There are country hits, and then there are should-have-beens. Not every song gets its chance to reach the top of the charts for various reasons: Lack of commercial appeal, provocative lyrical content, an artist's tortured personal life or her (ahem) gender.
We won't go as far as to say any of these songs that should have been hits weren't because of the issues facing women in country music, but it's worth counting up the females on this grouping of great, but underplayed country songs from 2018.
We're still pulling for current singles by RaeLynn, Tenille Townes, Pistol Annies and so on ... it has just been a slow start. Great songs from Brothers Osborne, Cam, Ashley McBryde and Danielle Bradbery are no longer being promoted as singles, so we can safely say that unless "Shoot Me Straight," "Diane" or "Worth It" appear in a popular movie or win an award, they won't get loads of radio airplay anytime soon.
The protaginist of Cam's "Diane" video is a woman who learns she's a mistress, and that rips her apart in this smart, melodic and emotional should-have-been hit. The song was a jam and a response to Dolly Parton's "Jolene," but it never came together for Cam on country radio. It's a shame.
"Shoot Me Straight"Brothers Osborne
Brothers Osborne introduced their critically-acclaimed Port Saint Joe album with "Shoot Me Straight," a bluesy country rocker with bite and a great hook. Unlike "Stay a Little Longer," this song failed to catch on, topping out inside the Top 30.
"Worth It"Danielle Bradbery
Raw, honest ballads from country women make up a large part of this list of songs that should have been hits in 2018. Danielle Bradbery's inspiring "Worth It" is not only a song we needed, but a message. It stalled on the airplay chart just outside the Top 40.
"Somebody's Daughter"Tenille Townes
Like a few others on this list, "Somebody's Daughter" has a chance at climbing the charts in 2019. Tenille Townes took a big chance in debuting with a song that's capable of making you uncomfortable. It's difficult to remember a song this raw and real on the radio in recent years.
"A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega"Ashley McBryde
The title of Ashley McBryde's debut single is a mouthful, but the story it tells could happen anywhere in America. The newcomer's pure country voice and capable storytelling were an inspiration in 2018, but this song peaked at No. 30.
OK, maybe "Champagne" is a little too funky for radio but Lindsay Ell's follow-up to the Top 20 "Criminal" was a very new spin on a love song. Tight lyrics and a jazzy arrangement set this one apart from the many pop-country frivolities. The 2018 Taste of Country RISER deserves more of a chance.
"Movin' On"Muscadine Bloodline
Muscadine Bloodline are an independent duo who got some major attention with "Movin' On" in 2018. Streaming services and satellite radio picked up the rambling jammer, but terrestrial radio did not. It would have been an easy hit with some major label support.
There's hope for RaeLynn's "Tailgate" in the new year, but the song deserved more from this year. The singer proves girls can own trucks and tailgates too with a sneaky-good PG-13 jam. We're pretty pumped to hear it live forever.
"Hands on You"Ashley McBryde
Like so many of Ashley Monroe's best songs, "Hands on You" may have been too artistic for mainstream radio, but dang, we'd have been better off hearing three-plus minutes of her aching for love a few times each day. It was released to country radio, but sparsely promoted. Monroe is the only artist to make this list twice.
"Straight to Hell"Darius Rucker + Friends
The superstar collaboration of Charles Kelley, Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean stalled just inside the Top 40. It's a great cover song that sounded good on the car stereo and even better at a bar with a beer in your hand. Where did it go wrong for Darius Rucker?
"The Middle"Zedd (Feat. Maren Morris)
"Meant to Be" from Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line was a huge country hit, but the format didn't touch "The Middle." How come?
"Got My Name Changed Back"Pistol Annies
Perhaps the biggest statement song of 2018 is struggling to get radio airplay. Miranda Lambert spills tea on "Got My Name Changed Back," the lead single from Pistol Annies' new album. The sassy country lyric rides along on an infectious beat, but perhaps it goes too far? It's hard to say for certain what has held this song back.