Conservatives hope Jason Aldean’s controversial “Try That in a Small Town” propelled it to No. 1 on the charts after CMT’s move to pull the music video failed Monday, with Jung Kook and Latto’s “Seven” victorious. But the controversy has clearly ignited flames among MAGA circles, giving sales of the song a huge boost last week and propelling the song to #2 on the chart.
According to the data service Luminate, which operates painting charts, “Try That in a Small Town” was raking in just under 1,000 sales a week and just hovering from 1 million streams a week the previous month when Aldean released the song’s music video on July 14. Refrain: “Try it in a small town / See how far you get on the road.” CMT pulled the video within a few days, prompting a predictable right-wing outcry — and vowing to propel the song to the top of the charts.
In the past week alone, Aldean has racked up nearly 228,000 digital song sales and 11.6 million songs. For reference, the song has racked up 238,000 digital sales for all time, which means about 95 percent of the sales came last week, after the controversy began. Fifty-five percent of the nearly 21 million streams ever came in the past week as well.
Aldean has faced stiff competition from BTS’ Jung Kook, whose solo track “Seven” featuring Latto eventually topped the chart this week for the first time. The latest clip has sold 138,000 digital songs and nearly 24 million songs. One of the biggest tracks of the year, “Last Night” by country superstar Morgan Wallen, came in at No. 3.
No matter where “Small Town” landed on the chart, the track became another whistle-blower for conservatives, who bemoaned the criticism as examples of so-called cancel culture. Right-wing businessman and long-term presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy chirp Last week, he announced that he would be playing the song at gatherings and encouraged followers to push the song to the top of the charts. Before going out of his way to change the subject to hip-hop, Ramaswamy eagerly echoes the song’s thinly veiled menace: “It would be a real shame if the song reached No. 1.”
Other accounts pointed to the Bud Light boycott that some conservatives tried to kick off after the beer brand partnered with TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney, or the campaign to promote the QAnon-adjacent thriller Freedom’s voice.
Aldean himself has repeatedly dismissed the backlash, denying that “Try That in a Small Town” is a “pro-lynching” song. “There is not a single track in the song that references or references race,” he wrote on social media. On Friday night, Aldean addressed the controversy during a concert in Cincinnati, appearing to applaud efforts to cash in on the song’s fame.
“You know how it is, cancel culture is one thing, it’s one thing if people don’t like what you say, they try to make sure they can cancel you, which means trying to ruin your life, ruin everything,” Aldean said. “One thing I saw this week was a group of country music fans who can see a lot of shit, okay? I saw country music fans gather like I’ve never seen before, and that was too bad, like I said. Thank you guys so much.”