Jason Aldean in a Small Town | Opinion

Jason Aldean. Photo via Facebook.

On May 19, country singer Jason Aldean released “Try This in a Small Town,” a song from his upcoming album. The song contrasts big city violence with small town law and order: “If you’re looking for a fight, try that in a small town.” The video was even more graphic, contrasting a performance clip of Aldean singing and playing in front of the Maury County courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee with news footage of city slickers rioting, looting, and burning the American flag.

Though “Try This in a Small Town” makes no reference to race, critics feared that the video would incite anti-Black violence. They were quick to point out the video’s not-so subtle attack against Black Lives Matter and other progressive protests. Mississippi Free Press editor Ashton Pittman noted that the Maury County courthouse was the place where a Black man, Henry Choate, was lynched in 1927. The video’s locale reminded others of sunset towns, where Blacks and other people of color were kept out after dark. CMT (Country Music Television), who played Aldean’s video for some time, tried to avoid the ensuing controversy by ceasing to play it. It was too late.

For his part Aldean, who did not write the song, was quick to criticize the critics. “These references are not only meritless, but dangerous. There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it – and there isn’t a single 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.” Not surprisingly, Aldean’s political views lean to the right, aided and abetted by his like-minded wife, Brittany. (Aldean and wife spent their New Year’s Eve at Mar-a-Lago, the MAGA Mecca.) Aldean and his video received the support of country stars Lee Greenwood, John Rich, and Travis Tritt and of Donald Trump who called Aldean “a fantastic guy who just came out with a great new song.”

As an art form that originated in the rural south, country music often celebrates small town values like God, guns, and the American flag. Though country has its roots in Black as well as white music, many of its artists were and are racist. As a fan of country music – a Cuban redneck like Raul Malo of the Mavericks – I have no problem with country artists whose politics differ from mine as long as they sing about trucks, beer, and the girl next door.  When they exercise their right to be political, I exercise my right to not buy their albums or listen to their music. Though Aldean, who by the way lives in Nashville, is not the first country singer to praise small town life, his song and its video send the wrong message about the city and the country and the people who live in both places. After all, I can visit a small town and be shot dead for my looks or my opinions or just for being in the wrong place. There is a Great Divide in our country and Aldean, who proudly stands at one side of that Divide, only makes our divisions greater.

Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer, journalist, writer and activist who is a proud member of South Florida's LGBTQ+ community for almost half a century. His first regular column, "The Book Nook" (1977-2006) was syndicated in a dozen LGBT publications in the United States and Canada and was considered an authority on LGBT literature. Jesse also wrote extensively about LGBT history, plays, movies and (for Toronto's The Guide) a regular column about gay adult cinema. His current, personal opinion column, "Jesse's Journal," began its career in the 1980s and has been published or posted in numerous newspapers, magazines and websites throughout the United States. As an activist, Jesse has served on the Boards of a dozen LGBT organizations. He lives in Plantation, Florida.


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