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With help from Fox News, Aaron Lewis tops country chart with song bemoaning statue removal

Aaron Lewis performs in Louisville, KY on Sept. 27, 2019.
Aaron Lewis performs in Louisville, Ky. on Sept. 27, 2019.
(Amy Harris / Invision / Associated Press)

America’s new No. 1 country song promises to show “the f— door” to anyone with complaints about the United States.

“Am I the Only One,” by Aaron Lewis — once known to rock fans as the frontman of the nu-metal band Staind — entered Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in the top spot this week, becoming only the ninth song to debut at No. 1 on the closely watched tally.

A stripped-down acoustic ballad built around Lewis’ mournful baritone, “Am I the Only One” delivers the anguished thoughts of a proudly conservative guy troubled by what he views as the encroachments of so-called cancel culture — and does so just as country music is undergoing a public reckoning over its history of racism and discrimination.

“Am I the only one not brainwashed? / Making my way through the land of the lost,” he sings, “Who still gives a s— and worries ’bout his kids / As they try to undo all the things he did.” Elsewhere in the tune, which Lewis cowrote with Ira Dean and Jeffrey Steele, the 49-year-old singer laments flags burning and statues coming down and wonders if anyone else “quits singing along every time they play a Springsteen song.”

“Am I the only one willing to bleed / Or take a bullet for being free?” he goes on, “Screaming ‘What the f—' at my TV.”

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Asked what inspired “Am I the Only One” during a recent appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Lewis — who told the Anchorage Press last year that then-President Donald Trump’s impeachment “couldn’t have been more unconstitutional in shape or form” — replied, “I lived through the last year and a half … and I found myself on many occasions, just like all of you, sitting and scratching my head and wondering what is going on in this amazing country that we have.” (Lewis’ representative didn’t immediately respond to The Times’ interview request.)

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“Am I the Only One” achieved its impressive chart showing thanks in large part to digital downloads, which Billboard measures along with streams and radio play in formulating its rankings. According to the trade magazine’s tracking firm MRC Data, Lewis’ single sold 58,622 downloads in its first week of availability — enough to land at No. 2, behind BTS’ “Butter,” on the all-genre Digital Song Sales tally.

Indeed, “Am I the Only One” outsold the No. 3 song on Digital Song Sales — Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like,” a viral hit on TikTok — by more than 150%. Lewis’ track, which also racked up a relatively modest 4 million streams in the U.S., entered Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100 at No. 14.

The strong sales suggest that “Am I the Only One” connected with an audience galvanized by Lewis’ message — a familiar scenario among country fans, who pushed sales of Morgan Wallen’s “Dangerous” album to new highs following a widespread industry backlash to his use of the N-word in a video published by TMZ.

Yet the real test of a major country song is its embrace by radio. “Am I the Only One” hasn’t charted on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, though that’s largely because Lewis’ label, Valory Music, hasn’t begun promoting the song to radio yet. (A spokesperson for Valory, which also releases music by Thomas Rhett and Sheryl Crow, didn’t respond to a question about when the label planned to start promoting the single; Billboard said the date was July 26.)

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Even so, the song is likely to receive at least some airplay. Richard Burns of Frontier Media, which owns and operates three country stations in Arkansas and Alaska, told The Times early Tuesday that he planned to spin the song later in the day, before Valory had even launched its campaign.

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“Country music is about a good story well told, and this is one,” Burns said. He added that he didn’t think “Am I the Only One” was designed to push buttons but was “more the result of buttons being pushed”; he likened the song to country hits released in the wake of 9/11, such as Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” and Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American).”

As it happens, Keith released his own cancel-culture-minded song, “Happy Birthday America,” this month. (“Seems like everybody’s pissing on the red, white and blue,” he sings, “Happy birthday, America, whatever’s left of you.”) It debuted on the Hot Country Songs chart at No. 31.

“Am I the Only One” isn’t the first foray into conservative politics from Lewis, a vocal critic of former President Barack Obama who’s frequently been photographed wearing a MAGA hat.

In his debut single as a country artist — “Country Boy,” released in 2010, nearly a decade after Staind broke out with modern-rock hits like “It’s Been Awhile” — Lewis sang, “I’ve never needed government to hold my hand.” The song also featured Charlie Daniels, who died last year, in a spoken outro warning anyone who tries to change America that they’ll have to go through him to do it.


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