Nothing can stop Morgan Wallen’s ascent to country superstardom, not even a massive controversy and being banned from select radio stations. Over the past month alone, Wallen’s radio airplay has more than doubled (!) in the latest instance of an unsurprising comeback, reports Billboard.
Nearly 150 radio stations report to Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, and the numbers they tracked are hard to argue with. At the start of May, their accumulated spins clocked in around the low 1,000s. In the first week of May that number went up to 1,100 and in the second week it was bumped to 1,500. Fast forward to the first week of June and there’s more than 2,900 plays. That’s a total gain of 164% in the span of one month — and with summer on the way, chances are those numbers will only continue to rise.
Wallen’s rocky road to fame has stretched on for months now. Last fall, he was supposed to be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, but he was caught partying without a mask and appropriately booted from the show for not following their health guidelines. When he finally got to make his SNL debut later in December, Wallen roasted himself alongside host Jason Bateman in a skit meant to demonstrate his remorse.
Dangerous: The Double Album, his new album and second studio LP overall, came out at the start of 2021. Wallen barely lasted a month before digging himself another hole come February. A neighbor captured Wallen using the N-word on video while drunkenly returning home from a Nashville bar. “Take care of this pussy ass motherfucker,” he yells in the clip, adding, “Take care of this pussy ass n****.” Wallen quickly apologized, acknowledging that it was “unacceptable” to use an “inappropriate racial slur,” and promised that he would “do better” moving forward.
The consequences of Wallen’s actions came swiftly. Big Loud Records decided to “indefinitely” suspend his record contract, the massive radio network Cumulus Media ordered more than 400 radio stations to remove his music from rotation “without exception,” and his songs were taken off both Spotify’s Hot Country Songs and Apple Music’s Today’s Country playlists. The Academy of Country Music also barred Wallen from “potential involvement and eligibility” in the upcoming 2021 ACM Awards, thus preventing him from appearing on the show or competing for any awards.
This is America, though, so it was only a matter of time before Wallen’s popularity surged. His radio play fell 70%, but sales of his albums and songs skyrocketed by 339% mere days after his racist slurs surfaced and he earned the No. 1 album in the country the very next week. Two weeks later, it was still the No. 1 album. Come March, it became the first country album to spend its first seven weeks at No. 1. It seemed like there was no end in sight for Wallen’s reign, but after 10 long weeks, Justin Bieber’s Justice finally dethroned Dangerous: The Double Album.
To be clear, Wallen knows that what he did was bad. He even uploaded a dreary apology video the week after the incident to try to clear the air. But fellow country stars like Mickey Guyton and Maren Morris believe it’s only the top of the iceberg when it comes to Wallen’s true self and spoke out against a smooth return to the industry for him. In a similar gesture, Jason Isbell vowed to donate all of his proceeds from “Cover Me Up”, which Wallen once covered in 2019 and helped popularize, to the Nashville chapter of the NAACP.
However, that doesn’t mean Wallen isn’t eager to put all of this in the past so he can start partying again. The country singer has already bounced back thanks to Diplo blasting his songs at a Super Bowl super-spreader party, he’s locked in to headline the Bud Light-sponsored Kicker Country Stampede, and he already gave a ridiculous comeback performance at Kid Rock’s bar in May.