There’s an odd paradox brewing in the ever-consistent world of music award shows this week, as the American Music Awards announced today that country music star Morgan Wallen has been nominated for two awards at its annual ceremony—while also announcing that Morgan Wallen damn well better not show up to the American Music Awards this year.
If that seems, y’know, odd, it comes down to how nominations for the AMAs work. That is, that they’re entirely dictated by numerical performance on the Billboard charts. Which can lead to a situation wherein, say, an artist can garner—as Wallen has—nominations for Favorite Male Country Artist and Favorite Country Album due to his music’s performance, and yet also be banned from the ceremony proper for not “aligning with the core values” of the event. Said core values presumably including “not yelling racial slurs in your driveway after a night out with the boys.”
Wallen has faced fairly widespread censure over the past eight months for an incident in which he did exactly that, finding himself dropped from his label, excluded from events, and banned from a number of radio stations. (He later issued an apology via Good Morning America, although his assertion that he was only using the slur in question out of “playful” ignorance did ring a little off.) Wallen has expressed a commitment to improving his relationship with the Black community in America; the AMA announcement today noted that “We plan to evaluate his progress in doing meaningful work as an ally to the Black community and will consider his participation in future shows.”
Here’s the thing, though: It’s not just the AMA nominations that are outside the control of any governing body that might provide some oversight here; the actual wins are dictated by the masses, too, controlled by a public vote. And, given that sales of Wallen’s music only increased after footage of him yelling the slur was posted on TMZ, it’s entirely possible he might win in one of his two categories on November 21. Which means we might get to see some of the most awkward television ever broadcast on ABC, in which the unambiguous winner in an awards show category is not only absent when their name gets called, but literally banned from the building.