By Noah Kamen
On January 8th, Morgan Wallen released his double album “Dangerous: The Double Album” which contained 30 pretty darn awesome songs. “Wasted On You”, “Still Goin Down”, and “Dangerous” immediately became top country songs on everyone’s playlists and even made it to TikTok as a popular background preset. The album debuted at the top of all the charts, and stayed there for two weeks straight, while also doing the equivalent of over 265,000 album sales and had 240.18 million on-demand streams of the album’s songs in its first week, setting a new record.This needs a source? I could sit here all day drooling all over the page talking about how unbelievable this album is and how it is changing the game for country music, but unfortunately that detracts from a more important matter at hand.
Shortly after the album was released, a video surfaced of Wallen using racial profanities while drunk with a group of friends. Now, to make it crystal clear before diving deeper into this topic – I disagree with what he said and there is no place on this planet for that word or behavior, and absolutely no excuse can justify his use of this word! Like many Morgan Wallen fans, I have been stuck trying to figure out where to go from here. Should I continue to listen to his music? Delete him from all my playlists? It has been difficult considering his album was one of the greatest releases in the modern country music era. I mean c’mon, 30 legitimately good songs on ONE ALBUM!
I decided that the best way to figure this out is to empty my thoughts out onto the page, start a discussion, and see if we, the country music community, can find some sort of answer to this million dollar question, “Can we separate an artist from their art?” There have been many similar controversies in the music industry, including the scandal involving one of the biggest superstars in history, Michael Jackson. He became famous at a very young age with the Jackson 5, and went on to become one of the biggest stars on the planet with his music. However, his reputation has a giant asterisk next to it due to the sexual assault allegations against him.
But the question remains, when songs like “Billie Jean”, “Beat It”, and “Thriller” come on, do you immediately turn it off? Or when a Michael Jackson song comes on, are you quickly drawn to the dance floor? My answer to the latter is a big fat yes. First off, these songs are unbelievable music that I will enjoy and listen to until they are taken off every platform and banned from the radio. Every artist has a team that works with them to put music out and works their ass off to turn an idea into a life-changing song. Often these teams include musicians, writers, audio editors, producers, and even talent agents, promoters, and venue staff. Many people have a hand in making music and disavowing the music would take credit away from all the other people that worked so hard behind the scenes.
Often, different artists collaborate with each other to write some of their songs. So, *spoiler alert* if you thought Morgan sat down one day and wrote 30 song lyrics with the corresponding chords and music, that’s just not true. Wallen had some fantastic help on this album from artists such as HARDY, Josh Osborne, Erich Church, Rhett Atkins, and so many more. It is not their faults that Wallen screwed up. Their work should still be rewarded and listened to. So, in terms of Morgan Wallen and whether we can listen to his music or not, I am on the side of continuing to jam out to all of his music. Like any good country music, there is nothing better than blasting it on a hot summer day with the windows down heading off to the lake, beach or bar and creating the ultimate vibes.
I have no authority on who should be cancelled and who shouldn’t, but I do believe that we can separate an artist from their art. Although I may not be a fan of Morgan Wallen as a person, if you play his music I will gladly listen and sing along. It is truly a remarkable album and there are a lot of people aside from Wallen that had a hand in making it a success. If you agree with me saying that we can separate an artist from their art, great! If you disagree, that’s great too because the goal of this piece was to open up a discussion on a topic that is becoming more and more prevalent in our culture. If you can, leave your opinion, other examples, or whatever thoughts below and let’s see how far we can run with this.