Called âAccidental Racist,â the song appears aimed at helping to bridge misunderstandings. The song starts out with a guy apologizing for the Confederate flag on his T-shirt to a a worker he encountered at the local Starbucks. As his protagonist sings, âwhen I put on that T-shirt, the only thing I meant to say, is Iâm a Skynyrd fan.â
âIâm proud of where Iâm from,â the chorus goes, âbut not everything weâve done.â And his protagonist does admit that heâs âgot a lot to learn,â and ultimately, âI just want to make things right.â
In the back half of the song, guest artist LL Cool J steps in with a counterpoint to Bradâs âwhite cowboy hatâ POV. LLâs lines include lyrics like, âJust because my pants are sagginâ doesnât mean Iâm up to no good/You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would.â
And the point they seem to be trying to make is that judgement is a two-way street. As LL continues, âWhen I see that white cowboy hat, Iâm thinking itâs not all good/I guess weâre both guilty of judging the cover and not the book.â
LL eventually concludes, âIf you donât judge my do-rag, I wonât judge your red flag.â So, all good, right?
Not so fast. While some might see the song as a sincere attempt at mending centuries of racial tension, others whoâve heard it find that the lines about âSouthern prideâ and âred flagsâ only fuel the flames of a still-hot issue.
As The Hairpin writes, âthe song is a lyrical disgrace filled with awkward non-apologies and faux-pensiveness over the history of racism in the south.â Jezebel calls it âa mournful ballad about how hard it is to be a white man.â And Salon simply slams it as âa strong contender for the worst song of all time,â citing that whatever apologies Bradâs protagonist is making are âdeeply conditional.â
Brad himself appears ready for all thisâand ready to continue the conversation. As he told Entertainement Weekly, âThis isnât a stunt. Iâm [releasing the song] because it just feels more relevant than it even did a few years ago. I think that weâre going through an adolescence in America when it comes to race.â
Brad wrote the song with Lee Miller. âWe were talking about Southern pride,â he says in the promotional video about the song that was provided to Radio.com, âand how far weâve come, and racismâŚ and things also feel like maybe they arenât better yet.â
Halfway through writing, Brad got the idea to include LL Cool J. âI wanted [his] perspective. LL being such a tremendously respectable, wonderful guy. To hear what he thinks and his point of view in this song. Being from the north, being black, and how he feels about the subject. It really meant the world to me that he was willing to do this.â
âHeâs very creative and courageous to do this, in the sense that this isnât a typical thing to sing about.â
Brad says that they both realized that they werenât âanswering questionsâ with the song. âBut we are maybe asking some questions. And thatâs the first step to finding answers.â
Ultimately, Brad calls the song âone of my proudest moments as a songwriter.â
In a recent Radio.com interview, LL echoed the love for Brad and âAccidental Racist.â âYou know, working with Brad was amazing,â he said, going on to explain that he thinks the song is âvery thought provoking and very interesting. Itâs going to get a lot of attention. But we did something that was really cool.â
LL goes on to say that Brad returned the favor and played on his record as well. But he was clear, he wasnât looking for just âa gimmicky thing.â Instead, he simply finds Brad to be a great musician.