Today’s male country musicians still sing about love but it is not the love that used to fill the genre. The new artists and songs being created by the country music industry have lost what love is really about. These “love” songs on the radio now focus almost entirely on bar scenes, parties, alcohol, and sex. I blame this on the stereotype society has created that men need to be emotionless, rowdy, and horny all the time. In our world if a guy shows almost any emotion or feelings he is often called “gay” or a “fag”. On a larger scale I believe country music has the power to help break this overall generalization of what the gay community is and the unfair assumptions surrounding men who are more open with their feelings.
I don’t expect nor want country to lose its upbeat, casual, going out and meeting a girl songs but I think today’s country fans are missing what I consider to be one of country’s greatest qualities, its vulnerability and overall authenticity when discussing love. I chose this topic because, one, love songs are my favorite within country music. Love is something that can be felt at any age or any sexuality, by a man or a woman, and can and will be felt throughout a lifetime. Two, I think the entire world could benefit from more acceptance surrounding love and feelings. These ten songs I have selected below are a few of the best at portraying love by a man in the most honest, exposed, and sweet way throughout what I would say is the prime of country love songs, the late 1980’s through early 2000’s. I hope country music can find a way to connect back to the roots of sincere love songs like those below in new music to come!
1987 Randy Travis- “Forever and Ever Amen”
Written by: Paul Overstreet, Don Schlitz
“Forever and Ever Amen” was one of Travis’ sixteen songs that reached number one on the charts. It also won him both Single of The Year Awards through the ACMs and CMAs. Travis starts off my list not only because it’s the oldest but because he is a classic. Randy Travis discusses love as the ultimate promise which will withstand time. “They say that time takes its toll on a body. Makes the young girls brown hair turn grey. But honey, I don’t care, I ain’t in love with your hair. And if it all fell out, well, I’d love you anyway. They say that time can play tricks on a memory, make people forget things they knew. Well, it’s easy to see it’s happening to me. I’ve already forgotten every woman but you – oh, darling.”
1988 Keith Whitley- “When You Say Nothing At All”
Written by: Paul Overstreet, Don Schlitz
Whitely’s career was overall pretty short as he passed away from alcohol poisoning at only 33 but it included 19 songs that reached the Billboard charts. This song by Whitely is featured in the top 20 on CMT’s 100 Greatest Country Love songs of all time. As well it has been covered by multiple artists and became a chart topper again almost ten years later for Allison Kraus and Union Station. This hit song shows how deep a connection between two people can be. We often get lost in whats said between two people and not the actions between them. Keith interprets how meaningful love can be even without words. “The smile on your face lets me know that you need me. There’s a truth in your eyes saying you’ll never leave me. A touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall. Now you say it best, when you say nothing at all.”
1989 Garth Brooks- “If Tomorrow Never Comes”
Written by: Garth Brooks, Kent Blazy
Garth is the ultimate performer and has some of the most fun upbeat songs to ever come through country music such as “Callin’ Baton Rouge” or “Much Too Young.” However some of his most iconic are also his slower love songs! “If Tomorrow Never Comes” which happens to be his very first number one, reveals how time is never promised and reminds lovers or any individual how important right now can be. One can never know if tomorrow will come. For lovers especially, Garth wants people to share how they feel in case the chance never comes again. If worst came to worst would that person know how you felt. “If tomorrow never comes. Will she know how much I loved her? Did I try in every way to show her every day. That she’s my only one. And if my time on earth were through and she must face this world without me is the love I gave her in the past gonna be enough to last. If tomorrow never comes”
1992 George Strait- “I Cross My Heart”
Written by: Steve Dorff, Eric Kaz
When you see the name George Strait its extremely difficult to not get overwhelmed with how many great songs there are to choose from his three decades as a country music artist. Although as one of the most popular country wedding songs ever its hard to overlook this one(this one always gives me goosebumps). Between George’s perfect voice and such pure words it doesn’t get much sweeter than this. As marriage being the biggest public step one can make to show their promise of love, this song really makes that clear. “I cross my heart and promise to give all I’ve got to give to make all your dreams come true. In all the world you’ll never find a love as true as mine.” His words unite people unlike any other. They are simple, but share something pure that often gets lost in the catchy tunes we hear more often nowadays.
1994 John Michael Montgomery- “I Love The Way You Love Me”
Written by: Victoria Shaw, Chuck Canon
John Michael Montgomery I would say is the king of love songs, but I am pretty biased since he is one of my favorite artists. According to CMT, even in the midst of the Honky Tonk sound John was known as a romantic balladeer. To choose just one love song from Montgomery was difficult as I could have easily filled the majority of this list with just his songs such as “I Swear”, “I Can Love You Like That”, or “I Miss You A Little”. “I Love The Way You Love Me” expresses from a guys point of view how when you are in love with someone it becomes so much more than just hugs and kisses but about all the little things. “I like to imitate old Jerry Lee and watch you roll your eyes when I’m slightly off key. And I like the innocent way that you cry at sappy old movies you’ve seen hundreds of times.” “And I like the way your eyes dance when you laugh, and how you enjoy your two hour bath. And how you convinced me to dance in the rain with everyone watching like we were insane.”
1999 Tim McGraw- “My Best Friend”
Written by: Aimee Mayo, Bill Luther
1999 was a good year for Tim Mcraw as his album Place In The Sun which featured “My Best Friend” began on the Billboard charts for both country and pop! This album also had four singles to reach number one, including “My Best Friend.” Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have one of the most iconic relationships to ever come through country music and I believe his relationship with his wife has helped him create such great hits like this one. He sums it up so naturally. This is a song even people who dislike country will often know. When you are in love with someone that person really should be your best friend, and Time tells it just like that. “You’re more than a lover. There could never be another to make me feel the way you do. Oh, we just get closer. I fall in love all over. Every time I look at you. And I don’t know where I’d be without you here with me. Life with you makes perfect sense. You’re my best friend.”
2002 Steve Holy- “Good Morning Beautiful”
Written By: Zack Lyle, Todd Cerney
Steve Holy may not be a household name today but his breakout song is one of the most well known across the boards. Steve Holy’s song “Good Morning Beautiful” stayed on the charts in 2002, at number one for 5 weeks and appeared on the list for a total of 41. Steve has had a tough fight in the country music world but his passion keeps him floating. This song is extremely different from his 2006 hit “Brand New Girlfriend” which is a comical upbeat song. “Good Morning Beautiful” touches a few other controversial topics as he has stayed the night with this woman but overall its just a sweet compliment to his girl about how happy it makes him to wake up to her next to him. She gives him hope to take on whatever is next. “Good morning, beautiful, how was your night? Mine was wonderful with you by my side. And when I open my eyes to see your sweet face. It’s a good morning, beautiful day.”
2003 Brad Paisley- “Little Moments”
Written by: Brad Paisley, Chris DuBois
Brad Paisley has songs that range in all kinds of topics and sounds which is one of the reasons he continues to thrive. Brads song “Little Moments” was one of four singles from his album Mud On The Tires to reach the Billboard charts. Even better is that Brad has shared that his wife was part the inspiration for this song and he even included her in the video. “Little Moments” Similar to “I Love The Way You Love Me” isn’t the little moments what life really comes down to? As amazing as the idea of a perfect relationship is, it isn’t real. Brads song reminds everyone how imperfect, fun, messy, silly, and special love can be. Everyone can go through marriage but what separates a love is the moments and journey it takes and “Little Moments” shares that! “I know she’s not perfect but she tries so hard for me. And I thank god that she isn’t ’cause how boring would that be. It’s the little imperfections. It’s the sudden change in plans. When she misreads the directions and we’re lost but holdin’ hands. Yeah I live for little moments like that.”
2004 Keith Urban- “Making Memories of Us”
Written by: Dana Huff, Keith Urban
I have my own doubts about my feelings towards Keith Urban but I have no doubts about this song. Keith is a guy who is an amazing musician, he sings, his wife is in the entertainment business, and he has even dabbled with television. His overall image is what I sometimes question but the song “Making Memories of Us” says all a woman can hope for in love. What always excites me about a song is when the singer is one of the writers as well. Here I feel like Keith’s voice is truly included. Keith mentions family, trust, and staying together through it all. It is a song that shares that he wants a future and memories from this relationship not just some short term fling. “I wanna honor your mother and I wanna learn from your pa.” “We’ll follow the rainbow wherever the four winds blow. And there’ll be a new day comin’ your way.” Keith links love back to some of the values and morals that country often relies on.
2006 Josh Turner- “Would You Go With Me”
Written by: Shawn Camp, John Scott Sherrill
I truly think Josh Turner could be singing about Broccoli and I along with other girls would still be falling in love just because his voice. Josh’s deep voice really started stealing the show largely with his second album which featured his first two number one hits “Your Man” and “Would You Go With Me”. In “Would You Go With Me” Turner both asks his lover if she is willing to join him on whatever the journey of life may include, as well as telling her he hopes she will because he loves her! “If I gave you my hand would you take it and make me the happiest man in the world. If I told you my heart couldn’t beat one more minute without you, girl. Would you accompany me to the edge of the sea. Let me know if you’re really a dream. I love you so, so would you go with me.” Josh’s songs often reflect the importance of family, religion, and love in his own life. This song concludes my list because I believe soon after 2006 is when these exposed raw feeling in songs started to disappear allowing the blunt, racy, party driven songs to take over.
I know it’s a lot to take in, but at least the songs you’ve never heard take a second to check out. Don’t be afraid to take a step outside your comfort zone to a little less mainstream music or throw it back to get in touch with your emotional side. A little love can go a long way!