‘Accidental Racist’ lights up Twitter

FORTUNE — Country singer Brad Paisley set Twitter ablaze Monday with the release of “Accidental Racist,” a tune that starts with a vignette about wearing a confederate flag t-shirt in a Starbucks (“When I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I’m a Skynyrd fan”) and ends with LL Cool J awkwardly rapping about the Civil War and slavery (“RIP Robert E. Lee, but I’ve gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean.”) It is earnest, ham-fisted, and ripe for social media parody.

Wade through the #AccidentalRacist hashtag on Twitter, and you’ll find actions that might make one an accidental racist (“Just poured milk into my coffee to make it whiter,” tweets one user) and links to the multitudes of thinkpieces on what this all means. Elsewhere on the site, comedian Patton Oswalt joked about his next single being “Totally on Purpose Racist” to take the pressure off the duo.


Paisley weighed in himself via several tweets, saying he was proud of his new album and that “This is a record that’s meant to be FAR from easy listening.

The mockery and controversy, however, may end up causing “Accidental Racist” to be more than just a jaw-dropping, “Did-I-actually-hear-this-correctly?” oddity. With Billboard now factoring in YouTube to its Hot 100 chart, the views of official and user-generated videos using authorized audio could make this song a hit along the lines of the viral video “Harlem Shake.”

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“Accidental Racist” could become an intentional hit, but at what cost to Paisley’s brand? He’s generally seen as middle-of-the-road — he performed at one of the inaugural balls for President Obama in January — in comparison to more right-wing country artists. This misstep could cost him a fanbase, or gain him a new one.

Only time will tell, but for now, Brad Paisley is going to have to settle for being a trending topic.

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