If you're reading this, odds are you either belong to A) the group of people who eat, sleep, and breathe country music or B) the group of people who would never actually admit that they secretly loooooooove country music. (If somehow you found yourself on this article even though you find country music absolutely insufferable, then, uh, kindly see yourself out.)
What I'm getting at is that even though country music as a genre is on the receiving end of quite a bit of shade (not all of us have dirt roads and pickup trucks to chill in, okay?!), there are a few songs that transcend the divide—meaning non-country diehards can listen on repeat without their ears starting to bleed. That's right, guys, you heard it hear first: not all country songs are about tractors. Here are 20 undeniably great country songs that even the biggest country music critic will enjoy.
"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus
This song catapulted Lil Nas X to mainstream fame after becoming super freakin' popular on TikTok. Then it won two Grammys (Best Music Video and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance), one Teen Choice Award, two MTV Video Music Awards, one Country Music Association Award and two BET Hip Hop Awards. Oh, and an American Music Award. Casual.
"The Bones" by Maren Morris with Hozier
I swear Maren Morris and Hozier's voices were meant to harmonize. Hozier's hauntingly beautiful vocals complement Morris' raw sound, creating a stripped-down, emotionally-charged song you'll want to play over and over.
"Broken Halos" by Chris Stapleton
"Angels come down/ From the heavens/ Just to help us on our way/ Come to teach us/ Then they leave us/ And they find some other soul to save." These heart-wrenching lyrics combined with Chris Stapleton's raspy, bluesy voice is enough to make me get a tattoo that I will most certainly regret.
"Landslide" by The Chicks
Yes, yes, I knowwwww this is a cover of Fleetwood Mac's iconic song, but it's a good one. It showcases the best of The Chicks, all simple three-voice harmonies and string guitar.
"Hurt" by Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash is a legend. Period. End of sentence. So forget about the country you kids (yeah, I just said "you kids" in my best grandpa voice) listen to today because "Hurt" is country music at its apex.
"Ka-Ching" by Shania Twain
Of course, Shania was singing about credit cards and money before it was a Thing. Did she also predict our obsession with consumerism and materialism? Just please promise me you'll watch the music video—it's an aughts masterpiece.
"waves" by Miguel and Kacey Musgraves
Sensual and sexy, this is more of a psychedelic ballad than a true country jam, but Kacey Musgraves' recognizable twang still breaks through the smooth notes.
"One Thing Right" by Kane Brown and Marshmello
If you thought you could never work out to country, you thought wrong. EDM x country, the collab you never knew you and your exercise routine needed.
"The Joke" by Brandi Carlile
Need a new song to scream-sing in your room when you're feeling emosh? Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about.
"Gaslighter" by The Chicks
The Chicks' 2020 album (and new name) is—to quote my mom—just what the doctor ordered: three badass women calling people on their and raising hell.
"I Hate Love Songs" by Kelsea Ballerini
Do you hate love songs? Cool. Kelsea Ballerini hates Shakespeare and Ryan Gosling and cakes with white frosting, so you guys already have something in common. (Okay, maybe not the Ryan Gosling thing. Agree, that's a step too far.)
"Man! I Feel Like a Woman" by Shania Twain
Do you hear the "DUN DUN DA DUN DUN. DUN DUN!" at the beginning of "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" and instantly transform into a shinier, happier, better version of yourself?!? If you say no, you're lying. Karaoke was invented for this song, in my humble opinion.
"Take Your Time" by Sam Hunt
Sam Hunt is not a regular country singer, he's a cool country singer. He played football in college! He has a hot haircut! He wears cardigans! Also he...kind of raps sometimes? Anyway, though this song may give you unrealistic expectations about meeting a hottie at a random bar, it's still a cute listen.
"Just Another Thing" by Maren Morris
If you have so much as lightly swayed side to side to "The Middle" by Zedd featuring Maren Morris, then you have officially ingested a gateway drug to country music, and are at risk for becoming a Maren stan. It's not a bad life, though. She's pretty awesome and her music is VERY catchy.
"Back to December" by Taylor Swift
Remember ye olden days, when Taylor Swift was a country star who wrote sad songs about Taylor Lautner? Even if you've blocked that time period out of your memory, you'll never be able to erase the chorus of "Back to December."
"Lost in the Middle of Nowhere" by Kane Brown featuring Becky G
Don't let the neck tattoo throw you: Kane Brown is a country singer, for sure. A song about being "lost in the middle of nowhere" is pretty stereotypically country, but the references to "808s and pounding hearts" and the Becky G feature keep it surprisingly poppy.
"Meant to Be" by Bebe Rexha featuring Florida Georgia Line
"Meant to Be" broke the record for longest time spent at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, with a whopping 50 weeks at number one. Everyone likes it! It's a scientific fact at this point!
"Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood
Sure, she might be one of the most iconic fitspo stars of all time, but Carrie Underwood's true legacy is taking a Louisville Slugger to both headlights of her cheating ex's truck.
"High Horse" by Kacey Musgraves
"High Horse" is kinda impossible to accurately describe, because it's definitely country, but has a bunch of other sounds infused. Whatever you want to call it, it's a total bop.