The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [June 2007]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from June 30th, 2007. In honor of my request backlog from a couple of weeks ago, this week’s chart goes out to Raymond. Thanks for reading Raymond!

  1. Brad Paisley – “Ticks” -1 (I’m sorry, for as humorous as Brad can be this just did nothing for me)
  2. Tracy Lawrence feat. Tim McGraw & Kenny Chesney – “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” +3
  3. Montgomery Gentry – “Lucky Man” +2
  4. George Strait – “Wrapped” +3 (Holy fiddle and steel Batman!)
  5. Emerson Drive – “Moments” +4
  6. Big & Rich – “Lost In This Moment” 0
  7. Billy Currington – “Good Directions” +3
  8. Keith Urban – “I Told You So” -2 [Worst Song] (The narrator’s arrogance just does nothing for me. I like the sound but that’s it)
  9. Alan Jackson – “A Woman’s Love” +1 (I like the bluesy feel. Just wish the theme was a little less conventional)
  10. Jake Owen – “Startin’ With Me” +4
  11. Jason Aldean – “Johnny Cash” +1 (Guilty pleasure…..sue me)
  12. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops On My Guitar” +2
  13. Kenny Chesney – “Never Wanted Nothing More” +2
  14. Tim McGraw & Faith Hill – “I Need You” +3 (So you guys both have an Uncle Joe in Oklahoma who needs rain huh? Kidding aside, this is solid)
  15. Rodney Atkins – “These Are My People” +2 (Yes, this is cliché as hell, but Rodney’s sincere delivery works for me. Plus that opening fiddle is just heavenly)
  16. Bucky Covington – “A Different World” +1 (Was he even old enough to know about all the things he’s singing about here? Regardless, at least it has a good sound)
  17. Craig Morgan – “Tough” +3
  18. Kellie Pickler – “I Wonder” +4 [Best Song]
  19. Eric Church – “Guys Like Me” +1
  20. Toby Keith – “High Maintenance Woman” +2 (I know this is a pretty well-known hated Toby song, but I think that the song isn’t meant to be taken that seriously. On that note, combined with the pretty good guitar work it passes for me)
  21. Reba & Kelly Clarkson – “Because Of You” +2
  22. Little Big Town – “A Little More You” +2
  23. Martina McBride – “How I Feel” -1
  24. Luke Bryan – “All My Friends Say” +3
  25. Sugarland – “Everyday America” 0 (Ugh, those Pop beats were unfortunately ahead of their time in country music. That of course means they were only slightly behind what pop was doing…)
  26. Jason Michael Carroll – “Livin’ Our Love Song” +1
  27. Cole Deggs and the Lonesome – “I Got More” +1 (Well, we had a guy whose name says “Cold eggs” and in the modern-day we have Colden Rainy Swindell. Go figure)
  28. Trace Adkins – “I Wanna Feel Something” +2
  29. Tim McGraw – “If You’re Reading This” +4 (Three times where McGraw is on the chart. It’s exactly like 2016! Not complaining though)
  30. Brooks & Dunn – “Proud Of The House We Built” +2 (Yes, it’s cheesy and corny as all hell. And yes, this is another song where I’m making excuses for why it works for me)

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +54

Well it would appear to be another good chart this week! In all honesty I was probably a little more forgiving of some of these songs than I should have been, but even before I became a hardcore country fan in 2010 I always had memories of some of these songs playing on my grandparent’s radio. Nostalgia admittedly gets in the way of some of these songs for me, but hey none of us are free from bias. I went with Kellie Pickler’s “I Wonder” for the best song honor since it came from a personal place and is excellent to boot. It was hard to pull off getting a song like that to be a single in 2007 and it’s pretty much impossible to do in 2016.

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

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15 thoughts on “The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [June 2007]

  1. I was a senior in high school. I remember how excited I was to see Tracy Lawrence back with a big hit. I was too naive to think that was the last we would hear from him on radio

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  2. *****Part I of II*****

    1: Brad Paisley: “Ticks” +2 (Count me along the camp that considers this a guilty pleasure. It’s obviously very stupid and creepy, but I’m among those who finds this refreshing because it’s a tongue-in-cheek way of examining all the douchey ways some guys try and woo women with. Admittedly, if this were released during the bro-country era, I’d quite likely be feeling differently. But considering when it was released and then hearing the subtleties toward the end of the track that give off the vibe it’s all nonsense, this just works to my ears.)

    2: Tracy Lawrence feat. Tim McGraw & Kenny Chesney: “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” +3 (It’s hardly deep, but it’s a song that gets its point across so effectively and poignantly. There’s just something about this song’s chorus that still plucks at my heartstrings today. Its sound is the musical equivalent of a trusted old pair of boots: it just becomes a part of the soundtrack of your life effortlessly.)

    3: Montgomery Gentry – “Lucky Man” +2 (Am I the only one who wishes Montgomery Gentry would show restraint in their sound and image more often? This is easily one of their best vocal performances to date and we get some delicious pedal steel to bridge this reflective paean of gratitude.)

    4: George Strait – “Wrapped” +3 (This has a Gruene Hall-sounding personality and charm to it that always feels fresh to my ears with each listen. It’s kind of like for 2007 what “Head For Boots” is now. Just like with that song the lyrical conceit is nothing special, but it doesn’t have to be when you’re serving a simple, likeable love song destined for the rural dance halls.)

    5: Emerson Drive – “Moments” +4 (This closely follows the heartbreaking sentiment of Craig Morgan’s “Almost Home”, but is no less poignant. Still destroys me every time I listen to it now especially with the skyrocketing homelessness tragedy here in Portland, Oregon. It’s a tragic shame this is something of a lost gem in their discography due to turmoil with Midas Records resulting in its shunning from many streaming services.)

    6: Big & Rich – “Lost In This Moment” (Just epitomizes the expression “Meh!”. All the power to them in getting their only #1 to date with this. But when sized up to “Holy Water”, “8th of November” and “Lovin’ Lately”, the gap in quality is instantly noticeable.)

    7: Billy Currington – “Good Directions” +3 (Sounds just as bright and inviting now as the first time I heard this. Can you believe Luke Bryan co-wrote this too?)

    8: Keith Urban – “I Told You So” +1 (Eh, though I can see why his delivery comes across as too blunt, it has never really bothered me. I do enjoy the arrangement a lot. You see: THIS is an example of how you can sound experimental in the realm of country music without divorcing from its sound and identity as a whole. The “Na na na nas!” at the end are unnecessary, but all in all this still stands out.)

    9: Alan Jackson – “A Woman’s Love” +2 (Lyrically it’s nothing noteworthy, but damn how I love Jackson pulling off his interpretation of Van Morrison. It sounds just as natural coming from him as his longtime love of traditional country (and yes: the exquisite barroom piano still gives this enough of a country leaning, like the Southern equivalent of Van Morrison).

    10: Jake Owen – “Startin’ With Me” +3 (It rivals “What We Ain’t Got” as his best song to date mostly due to the sparse, intimate production and Owen’s vulnerable vocal performance. Lyrically it feels a tad checklist-y in terms of describing what he did that he now feels remorse for, but it doesn’t diminish from the overall impact.)

    11: Jason Aldean – “Johnny Cash” -2 (I’ll give it this: it’s catchy and there are moments that ARE memorable. It’s certainly anything but boring, so I ca easily see why some enjoy this. Still, the deal-breaker to my ears is how ridiculously LOUD this is. Aldean yelling the vast majority of the lyrics over the stomping rhythm really gets grating in an instant and it never lets up all the way down to the “The Man in Black gonna rock your ass again!” interjection. Forget this is basically a song about nothing that needlessly name-drops Johnny Cash: it would be hypocritical at this point to rib on that too much since other country legends are needlessly name-dropped on a routine basis now as is. The obnoxious, over-the-top loudness is what gets annoying.)

    12: Taylor Swift – “Teardrops On My Guitar” +2 (Looking back, this track only represented a shadow of Swift’s broader potential as a songwriter and so, in a sense, can’t help but feel mundane when sized up to her later efforts marketed to country. Still, her penchant for emotional accessibility and outstanding technical songwriting grasp is clearly intact here.)

    13: Kenny Chesney – “Never Wanted Nothing More” +1 (Another blatantly checklist-song lyrically sized up with standard arena rock production. But the main sentiment still shines through: making for an unremarkable but likeable anthem to expressing gratitude in each moment like you’ll never want nothing more.)

    14: Tim McGraw & Faith Hill – “I Need You” +1 (Pretty boring in all honesty, and some of the lyrics just come across as dopey like the aforementioned Uncle John lyric. Really?!!! Still, the sincerity of their vocal performance elevates it to passable.)

    15: Rodney Atkins – “These Are My People” +2 (I vividly recall initially hating this upon my first round of listens: especially when following up “If You’re Going Through Hell” and “Honesty”. But this has grown on me in such a big way over the years. I think much of it comes down to the personality in both the performance and lyrics. As much as I’ve often harped about Rodney Atkins being a well below-average vocalist in terms of range and dynamic, Atkins more than makes up for those deficiencies when he is backed by material that has an everyman charm and personality underpinning it. In other words, it’s no accident Rodney Atkins was able to achieve multiple #1 hits as bad as his range is: there is a genuine warmth and charisma to his voice that makes up for that similar to Tim McGraw. And I also have to admit that, as much as they do follow checklist trends, the lyrics are nonetheless quite descriptive for a song of its ilk. Seriously: if party songs rewind to something of this sort of 2007 quality and sound, I wouldn’t mind. This may not have any real nutritional value at the end of the day, but for musical snack food this is at least homegrown and housemade compared to the Hardee’s-esque machismo that the likes of many party songs these days represent.)

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  3. In my opinion, from 2005-2010 was the last golden age of country music. Artists like George Strait, Alan Jackson and Reba all got significant airplay, along with solid music from newer artists, not to mention some of country’s best songs, like Jamey Johnson’s ‘In Color,’ Sugarland’s ‘Stay,’ and Miranda Lambert’s ‘The House that Built Me.’ Even Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean had decent country songs. I miss those days

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  4. Summer of 2007…was the summer of back-pain. The only “good” aspect was the massage 2 times a week.

    Back to the music. No real highlight (+4/+5) song. But a couple of +3 songs.
    +3: Tracy Lawrence feat. Tim McGraw & Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Bucky Covington, Craig Morgan, Little Big Town, Luke Bryan, Cole Deggs & The Lonesome
    -1 or lower: Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, Toby Keith, Reba & Kelly Clarkson & Jason Michael Carroll

    My ReCurrent/Country Gold Playlist:
    Amber Lawrence – Try
    Adam Fears – Middle Of Nowhere
    Doug Supernaw – Reno
    Tanya Tucker – One Love At A Time
    The Sunny Cowgirls – These Boots Are Made For Walking
    Steve Forde – Aussie Philosophy
    Tonya Kennedy – Lucky I Lost You
    Troy Cassar-Daley – Live & Learn
    Vince Gill – Cinderella
    Zaca Creek – Broken Heartland

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  5. Can we just get 2007 Luke Bryan back? I mean, “All My Friends Say”, though a bit on the immature side, is a thoroughly enjoyable listen. And it’s decidedly country, which is more than we can say for Bryan’s output in 2016. I mean 2007 aw shucks good ole country boy Bryan is worlds better than 2016 ass wiggling creepy M-O-V-E skinny jean wearing borderline pedophile Bryan.

    As for my favorite song on this chart: I know I’m going to catch a lot of heat for this, but it is Taylor Swift’s Teardrops On My Guitar. I love that song, especially the album version. The blend of the mandolin, steel, acoustic guitar, and occasional banjo is just beautiful. And the lyrics are deeply personal, not only to Taylor, but to me as well. This song has helped me heal throughout the years through three failed relationships. And quite honestly, this is my single favorite Swift song.

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  6. Zack, you’re not the only one who likes Jason Aldean’s Johnny Cash. Although it is a bit obnoxious, it is enjoyable to me. The fiddle in the intro sounds super cool. In fact, I loved the entire Relentless album. Relentless is Aldean’s best album to date. And, “Johnny Cash” sounds above and beyond better than the shit Aldean is producing today (“Burnin It Down”, anyone?…..:()

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  7. 16: Bucky Covington – “A Different World” +1 (I think what holds this song back is that there’s really no discerning picture as to what the narrator’s life is like now compared to his childhood. It’s like we’re just asked to write down everything he says, and then assume everything he didn’t say is what adult life is like. This just comes across as………………underwritten. Still, it sounds very nice and Covington’s vocal has a touch of McGraw to it here.)

    17: Craig Morgan – “Tough” +3 (This still hits a soft spot in my heart to this day: as someone whose life has been shaped and enriched by strong, independent women and is now a transgender woman myself. In a genre where so many tracks from men that are supposed to pass off as love songs to women just come across as rather condescending, this is a refreshing standout that shows how to do it right: honoring a woman’s strength in all its facets.)

    18: Kellie Pickler – “I Wonder” +3 (A heartbreaking ballad about estrangement that still hits home today. I do kind of wish they better bridged the emotional outpourings of the verses to what her mother is doing in California in the chorus, and the production is just a tad too Adult Contemporary for my tastes. Still, this gets a whole lot right and it’s not hard to see why this has held up well.)

    19: Eric Church – “Guys Like Me” 0 (Meh. This remains among my least favorite Church singles to date, especially when sized up to his current album. It just comes across as way too conventional and stereotype-reinforcing to my ears. Still, you don’t doubt Church’s sincerity in his performance and is serviceable with some decent texture amidst the amped-up guitars.)

    20: Toby Keith – “High Maintenance Woman” -2 (I get where Keith and his co-writer were trying to go with this, I really do. Still, it just doesn’t work to my ears how they are using mechanic imagery as a metaphor to a type of woman and starting a relationship. It just comes across as clumsily executed and, thus, has some misogynistic undertones that don’t sit well with me. Like that line in the chorus: “I ain’t hooked it up yet, but I’m tryin’ hard as I can. It’s just a high maintenance woman, don’t want no maintenance man.” That just smacks as regurgitating the whole “she’s playin’ too hard to get” brand of sexism that’s rampant in our culture, regardless of how innocent their intentions were when writing this. Even if you were to accept the final verse as clearly tongue-in-cheek, I still can’t get around that aforementioned angle: especially when Keith’s vocal has just always had that machismo dripping in his delivery. I doubt the writers were deliberately trying to be misogynistic in writing this, but the way it’s framed still comes across as so. Just my opinion.)

    21: Reba & Kelly Clarkson – “Because Of You” +1 (Eh, Reba McEntire barely does anything with covering this fairly decent pop song. Absolutely no chances are taking and the production is so incredibly dull and limp. I do like the fragility of the ending but, then again, it ultimately just leaves me wishing I was listening to the original instead because Kelly Clarkson more effectively spills her angst in the final chorus: finally culminating to more tears.)

    22: Little Big Town – “A Little More You” +2 (The vocals and melody line are what make this song. I do get why Karen Fairchild is generally viewed as the de facto frontwoman of the group in the eyes of casual radio listeners, but just let me say I’m gladdened the group still operates as a genuine vocal quartet that still shares leads in spite of their most recognizable songs all helmed by Fairchild. Because Westbrook sounds really good here.)

    23: Martina McBride – “How I Feel” -1 (The lyrical banality and white-bread production is what holds this track back, much like many of her other songs. And what is up with that “perfect heart that’s never been broken” line? Is she suggesting that true love is never supposed to come with heartbreak? Sorry, I’m calling BS on that lyric. Relationships are much more nuanced than that. They aren’t fairy tales. There will be darker moments in every relationship, and it’s about how you approach and manage them that separate those that stand the tests of time from those that don’t. This is precisely why I’ve never been able to get into her or Faith Hill’s music as a whole: they project this unrealistic, shallow look at relationships bereft of nuance.)

    24: Luke Bryan – “All My Friends Say” +2 (How I miss when his music sounded like this! The lyrics are nothing remarkable: party-hardy bacchanalia in the vein of Tracy Byrd’s “Ten Rounds of Jose Cuervo” that would set the stage for far-inferior forays into the theme from then on out. But the energy and production is inveigling.)

    25: Sugarland – “Everyday America” 0 (An odd case of a track where one of its weaknesses and one of its strengths are basically traded: culminating to a barely passable neutral ground. The production is what gets in the way with the sad inclusion of a processed beat in the opening verse (what’s the frickin’ point of this when you turn to organic percussion later on?). However, the lyricism is what rescues this somewhat. Nothing special, but it does touch on blue-collar populism well and Nettles’ vocals have the strength to sell the wistful ache.)

    26: Jason Michael Carroll – “Livin’ Our Love Song” +1 (Basically what directly preceded the bro-country wave: shallow love songs with generic arrangements that were nonetheless likeable and serviceable enough mostly due to their sincerity and touches of genuine country instrumentation. Nothing more, nothing less but, it’ll do.)

    27: Cole Deggs and the Lonesome – “I Got More” -2 (Is it just me, or does this come across as a bit creepy? I mean, he’s already standing outside her door in the opening verse, knocks, and then proceeds to tell her “Hey, forget about those other boys that hang around your door! I’m an old plow boy that’s proud of my roots! So what do you say, girl? Wanna dig deeper with me?” (pulls collar) Yeah……………kinda creepy, yes? The production is serviceable enough but, sorry: can’t get around the way the songwriting is framed.)

    28: Trace Adkins – “I Wanna Feel Something” +2 (The production doesn’t fit this sort of song remotely well in how sterile it is. Still, it’s the lyricism that stands out here in that it grasps at a sentiment we don’t hear often these days: feeling jaded to the point it’s hard to thaw and open up. The bridge is superbly written and right to the point, and I also appreciate the way Adkins delivers that in more of a deadpan style so not to leave mixed messages along the line of “So why did you sing that so emotionally if you’re saying you’re jaded and desperate to open up?”. Again, it’s a shame the production is mediocre because beyond that, this is a very well-written song I can easily feel.)

    29: Tim McGraw – “If You’re Reading This” +3 (I do wish the production was less on the Adult Contemporary side, but besides that nitpick, this is an absolutely heartbreaking but tender-hearted ode to our fallen veterans and their families.)

    30: Brooks & Dunn – “Proud Of The House We Built” +1 (See #26)

    *

    FINAL SCORE: +41

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  8. ‘Good Directions’ is a great mainstream country song. This would be a +4 for me and close to a +5 as it has everything that popular country music should have with a clever lyric that tells a story with a fun twist at the end and an extremely charismatic performance from Currington.

    ‘Moments’ leaves me flat as the production is so generic and the vocal boring that it just comes across as so calculating. This would be maybe a +1 for me for the sentiment alone I guess.

    As we see more of these charts in 2006-2010 range I am beginning to remember more stuff that I didn’t like. It’s still far better than today, needless to say, but the schmaltzy ‘Mr Mom’ type soccer mom country to the lack of vocal originality really was starting to creep in slowly as the years went by. But that’s just my opinion.

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    • Yeah, my final net score was positive but, as you probably gathered, +41 basically amounts to a little below a mean score of +1.5 between all thirty of these tracks.

      A mean score of about +1.5 basically suggests 2007 was a time of very likeable mediocrity on country radio. It was around this time that laundry list lyricism was really beginning to emerge and would soon after pave the way for the regrettable “I’m country, y’all! Here’s why!” phase. The writing was clearly on the wall then.

      Still, there were enough meaningful songs with some gut-punching authenticity to make country radio listening a generally enjoyable experience. Unlike since 2011, when it is a chore listening to and I only do so to review songs.

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      • The other thing we were on the verge of was the Taylor Swift era. ‘Teardrops’ was her second single and the next one was ‘Our Song’ which spent 5 weeks at #1 and took her career to the next level and while good for the bottom line of the industry her emergence had far ranging impacts like Big Machine and Borchetta becoming huge players which brought a whole bunch of other things that sped up the race to the bottom that mainstream country music ran.

        I also think that this era was lacking a trend and was searching for one and we are in that type of time right now also with country/AC songs competing with country/R & B songs.

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        • I didn’t even mind the Taylor Swift era all that much, compared to most.

          I get how many feel like it paved the way to the unfortunate obsession with pandering to Adult Top 40 sensibilities and the eventual recent obsession with partnering male country artists with female pop entertainers. But when you consider the overall lyrical quality that Taylor Swift had to offer compared to many of her peers then, I just can’t get angry about her influence as a whole. If anything, I’m longing for a pivot back to her degree of (overall) lyrical quality on country radio. Because, to her credit, most of her songs have a knack at grasping all these subtleties and slight observations surrounding relationships and coming-of-age that keep me engaged with what more she has to share as she grows.

          Most other songs out since 2011 just lack that observation and descriptive quality. Relationship songs on country radio since then are just too black-and-white and/or settle for surface impressions. If Taylor Swift ever decides to come back to country music, I do hope she’s serious about the musical and production side of the equation, but either way I for one will say with a smile: “Welcome back!”

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    • I agree with you, especially in your last paragraph. I wasn’t really paying too much attention to mainstream music during this time, but the songs on this chart that I am familiar with are, for the most part, fairly mediocre. I would rank most of these songs a least one point lower.

      I like “Good Directions” a lot (+4), but I don’t think I could name another Billy Currington song. “Wrapped” is excellent – +4 or +5.

      “Teardrops on my Guitar” is a good song, probably my favourite Taylor Swift song.

      I’ve never heard the Sugarland song, but based on what I have heard from them, I can’t imagine that I would give it anything other than a negative score. Same goes for Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan.
      On the other hand, I hadn’t heard “I Wonder” until just now, and it’s very good. It wouldn’t be my pick for best song on this list (that would be “Wrapped”), but I would give it a +3.

      I like some Kelly Clarkson songs, but I never got into the original version of “Because of You” and this version doesn’t really do it for me either.

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  9. Just to chime in with my differences and thoughts on particular songs.

    Lucky Man: +4 (‘Have moments when I curse the rain, then complain when the sun’s too hot’ describes my grandma to a T, we used to laugh about that when this song was out)

    Good Directions: 0 Just didn’t really do it for me, but can appreciate the sound.

    Johnny Cash: same as you, a +1. I like it. Piss poor if you think of it as a ‘tribute’ of sorts to Cash, but catchy.

    Teardrops On My Guitar: +3 Great song from Swift. Probably my favorite of hers, and I can stand that sound of pop country in this song.

    High Maintenance Woman: -1 Eh.

    All My Friends Say: 0 Same thoughts as Good Directions. Appreciate the sound, but doesn’t move my needle.

    Best song for me is a toss up between I Wonder and If You’re Reading This. Two great, heartfelt songs.

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  10. Wrapped is probably my all time favorite george strait song and would be a +5. If you’re reading this is also excellent. Hated everyday America. Moments was overrated IMO. Probably a 0 for me

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