Drawing comparisons to Miranda Lambert is never a bad thing, but even if her edgy, rock-infused brand of country shares a certain amount of common ground with Lambert’s, Lainey Wilson is very much an artist in her own right. Since releasing her breakthrough single, Things a Man Oughta Know, in 2019, her sassy, straight-talking songwriting and distinctive vocals have turned her into one of the hottest new acts in country music. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Lainey Wilson songs of all time.
10. Rolling Stone
Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin, Wilson’s major-label debut, is a triumph. Released in February 2021, it drew rave reviews from the music press, who compared Wilson’s style to Miranda Lambert’s and praised the album’s raw authenticity. Its tracklist of 12 songs, several of which had appeared on Wilson’s earlier EP, Redneck Hollywood, is almost faultless, with the contemplative, cinematic Rolling Stone standing out as one of the highlights. During an interview with americansongwriter.com, Wilson revealed that the inspiration for the song came from her break up to her childhood sweetheart, who she dated for seven years before finally realizing their futures lay in different directions.
Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin may have been a more polished effort than Wilson’s previous releases, but despite the slicker production, her raw, straight-talking lyrics remain as undiluted as ever. One of the album’s most unapologetically frank compositions is Pipe, an edgy nugget of rule-breaking country in which Wilson lays out the “redneck rulebook” over a backing of pounding drum beats and wailing electric guitars.
8. Neon Diamonds
Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’ gets off to a winning start with Neon Diamonds, a song that entertainment-focus.com describes as a “joyous rock-tinged country anthem that allows Wilson’s distinctive voice to breathe.” Combining frank lyrics with a feisty delivery and a truckload of grit, it distills everything there is to love about both Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’ and Wilson into 3 minutes of pure listening pleasure.
7. Small Town Girl
As tasteofcountry.com says, on On Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin, Wilson presents herself as a sweet Southern girl who’s not afraid to get the good kind of nasty. On Small Town Girl, she issues a stark warning to anyone who thinks they know what small-town girls are about over a whirling riot of electric guitars and thumping beats. Wilson’s lyrics and vocals take center stage, as they should, but producer Jay Joyce’s guiding hand in the background deserves special credit for adding enough spit and polish to make the tune radio-ready, without diluting any of Wilson’s raw energy.
6. Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’
Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin,’ the titular track to Wilson’s 2021 major-label debut, finds the singer letting her guard drop and exposing her vulnerable side as she meditates on the true meaning of honesty. Producer Jay Joyce’s decision to pull in the reins on the arrangements was the right one, allowing Wilson’s raspy, tear-soaked vocals to shine against nothing more than a puff of acoustic guitar and gentle percussion. It might not have the sass we’d usually expect from Wilson, but what it does have is just as compelling.
5. Straight Up Sideways
In September 2019, Wilson released Redneck Hollywood, a collection of 4 tracks that, as offtherecorduk.com notes, explores the breadth of her artistic vision at the same time as entrenching her musical expression in her roots. All of the songs have co-writing credits from Wilson, showcasing her talents as a storyteller of humor and intelligence. The party-ready opener, Straight Up Sideways, sets the tone as Wilson explores the joys of letting her hair down and getting loose – familiar theme maybe, but ones delivered with such funky energy, they still sound fresh.
Another standout track from the Redneck Hollywood EP next, this time the autobiographical L.A. A deliriously catchy tune in which Wilson explores the path that led her from Louisiana to Nashville, it became the first track from the EP to be released to country radio, where it picked up enough interest to earn a place on Wilson’s major-label debut, Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’, two years later.
3. WWDD (What Would Dolly Do)
Wilson has confessed to being heavily influenced by Dolly Parton, and on WWDD (What Would Dolly Do), she offers up a tribute worthy of the country superstar herself. “Like a country-music modern-day apostle/Yeah, I leaned in like every word was gospel,” she sings about the first time she heard her idol on the radio. In a world where making shoutouts to George Jones and Waylon Jennings is par for the course for every country artist at some point or another, it makes a refreshing change to hear Parton getting the respect she deserves, and from a singer who’s clearly worked out what Dolly would do, and is doing it very well already.
2. Things a Man Oughta Know
Although it later popped up on Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’, Things a Man Oughta Know made its first appearance on 2019’s Redneck Hollywood. Released as the EP’s second single, it reached No. 3 on the Hot Country Songs chart and No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart, giving Wilson her first number-one song. If the raw, gritty relatability of the song is anything to go by, it’ll be the first of many.
1. Dirty Looks
A standout moment on both Redneck Hollywood and Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’, Dirty Looks puts the focus on Wilson’s smart, sassy songwriting as she puts a contemporary spin on the attractions of a hard-working man to the backing of some seriously seductive rhythms. Although it didn’t chart when it was released as the first single from Redneck Hollywood, it whipped up enough interest in her subsequent album to take it to number 3 on the US Heatseekers chart.