Country singer Jason Aldean's most recent music video was pulled from rotation just days following its premiere after viewers called out some alarming production choices.
On the surface, “Try That in a Small Town" checks off all the classic country boxes: small towns, guns, and pro-police sentiment. But when diving into the lyrics, coupled with imagery in the recent video, listeners interpreted a message that is, at best, completely devoid of artistic purpose and historic context, or at worst, the celebration of segregationist small town America, lynching and all.
“Cuss out a cop, spit in his face, Stomp on the flag and light it up / Yeah, ya think you’re tough, Well, try that in a small town / See how far ya make it down the road," the lyrics state.
Many commenters online noted that the words seem to invoke the image of a "sundown town" — all-White towns in the United States that exclude people of color through threats of violence and lynchings. Some have even called the anthem a "modern lynching song."
"There is no non-racialized way to write a song about lynching. When Jason Aldean sings, 'See how far ya make it down the road,' it invokes a very particular legacy," faith leader and author Reverend Jacqui Lewis wrote.
While the lyrics don't mention race directly, they threaten violence against those who "cuss out a cop" or "stomp on the flag." The music video then features clips from the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, showing protestors burning American flags and clashing with law enforcement.
Aldean, who is not credited as a writer on the song, has denied that that song has anything to do with race or the Black Lives Matter movement, meaning the footage used was... A coincidence? An accident?
Aldean also seems to want viewers to believe it was entirely accidental that the video was filmed in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee. In 1927, the courthouse was the site of the brutal lynching of 18-year-old Henry Choate, a Black man who was dragged behind a car by a White mob and hanged from a second-story courthouse window.
As Mississippi Free Press news editor Ashton Pittman noted, “that's where Aldean chose to sing about murdering people who don't respect police."
The music video played on country music channel CMT over the weekend, but was pulled from the cable network on Monday. A representative for CMT confirmed to Yahoo on Tuesday that “the video is no longer in rotation,” but offered no explanation.
Aldean maintains that “Try That in a Small Town" is just an anthem for good old-fashioned conservative small towns, and to some, that statement rings true. As RawStory reporter Matthew Chapman noted: "This song absolutely captures everything about the American Right, from the paranoid threats of violence, to the irrational fetishization of communities where everyone acts and thinks the same, to the fact that the singer in fact grew up in a city."