Since the 2016 release of “My Church,” Arlington, Texas, native Maren Morris has become a commercial success as well as a critical favorite. With her mix of thought-provoking lyrics and a fresh attitude, Morris is one of today’s fastest-rising country stars.
The 28-year-old Grammy-Award winner became a crossover success in 2018, teaming with Zedd and Grey for one of the biggest pop hits of the year, “The Middle.” And there’s no stopping her in 2019, either, as Morris delivered her masterful sophomore album, Girl, on March 8.
Unlike her debut LP Hero, Morris’ second album features a handful of love songs, inspired by her finding her soulmate (she married fellow singer-songwriter Ryan Hurd in March 2018). But Cupid’s arrow didn’t take away from Morris’ sharp wit or vocal prowess, as Girl sees the same clever wordplay and awe-striking vocals fans have grown to love.
Billboard celebrates her new album release–and booming career– by shouting out her 10 best songs, including cuts from Girl.
Morris’ relentless sass is put in overdrive on this amped-up Girl track, as a ripping electric guitar underscores the song’s super-confident lyrics, including the opening chorus line: “I’m cooking up my own flavor/ Even if it ain’t your style.” Add in her powerful vocals and it’s hard not to say, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
9. “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry”
Morris teamed with Barry Dean and Luke Laird to pen one of her wittiest tunes to date, offering a clever warning to a man who isn’t ready or deserving of a relationship — and likely never will be.
8. “To Hell & Back”
The airy love song feels like an answer to the narrative of Hero, telling the tale of a girl who found someone who loves her for who she is, flaws and all: “My wings are frayed and what’s left of my halo’s black/ Lucky for me, your kind of heaven’s been to Hell and back,” she sings on the chorus.
7. “80s Mercedes”
After breaking out with the powerful anthem “My Church,” Morris followed up with an equally dynamic track with “‘80s Mercedes.” The belt-heavy chorus and echoing verses simply adds to her clever lyricism, particularly the namesake line “I’m a ‘90s baby in my ‘80s Mercedes.”
6. “Common” (feat. Brandi Carlile)
How do you amplify a forceful voice like Morris’s? Pair her with another powerhouse. Though Carlile and Morris could make singing the ABCs sound beautiful, the two used their united power to send an important message by reminding the world that, despite today’s tough political times, we are more alike than we are different.
Just reading the lyrics of “Once” will have anyone who’s experienced heartbreak in tears (“When it’s all said and done, don’t forget that you loved me once”). Add Morris’ soaring vocals to those lyrics, and the song becomes a gut-punch straight to the feels — but in the most therapeutic way.
4. “I Could Use A Love Song”
Ironically, one of Morris’ most beautiful songs is also one of her most cynical. Yet as the song goes on, it’s clear Morris still hasn’t given up hope that the special connection she has been searching for is still out there (“Yeah it’s hurting but it ain’t dead,” she sings in the pre-chorus). Whether you’re in love or skeptical of it, Morris’ message was clearly relatable: “I Could Use a Love Song” earned the singer her first No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart.
Morris has expressed feeling “braver” in her music following the monstrous success of “The Middle,” and “Girl” feels like the sonic answer to that. The title track from her sophomore LP is one of her most empowering tracks yet, combining a pounding bass line with Morris’ roaring vocals, helping her newfound confidence become almost tangible.
To the casual listener, there is a little bit of humor on this endearing song from Hero about a woman who knows she would simply be better off if she made the break from her lover. But dig deeper and there’s plenty of truth in her money metaphor for a no-good love (“all the times that you make my heart feel cheap I might as well have won the lottery,” she sings), a sign of her strength as a composer.
1. “My Church”
Some seek their emotional and spiritual sanctuary inside the walls of a house of worship on Sunday morning. Morris’ breakout hit compares those feelings to what she experiences when she’s driving down the highway listening to the songs that made her a country music fan — therefore, inspiring her to become an artist in the first place. The pure passion and power of the song lifted Morris from simply being an “artist to watch” to an artist with instant critical acclaim, also helping her earn her first Grammy Award. Three years after releasing “My Church,” Morris has become the car radio preacher herself.
Check out other best songs lists: Alabama | Alan Jackson | Alison Krauss | Billy Currington | Blake Shelton | Brad Paisley | Brett Eldredge | Brett Young | Carrie Underwood | Chris Stapleton | Clint Black | Conway Twitty | Cole Swindell | Darius Rucker | David Allen Coe| Dierks Bentley | Dixie Chicks | Dolly Parton | Dwight Yoakam | Eric Church | Faith Hill | Garth Brooks | Gary Allan| George Jones | George Strait | Glen Campbell | Hank Williams Jr. | Jason Aldean | Johnny Cash | John Denver | Justin Moore | Keith Urban | Keith Whitley | Kelsea Ballerini | Kenny Chesney | Kenny Rogers | Lady Antebellum | Little Big Town| Martina McBride | Merle Haggard | Miranda Lambert | Patsy Cline | Randy Travis | Rascal Flatts | Reba McEntire | Sam Hunt | Shania Twain | Sheryl Crow | Thomas Rhett | Tim McGraw | Toby Keith | Travis Tritt | Vince Gill | Waylon Jennings | Willie Nelson | Zac Brown Band