In a genre known for storytelling, it’s no surprise that country music has playlists for revenge songs.
In this carefully curated list, the nights are long and the tempers short in these 35 dark-hearted tales. This mixture of music covers pathos, upbeat advice, almost revenge and full-on murder ballad, leading towards the ultimate revenge song. A couple of artists easily made the list more than once, and one artist has her own category.
I wouldn’t get on the wrong side of either of these women (and a couple of the lads) at a songwriter’s round; could you just imagine a collaborative revenge concept album from this country cohort?
Positive upbeat revenge
35. ‘When it Rains, It Pours’ – Luke Combs
There’s nothing quite like sweet revenge and Combs’ breakout hit is a cream-filled, chocolate-covered donut, with neon sprinkles, of a three minute ditty over the ex.
34. ‘It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere’ – Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet
Perhaps not the obvious choice for revenge, but who hasn’t wanted to tell a boss to shove it and clear off for an afternoon in a bar?
33. ‘Fist City’ – Loretta Lynn
Miss Loretta Lynn demonstrated sass and self-awareness in this fifty year old warning song, warning that certain kind of woman what would happen at her hand, if they pawed her musician husband while he was on tour.
32. ‘White Liar’ – Miranda Lambert
Calling out your man when he’s been cheating, when you’ve been cheating too. We love Miranda.
31. ‘Next Girl’ – Carly Pearce
You’ve been hiding under the same rock as Pearce’s ex if you haven’t heard her award-winning revenge album. This upbeat advice to his next woman is the bravest standing-tall-again song.
30. ‘Before He Cheats’ – Carrie Underwood
Say hello to one of our queens of revenge songs; we’ve all wanted to take a Louisville slugger to an ex’s car, whilst looking Carrie-good.
29. ‘Stripes’ – Brandy Clark
Our almost-revenge song, from another queen of getcha-own-back, Brandy Clark’s fear of a crime of fashion stops her potential crime of passion. This time.
28. ‘Harper Valley PTA’ – Jeannie C. Riley
If you’re a parent, you’re possibly in or have an opinion of, parent-teacher-associations. If you’re a music fan (and, yes, you are) you’ll love this song taking a stand against hypocrisy from Riley, and later Dolly.
Revenge in Death
Sometimes, revenge is only realised when, after a gut-wrenching sadness – perhaps away from your star-crossed lover – a long-awaited death finally arrives.
27. ‘Concrete Angel’ – Martina McBride
Every heart shatters the first time they hear McBride’s ‘Concrete Angel’; imagine being the one that looked away and having to pass that headstone every day?
26. ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ – George Jones
This classic tale of woe finally brings peace to one half of unrequited love; is death the only way to make peace with revenge?
25. ‘El Paso’ – Marty Robbins
A Mexican cantina, a senorita and a hot temper are key in this love tragedy straight from the wild west.
24. ‘Whiskey Lullaby’ – Brad Paisley feat. Allison Krauss
This is a stunningly beautiful ballad of the death and destruction that comes from a bottle, which has the ultimate revenge.
I started looking for a couple of Taylor’s songs to add to the list, from her humongous back catalogue. Guess what? There are whole playlists of her revenge songs, beginning with her first album, ‘Taylor Swift’, in 2006, which doesn’t even feature the strongest shade-filled stories. Need an hour of revenge music? Swift’s got you covered. Try these six for a feel-good-about-revenge EP.
23. ‘Shake It Off‘ – If you don’t mind, they don’t matter. And put it to a beat.
22. ‘I Forgot That You Existed‘ – I mean, shade just from the title.
21. ‘Dear John‘ – just one of the ex’s cited on paper.
20. ‘Look What You Made Me Do‘ – Not scared. Honest. That ending, though.
19. ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together‘ – Not entirely sure who this title is for; is the character telling herself or her other half? Either way, it’s fab.
18. ‘No Body, No Crime‘ – Swift revenge, all grown up.
17. ‘Better Dig Two’ – The Band Perry
Co-written between Brandy Clark, Shane MacAnally and Trevor Rosen, this is a revenge story with a sinister edge; nothing’s been done, but don’t rule it out if death or divorce ever do them part, warns Kim Perry.
16. ‘Wish It Was Me’ – Kip Moore
Kip’s vibe is looking for or lamenting love, but there’s just something about this direct impart of telling your ex you know you’re better than their current. At midnight. Much under-rated song from Moore’s ‘Room To Spare’ EP.
15. ‘She Thinks His Name Was John’ – Reba McEntire
In the early ‘90s, just a couple of years after the world lost Freddie Mercury and Springsteen/Hanks gave us Philadephia, Reba gave us a version of a death-knell song from a female AIDS victim’s point of view; by the end of this song I was barely hanging on. Chilling.
14. ‘Gunpowder and Lead’ – Miranda Lambert
Look who’s back! Lambert reportedly grew up in a house where her family took in female survivors of domestic abuse, so she brings her metaphorical shotgun to an ex’s getting-out-of-jail party, determined to show him he shouldn’t have shaken her like a ragdoll.
Give nature a helping hand
Remember hearing about pathetic fallacy in your English classes? How weather affects mood and impacts on storytelling? Carrie and Garth paid attention in choosing these revenge stories.
13. ‘Blown Away’ – Carrie Underwood
Taking Oklahoma’s storms to blow through a tale of domestic abuse. Winner.
12. ‘The Thunder Rolls (Live)’ – Garth Brooks
If you’ve been fortunate enough to see Garth Brooks live, you’ll likely have heard the true ending to this tale of revenge, with its final verse. Don’t worry if you didn’t make it to Ireland for Garth’s recent September residency, the live version is available online.
Ballads of the murdering variety have been around for hundreds of years, originating in Western Europe as a method of sharing stories to spook you. But no one puts a murder ballad to music quite like her Nashville neighbours do. Please welcome back Carrie Underwood, whose powerhouse vocals reverb effortlessly between love and you-won’t-do-that-again-will-you? so much that she dominates the first three spots.
11. ‘Two Black Cadillacs’ – Carrie Underwood.
A wife and a mistress dressed in black. One dead husband, not missed.
10. ‘Church Bells’ – Carrie Underwood.
Ken hits a woman for the very last time. See what I mean about justified?
9. ‘Choctaw County Affair’ – Carrie Underwood.
Possibly my favourite Underwood revenge song, from her ‘Storyteller’ album, deftly telling people outside of Choctaw to go mind their business. But we can’t, this song is so good.
8. ‘The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia’ – Vicki Lawrence or Reba McEntire
The song belongs to Lawrence, who delivers the murdering tale with a narrator’s insider knowledge. It’s probably Reba’s version that most folks in country music have heard. You might need a pen and some paper to keep up with the goings on in this three minute murdering mayhem.
7. ‘Caroline’ – Erin Enderlin
One of Nashville’s strongest storytellers, Enderlin’s murder ballad, from her ‘Whiskeytown Crier’ album, features two types of daddies dealing with fifteen year old Caroline in this woods-based drama. Guess which one’s gonna win?
6. ‘Goodbye Earl’ – The Chicks
A murder ballad with an uptempo beat, proving female friendship is strong enough to fix marital problems. Entrepreneurial, too.
5. ‘Framed’ – Chris Knight
It wasn’t me, it really wasn’t, claims Knight, as the character’s being driven away by the police, in the first couple of verses of this ballad from his ’97 eponymous debut album. Then he gives us the third verse.
4. ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ – Johnny Cash
Perhaps more well-known for being performed in actual prison, but the lyrics, “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die” reminds us that life and death in prison awaits this jolly guitarist singing about the local train.
3. ‘Martha Divine’ – Ashley McBryde
I expect Martha (if not ‘Lindeville’s Brenda and Tina), greatly helped McBryde finally join the Opry family, when Garth Brooks recently invited her, live on television. This tale of offspring revenge, sung to that rocking tempo? Too good; turn the volume up.
2. ‘Independence Day’ – Martina McBride
What happens to the child in a domestic abuse household? The eight year old narrator of this classic revenge story goes to watch the 4th July fireworks light up the sky, while her Mum takes advantage of the dark and the noise and the lights, to their advantage.
The Ultimate Revenge Song
Okay, we’re there, at the number one, ultimate revenge song. We’re looking beyond the in-the-heat-of-the-moment revenge, to next generation cursing. On sisterhood. In a genre that supports and empowers women whenever possible. Enter songwriting legend, Brandy Clark.
1. ‘Daughter’ – Brandy Clark
There’s wishing an ex ill-health, then there’s wishing his as yet non-existent daughter a bad time with the boys, which, of course, will give her no-good-Dad a coronary every time he hears a knock on the door. Well played, Karma, and Clark, for tackling this taboo subject of slurring the sisterhood.
What’s your ultimate revenge song? Tweet us at @efcountry and let us know!