Sitting in a crowded Texas roadhouse recently, I heard the opening lines of Jason Aldean‘s controversial hit "Try That In a Small Town" play over the speakers. Several whoops and hollers went up as patrons sang along. This enthusiastic response sums up why the song has become a rallying cry for many country fans despite efforts to "cancel" it.
The hard-hitting, small town pride anthem sparked controversy over perceived racism and violence in its lyrics and imagery. Yet banning the music video from networks like CMT has only fueled its popularity. So what is it about "Try That In a Small Town" that makes it strike such a chord?
Jason Aldean‘s Country Credibility
Since his 2005 debut, Jason Aldean has become one of country music‘s biggest stars. He‘s earned over 20 #1 singles and sold millions of albums. Hits like "Hicktown," "Dirt Road Anthem," and "Burnin‘ It Down" established Aldean as a leader in the genre.
His songs routinely celebrate rural, working class life in the South. Rugged country rock production and Aldean‘s rough vocals drive that message home. "Try That In a Small Town" very much follows in this tradition thematically.
By the Numbers: A Chart Topping Smash
The lead single from Aldean‘s 2022 album Georgia has been a massive success:
Debuted at #17 on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart in October 2022
Hit #1 on the iTunes Country songs chart following video ban
Sold over 10,000 additional downloads after release controversy
Currently sits at #2 on iTunes behind Morgan Wallen
Music video has over 3 million YouTube views
This popularity persists despite lack of radio play and a mainstream industry backlash. It shows the song‘s grassroots appeal among country fans nationwide.
Lyrical Themes Touch on Country Music Traditions
While containing some provocative lyrics, at its core "Try That In a Small Town" touches on familiar country music themes. Lines about carrying guns, defending small town life, and not backing down from confrontation invoke traditional values.
References to "taking care of our own" and not hesitating to stand up to outsiders threaten a community‘s way of life also have deep roots. Historic songs contain similar sentiments regarding protecting one‘s home and not being pushed around.
Of course, the meaning behind such lyrics has evolved with the times. But Aldean seems to view them through a modern lens. To him and many listeners, they represent pride and resilience more than violence or intolerance.
The Streisand Effect on Steroids
Pulling Aldean‘s video from CMT led to what‘s known as the Streisand effect. This phenomenon occurs when trying to censor or hide something inadvertently draws more attention to it. It‘s named after Barbra Streisand‘s attempt to remove photos of her home, which only spread them further.
We‘ve seen this recently with book banning efforts backfiring. But the impact on "Try That In a Small Town" has been even more pronounced. It shot to iTunes #1 and gained over 10,000 new downloads almost instantly.
This dramatic boost highlights how reacting hastily often over-politicizes issues and produces the opposite of the desired outcome. It shifts attention to ideological battles rather than constructive dialogue.
Confirmation Bias and Selective Perception
How viewers interpret lyrics and symbols often depends on preexisting biases and perceptions. Critics of "Try That In a Small Town" latch onto certain lines or images that confirm their assumptions. Meanwhile, fans filter the same content differently to align with their values.
This selective perception occurs constantly in politics and culture wars. The wider overton window determines which interpretations gain traction on a large scale. But individuals can still assess things rationally by checking their biases.
Free speech means accepting art may contain troubling elements without necessarily endorsing them. Audiences must leave room for nuance rather than reactionary takes spreading via social media.
Censorship Sets a Dangerous Precedent
Freedom of expression faces increasing threats in modern society. Any work deemed "problematic" by vocal groups quickly faces boycotts or bans. Companies like Paramount often bow to these demands.
But letting outrage mobs censor content they subjectively deem "offensive" starts us down a slippery slope. Legally, the First Amendment protects artists from government censorship except in extreme cases. But corporate and public censorship can still stifle voices.
These actions often punish thought-provoking art that challenges societal norms. They discourage tackling complex themes and punish reasonable dissent from popular views.
Congratulations to Jason Aldean
However one interprets the lyrics of "Try That In a Small Town," the song clearly resonates with millions of country music fans. Congratulations to Jason Aldean on standing by his work and creating a new anthem. Controversy aside, the track‘s popularity affirms his status as one of country‘s most beloved stars.
Here‘s hoping Aldean continues honing his authentic sound and delving into the rural experience. His music provides a unifying voice for many who feel overlooked by mainstream society. This latest hit proves that despite some critics‘ objections, he still has a lot more to say.