Jason Isbell Criticized Morgan Wallen’s Surprise Appearance On The Grand Ole Opry

Morgan Wallen had a strange 2021. He was very commercially successful as his second album Dangerous: The Double Album was the most popular album of the year. However, he was also caught on camera using the N word, a moment that evoked tons of backlash from mainstream critics. In one of his first interviews since the incident, Wallen called his use of the slur “playful,” but has also said a number of times that it was wrong for him to say it and apologized. Since Dangerous is the first album to stay at No. 1 on the Billboard charts for eight weeks in over a decade, it’s clear that Wallen still has plenty of listeners despite the misstep.

But others aren’t so quick to forgive him. When Wallen made a surprise appearance on the Grand Ole Opry this weekend, when an artist he’s collaborated and written with, Ernest, was performing. Ernest is a co-writer on Wallen’s “More Than My Hometown” hit, and the pair recently released the collaboration “Flower Shops,” so naturally, Ernest invited Wallen to perform that tune with him on the Opry stage. While the Opry itself seemed to welcome the surprise, others artists criticized the institution for tacitly co-signing Wallen. Jason Isbell, in particular, has spoken out about the situation. Early on, Wallen covered Isbell’s incredible song, “Cover Me Up,” so naturally Jason feels the need to speak out, and he even donated all the proceeds from Wallen’s version to the NAACP.

“Last night @opry you had a choice- either upset one guy and his ‘team,’ or break the hearts of a legion of aspiring Black country artists,” Isbell wrote. “You chose wrong and I’m real sad for a lot of my friends today. Not surprised though. Just sad. The thing that really upsets me is bigger than one person’s words. It’s the idea of a young Black artist walking into that venue and wondering if ANYBODY is on their side. What a lot of us consider to be a grand ole honor can be terrifying for some. Doesn’t have to be that way.”

Other artists like Joy Oladokun and Alison Russell, who performs as Outside Child, also shared their frustration and sadness over Wallen’s appearance:

A group called the Black Opry, founded by Holly G and described as “a home for Black artists and Black fans of country, blues, folk, and Americana music” also issued an open letter to the Opry about the incident. You can check that out in full below.