How Did Morgan Wallen Manage to Get Nominated at an Awards Show He’s Banned From Attending?

Hint: it's another reason why award shows are dumb

Morgan Wallen performs onstage at the Ryman Auditorium on January 12, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Morgan Wallen performs onstage at the Ryman Auditorium on January 12, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Getty Images for Ryman Auditoriu

On Thursday, this year’s nominations for the American Music Awards (AMAs) were announced, and controversial country singer Morgan Wallen, who was caught on tape using the n-word earlier this year, is up for two awards: Favorite Male Country Artist and Favorite Country Album for Dangerous: The Double Album. And yet, as the AV Club points out, despite earning the nominations, Wallen is banned from attending the ceremony.

The reason for these mixed signals? The AMA nominations are based solely on Billboard chart data, and Wallen — despite being quite problematic — is extremely popular.

“Unique among awards shows, American Music Awards (AMA) nominees are determined by performance on the Billboard Charts and are not chosen by a voting committee or membership organization,” a note explaining Wallen’s exclusion from the ceremony on the AMA website reads. “AMA nominees are based on key fan interactions with music (including streaming, album sales, song sales, radio airplay, social engagement), tracked by Billboard and its data partner MRC Data. The AMA winners are voted entirely by fans. Morgan Wallen is a nominee this year based on charting. As his conduct does not align with our core values, we will not be including him on the show in any capacity (performing, presenting, accepting).”

“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,” the organization also noted.

If anything, this is a perfect example of why “awards shows” that are actually just straight-up popularity contests are so pointless. Like it or not, we’ve all come to associate awards with some sort of voting body consisting of critics or industry professionals weighing in to deliver some sort of assessment of actual quality. Things that are popular are not necessarily always good, and relying solely on chart data to pull together nominations doesn’t allow for any sort of critical thinking — like, say, “Do we really want to give a trophy to a racist?” — to enter into the process. The AMAs and other similar “awards shows” don’t contribute much to the overall conversation other than reminding us that the albums and artists we already know to be popular do, in fact, have quite a few fans. The Wallen fiasco is proof that it’s time for them to reconsider their format.

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