song “Try That In A Small Town” is No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week – despite not ranking on the chart at all since its May release. The song after Aldean released the music video, which depicts protesters confronting police officers and was pulled from CMT.
“Try That In A Small Town” is now one of the most popular songs, according to the Billboard Hot 100 chart, ranking just under BTS member Jung Kook’s “Seven,” featuring Latto, which was released on July 14.
The Aldean song is also No. 2 on the global chart and No. 1 on the country chart and Aldean is ranked No. 3 on the Hot 100 Artists chart.
The song was released on May 22, making it one of the few songs that jumped the ranks on the Billboard charts weeks after it is released. Other songs that have defied these odds include Lady Gaga’s “A Million Reasons,” which only reached No. 52 when it was released in 2016, but re-entered the list at No. 4 after she performed it during the Super Bowl in 2017.
Some songs re-joined the Hot 100 decades after they were released – like Kate Bush’s 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill,” which reached No. 3 after it was played during a “Stranger Things” episode in 2022.
Aldean’s hit defied the odds, despite widespread controversy. While it is no longer in rotation on CMT – which is owned and operated by MTV Networks, a subsidiary of CBS News’ parent company Paramount – the music video gained 17 million views on YouTube in just 11 days after making headlines.
CMT told CBS News that the video was “no longer in rotation,” but did not clarify when the video first aired, how long it was supposed to be in rotation or why it was ultimately taken down.
In the country song, Aldean sings: “Cuss out a cop, spit in his face, stomp on the flag and light it up, yeah, ya think you’re tough. Well, try that in a small town. See how far ya 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.”
The video focuses on protests against police brutality and also shows footage of violence at demonstrations and robberies. He also sings in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Tennessee, which was the site of a 1946 race riot in Columbia, according to the Associated Press. In 1927, a Black 18-year-old named Henry Choate was lynched there.
Aldean responded to the criticism in a tweet last week.
“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 wrote. “These references are not only meritless, but dangerous.”
Aldean defended the song – which seemingly dares people to try protesting in small American towns – saying not a single lyric “references race or points to it.” He also said all the clips in the music video are from news footage.
Shannon Watts, the founder of activist group Moms Demand Action, criticized the song’s message, saying it’s about how Aldean “and his friends will shoot you if you try to take their guns.”
She and others pointed out that Aldean performed during the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas in 2017, during which a gunman opened fire from a hotel room overlooking the music festival, killing 60 people.
Aldean addressed that in his tweet, saying: “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.”
He said for him, the song reflects the type of community he grew up in, one where “we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief.”
Li Cohen contributed to this report.