On Colostomies, Country Music, And Morgan Wallen’s Return
The shit has hit the fan.
By playing an impromptu, late-night set at Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse, Morgan Wallen — in a manner akin to being recorded screaming the n-word on camera at the beginning of this year’s Black History Month — made an auspiciously inauspicious return to country music in the most mind-blowing manner possible. In doing so, he crystallized and likely set ablaze the polarizing war of morality — superseding those of racism and sexism — at play in post-COVID America.
Reparational justice in America in 2021 has been intriguing to watch unfurl. Most fascinatingly, a century of country music embodying America’s constant need to demoralize and denigrate Black people has slowly started — more than at any other time in history — to revolt against this narrative. Many of the genre’s African-American performers are being put under a microscope-like spotlight and shining like Hope Diamonds under simultaneous scrutiny and acclaim.
However, when Morgan Wallen made his official return to country music by contradicting his own April 13-dated statement about not hitting the stage this summer by singing “Whiskey Glasses” and “Wasted on You” Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse, the unprecedented era of good feeling country music had engendered screeched to a halt.
The shit — both metaphorically and strangely enough, in reality — has hit the fan.
Important to note here is that Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse occupies a notorious strip of Downtown Nashville’s Broadway corridor. Likely, to many, the section of the southern end of Broadway which houses Kid Rock’s is equal parts an ersatz tourist trap and a drunken, flatulent vomitorium celebrating a century of various iterations of pop music’s dalliances with country music. However, something more notable than the typical spate of whiskey-bent American Bad Ass Cowboys walking down the Lonely Road of Faith has headlined news coming from the bar of late.
Nearly a year ago to this day, Wallen — a country superstar whose success has dominated pop music, across all genres, unabated, in 2021, even following his wanton use of a racial slur —was arrested on charges of public intoxication and disorderly conduct after an incident at Kid Rock’s. Regarding the incident, Nashville’s WKRN ABC-2 reported, “Police reported Wallen had a strong odor of alcohol and appeared to be a danger to himself and others. Officers said he got into multiple verbal altercations with people passing by and was arrested due to being intoxicated in public, unable to take care of himself, and the reasonable likelihood the offense would continue. The country singer was released from jail on a $500 bond shortly after his arrest.”
One listen to Tyler Mahan Coe’s second season of the currently publishing Cocaine and Rhinestones podcast will tell you that country stars getting drunk in public is as much a cornerstone of the genre as winsome singer-songwriters prattling on about three chords and the truth. However, the state in which we find Kid Rock’s one year later — and two weeks before Morgan Wallen re-ascending to the bar’s performance stage — says everything about the world we occupy that’s about to be open for business, as well as human interaction, post-COVID.
On May 3, 2021, Nicholas Newhart — a balding, forehead-tattooed, white gentleman — was described NBC’s News 4 Nashville as “drunk and holding a bottle of beer blocking the outside side emergency exit door at Kid Rock’s. Kid Rock security told the defendant to leave the outside door area, but he refused to leave.” After he refused to leave, Newhart was arrested by Metro Nashville police on multiple charges, including assaulting two police officers after he took off his colostomy bag and swung it to strike them.
A likely not-so-socially better-adjusted Morgan Wallen enters a world where literal drunken shit-disturbing has been deemed as an honest portrayal of humankind’s lack of regard for order. Into this fecal mess, mainstream aimed country music — when asked to get their boy, calm him down, and hopefully choose common decency over violence — instead opted to take a slug of Jack Daniels, lean back its head, and incoherently wail “Bawitdaba, da bang, da dang diggy diggy!” long into the fetid haze of a late spring Music City night.
It bears mentioning here that none of this should be seen as a slight against Robert “Kid Rock” Ritchie, the bar’s hip-hopping rock-country superstar proprietor. He’s a Wallen forebear, and thus, his role in this nonsense is ultimately quite sensical. It also stands to mention that if we have issues with Kid Rock and his bar, it’s important to consider that he’s sold enough recordings in his thirty-year musical career where one in ten Americans is likely to own one of his eleven studio albums.
We did this to ourselves.
Only God Knows Why…
For that one in ten Americans, Ritchie’s recent behavior — which includes rants and tweets in which he’s told Oprah Winfrey and President Joe Biden that they can suck his “d***” and “nutz,” respectively, as well as saying “f*** them” to the Nashville Scene — is permissible and right. Thus, for them, also, it stands to reason that a juvenile-seeming and epithet-slurring breaker of multiple ordinances deserves not to have to show an ounce of verifiable contrition to the other ninety percent of Americans for whom his consistently loutish behavior pales against the grain of what’s considered well-meaning behavior in America in 2021.
Laugh-in-spite-of-cryingly, the idea that the first great battle of America’s future is occurring at Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse is not just wild because the venue is where mulleted accidental racists and people who hurl excrement in anger can belly up to the bar together.
As well, Nashville-based comedian Joshua Black recently performed a “man on the street” routine for the previously mentioned Nashville Scene in which he noted that, as well, people who have chlamydia can receive a free drink at the bar, too.
Thus, if extending this metaphor even deeper, Wallen’s “comeback performance” now sets into alignment social pariahs like racists (both accidental and on-purpose), shit-throwers, plus those who have unfortunately contracted a sexually transmitted disease that results in painful urination and abnormal bodily discharges — and those who support them as not fair to be denigrated against in any manner — as standing in a moral battle against the rest of America.
If laughing at this unprecedented turn of events, don’t. Wallen’s album Dangerous has spent 18 consecutive weeks — including the three months since his February gaffe — at or near the top of the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. This rampaging, dysfunctional mob of beer-swilling crap-baggers has discovered a way to stream and buy Morgan Wallen more times than any other artist in popular music this year. He’s now returned, like some resurrected Redneck Jesus preaching hillbilly elegies from a mother church for a sect of country music fanatics where the price of $1.98 is for a Pabst Blue Ribbon and not Minnie Pearl’s wicker hat.
For disease-free, non-racist, and law-abiding Americans for whom shit — even in colostomy bag form — is human waste alone, we’re likely rather gleefully watching or living in Nashville and listening to country music these days with Dolly Parton’s COVID vaccine coursing through our veins. However, there’s a serious situation afoot.
When a one-in-ten segment of country music fans and pop music supporters were asked to commit to a future of the genre committing to perpetually choosing common decency over violence, they instead put on their “Whiskey Glasses,” held a fist in our nation’s face, and just “gave the next generation a big ‘fuck you’.”
The shit has hit the fan. America is at war with itself. Country music is this conflict’s most vitriolic battlefield.
To quote another country icon, Willie Nelson, “It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way.”
But it is.