Jason Aldean is a country superstar who stirs passionate responses. Specifically, he’s both beloved and hated. His sixth album, Old Boots, New Dirt, debuted at No. 1. His 2014 tour sold out. And Billboard magazine’s cover story on him pronounced him “King of the Bros” (a reference to what’s known as “bro country,” a heavily rock-infused subset of country music that focuses equally heavily on trucks, girls and beer).
That would be the beloved part.
But Mr. Aldean got caught kissing American Idol contestant Brittany Kerr in 2012. And since then, he’s divorced his wife (Jessica Ussery, with whom he has two daughters) and got engaged to Kerr—actions that have earned him a lot of bad press and ill will.
“It has been two years of this s—. Get over it already!” he told Billboard. “I’m not blaming anybody. Obviously, a lot of that stuff is my own deal. But I could go post something on my page right now that says, ‘Hey, we just donated $5 million to a children’s cancer research center,’ and somebody would get on there and go, ‘You’re an a–hole cheater.'”
That would be the hate part.
A flawed fellow offers a mea culpa on “Too Fast,” then says he wants to do better: “I want to be the man that you thought I was/I want to be the man that made you fall in love/I can’t undo everything I’ve done/But let me tell you right now/Baby, you’re the only one.” The title track also hopes for a fresh start, this time in a new place in the wake of a breakup, while “Don’t Change Gone” admits that some losses can’t be dealt with simply by changing the radio station or the scenery.
On “Tryin’ to Love Me,” a guy realizes that a woman he thought was manipulating and trying to control him was just expressing her love. The nostalgic “I Took It With Me” praises hard work and fondly recalls small-town roots.
“Just Gettin’ Started” finds Aldean in a car with a too-willing woman (“I knew the minute I picked you up/It was gonna be a wild ride/You kissed me like you couldn’t get enough”). Later the fact the she’s got her shoes off and the seat back implies they might not make it to where they’re going. “Sweet Little Somethin'” drives those lyrical back roads again as a guy tells a woman dancing, “I need a sweet little somethin’ like you, girl/Sliding into my world/Yeah, I’ve been needing it all night.” They end up in his pickup, where the man hopes they’ll stay: “I wanna ride you ’round in my old truck/Keep you out until the sun comes up.”
“Laid Back” describes an outdoor party where there’s drinking, dancing and leering: “Got our headlights circled, Chevrolet/Saturday night at a riverbank/Silver Bullets popping, got the speakers rocking/ … Watching them pretty girls work that/Baby, shake it just right, I could do this all night/ … Well, there’s no last call or closing time/Just good stuff passing left and right.” Hit single ” Burnin’ It Down” is all about getting drunk, naked and “busy” (“Sippin’ on some cold Jack Daniel’s/Jammin’ to some old Alabama with you, baby/Laying right here naked in my bed/ … We about to get a little tangled up right about now”). “Tonight Looks Good on You” gushes, “Wind blowing your hair around/Girl, it makes me want to lay you down.” Likewise, “Miss That Girl” implies that an old flame once spent time in Aldean’s backseat.
“Gonna Know We Were Here” promises a nonstop, raucous party. Aldean suggests he’s living so fast that it might just cut his life short—but he doesn’t care (“And we may not be around in 20 years, but they’re sure gonna know we were here”). “Two Night Town” finds a man trying to drown his sorrows in sex ‘n’ suds, even though he knows the Bible would instruct otherwise. We hear, “It was women, it was sinnin’, it was alcohol/It was everything the Bible says will make a man fall/And I didn’t want a little, Lord, I wanted it all.” A couple of tracks include “d–n.”
Generous listeners might be inclined to read some of the more positive lyrics on Old Boots, New Dirt as a kind of confession from Jason Aldean. There are, after all, lines about missing an old love, recognizing mistakes made and longing to be a better man. (Never mind, of course, that Aldean didn’t actually write any of these songs.)
But then we’ve got all those backwoods parties. With beer. And gaga girls. And the devil-may-care attitude that snuggles up to the idea that sinning’s more fun than being good. Aldean brags, “If my truck could talk, I’d have to yank out all the wires/Pour on the gas, set it on fire, anything to shut it up.”
Then again, I’m not convinced Aldean would care all that much if his beloved truck spilled all his dirty laundry. When Billboard talked to him about the racy lyrics in his hit “Burnin’ It Down,” he said, “People in country music, when they think about the fan base, they think about the soccer mom driving her kids in the car. So then it’s like, ‘Somebody said ‘naked’ on the radio? Oh my God. We’ve got to go church tonight.’ If that’s the worst thing that’s said on radio or the worst thing that your kids see on TV—I mean, you see worse stuff than that on the Disney Channel.”
I think it’s safe to say the King of the Bros isn’t interested in ruling over the soccer mom market.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.