Jason Aldean’s ‘Try That in a Small Town’ Is the 2nd Most Popular Song in the Country

The country song, which has been criticized for promoting violence and racism, debuted at No. 2 on the latest Billboard Hot 100 chart.

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Jason Aldean’s ‘Try That in a Small Town’ Is the 2nd Most Popular Song in the Country
Photo:Joshua Applegate (Getty Images)

In response to the controversy over Jason Aldean’s song and video “Try That in a Small Town,” culture warrior Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) tweeted, “Cancel culture is the enemy of freedom of expression. I stand with @JasonAldean.” WRONG! In fact, being “canceled” is often good for streaming numbers, as we’ve seen again and again, and now again with the rocketing success of “Small Town.” The song’s profile grew exponentially after it was pulled from CMT on July 17 after just four days on air. It blew up enough to debut at No. 2 on the latest Billboard Hot 100, via “the biggest sales week for a country song in over 10 years,” according to Billboard. Keeping Aldean from the chart summit is BTS member Jung Kook’s “Seven,” which bows at No. 1.

Lyrically, “Small Town” trades in us-vs-them populism that contrasts cartoonish urban chaos with equally cartoonish genteel country living. “‘Round here we take care of our own,” sings Aldean. Many have perceived a kind of racist dog-whistling that is seemingly reinforced by its video, which shows footage of protests and theft. One setup was notably filmed in front of the Maury County courthouse, where an 18-year-old Black man named Henry Choate was lynched in 1927. Aldean, naturally, has denied the accusations of racism. “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,” went part of his tweeted response to the response on July 18. Even if he was being sincere, the song’s “you’re not welcome here” mentality certainly seeks to alienate, and as a result of the liberal outcry, supporting the song becomes just the latest way to assert one’s right to be shitty, like supporting Kyle Rittenhouse or Daniel Penny or Chick-Fil-A, or “just asking questions” about trans people. Others probably just like the tune.

It may be depressing, but none of it is surprising—“cancel culture” often fails to live up to its name, producing the opposite effect of grabbing and keeping attention. We’ve been through this before—Madonna’s video for “Justify My Love” was banned from MTV in 1990, and she spun it into a No. 1 single. (For the record, it’s a much better song than “Try That in a Small Town”). After being filmed using the n-word in 2021, Morgan Wallen’s record contract was suspended. This year, his “Last Night” has spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. In fact, it’s at No. 3, right behind “Try That in a Small Town.”

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