Brad Paisley has said about his new album Wheelhouse, which hit stores today, that he was determined to challenge himself with each and every song. And as he and pretty much the entire music world witnessed yesterday, the challenge isn’t just in the writing–but in how to deal with the reaction from listeners.

Songs, Brad found out, can still start fires…particularly when the word “racist” is involved. The song in question is “Accidental Racist,” which appears on Wheelhouse. It’s a duet with rapper LL Cool J, and it aims to bring the question of racism–accidental or otherwise–out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Brad has called it one of his “proudest moments as a songwriter.”

The song, though, was quickly criticized from a number of angles, one being how the lyrics hang too closely onto the whole “Southern pride” thing. There’s also the issue of equating “do-rags” with “red flags,” not to mention “gold chains” with “iron chains.”

On his Twitter page today, Brad acknowledged the controversy: “I hope the album rocks you,soothes you,raises questions,answers,evokes feelings, all the way through,” he wrote in one message. And in another: “This is a record meant to be FAR from easy listening.” And finally, he says, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Paisley also spoke about the song this week with Ellen DeGeneres on her show Ellen.

“I felt like when we were writing this song,” he told the talk show host, “it wasn’t really up to the media…Hollywood…or talk radio to deal with that anymore. I think it’s music’s turn to have the conversation.”



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