“Try That In a Small Town” was released in May as the latest single from Jason Aldean, but saw a surge in backlash after the release of the music video for the song on July 14. The song shares a familiar country song message of small towns and guns, but some claim that the song is threatening with racial undertones. The outcry reached a new level when viewers noticed that the video for the song was filmed in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee.
The courthouse is known as a place where numerous incidents of racial violence took place and was the location of the Columbia Race Riot of 1946.
Fans blasted Aldean on social media upon the music video’s release with one commenter writing, “Clearly you know NOTHING about the history of that building and lynching.”
Jason Aldean fans defended his filming location choice, saying that it was purely coincidental and unintentional. But, critics are accusing the singer of being deliberate about where he filmed what they are calling a “modern lynching song.”
“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,” Jason wrote.
“As so many pointed out, I was present at Route 91-where so many lost their lives- and our community recently suffered another heartbreaking tragedy. NO ONE, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart.”
Aldean says that “Try That In a Small Town” references a time when people took care of each other “regardless of background or belief.” He concludes by stating that his desire is for things to get back to normal we can go to bed without losing sleep over a headline.
“Try That In a Small Town” isn’t the first (and won’t be the last) country song to spawn controversy. In 1992, Garth Brooks released “We Shall Be Free,” a social anthem written as a response to the six-day-long L.A. riots. The song tells of a man envisioning a world filled with peace “without the barriers of class, race, religion, or sexual orientation.” The message wasn’t well-received and many radio stations refused to play it.
Two years prior, Brooks’ music video for “The Thunder Rolls” was banned by The Nashville Network due to its violent nature. The song tells the story of an angry, betrayed wife shooting her abusive and unfaithful husband.
Other country songs that faced similar treatment are Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” “Goodbye Earl” by The Chicks and even Tim McGraw’s “Red Rag Top” due to their seemingly controversial messages.
Watch Jason Aldean’s music video for “Try That In a Small Town” below.