Country Music Television has pulled a music video for the song “Try That in a Small Town,” by the country music superstar Jason Aldean, which was filmed at the site of a lynching, amid accusations that its lyrics and message are offensive.
The video, released in May, was shot in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tenn., a site known for the 1927 mob lynching of Henry Choate, an 18-year-old Black man, and is interspersed with violent news footage, including protests. An American flag is draped between the building’s central pillars, while Aldean, strumming a guitar, lists what he imagines as big city behavior that would not be well received in a small town; “carjack an old lady”; “cuss out a cop”; “stomp on the flag.”
State Representative Justin Jones of Tennessee, a Democrat, condemned the song on Twitter, describing it as a “heinous song calling for racist violence” that promoted “a shameful vision of gun extremism and vigilantism.”
On Tuesday, CMT confirmed by email that it had stopped airing the video on Monday, but did not offer any explanation. The news was first reported by Billboard.
Aldean defended himself on Twitter, asserting that he had been accused of “releasing a pro-lynching song” and being “not too pleased” with the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
“These references are not only meritless, but dangerous,” he said. “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 then made reference to his performance in 2017 at an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas, where a gunman opened fire from a hotel room, killing 58 people.
“NO ONE, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart,” Aldean said. The song, he added, referred to the “feeling of a community” he experienced growing up, where neighbors took care of one another, regardless of differences in background or belief.
“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,” Aldean said.
BRB Music Group, which represents Aldean, could not be immediately reached for comment.