If you're not a country music fan, you may not have heard of Morgan Wallen—at least not until this past October. That's when the singer was unceremoniously axed from a Saturday Night Live appearance for violating COVID-19 safety protocols.
Wallen, 27, was caught a week before his scheduled appearance downing shots and making out with an unknown lady at a bar after an Alabama Crimson Tide victory. A video of his escapades immediately went viral on TikTok.
Wallen apologized for his indiscretions and still retains a hardcore fanbase. As a former contestant on The Voice, he is even referred to by Blake Shelton as "the one that got away." Find out what Shelton means by this, and why Wallen—despite the recent controversy—is still poised for mainstream popularity.
Tennessee native Morgan Wallen made his official debut in 2018 with his debut album If I Know Me. Prior to this, he had a spot on The Voice and released a 2015 EP, Stand Alone.
The second single from his album, "Up Down," was Wallen's first big hit. The song, a collaboration with country duo Florida Georgia Line, was certified Platinum and reached number one on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. Since then, Wallen has steadily risen to fame. After 114 weeks, If I Know Me finally took the number one spot on the Top Country Albums chart.
In 2014, Wallen's mother signed the then-20-year-old up for The Voice. Wallen joined Team Usher by performing Howie Day's "Collide" at the blind auditions. He maintained his spot with a cover of Avicii's "Hey Brother," but was stolen by Team Levine after singing One Direction's "Story of My Life" in the second Battle Rounds.
Ironically, Wallen was eliminated after a performance of "Stay" by Florida Georgia Line—the duo who helped make "Up Down" such a tremendous success.
"I sounded more like a pop singer when I first went to try out for the show," Wallen told Nash Country Daily. "So they wanted me to sing pop, which I understand, but I’m like 'No, I want to sing country' and there was a vocal coach behind the scenes and she really helped me figuring out my sound ... she really helped me to get my normal voice that ended up being the one I have now. You know, I’ve got rid of all the growl and all that stuff that I was doing and ended up being way more of a country voice than I really thought that I had. And I definitely think that’s my favorite thing that happened throughout the show."
Wallen is aiming to be more than a one-hit-wonder. His follow-up single to "Up Down," "Whiskey Glasses," was the number one song on country radio in 2019. "Seven Summers," released on August 14, 2020, broke the record for the most first-day streams for a country song on Apple Music. It was also Wallen's first top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, debuting and peaking at number six.
In hindsight, Blake Shelton regrets missing his chance to work with the future star. "He wasn’t even on my team," said Shelton. "He was on Adam’s team—the whole thing just seemed screwed up, you know? It’s like he was on the show and he didn’t even get through the Battle [rounds] and now here he is having these gigantic, huge number one hits, and I can’t take any of the credit. It’s like, 'I had him right there and he got away.'"
Following Wallen's SNL cancellation, he is being given a second chance with an appearance on December 12. Wallen is also scheduled to release Dangerous: The Double Album on January 8th, 2021. Based on the trajectory of his career, we expect it to be nothing less than a chart-topper.