Shane McAnally is one of the most prolific and talented songwriters working in country music today. If you (somehow) haven’t heard his name, you’ve definitely heard his work: The frequent collaborator with Kacey Musgraves, Kenny Chesney, Brandy Clark and Sam Hunt has notched dozens of songwriting- and production-related awards nominations, from Grammys to ACM Awards.
It’s tough to narrow down the McAnally’s greatest hits, but below, The Boot has compiled a set of 10 songs that showcase some of his best work. Read on to see our rankings … or to just have your mind blown at how many hit songs this guy has written!
“Alone With You”
“Don’t put your lips up to my mouth and tell me you can’t stay / Don’t slip your hand under my shirt and tell me it’s okay / Don’t say it doesn’t matter ’cause it’s gonna matter to me …”
The list of the Top 10 Shane McAnally Songs kicks off with a little bit of a downer: Owen’s mournful song about knowing that it’s a bad idea to be with someone. Co-written by McAnally, Catt Gravitt and JT Harding, “Alone With You” was Owen’s second single off of Barefoot Blue Jean Night.
“Young & Crazy”
“I wanna sit out on the porch / Telling stories ’bout my glory days / When I’m pushin’ 80 / How am I ever gonna get to be old and wise / If I ain’t ever young and crazy?”
McAnally wrote this tribute to being young, crazy and reckless along with Rhett Akins and Ashley Gorley, and Ballard released it as the third single from Sunshine & Whiskey. “Young & Crazy” peaked at No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart — Ballard’s third song in a row to reach the top.
“Break Up in a Small Town”
“I never thought she’d / Get down with somebody I know / I guess that’s just how it goes / When you break up in a small town / I see our friends and they put on a show / Like they don’t want me to know …”
“Break Up in a Small Town” was co-written by McAnally, Hunt and Zach Crowell. The fourth single from Hunt’s Montevallo album, this genre-bender clocks in at over 500 words and features a lot of talk-singing. It peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard country charts.
“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”
“I’m a child of backseat freedom, baptized by rock ‘n’ roll / Marilyn Monroe and the Garden of Eden / Never grow up, never grow old / Just another rebel in the great wide open on the boulevard of broken dreams / And I learned everything I need to know from John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 …”
Hundreds of country songwriters must have kicked themselves when they first heard this chorus. The name-dropping tune (as he sings, Urban name-checks everyone from Kris Kristofferson to Mark Twain) glides along on a funky, ’70s-style beat, and it boogied all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard country charts. McAnally co-wrote the song with Ross Copperman and Josh Osborne.
“You were moving around in the TV light / I ain’t never seen anything like / Your dress, my floor / The way you wore my T-shirt …”
“T-Shirt” — co-written by McAnally, Ashley Gorley and Luke Laird — is certified platinum and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. Lesson learned: People respond really, really, really well to bar night meet-cutes going really, really, really well.
“Better Dig Two”
“Here lies the girl whose only crutch / Was loving one man just a little too much / If you go before I do / I’m gonna tell the gravedigger that he better dig two …”
This song is really sweet … we think? On the one hand, it’s about a love so intense that the narrator is prepared to be buried next to the man she loves, if it comes to that. On the other hand, she seems pretty determined that someone is going to die. McAnally co-wrote this track with Brandy Clark and Trevor Rosen, and we don’t care if it’s creepy or not — it’s fun.
“I told you I wouldn’t call / I told you I wouldn’t care / But, baby, climbing the walls gets me nowhere / I don’t think I can take this bed getting any colder / Come over, come over, come over, come over, come over …”
McAnally teamed up with Hunt (who also recorded a version of this track) and Josh Osborne to write this desperate love song, which was recorded by Chesney and released as the second single off his Welcome to the Fishbowl album. Chesney tells CMT that the music video for the song is a “classy booty call.”
“I hate stripes / And orange ain’t my color / And if I squeeze that trigger tonight / I’ll be wearin’ one or the other / There’s no crime of passion worth a crime of fashion / The only thing savin’ your life / Is that I don’t look good in orange and I hate stripes …”
McAnally, Clark and Matt Jenkins co-wrote this one, which takes on a popular theme in country music — revenge on a cheater — and does something a little different. Clark spends the song, which is tongue-in-cheek and easy to tap your foot to, talking out herself out of killing her cheating ex for one reason: Prison uniforms simply wouldn’t look good on her.
“Mama’s Broken Heart”
“Go and fix your makeup, girl, it’s / Just a breakup / Run and hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady / ‘Cause I raised you better, gotta keep it together even when you fall apart / But this ain’t my mama’s broken heart …”
The fourth single off of Four the Record struck a chord with listeners: “Mama’s Broken Heart,” about going off the rails after a breakup (the song includes a rusty-scissor bang trim, some liver damage and references to setting fires) has sold nearly 2 million copies and is certified platinum (it also peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard country charts). McAnally co-wrote the song with Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark.
“Merry Go ‘Round”
“Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay / Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane / And daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down / Mary, Mary, quite contrary / We get bored, so we get married …”
McAnally co-wrote nine of the songs on Musgraves’ debut album, Same Trailer, Different Park — not to mention nine more on her sophomore album, Pageant Material – so it’s almost impossible to pick just one of them for this list. Ultimately, “Merry Go ‘Round” (the song that supplied Musgraves’ title phrase) makes this list because it was Musgraves’ debut single, and the song that earned McAnally a Grammys trophy for Best Country Song in 2014.