The former Dollywood performer and bluegrass vocalist's best songs so far, from punchy banjo tune "Honeysuckle" to the more pop-friendly "Closer to You," have made her a regular on the Grand Ole Opry stage (she officially became a member in 2021) and a welcome reinforcement in Jon Pardi, Kelsea Ballerini, Mickey Guyton and others' push to bring fresh voices to radio playlists and awards show broadcasts.
For a small taste of what makes the defending ACM Female Artist of the Year so special, check out this rundown of her eight best songs.
8. "29" (29, 2021)
Pearce's 29, a seven-song EP released in Feb. 2021 by Big Machine Records (and expanded since to 29: Written in Stone), tells a warts-and-all account of the final year of her 20s-- namely her eight-month marriage to fellow country singer Michael Ray. Beyond that context, its title track should be relatable to a lot of 20 and 30-somethings who've found that graduating from college in six years or less didn't equal a smooth transition to the adult life they expected because of our parents or popular culture.
7. "Should've Known Better" (29, 2021)
Another song perceived as autobiographical, this acoustic-propelled Pearce co-write with Emily Shackelton and Jordan Reynolds tells an ex-lover that they should've fully weighed the consequences of their actions.
Along with other tracks on the 29 EP, "Should've Known Better" signaled Pearce's rededication to her traditional country storytelling roots.
6. "I Hope You're Happy Now" (with Lee Brice) (Carly Pearce, 2020)
?One of the most heartfelt big league duets in recent years teamed Pearce with fellow vocal powerhouse Lee Brice.
The No. 1 country airplay hit and Top 30 pop single appears on both Pearce's self-titled 2020 album and Brice's Hey World.
For the 2020 CMA Awards, which Brice missed due to a positive COVID-19 test, Lady A's Charles Kelley joined Pearce to tell both sides of a breakup.
"I Hope You're Happy Now" was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2020 CMA Awards. Though that accolade went to Maren Morris for "The Bones," Pearce and Brice did take home the award for Musical Event of the Year.
It's still Pearce's most-streamed hit on Spotify.
5. "Every Little Thing" (Every Little Thing, 2017)
Pearce, Shackelton and the song's producer, busbee, co-wrote one of the strongest opening statements by any 21st century country artist. The Billboard chart-topping tale of heartbreak became the title track of the Nashville star's debut album, which also brought us another pace-setting single, "Hide the Wine."
4. "It Won't Always Be Like This" (Carly Pearce, 2020)
Pearce's finest hour so far as a ballad-singing vocal powerhouse came in 2020 with these words of encouragement for others amid a transitional phase in their life. In that lies part of the magic of Pearce-- by sharing her truth in song, she tells stories that are deeply relatable to a new generation of country fans.
3. "Never Wanted to Be That Girl" (Feat. Ashley McBryde) (29: Written in Stone, 2021)
Pearce and close friend McBryde's first collaboration addresses an unfortunate yet hardly uncommon scenario. Like Bobby Bare, Liz Anderson and Norma Jean's "Game of Triangles" before it, this one considers both women who've been romantically involved with a two-timing man.
As a bonus, it brought us Pearce's best music video to date.
2. "Next Girl" (29, 2021)
More than the Dobro accompaniment on "Next Girl" points back to '90s country. Its story-driven lyrics also find Pearce filling the shoes of Kathy Mattea, fellow Kentucky native (and "Dear Miss Loretta" collaborator") Patty Loveless and other country music greats from her childhood.
Pearce co-wrote it with fellow '90s aficionados Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne.
1. "Show Me Around" (29, 2021)
Busbee, a go-to producer and songwriter for Pearce, Morris, Keith Urban and other Nashville stars, died from brain cancer in 2019. Pearce honored the 43 year old's memory with this, the saddest country song since Brice's "I Drive Your Truck." It's built on the Christian belief that we'll see loved ones again on the other side of eternity.
This article previously ran in February of 2021.
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