The Outrageous Lyrics of Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” Spark Controversy

Jason Aldean's single and subsequent music video promote vigilantism and pro-gun messaging through its over-literal lyrics. Here's what it means.

Haylee Thorson - Author

Jul. 20 2023, Published 1:08 p.m. ET

Jason Aldean performs on stage during day three of CMA Fest 2023
Source: Getty Images

It’s no secret country music occasionally generates controversy.

From John Rich’s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” to Brad Paisley’s “Accidental Racist,” the lyrics of some of the most popular singles by acclaimed musicians are polarizing, to say the least.

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However, Jason Aldean’s song “Try That in a Small Town” may just go down in history as the most problematic hit the genre has ever encountered.

The single, released in May 2023, and the subsequent July 2023 music video appear to promote vigilantism and pro-gun messaging through its over-literal lyrics.

Here’s what it means.

Jason Aldean performs at the 2023 ACM Lifting Lives Topgolf Tee-Off And Rock On Fundraiser
Source: Getty Images
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Here is the meaning of Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town.”

It doesn’t take a lot of thought to decipher the meaning behind the country artist’s single “Try That in a Small Town.”

Referencing the riots and protests in the United States over the past few years, Jason argues that these acts simply wouldn’t “fly” in rural communities across the country.

“Try that in a small town,” the musician sings. “See how far you make it down the road … Around here, we take care of our own … You cross that line, it won't take long … For you to find out, I recommend you don't.”

Jason argues that, where he’s from, any person who commits an act of rebellion will be greeted by an unimaginable fate — his shotgun.

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“Got a gun that my granddad gave me,” the Georgia native continued. “They say one day they're gonna round up … Well, that s--t might fly in the city, good luck.”

The single appears to encourage people from small towns to take matters into their own hands when dealing with actions they deem unjust. From cursing at police to flag-burning, Jason lists the offenses that apparently should warrant violence (or worse) in rural areas.

Why did CMT cancel Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” music video?

After a mass shooting occurred while Jason performed at the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Festival in 2017, this pro-gun and pro-vigilantism song has struck many folks as incredibly tone-deaf and offensive.

And the corresponding music video — filmed at the lynching site of Black man Henry Choate at the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tenn. — sparked additional controversy.

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On Tuesday, July 18, 2023, Country Music Television suddenly pulled the video from its rotation. However, they gave no insight as to why. We can only assume that it has something to do with the increasing backlash the musician is facing for the song and its unsettling messaging.

Other renowned country music artists have noted that they do not support the lyrics behind “Try That in a Small Town” by any means. On Twitter, singer Sheryl Crow blasted Jason for promoting gun violence as a mass-shooting survivor.

“I’m from a small town. Even people in small towns are sick of violence,” the “Soak Up the Sun” songwriter wrote.

“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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