In May, country superstar Jason Aldean released a single called “Try That in a Small Town,” with lyrics that paint contemporary urban life as a landscape of crime and mayhem: “Sucker punching somebody on the sidewalk / Karjak old lady at a red light.”
“You think you’re tough,” Aldean sings. Well, try that in a small town.
Initially, the track received relatively little notice, landing at No. 35 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. That changed last week, after the song music video It became a culture war battleground, with some accusing Aldian – one of the country’s biggest hitmakers for nearly two decades – of using racist dog whistle tactics and the singer defending himself as the latest victim of an out-of-control “cancel culture”.
The controversy has led to an Aldean song rush, with both streams and downloads exploding over the past week. “Try That in a Small Town” debuted at number two on the Hot 100, Aldean’s all-time best showing on the all-genre Billboard pop chart, beating out current hits by Olivia Rodrigo and Morgan Whalen. Aldean was only surpassed this week by South Korean boy band BTS’s Jung Kook, whose debut single “Seven” opened at number one.
The video for “Try That”, released on July 14, opens with Aldean performing in front of a stately building draped in the American flag; The structure was soon identified as the Morey County Courthouse in Columbia, Tenn. In 1927, a young black man named Henry Choate was lynched by a vigilante group after being accused – wrongly, historians believe – of raping a white girl.
The video shows montage after montage of violent street protests, robberies, and people antagonizing police officers in riot gear. These scenes are juxtaposed with images of American flags flying, children playing, and what appears to be a TV news clip about farmers helping a neighbor.
Three days after its release, the video was pulled from rotation on Country Music Television, without explanation. But it was widely criticized as a veiled attack on the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
Justin Jones, Representative of Tennessee, wrote on Twitter that lawmakers “have an obligation to condemn Jason Aldean’s hideous song advocating racial violence. What a shameful vision of gun extremism and vigilanteism.”
Aldean, 46, has denied that race plays any role in the lyrics, or that “Try That” is a “pro-homicide song,” he says on social media“These references are not only baseless, but dangerous.”
Some artists, including the country singer, defended him Cody Johnsonwho said in concert, “If being a patriot makes you an outlaw, then by God I’d be an outlaw.” Ted Nugentwho relishes any quarrels with liberals, said on Fox News: “Stupids hate Jason Aldean’s song because they hate it when we resist violence.”
At a concert in Cincinnati on Friday, Aldean was defiant. “Cancel culture is a thing,” he said he told the crowd at the Riverbend Music Center. “It’s something where if people don’t like what you say, they try and make sure they can unsubscribe you, which means trying to ruin your life, screw everything up.”
“What I’m proud of is American,” he added. “I love our country, and I want to see it restored to the way it was before all of this [expletive] It started happening to us.” “United States of America” anthems sang in the grandstand.
As the controversy surrounding “Try That in a Small Town” boiled over last week, so did the song’s consumption metrics. according to paintingWhen the video was released, the track was getting around 1,000 downloads and 200,000 streams per day in the US. But that Week closed With 228,000 sales—up more than 27,000 percent from the previous week—and 11.6 million streams, according to data from tracking service Luminate.
While Aldean has long published country songs, “Try That” is his first song to hit the top 10 of the main Hot 100 since 2011, when “Dirt Road Anthem” hit No. 7 (Aldean’s latest single, “That’s What Tequila Does,” peaked at No. 77 earlier this year).
“Seven,” by Jung Kook and featuring Latto, opened at number one on the singles chart with 21.9 million streams, 153,000 sales—as both downloads and CD singles—and a radio audience of 6.4 million in the United States.
On the latest album chart, Taylor Swift holds the top spot for a second week with “Speak Now (Taylor Version),” which has racked up the equivalent of 121,000 sales in the US, including 96 million streams and 47,000 copies sold as a complete package, according to Luminate. It is the third entry in Swift’s project to re-record her first six albums, each of which went to No. 1.
Swift has three other albums in the Top 10: “Midnights,” her latest studio album, is No. 4, “Lover” is No. 6 and “Folklore” is No. 10.
Wallen’s latest album, “One Thing at a Time” was at No. 2, while his previous album, “Dangerous: The Double Album”, was No. 5. As for the album “Génesis” by Mexican composer Peso Pluma, it took third place.