Why is Jason Aldean’s new music video so controversial?

Country music star Jason Aldean is facing a storm of criticism after dropping a new music video for his song “Try That in a Small Town” that features alarming news footage of violent clashes between protesters and police, petty crime and flag burning, seemingly to make an impassioned point about the extent of current political divisions within the United States.

An increasingly vocal conservative since the last year of the Trump administration, Aldean is perhaps best known to non-fans for being the act onstage when shooter Stephen Paddock opened fire on revelers attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on October 1, 2017.

Paddock showered the crowd with a hail of 1,000 bullets from the balcony of his suite on the 32nd floor of Nevada’s Mandalay Bay Hotel, killing 60 people and wounding 413 before turning his assault rifle on himself.

His motive for carrying out the worst gun massacre in American history has never been established.

Aldean himself was not injured in the incident and posted on Instagram that night: “Tonight has been beyond horrible. I still don’t know what to say, but I wanted to let everyone know that my crew and I are safe. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart for this to happen to someone who was just out to enjoy what should have been a fun night. #brokenheart #stopthehate.”

But instead of making a compassionate call for gun control in light of having witnessed such a traumatic episode, Aldean seems to be doubling down on her defense of the Second Amendment on this new single from her upcoming 11th album.

Here’s why the song (and its new music video in particular) is so controversial.

What is ‘Try it in a small town’ about?

Lyrics to Jason Aldean’s new song describe America’s major cities as liberal havens for lawlessness and street crime, characterized by disrespect for authority and contempt for traditional values.

Like Bruce Wayne at his most embittered and distraught, Aldean denounces small-time urban thugs who “beat someone on the sidewalk,” “muggle an old lady at a red light,” or “pull a gun on a liquor store owner.” . Or, even worse, “cuss a cop” or spit at the stars and stripes.

He challenges the perpetrators in a macho fashion to “try that in a small town”, which, by contrast, is more likely to be populated by “good boys, well educated”, that is, well armed with licensed weapons and good manners and not afraid of a fight.

On the subject of gun ownership specifically, he sings:

“I have a gun that my grandfather gave me,

“They say that one day they will reunite,

“Well that shit could fly in the city, good luck.

“Try that in a small town,

“Look how far down the road you go,

“Around here, we take care of our own.”

Why has the video been criticized?

The new video for the single, directed by Shaun Silva, openly aligns Aldean’s social concerns with the kind of hysterical anti-Antifa paranoia trumpeted by right-wing cable news channels, assembling a collage of real news footage taken from recent New York political protests to paint a haunting vision of hooded youths engaging in rampant destruction, looting and unpatriotic vandalism, seen as over-the-top law enforcement. work they fight to contain.

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More hauntingly, it also features a grumpy Aldean and his bandmates in leather jackets and Stetson hats performing outside the Maury County courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, the site of a notorious 1927 lynching when young black man Henry Choate, of 18 years old, was hung from a second story window by a white mob after being dragged behind a car.

What has been said about it?

Among those who denounced the three-minute promotion was Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who tweeted that Aldean, despite his ordeal in Las Vegas, had written a song “about how he and his friends will shoot you if you try to take their guns.”

Chris Willman’s Variety Meanwhile, he called the song “the most despicable country song of the decade” and commented, “For Aldean, it’s about how small towns are under imminent threat of attack from lawless urban marauders who will have to be kept at bay.” borders by any means necessary. That is, quite explicitly, vigilantism.”

Her country icon Sheryl Crow also accused Aldean of inciting violence, telling her on Twitter: “There is nothing small town or American about promoting violence. You should know that better than anyone who has survived a mass shooting.”

Others saw in it an explicit attack on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and called it “modern lynching song” in light of the choice of setting for the video.

Journalist Matthew Chapman tweeted of “Try That in a Small Town” which “captures absolutely everything about the American right, from the paranoid threats of violence to the irrational fetishization of communities where everyone acts and thinks alike, to the fact that the singer grew up in a city”.

Following that strong social media backlash, country music channel CMT pulled the video from rotation on Monday, according to Billboard and Deadline, though the network offered no explanation of the reason behind that scheduling decision.

What has Aldean said in defense of the song?

The singer took to Twitter to issue an angry defense of his song on Monday night. stating: “In the last 24 hours, I have been accused of releasing a song in favor of lynching (a song that has been out since May) and I was the subject of the comparison that I (direct quote) was not very satisfied with the national BLM protests .

“These references are not only without merit, they are dangerous. There isn’t a single lyric in the song that references or flags race, and there isn’t a single video clip that isn’t actual news material, and while I can try to respect others to have their own interpretation of a song set to the music, this one goes too far.

“As many have pointed out, I was present on Route 91 where so many lost their lives, and our community suffered another heartbreaking tragedy recently. NO ONE, including me, wants to keep seeing meaningless headlines or broken families.

“’Try That In A Small Town,’ for me, refers to the feeling of community I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of origin or beliefs. Because they were our neighbors, and that was above any difference. My political views have never been something I’ve hidden from, and I know many of us in this country disagree on how we return to a sense of normalcy where we go at least one day without a headline telling us. keep awake at night. But the desire for him to, that’s what this song is about.”

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