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Jason Aldean

Jason Aldean

Not a traditionalist and not a bro next door, Jason Aldean cuts a distinctive figure in modern country. Possessed of a serious swagger and a slightly steely edge, two traits that serve him well on full-throttle rockers like "She's Country" and "Crazy Town," Aldean also has a way with a ballad, and these two gifts helped him become one of the biggest new country stars of the 2000s, racking up hits like "Big Green Tractor," "Dirt Road Anthem," and "Take a Little Ride." Aldean stayed on the top of the charts for the better part of two decades, reaching number one on Billboard's Country Airplay chart nearly every year between 2005 and 2020. During this time, he cannily adopted some current trends -- "Burnin' It Down," the double-platinum hit from 2014, incorporated R&B rhythms -- as he quietly emphasized his softer side, one that was showcased well on "If I Didn't Love You," a 2021 duet with Carrie Underwood. Aldean could still connect with his cantankerous side, though, as evidenced by "Try That in a Small Town," a controversial blue-collar anthem that became a number one pop hit in 2023.

Hailing from Macon, Georgia, Jason Aldean began building his reputation in earnest after graduating high school. He steadily worked throughout the Southeast but struggled for years to find a contract in Nashville before finally signing to Broken Bow in 2004. Aldean's third album, Wide Open, established him as a country star in 2009, and the following year's My Kinda Party earned a four-times-platinum certification. He also made a routine of hitting number one on the country charts ("She's Country," "The Truth," "Big Green Tractor," "Dirt Road Anthem," "Take a Little Ride," "Night Train," "Burnin' It Down") and been awarded multiple times by all the major country music organizations, including three consecutive Entertainer of the Year Awards by ACM.

Aldean's parents separated when he was three years old, and he spent his childhood with his mother in Macon through the school year while spending the summers with his father in Homestead, Florida. Early on, he fell under the spell of country music and made his first public appearance as a singer at a VFW hall in Macon when he was 14 years old. Soon he was a regular at area talent contests, and a year later he joined the house band at Nashville South in Macon. Aldean began pursuing a music career on a full-time basis following his graduation from high school and, with his father as a booking agent, was soon gigging in college towns throughout the Southeast and up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

Aldean privately financed an eight-song CD during this period to sell at shows, recording it in Nashville in 1996. Michael Knox spotted Aldean at an Atlanta showcase a year or two later and signed the singer to a songwriting contract with Warner-Chapell Publishing, which allowed Aldean to move to Nashville in 1998. When a couple of recording deals fell through and his songwriting contract was about to expire, Aldean was on the verge of giving up on the music business when he attracted the attention of the independent label Broken Bow Records, which released his debut album, simply called Jason Aldean, in 2005. Aldean returned to the studio in January 2007 to work on his sophomore release, Relentless. The album, featuring the single "Johnny Cash," hit stores in May of that year.

Wide Open followed in 2009 and its success established Aldean as a major country star. It had three number one singles -- "She's Country," "The Truth," and "Big Green Tractor," which crossed over to the pop Top 20 -- and "Crazy Town" was nearly as big, peaking at number two. Aldean upped the ante with 2010's My Kinda Party, an album that was even bigger than its predecessor thanks to the number one singles "Don't You Wanna Stay," "Dirt Road Anthem," and "Fly Over States," plus "Tattoos on This Town" and "My Kinda Party," both of which peaked at number two.

All of this raised expectations for Night Train, Aldean's fifth album, which arrived in the fall of 2012. Featuring the hit singles "Take a Little Ride," "Night Train," and "When She Says Baby," Night Train was another number one hit for Aldean. He followed it up in 2014 with Old Boots, New Dirt, which also entered the Billboard Top 200 and country charts at number one, partially due to the momentum of the hit single "Burnin' It Down." Old Boots, New Dirt generated three other Top Ten hits -- "Just Gettin' Started," "Tonight Looks Good on You," and "Gonna Know We Were Here" -- that kept it on the charts into 2015. The next year, he delivered his seventh studio album, They Don't Know, whose September 2016 release was preceded by the singles "Lights Come On" and "A Little More Summertime."

In October 2017, while Aldean was on-stage performing at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas Strip, a gunman began firing on the assembled crowd, resulting in the deadly mass shooting that took the lives of many of the singer's fans. Aldean managed to escape unharmed and appeared the following weekend on Saturday Night Live performing a cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down." In January 2018 he released "You Make It Easy," the lead single from his Rearview Town album. Completed prior to the Vegas tragedy, Rearview Town appeared in April 2018, and spawned four Country Airplay Number Ones -- "You Make It Easy," the Miranda Lambert duet "Drowns the Whiskey," "Girl Like You," and its title track -- that kept the album on the airwaves into 2019. In November of that year, Aldean returned with his ninth album, 9.

After "We Back" reached six prior to the release of 9, the album generated two Billboard Country Airplay number ones in 2020: "Got What I Got" and "Blame It on You." Aldean returned in 2021 with "If I Didn't Love You," a ballad duet with Carrie Underwood. "If I Didn't Love You" was the first taste of Macon and Georgia, a double album released in two separate parts. Macon arrived in November of 2021; its companion album Georgia appeared in April 2022, just after the release of the chart-topping single "Trouble with a Heartbreak." Both releases reached number eight on the Billboard 200, with Georgia topping out at number two on the country chart.

Aldean returned in 2023 with "Try That in a Small Town," an ornery boast that incited considerable controversy. Supported by a video shot at a Tennessee courthouse that was the site of a lynching and a race riot, the song earned ire from progressive country music fans and was embraced by conservative listeners who were responsible for it becoming the singer's first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. That success set up the November release of Highway Desperado, his first album since 2009 to bear his own songwriting credits. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Steve Leggett

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