CMT confirmed to Billboard that it had removed the video from its rotation as of Monday but refused to comment further on its decision.
The song has been out since May, but it gained new attention thanks to a newly released music video that has activists crying foul. Critics point to the lyrics where Aldean appears to reference anti-police rioters:
Cuss out a cop, spit in his faceStomp on the flag and light it up Yeah, ya think you’re toughWell, try that in a small townSee 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 Try that in a small town
Aldean insists that the song was not meant to have racist undertones.
“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 shared in Instagram Stories. “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 – and while I can try and respect others to have their own interpretation of a song with music – this one goes too far,” Aldean continued.
He went on to insist that the messaging is supposed to be about communities coming together to solve problems.
”’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,” the statement continued. He added that while he is unabashedly conservative, he prefers unity in our nation despite our 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,” Aldean concluded.
Aldean previously posted on Twitter that the song seeks to reclaim feelings of small-town unity.
He tweeted on Friday, “When u grow up in a small town, it’s that unspoken rule of ‘we all have each other’s backs and we look out for each other.’ It feels like somewhere along the way, that sense of community and respect has gotten lost. Deep down we are all ready to get back to that. I hope my new music video helps y’all know that u are not alone in feeling that way.”