Jason Aldean’s Video Pulled From CMT Amid Outrage Around Racism, Gun Violence
Jason Aldean's current single, "Try That in a Small Town," has drawn praise from fans who approve of its pro-gun, pro-police message of small-town justice. But others have criticized the song as being filled with "racist dogwhistles" celebrating "sundown towns" — a term for towns or neighborhoods practicing racial segregation via discriminatory local laws or outright violence and intimidation.
On Tuesday (July 18), just four days after the song's music video was released on July 14, CMT pulled the clip from circulation, according to a report from Billboard. Though they confirm that they have removed the video, CMT declined to comment further on why the "Try That in a Small Town" video was removed.
But over the weekend, many listeners took to social media to provide lots of detail on why they object to the song's racist undertone and glorification of gun violence. The message of the song celebrates the "good ol' boys, raised up right" who aren't afraid to take the law into their own hands when faced with anyone who goes against their small-town values. In addition to crimes like car-jacking and robbery, the song issues an explosive warning to anyone who would, "Cuss out a cop, spit in his face" or "Stomp on the flag and light it up."
"This song is actually a great example of how you don't have to mention race at all for something to very obviously be about race," TikTok user Destinee Stark shares in a video message, going on to say that Aldean's lyrics condemn "very stereotypical crimes" as a means of intimidation towards Black people. "Like car-jackings and robbing liquor stores. Who talks about those crimes? Sounds like he got his inspiration for this song from Fox News."
The criticism of the music video is especially heated, since the clip features scenes of the singer performing in front of Columbia, Tenn.'s Maury County courthouse, an American flag draped down the wall of the building.
- That courthouse, which was built in 1846 and refurbished in the early 1900s, was where an 18-year-old Black road construction worker named Henry Choate was hung after being lynched and killed by a mob.
- According to a 2022 retrospective on Maury County lynchings from the Tennesseean, the area now has a plaque commissioned by historian Elizabeth Queener remembering the lives of Choate and 19 other Black men who were lynched, murdered or disappeared by white mobs or the Ku Klux Klan in Maury County.
- Aldean's music video also features shots of the singer slinging a baseball bat over his shoulder, and another of a hand lighting fire to a rag stuffed into a bottle. A shot of Fox News story also flashes across the screen, as do images of riots, American flags on fire, masked looters breaking into stores.
"When u grow up in a small town, it's that unspoken rule of 'We all have each other's backs and we look out for each other,'" Aldean wrote on social media when the music video came out. "It feels like somewhere along the way, that sense of community and respect has gotten lost. Deep down we are all ready to get back to that. I hope my new music video helps y'all know that u are not alone in feeling that way."
Some fans applauded Aldean's no-holds-barred stance. State Freedom Caucus Network's communication director Greg Price praised the video as "absolutely epic," and another fan wrote, "Love everything about this song!"
"When busting into cars, shoplifting, etc. gets more coverage on Tik Tok, Twitter, etc than it does on the news or even addressed by politicians, there is a major problem," a third opined.
But many other listeners had a different take: One described it as "one of the most dangerous, irresponsible videos from a mainstream artist I have ever seen," while another wrote, "There is no non-racialized way to write a song about lynching."
Actor LeVar Burton condemned the location choice for Aldean's music video shoot, adding "Good morning, y'all ... to everyone except [Jason Aldean]!"
- It's not the first time that Aldean has come under fire for racist behavior. In 2015, photos of him dressed in Blackface as part of a Lil Wayne Halloween costume circulated online.
- He issued a statement the following year, saying, "Me doing that had zero malicious intent ... I get that race is a touchy subject, but not everybody is that way. Media tends to make a big deal out of things. If I was disrespectful to anyone, I by all means apologize. That was never my intention. It never crossed my mind."
The perceived undertone of "Try That in a Small Town" isn't the only factor driving the negative response to the song: Its lyrics also espouse a pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment message, including the line "Got a gun that my granddad gave me / They say one day they're gonna round up / Well, that s--t might fly in the city, good luck."
Listeners say the pro-Second Amendment song is a jarring sentiment coming from Aldean, who was onstage performing a headlining slot in October 2017 during the Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting, a massacre that killed 60 people and wounded more than 100 concertgoers.
That tragedy remains the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in United States history.
- Aldean didn't have a hand in writing "Try That in a Small Town," but some people close to him did.
- The song was written by Kelley Lovelace, Kurt Allison, Neil Thrasher and Tully Kennedy — and Kennedy, who plays bass for Aldean, was onstage with him during the shooting.
- A bullet lodged in Kennedy's instrument when the gunman opened fire, potentially saving his life.
Gun control activist Shannon Watts shared a tweet that's since gone viral about Aldean's close proximity during the Route 91 shooting, expressing her feelings on the fact that he now has a song "about how he and his friends will shoot you if you try to take their guns."
Aldean is also on the bill to perform during an Aug. 7 benefit to support victims of the Covenant School shooting, a March 2023 tragedy that claimed the lives of three children and three adults.
Taste of Country reached out to Aldean's team for a statement on the location choice of his music video for "Try That in a Small Town." At time of publishing, they have not responded.
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