Ever since that scandal blew up last year about Jason Aldean cheating on his wife on a drunken night out I knew I had to write this article. A few years ago, when there was this huge buzz about him, I decided to get in on the action and downloaded ‘Wide Open’ and then ‘My Kinda Party’ later to really get up to speed on this new superstar of the moment in country music. At the time, although I’d been listening to country for a few years, I’d only listened to a select group of artists and hadn’t done a lot of exploring, so I was fairly new to the sound Jason was producing. So for that reason, I enjoyed the majority of the songs that I heard, they were a good jam, with ‘Wide Open’ leaning to more commercial sounds, and ‘My Kinda Party’ taking it one step further in the country rock terrain, but still remaining pretty commercial. There are a couple of songs that are definitely worth listening to, and I would say that even now.
However: It got to a point where I began to get frustrated with Jason’s music. I suddenly realised that his songs, they were all the same, in one way or another. The majority of the songs, about country pride, but pitched in a kind of alpha-masculinity that feels a little aggressive. I realized that his singing doesn’t feel friendly, and that this enhanced his music in a way that made his heavily patriarchal songs appear slightly menacing. The phallic imagery in ‘Big Green Tractor’ doesn’t sound cheeky like someone such as Luke Bryan could make it, but instead to me feels threatening and creepy. His use of words, in addition, appear as ‘buzzwords’, as if they’re token words designed to present him as country. There is so much of the same intense country pride theme that it feels almost novelty and inauthentic.
In conjunction with this, I realized something even more fundamental about his songs – the portrayal of women. All the women in his songs are ‘pretty little things’. They’re things to drive to see on the porch, just out the shower, drinking sweet tea (just like women are supposed to do apparently, you wouldn’t get a song like ‘This I Gotta See’ about a man), they’re things to watch dance in their little shorts, get drunk and then take back to sleep with. Even with the more relationship-type songs, all the women are just the pretty, silent woman in his house, on his arm. They’re not powerful women, they’re not complicated women, they don’t have a personality or an attitude they are just there, a face and body, loving him or wanting him. Now admittedly I have not listened to a lot of ‘Night Train’, so I don’t know what the song topics are like and whether they are better in that department, but as a woman I feel a little bit insulted. There’s enough patriarchy in country music already without songs like this. I know it’s not utterly confined to Jason but usually other country stars tend to have a bit more of a variety.
I listened to ‘Night Train’ once or twice through when it was released back in October, under the impression Jason had given in an interview that it would not be ‘My Kinda Party pt. 2’. Well I don’t know whether I wasn’t listening properly, but it certainly felt like it WAS a part 2 to me. It didn’t feel any less aggressive, or musically different than his previous records, and I wasn’t up for listening further just to potentially prove myself right. In essence, it is a combination of ‘Wide Open’, and ‘My Kinda Party’, but feels even less country, if that were possible. I think we can all be honest in that Jason was never your most country-sounding artist, but I feel like ‘Night Train’, apart from sticking with some similar themes (though with a heavier emphasis on generic love and heartbreak songs rather than so much of country pride), doesn’t even try. Like he’s taking his position for granted.
For me, the album could easily be classified as ‘alternative’ ‘rock’ or ‘pop/rock’ if it were from a new artists being listened on iTunes. If they knew nothing about Jason, if the slate were clean, there is no way he would be pronounced as country unless it had been specifically requested. Now this isn’t uncommon in Nashville so I’m not going to draw on this too much, but it just adds to the overall situation. In addition, we have Jason’s assumption that because ‘Dirt Road Anthem’ was a hit, that he can rap. No Jason. ‘Dirt Road Anthem’ was a hit because Brantley Gilbert wrote it. You’re a shocking rapper and should never ever rap again.
So amongst the aggressive vibe, country ‘buzzwords’, terrible portrayal of women, songs all sounding the same, a lack of actual country music, and some shocking rapping, we then have the news that Jason, while drunk and on a night out, cheated on his wife with some ex-American Idol contestant named Brittany Kerr (who was 11 years his junior). It wasn’t just that he publicly humiliated his wife, but he called it “really embarrassing I think, more than anything”. You don’t feel embarrassed when you cheat on your wife, who you’ve promised in vows your lifelong fidelity to, and created two lives with. You feel incredibly guilty and distraught, I would have thought. I can imagine his wife was certainly extremely upset and betrayed, and will probably find it hard it trust him for a long time. To add to this, he never publicly apologized to his wife, he just said “we’re doing okay”, and everything he said about it sounded as if they’d suffered a close family loss. Not that he’d totally messed up and been an asshole. In fact, all his statements about the whole thing made him seem like even more of an asshole than I already knew he was. The rumors of Jason cheating whilst on tour are unconfirmed, but after this scandal a few months ago, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were true.
Everything about the scandal was shameful and made me lose all respect for a man I didn’t much respect for to begin with. So where do I stand now with Jason? I think he’s had his peak for sure. Naturally he will continue to release albums and win the odd award but we’ve already seen recently that Luke Bryan appears to be taking his place in reigning mainstream male superstar of country music. And personally I FAR prefer Luke Bryan, whose songs are more fun, catchier, more heartfelt, actually written by him, and he’s actually nice to look at and feels a lot kinder and more genuine than Jason.
Crux of the argument? Jason, you’ve had your day. You’re boring, annoying and you don’t seem like the nicest of people. Now please remove yourself from my radio.