Morgan Wallen took the stage at the Billboard Music Awards just over a year after he was caught on camera using a racial slur to perform his songs “Wasted on You” and “Don’t Think Jesus” Sunday night.
Performing on the show’s center stage surrounded by his backing band, Wallen opened with the reflective “Don’t Think Jesus” before ditching his guitar to give an emotive performance of the chart-topping “Wasted on You.”
“Wasted on You” appears on Wallen’s 2021 album, Dangerous: The Double Album, which was one of the biggest commercial hits of last year, despite the controversy that enveloped the country artist. The track was officially released as a single in March and has since hit Number One on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and peaked at Number Nine on the Hot 100.
MRC Live and Alternative, which produces the BBMAs, previously explained the decision to book Wallen in an internal memo shared via Billboard. Per the memo, the decision came about after both internal discussions, as well as discussions between MRC and Wallen’s team; MRC staffers were reportedly convinced that Wallen had committed to bettering himself and learning more, and that the 2021 incident was not part of a frequent pattern of behavior. (Billboard and Rolling Stone are both owned by the same company, PMRC, which came about in 2020 after a merger between MRC and Penske Media Corporation.)
Wallen’s BBMAs performance is his second major awards show appearance, coming just a couple months after the country music industry welcomed him back at the Academy of Country Music Awards in March. Wallen — who won Album of the Year for Dangerous — was barred from last year’s show, one of several industry-wide repercussions he faced after being caught using the racist slur.
Following the incident, Wallen largely stayed out of the public eye, though he did make a public apology on Good Morning America last July. Along with the BBMA and CMA appearances, he’s been slowly returning to the limelight over the past few months with new music — including a collaboration with Lil Durk — and a massive arena tour.