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The Morgan Wallen comeback train is picking up speed.
The 28-year-old country singer will perform on next month’s Billboard Music Awards, event organizers announced Friday, his first television gig since he was caught on tape last year drunkenly using the N-word in a video published by TMZ.
Wallen’s use of the word threatened to derail a fast-moving career: Radio stations pulled his music from the air; his record label “suspended” his contract (without ever quite making clear what that meant); and various industry groups — including the Country Music Assn., the Academy of Country Music and the Recording Academy — disqualified or merely ignored him for major awards.
But Wallen’s 2021 “Dangerous: The Double Album” — stuffed with hit singles like “Somebody’s Problem,” “Sand in My Boots” and “7 Summers,” the last of which went viral on TikTok — never stopped connecting with listeners on streaming services like Spotify, and the 30-track collection ended up last year’s most-consumed LP.
Even now, 15 months after its release, “Dangerous” sits at No. 2 this week on the Billboard 200 — a staggering display of staying power in a business with more churn than ever.
The music industry was slower to reembrace Wallen, who’s apologized for the incident on numerous occasions. But in recent months the barriers have largely come down: The singer’s music is again a mainstay on country radio, and he’s currently on the road playing sold-out arena shows. In December he teamed with rapper Lil Durk for the country-trap track “Broadway Girls”; last month “Dangerous” was named album of the year at the ACM Awards.
And this week Wallen's new single, “Don’t Think Jesus” — an acoustic ballad about a small-town boy who moves to the city and starts “chasing the devil through honky-tonk bars” — debuted at No. 7 on the Hot 100.
Wallen was barred from attending the 2021 Billboard Music Awards (though he won three prizes, including top country artist and top country album). In a statement to Billboard on Friday, MRC Live & Alternative, which produces the awards show, said, “After a thorough review and robust discussions internally and with the artist’s team, in which we found a demonstrated and ongoing commitment to meaningful work and outreach, we extended an invitation to participate in this year’s show.”
The 2022 Billboard Music Awards will air live May 15 on NBC from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.