Exploring the Controversial Themes in Jason Aldean’s Song “Try That in a Small Town”

Jason Aldean’s hit country song, “Try That in a Small Town,” has recently grabbed the attention of academics due to its potential use of coded language and its racial undertones. Rather than being a simple country tune, the song seems to be tailored to appeal to specific political demographics.
A Controversial Perspective in the Music Video

The controversy surrounding “Try That in a Small Town” extends to its music video, which incorporates real news footage depicting riots, looting, and violence that occurred during the 2020 protests following George Floyd’s tragic death. Aldean’s intention was to discourage such actions by emphasizing that they would not be tolerated in rural America. However, this portrayal led to a contentious debate, resulting in the removal of the video from CMT.

Insights from Academic Experts

Hunter College music theory professor Philip Ewell has raised concerns about what he perceives as subtle yet unmistakable “anti-Blackness” in some of Aldean’s lyrics. Ewell argues that specific phrases, such as “pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store,” hold implicit anti-Black messages due to deeply ingrained racial stereotypes in American culture.

Don Cusic, a country music historian and professor at Belmont University, also notes the potential for coded racial messages within the music video’s footage. He emphasizes that the interpretation of these images can vary based on the viewer’s racial background, potentially leading to division and misunderstandings.

Differing Viewpoints on the Song’s Meaning

Despite the viewpoints shared by academics, not all commentators agree with their assessments. Culture commentator Christian Toto suggests that “Try That in a Small Town” merely reflects the frustrations experienced by many Americans regarding issues like law and order, particularly in the aftermath of social justice protests. Toto defends Aldean’s artistic freedom to explore these ideas and rejects the notion of racist coding within the song and video.

Ultimately, the song “Try That in a Small Town” has fuelled debates regarding its possible use of coded language and racial implications. While some academics find troubling undertones, others perceive it as an expression of frustration and valid social commentary. The interpretation remains subjective and open to individual perspectives.

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