Brad Paisley was surely hoping for a big splash on Tuesday (April 9) with the release of his ninth studio album, Wheelhouse. But what he's gotten is more like a tidal wave.
On an album that features a couple of hook-ups with fellow Nashville types like Charlie Daniels and Dierks Bentley, the veteran country singer also included a collaboration with LL Cool J titled "Accidental Racist."
After the song hit the Internet on Monday it immediately stirred up some controversy thanks to provocative lyrics that include, "I'm a white man living in the southland...I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done," and "It ain't like you and me can rewrite history...walking over eggshells."
In the tune, Paisley, who performed at Sunday night's Academy of Country Music Awards with John Mayer, describes trying to work out race issues after walking into a coffee shop wearing a confederate flag t-shirt.
Singing that he's just, "A proud rebel son ... lookin' like I got a lot to learn," Paisley prompts LL to respond, "If you don't judge my do-rag ... I won't judge your red flag ... If you don't judge my gold chains ... I'll forget the iron chains."
After those lines, and others, raised some eyebrows, Paisley spoke to Entertainment Weekly about his intentions.
"I think that [the song] comes from an honest place in both cases, and that's why it's on there and why I'm so proud of it," he said, adding that art has a responsibility to lead the discussion on difficult topics and ask hard questions. "This isn't a stunt. This isn't something that I just came up with just to be sort of shocking or anything like that. I knew it would be, but I'm sort of doing it in spite of that, really."
Paisley said he feels like America is going through an "adolescence," when it comes to race, where sometimes it feels like things are getting better, but other times it doesn't.
"It really came to a boil last year with 'Lincoln' and 'Django [Unchained] and there's just a lot of talk about it," he said. "It was really obvious to me that we still have issues as a nation with this ... We're asking the question in a big way. How do I show my Southern pride? What is offensive to you? And he kind of replies, and his summation is really that whole let's bygones be bygones ... We don't solve anything, but it's two guys that believe in who they are and where they're from very honestly having a conversation and trying to reconcile."
Whatever their intentions, the song inspired a flood of Twitter and Facebook comments questioning its lyrics and message and the apparent removal of the lyric video by day's end. At press time, it did not appear that LL had addressed the controversy on his Twitter feed, which featured the latest in a series of inspirational quotes from the likes of Deepak Chopra, Gandhi, Carl Jung and Eleanor Roosevelt. A spokesperson for LL could not be reached for additional comment at press time.
Don't get it twisted, Paisley said he is "100 percent" with his audience when it comes to the Southern pride thing, just like a Yankees fan wearing a ball cap repping their team is proud of his/her New York roots.
"Symbols mean things, and I know one thing: It just doesn't do any good to blatantly do things and be like, 'Just get over it.' That's not what we're saying," he said. "This is a very sensitive subject, and we're trying to have the discussion in a way that it can help."
"I don't know if we answer anything in this song," Paisley told our CMT News colleagues. "But we might ask the question for the first time, and maybe that's the first step."
What do you think of Paisley's "Accidental Racist? Let us know in comments below!