Morgan Wallen hit the stage at Kid Rock‘s Nashville honky tonk on Wednesday night — marking his first performance since he was caught yelling the N-word on video in late January.
Wallen sang “Whiskey Glasses” and “Wasted on You,” the latter of which is from his sophomore project Dangerous: The Double Album, which spent 10 consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 and 15 weeks at No. 1 on Top Country Albums. The surprise performance seems to contradict what the country singer said in an April 13-dated statement about not hitting the stage this summer following the video posted Feb. 2 in which Wallen yelled the N-word and other expletives, though he specifically ruled out tour dates and festivals, not all performing.
“I’m embarrassed and sorry,” Wallen said in an apology to TMZ at the time. “I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better.”
His use of a racial slur caused iHeartMedia, Entercom and more to pull Wallen’s music from hundreds of radio stations; streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music to remove him from their curated playlists; Big Loud Records to suspend his recording contract “indefinitely”; WME to drop him from its roster; and the Academy of Country Music to halt his potential involvement and eligibility for the ACM Awards.
After a long shut out, Wallen’s airplay has begun to creep back up. For the last seven days ending May 21, Wallen is receiving around 200 daily plays for his catalog on Billboard’s 150 Country Airplay chart reporting stations, according to MRC Data. That is a fraction of the average 1,500 daily plays he was getting before getting pulled, but it a far increase from the 20 daily plays or so he was receiving in the first few weeks after most radio stations pulled his music.
Wallen posted an apology video on Feb. 10, in which he told his fans to stop defending him because he needed to “fully accept any penalties I’m facing” while announcing his newfound sobriety and meetings with Black leaders where they engaged “in some very real and honest conversations.”
He later posted an update in April, saying he has spent the past few months out of the spotlight to reflect on his various misdeeds and will use the rest of the year to continue to work on himself. His announcement also confirmed that Wallen would no longer accompany Luke Bryan on the Proud to Be Right Here Tour slated to kick off this summer, nor would he headline country music festivals such as the Kicker Country Stampede in Kansas and Country Jam USA in Wisconsin as originally announced.
— morgan wallen (@MorganWallen) April 13, 2021
“I’ve found this time away to be very valuable to me in many ways, but I feel like I need a little more of it, and therefore will not be performing tour dates this summer,” Wallen’s handwritten note on Twitter read. “It means I won’t be playing festivals or the Luke Bryan tour dates.”
The 28-year-old singer has been embroiled in controversies over the last year, which started almost one year ago to the date on May 24, 2020, when he was arrested on public intoxication and disorderly conduct charges following his ejection from Kid Rock’s bar in downtown Nashville — the very spot he performed on Wednesday night.
Wallen is a finalist in five categories at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, but he will not appear, present or perform at the awards show that will air live on May 23 on NBC. dick clark productions, which produces the Billboard Music Awards, released a statement April 29 to explain why Wallen remains a BBMA finalist and why he won’t appear on the show this year.
“Unique among awards shows, Billboard Music Awards (BBMA) finalists are determined by performance on the Billboard charts, and are not chosen by a voting committee or membership organization,” the statement begins. “BBMA finalists and winners are based on key fan interactions with music (including album and digital song sales, streaming, radio airplay, social engagement), tracked by Billboard and its data partners, including MRC Data.
“With our content reaching millions of viewers, dcp and MRC have the privilege and responsibility to effect change by creating a more inclusive dialogue in our productions and across the industry.
“Morgan Wallen is a finalist this year based on charting. As his recent conduct does not align with our core values, we will not be including him on the show in any capacity (performing, presenting, accepting).
“It is heartening and encouraging to hear that Morgan is taking steps in his anti-racist journey and starting to do some meaningful work. We plan to evaluate his progress and will consider his participation in future shows.”
Although Wallen has not yet posted anything on social media about his surprise performance at Kid Rock’s bar, he has been active on his accounts and posted a photo of himself and fellow country singer Eric Church fishing.
See part of Wallen’s Wednesday night performance below: