Morgan Wallen called out for racism

Connor Foote, In-Depth Editor

On Feb. 3, popular (and controversial) country singer, Morgan Wallen, will embark on a U.S. tour roughly one year after the release of his latest album, “Dangerous: The Double Album.”

The album was one of the most popular albums of 2021. While Wallen’s 9.8 million monthly listeners on Spotify do not match superstars like The Weeknd or Drake, his album sold 3.2 million units, enough to surpass Adele for the most units sold according to NPR.

Wallen has undoubtedly gained immense success from his music, but intense controversy stemming from his personal life overshadow his feats. In 2020, Wallen was arrested outside Kid Rock’s bar on counts of disorderly conduct and public intoxication while partying, and was also in violation of COVID-19 protocols, leading to his Saturday Night Live appearance being postponed. Most notably, he was caught on camera using the N-word towards a friend while entering his Nashville residence in Feb. 2021.

“Dangerous” became extremely popular despite, or perhaps because of, his usage of the N-word. His music disappeared from radio stations temporarily as he was deemed “canceled,” but that did not stop fans from streaming his content in large numbers. His dangerous, rule-breaking persona lends itself well to dealing with controversy, fueling interest as a musician who isn’t afraid of risking it all, when in reality he may have just been intoxicated. Much like the Confederate flag, he is defended as a symbol of country music culture instead of simply a symbol of racism.

“I doubt his apology was genuine,” Maclaren Johnson (’22) said. “If you’re just sort of saying things like that, a simple apology doesn’t fix it nor does it make me believe he’s actually trying to do better”.

The Grand Ole Opry, a legendary theater in Nashville, put out a press release condemning Wallen’s actions, but he appeared on the stage in December along with collaborator Ernest to perform their single “Flower Shop”. Many criticized the historic concert hall for reversing their stance on Wallen, but others praised it for their acceptance of his apology. Black rapper Lil Durk collaborated with the 28-year-old for their release “Broadway Girls”, which they performed together at January’s MLK Freedom Fest in Nashville. Before the song, the Chicagoan expressed his faith in Wallen, declaring that he is one who is “genuine at heart”.

“I think he is a good guy,” Peyton Van Stone (’22) said. “I obviously didn’t agree with what he said but that doesn’t mean I still don’t like his music”.

There is always the “separate the art from the artist” argument. From Diego Rivera to Ye, any popular and problematic celebrity has experienced it. Wallen is human, like the rest of us, and humans are naturally mistake-prone creatures. While it is never acceptable for a White person like Morgan Wallen to say what he did, instead of black-balling him from the industry, it might be more productive to accept his apology and watch him, hopefully, grow from it.