This is something I’ve said on various comments boards before to individuals with an all-inclusive view of music. Most of these people brush it off and disregard it.
“Who are you,” they ask me. “Who are you to say what is country and what isn’t?”
Who I am, I respond is someone with enough respect for country music to not lump anything and everything into the genre.
Music, like many other things, is an art form. And art has different sub-divisions. One wouldn’t call Picasso an impressionist—he was a cubist. And one can’t say that “Frankenstein” is a serial romance, either. It’s a Gothic novel. And no one would call Yanni a rock-and-roll musician either. It simply doesn’t fit the category.
That’s how I respond to questions of “who are you to say what is country and what isn’t?” I respond by saying the very thing that I said at the beginning: taste is opinion but genre is fact. This is something that spreads across all music, not just country music. I’m a country fan; it’s my favorite musical genre, it’s the genre I most relate to, and it’s the genre where I find the most music that I like. But I like music that isn’t country as well; and when I do, I don’t purport to call it country simply because I like it. And just because I’m not a fan of something, I don’t presume to dismiss it as “not country” either.
Let me provide an example of each: there is an acoustic-pop artist that I absolutely love named Graham Colton. He’s got some great music, and his album “Pacific Coast Eyes, Vol. 2” is among one of my absolute favorites. I don’t pretend that it’s country though simply because it’s music that I like. And thankfully, the music doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not either. Graham knows what it is, and the music knows what it is as well.
Similarly, I respect Zac Brown Band as a country group, even though I’ve never really connected with or been a huge fan of their music. While their songs have been hit-and-miss as far as my taste goes, it doesn’t change the fact that their music falls squarely within what is clearly country music.
The image at the start of this page is Sam Hunt, a so-called “country” singer who represents the absolute worst of what mainstream country radio has to offer. (Though ask me again tomorrow and my opinion on who makes such a representation might have changed. The industry seems intent on outdoing itself nearly every day in that regard.) I had to suffer through a performance of his when he opened for David Nail, an artist I really like and really wanted to see live. Why the label thought these two would make a good pair in terms of Sam Hunt opening, I do not know, but Hunt’s performance was nothing short of offensive to country music.
Simply believing that any music is country simply because that is how it is marketed to us takes on an all-inclusive view of country, and really, an all-inclusive view of music in general. Such views seem to have affected the country genre the most; but this is something that ends up diluting genres down so that they become meaningless. “Country,” “Rock,” “Jazz,” “R&B” all lose their meaning when music becomes mislabeled in such a way.
And when these genres lose their meaning, the sound that makes them unique will sooner or later disappear entirely. It will become a single genre of music which essentially all sounds the same. I know I can’t be the only one who sees this as a bad thing.