Controversy has taken Jason Aldean all the way to No. 1.
The country star’s song “Try That in a Small Town” is the No. 1 song in the nation, according to Billboard magazine’s authoritative Hot 100 chart.
The single was actually released in May but after a couple months, Mr. Aldean released a video that quickly became a national lightning rod over charges of racism and gun fetishism.
The video was pulled by CMT after days of attacks, prompting a furious counterbacklash about woke censorship and a spirited defense by Mr. Aldean.
Within days, “Try That in a Small Town” was topping the iTunes U.S. charts and last week debuted on the Hot 100 at the already lofty position of No. 2. Prior to the release of the video, Mr. Aldean’s highest-climbing single on the Hot 100 chart had been “Dirt Road Anthem,” which reached No. 7 in 2011.
Billboard cited Luminate saying the song “drew 30.7 million streams (up 165%) and 8.8 million radio airplay audience impressions (up 21%) and sold 175,000 (down 23%) July 21-27.”
Mr. Aldean has hit No. 1 on the Billboard album chart several times and his singles have done the same on the country chart too.
But for a country artist to hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 pop chart — which includes songs of all genres — is much rarer. Among the country stars who have never done it are Johnny Cash, Shania Twain, Alabama, and George Strait — the artist with the most No. 1 hits on the country chart.
“Try That in a Small Town” skewers the riots and rampant crime in America’s big cities, saying it wouldn’t happen in rural America.
But the video features news footage projected on the Maury County courthouse in Tennessee, where a lynching took place in the 1920s.
The video also includes images of riots and police-protester clashes.
“Well, try that in a small town / See how far ya make it down the road / Around here, we take care of our own … I recommend you don’t / Try that in a small town,” the song states.
There were other charges of love for “sundown towns,” where blacks dared not enter after the sun set during the Jim Crow “lynch law” era.
“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 video clip that isn’t real news footage,” Mr. Aldean said in a statement posted to Twitter.
“While I can try and respect others to have their own interpretation of a song with music- this one goes too far,” he said.