Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Wallen Breaks the Cycle

The woke elite cannot abide a redemption story like Morgan Wallen's. Fortunately, country listeners just don't care.

Four of my top five songs on Spotify this year were written by Morgan Wallen. Apparently, that makes me a racist.

In a recent glasses-nudging, throat-clearing thinkpiece from NBC site Think, cultural critic and Columbia University MFA Elena Sheppard ironically forgets to do just that. Sheppard derides country music fans all over the United States for committing the worst of all sins: for forgiving a canceled man, and listening to his music so much that he’s now responsible for three of the top 10 songs in country music. That man is Morgan Wallen.

If you don’t know the back story, Wallen was booted from all polite society about a year ago after a view of him drunkenly calling out a racial slur went public. Wallen has since apologized, gone to counseling, and donated to “black causes”—he has paid his penance to the woke gods, but it isn’t enough for those whose job it is to chronicle the ongoing racism in America. Apparently, that now means everyone who listens to country music, especially the hottest country artist of the year.

Of course, they don’t have to say the quiet part out loud. We already heard it. Country music is racist because the people who listen to it (read: me) tend to be from the South or the Midwest, are at least culturally religious, a little bit rebellious, and white. We thumb our noses at the elites in the mildest way you could imagine: blasting “Sand In My Boots” in pickups and outdated SUVs and driving down back roads (it’s a vibe, okay). We’re used to being called racist by our cultural betters hundreds of miles away.

But what really irks NBC writer Sheppard is the fact that a man the journalists thought they’d canceled into oblivion could not just return, but return in chart-smashing glory. No matter how they have tried—uninviting him from the CMAs, ACMAs, and BBMAs—he’s still on track to sell more albums this year than any other artist in any other genre. Remember, canceling isn’t about the apology, it’s about silencing unwoke voices. The people forgave Wallen, but woke theology, which demands purity and sacrifice, has no place for redemption. Exasperated, they point the finger at those fool hicks who actually like the Tennessee boy’s incredibly catchy tracks. How dare we forgive him?

Like the rest of the South, loyalty is something we take seriously in Tennessee. The “Somebody’s Problem” artist is our problem, ours alone. If I had to guess, I’d bet that’s a good portion of why Wallen skyrocketed after he was canceled. We’ll scold our own, and we did, but we also believe in redemption—and we love a rebel.