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Morgan Wallen's career is taking a small step forward after the country star's use of a racist slur sent it off a cliff a month ago. His "Dangerous: The Double Album" is atop the Billboard 200 album chart for the seventh straight week and, at fans' request, an East Tennessee radio station is once again playing his songs.
The 27-year-old musician's red-hot career crumbled in early February when video was posted showing him shouting the N-word at a buddy after what TMZ described as "a rowdy night out." Wallen later explained that the video showed "Hour 72 of 72 of a bender, and that's not something I'm proud of either."
But even as he saw his record contract "paused," lost his representation and was banned from the ACM Awards and the nation's largest radio networks and music streamers' playlists, fans have had his back.
“But we were also uncomfortable with sitting in judgement [sic]. If you’ve lived long enough, you probably have said at one point or another you were glad video and social media wasn’t everywhere when you were young and did stupid things," Meredith added. "While nobody liked the behavior, we are a radio station — not in the censorship business."
Calling the situation "like being between a rock and a hard place," Meredith said the station was uncomfortable with "institutions" making the decision to ban Wallen. Instead, it let listeners vote in an unscientific poll.
Nine days later the results were in: With strong support, Wallen's music returned to the air near his Sneedville, Tenn., birthplace. Songs including "7 Summers" and "Chasin' You" are now playing about every two hours.
Wallen explained himself Feb. 10 in a five-minute video apology that at times rang true and at others appeared to show a man consulting a written statement.
The country superstar noted that he had let down people who meant a lot to him, including his son and his parents, who he said were “the furthest thing ... from the person in that video.” He said he’d been invited by several Black organizations to have educational conversations and was "pretty nervous to accept those invitations."
"The very people I hurt, and they had every right to step on my neck while I was down, to not show me any grace, but they did the exact opposite,” Wallen said. "They offered me grace and they also paired that with an offer to learn and to grow.”
"I was wrong,” he said. “It’s on me to take ownership for this and I fully accept any penalties I’m facing.” Wallen said he’d be going “off the grid” for a while to wrangle his habits — presumably his drinking, which has caused problems for him before — and improve his decision-making.
He's been silent on social media since then.
With seven consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 album chart since its release, Wallen's "Dangerous: The Double Album" is tied with Taylor Swift's "Red" and Garth Brooks' "The Chase" for total weeks on the chart. "Dangerous" is the first country album to spend seven straight weeks after its release at No. 1 on the chart that tracks all types of music.
Per SiriusXM host and music writer Eric Alper, Wallen is still behind Brooks' "Ropin' the Wind" and "The Hits," Swift's "Fearless" and Billy Ray Cyrus' "Some Gave All" for total weeks on the 200 chart among country releases. (Also, for those who weirdly count the Eagles as country, their "Hotel California" is also more successful.)
Wallen's latest album has had the longest run at No. 1 since Drake's "Views" in 2016, according to the New York Times, which suggested that a lack of competition might also be boosting Wallen's performance.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.