On Friday (Sept. 24), Mickey Guyton released her long-awaited debut album, Remember Her Name. To celebrate the momentous milestone, the country star appeared on NBC’s Today Summer Concert Series, where she performed songs from her record and talked about the significance of the full-length release, her first since signing her record deal 10 years ago.

“I want people to feel seen,” Guyton says of her hopes for the project. “I feel like the world doesn’t really pay attention to the hard things that happen in life. So often, so many of us don’t feel seen. So many of us feel left out and not included, and it’s so important for people to be acknowledged. That’s so important for their feelings and their hearts to be acknowledged, and we live in a society where we just don’t see people.”

With the support Guyton has received, especially over the last year, she has, in turn, been making a concerted effort to guide the next generation of singers wanting to follow her path. “Mentorship is really important for me,” she says. “I seek them out, because it’s so important for Black women to be able to sing country music if that’s what they want to sing.”

Later in her interview with Today, when asked about her tenacity and strength to stay committed to this decade-long dream, the “Better Than You Left Me” singer swiftly credited her husband, Grant Savoy, for his unwavering support and a reminder of her purpose.

“He just kept telling me to keep pushing and it’s too important for me to be standing here because if I go away, then all those little girls that want to sing country music that look like me, they don’t have that dream," the new mom reflects with a smile. "So, I stayed."

During her time on Today, Guyton performed “All American,” “Different,” “Higher” and Remember Her Name's title track, all of which are featured on her new LP. The expansive, 16-track set also features her Grammy-nominated song “Black Like Me,” as well as “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” and “Rosé,” all of which were released in 2020 on the singer’s Bridges EP.

Guyton is up for New Artist of the Year at the 2021 CMA Awards, alongside Ingrid Andress, Gabby Barrett, Jimmie Allen and Hardy. She was also recently announced as the 2021 CMT Breakout Artist of the Year, which she’ll be honored with during the 2021 CMT Artists of the Year event in mid-October.

Best Country Albums of 2021 - Critic's Pick

There have been many creative country albums in 2021, but not all have hit the mark. Artists are more than ever toying with distribution methods and packaging as much as they are new sounds, so you get double and triple albums, Part 1 and Part 2, and digital EPs in lieu of a traditional 10 or 11-song release.

The bar for an EP on this list of the best country albums of 2021 is higher than an LP, but one project did crack the Top 10. Too much music proved to dampen other artist's efforts, although Alan Jackson's first album in years was filled with country music we couldn't turn away from. Where Have You Gone has 21 songs, but somehow no filler.

More than ever, this relied on staff opinion and artistic merit to allow for some parity among major label artists and independents. The 10 albums listed below are not ranked, although the year-end list published in the fall will crown a true best album of 2021.

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