One of the biggest country stories of 2018 was the massive success of Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha's "Meant to Be," which spent most of the year lodged at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. However, the Country Airplay chart offered more variation, with upstarts (Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, Old Dominion, Kane Brown) and vets alike (Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean) earning chart-toppers.
Still, there were plenty of artists -- veterans and newcomers alike -- who released amazing songs that didn't become hits in 2018. These omissions or under-the-radar jams were rather surprising, since they were catchy and well-crafted enough to stand next to songs that did chart higher.
In alphabetical order by artist, here are 10 songs that should've been hits in 2018.
That "Taxidermy" wasn't a huge hit is something of a head-scratcher. Co-written by Natalie Hemby, Luke Dick and Rosi Golan, the slinky, bluesy song oozes attitude -- the title isn't a suggestion, but a threat to a no-good ex -- and boasts a gigantic chorus hook.
“Shoot Me Straight," the leadsingle from Brothers Osborne's Port Saint Joe, peaked at No. 29 on the singles chart. That's a surprisingly low position, considering the song -- a hard-edged blues-funk number with a twangy twinge that underscores the band's live prowess -- is a creative leap forward, and that it received a 2019 Grammy Awards nomination for Best Country Duo/Vocal Performance.
Women have had trouble making inroads at radio, sure -- but Cam's "Road to Happiness" didn't chart anywhere. The sparse, acoustic-driven song, which foregrounds lonely pedal steel, deserves better. Reminiscent of Rosanne Cash and Miranda Lambert's quieter moments, the tune ponders what's sacrificed while searching for contentment: "Is the future that we're chasin' / Worth the right-nows that we miss / On this road to happiness?"
Who knew a song about getting a fake ID could be so moving? That's the case with “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs,” Denning's debut single. Although on the surface an easy-going, mid-tempo song about being able to quasi-legally buy beer, the thought-provoking tune is really about what it means to assume a new identity in the process. Incredibly, the tune only peaked at No. 37 on the Hot Country Songs chart.
Ell's '90s rock-leaning “Champagne” -- a song about feeling loved and being valued by a significant other -- has all the components of a hit: measured dynamics, subtle guitar work and earworm lyrics. "You make me feel like Jessica Biel / Steppin' out of the stretch / Diamonds huggin' my neck for the paparazzi," she sings in this track, which, incredibly, didn't chart after its release earlier in the year.
Hurd's laid-back "Diamonds or Twine" -- written for his now-wife, Maren Morris -- is a song about focusing on what matters. Unsurprisingly, this category doesn't include material things. "Doesn't matter if it's diamonds or twine," he drawls. "I'll be wrapped around your finger / Girl, you got me 'til we run out of time / Rich or poor, rain or shine." Despite the romantic genesis and tone, the song flew under the radar in 2018.
One of the highlights on Monroe's Sparrow, the excellent solo album she released months before the Pistol Annies returned, is the smoldering, Gothic, blues number "Hands on You," a song about unbridled passion that brims with seductive guitar twang and ominous orchestration. Still, the song charted outside of the Hot Country Songs Top 40.
Montgomery Gentry's ruminative, nostalgic "Better Me" only hit No. 40 on the Hot Country Songs chart and No. 60 on the Country Airplay chart. The relatively low placement is surprising: Not only was it issued right after the tragic death of Troy Gentry, the song's mature lyrics -- its premise addresses what it feels to turn your life around and be on an upswing -- makes it one of the year's most relatable releases.
Musgraves has made no secret about the fact that she's not tying her success to charts or radio airplay. However, that one of the best songs from Golden Hour -- the dewy, nostalgic "Slow Burn" -- only peaked at No. 42 on the Hot Country Songs chart back in April is criminal. With its psychedelic-folk sheen and retro-leaning production, the tune shows off Musgraves' range and wise-beyond-her-years lyrical approach.
Urban's energetic performance of "Never Comin' Down" at the 2018 CMA Awards underscored how catchy -- and versatile -- the single is. It's more like a pastiche, really, that touches on beat-boxing blues, uptempo country-pop and slinky honky-tonk soul. That the song's only peaked at No. 31 is mystifying; after all, just try to remove the song from your head after you've heard it even once.