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The third album by the country music superstar Morgan Wallen, the 36-song “One Thing at a Time,” just debuted at the top of the Billboard album chart, with the equivalent of 501,000 units. It is the fifth biggest streaming debut, behind only releases by Taylor Swift and Drake. Its success is an extension of the dominance of his earlier work, especially the 2021 release “Dangerous: The Double Album,” which has been the emblematic and most popular country album of the 2020s.
Wallen’s success still comes under the cloud of the 2021 incident in which he was caught on tape using a racial slur. Though he was briefly removed from country radio at the time, he has since been restored, and he remains a touring force.
On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about the nature of Wallen’s fame and the scope of his punishment; the ways in which he — perhaps inadvertently — weaponizes culture war; and the outsized meaning behind his light experimentation with genre.