2016 has been an outstanding year in country music, but there were also some really great songs that got overlooked and just fell through the cracks.
Our Songs That Should Have Been Hits in 2016 includes some fresh faces, some established stars, veterans and even a living legend. It doesn't seem to matter whether you're younger or older, male or female, traditional-leaning or more pop-country, sometimes a really great song just doesn't get the foothold and the support it needs at country radio, and as a result, under-performs on the charts.
Some of the chosen Songs That Should Have Been Hit in 2016 might have been compromised because the artist is past a certain age, and some of them might have been impacted because the artist is so young and new to the game. Some of them might not have had the right strategy, or might have been too different from fans' expectations. But the songs on our list have this much in common: they're all great songs that we wish we could have heard more of in 2016.
Cam caused a huge sensation with her 2015 single, "Burning House." She took a different direction for her next release, "Mayday," and it's hard to say why it didn't quite seem to catch on. The song peaked at No. 36 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in May of 2016. Maybe it was just too sharp a turn, too suddenly, but her syncopated vocal performance over the top of a really interesting percussion bed track sure is alluring.
"Lonely Girl"Charles Kelley
"Lonely Girl" is one of those songs that seems to have everything going for it. It's a solo offering from a member of one of the most popular groups in country music. It was written by Chris Stapleton and Jesse Frasure, who also co-wrote Thomas Rhett's "Crash and Burn." It fits exactly in the mold of soul-influenced pop-country that's been big at radio recently. But despite all of that, the song missed the Top 40 completely.
"Girl Next Door"Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark is one of the most critically acclaimed singer-songwriters in country music right now, but it's proven challenging to translate that to radio success. "Girl Next Door" is a case in point; with its clever arrangement and production, it's a big step in a different direction from the material on her debut album. But maybe it's a little too clever for commercial radio — the song peaked just inside the Top 40, but Clark got the last laugh when she scored two Grammy nominations for 2017.
"High Class" is one of the most perplexing songs that should have been hits in 2016. The lead single to Eric Paslay's Dressed in Black album is a high-energy, fun song accompanied by a memorable video, and it made waves in the industry when Paslay performed it at the Country Radio Seminar. But somehow that didn't translate into marketplace success, with the song peaking outside the Top 30.
"Are You With Me"Easton Corbin
What a long, strange trip it's been for Easton Corbin and "Are You With Me." He first recorded the song for his second album, All Over the Road, but didn't release it as a single. He believed in the song so much that he also included it on his third album, About to Get Real. In the meantime, a pop version of the song became a hit for Lost Frequencies all over the world. Corbin released his version as a single in 2016, but it just didn't work out, becoming his first single to peak outside the Top 40 in October.
"Someone to Take Your Place"Tara Thompson
Tara Thompson is a spitfire young rising artist, and she made a strong debut with "Someone to Take Your Place" in 2016. Thompson gives a sassy, flirty performance on the track, which is only appropriate for someone who springs from the bloodline of country icon Loretta Lynn. But it peaked well outside the Top 40, leaving the singer still looking for the song that will break radio wide open for her.
"Comeback Kid"The Band Perry
The Band Perry came blasting back from an uncertain period in which they left their old label with the release of "Comeback Kid" in August. The sibling trio's first single for UMG Nashville is an empowerment anthem with a strong message and a strong chorus, but unfortunately, it didn't live up to its title, becoming their lowest-charting single to date. It seems possible that the brouhaha over TBP leaving their old label, along with a new musical approach and the perception that they were "going pop," all conspired against the song's chances from the start.
"Jesus and Jones"Trace Adkins
Trace Adkins launched his deal with his new label, Wheelhouse Records, off right with the release of "Jesus and Jones." He imbues the autobiographical track with searing honesty and depth that can only come from knowing what you're singing about. But for whatever reason it didn't quite catch on at country radio, peaking just outside the Top 40.
"Bluebonnets (Julia's Song)"Aaron Watson
Aaron Watson reached No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart with The Underdog, but he's had a tough time replicating that success at radio. The album's fourth single, "Bluebonnets (Julia's Song)," was one of the most powerful of the year — an emotional ode to the daughter that he and his wife lost just hours after her birth. A song that stays with the listener long after it's over, "Bluebonnets" did not chart.
"Just Like Them Horses"Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire has had one of the most amazing runs of hits of any artist in country music history. The third single from her Love Somebody album, "Just Like Them Horses" is dedicated to the memory of her father, and McEntire's fragile, honest vocal performance is among the most revealing of her career. Despite the quality of the song and performance, "Just Like Them Horses" peaked just inside the Top 40, which could be partly due to radio's reluctance to play artists past a certain age, partly because of the struggle women are having right now and partly because it's such a challenging — but ultimately rewarding — piece of material.