Jason Aldean has always presented himself as an artist not looking for love, but respect. In 2017, he earned it.

The numbers won't support Aldean for Artist of the Year, and we're going to stop short of making that claim. He had just two songs among the year's most played on radio ("Any Ol' Barstool" at No. 27 and "They Don't Know" at No. 28, per Billboard), and he's below relative newcomers like Jon Pardi and Kane Brown on the trade mag's Top Country Artists list.

This was an off-cycle year for Aldean, meaning he didn't release a new album. Sales of his new singles were tepid in comparison to other years, and while his They Don't Know Tour was one of the year's biggest and best, it was a quiet year-long trek. The superstar's head-down, hard-working style was reflected in an efficient, loud and exhilarating live set that reminds you how many hits he's had on the radio over the years and just how good his band is.

Still, all the markings for "just another year" were there for the 40-year-old ...

... Until Vegas.

It was an important city for Aldean, who repeated as the ACM Entertainer of the Year in April — an honor forgotten in time and overshadowed by what happened six months later. Aldean was performing when the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival began. Being on that stage when the gunfire started is a distinction he'll never be able to distance himself from.

How he returned to the stage and that he returned so soon demands respect. After a five-day break, he made a strong, defiant statement on Saturday Night Live that let everyone — not just country music, but a nation — know it'd be okay move forward. Alongside wife Brittany he'd visit victims and families a week later and then put his head down to honor commitments through the year's end. Doing any more or any less would have stolen attention from the 58 people killed on Oct. 1.

In getting back to work, Jason Aldean gave us permission to do the same.

Of course, his year ended with a bright light. Aldean and wife Brittany welcomed a baby boy named Memphis on Dec. 1, but watching the singer throughout the pregnancy was  endearing. Brittany is good for his public image, at once loving on him and embarrassing him on social media.

A man who was once a one-dimensional country voice has become a well-rounded father, artist and man right before our eyes. We like this version of Jason Aldean a little better. The added humanity will be valuable when he preps his next record, which if he's able to build off these experiences could be his best yet.

The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point/Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on Jan. 20 for another installment.

More From KISS Country 93.7