Go to these various different arenas and tell the fans of these artists that the music isn't country. Or simply look through the comments that are already there on the subject.
And watch the fanboys and fangirls (hereafter referred to as F&F's) cry foul.
1) "Of course it's country! Why would it be labeled as country if it's not country?"
Of course. This is their first line of defense. The label tells all. The people who put out the music wouldn't lie to us. It's labeled as country, therefore it is country. Or better yet, the YouTube video told me it was country, so therefore, the same conclusion can be drawn. (Yes, I was in fact recently presented with such a statement on a YouTube comment.)
Of course, if you point out that you could just as easily upload a Yanni song to YouTube and call it heavy metal, they won't respond, and will just ignore you entirely.
2) "Country music has to change to survive."
Here's another classic defense from the F&F's. The old "music has to change and evolve" line. They love to spew this one. They really think they've put detractors in their place, because they think no one can argue against a natural cycle of change.
I posted about this back at the end of July. There is a world of difference between a natural evolution of a genre and abandonment of the genre altogether. A huge number of artists today have chosen the path of the latter and labeled it as the former. But you can't simply call music country when there's no connection to the roots and history of the music. Yes, there are country songs that have pop influences. Some of them are even good. But simply saying "country girl shake it for me" does not make a song country. Simply referencing the name of Johnny Cash does not make you a country artist, nor does wearing his t-shirt.
3) "Not all country music has to sound the same."
And no one ever claimed that it does have to sound the same. But this is falls into the same category as we just discussed. There are certain elements and styles that are consistent with country music. And there are certain elements and styles that make it clear and evident that a piece of music is not country.
Merle Haggard is not the same as Johnny Cash. Wade Bowen is not the same as George Strait. Hayes Carll is not the same as Jamey Johnson. But these artists all make music that is consistent with country music, that is connected to its roots, all while maintaining its own style.
4) "If you don't like it, don't listen."
This is another favorite argument of F&F's. Derek over at Country Perspective discussed this argument in a recent post, so instead of going into this one, I've linked to that article. Please go read it, if you haven't already.
4) "Genre is irrelevant. There's only two kinds of music, good music, and bad music."
This is of course the fall-back argument of F&F's. Why does genre matter? It only matters if you like the music or not.
And this is where I want to get into the meat of this post.
Perhaps to the F&F's genre might not matter. Perhaps to them, there is only the music they like and the music they don't like. But there are fans of genres out there. There are fans of certain styles of music, who want to hear that style and who want to discover new artists with similar styles within that genre.
A lot of times, they like and respect more than one genre. Some days they are in the mood for country, while other days they'd like to hear a little rock.
But more importantly, there are artists who have spent careers creating, defining, and contributing to a genre. Music to them is more than just "good or bad." It's an art form. And like all art forms, once again, there are varying styles. For the same reason we don't consider Picasso an Impressionist (he was a Cubist), we don't consider REO Speedwagon (as much as I may like them) a country band. The music style doesn't fit the genre definition.
To these artists, and to fans of these genres of music, genre definitions are very important. Which is why artists like Colin Raye, Alan Jackson, and Gary Allan have all come out to say that so much of what is presented today is not country.
Often times, these F&F's will have never heard large numbers of classic songs. I present you with the following discussion I recently had on a YouTube comment section with someone who deemed "Small Town Throwdown" the "best song ever."
Commenter 1: best song ever!!!!!
Me: Really? REALLY? THIS is the best song ever? THIS song is better than EVERY other song EVER written and recorded? Better than "Folsom Prison Blues"? Better than "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"? Better than "Mama Tried"? Better than "He Stopped Loving Her Today"? Better than "Amarillo by Morning" or "Here in the Real World"? THIS is the best song ever?
Commenter 2: Yes dumbass this IS the best song ever. I've never even heard of any of those songs u just named off but they sound depressing. Js. People have they're own damn opinions
Me: Your opinion doesn't hold any weight if it's uninformed. If you call THIS the best song ever, but have never heard any of the classics, especially the classics of the genre this song is labeled as a part of, then your opinion is worthless and irrelevant.
This is an individual who, would seemingly claim to be a "country" fan, but has never heard what would be considered by almost anyone to be essential songs of the genre. And this individual is deeming a Brantley Gilbert song to be the "best song ever."
But let's get back to the real question. In the minds of these F&F's, if there's "only two kinds of music, good music and bad music," then why do these same individuals remain so insistent that the music they are listening to is country?
The answer is a difficult one to discern, but likely deals with popularity and conditioning. As so much crap has been infused into the genre, and as this crap has become popular, these are people who want to be "hip" and "cool." They want to be in with the in-crowd, and what's popular right now is singers and bands who are being mis-labeled as country with no respect for the history behind the genre.