JASON ALDEAN: WHAT HE DID IN A BIG TOWN (NASHVILLE)
“You cross that line, it won’t take long”
From Jason Aldean’s
Try That In a Small Town
The other day I was thinking about country lyrics depicting vigilante violence, celebrating lynching and cheering citizens dispensing justice.
No, I was not thinking about Jason Aldean’s 2023 smash hit, Try That In A Small Town. I was thinking about the mellifluous tones of lefty icon Willie Nelson, singing
A man had to answer for the wicked that he’d done
Take all the rope in Texas, find a tall oak tree
Round up all of them bad boys, hang them high in the street
For all the people to see
Then Toby Keith, singing with Nelson, chimed in
That justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys, you got to draw a hard line…..
(Toby Keith and Scotty Emerick, Beer For My Horses, 2003)
THE REACTION TO THE POPULIST REVOLT
The song is Beer For My Horses, a huge hit way back in 2003. A lot has changed in America in the last 20 years. The biggest change is the complete distrust of the establishment that has come over a large swath of the middle class. In ’03 the leftish media press was not wary of any sign of “insurrection.” They were congratulating Nelson for being the oldest country artist to go to #1 (at 70), not asking how many of those “bad boys” hanging “high in the street” were black. But fast forward to 2023, and all hell breaks loose when Jason Aldean merely states his mythical “small town” is not going to tolerate the Antifa types, let their guns be confiscated, or let the local cops be disrespected.
Willie Nelson, beloved by the Left, found commercial success singing about vigilante justice with Toby Keith in Beer For My Horses.
(photo by rufusowliebat, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
The Toby Keith/Willie Nelson hit occurred before the war in Iraq became endless with its multiple deployments of National Guard. Their song skyrocketed to #1 before a huge number of homeowners watched their houses go underwater, before retirement funds vanished, and unemployment befell many in the “Great Recession.” Adding insult to great injury the establishment types lingering near the 2008 “meltdown” were exposed as liars trying to get average Americans to plow more into the stock market right up until obvious disaster occurred. Oh and none of those politically-connected actors responsible for the crisis went to jail. Those paying attention and those who suffered among farmers, working people and suburban dwellers were nurturing a slow burn. They didn’t bolt into the streets like the youngish, leftist Occuply Wall Street, but they did not forget, either.
Nelson and Keith’s hit occurred before both parties experienced rebellions from Ron Paul, the Tea Party, Howard Dean, and Bernie Sanders. Most important of all the song hit the charts before working people issued what leftist filmmaker Michael Moore described as “a big F— You” in the form of electing Donald Trump in 2016. For many, Trump brought hope for a populist revolt against what would come to be known as the Uniparty, a globalist coalition of establishment Ds and Rs, or in other words, the neo Marxists working with the prostitutes for big corporations. It should be pointed out that unlike Toby and Willie, Jason Aldean specifically called out the actions of our new protected class, Marxist agitators. And the song also implies citizens organized to prevent the Feds from taking their guns. These days much of the middle class has quit buying the establishment narrative(s). For that reason, the powers that be saw this “vigilante” talk by Jason Aldean as dangerous.
Music is a very significant part of culture, and culture is upstream from politics, just like the Marxist social engineers of the Frankfort School said it was. Country music is played in restaurants, and bars, and repair shops, and every other kind of small business and many large businesses all across America, as well as on radios, cell phones, and in the largest venues in the country. Our establishment doesn’t want working people, and heaven forbid, those problematic white working people, up in arms.
There has been some political partisanship in country music since its inception, and lists drawn up as to who was a D or an R. Long ago most country Rs talked about patriotism, supporting the military and references that were 2A. But after our corporate and political leadership gave China membership in the WTO in 1999, blue collar America saw industrial jobs melt away while illegal aliens continued to pour over the border, depressing wages for the jobs that were left. And on the cultural front conditions devolved to pro athletes taking a knee rather than saluting the flag of the country that gave them so much, and by covid time many parents who caught snatches of the new in-home instruction realized America’s public school children were being groomed for evil. And remember, country entertainers were prevented from touring during the covid lockdowns. With every passing year a pent up demand was building for country entertainers to speak out. Middle America, in large numbers, quit trusting many so-called leaders, those dark souls we see on the “news” every night, heavily laden with corporate cash and the same talking points.
More than a couple of country artists were well aware of developments. Here is Justin Moore, from a chart-topping country album by the same name, after the Great Recession was in full force, in 2009.
I’m just a country boy from this land
Makin’ a livin’ with these two hands
Still believe in the good ole American way
I watch ’em shut the factories down
Then the foreigners flood into town
They take what’s left for half the pay
We can’t stand by and just let it fade away
The good ole American way
Got sense enough to know things change
But the little man’s gettin’ screwed today
Somebody with a backbone, please stand up[i]
(Jeremy Stover, Justin Moore, Brian Maher, The Good Ole’ American Way, 2009)
Hank Williams, Jr. (the country superstar who is still referred to reverently in more modern country hits than any other artist) was provoked by the treatment he received on the FOX NEWS show Fox and Friends in 2011. He wanted to speak out and decided to let Obama have it as well. He recorded Keep the Change in just a few days with no planned ad campaign or corporate promo but the internet carried it to #28 on ITunes.
This country’s sure as hell been goin’ down the drain
We know what we need
We know who to blame
United Socialist States of America
How do ya like that name?
I’ll keep the USA, and y’all can keep the change
(Luke Robert Laird, Hillary Lee Lindsey, Keep the Change, 2011)
The incident with Williams foreshadowed today’s developments in two ways. His Monday Night Football’s theme song, All My Rowdy Friends Are Comin’ Over Tonight was cancelled by ESPN for anti-Obama sentiments he felt he was tricked into sharing on Fox and Friends. Second, he put his reaction to these developments into Keep The Change which was marketed outside normal Nashville channels.
#1 HITS: AARON LEWIS (2021), JOHN RICH (2022), J6 PRISONERS/TRUMP, NATASHA OWENS, KARI LAKE, AND JASON ALDEAN (2023)
Aaron Lewis migrated from rock to country, attacking the corporate influence on music and dangers to the American way of life.
In late 2010, Aaron Lewis, frontman for the edgy alt-rock band Staind. added a second, separate career singing country music. The nation was in economic turmoil. But at that moment, corporate country music was solidifying the “bro country” genre, known for its vacuous lyrics light years from political relevance. Lewis’ presence shook things up more than a little bit. His first single in his new genre was Country Boy, a paeon to Hank Jr.’s A Country Boy Can Survive. With the help of country music immortal George Jones, Lewis told the listener how early in his career big money corporates in the music industry encouraged him to create an inauthentic persona, ditch his wife and leave his (rural American) friends. Lewis, who supported Ron Paul for president in 2008, then pivoted to his description of personal authenticity.
Now two flags fly above my land, and really sum up how I feel
One is the colors that fly high and proud, the red, the white, the blue
The other one’s got a rattlesnake, with a simple statement made
“Don’t tread on me” is what it says, and I’ll take that to my grave
(Aaron Lewis, Country Boy, 2010)
Then country icon and fiddle-master Charlie Daniels recited an outro for Lewis’s song, with fiddle and a single snare drum in the background.
I love my country, I love my guns, I love my family, I love the way it is now
And anybody that tries to change it has to come through me
That should be all of our attitudes, ’cause this is America[i]
That was from Lewis’ first country song. It charted fairly well. But the You Tube video of the song with country legends George Jones and Charlie Daniels and a straight shot of patriotic anger has a whopping 203M views to date on You Tube, a number that has continued to rise steadily. The demand for that kind of fare only grew over time, from the Great Recession and the Tea Party, to the riots in 2020, the covid tyranny, and the questionable election that we weren’t supposed to question. In 2021, after the riots, after Covid, after we were assured Joe Biden did get eighty-one million votes, Aaron Lewis had his first blockbuster country hit, one of only ten songs ever to debut at #1 (for another one, see Oliver Anthony, discussed below):
Am I the only one, willing to bleed?
Take a bullet for being free
Screamin’, “What the f—!” at my TV
For tellin’ me, yeah, are you tellin’ me?
That I’m the only one, willin’ to fight
For my love of the red and white
And the blue, burning on the ground
Another statue coming down in a town near you
Watching the threads of Old Glory come undone
(Jeffrey Steele, Aaron Lewis, Ira Dean, Am I the Only One, 2021)
Lewis’ song opened at #1, showing how much pent-up demand, and how much anger, there actually was in the country music fanbase that resides mostly in middle America. But the reaction from the establishment was fairly subdued. Lewis had become well known in rock as the frontman for Staind. But he had been a figure who had been marginalized by the country music establishment. He did not fill stadium-sized venues like the biggest acts in country do regularly, which kept him from drawing the attention of the keepers of popular culture.
John Rich is an established country singer who has focused more on speechmaking, Fox News hits, and political activism in the last few years. After having some commercial success with Earth to God in 2020 he reached #1 on ITunes with Progress in 2022. This song, like Lewis’ Am I the Only One, was co-written by Jeffrey Steele.
They invite the whole world to come live in our land
And leave our countrymen dying in Afghanistan
They say let go of Jesus and let government save
You can have back your freedoms if you do what we say
(John Rich, Vicky Mcgehee, Jeffery Steele, Progress, 2022)
Three songs, directly pro-Trump, would make it to #1 on ITunes in the first half of 2023. Prisoners held for allegations related to events at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 offered a haunting rendition of the National Anthem juxtaposed with Donald Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in Justice for All. Two other songs crossed into the country music genre. Ed Henry, the former Fox news reporter, produced a recording with a country rock band backing the snide narration of Arizona’s election victim Kari Lake, 81 Million Votes My Ass. Kari Lake is a political figure and not a musical artist. An obscure back-up singer that did come out of the country music world.
Natasha Owens, took Trump Won and You Know It to the top of the charts about the same time. In all three cases these songs were promoted by pro-Trump political media and traditional conservative radio talk show hosts. These three efforts were greeted negatively. None provoked a mountain of news stories or panic across “mainstream media,” with titles like “Country Music is at a Crossroads.”
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Kari Lake defeated for the governorship of Arizona under suspicious circumstances, had some fun with 81 Million Votes My Ass, a song which reached #1 on ITunes. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
That level of provocation would come from one Jason Aldean. Unlike Lewis, Rich, the J6 prisoners, Owens, or Lake, Aldean is a central figure in modern country music. His career featured twenty-seven #1 country hits, six platinum albums (including the quadruple platinum My Kinda Party), and five Grammy nominations before Try That in a Small Town. Aldean’s packed stadium shows added a new feature last summer: fans screaming “USA” at the top of their lungs as he served up his now infamous warning to the cop-disrespecting and flag burning radicals, the car-jacking criminals, and the gun-grabbing agents of the administrative state who might come to that “small town” of his,
Where’s there’s good ole’ boys
Raised up right
If your lookin’ for a fight
Try that in a small town
See how far it takes you down the road
Round 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
(Kelley Lovelace, Neil Thrasher, Tully Kennedy, Kurt Michael Allison, Try That In A Small Town, 2023)
JASON ALDEAN GETS “THE TREATMENT”
Megastar Jason Aldean crossed the political correctness line and the reaction “didn’t take long.” Aldean’s “MAGA Anthem” climbed the charts despite being banned on Country Music Television (CMT), and having FOX threaten court action to get BLM riot footage removed from his song’s music video. But the journey is just beginning for Mr. Aldean. The commercial success of Try that In a Small Town in 2023 was undeniable. It climbed to the very top of the charts , #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. But at the same time, the “Treatment” was seen in full force, emanating from leftist reviewers who have all the perches in so-called mainstream corporate media. (Here’s a typical example, there are literally hundreds.)
The narrative was constructed and repeated, over and over again, the way the leftwing disciples of Saul Alinsky have always done it. Here we go: The song’s video was shot at a location where a black man was lynched (are they reaching, it was a 100 years ago). The song is violent. The song glorifies vigilantes. Aldean is a loose cannon. Aldean disrespected the trans community. Aldean’s career is over, so he’s resorting to this stuff. Aldean played golf with Trump, what do you expect. Country singers today don’t usually get political because their audiences don’t like it…..
All the features of the Treatment were in place. Repetition of (lying) narrative. Other entertainers attacking Aldean. The View attacking Aldean. Politicians attacking Aldean. Representatives of the so-called “communities” of color and of every other thing attacking Aldean. Leading to pressuring corporate venues to cancel Aldean, pressuring corporate production people to cancel Aldean, stories about all the other things wrong with Aldean. This is the raw feature of the Marxist Saul Alinsky tactic: endless repetition of the most vile smears these hirelings can come up with, playing their roles as reviewers, journalists, and spokespeople for country music given to them by an elite with a very definite agenda.
None of this is depressed sales of Try That In a Small Town. But the Left is not big on forgive and forget, particularly when their target is unrepentant. The onslaught of hyperbole set up justification for more serious tactics in the future. Those might include denying Aldean access to top venues, ticket systems (Ticketmaster is the woke of the woke), the big tech music providers like ITunes and the production specialists that are central to Nashville-style success. Aldean lost his Nashville PR firm of seventeen years, a spineless outfit called the GreenRoom, because he and his wife did not bow the knee to the transgender insanity in an earlier scuffle with the culture destroyers.
One of the most interesting elements of last year’s manufactured drama was the huge support Aldean received from online-based black influencers, who seem to be clearer than many others about the fact that when it comes to attacks on Aldean, the Man (the corporate establishment) cannot be trusted, period. This mirrored the shear number of rap artists who are cranking out pro-Trump, anti-Biden, and anti-corporate material that is having commercial success.
Hank Williams, Jr. has vexed the corporate music establishment since the 1970s. He was one of the first victims of cancel culture and pioneered using the internet to successfully market a controversial and politically charged song, Keep The Change.
(Adambroachphotography, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
NASHVILLE AND THE CHANGING NATURE OF MEDIA
But while the corporate creatures employ the same tactics in the dying newspapers, for the geriatric audiences of the soon to be dying cable shows, and on the Big Tech news feeds, a change is happening under their feet. That change can be seen with country music. Nashville has always featured a pretty brutal top-down system. Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Hank, Jr. and others became famous attacking it in the ‘80s, for mostly cultural and stylistic reasons. The press at that time dubbed them “the Outlaws.” Today Nashville is richer than ever, and more corporate top-down than ever. But now, the corporate owners are the same wokesters that are plaguing the rest of American society.
New artists in Nashville in particular, have been understandably afraid to speak up, but Jason Aldean made it easier. Newcomer Austin Moody reached the ITunes top five with the anti-woke I’m Just Sayin’. Blake Shelton, Travis Tritt, John Rich, Jake Owen, Kid Rock, Lee Greenwood, and a number of other artists came to Aldean’s aid. Cody Johnson and Brantley Gilbert each interrupted their own performances to show Aldean support, to very approving fans. Will the corporate oligarchs who control Nashville just try to ride out this trend of the last few years, till say, after the 2024 election? Or will they use the considerable infrastructure built for celebrity creation and hit-making to intimidate vulnerable artists attempting another politically-laced hit in this volatile election year? The tidal wave of approval by the country audience for the type of songs described above means more are likely coming.
OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM: RICH MEN, NORTH OF RICHMOND
We’ll also see to what degree country artists who want to speak up will need to find their way outside “the system.” A growing number of country acts are going right to their audience through the internet with blunt, nearly unfiltered political messages. Creed Fisher and Buddy Brown are examples. The most dramatic example came from a heretofore unknown artist named Oliver Anthony. He used the internet and political media to bring yet another song of protest that seemingly came from the right to the top of the charts. It immediately bumped Aldean’s monster hit. Anthony also placed four other songs in the top ten, in three days. Some lyrics from his chart-topping Rich Men, North of Richmond:
These rich men north of Richmond
Lord knows they all just want to have total control
Wanna know what you think
Wanna know what you do
And they don’t think you know
But I know that you do
‘Cause your dollar ain’t s— and its taxed to no end
‘Cause of rich men, north of Richmond
(Oliver Anthony, Rich Men North of Richmond)
The rapid advancement of this latest “right-wing anthem” brought Oliver Anthony the most media attention afforded any of these recent #1s with the possible exception of Try That In a Small Town. The new artist insisted he was not coming from the right side of the spectrum so the number of days he was held up as a patriotic hero by John Rich and others were not too many. The commercial future for his music, brought forth with the help of West Virginia Public Radio, is unknown at this point. His actual political views really don’t matter. Perceived as a populist truth-teller, with no name ID, he was able to record some songs on his cell phone and then suddenly climb to the literal “top of the charts.” Anthony became the first artist to start at #1 on the Billboard 100 who had never charted, or even sold music before.
THE FIGHTING SIDE
America is in an hour of decision. That’s true for moms with school kids, for politicians, and for the country musicians. The country music audience is vast and consists mostly of working people with traditional values who have been greatly affected by the endless wars, the deindustrialization of America and the collapse of its borders. Who will speak up? Who will run and who will fight? Globalism has destroyed our industrial base and now it’s coming for our agriculture, as well as for our love of country and America’s traditional values. The Marxist left that the globalists adore is coming for our kids, telling them in a hundred different ways, how bad our country is. Kinda reminds me of lyrics penned years ago by yet another country music legend who didn’t always fit in, Merle Haggard.
They love our milk and honey
But they preach about some other way of living
And when they’re running down our country, man
They’re walking on the fighting side of me
(Merle Haggard, Fightin’ Side of Me, 1970)
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