A common theme in country’s New Year’s Eve songs, from the early days of hillbilly music to today’s crossover pop stars, remains stories that remember the past while anticipating a brighter future. Some of these songs directly address January 1, a day when the lunch menu often reflects a desire for a healthier and wealthier year. Other songs deal with the self-awareness and self-reflection that inform new hopes, old regrets and soon-to-be-broken resolutions.
The following list mostly includes contemporary artists, offering modernized takes on being cautiously optimistic as a new year dawns. A few classics by country and rock artists get sprinkled in, showing the variety of well-loved rallying cries to make 2018 the best year yet.
10. “Lord, I Hope This Day is Good” by Don Williams
9. “Welcome to the Future” by Brad Paisley
Brad Paisley encourages listeners to appreciate the many modern conveniences, from video chatting with overseas clients to playing Pac-Man on your cell phone, while looking ahead to a seemingly boundless new year.
8. “Funky New Year” by the Eagles
Sometimes, a party song hits the spot better than a heartfelt message. For those just wanting a good time on the final day of December, revisit the time the Eagles borrowed more from James Brown than their folk- and country-rock peers.
7. “Life Changes” by Thomas Rhett
Thomas Rhett often sings of his ascent from underdog to second generation country superstar. One of his most charming autobiographical statements puts into perspective how major life changes seem to come overnight.
6. “New Year’s Day” by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift returned home for the holidays, in a sense, when she released Reputation track “‘New Year’s Day“ to country radio. The sentimental, piano-based ballad hardly beckons back to “Tim McGraw,” but it does tell a good story about planning a brighter future once the NYE party ends.
5. “Maybe Next Year” by Corey Smith
The best country songs are based on harsh reality, even when it doesn’t lead to a storybook ending. Corey Smith deals with the truth behind your rowdy friend’s good intentions with this song and its tongue-in-cheek music video.
4. “A New Year” by Ashley Campbell
Glen Campbell’s talented banjo-picking daughter Ashley launched the next phase of her solo career with this romantic tune. She likens puppy love anticipation to the annual ball drop that beckons in a new year.
3. “Maybe Baby (New Year’s Day)” by Sugarland
Sugarland‘s welcome return to country music hopefully brings many more irresistible duets with members Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles. In this holiday tune, next week will do if a romantic Christmas rendezvous is out of the question.
2. “Ringing in the Year” by Turnpike Troubadours
While paying their dues to become the old school country fan’s modern band of choice, the Turnpike Troubadours spoke for all the broken hearts each December 31. Their holiday offering addresses what it feels like when looking back on the prior year digs up painful memories.
1. “If We Make It Through December” by Merle Haggard
Among the Hag’s most beloved songs about common working people ranks this tale of factory layoffs that jeopardize a family’s holiday dreams. Undeterred, the weary worker views the coming new year as an opportunity to find better, steadier employment.