He made headlines in July 2023 for the words to his song “Try That in a Small Town” with violent, if not outright racist, undertones but it was just the latest Jason Aldean controversy in a string of them that date back to 2015.

The country music singer-songwriter burst onto the scene with “Hicktown” in 2005, a song that painted a picture of a particular way of rural life: “Well, you can see the neighbor’s butt crack nailing on his shingles / And his woman’s smokin’, Pall Mall’s watchin’ Laura In galls / And granny’s getting lit, she’s headin’ out to bingo / Yeah, my buddies and me are goin’ muddin’”

Jason Aldeann

Joe Mangaiello, Sofia Vergara

He’s made no secret of his conservative political views, celebrating 2022 New Year’s Eve at former President and “ol friend” Donald Trump’s Mar–a-Lago estate; they’d been golfing in Palm Beach earlier that year.  

The music video that accompanies his song “Try That in a Small Town” was filmed in the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee—the setting where a white lynch mob dragged a young man named Henry Choate through the streets and lynched him in 1927, per Variety. The video then depicts footage of a burning American flag and protestors, with lyrics threatening to use a “gun that my granddad gave me” against dissenters. Here’s everything concerning the Jason Aldean controversy and what’s led to this point.

September 2012: Jason Aldean cheats on his wife

Jason Aldean was caught kissing American Idol contestant Brittany Kerr in a Hollywood bar while he was still married to Jessica Ussery, the mother of his two children Keely and Kendyl. While they tried to patch things up and Aldean apologized for his indiscretion, they filed for divorce in 2013. Kerr controversially accompanied Aldean to the 2014 CMT Awards.

Jason Aldean and wife Jessica in 2012. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for ACM

September 2015: Jason Aldean says all female country singers look the same

In a 2015 interview with the Washington Post, Jason Aldean was asked about the lack of female singers who struggle more than anyone to get their songs heard on country radio. Aldean couldn’t understand why that was, but he had a theory: “I feel like a lot of times female singers, to me, when they’re singing – and I’ll probably kick myself for saying this – a lot of times, it just seems like I can’t distinguish one from the other sometimes if I just listen to them, you know?” Aldean said. “A lot of times they just sound really similar to me. And then you have some that come out like a Carrie [Underwood] or Miranda [Lambert] or somebody like that, that really has a different, distinctive sound to their voice, then it’s like, oh, okay, you can tell them apart all of a sudden. They go on to be obviously big stars, but I think it’s because you can distinguish between them.”

October 2015: Jason Aldean wears blackface to Halloween

In October 2015, Jason Aldean’s publicist confirmed he’d dressed up as Lil Wayne for a Halloween Party, complete with blackface. A photo obtained by The Guardian showed him wearing a wig with dreadlocks, a red bandana, sunglasses and a brown-painted face. Aldean “dressed as rapper Lil Wayne”, his representative told the newspaper.  

During an interview with Billboard the following year, Aldean addressed the controversy:  “In this day and age people are so sensitive that no matter what you do, somebody is going to make a big deal out of it,” he said. “Me doing that had zero malicious intent … I get that race is a touchy subject, but not everybody is that way. Media tends to make a big deal out of things. If that was disrespectful to anyone, I by all means apologize. That was never my intention. It never crossed my mind.”

Jason Aldean. Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for CMA)

October 2021: Jason Aldean protests vaccine mandates

In October 2021 when COVID vaccines were rolling out, Jason Aldean took to Instagram to share his displeasure in California’s vaccine mandates for school children. “So let me get this straight! It is no longer our decisions as parents (or free Americans) to make decisions about our kids, Gavin Newsom makes those decisions for us now??” he wrote on Instagram. “You gotta be kidding me! People in California should be outraged and people everywhere else better start standing up and speaking out NOW. This is not how America and being free works.”

Brittany Kerr made headlines after she shared a makeup tutorial on her social media channels with the comment: “I’d really like to thank my parents for not changing my gender when I went through my tomboy phase,” she captioned the video. “I love this girly life.”

Singer-songwriter Maren Morris hit back, writing: “It’s so easy to, like, not be a scumbag human? Sell your clip-ins and zip it, Insurrection Barbie.” Jason defended his wife, calling her “MY Barbie” on social media.

Less than a month after Jason Aldean’s wife Brittany Kerr made those anti-trans comments, his longtime Nashville publicity firm announced it would end its relationship with him.

July 2023: “Try That in a Small Town” gets pulled from CMT

The song “Try That in a Small Town” is released in May 2023 and in July, its accompanying music video depicts protestors as violent and lawless. CMT pulled the clip from its rotation and music fans around the world slammed Jason Aldean, claiming he was inciting violence. Aldean dismissed the criticism, saying in a statement published to Instagram: “In the past 24 hours I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song (a song that has been out since May) and was subject to the comparison that I (direct quote) was not too pleased with the nationwide BLM protests,” he tweeted. “These references are not only meritless, but dangerous. There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it – and there isn’t a single 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.”

‘Try That in a Small Town’ video clip. Source: YouTube

He added: “Try That In A Small Town, for me, refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief. Because they were our neighbors, and that was above any differences. My political views have never been something I’ve hidden from, and I know that a lot of us in this country don’t agree on how we get back to a sense of normalcy where we go at least one day without a headline that keeps us up at night. But the desire for it to – that’s what this song is about.”

This didn’t fly with some other music stars, though. “I’m from a small town,” Sheryl Crow wrote on Twitter. “Even people in small towns are sick of violence. There’s nothing small-town or American about promoting violence. You should know that better than anyone having survived a mass shooting. This is not American or small town-like. It’s just lame.”

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