Jason Aldean’s “Try That In A Small Town” Performance Will Air on CMA Fest Despite Controversy

The CMA Fest TV special is set to air on Wednesday, July 19 at 8/7c on ABC. 

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Andrew Wendowski

Andrew Wendowski is the Founder and CEO of Music Mayhem. As a 29-year-old entrepreneur, he oversees content as the Editor-In-Chief for the independent brand. Wendowski, who splits time between Philadelphia, Penn., and Nashville, Tenn., has an extensive background in multimedia. Before launching Music Mayhem in 2014, he worked as a highly sought-after photojournalist and tour photographer, collaborating with such labels as Interscope Records and Republic Records. He has captured photos of some of the biggest names, including Taylor Swift, Metallica, Harry Styles, P!NK, Morgan Wallen, Carrie Underwood, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Shania Twain, and hundreds more. Wendowski’s photos and freelance work have appeared nationwide and can be seen everywhere from ad campaigns to various publications, including Billboard and Rolling Stone. When Wendowski isn’t running Music Mayhem, he enjoys spending time at concerts, traveling, and capturing photos.

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Posted on July 19, 2023

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Jason Aldean; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Jason Aldean’s performance of “Try That In A Small Town” will air on Wednesday evening’s CMA Fest special despite ongoing controversy surrounding the song and music video.

According to TMZ, the Georgia native’s CMA Fest performance of the controversial tune will not be edited out of the ABC broadcast.

The outlet also reported that “ABC will air Aldean’s performance, but none of the music video will appear in the show. For the record, the music video was released after the festival. ABC could have used the music video in the show open or promos, but our sources say the network has taken a hard pass on that.”

2023 CMA Fest Special

The CMA Fest TV special is set to air on Wednesday, July 19 at 8/7c on ABC. 

Co-hosted by Lainey Wilson, Dierks Bentley and Elle King, CMA Fest will also feature performances from Wilson, Bentley and King as well as Alabama, Leon Bridges, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay, Jordan Davis, Vince Gill, HARDY, Tyler Hubbard, Jelly Roll, Cody Johnson, Miranda Lambert, Avril Lavigne, Little Big Town, Ashley McBryde, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi, Carly Pearce, Darius Rucker, Tanya Tucker, and Keith Urban.

Social media outrage surrounding the song began after the July 14 release of the “Try That In A Small Town” music video. As the video and song began to circulate online, many social media users accused the singer of being pro-gun and racist. Listeners also dubbed the track a “dog whistle” and believed that the lyrics pushed a right wing agenda.

Jason Aldean Speaks Out

Jason Aldean recently broke his silence to address the backlash and defend his song and music video.

“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,” Aldean explained. “These references are not only meritless, but dangerous.”

Jason Aldean, Photo Provided by Theo Wargo
Jason Aldean, Photo Provided by Theo Wargo

Aldean Shares The Meaning Behind The Song “Try That In A Small Town” In His Own Words

He went on to detail what the song means from his perspective. 

“There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it- and there isn’t a single video 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.”

Jason Aldean continued, “‘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 a day without a headline that keeps us up at night. But the desire for it to- that’s what this song is about.”

He then spoke out on the comments users made about him being the subject of one of the world’s deadliest mass shootings.

“As so many pointed out, I was present at Route 91- where so many lost their lives – and our community recently suffered another heartbreaking tragedy. NO ONE, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart.”

Jason Aldean’s statement was released after social media erupted with comments and criticisms around his music video. 

Accused Of Making A “Pro-Lynching” Song

Many users pointed out that the music video featured a performance recorded in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee. This is the site of the 1927 lynching of Henry Choate, an 18-year-old African American man that was accused of attacking a white woman.

Others were outraged by the news clips in the music video, which included visuals of police brutality and unrest during the height of the pandemic in 2020 as well as scenes of riots and looting that destroyed American cities. 

“I just watched/heard about 45 seconds of the new Jason Aldean video/song and it is absolute right wing propaganda. ‘try that in a small town, we take care of our own’ ok well the small town my wife grew up in knew of abuse and no one did anything,” one Twitter user said. 

Aldean Criticized For Sharing A Pro-Gun Message With The Song’s Lyrics

Another user said the music video “rips into the left-wing riots, soft on crime governance in cities, gun control, and other leftist degradation.” Someone else believes the song is an “ode to a sundown town, suggesting people be beaten or shot for expressing free speech.”

The singer was also criticized for releasing a song with a pro-gun message as he was on stage at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas in 2017 when a gunman shot and killed more than 60 people. To date, this remains the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. 

“Got a gun that my granddad gave me / They say one day they’re gonna round up / Well, that shit might fly in the city, good luck / Try that in a small town,” Aldean sings. 

CMT Pulled Jason Aldean’s Music Video

On Tuesday afternoon (July 18), it was revealed that CMT had pulled the “Try That In A Small Town” music video from rotation.  

According to Billboard, the network pulled the music video on Monday without any explanation. 

CMT reportedly declined to comment on their decision to stop playing Aldean’s music video, however, the network did confirm with the outlet that the clip has officially been removed from its platform. 

Jason Aldean, Photo Provided by Theo Wargo
Jason Aldean, Photo Provided by Theo Wargo

Produced by Michael Knox and written by Kurt Allison, Tully Kennedy, Kelley Lovelace, and Neil Thrasher, “Try That In A Small Town” impacted Country radio on May 22.

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Written by

Andrew Wendowski is the Founder and CEO of Music Mayhem. As a 29-year-old entrepreneur, he oversees content as the Editor-In-Chief for the independent brand. Wendowski, who splits time between Philadelphia, Penn., and Nashville, Tenn., has an extensive background in multimedia. Before launching Music Mayhem in 2014, he worked as a highly sought-after photojournalist and tour photographer, collaborating with such labels as Interscope Records and Republic Records. He has captured photos of some of the biggest names, including Taylor Swift, Metallica, Harry Styles, P!NK, Morgan Wallen, Carrie Underwood, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Shania Twain, and hundreds more. Wendowski’s photos and freelance work have appeared nationwide and can be seen everywhere from ad campaigns to various publications, including Billboard and Rolling Stone. When Wendowski isn’t running Music Mayhem, he enjoys spending time at concerts, traveling, and capturing photos.

See more posts from Andrew Wendowski