Luke Bryan made it clear that “tremendous changes” will be taking place to address racism in the country music industry.
During a recent Q&A with reporters to promote the upcoming season of “American Idol”, the singer and his fellow “Idol” judge, Lionel Richie, were asked what steps need to be taken to diversify the televised singing competition and country music. The journalist at the Television Critics Association panel highlighted that country singer Morgan Wallen is more popular now than ever before, after he was caught using a racist slur on camera in February 2021.
Richie specified how the show treats each contestant like “family” despite coming from “all walks of life,” Insider reported. Bryan chimed in to answer the question by saying, “First of all, there’s racism throughout the whole country. Just to just sit here and single out country music as some kind of racist format is not altogether natural and true.”
“I’ve been privy to various board meetings where we recognize our problems as an industry, and things take time,” the “Knockin’ Boots” singer added. “I think this country learns every day about the severity of racism. And like I said, I think sometimes you have to open your eyes and understand other people’s side of the story.”
Wallen was suspended from his record deal, watched his music dropped from radio playlists and was pushed out of consideration at award shows after he was caught using the N-word towards someone outside of his house party. Despite the scandal, the “Wasted On You” singer’s music sales spiked and he became 2021’s best-selling country music artist.
The popular singer has since returned to public life, releasing his new collab “Broadway Girls”, announcing a new tour for 2022, and making a surprise appearance at the Grand Ole Opry earlier this month. However, the publicity has drawn a lot of negative attention to Wallen, ultimately coming to the presumption that those within the country music industry have yet to learn the lesson.
“I think we are going to grow, and you are going to see tremendous changes,” Bryan mentioned during the panel. “You bring up the Morgan situation — that’s a situation that I think country music and the industry is doing everything they can to recognize, and these things take time. They take time in the National Football League. They take time as a country.”
Bryan also noted that the judges don’t consider race or sexual orientation when an “American Idol” contestant is auditioning.
“We look at them with an open heart and an open mind,” Bryan told reporters, explaining that he’s “proud” of the show for feeling like “viewers at home are doing the exact same thing.”
“American Idol” returns with its 22nd season on Feb. 27.