Country musician Jason Aldean is defending lyrics in his song “Try That in a Small Town” that some have perceived as pro-lynching.
The single was released in May, but its music video debuted last week. The video quickly came under fire from people who accused Aldean of releasing a pro-lynching song. The singer said critics online claimed he was “not too pleased” with the Black Lives Matter protests.
“These references are not only meritless, but dangerous,” he wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “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.”
Aldean reminded followers that he was present in 2017 at the Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting in Las Vegas where a shooter opened fire from a corner suite at the Mandalay Bay resort, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500. “NO ONE, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart.”
The musician said that “Try That in a Small Town” refers to the feeling of a community he grew up, where “we took care of our neighbors regardless of background or belief.”
“Because they were our neighbors, and that was above any differences,” he wrote. “My political views have never been something I’ve hidden from, and I know that a lot of us in this country don’t agree on how we get back to a sense of normalcy where we go at least a day without a headline that keeps us up at night. But the desire for it to – that’s what this song is about.”
The music video features footage from protests, break-ins, surveillance cameras and other interactions between civilians and law enforcement.
After mentioning acts that people have taken against authorities in the song’s verses, Aldean sings: “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.”
Critics say the video employs lynching imagery and sentiment. One Twitter user noted that it was reportedly filmed at the site of a famous lynching.
“Jason Aldean shot this at the site where a white lynch mob strung Henry Choate up at the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tenn., after dragging his body through the streets with a car in 1927,” Ashton Pittman tweeted. “That’s where Aldean chose to sing about murdering people who don’t respect police.”
Shannon Watts, the founder of the gun-control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, spoke out against the song’s message and imagery.
“This song is an ode to a sundown town, suggesting people be beaten or shot for expressing free speech,” she tweeted Tuesday. “It also insinuates that guns are being confiscated, the penalty for which is apparently death. Aldean was on stage when 60 of his fans were shot to death and 400+ were wounded.”
The video has been removed from rotation on CMT, a television channel dedicated to showing country music videos, per Billboard.
The song is currently being promoted by Spotify on its “New Boots” country playlist and is No. 25 on the Mediabase country radio chart, which measures radio airplay.
The music video dropped on Friday, just one day before Aldean was forced to end his show early in Hartford, Conn., after suffering heat exhaustion.