This list of the year's best country albums is assembled with two important premises in mind: First: If the people who record and listen to these records consider them country, than they're damn well country. Purists who argue that country should still sound like '68, '76, '84 or whenever are in the interesting position of being more conservative than Nashville radio.
|Wait, she had a record this good in her?|
I have nothing against the opinion that Hank Williams--or whatever other well-marketed figure of authenticity you prefer-- would love to see Rascal Flatts knocked on their J.C. Penney-endorsing asses. But I also accept that that opinion matters much less than those of the few million people who still actually buy CDs.
Second, Taylor Swift is now beyond country the way that Kanye is beyond hip hop or J.R. is beyond Dallas. She simply is. Red would rank highly here if I were to waste a slot on it, but TS belongs on more broadly focused lists, like maybe "Best Things in General in Recent Years."
This list has fewer men than women, mostly because Nashville's suits allow the he-hunks a more meager emotional range than the spitfires. The fellas are forever singing about some upcoming beer-in-a-cooler party (Wade Bowen's "Saturday Night," Lee Brice's "Parking Lot Party," Chris Cagle's "Wal-Mart Parking Lot") or all the little details that make being in love worth it (Easton Corbin's "Lovin' You Is Fun"; Jason Aldean's "When She Says Baby"). Maybe once per album they're permitted to feel something more complex. Of course, if male country stars sang about their real lives, every song would be called things like "Two Hours at the Gym and a Protein Shake."
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