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Country music singer Jason Aldean is facing backlash over his new song “Try That In A Small Town”.
The singer, who was raised in a city of over 100,000, seems to encourage violence throughout the song’s lyrics and invokes imagery of racial terror in its music video.
The song’s chorus repeats the line “try that in a small town” as an apparent warning.
“Stomp on the flag and light it up. Yeah, ya think you’re tough,” the lyrics read.
“Well, try that in a small town. See how far you make it down the road.”
The chorus continues as Aldean goes on to sing, “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.”
Despite Alean’s objections, the United States Constitution recognizes flag burning as free speech.
In 1984, Gregory Lee Johnson (who grew up in a small Indiana town) burned a flag outside of the GOP Presidential convention in Dallas. Officials arrested Johnson, who claimed the flag burning was an act of protest against the policies of Ronald Regan. Johnson was arrested, tried and convicted under Texas law, but appealed to the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the Court sided with Johnson and ruled flag burning is “symbolic speech”, protected by the First Amendment.
Jason Aldean films music video to controversial song at the site of a 1927 lynching
In addition to the troubling lyrics, Twitter users pointed out disturbing imagery in the song’s music video.
According to Ashton Pittman, Aldean used the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee as the backdrop for his video. According to reporting by historian John Banks, the Courthouse behind Aldean was the site of a lynching in 1927.
Citing multiple newspaper and government reports, Banks confirms a white mob lynched 18-year-old Henry Choate on the Courthouse’s second floor balcony.
Choate was accused of assaulting a white woman. Within hours of his arrest, the mob took him from police custody and brutally murdered him in public.
The event carries deep and disturbing echoes of a pattern of violence seen across the country in the early 20th century. White mobs terrorized Black communities with pre-meditated lynchings and massacres.
In his video, Aldean sings the chorus:
“‘Round 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.”
Behind Aldean, an American flag waves in the wind. It’s draped over the second floor balcony of the courthouse; the very spot where white supremacists lynched Henry Choate in an act of domestic terrorism 96 years ago.
Gun reform advocates criticize singer for thinly veiled threats of violence
In the next verse, Aldean seems to shift focus to a dramatized version of gun control.
“Got a gun that my granddad gave me,” Aldean sings. “They say one day they’re gonna round it up.”
“Well, that shit might fly in the city, good luck.”
The song then repeats the chorus warning people not to “try that in a small town”.
Shannon Watts, the head of the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, drew attention to the lyrics on Twitter.
“Jason Aldean, who was on stage during the mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert in 2017 that killed 60 people and wounded 400 more – has recorded a song called “Try That In A Small Town” about how he and his friends will shoot you if you try to take their guns,” Watts wrote.
Community advocate Brittany Packnett Cunningham added to Watts’ rebuke of the lyrics.
Packnett Cunningham noted that the Uvalde, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Parkland shootings all occurred in small towns.
“Most mass shootings occur in *small towns*, Jason Aldean,” she wrote.
“Your listeners are dying.”
Jason Aldean lyrics differ from singer’s public stance on gun reform after he survived a mass shooting
“Try That In A Small Town”, not to be confused with Aldean’s 2021 song “Small Town Small”, paints a stark contrast to comments he made in 2018.
Roughly six months after Aldean narrowly escaped the worst mass shooting in American history, he expressed reservations about how easy it is for someone to access a gun.
“It’s too easy to get guns, first and foremost,” Aldean told the Associate Press. “When you can walk in somewhere and you can get one in five minutes, do a background check that takes five minutes, like how in-depth is that background check?
In that same interview, Aldean discussed managing the trauma he experienced in the Las Vegas shooting.
“Unless anybody has witnessed anything like that or been a part of it, it’s really hard for people to really understand where you’re coming from on that stuff,” Aldean said. “It’s like the kids from the school in Florida, that shooting. I get it, man. I understand how they are feeling.”
“You just sit there and relive it a thousand times a day.”