But Brad Paisley's "Accidental Racist," a duet with LL Cool J on his new album Wheelhouse, out Tuesday, is also hugely controversial.
Styled as a conversation between a white Southerner and a black New Yorker, the song features the two singers having a charged debate about race – and features Paisley's character walking into a coffee shop wearing a shirt with a Confederate flag on it.
"I don't know if any of you noticed, but there is some racial tension here and there," Paisley, 40, says in an interview airing Tuesday on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "I felt like when we were writing this song it wasn't necessarily up to the media … or talk radio or anything like that to deal with that anymore. I think it's music's turn to have the conversation."
In the song, Paisley sings, "[I'm] just a proud rebel son with an ol' can of worms/Lookin' like I got a lot to learn." LL Cool J, 45, replies. "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."
The song caused a firestorm in social media on Tuesday, with many criticizing Paisley for glossing over the history of racism in the South. The actor and comedian Patton Oswalt wrote on Twitter: "I can't wait for Brad Paisley & LL Cool J's next single: 'Whoopsy Daisy, Holocaust, My Bad.' "
But Paisley tells Entertainment Weekly he's just trying to address the topic honestly.
"I just think art has a responsibility to lead the way," he says. "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? 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."