Country music sure did get a lot brighter in the 2000s, but not every song on this list of the best and most essential hits replaces banjo with beatbox. There are some all-time fine 2000s songs from timeless artists like Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton and more.

Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" is first chronologically, but there's a traditional country thread throughout a list that also features songs from Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson and Toby Keith. The pop-country craze that became the signature of 2000s country started with Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban (and later, Florida Georgia Line) — they kept it alive, which pretty much brings us to today.

Hip-hop started to infiltrate country music around 2010, thanks to Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert. Sam Hunt might have perfected it, but it'd be a crime not to include Billy Currington's R&B mix.

It's true, Kenny Chesney dominated the first two decades of the 2000s, but he's only allowed one song on this list of country songs. Like we did for the essential '90s songs and best '80s songs, we found 50 different artists to round out this playlist. George Strait has one. Carrie Underwood, too!

Basically, the 2000s haven't figured out what they are yet, which is fine. Find your favorite songs below, and if we missed one let us know in the comments section or on Twitter.

50 Essential 2000s Country Songs: