Jason Aldean brought his “Try That in Small Town” to another big city Saturday — this time, Boston, Massachusetts — with the singer using a three-minute diatribe prior to the song’s performance to try and thread a needle between his controversial song and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
“I was laying in bed last night, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘You guys would get this better than anybody,’” Aldean rationalized about his “not a pro-lynching” new single and the terror attack that killed three people and injured hundreds more.
“Because I remember a time, I think it was April of 2013 when the Boston Marathon bombings happened. You guys remember this, right? What I saw when that happened, was a whole — not a small town, a big ass town — come together… The whole country, and especially Boston, came together to find these two pricks that did that, right? And any of you guys that would’ve found those guys before the cops did, I know you guys from Boston, and you guys would’ve beat the shit out of [them].”
“I’ve been trying to say this: This is not about race. It’s about people getting their shit together, acting right, acting like you got some common sense,” Aldean continued (via Billboard). “So you’re hearing from the person that made the record. Everybody is trying to tell me what I meant. ‘You meant this, you meant that.’ They don’t know what I meant. What I meant is exactly what I just told you.”
However, while Aldean reiterated previous stage banter about his concerns about the safety of the audience’s children at schools and movie theaters, he equated the threat of mass shootings to people “acting out, burning down buildings, causing taxpayers all this money, just so that you can go and show that you’re pissed off, to me, I just don’t get that. We just are never gonna see eye to eye.”
Aldean then thanked the audience for making “Try That in a Small Town” into “one of the biggest things I’ve ever had in my career.” “Thank you guys for hearing the song, seeing the video, watching it with an open mind, seeing what it was about,” he said.
Despite the controversy around the song and the dog whistles it sounds, Aldean has pledged to continue performing “Try That in a Small Town” onstage during his current tour.
The backlash against “Try That in a Small Town” began earlier this month when Aldean dropped the new video for the months-old song, with the visual featuring the country singer performing in front of a courthouse — reportedly in Columbia, Tennessee, the site of a 1933 lynching — and interspersed with footage (including some from Canada) depicting protests as violent and lawless.
Country music cable network CMT swiftly pulled the music video from its rotation, and some of Aldean’s peers condemned the singer who is no stranger to controversy.
“Here’s what I want to say: A lot of things out there, one thing I love, you guys know how it is, cancel culture is a thing, it’s something where if people don’t like what you say, they try and make sure they can cancel you, which means try to ruin your life, ruin everything,” Aldean told fans in Cincinnati, his first concert following the release of the video. “One thing I saw this week was a bunch of country music fans that can see through a lot of the bullshit, alright? I saw country music fans rally like I never seen before, and that was pretty badass, I gotta say. Thank you guys so much.”
Aldean has rejected the interpretation of “Try That in a Small Town” as pro vigilante or “pro-lynching.” Instead, the musician released a statement saying he believes the song “refers the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief.”