Jason Aldean says he “doesn’t feel bad” after his hit song Try That in a Small Town caused controversy earlier this summer.
The Grammy-nominated country star, who survived a deadly mass shooting at the Route 91 music festival in 2017, came under fire for the track with critics claiming that it promotes vigilantism and gun violence. After it was revealed that the video was filmed outside the same Tennessee courthouse where a Black man was lynched in 1927, others labelled the single as “pro-lynching” with one detractor accusing the singer of blowing “racist dog whistle.”
As the firestorm swelled, Aldean’s video was dropped by Country Music Television and famous names waded into the fray, including Sheryl Crow, who branded the song as “lame.”
In an interview this week with CBS News’ Jan Crawford, Aldean, 46, was asked how he felt when critics said his lyrics and imagery of Small Town “had racist, undertones … like a call to arms?”
“There was people of all colour doing stuff in the video. That’s what I don’t understand,” he responded. “There was white people in there. There was Black people. I mean, this video did not shine light on one specific group and say, ‘That’s the problem.’ And anybody that saw that in the video, then you weren’t looking hard enough in the video, is all I can tell you.”
When Aldean learned that the courthouse had been the site of a lynching, he said he probably wouldn’t have filmed the video there. But, Aldean said, “I’m not going to go back 100 years and check on the history of this building. Honestly, if you’re in the south, you could probably go to any smalltown courthouse, and be hard-pressed to find one that hasn’t had a racial issue over the years at some point. That’s a fact.”
Aldean went on to maintain that the video was meant to show that there’s a “lawlessness and the disrespect for cops” that’s pervading society.
“I’m just not cool with that. It just — I don’t know, I feel like the narrative got switched over and became more of a racial-type thing. It’s like if that’s what you got out of the song and the video, I mean, I almost feel like that’s on you because that wasn’t our intention.”
Aldean, who is married to right-wing influencer Brittany Aldean and has been at the centre of past culture wars thanks to his support of former U.S. President Donald Trump (“I have nothing but good things to say about the guy”), told the Los Angeles Times in a separate interview that he was surprised by the backlash to Small Town.
“I felt like the song would probably start a conversation about the state of the country. You have a lot of people sitting there watching this stuff every day on TV — laws being passed where if you own a store, people can just go in and take your stuff and you can’t do anything,” he said. “I thought the conversation would be: ‘All right, this is crazy. We need to figure this out.’ Then you had people that wanted to make it something else and try to find whatever they wanted to find wrong with the song or video. I made it a point in the video to show people of all races and colours doing things that in my opinion were not cool.”
He added, “It’s a very simple message: What I see happening, I’ve never seen that in the towns I grew up in in Georgia. It just doesn’t happen, and it wouldn’t last.”
In another conversation with Fox News Digital to promote his new album, Highway Desperado, Aldean said that people are fed up with living in the “Wild West.”
“It’s just we’re kind of living in the Wild West right now, and I think people are just kind of tired of it,” he said. “There’s just constant chaos and something going on. Somebody is always pissed off about something, and it’s just one of those songs where there’s a lot of people that could relate to that because they’re just sick of it.”
After the video for Small Town was pulled by CMT earlier this summer, Aldean took to social media to defend himself.
“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 Black Lives Matter protests. These references are not only meritless, but dangerous,” Aldean wrote.
At a concert that followed the backlash, Aldean was defiant. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. You can think something all you want to, it doesn’t mean it’s true, right?” he said.
“Here’s what I want to say … cancel culture is a thing, it’s something where if people don’t like what you say, they try and make sure they can cancel you, which means try to ruin your life, ruin everything,” Aldean continued. “One thing I saw this week was a bunch of country music fans that can see through a lot of the bulls—, alright? I saw country music fans rally like I never seen before, and that was pretty badass.”
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