Having made his first music video only four years ago, Jason Aldean is still an infant in this medium. Even so, he has already established a strong and consistent presence as a thoughtful, intense, sometimes brooding troubadour whose songs — whatever their subject matter — are to be taken seriously. He’s not trying to come across as one of the boys or to make you laugh. He wants your full attention. In other words, he’s more rock regal than country chummy.
Contributing to this more somber tone is the fact that the first seven of Aldean’s eight videos are mixtures of black and white and muted colors, which, depending on the scene, can impart either a dreamy or nightmarish quality. Whatever the background, though, Aldean’s tall, rangy frame, assertive poses and middle-distance gaze make him a compelling figure to watch.
Here’s his portfolio.
“Hicktown” (2005) — A tour bus rolls up in the middle of nowhere, stagehands get to work and suddenly you’ve got a show. This clip surrenders to all the usual down-home clichés — guys in monster trucks and astride ATVs, exquisitely sculpted girls clad in denim miniskirts and baring their navels, mud everywhere. But with his wide stance and imperious glare, Aldean seems to rise above all the predictables, even as he urges the action along.
“Amarillo Sky” (2006) — The video opens with a series of young farmers speaking into the camera and telling how dear farming is to their hearts and how perilous the profession has become. As tractors roll, crop dusters fly and combines rumble across the fields, Aldean and his band become the Greek chorus that comments on this noble struggle to survive.
“Johnny Cash” (2007) — Here, Aldean not only name-checks the Man in Black, he seems to be channeling him, as well, right down to the snarls and hand gesture. Standing in a neon netherworld, he sings of the need to flee a dead-end town and never come back. This isn’t the light-hearted escapism of “Heads Carolina, Tails California.” This is a dark, desperate flight. Just look at the vacant face of the girl who agrees to go along on this aimless journey.
“Laughed Until We Cried” (2007) — Looking convincingly pensive, Aldean strolls along a beach as phantom figures from his youth cavort in the sand. Then he’s on to the beachside amusement park, still deep in thought, until his little girl runs into his arms and brings his bittersweet reveries back to real life. This is the only video to date in which Aldean isn’t shown singing.
“Relentless” (2008) — Life on the road can be a real drag when you’re separated from the one you love, says this video. Deep in thought, Aldean sprawls in a motel room, looking at a phone that doesn’t ring. Then he goes for a solitary walk. But nothing dispels the loneliness. On another level, this video serves to “brand” and position Aldean as a headliner via its concert setup scenes and prominent JA signage.
“She’s Country” (2008) — Unlike the show-in-a-pasture of “Hicktown,” here Aldean and company set up for a big arena show. The payoff: adoring chicks crowding up to the edge of the stage (all presumably of rural origin or aspiration).
“Big Green Tractor” (2009) — This live clip, which shows Aldean and his band performing against a huge backdrop, is in rich rather than muted colors. Lots of flashing lights and waves of applause. Most of the close-ups, though, are of Aldean and his lead guitar player. JA has arrived.