Country music has been in the headlines a lot lately, but for all the wrong reasons.
First, the corporate press came after Luke Combs for releasing a cover of Tracy Chapman’s classic hit, “Fast Car” as — gasp! — a white man. Once sufficiently riled up, the Twitter hordes were unleashed on Jason Aldean over his new music video for “Try That In A Small Town,” an ode to tight community standing together against the kind of anarchist violence the country saw in the summer of 2020.
To their credit, both men, as well as Chapman, have reacted with dignity and grace through it all, and the psuedo-scandals reveal far more about the left than it does about them.
The controversy started last week when Washington Post pop culture columnist Emily Yahr ran an absurd hit piece attacking the supposed racism of a white man covering a song by a “Black queer woman.” Now, Tracy Chapman is no obscure artist being exploited by a big star; she gave her permission for the cover and is receiving royalties. Additionally, she is a household name in her own right, and one would struggle to spend a night at a bar without hearing “Fast Car” play at least once.
But Yahr would have us believe that some grave disparity exists between the original peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was released in 1988, and Combs’ cover which “jumped to No. 4.” This is said to reflect “larger issues in country music and Black art in general.” (RELATED: Country Artists Top Billboard Charts For First Time In More Than 40 Years)
Yahr plays all the linguistic tricks to make her point. She quotes activists discussing how black artists were “sidelined” in the early 20th century, but in the next paragraph skips forward to say how the “systemic lack of diversity has persisted” in country music today. The point is to draw a moral equivalence between American society today and a century ago.
Since country music is a “majority-White” industry and has an “historic emphasis on ‘tradition,” leftists trained to see the world through a lens of racial hierarchy necessarily view it with hostility. In this worldview, the “tradition” espoused in country music themes — faith, family, community — is just a ploy to keep white people atop that hierarchy. If you believe this is “just the way society works,” then country music is indeed a racist genre that must be destroyed.
The faux-outrage over the Combs cover ensured the flood gates on Twitter were ready to explode at the next perceived country music slight. And so they did. (RELATED: Jason And Brittany Aldean Are Totally Unapologetic Over Song Backlash, And We Love To See It)
Aldean’s music video, released last Friday, features real news footage of the violence that has become all too common in left-wing American cities. It shows grocery stores being robbed at gun point, carjackings and left-wing protesters burning American flags and screaming at police. With the eponymous refrain, “Try that in a small town,” Aldean implies that this could never happen in the average American town, given their cohesion, patriotism and commitment to the rule of law, values that apply “regardless of differences of background or belief,” Aldean wrote on Twitter. In other words, the true American ideal.
Yet the left-wing critics speciously misinterpreted the song. The BBC accused Aldean of “promot[ing] vigilante gun violence” while a viral tweet solidified the narrative that is is advocating for “lynching:”
Just a reminder that Jason Aldean grew up in a city (population approx. 160,000) and now lives in Nashville, TN (population 692,000).
He has no idea what “happens in a small town”, he’s just a racist who writes barely concealed lynching songs. https://t.co/5JvfucZ5cN
— Kendall Brown (@kendallybrown) July 17, 2023
The left views the BLM riots — and broader epidemic of violence in American cities — as a justifiable uprising of victims against their oppressors. The rioters are fighting against an unjust society and the criminals are victims of that society, which forces them into a life of crime. All the true victims are just statistics on the path to a utopia of racial equity. If you truly believe that crime in the name of this cause is morally justified, then criticizing or attempting to stop it becomes the immoral act — one which might lead to more “oppressed” people getting harmed under the boot of the vicious system.
Because Aldean is white and espouses small town values, the left believes he must be secretly calling to restore the racial balance leftists have feverishly convinced themselves that white, rural America still clings to. Appeals to patriotism, the rule of law, civic duty — all become a way to deceptively cement that imagined status quo.
Ultimately however, both of these “scandals” are utterly uncontroversial for most Americans. Only radical activists question the appropriateness of black and white people collaborating on music. Most normal people agree that burning, looting, and rioting is bad — no matter the warped justification. Yet for the critics, the very fact that country music is associated with the traditional American values means it must be destroyed at all costs. And they’ll keep crying “racism” until it is.