“Try That in a Small Town,” which was released in May, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week just behind BTS’s Jung Kook solo single “Seven,” featuring Latto. The track experienced the biggest sales week for a country song in over 10 years.
According to Luminate, the song hit 11.7 million on-demand audio and video streams between July 14 and 20, marking a 1,000% increase from the previous week. Prior to the music video release on July 14, the track accounted for 987,000 streams in the U.S.
Digital song sales increased from 1,000 to 228,000, in those same weeks, respectively.
The music video for the song lasted just one weekend on Country Music Television before the network pulled it in response to an outcry over its setting and lyrics. When the network removed the video from its rotation, it had 350,000 views on YouTube. Now that number is now over 16 million, and it is the No. 1 trending video under the “music” category.
In the visual, Aldean — who has been awarded country music artist of the decade by the Academy of Country Music — performs in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee. It is the site of the 1946 Columbia race riot and the 1927 mob lynching of an 18-year-old Black teenager named Henry Choate.
Aldean’s video received fervent criticism online, with some claiming the visual is a “dog whistle” and others labeling it “pro-lynching.”
“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 wrote in a tweet posted Tuesday.
“Cuss out a cop, spit in his face / Stomp on the flag and light it up / Yeah, ya think you’re tough,” Aldean sings on the track, written by Neil Thrasher, Kurt Allison, Tully Kennedy, and Kelley Lovelace. “Got a gun that my granddad gave me / They say one day they’re gonna round up / Well, that (expletive) might fly in the city, good luck / Try that in a small town.”
On Friday, July 21, while performing at Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center, Aldean addressed the audience with “Cancel culture is a thing… which means try and ruin your life, ruin everything. One thing I saw this week was a bunch of country music fans that could see through a lot of the bulls—, all right?”, according to “The Columbus Dispatch.”
For those wondering if he would play the song live, he said, “The answer is simple. The people have spoken and you guys spoke very, very loudly,” he said, before launching into the song.