It's not easy to compile a list of Brandy Clark's Top 5 songs. Not only are there too many worthy candidates to choose from on Clark's albums as an artist herself, there are also the songs she's written for others to consider as well. Put both groups together, and Clark has a hefty catalog.
There was a time when Clark was known only as a songwriter -- or, more specifically, only as a really, really good songwriter; hers is the name (or at least one of the names) behind dozens of hit songs, recorded by everyone from Kacey Musgraves to Toby Keith. But in 2013, Clark also started recording and releasing her own albums -- and, as it turns out, she's really good at that, too.
The Boot's list of the Top 5 Brandy Clark Songs selects works from both Clark's songwriter catalog and her artist catalog:
"Hold My Hand"From '12 Stories' (2013)
Clark is an expert storyteller; she's a master of sarcasm; and she can write a foot-stomper as well as anyone -- but with a songs like “Hold My Hand,” Clark tunes fully into love and proves that she can also write a straightforward country ballad.
“Now would be a real good time / To reach out with your fingers / And get ‘em tangled up with mine," Clark sings, as someone who's run into her current flame's former love. "Let her know for sure / That I’m more than just a soft place to land / This’d be a real good time to hold my hand.”
There's no foot stomping here -- but it doesn’t need it.
"Crazy Women"From LeAnn Rimes' 'Lady & Gentlemen' (2011) / Clark's '12 Stories' (2013)
LeAnn Rimes first got country music fans familiar with this song, but those lyrics -- “Crazy women, ex-wives and old girlfriends / Keep their crazy hidden ‘til they’re pushed off the deep end / Oh yeah, God forgive ‘em / They weren’t born like this / Oh no, crazy women are made by crazy men” -- are all Clark. She's sort of the fairy godmother of country revenge songs -- that delightful sub-genre, dominated by women, that finds artists detailing the ways they might enact revenge on a cheating or undeserving man … and making it seem totally and completely fun -- but in "Crazy Women," Clark rolls her eyes at the "crazy girl" stereotype by reminding her listeners that behind every crazy woman is a crazier man.
"Stripes"From '12 Stories' (2013)
Another entry in Clark’s impressive catalog of revenge songs with a twist, “Stripes” is a murder ballad ... but without any of the murdering or balladry. The narrator is convinced that her cheating ex deserves a bullet -- she's got the gun, the ammo "and a p--sed-off finger just itchin' to pull it" -- but she spends the song convincing herself to show some restraint. You see, she "hates stripes / And orange ain't [her] color," and as Elle Woods taught us, "There's no crime of passion worth a crime of fashion."
"Follow Your Arrow"From Kacey Musgraves' 'Same Trailer Different Park' (2013)
Co-written by Clark, Musgraves and Shane McAnally, "Follow Your Arrow" is a quintessential Clark song in so many ways: It's rich in wordplay and snark, yet it also gently offers a critique of conventional living for the sake of fitting in and needlessly judging others.
“If you can’t lose the weight, then you’re just fat / But if you lose too much, then you’re on crack," Musgraves sings. "You’re damned if you do / And damned if you don’t / So you might as well just do whatever you want.”
“Follow Your Arrow” pushes the limits of what mainstream country music is typically comfortable discussing. For its efforts, it was named Song of the Year at the 2014 CMA Awards and was certified gold.
"Mama's Broken Heart"From Miranda Lambert's 'Four the Record' (2011)
At the risk of sounding repetitive … Clark is really freakin' good at writing barn-burner revenge songs, especially when she teams up with Musgraves and McAnally. What sets her tunes apart (in addition to the killer performances they're given from artists such as Miranda Lambert) is that, with each of them, Clark finds a new angle ... and a new way to make you want to dance, laugh or (maybe) set something on fire.