Two friends, one jumbled, well-intentioned message, and a whole lot of Internet buzz. Brad Paisley's new single "Accidental Racism" has fans and critics scratching their heads over what exactly the country crooner and collaborator LL Cool J are trying to get at in the pseudo-apologetic track, which was leaked online just ahead of Paisley's album release on Tuesday, April 9.
The song, which starts off with a series of forlorn guitar rifts, initially seems to be an earnest attempt to address issues like racism, the Confederacy and slavery. But upon closer listen, there actually isn't much of an apology in the lyrics at all.
"To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main, I hope you understand," the song begins, "When I put on that T-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I'm a Skynyrd fan/ The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the South."
Paisley, 40, then goes on to detail how even though he's apologetic for what his ancestors may have done in the past, "Our generation/ Didn't build this nation," and therefore he is not actually guilty of being a true racist.
"I'm just a white man/ Living in the southland," he croons over the groove of the song, later adding that "I try to put myself in your shoes/ That's a good place to begin/ But it ain't like I can walk a mile in someone else's skin."
At one point during the song, Paisley's pal LL Cool J offers his two cents, rapping from his point of view as a "do-rag" wearing, "gold chain" donning black man who similarly wants to break past stereotypes.
"If you don't judge my do-rag, I won't judge your red flag," he raps on the track as Paisley continues to bemoan the difficult internal struggles of being "proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done."
The "Whiskey Lullaby" singer defended his decision to pen and record the controversial song, however, telling Entertainment Weekly that the track is not a "stunt."
"I'm doing it because it just feels more relevant than it even did a few years ago," he said of why he chose to tackle such hot-button issues in the song. "I think that we're going through an adolescence in America when it comes to race. You know, it's like we're almost grown up. You have these little moments as a country where it's like, 'Wow things are getting better.' And then you have one where it's like, 'Wow, no they're not.'"
Paisley also pointed to Hollywood's hits Lincoln and Django Unchained as reasons to bring up the oft-uncomfortable conversation.
"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," he continued. "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 and 'if you don't judge my do rag, I won't judge your red flag.'"
"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."
So tell Us, do you think Brad Paisley's song is offensive or just misunderstood?