In May, country star Jason Aldean released a single, “Try That in a Small Town”, whose lyrics portray contemporary urban life as a hellish landscape of crime and lawlessness: “Sucker punched somebody on the sidewalk/Carjacked an old lady at a red light.”
“You think you’re tough,” sings Aldean. “Well, try it in a small town.”
Initially, the track received relatively little notice and peaked at No. 35 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. It changed after singing last week video music A culture-war battleground ensued, with some accusing Aldean — one of country’s biggest hitmakers for nearly two decades — of adopting racist dog-whistling tactics and the singer defending herself as the latest victim of an out-of-control “cancel culture.”
The controversy led to the popularity of Aldean’s song, exploding in both streams and downloads during the previous week. “Try That in a Small Town” debuted at No. 2 on the Hot 100, Aldean’s best performance to date on Billboard’s all-genre pop chart, beating out existing hits by Olivia Rodrigo and Morgan Wallen. Aldean was surpassed this week only by Jung Kook of South Korean supergroup BTS, whose debut solo single, “Seven,” debuted at No. 1.
The video for “Try That”, released on July 14, begins with Aldean performing in front of a stately building draped with an American flag; The structure was soon identified as the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, where in 1927 a young black man named Henry Choate was lynched by a vigilante mob after being falsely accused of raping a white girl—as historians believe.
The video shows a montage of violent street protests, robberies and people protesting police officers in riot gear. Those scenes are interspersed with images of American flags being raised, children playing and a television news segment about farmers helping a neighbor.
Three days after its release, without explanation, the video was removed from rotation on Country Music Television. But it has been widely criticized as a veiled attack on the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
Justin Jones, Tennessee State Representative, wrote on twitter Lawmakers “have an obligation to condemn Jason Aldean’s heinous song calling for racist violence. What a shameful view of gun extremism and vigilantism.”
Aldean, 46, has denied that race plays a role in the song’s lyrics, or that “Try That” is a “pro-lynching song”. saying on social media“These references are not only redundant, but also dangerous.”
Some artists came to his rescue, including country singers Cody Johnsonwho said at a concert, “If being a patriot makes you an outlaw, then by God, I’ll be an outlaw.” Ted Nugent“Idiots hate this Jason Aldean song because they hate when we take a stand against violence,” said one on Fox News who dislikes any scuffle with liberals.
At a concert in Cincinnati on Friday, Aldean was defiant. “Cancel culture is a thing,” he said told the crowd at Riverbend Music Center. “It’s something where if people don’t like what you say, they try and make sure they can cancel you, which means try to ruin your life, ruin everything.”
“I am a proud American,” he said. “I love my country, I want to see it restored to the way it was before all this. [expletive] This started happening to us.” Chants of “USA” echoed in the arena.
As the debate over “Try That in a Small Town” flared up last week, the song’s consumption metrics soared. According to BoardWhen the video was released the track was receiving approximately 1,000 download sales and 200,000 streams per day in the United States. but this week off with 228,000 sales — up 27,000 percent from the previous week — and 11.6 million streams, according to data from tracking service Luminate.
While Aldean has long posted country hits, “Try That” is her first song to make the top 10 of the Mainstream Hot 100 chart since 2011, when “Dirt Road Anthem” went to No. 7. (Aldean’s last single, “That’s What Tequila Does,” peaked at No. 77 earlier this year.)
Jung Kook’s “Seven”, featuring Latto, opened at No. 1 on the singles chart with 21.9 million streams, 153,000 sales – as downloads and CD singles – and 6.4 million radio audiences in the United States.
On the latest albums chart, Taylor Swift is at No. 1 for a second week with “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)”, which equated to 121,000 sales in the United States, with 96 million streams and 47,000 copies sold as a complete package, according to Luminet. It is the third entry in Swift’s project to re-record her first six albums, and each went to No. 1.
Swift has three other albums in the top 10: “Midnights”, her last studio album, is No. 4, “Lover” is No. 6 and “Folklore” is No. 10.
Wallen’s latest album, “One Thing at a Time”, charted at No. 2, while his previous LP, “Dangerous: The Double Album”, charted at No. 5. “Genesis”, by Mexican songwriter Peso Pluma, is at number three.