Jason Aldean's 'Try That in a Small Town' music video pulled by CMT amid controversy

ByLisa Respers France and AJ Willingham, CNN
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Jason Aldean's 'Try That in a Small Town' music video pulled by CMT
Critics say the lyrics to "Try That in a Small Town" evoke vigilante violence and racism. While Aldean defends his song, some listeners thought the lyrics were puzzling given Aldean's tragic history with gun violence.

There has been more fallout regarding Jason Aldean's controversial single, "Try That in a Small Town."

CMT confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that the music video for the song has been pulled off the country network's air.

Billboard was the first to report the news. CNN has reached out to reps for Aldean for comment.

The song was released in May, but according to Billboard the accompanying video wasn't released until July 14 and had been in heavy rotation through Sunday before it was pulled on Monday.

The lyrics, critics say, are evocative of vigilantism, racism and "sundown towns" that practice a form of all white segregation in which people of color and others who were considered outsiders knew they faced violence if they were not out of an area before the sun went down.

The controversy over "Try That in a Small Town" reached a new level with the recent music video release for the song. Some viewers noticed scenes in the video were shot in front of what appears to be the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee. The courthouse has been the site of several incidents of racial violence, including the 1927 lynching of a Black man named Henry Choate. It also served as a backdrop for the Columbia Race Riot in 1946.

The video also includes footage from police brutality protests and shots from surveillance cameras showing robberies.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Aldean took issue with the criticism, writing, "There isn't a single video clip that isn't real news footage."

But one commenter called it a "modern lynching song."

Aldean sings:

"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

Around here, we take care of our own

You cross that line, it won't take long

For you to find out, I recommend you don't

Try that in a small town."

He defended those lyrics in his tweet.

"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. Because they were our neighbors, and that was above any differences," wrote Aldean, who was born and raised in Macon, a mid-sized city in central Georgia.

But it's not been received as such by some critics.

"As Tennessee lawmakers, we have an obligation to condemn Jason Aldean's heinous song calling for racist violence," Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones tweeted Tuesday. "What a shameful vision of gun extremism and vigilantism. We will continue to call for common sense gun laws, that protect ALL our children and communities."

While singing about guns is certainly not uncommon in country songs of any era, some listeners thought the lyrics were a bit puzzling given Aldean's tragic history with gun violence. (Aldean is not credited as a writer on the song.)

The entertainer was performing at the Route 91 Music Harvest Festival in Las Vegas in 2017 when a gunman shot repeatedly into the crowd, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more. The incident is the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

After the shooting, Aldean spoke out about his emotional experience and expressed an openness for more gun control laws. He acknowledged the mass shooting in his social media statement Tuesday, noting, "NO ONE, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart."

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