CMT has confirmed that, after initially airing Jason Aldean’s highly controversial music video for “Try That in a Small Town,” the network pulled the contentious clip from the air on Monday, even before the furor over the tune grew greater on Tuesday.
A CMT spokesperson had no further comment on the video being yanked. Reps for Aldean’s label, BBR Music Group, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Billboard was first to report the video being removed by the network.
Meanwhile, Aldean took to his social media Tuesday afternoon to defend the song from its many critics, taking a much softer tone in his messaging than he does in the hostile single itself, or a video that projects images of demonstrators onto a courthouse that was the site of a famous lynching.
“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. These references are not only meritless, but dangerous,” Aldean wrote.
He continued, “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. As so many pointed out, I was present at Route 91-where so many lost their lives- and our community recently suffered another heartbreaking tragedy. NO ONE, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart.”
Aldean tried to paint the song as taking a positive attitude on small towns, and downplayed the belligerent threats to outsiders that make up most of the lyrics, not to mention the stock footage of protesters that takes up a good portion of the video’s running time.
“‘Try That In A Small Town,’ for me, refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief. Because they were our neighbors, and that was above any differences. 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.”
His tweet with that message did not assuage those who have seen anger toward city dwellers or even racial dog whistles in the video, which was filmed in front of a courthouse in Colombia, Tennessee, that is well known for having been the sight of a lynching of a Black man in the 1920s. Aldean did not address the part of the controversy that specifically has to do with the location.
While the video’s fate at CMT is settled, it remains to be seen whether there will be any similar fallout at country radio or if the format will stand behind the already deeply divisive song.
Country Aircheck’s add chart on Monday showed the single having been added to 125 stations, which normally would augur for a major hit. (The highest number of stations reporting adds for any current hit is 156.) It looks to be a major success, from that start, although not nearly as strong as Dan + Shay’s “Save Me the Trouble,” which got 134 adds right out of the box this week and has a clearer path to No. 1.
Variety addressed the Aldean controversy Wednesday in a commentary: “Jason Aldean Already Had the Most Contemptible Country Song of the Decade. The Video Is Worse.”
Aldean’s threats in the song to deliver a message to anyone who tries to take his guns away came as no surprise to anyone who has been aware of the singer being increasingly open with his conservative political beliefs in recent years. The singer was dropped by his publicity firm after making a series of statements that including helping sell anti-Biden clothing for children and telling his audience that he did not want to see any masks in the audience. He also co-signed statements by his wife that the LGBTQ+ community viewed as transphobic.