Country music star Jason Aldean’s hit song, “Try That in a Small Town” has been getting a ton of attention recently.
The controversy surrounding the song (and the music video associated with it) has been the basis for boycott calls affecting a major television channel.
People with opposing views either criticize or defend Aldean for the song’s lyrics. The words portray a perceived reality that urban areas are more permissive of deviant — and even violent — behavior than rural communities.
Certain phrases in the song evoke an element of racism for some people. Even more than the lyrics, the video produced for the song has come under scrutiny.
It shows Aldean’s band playing the song in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tenn.
That location is where a black teenager named Henry Choate was lynched in 1927.
In the video, scenes of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, combined with the controversial lyrics and location, prompted charges of racial animosity.
That’s when U.S. television channel CMT, popular for playing country music videos, decided to stop playing the video. CMT is owned jointly by Corus Entertainment and Paramount Global’s (PARA) – Get Free Report Paramount Networks Americas.
Subsequently, Aldean has removed the six seconds in the video showing the BLM demonstrations.
In April, when Bud Light faced a backlash over a small social media partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, it faced a boycott that cost the beer brand its leading spot for sales in the U.S.
Retailers Target (TGT) – Get Free Report and Kohl’s (KSS) – Get Free Report were also subject to similar boycotts because of products they sold that were deemed to be pro-LGBTQ+ by some opponents, as Pride month in June approached.
Aldean Addressed the Issue From a Live Concert Stage
On the evening of July 28, Aldean played a live concert at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Penn.
During the show, he played “Try That In A Small Town.”
Aldean had mentioned at the beginning of the show that he would rather just play music than make speeches, according to Sean Adams of PennLive. But he still had a few words on the subject for the crowd.
“Aldean said that a lot of people were trying to make the song into ‘something that it wasn’t’ and that six seconds of the music video (which featured video from Black Lives Matter protests) were removed, for legal reasons,” Adams wrote on the PennLive website.
Aldean told the crowd that the footage was removed from the video and “got some boos from the crowd,” Adams wrote.
“The only person I bow down to is God,” Aldean said, according to PennLive.
“Everybody can look at it from a different angle,” Aldean reportedly continued. “But just because six seconds were taken out, doesn’t change what I was trying to say in the video. Which is: all this kind of lawlessness, I don’t give a damn what color you are, or who you are.”
Aldean’s Fans Weigh in On the Controversy
Several of Aldean’s fans had spoken with Adams before the concert, Adams wrote. He said Aldean’s comments from the stage held the same viewpoint as many fans that were there to see him.
“As several of his fans had told me earlier in the afternoon, the song had no racial bias intended,” Adams wrote. “Instead, it was an anthem of defiance in a more general direction: at people who live in cities, where (to Aldean and his fans, at least) there is a sense of rampant disorder, disrespect and danger.”
Adams also took some time in his story about the concert to clarify his own views on the subject.
I doubt Aldean knew before shooting the video for “Try That In A Small Town” that the courthouse featured in the video was the site of a 1927 lynching of a Black teenager named Henry Choate. If he had, I imagine he may have decided to shoot it elsewhere, and maybe avoided a lot of these kinds of comparisons.
But regardless, the song was always intended to be provoke strong reactions, and in that it succeeded. For all the talk of cancel culture out there, it racked up a huge number of streaming plays – an increase of almost 1000%, by one estimate. The song’s four writers (Aldean is not one of them) likely knew they had a hit on their hands, whether or not they predicted this level of outrage.
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