There are probably esoteric forms of death metal that have a less intimidating reputation to outsiders than country music does. The most quintessentially American genre of music and – frankly – one with some of the weirdest people in it, it can seem like its own bizarre world that’s impenetrable to anyone not deeply versed in its singular ways.
But seriously: country music isn't all pickups, whiskey, fights, American flags and men wearing extremely big hats. Sure, some of it is, but at its core, country's all about overcoming hardship, familial pride and heartbreak. Those values span the legacy of the genre, from Hank Williams to Willie Nelson to Dolly Parton and all the way up to Lil Nas X's breakout and Orville Peck's alt-country anthems. There's pop country and disco country, traditional country and outlaw country. But at its heart, all country is intertwined.
This list spans the history of the genre, from classic artists like George Jones to modern-day superstars (Yes, Taylor Swift is here... no, we're not sorry), and we’ve limited the list to one song per artist. You'll find songs for true believers and naysayers who claim to hate the genre wholesale. And among the 30 ditties below, you're sure to find something to get your toes tapping.
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