When Strahan requested Wallen if nation music had a race downside, all Wallen might do was shrug: “It could appear that means, yeah. I haven’t actually sat and thought of that.” It was a gut-punchingly sincere reply from a star who seemingly had not beforehand thought-about the plight of Black performers in Nashville, or maybe Black folks generally.
His use of the slur echoed the callous and unthinking means through which many white Individuals toy with the signifiers of Black tradition with no sense of their historical past. It was glib and, in Wallen’s description of his use of it amongst buddies, a feel-good transgression for personal areas.
The variety of white pop stars who’ve been revealed to have used that epithet is staggering, just because it isn’t zero. Along with Wallen, there are at the very least three: Eminem and Justin Bieber, who have been each caught on recordings from their youth that surfaced once they have been well-known. After which there’s John Mayer, perhaps essentially the most telling instance, who stated it in a 2010 Playboy interview. Every confronted condemnation, however the hurt to their careers was temporary, shocking particularly as a result of all three work in historically Black idioms. However whereas Wallen is vocal in his love of hip-hop, and has from time to time dipped into rap-singing himself, he not often nods on to modern Black music in his personal songs, and nation itself has largely erased Black foundations of the artwork kind from its self-historicizing.
Earlier than the January incident, Wallen usually averted presenting his politics in overt methods, in contrast to a few of his style friends. In 2020, he was booted from acting on “Saturday Evening Dwell” for violating its Covid-19 protocols. (His look was rescheduled.) In November 2020, in response to public celebrations of the election of Joe Biden, he wrote on Instagram that “If it’s OK for us to occasion within the streets with no ‘social distancing’ then we will e book exhibits proper now.” Late final yr on the podcast hosted by his collaborator Ernest, he and the host poked enjoyable at President Biden mannerisms.
However the spike in Wallen’s album gross sales instantly after the video of the incident went public prompted and perhaps necessitated his emergence as a culture-war cudgel. Listeners leaned in to Wallen’s music as a form of protest in opposition to how he was handled by the nation music trade. (Wallen stated he donated $500,000 to Black charities, the approximate quantity he netted from his gross sales spike; how much money has reached those organizations has been challenged.)
Wallen, the most important star in nation music, was primed to be the form of breakout determine that extends the attain of the style into the pop mainstream, akin to Shania Twain or Garth Brooks. That appears unlikely now.
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