Bars and beaches provided the favorite settings for the year’s most popular music videos. Give Alan Jackson additional credit for choosing a seaside bar — and Jimmy Buffett — as part of his video for “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.”
The top videos of 2003 will be highlighted on the episode of CMT’s Top Twenty Countdown debuting Wednesday (Dec. 31) at 6 p.m. ET/PT. It’s still too early to reveal the actual order, but here’s an alphabetical list of the artists and videos featured on the show:
Trace Adkins, “Hot Mama”
Adkins’ video turns up the heat he established with “Chrome.” In the song, he sings the words every woman would love to hear. However, because Adkins’ character in the video appears to be taking such a complacent role in his home life, you have to wonder if he’d be fantasizing so much if he took the time to help his wife with the daily chores.
Gary Allan, “Tough Little Boys”
The song immediately grabs you, but the emotional message would have been ruined by obvious, sappy visual images. Instead, the lyrics hit even harder when combined with the footage of U.S. military personnel.
Dierks Bentley, “What Was I Thinkin'”
A new artist’s greatest challenge is projecting an image that allows fans to connect a name and a face with a song. “What Was I Thinkin'” went a long way in giving Bentley something essential for all artists — an identity.
Brooks & Dunn, “Red Dirt Road”
Anyone who grew up in a small town knew that youthful indiscretions were bound to become public knowledge. But it’s a short drive to the relative privacy of that narrow road outside the city limits. From drinking a first beer to finding religious salvation, Brooks & Dunn reflect on the promises and lessons acquired during the early part of life’s journey.
Chris Cagle, “Chicks Dig It”
Instead of youthful indiscretions, “Chicks Dig It” centers on the youthful stupidity of males in their never ending quest to impress the opposite gender. Of course, the truth is that males never really evolve beyond past this particular mentality. In the video, Cagle seems to be the first to admit this.
Johnny Cash, “Hurt”
Much has been written and said about director Mark Romanek’s starkly stunning film that served as Cash’s farewell. While many videos exist merely as clips to promote an artist, “Hurt” will be remembered as a genuine work of art from a talented filmmaker and an American icon.
Kenny Chesney, “Big Star”
“Big Star” is the perfect song for a concert in a large arena, so Chesney takes the star pose in the opening of the video. But the song quickly turns to the story of a young woman whose own path to stardom is, unfortunately, questioned by her jealous detractors. It’s a big video for a big song.
Kenny Chesney, “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems”
Chesney took to the beach and his boat for “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems.” We lived vicariously and enjoyed a brief, if imaginary, vacation of our own while Chesney got his record label to pick up the tab for transportation to a place he was probably planning to visit anyway. The guy’s a financial genius.
Alan Jackson (With Jimmy Buffett), “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”
Following Chesney’s lead, Jackson also mixes business with pleasure — a boat and the beach — in the video for one of the best Jimmy Buffett songs not written by Jimmy Buffett. But Buffett makes a guest appearance on Jackson’s recording and the video to provide viewers with some changes in attitude and latitude.
Toby Keith, “I Love This Bar”
Believe it or not, you can still find bars where the bandstand is protected by chicken wire. Most of the time, nobody wants to harm the musicians, although the screen comes in handy for any longneck bottles thrown in anger or joy at enemies and friends. It’s been a long time since Keith worked the bars and clubs, but the song and video prove he hasn’t forgotten the attraction of such institutions.
Toby Keith and Willie Nelson, “Beer for My Horses”
In the highly unlikely event that their music careers suddenly evaporate, Keith and Nelson could star in a detective series on one of the major TV networks. If anybody asked for an audition, the two singer-songwriters need only provide the video for this memorable musical collaboration.
Martina McBride, “Concrete Angel”
McBride is one of the few mainstream country artists willing to tackle difficult social issues through their music. And social issues don’t get any more serious than child abuse. Music and videos can’t solve social ills, but they can prompt thought and re-evaluation. McBride makes stunning recordings, but “Concrete Angel” carries the potential to make a difference in the world.
Montgomery Gentry, “Hell Yeah”
For whatever reason, Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry seem perfectly at home in the heavy drinking and party atmosphere of a neighborhood bar. I mean, far be it for anyone to even suggest they have any experience in such an environment. Perhaps more than any act in the past decade, Montgomery Gentry understand the blue-collar crowd because they proudly consider themselves part of that very demographic. They prove it with “Hell Yeah.”
Joe Nichols, “Brokenheartsville”
How could any country fan not love “Brokenheartsville”? Between the song itself and Nichols’ vocals, it’s a new twist on a classic theme. The video offers an added dimension, though, by revealing the truth behind the guy who drove away with Nichols’ woman. By the end of the video, you’re cheering when the baldheaded geek’s Cadillac breaks down.
Brad Paisley, “Celebrity”
Easily the most clever and hilarious video of the year, “Celebrity” gives Paisley an opportunity to comment on America’s fascination with the rich and the famous. Of course, he gets some help from some rich and famous friends, too, including Country Music Hall of Fame member Little Jimmy Dickens and actors William Shatner and Jason Alexander. Shatner’s closing critique of Paisley’s performance is classic.
Rascal Flatts, “I Melt”
Rascal Flatts made history when guitarist Joe Don Rooney became the first country artist to display bare buttocks in a music video. While the “I Melt” video was tame by rock and rap standards, the controversy became national news and made non-country fans aware of Rascal Flatts. So far, no other country artists have followed Rooney’s lead.
Shania Twain, “Forever and For Always”
Twain is known for her elaborate videos, but “Forever and For Always” is an exercise in simplicity. Of course, it’s hard to go wrong when you’ve got Twain singing a great song against a gorgeous sunset on a beach.
Keith Urban, “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me”
Whether it’s a motorcycle or a tour bus, Urban is primed for the open road in this performance video. With some gnarly guitar riffs thrown in for good measure, Urban captures the essence of a man who has nothing — and everything.
Darryl Worley, “Have You Forgotten?
Worley hit a chord with country fans when he released the flag-waving anthem, “Have You Forgotten?” when the U.S. was on the brink of war with Iraq. News footage is interspersed with Worley’s performance of the song in a recording studio. For you trivia buffs, that’s James Stroud — the head of Worley’s record label, DreamWorks Nashville — playing drums in the video.
Dwight Yoakam, “The Back of Your Hand”
Most country songs about relationships deal with the promise of new love or the heartbreak of divorce. Somewhere between those two extremes is “The Back of Your Hand.” As the song and video suggest, long-term relationships can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your frame of mind. In conveying the complexities of the emotion, Yoakam shows that he’s aging well as an artist — and as a human being.