Jason Aldean has done his best to defend the music video for his latest single, “Try That in a Small Town,” which has been the center of controversy for the last 48 hours. On Monday, the decision was made by Country Music Television (CMT) to pull it from the air.
Many believe it’s because the conservative singer filmed the video in front of a Tennessee courthouse where a Black man was lynched (CMT hasn’t confirmed if this was the reasoning for its removal). More specifically, the setting was Maury County Courthouse in Columbia where in 1927, a white lynch mob hung a young Black man named Henry Choate from a second-story window.
In the “Try That in a Small Town” video, that same courthouse is draped in an American flag while Aldean sings painfully obtuse lyrics in front of it like:
“Sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk/Carjack an old lady at a red light/ Pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store/Ya think it’s cool, well, act a fool if ya like/Cuss out a cop, spit in his face/Stomp on the flag and light it up/ Yeah, ya think you’re tough.”
Aldean didn’t stop there. The courthouse also has clips projected onto it showing numerous protests, including the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations. They are in conjunction with stills and footage of the aforementioned liquor store robberies and carjackings. However, there is significantly more footage of the protests throughout the video.
By lyrically and visually equating meaningful rallies condemning police brutality to violent crime, Aldean is shamelessly touting how much he—and this country, quite frankly—devalues Black life. However, he took to Twitter on Tuesday to insist that this isn’t the case:
“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. 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 neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief.”
There may be no lyrical reference to race, but knowing that police brutality disproportionately affects Black and brown people and choosing to disparage those protests in the visuals for “Try That in a Small Town” completely contradicts Aldean’s defense.
However, this is the same man that proudly embraces right-wing politics, admires Donald Trump, “had enough” of mask-wearing during the pandemic and has insisted that “if you’re a conservative in this business, you’re not allowed to speak.” Everyone hears Aldean loud and clearly, but ultimately we just want him to STFU.