahead of McCollum’s 2023 album, Never Enough, ‘Tails I Lose’ strips away the heavy, electric-guitar-ridden production that often underpins his sound, leaving the spotlight placed firmly on his vocal delivery.
The song has been doused with melancholy, but McCollum weaves a faint flicker of hope into the initial choruses - one that is well and truly extinguished by the time the final note rings out.
Parker McCollum’s most recent No. 1 single at Country Radio, ‘Handle On You’, is as infectious as it is despondent. The irony, of course, is that the only handle McCollum can claim to have on his broken heart is the tight grip he has on a couple of bottles of Jack and Jim.
It’s one of McCollum’s most lyrically playful offerings, packed with witty punchlines such as “After all this back and forth / a fifth won't do” and “I tell myself that I should quit / but I don't listen to drunks”.
‘Love You Like That’ never got the credit it deserved, appearing on McCollum’s 2020 Hollywood Gold EP, but failing to make its way onto his subsequent Gold Chain Cowboy album.
It finds the Texan slipping into the familiar shoes of the emotionally distant, James Dean-esque persona that he plays so well, as he warns his lover that he has the heart of a ramblin’ man (“Yeah, I wish that I could love you like the midnight loves the sky / And I wish that I could always keep you high enough to fly / Never let you go / Baby, but I don't know / If I can love you like that”).
On ‘Young Man’s Blues’, a drive down memory lane leaves McCollum wondering whether anyone from his home-town remembers who he is, now that he’s left his roots to become a country star.
McCollum wraps his honeyed drawl around the pained nostalgia conveyed through the lyrics, to create a modern-day anthem for all those feeling jaded from the rat-race.
‘Pretty Heart’ will always be the song that propelled Parker McCollum into the mainstream in 2020.
The Double-Platinum smash served as the perfect mission statement for McCollum, who would go on to become synonymous with ‘Pretty Heart’’s nonchalant yet charismatic examination of heartbreak.
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