Famous country singer Jason Aldean is leading the charts and news lines for his new song, “Try That in a Small Town”, a song about small-town culture embroiled with questionable imagery and a controversial music video. His new song led to many protests including one that led to people burning American flags. His song hit No. 1 on the country charts but also sparked outrage from certain listeners. “Try That in a Small Town” has made many people upset and offended because of its possible pro-violence sentiment directed against marginalized groups. When writing this song, Aldean stated he never meant to offend anyone, but people interpreted his words differently.
While Aldean said “Try That In A Small Town” is about the “feeling of a community I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief,” some online have pointed out why they feel the song and its accompanying music video are problematic.”
On the controversy, country singer Sheryl Crow stated, “I’m from a small town. Even people in small towns are sick of violence. There’s nothing small-town or American about promoting violence. You should know that better than anyone having survived a mass shooting. This is not American or small town-like. It’s just lame.”
Aldean claims to have been innocent in his messaging, but some people have identified possible controversial interpretations of his lyrics. Aldean, after receiving massive backlash for his song and accompanying music video, quietly removed clips from the music video.
“The reactions to the song were just taken in a completely different way than I think what Jason Aldean thought would happen,” senior Hannah Murphy said. “He wasn’t trying to hurt any feelings.”
Among other conflicts, the song gained notoriety from a demonstration on Sep. 9, 2023, when groups of people stood outside of Aldean’s concert in Chicago and burned American flags in protest. They cited frustration over Aldean’s cavalier response to their concerns over his lyrics for their racial undertones and his selective treatment of the violent imagery in the song’s music video.
“I think definitely the reactions are disrespectful to our country and dramatic,” Murphy said. “Burning flags is just something that’s very disrespectful and I don’t think anyone should do that, no matter your opinion.”
While flag burning itself is controversial, the Supreme Court has classified the act as “symbolic speech” protected under the First Amendment. In this case, the protesters used it to highlight their frustrations over the song’s seeming intention to further divide or intimidate entire groups of Americans.
“I don’t believe that someone should be treated as a criminal for burning the American flag,” history teacher Tyson Smith said. “I think that’s their right; if they want to burn the American flag. I don’t know if that’s a balanced response to the situation though.”
“In the past 24 hours, I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song (a song that has been out since May) and was subject to the comparison that I (direct quote) was not too pleased with the nationwide BLM protests,” Aldean said.
Adding to the controversy, Aldean’s music video was set in front of a Tennessee courthouse where, back in 1927, a Black teenager was lynched. The music video featured many clips of protests and violence that have brought many divisions between racial groups. Alongside this, he added videos from Ukraine and Germany that offended many. When he began to receive public backlash he quietly removed video clips from Fox News in Atlanta showing police violence against protesters during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. However, the clips of the Maury County Courthouse remain, as do a plethora of images and videos from protests in Ukraine, Germany and even Canada.
There has always been controversy over how much the First Amendment right to freedom of speech should protect citizens. Despite the two opinions on this story, in this scenario, it protected Aldean and the people burning the flag.