One song that is a clear step outside of Paisley's country "wheel house" is Accidental Racist. It features rapper LL Cool J and is a conversation on the subject of racism. Paisley starts off the song singing about his Rebel flag-draped Lynyrd Sknyrd shirt. Paisley's words are about a man who values southern heritage, but understands why that irks the African-American community.
Halfway into the song, LL Cool J steps in. He raps to "white man" about his negative feelings towards Paisley's Rebel flag and cowboy hat. His argument boils down to the line, "I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn't here."
Paisley and LL Cool J cllearly mean well. The effects of slavery still linger and tensions between races in the United States are unresolved. Honest conversations on race, slavery, segregation, and Lynyrd Skynrd are all good ideas.
But, many believe that Paisley and LL Cool J missed the target on this one.
Grantland writer Rembert Browne, an African-American, wrote, "LL is one ad lib away from making me racist against black people." The Huffington Post said the song will "probably make you cringe." Gawker calls it a "real, horrible song." Various people on Twitter have mocked the song:
Man Paisley should stop talking and start reading. His understanding of the Confed Flag is embarrassing. For him. bit.ly/12AWtMc— Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisi) April 9, 2013
RIP music. (I just listened to "Accidental Racist.")— Andy Levy (@andylevy) April 8, 2013
Obviously “Accidental Racist” is HOT garbage but it actually is a good teaching tool for kids about bone-deep, systemic racism.— rob delaney (@robdelaney) April 8, 2013
Paisley defends the song. He told Entertainment Weekly:
"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...I just think art has a responsibility to lead the way, and I don’t know the answers, but I feel like asking the question is the first step, and we’re asking the question in a big way. How do I show my Southern pride? What is offensive to you?"
He also tweeted some thoughts:
So,as you buy this album,I hope it triggers emotions. I hope you feel joy,heartache,triumph,surprise; you laugh,cry,nudge someone beside you— Brad Paisley (@BradPaisley) April 9, 2013
...I hope the album rocks you,soothes you,raises questions,answers,evokes feelings, all the way through until Officially Alive— Brad Paisley (@BradPaisley) April 9, 2013
'Cause I wouldn't change a thing. This is a record meant to be FAR from easy listening. But fun. Like life. Have a ball, ya'll. love- brad— Brad Paisley (@BradPaisley) April 9, 2013
Brad Paisley is known for several tongue-in-cheek hits like I'm Gonna Miss Her, his song about choosing fishing over a woman. But, he also is known to tackle current issues. His song Welcome to the Future was inspired by the election of President Barack Obama. Ironically, it drew criticism from conservative fans.
Also, in the irony department, it should be noted that Brad Paisley is from West Virginia. That is a state that was created because several counties in Western Virginia decided to sucede from the rest of the state after Virginia decided to sucede from the United States in 1861.
The song may actually get it's desired effect, because so many people believe the song is absurd. People are talking about it and people are saying why they think the song is ridiculous.
Or maybe Paisley and LL Cool J just missed on this one.