Exploring Jason Aldean’s Polarizing Impact on Country Music

by Barbara

Jason Aldean, the country superstar known for his music and penchant for controversy, took a surprising turn this summer by making bold statements between songs during his concerts, leaving fans intrigued.

During a recent tour stop at the Wharf Amphitheater in Orange Beach, Ala., Aldean couldn’t help but address the “crazy-ass thing that happened to us here over the last couple months.” He was referring to the mid-July release of the music video for his single “Try That in a Small Town,” which juxtaposed lyrics about vigilante justice with footage of crime, riots, and Black Lives Matter protests. The controversy erupted, with critics interpreting the song as containing coded threats against Black people, leading CMT to stop airing the video. Aldean vehemently denied any racial intent, defending the video as diverse and stating, “There’s a lot of different races in there doing stupid s—.”

Jason Aldean, 46, a major figure in Nashville’s contemporary scene, has had his share of controversies over the years, but none as widespread and headline-grabbing as this. The controversy surrounding “Try That in a Small Town” catapulted it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, marking a unique moment in music history with the top three spots occupied by country songs, including Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night” at No. 2 and Luke Combs’s cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” at No. 3. The unexpected success of Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond,” a right-wing anthem, further fueled a summer filled with debates and think pieces on hot-button songs.

Aldean’s pivot to outspokenness is a marked departure from the norm in a genre that typically encourages silence on political matters. His live speeches in late July and August, delivered in the style of political rallies, stirred his fans and urged them to “see through the bull—-.” He explained his motivations behind the controversial song and video, criticized accusations of racism, and placed blame on the media, asserting, “You can take your narratives and shove them all the way up your ass.”

While Aldean has never been known for his warmth and friendliness, those who have encountered him behind the scenes describe him as a laid-back individual. Nevertheless, his onstage rhetoric appears to be a natural progression in his tendency to be defensive and unapologetic when confronted with criticism.

Aldean’s history includes polarizing hits like “Hicktown” and “Dirt Road Anthem,” engagement drama, and controversies over song choices and Halloween costumes. His recent foray into political expression includes posting memes questioning election results, supporting anti-vaccine sentiments, and partying with former President Donald Trump.

Country music, despite gaining popularity among progressive audiences, retains a historically conservative fan base. As Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” controversy unfolded, most country artists remained silent, with only a few, such as Cody Johnson and Brantley Gilbert, expressing support for Aldean during their concerts.

The music industry, including insiders and musicians, has expressed ambivalence regarding Aldean’s song and its reception. Some within the industry felt uncomfortable with how it portrayed country music to the mainstream audience. In a genre striving for greater diversity, the controversy underscored the challenge of reconciling its conservative roots with the evolving social landscape.

Aldean’s involvement in various controversies, including “Try That in a Small Town,” has triggered questions about his intentions and his handling of criticism. While some believe Aldean’s defiant stance bolsters his success, it may also alienate potential audiences and have long-term consequences for the country music genre.

In a genre that has seen its fair share of changes and debates about diversity, Aldean’s recent controversies further highlight the complexities and tensions within country music. While some progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to ensure inclusivity and address the varying perspectives of artists and fans alike.

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