It's time for a change. It's time for critics and people to stop panning mainstream country music just because it doesn't sound like country music did 40 years ago. When people do that, they miss the opportunity to listen to some really great music, whether it be true country or not.
The root of this is the fact that a lot of the pop music labeled as country right now is legitimately bad music. Thomas Rhett, Cole Swindell, Luke Bryan and others have been releasing mislabeled music that is also bad music. There is no way to defend "Vacation" as a good song, country or not. But because there are these mislabelers that are putting out bad music, there is a tendency of listeners and critics to label any music that is mislabeled as bad music. And honestly, that's a shame. If you are a country music listener that has blinders on and only listens to music that is pure country, you're missing out on a lot of great music.
In all honesty, I'm all for defending the country genre. I think it's a horrible thing that country music and country radio is overwhelmed by bad pop acts and real country artists are forgotten. But I think there needs to be a clear distinction between hating an album because it's pop, and hating it because it's bad music. Country music isn't true country music anymore. But once we accept that point, we might be able to spend less time bashing the songs that aren't country, and start praising the good songs, and the songs that are country. I have posted many reviews that screamed, 'this song/album isn't country.' But at the time, it was needed. Now, not so much. This would be a step forward in improving the attitude of the country music industry, and also improving journalism as a whole.
Currently, journalism is overwhelmingly negative, and I'm not saying this to be naive, or to say that everything in life is unicorns and fairy dust. But when it comes to music journalism, there is a time to be negative, and there is a time to be positive. And in my writing and music exploring, with this new attitude, I've been able to find at least one song on every mainstream album that is a genuinely good country song. That's important. When reviewing an artist, even a horrible one, part of the fun is sifting through the horrible songs to find that one song that's good, that song that shows that this artist could be making really good music. Right now, there is too much negativity regarding genre overshadowing the real debate: the quality of the music. And I'm sure that many would agree with me in saying that the quality of country music has increased drastically over the last two years. So let's start recognizing it.
(If you're looking for some GREAT new country and country-influenced music, check out this playlist below, featuring Maren Morris, Brandy Clark, Lauren Jenkins and more:)