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No. 20: Sugarland, ‘Stay’ – Top Country Songs of the Century

Sugarland‘s “Stay” made a clean sweep of country awards season in 2007 and 2008, winning Grammys, ACM and CMA Awards on its way to a Top 5 spot on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart and double-platinum status. It was an enormous song in more ways than one.

You’ll struggle to find many (nearly) five-minute-long ballads on country radio these days, and there weren’t many in the mid-00s, either. Radio programmers just don’t like playing them, so the fact that they did — over and over again — speaks to the power of Nettles’ song of infidelity. Yes, this is a Sugarland song, but it’s really her song. An intense personal performance set “Stay” apart from anything she ever cut with Kristian Bush.

And then there was the music video. Shaun Silva directed the sparse clip. A lightly made-up Nettles dominates the screen, at times breaking down, at times offering the most bittersweet of smiles. It was an almost voyeuristic look into the creation of a song that seems to be so much more than a gift from God. One wonders if when called upon to present a reel for an acting gig, she just hands them this music video.

About this list: Taste of Country’s Top Country Songs of the Century were decided by a panel of country music experts and fans using sales and chart data, a song’s social and musical impact and lyrical integrity. Select artists were also surveyed. You’ll hear from several throughout the list.

Next: See Song No. 19

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