Jason Aldean, one of the biggest stars of US country music, has been widely criticised for a new song and video, Try That in a Small Town, which features threats of violence against police protesters.
The song’s lyrics include the lines: “Cuss out a cop, spit in his face / Stomp on the flag and light it up / Yeah, you think you’re tough / Well, try that in a small town / See how far you make it down the road / Around here, we take care of our own.”
Later, Aldean alludes to a conspiracy theory that the US government intends to round up its citizens: “Got a gun that my granddad gave me / They say one day they’re gonna round up / Well, that shit might fly in the city, good luck.”
The video is interspersed with footage of protesters, some of them violent, facing off against police. The filming location for the performance element of the video, Maury County courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, has a disturbing history: in 1927 it was the site of the lynching of a Black man, Henry Choate.
Country Music Television has now removed the video from its channel, though has not commented or elaborated on the decision. It remains on YouTube where it has been viewed more than 800,000 times.
While plenty of rightwing commentators have supported Aldean, Sheryl Crow is among those criticising him, writing on Twitter: “I’m from a small town. Even people in small towns are sick of violence. There’s nothing small-town or American about promoting violence. You should know that better than anyone having survived a mass shooting. This is not American or small town-like. It’s just lame.”
“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,” he tweeted to his 3.7 million followers. “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,” Aldean continued. “Because they were our neighbors, and that was above any differences.”
The video and its subsequent removal from CMT quickly blew up into one of the periodic culture war clashes, with several conservative figures speaking out in favor of Aldean — including Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert.
The song itself, which was written by Kelley Lovelace, Neil Thrasher, Kurt Allison and Tully Kennedy, offers up a confrontation to those who would “carjack an old lady at a red light” or “pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store” or “cuss out a cop.” The song challenges them to “try that in a small town” and “see how far ya make it down the road/ Around here, we take care of our own.”
Sheryl Crow and Margo Price have also previously spoken out. Crow addressed Aldean on Twitter, saying, “I’m from a small town. Even people in small towns are sick of violence. There’s nothing small-town or American about promoting violence. You should know that better than anyone having survived a mass shooting,” she added, referring to Aldean being onstage during the Route 91 Harvest Festival in 2017 when a gunman began firing upon the crowd and stage, causing the deaths of approximately 60 people.
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