The old adage says to write what you know, and when Cole Swindell wrote "Never Say Never" with Jessi Alexander and Chase McGill, he added in lyrics so immersive and brooding that it seems like they must have come from personal experience.

"I probably can't say that, but definitely [I had someone in mind when I wrote it]," admits Swindell during a recent conversation with Taste of Country Nights. Told from the perspective of a person who can't break free from a relationship even though they know it won't end well, "Never Say Never" admits that "It's hell and it's heaven with you / Anything's possible / The highs are unstoppable."

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Swindell's emotional new song is a duet with country newcomer Lainey Wilson, who scored her first No. 1 hit earlier this year with "Things a Man Oughta Know" — a from-the-heart, deeply emotional ballad in its own right. In fact, the importance of emotional authenticity in performance was something the two artists agreed on when they decided to work together, Swindell explains.

"I can't sing [a song] if I haven't lived it or wanted to or wish I wouldn't have. That's kinda how it goes," the singer says. "Me and Lainey both talked about, you know, no matter where you're at, what age, it seems like everybody's been through that at some point in life."

"That's why I said yes when he asked me to be a part of this," Wilson agrees. "I felt like I had actually written the song myself. It just made me feel something. I think we've all been there in some form or fashion."

"That's why we love music: It's relatable," adds Swindell. "I think a lot of people hear this and it makes them think of somebody, whether they can say it out loud or not."

The pair met in 2017 — before Swindell even wrote "Never Say Never" — when they were introduced by their mutual publishing company in the hope that they might be kindred spirits in the writer's room. Not only did they share similar songwriting visions, but they quickly found that their voices complemented each other well.

"We laughed thinking about that. We didn't even get to writing; we just recorded a duet," Swindell remembers.

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.