The message of this song: Don't wait to tell someone how you feel about them. Don't hold back your feelings. What hurts the most is losing someone because you didn't tell them how much you care.
"What Hurts The Most" was first recorded by the country singer Mark Wills and included on his 2003 album And the Crowd Goes Wild. In 2006, Rascal Flatts took the song to the top of the Country and Adult Contemporary charts and #6 on The Billboard Hot 100. Meanwhile, in the UK the song first became a hit when the former S Club 7 member Jo O'Meara covered it for her debut solo release, reaching #13. In 2007, the German Eurodance trio Cascada released another version, this time re-interpreting it, despite the heartbreak lyric, as an uptempo Europop song. Their version made #10 UK and #52 US, but prompted Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts to quip, "That's what hurt us the most."
"What Hurts The Most" was written by the international team of Jeffrey Steele and Steve Robson; Steele was based in Nashville and Robson is from Newcastle, England. Robson wrote the music and Steele added the lyric, but not until months later when he listened to the track and suddenly found inspiration.
"The song was originally inspired by losing my father," he told Great American Country. "But I ended up changing the meaning and I made it more of a love song, to be more universal."
The first 12 Rascal Flatts singles all made the Hot 100, but none got past #21 until "What Hurts The Most," which rose to #6 in late April 2006 and also gave them their fifth Country chart-topper and first #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart - it was truly a crossover smash. In June, the Disney movie Cars
was released, featuring their cover of "Life Is A Highway
." That song drove even more fans their way and rose to #7 on the Hot 100.
Thanks in no small part to "What Hurts The Most," the Me And My Gang album - Rascal Flatts' fourth - went on to sell over 4 million copies and claimed three weeks at #1 in America. Along with the Dixie Chicks, Rascal Flatts were the biggest-selling country group of the '00s; their previous album, Feels Like Today, sold 5 million. This was a time when country was dominated by female artists, notably Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, and a young upstart named Taylor Swift.
In 2007 this was awarded the BMI song of the year at the annual BMI Country Awards ceremony. In addition co-writer Jeffrey Steele was awarded the BMI Songwriter of the Year for this and other songs such as Rascal Flatts' "My Wish" and "Me and My Gang."