Country singer Jason Aldean’s controversial new anti-rioting song has just hit the top of the music charts.
- On May 18, country musician Jason Aldean released the song Try That In A Small Town. He released the music video on July 14.
- On Tuesday, August 1, the song reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
- The video became controversial for using footage of rioting and #BlackLivesMatter protests from 2020, with the lyrics describing carjacking, robbery, flag-burning, and federal gun confiscation.
- The confrontational lyrics respond, saying, “Try that in a small town, see how far ya make it down the road,” and saying small towns are full of “good ol’ boys, raised up right, if you’re looking for a fight.”
Why It’s News
It has become a very successful strategy to rely on the culture wars for attention and controversy as a means to drive digital sales and dollars. Musician Aaron Lewis saw similar success for his song Am I The Only One when it came out in 2021, becoming the ninth song in history to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
Similar strategies appealing to the culture wars have contributed to the success of The Sound Of Freedom and Ultra Right Beer. These products and artistic works were not necessarily astroturfed but merely benefited from a volatile political status quo where consumers are eager to support artists and businesses that are emblematic of their values.
It is debatable how directly Aldean was trying to be controversial with the song, as he may not have expected it to become an instant success. However, it has been boosted by partisan approval, with former President Donald Trump praising it as a “great new song” and encouraging his supporters to support Aldean “all the way.”
The backlash to the song began after the music video was released three weeks ago, with critics lambasting its lyrics and video for promoting vigilante violence and racism. The music video was filmed in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, the historical site of a 1946 race riot and a 1927 lynching—drawing criticisms that the video was tacitly promoting lynchings and violence. Aldean alternatively argued that this location is a popular one for recording music videos in Tennessee.
Country Music Television responded to the controversy a week after the video’s premiere and removed it from its rotation of music videos. The Street alleges that briefly resulted in a Bud Light-style boycott attempt toward the network.
Aldean argues that nothing about the video advocates lynching, racism, or violence. During a live performance on July 28, he railed against cancel culture and received boos from the audience after revealing that he removed six seconds from the music video to avoid legal repercussions—proclaiming that “The only person I bow down to is God,” and “I don’t give a damn what color you are, or who you are.” He argues that the song responds to a modern culture of “rampant disorder, disrespect, and danger.”
He also released a statement, saying, “My political views have never been something I’ve hidden from, and I know that many of us in this country don’t agree on how we get back to a sense of normalcy where we go at least a day without a headline that keeps us up at night. But the desire for it too—that’s what this song is about.”