Jason Aldean’s ‘Try That in a Small Town’ soars to the top of US charts amid music video controversy

Critics have called out the country song for its violent, inflammatory lyrics

Tom Murray
Tuesday 25 July 2023 07:28 BST
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Moment country singer Jason Aldean runs off stage after suffering heat stroke

Country artist Jason Aldean’s latest single is going from strength to strength despite courting controversy over its inflammatory lyrics.

Aldean, 46, released “Try That in a Small Town” in May, but it has garnered more attention since the release of the accompanying music video on 14 July.

Critics have called the song a “racist” “lynching anthem” after learning that the music video was filmed outside the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, where 18-year-old Black teenager Henry Choate was lynched in 1927, as well as where the Columbia race riot was held in 1946.

Since controversy surrounding the song ignited, entertainment data company Luminate says its on-demand audio and video streams have increased by 999 per cent, rising from 987,000 to 11.7 million.

Weekly sales of the song have also increased from 1,000 to 228,000, the company said.

On Monday (24 July), the song debuted at No 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart (a record high for Aldean) and No 1 on the hot country songs chart.

The lyrics to the song, which Aldean did not write, include: “Sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk / Carjack an old lady at a red light / Pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store.

“Well, try that in a small town / See how far ya make it down the road / Around here, we take care of our own.”

Jason Aldean in the video for ‘Try That in a Small Town'

Critics have also pointed out that Aldean was a performer at Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas in 2017, where a shooter killed 60 people and injured 400. The incident is the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in American history.

Since the video was released, it has garnered over 17 million views on YouTube. However, it was pulled from rotation on Country Music Television on 18 July, though the American broadcaster has not provided a reason for its decision.

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Aldean has since responded to the criticism in a post on Twitter.

“In the past 24 hours I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song (a song that has been out since May) and was subject to the comparison that I (direct quote) was not too pleased with the nationwide BLM protests,” his message began.

“These references are not only meritless, but dangerous. There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it – and there isn’t a single video clip that isn’t real news footage – and while I can try and respect others to have their own interpretation of a song with music – this one goes too far.”

“‘Try That In A Small Town’, for me, refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbours, regardless of differences of background or belief.”

On Friday 21 July, while performing at Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center, Aldean addressed the audience (according to The Columbus Dispatch) saying: “Cancel culture is a thing... which means try and ruin your life, ruin everything. One thing I saw this week was a bunch of country music fans that could see through a lot of the bulls***, all right?”

The single will be featured on Aldean’s forthcoming album, expected to release later this year.

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