It’s a time-honored tradition in popular music to embrace a persona or even fudge the truth a bit in service of an artistic statement. But maybe if your statement is an extremely jingoistic one rooted in myopic, rose-colored views of an American pastoral — like Jason Aldean’s “Try That In a Small Town” — you might want to favor printing the fact over the legend (so to speak) and not use a bunch of footage from Canada in your music video.
The “Try That In a Small Town” video, directed by Shaun Silva, has already garnered plenty of criticism for the way it uses stock footage of protests, depicting them as violent, lawless, and devoid of any legitimate reason or cause. Additionally, the video shows Aldean and his band performing “Try That In a Small Town” in front of a courthouse reportedly located in Columbia, Tennessee, which was the site of a 1933 lynching.
(Despite the chorus being a vague warning to troublemakers, cop-haters, and flag-stompers, Aldean has rejected the interpretation of the song as pro-vigilante or “pro-lynching.” Instead, the musician said in a statement that he believes the song “refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief.”)
Digging into the stock footage featured in the video, Rolling Stone uncovered clips of protests and police brutality in places like Georgia and New York. But there was also a surprising amount of protest footage from our neighbors to the north. Most prominent is a clip at 2:01 featuring a burning cop car, which appears to have been taken from footage of the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto.
A few moments before, at 1:55, there’s footage of a bunch of cops in riot gear charging at a group of protesters. That clip comes from Montreal, likely from the wave of student protests that erupted there over planned tuition hikes in 2012. At the 1:01 there’s another clip from Montreal, and you can even probably figure out where Silva found the footage: The stock media library Pond5, where it’s available for $70.
Neither Silva, nor Aldean immediately returned Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
Another inconsistency inherent to “Try That In a Small Town” has also gained some traction online in recent days: The fact that Aldean himself is very much not from a small town. The musician was born and largely raised in Macon, one of Georgia’s largest cities, which currently has a sizable population of about 150,000.
One of the song’s co-writers, Kelley Lovelace, definitely has a bit more of a claim to the small-town background, hailing from Paducah, Kentucky — but Lovelace is also the source of maybe the wildest bit of contradiction in the whole “Try That In a Small Town” saga. As the great critic Ann Powers recently pointed out on Twitter, Lovelace is a longtime collaborator of Brad Paisley and co-wrote 2009’s “American Saturday Night,” a song that warmly celebrates the American melting pot and our myriad differences. Or, as Powers succinctly put it, a song that represents the “apex of Obama-era liberalism in country.”