On Morgan Wallen's “You Proof” Setting Country Radio Record – Saving Country Music

62 Comments
Amid all the hullabaloo about how independent artists that are not played on mainstream country radio are continuing to gobble up market share and attention from their mainstream counterparts—requiring now that the mainstream must search for more organic, more substantive, and more country-sounding performers to keep up the pace—there are still plenty of exceptions to that rule as the last expiring gasps of Bro-Country still can find traction, especially on country music’s commercial radio format.

Case in point is Morgan Wallen’s song “You Proof,” which over the Christmas/New Year holiday set a rather landmark achievement by becoming the first radio single in country music history to spend 10 weeks at #1—a record that despite the song’s country lyricism as a heartbreak drinking song, can only be regarded as dubious due to the decidedly non-country sound and production of the track.

Previously, Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” from 2003, and Lonestar’s pop crossover hit “Amazed” from 1999 had both shared the record at eight weeks total at #1.

It’s empirically true that when regarding Morgan Wallen’s musical output, he’s always been slightly more country, and slightly more prone to releasing better songs than his predecessors from the Bro-Country era such as Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, or someone like Walker Hays. The success of Wallen has also helped usher in a wave of these “slightly better” mainstream stars such as Ernest and Hardy.

It was Ernest’s duet with Morgan Wallen on the song “Flower Shops” that might’ve set the pace for the most country-sounding single on country radio in 2022, despite it stalling at #18, likely because it sounded so country. Similarly, Hardy’s duet with Lainey Wilson called “Wait in the Truck” is supplying country radio with a unsettling story to ponder upon, which again is rather unconventional for the format, however implausible that story might seem to some.

But a song like “You Proof” proves why Morgan Wallen is an artist that still leaves much to be desired. Despite a contingent of traditional-leaning country fans that would never go near an artist like Morgan Wallen or a song such as “You Proof” finding themselves in the crowd of apologists for the Tennessee native after his attempted cancellation due to the now notorious ‘N’-word incident, “You Proof” certifies why this is an imperfect, and in certain ways, unwarranted alliance.

Sure, you can think that the way the media portrayed the ‘N’-word incident was hyperbolic, and at times, outright false, because in certain instances, it was. But that doesn’t mean that Morgan Wallen still didn’t make a completely stupid decision and shouldn’t have said what he said, and it doesn’t make a bad song good. Wallen can record much better and healthier songs such as Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up” or the aforementioned “Flower Shops” all he wants. But if he releases songs like “You Proof” as singles and they end up shattering records, this is what will define his career, and country music in the present tense.

“You Proof” was the beneficiary of a few fortuitous turns to earn this 10-week record. Since it peaked right during the holidays when few if any new singles are being released—and labels aren’t trying to force different singles to the top of the charts since everything is centered around Christmas music—it left “You Proof” to reign almost indefinitely through the season. Radio and the country industry as a whole also seem to be eager to signal that they’re through with all the drama around their top superstar. Morgan Wallen apologized profusely, donated money to charitable causes, and now it’s time to move on.

In fact, “You Proof” also proves that if Morgan Wallen is some sort of racist, it certainly doesn’t translate or extend to his influences or listening habits. “You Proof” is a hip-hop-inspired pop song with somewhat country lyricism. The dirty little truth behind the Morgan Wallen “N’-word incident has always been that he wasn’t having a racial outburst. He was an artist who’s been outspoken about how he is inspired by hip-hop music quoting a very prolific and commonplace hip-hop lyric.

But again, “You Proof” is just not a very good song. Perhaps it could have been a harmless, though pedestrian track if it had been rendered without the electronic production, and hip-hop cadence in the chorus. But it wasn’t. And so similar to the record-setting songs on Billboard’s consumption based Hot Country Songs chart like Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road,” and FGL/Bebe Rexha’s “Mean To Be,” the song holding country radio’s #1 record is a pretty bad one, and we can only hope that someone that is part of the current resurgence of good country music will eventually come up to knock it off it’s perch.

1 1/2 Guns Down (2.5/10)


Tom
January 4, 2023 @ 8:59 am
Among the previous record breakers, I’d say that at least You Proof is not as lyrically awful and gross as Body Like A Back Road, as bland as Meant To Be, or meat headed as Cruise
I’m a fan of Morgan’s, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to call it his weakest single to date. I think Wasted On You was a much better attempt of his at mixing country with trap/hip hop production just this year.
I don’t hate You Proof. I think it works for the miserable vibe it’s trying to set and is still somewhat catchy and interesting lyrically. Morgan still sounds good on it. But I would prefer more songs like Thought You Should Know, Sand In My Boots, and Flower Shops from him.
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Trigger
January 4, 2023 @ 9:17 am
I would agree that “You Proof” is not as awful as those other record breakers, and is not the most awful song you will hear on country radio. That’s the reason I didn’t include it in the “Worst Songs of 2022,” and probably wouldn’t even be talking about it if it didn’t break this record.
I do think that Morgan Wallen, Hardy, and Ernest do care about being taken more seriously as songwriters than their Bro-Country predecessors, and they try to balance that with penning hit singles. I just wish Morgan (and his label) would release some of those better songs as singles too, like he has done in the past. I’m still angry they pulled support from “Flower Shops” before it was allowed to at least compete for #1. It would have driven Jason Isbell and his fans crazy, but I think that Wallen should have released “Cover Me Up” as a single. It would have gone #1 for sure, and raised the quality of songs on country radio. Similar to Chris Stapleton not releasing “Tennessee Whiskey” to radio, I think it was a missed opportunity.
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Tom
January 4, 2023 @ 9:54 am
One of the more minor unfortunate things from Morgan’s incident, is that it altered what could’ve been an even more eventful album cycle for Dangerous. With a double album, he could’ve gone full Come On Over and released a dozen singles. There were a few others I thought were great enough to deserve being released as a true single, but it seems Morgan’s completely post Dangerous at this point.
865 and Somebody’s Problem had hit single written all over them. Only Thing That’s Gone could easily have gotten Chris Stapleton another hit, which is always good. Neon Eyes and More Surprised Than Me were more personal favorites. Quittin’ Time was a great album closer as an Eric Church co-write.
Even though I like Wasted On You, I think it’s huge success over Sand In My Boots was the lead in to You Proof, and could have a more negative impact on his single choices going forward. Between him and Bailey Zimmerman, brooding, miserable sad boy country might be the next big wave.
Really hope Thought You Should Know keeps momentum though, I love that song from him
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Jake Cutter
January 4, 2023 @ 9:15 am
I feel like you’ve said “it’s time to move on” from that incident at least once before, and yet here we are…
I do get that it’s hard not to talk about though, since some of your peers are still so obsessed.
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Trigger
January 4, 2023 @ 10:34 am
The fact that Morgan Wallen set this record, and by two weeks is pretty darn newsworthy regardless of any of the extraneous consternation about his behavior. I haven’t seen a ton of chirping about how this proves country music is still racist or anything. There has been some. But this week, it’s Jimmie Allen’s song “Down Home” that’s #1, so I’m not sure how that happened.
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King Honky Of Crackershire
January 4, 2023 @ 12:24 pm
Jake,
I actually find it very virtuous of Trigger to continually remind the world how much he doesn’t hate black folks. His acceptance of black people is definitely in doubt, and so the reminders are necessary in my opinion.
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Matsfan/Jatsfan
January 5, 2023 @ 10:31 am
Wallen from this site. So, without ever hearing any of it, it is safe to say that his music is not for me.
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Matsfan/Jatsfan
January 4, 2023 @ 9:35 am
I really only know of/about Morgan Wallen from this site. So, without ever hearing any of it, it is safe to say that his music is not for me.
Trigger, while you have referenced his massive popularity previously, this “record” of 10 weeks is not the biggest surprise to me about MW. Little Nas, BeBe Rexha and Sam Hunt have also set records with crappy songs. It is that he immediately SOLD OUT two nights at American Family Field, (formerly Miller Park) where the Brewers play. That is 90,000+ seats in one semi-big city. That seems crazy.
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Di Harris
January 4, 2023 @ 9:39 am
“It’s empirically true that when regarding Morgan Wallen’s musical output, he’s always been slightly” (a lot ) “more country, and slightly” (much) “more prone to releasing better songs than”

Zach Bryan.
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Sam Garber
January 4, 2023 @ 12:45 pm
I’m sorry, but I just completely disagree with that statement, I like some of MW’s songs but he’s nowhere near as good of a songwriter as Zach. I find the argument of “who’s more country than who” sort of a waste of time with artists like these, but while I don’t know MW’s background, it’s hard to believe he’s “more country” than a man who wrote songs about his own tragic experiences while in the Navy and released 2 records of mostly just him and his guitar.
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Howard
January 4, 2023 @ 3:00 pm
Intolerance of each other to the point of dehumanization.
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Howard
January 4, 2023 @ 3:03 pm
Oops, I screwed up the reply on my phone and attached this to the wrong original post. The above was intended to be a reply to the poster way down the thread who asked what the extreme left and extreme right had in common. Trigger, if there’s any way to attach this where it belongs available to you, please do.
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Trigger
January 4, 2023 @ 3:06 pm
Hey Howard,
Just post the comment again where it is supposed to be, and I will delete this one. I can’t move comments or post comments under different users.

Di Harris
January 4, 2023 @ 5:19 pm
It is quite alright to disagree
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RyanPD
January 4, 2023 @ 9:42 am
I don’t dislike this goof as much as everyone else. But I did recently see a video of him doing what looked like karaoke in a tiny bar, seemingly recently, and it was so stinkin cringe and lame, I felt embarrassed for him and myself.
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Cap’n B
January 4, 2023 @ 10:26 am
Every video I’ve seen of him performing live is honestly worse than the music itself. His delivery/banter from the stage has always come across like he’s only singing to the women in the crowd, reminiscent of a “boy band.”
As for the video you mention, yeah, it’s pretty tough to stomach. I’ve been hopeful for his sake that video wasn’t recently recorded and is just now surfacing from years back.
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Trigger
January 4, 2023 @ 11:02 am
Yeah, I saw that video being passed around, and I agree it’s pretty cringe, but it deserved some context. First, it was old, I believe even before the N-word incident. Second, if we’re going to start indicting the talent of artists based off of drunk Karaoke performances, you better get ready to write off about 80% of the independent country artists living in east Nashville at the moment because they all love to sing bad versions of “Blame It On Your Heart” by Patty Loveless and post them on Instagram/Tik-Tok.
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Kimmm
January 4, 2023 @ 7:16 pm
That video was almost 3 years old. Definitely cringey but that was MWs whole persona back then. He seems to have grown up some over the years.
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RyanPD
January 4, 2023 @ 7:25 pm
Makes a lot more sense that the video is that old. The place seemed tiny.
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Chris
January 4, 2023 @ 9:43 am
Can you help with a little clarity? I thought “Cruise” broke the record with 20+ weeks at #1. I’m assuming there is some chart distinction at play (radio v. streams v. whatever). It’s hard to keep it all straight sometimes. Thanks!
https://www.savingcountrymusic.com/florida-georgia-lines-cruise-now-longest-1-in-country-history/
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Tom
January 4, 2023 @ 10:02 am
This record is for the Hot Country Airplay #1, rather than the Hot Country Songs #1
The former is just for radio, the latter is overall and encompasses sales, streaming, and whatever else
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Trigger
January 4, 2023 @ 10:06 am
Yes, so in October of 2012, Billboard split the country singles charts into two: Country Airplay, which solely measures airplay for singles through a reporting board of select radio stations, and the Hot Country Songs chart when combines, streams, sales, downloads, and airplay into one chart. Morgan Wallen’s record is on the airplay chart, which generally speaking sees much more churn at the top than Hot Country Songs. It’s pretty rare to see a song spend two or three weeks on top of the airplay chart, let alone ten. So it is a pretty significant achievement, and one that may never be broken. No song previously ever got to nine weeks.
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Chris
January 4, 2023 @ 10:31 am
Thank you!
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Clint T
January 4, 2023 @ 10:36 am
Should have made your worst of 2022 list because of how serious it’s taken. I don’t write this as a Wallen hater – though I’m not a Wallen lover either. I like some of the songs on Dangerous, but the production and same ol’ whiskey drinking theme (someone in his inner circle needs to implore him to explore some new themes) are too lethal a combination.
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Jared
January 4, 2023 @ 10:41 am
Most of these radio charts hits are handpicked by the recording labels. It’s not like the old days when people would buy a single and it would be the #1 seller. The hot 100 streaming charts are also manipulated. But the streaming charts are the future.
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Howard
January 4, 2023 @ 10:55 am
There’s a fascinating message board called The Pulse where chart-watchers predict — with amazing accuracy — which songs will hit No. 1 and when. There are “push weeks” at radio that routinely make previously low-impact singles (like Jimmie Allen’s “Down Home” and Justin Moore’s “With a Woman You Love,” to name two recent examples) into No. 1 airplay hits after many weeks of lighter airplay.
The funny thing about “You Proof” is that it’s not the Wallen track I hear most when I’ve got one of the local stations on. Still hearing “Thought You Should Know,” “Wasted on You” and “Whiskey Glasses” more frequently, although I did cringe recently when one station segued from “You Proof” directly into “Something in the Orange.”
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Wayne
January 4, 2023 @ 11:36 am
Maybe someday we can read an article about Wallen without referencing the N-word.” That horse has been ridden. Time to move on.
That said, this comment in the article I thought was dead-accurate: It’s empirically true that when regarding Morgan Wallen’s musical output, he’s always been slightly more country, and slightly more prone to releasing better songs than his predecessors from the Bro-Country era such as Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, or someone like Walker Hays. The success of Wallen has also helped usher in a wave of these “slightly better” mainstream stars such as Ernest and Hardy.
I personally do not care for “You proof.” If Morgan with his popularity does not make a serious effort to put out more solid country music (ie: Sand in my boots), he will have missed an opporunity of a lifetime, as will country radio.
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Howard
January 4, 2023 @ 12:06 pm
Hardy was in a WWE ring the other night, breaking a gimmicked guitar over the back of some ‘roided-up rassler. I have no idea where this strange cross-promotion will be going, but somehow I don’t see traditional country music having any part in it, given that WWE’s primary demographic target now is urban/suburban teens and 20-somethings.
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King Honky Of Crackershire
January 4, 2023 @ 12:18 pm
…..”Maybe someday we can read an article about Wallen without referencing the N-word.” That horse has been ridden. Time to move on.”……
Not gonna happen. Trigger MUST convince the world he’s not “racist”. Until the whole world is convinced, he MUST continue to send out signals to make it known.
Kyle Coroneos is NOT a “racist” by gosh, and he’s gonna make sure the world knows it, if it’s the last thing he does.
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NJ
January 4, 2023 @ 1:15 pm
It’s almost like you’ve never read a news article before. It’s a pretty common technique to reference backstory on the subject of an article, particularly in this case where the subject has been anti-cancelled, and actually benefited from their “mistake”.
The extreme left and the extreme right have more in common than the average person who doesn’t give two shits.
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Clint T
January 4, 2023 @ 1:23 pm
What do they have in common?
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Howard
January 4, 2023 @ 5:42 pm
Intolerance of each other to the point of dehumanization.

Strait86
January 4, 2023 @ 5:37 pm
yeah….sensationalist tabloid articles
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Clint T
January 4, 2023 @ 7:13 pm
What about their policies/values?

Di Harris
January 4, 2023 @ 9:05 pm
No, that is the myth and lie that is regurgitated constantly, by the left.
There is the rabid liberal left.
It does not have a counterpart in the right.
Now is the perfect time for you to puke up the insurgency.
And, while we’re at it – let’s talk about covid
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Trigger
January 4, 2023 @ 9:13 pm
No, let’s not talk about Covid. Or politics. This is a country music site. Let’s talk about country music.

Di Harris
January 4, 2023 @ 9:18 pm
Too important not to talk about.

Trigger
January 4, 2023 @ 9:44 pm
Nobody is saying you can’t talk about Covid, or that it’s not important. But this is not the right forum. Try interjecting into a Covid-19 discussion your opinions on Morgan Wallen, and see how quickly you get shunned/shut down/lampooned/ignored. This is not a general message board. It’s SavingCountryMusic.com

Di Harris
January 4, 2023 @ 9:32 pm
Alright.
Let’s talk about country music.
You know, lift people up, & shi*.
Is it just me or is Mike Harmeier getting stronger vocally, looking, & sounding like he’s feeling more comfortable in his skin.
Really noticed it in Wimberley

Brad
January 4, 2023 @ 1:44 pm
Way back about 20 years ago or so I used to go to bars and hit up some country bars along the way. I never understood why country bars would play country music and folks would be line dancing and two stepping for a couple hours then the world inside would change on a dime and hip hop and dance music would come blasting through the speakers. Now here we are 20+ years later, and the biggest songs all have click tracks and raps in them. Country killed itself. The fans like garbage music. Pretty much the same across all genres but country has a special knack for pushing trash upon itself. My .02
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Strait86
January 4, 2023 @ 5:36 pm
No one wants to shine belt buckles with a Murfreesboro 6 (Nashville 4) while listening to Earl Thomas Conley and having to realllllly pay attention to the lyrics
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urdaddio
January 4, 2023 @ 3:44 pm
Morgan Wallen is the best thing going in country music today and couldn’t make a bad song if he tried. Only losers and fake country music fans dislike his music. ‘You Proof’ ain’t his best song, but it’s still better than anything anyone else is putting out.
I doubt he cares what some hack writer thinks though, his legions of fans and continued record breaking success easily drown out the chirping.
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Strait86
January 4, 2023 @ 5:08 pm
I’ve never seen an article display so badly how much they secretly wish Morgan Wallen would have been cancelled despite acknowledging that his infractions never warranted his cancellation.
Wishing someone to be cancelled just because you don’t think their music isn’t country enough is worse than saying the N-word.
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Trigger
January 4, 2023 @ 5:37 pm
Yes, I know it can confound some people when you actually approach a complicated topic with objectivity and nuance, but I assure you I don’t want to “cancel” Morgan Wallen for his music, and I certainly didn’t say or imply anything of the sort.
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Strait86
January 4, 2023 @ 7:17 pm
I encourage anyone interested to read your quotes and comments from the first article to show that’s not true.
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Trigger
January 4, 2023 @ 9:17 pm
Saying that Morgan Wallen doesn’t deserve to be the biggest artist in country music, and saying you want his entire career and life to be destroyed are two separate things. I would encourage anyone to read the half dozen articles I posted, including an investigative report into his donations saying why his attempted cancellation was unfounded and counter-productive.
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LiberalsSuck
January 4, 2023 @ 7:27 pm
Oh man.. remember when they tried to cancel MW.. hahaha that was the greatest fail in cancel culture history HAHAHA
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King Honky Of Crackershire
January 5, 2023 @ 12:07 pm
Fail?
The communists got him to publicly apologize, and donate something like half a million dollars, for the egregious crime of being a white boy who loves Rap. In doing so, they successfully portrayed him as a recovering “racist”.
They also successfully associated Country Music with white supremacy, which will eventually result in Nashville actively taking measures to prove them wrong, which will further dilute and erase the true identity of Country Music.
Just because they didn’t destroy his career, doesn’t mean they weren’t successful. Gramscianism is all about the long game; it’s about infiltration and indoctrination.
Look at poor ol Trigger. He’s so beside himself at the idea that a single person on Earth might think he’s a “racist”, that he cannot stop himself from continually trying to prove he’s not. And by continually trying to prove he’s not “racist”, he continually associates himself, his website, and the music he loves with “racism”.
Defense is losing; explaining is losing. Winners stay on offense.
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CountryKnight
January 5, 2023 @ 1:43 pm
Well said, Honky.
Patton would agree with you.
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Trigger
January 5, 2023 @ 3:07 pm
“which will eventually result in Nashville actively taking measures to prove them wrong, which will further dilute and erase the true identity of Country Music.”
Honky, you’re about 18 months too late. That already happened, and now what we’re seeing is the push back from that by radio saying, “We don’t give a shit anymore, so much so we’re going to make Morgan’s mild song a 10-week record-breaking #1.” At least, that’s one of my theories.
This is why I addressed the N-word situation in the review, not to circle back around to it to virtue signal. And your “Trigger’s just trying to prove he’s not racist” bit is so tired and I’ve addressed it so much at this point, I’m afraid to do so again at the risk of sounding redundant. As I have said, over and over, I don’t think I’m going to win over the folks that think I’m a full-throated racist and I’m not trying. I actually do think what Morgan Wallen said was problematic. It did cause unnecessary backlash against all of country music as you mention, whose true motivations were political. We’ve gone over all of this. Over and over.
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Di Harris
January 5, 2023 @ 3:55 pm
“I actually do think what Morgan Wallen said was problematic.”
It wasn’t. Not even a little.
Moving on to a new topic to beat to death.
Zach Bryan goose stepping on the front of an album cover …
Have at it
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Trigger
January 5, 2023 @ 5:27 pm
Di,
You have gone from a valued member of this community, to problematic, to an overt shitposter now on multiple occasions actively trying to trainwreck this comments section, and being so bad at it, not even the trolls waiting in the weeds will take the bait. So what Morgan Wallen said wasn’t an issue whatsoever, but now you’re going to accuse a guy who was in the Navy for seven years as being a Nazi?
Seriously, fuck off!

MD
January 4, 2023 @ 10:13 pm
I think Morgan Wallen has an amazing country album in him, but it probably won’t come while he is so popular. I bet a stripped down version of this song would not be so bad.
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The Original WTF Guy
January 5, 2023 @ 3:01 am
Morgan Wallen, like the state he comes from, sucks.
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Rusty
January 5, 2023 @ 5:18 am
You think Tennessee sucks? I’m sorry. Where are you from?
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Will
January 5, 2023 @ 5:18 am
It’s a pretty dire track. And it’s a shame when Wallen has got some genuinely good tracks in his back catalog. However, I agree it’s this sort of hip hop loop/bass that is selling the record. People clearly like this style and Wallen is cashing in.
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Stephen H.
January 5, 2023 @ 6:49 am
The start of its long run also coincided with the discontinuation of Nielsen BDS and the usage of Mediabase for the Airplay chart. Curious if it still hits ten weeks if BDS still existed.
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Trigger
January 5, 2023 @ 8:37 am
Good point. I still think it has more to do with the Holiday rotation with little churn in tracks, but we should monitor this new change and see if it results in more of these long-tracking #1’s, and why.
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CountryKnight
January 5, 2023 @ 11:07 am
Not a good song but if it makes the woke rage, it is a win.
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Kimberly Owens
January 5, 2023 @ 3:05 pm
Haters gonna hate is all I can sat. Morgan is down to earth and his music reflects that. You proof is mot a bad song. It has a good upbeat modern day sound needed for country music to evolve into other mainstream to be able to reach more fans. I love the way Morgan fought his way back to the top from below rock bottom. He is a wonderful artist and thanks to him artist like Hardy get more fans as well . Every one has their own opinions on songs. If you don’t like it don’t listen. Now if he could get recognized at the very biased country music award shows thst would be great! TEAM MORGAN!!!
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David: The Duke of Everything
January 5, 2023 @ 3:50 pm
The constant need to pile on wallen for any reason whatsoever is silly and petty. So you proof set basically a meaningless record. It’s great for wallen, see no reason to cry over it basically. It’s not one of his best but it’s fine. I bet if Zach Bryan did it, there would be all kinds of crowing and funny thing is it would be even less country than you proof. From my perspective, instead of what looks like sour grapes, maybe everyone should just move on. I mean did country music come to an end when Lonestar had the record, that song sure wasn’t country.
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Trigger
January 5, 2023 @ 5:22 pm
Zach Bryan doesn’t have a single song that is less country than “You Proof.”
What are we moving on from? When an all-time record is set in country music, often country music outlets discuss it. That’s all that’s happening here. This isn’t an attack or rebuke of Morgan Wallen. It is commentary on him setting this record.
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