Jason Aldean, the country music star whose 2017 Las Vegas concert was the site of one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, is seeing backlash for his new music video featuring footage of people protesting against police, alongside lyrics about gun ownership and vigilantism.
Aldean released a music video for Try That In A Small Town Friday that includes video footage of protesters clashing with police, looters breaking into stores, and people bashing a police car while Aldean sings that people in small towns have less tolerance than those in large cities for disrespect to the police, crime and unpatriotic actions.
The song lyrics include Aldean speaking about a gun his grandfather gave him, as well as a town “full of good ol’ boys, raise right,” and about how if you “cuss out a cop, spit in his face” or “stomp on the flag” in a small town, you’ll face harsher consequences than in a large city—“Try that in a small town, see how far ya make it down the road.”
Along with the release of the video, Aldean posted a statement to Instagram where he said that people who grew up in small towns have “an unspoken rule” that “we all have each other’s backs and we look out for each other” and that “somewhere along the way, that sense of community and respect has gotten lost. … I hope my new music video helps y’all know that u are not alone in feeling that way.”
Over the weekend the song sparked backlash on social media, including from Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America, who pointed out the juxtaposition of Aldean’s lyrics and the fact that it was his concert that saw one of history’s deadliest mass shootings.
In 2017, Aldean was performing at the Route 91 Harvest music festival when a Nevada man opened fire on the audience, killing 60, the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history.
Jess Piper, former candidate for Missouri state representative and executive director of Blue Missouri, called the song lyrics “shit,” while blogger Leigh Love wrote that the song “is not only reminding people that sun down towns exists, but that he loves them.” (Sun down town refers to a Jim Crow era practice where certain municipalities forced Black people to leave their town by sundown.)
Country music magazines had a different reaction though, with Music Mayhem Magazine calling the video “thought-provoking clip” that “takes a bold step … to shine a light on pressing social and political issues” and Taste of Country calling it “as essential to country music as the steel guitar” and “a song that is intended to be every bit the threat it sounds like.”
In the aftermath of the 2017 attack on Aldean’s concert, the country music singer appeared to be in favor of some increased gun control measures, telling the Associated Press, “It’s too easy to get guns, first and foremost. When you can walk in somewhere and you can get one in five minutes, do a background check that takes five minutes, like, how in-depth is that background check?” He said he wasn’t against others owning guns and he disliked that mass shootings were, in his eyes, being misused during arguments about gun control in the U.S. He also said he had previously refrained from discussing gun control publicly because it is a “no-win situation” where “no matter what you say… you’re setting yourself up to be crucified in the public eye or in the media.” He did, however, say he felt connected to the survivors of other mass shootings and understood their feelings, telling the Associated Press, “unless anybody has witnessed anything like that or been a part of it, it’s really hard for people to really understand where you’re coming from on that stuff.”
Aldean was forced to end his show in Hartford, Connecticut early Saturday as he suffered from heat exhaustion, USA Today reported. The venue reportedly told fans that the show would be rescheduled for another date. Aldean posted a video to Instagram Sunday apologizing to fans and explaining he’d been treated with IVs. “I’m doing fine. It’s just one of those things – it was hot, I was playing golf all day yesterday,” he said. “I think it was a combination of dehydration and heat exhaustion.” He added that the temperature in Hartford “was pretty intense.”
Jason Aldean’s New Song Sparks Outrage Over Guns—’Very Scary Lyrics’ (Newsweek)
Jason Aldean abruptly ends concert after suffering heat exhaustion: ‘It was pretty intense’ (USA TODAY)