Prior to releasing "Never Wanted to Be That Girl," Carly Pearce's career was white-hot. Her tortured ballad with Ashley McBryde does nothing to dampen her flame.

The two women represent a wife and mistress, both done wrong by a cheating man. Much like Reba McEntire and Linda Davis' "Does He Love You" from 1993, the hook of the song isn't in the melody or chorus, but in the empathy each has for the other. Neither woman's point of view is offered with shame; the song has a villain, but he remains nameless throughout this co-write.

Pearce (31) and McBryde (38) are the same age as Davis and McEntire were when their song became a Grammy-winning country moment, although this time the younger of the two characters plays the wife. This is a coincidence, but not an accident. The soft, complicated emotions required to share this kind of vulnerability aren't the kind a 20-something is aware of. You need to have lived life and possibly even gone through a public divorce, as both McEntire and Pearce had prior to recording. How literally she is singing of what she knows remains to be seen, but even if the plot of "Never Wanted to Be That Girl" strays wildly from how her marriage to Michael Ray ended, it's still a stunningly honest piece of songwriting.

Did You Know?: Shane McAnally is the third writer on "Never Wanted to Be That Girl."

Ashley McBryde
You helped me change a tire in the Citgo parking lot / You said we both could use a beer / I said hell, why not / What started out as one night turned to six months just like that / You never had a ring on / So I never thought to ask / But then last night I saw a message on his phone / Said, ‘Hey babe, what time you coming home.'

Chorus:
I never wanted to be that girl / I never wanted to hate myself / I thought this kind of lonely only happens to somebody else / Being the other one when there’s another one / God this feels like hell / I thought I knew who I was / But it’s getting hard to tell / I never wanted to be that girl.

Carly Pearce
I’ve heard about those women who didn’t have a clue / The ones who made excuses like my mama used to do / He jumps in the shower just as soon as he gets home / And I spend half an hour / Going through his phone.

Repeat Chorus

Oh and I feel stupid / I feel cheap / I feel used / I feel weak.

Repeat Chorus

Big Machine Records
Big Machine Records
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Top Country Songs of 2021, Ranked

You'll find much more than just the Top 10 Country Songs of 2021 on this list. Enjoy the 21 best country songs of the year, based on Taste of Country staff and country music fan opinion, plus commercial data (sales, streaming, airplay).

To be considered, the song must have been released in 2021 or have actively charted for a portion of the year (see "Wine, Beer, Whiskey"). New artists including Lainey Wilson, Larry Fleet and Morgan Wade crack the top songs list, while hitmakers including Thomas Rhett, Jason Aldean and Luke Combs make the Top 10.

Let us know your favorite song of 2021 on Twitter, or email us at staff@tasteofcountry.com.