Funny thing about 2012's best country singles: Many of them came from albums released in 2011. Eric Church's fabulous "Springsteen," Miranda Lambert's "Over You" and George Strait's "Love's Gonna Make It Alright" are just a few examples. This isn't a bad thing. It shows commitment to an artist. The willingness of a label to spend money and go a few cuts deep on an album is -- or should be -- how careers are made.
Twenty-twelve was an interesting year for country music in general, as it was highlighted by two significant trends: One, thanks to artists such as Jason Aldean and Eric Church, country rocked! Artists who grew up on Mellencamp and Springsteen before discovering Cash and Strait had no problem mixing a little chocolate in with their peanut butter. And two, the hippies arrived! Yes, alt folk-y, weird-beard types (like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons) have officially infiltrated the ranks of country music. (See our Cheat Sheet on alt folk for more on this burgeoning subgenre.) So between the rockers and the hippies, you don't really hear kids saying, "Country? Really?" the way they used to.
All in all, this is pretty exciting stuff from a genre that tends to move a little slower than most. Check it all out with our playlist that counts down, from 20 to 1, the country music singles that set our hearts aflutter in 2012. Some went pop, others went twang, still others rocked our socks off.