“The news out of Nashville tonight does not represent country music” – Kelsea Ballerini
With the release of his hit sophomore album, Dangerous: The Double Album, which reached number one in multiple countries, everything seemed to be going phenomenal in 2021 for the new-coming country singer and songwriter Morgan Wallen until one fateful incident, labelled as racist, that may have costed his music career.
“p—- ass n—–“
Reported to have happened on a Saturday evening, neighbours of Morgan Wallen’s Nashville residence recorded video footage of the 27-year-old hurling racial slurs at an unspecified person. The footage was sent to TMZ, who later released the said video on Tuesday, February 2. Caught on a doorbell camera following an apparent brawl with someone, Wallen, who was apparently intoxicated during the time of the event, was heard instructing his friends to “take care of this p—- ass n—–.”
Following the release of the footage, the “7 Summers” and “More Than My Hometown” singer issued a public apology, stating how he felt “embarrassed” that he “used an unacceptable and inappropriate slur.” Wallen apologetically added how “there were no excuses to this type of language” and promised to do better. However, Wallen’s mea culpa did not manage to stop the damage and ensuing fallout that would shake up the country music industry.
In the following 24-hours, Nashville-based label company Big Loud Records issued a statement deciding that Morgan Wallen was “indefinitely suspended” from his contract.
According to Rolling Stone, a directive from Cumulus Media’s bosses instructed that all 400 of their affiliated-stations remove Wallen’s music from their playlists. Corus Radio, iHeartMedia and other radio station networks quickly followed the same directive. Spotify’s Hot Country Songs and Apple’s Music Today’s Country have removed the rising country’s songs from their streaming playlists as well.
In addition to rending his latest album ineligible for awards, Country Music Television (CMT) stated on Twitter that they were “in the process of removing his appearances from all our platforms.” CMT concluded that Wallen’s actions were “in direct opposition to [the network’s] core values that celebrate diversity, equity & inclusion.”
“Promises to do better don’t mean s—-” – Mickey Guyton
Fellow country musicians were also quick to condemn Wallen’s words and actions.
Mickey Guyton, the first Black woman to perform solo at the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Award, wrote on Twitter, “The hate runs deep. Smfh. How many passes will you continue to give? Asking for a friend. No one deserves to be canceled bu [sic] this is unacceptable.” The “Black Like Me” singer challenged Wallen’s promises to change by concluding with “Promises to do better don’t mean s—-.”
Guyton’s comments were echoed by other country singers, including Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini. “It actually IS representative of our town because this isn’t his first “scuffle” […] We all know it wasn’t his first time using that word,” Morris remarked. “The news out of Nashville tonight does not represent country music,” Ballerini added.
Morgan Wallen is no stranger to controversies that had put him in hot water before. In May 2020, the Tennessee native was arrested at a downtown Nashville bar for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. Later that year, in October, Wallen was stripped of his invitation to appear on Saturday Night Live for participating mask-free at a crowded party with little to no social distancing, which directly violated the show’s COVID-19 guidelines. Although Wallen was permitted to reappear as a musical guest in December, his initial slot was filled by American musician Jack White.
If there are any lessons to be taken from the Morgan Wallen episode; celebrities who don’t hold an upstanding model for their fans could end up having their careers thrown into uncertain waters, especially when the star in question is uttering offensive insults of racist nature.
By Jacques Wang