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When the country superstar Jason Aldean released his new single “Try That in a Small Town,” it was met largely with a shrug, and didn’t seem likely to become one of his signature hits. But when the song’s video was released, full of footage (actual news and stock) of disruptive crowds, criminal activity and anti-police sentiment — and a scene filmed at a site known for the 1927 lynching of an 18-year-old Black man — the song suddenly became a culture war flashpoint.
Out of nowhere, it hit No. 2 in the country, on the strength of support in right-wing circles. Its success has opened up the usual wounds in the country music business about its lack of inclusivity, and publicly pitted some of its biggest names against each other.
On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about how the idea of the small town has been weaponized in country music; Nashville’s tug of war between social progressives in the industry and right-wing audiences; and how culture war content plays out commercially, on radio and in sales.
Marcus K. Dowling, who reports on country music for The Tennessean
Amanda Marie Martinez, a historian and postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has written extensively about race and country music
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