Music

Morgan Wallen’s Most Controversial Moments

Morgan Wallen was poised to be country music’s biggest new star. According to The New Yorker, the singer got his start in 2014 as a 20-year-old landscaper from Knoxville, Tenn. who auditioned for The Voice hoping to land his big break. At the time of the taping, he had “never been on an airplane,” and though he was eliminated from Adam Levine’s team, Wallen saw it as an opportunity to kick-start his career.

“I’m thankful that I didn’t win because it gave me a chance to take a couple years after that show and really figure out who I was as an artist and get the right team around me,” he told People in 2019. “When I got there, I had no clue what I was doing.” Everything changed for Wallen in 2018, when he released his full-length debut, If I Know Me. His single, “Whiskey Glasses,” shot to No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts. Two years after its release, the Country Music Association named him the new artist of the year — but it was clear Wallen wasn’t used to the spotlight, which tends to illuminate flaws in even the most benevolent stars.

The artist, who welcomed a son with ex-girlfriend KT Smith in 2020, has been the subject of numerous controversies, mostly perpetuated by his own hand. Until now, he’s managed to largely escape the consequences. As he promotes his sophomore effort, Dangerous: The Double Album, here’s a look at Morgan Wallen’s most scandalous moments.

This American bada** got booted from Kid Rock's bar

Months after Morgan Wallen won his CMA Award, he became a tabloid darling for all the wrong reasons, the first of which was a drunken arrest that really served as a harbinger of bad behavior to come. According to the Tennessean, the star was cuffed in May 2020 after he was booted from Kid Rock’s Big A** Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse for allegedly “kicking glass items.” Never mind the fact that Wallen was in a crowded Nashville bar with the ability to accommodate nearly two thousand people in the middle of a pandemic. That would get him in trouble later, and shortly after, the bar did temporarily lose its beer permit for violating COVID-19 protocols.

After Wallen and his friends were kicked out of Kid Rock’s club for what he later claimed was accidentally breaking a shot glass, the star reportedly attempted to argue with other pedestrians in front of the police. They gave him “several opportunities” to just go home, he allegedly “refused,” and so they arrested him and charged him with “public intoxication and disorderly conduct.” The story ends there, because Wallen didn’t actually get in any real trouble.

According to Taste of Country, the singer publicly apologized and wasn’t prosecuted. Wallen later told The Bobby Bones Show (via Taste of Country) that the night was admittedly “pretty fuzzy,” and that he was bailed out by his pals. Kid Rock even invited him to “hang out” at his house the next day. 

Morgan Wallen was caught kissing in the club during coronavirus

Landing a spot on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest is a major milestone for artists. It can make or break a career (sorry, Ashley Simpson’s acid reflux). It’s safe to say that just about any musician would do anything they possibly could to appear on the long-running sketch comedy show — but not Morgan Wallen. NBC booked the star for his SNL debut in October 2020, but rescinded the offer when he was spotted breaking coronavirus protocols, which put the rest of the cast at risk.

According to People, a video of Wallen circulated on TikTok that showed the singer partying at a club without a mask — and going as far as kissing two different girls — ahead of his scheduled SNL appearance. Social distancing usually doesn’t mean shoving your tongue down numerous people’s throats at a crowded indoor gathering, at least if you’re following the CDC’s definition. Of course, Wallen’s appearance was canceled, and he issued a public apology. “I respect the show’s decision because I know that I put them in jeopardy. I take ownership for this,” he said (via People). “I’d like to apologize to SNL, to my fans, to my team, for bringing me these opportunities and I let ’em down.”

As it turns out, Wallen’s disinvitation was just a slap on the wrist. SNL rescheduled the star for a December episode, where he joked about his social distancing violations in a skit.

Morgan Wallen got caught shouting racial slurs

Morgan Wallen continued his drunk and disorderly coronavirus bar crawl in February 2021, with an incident that actually ended up with real consequences, however minor. Apparently, he thought it’d be okay to hurl the n-word at his friend while they were drunkenly walking up his driveway after partying in Nashville.

According to TMZ, Wallen came home “around midnight” and was so “loud” and rowdy that his neighbors got annoyed and started filming the star. They captured a video of him yelling at his friends, “take care of this p****-a** mother******” and “take care of this p****-ass n*****.” Clearly, an exemplary display of eloquence he should consider for future No. 1 singles.

Once the video surfaced, the racial epithet garnered some much-warranted backlash. Again, Wallen issued a public apology (though it took him more than a week) and pleaded for his fans to hold him accountable. “It’s on me to take ownership of this and I fully accept any penalties I’m facing,” he said in an Instagram video, where he claimed he was meeting with Black leaders and taking time off. “The timing of my return is solely upon me and the work I put in. I still have a lot of really good people in my corner trying to help me and I appreciate you more than you know. This entire situation is ugly right now, but I’ll keep searching for ways to become the example instead of being made one.”

Will you ever hear Morgan Wallen on country radio again?

After shouting the n-word during what he described as a 72-hour “bender,” Morgan Wallen was met with immediate backlash. This time, a public apology did little to smooth things over. According to TMZ, the star was barred from country radio. Entercom, a company in charge of 235 radio stations, told the tabloid they “had no plans to reinstate Wallen’s music to their playlists.” Similarly, he was dropped from Indianapolis-based country station owned by Emmis Communications. Variety reports that his music was also pulled from SiriusXM, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Cumulus.

Beyond that, CMT — the veritable MTV of country music — revealed on Twitter that they were “in the process of removing [Wallen’s] appearances from all our platforms,” and the “Whiskey Glasses” singer was indefinitely suspended from his record label, Big Loud. Still, the most devastating blow was, perhaps, his ban from the Academy of Country Music Awards.

Though Wallen’s sophomore album, Dangerous: The Double Album, was too new to qualify for the 2021 ceremony, Billboard reports that the singer was poised to receive numerous ACM Award nods — such as the top prize of male artist of the year — for his singles, “More Than My Hometown” and “7 Summers.” Instead, the Academy disqualified him for his racist statement. The Country Music Awards followed suit, revealing on Twitter that they were “removing his digital content from [their] platforms.”

In the wake of his racist incident, Morgan Wallen saw record success

Morgan Wallen might technically be facing the consequences of using a racial slur, but his fans apparently don’t really seem to mind. Despite the fact that the singer has been virtually banned from country radio, his music sales skyrocketed in the wake of his bad decision.

According to Billboard, Dangerous: The Double Album earned a 14 percent increase in equivalent album units, which includes sales and streams. This cemented its spot at the top of the Billboard 200 chart for the fourth week in a row. Direct album sales were up a whopping 102 percent, and track equivalent album sales, which are measured by the purchase of 10 individual tracks from an album, were up 67 percent.

In short: Wallen threw around a racial slur and had the most success as a solo country artist since Shania Twain’s Up! spent five consecutive weeks at No. 1 in 2002. Let that sink in. Apparently, he was “nine days sober” at the time of his Instagram apology, so perhaps this incident will put Wallen on a better path — maybe.

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