Morgan Wallen returned to the stage at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday night (May 15), performing his new song, "Don't Think Jesus."

Wallen's performance began with no introduction. A spotlight came up on the singer sitting on a stool, strumming his guitar in a circle with his band. He gave a simple, straightforward delivery of his personal ballad, which came out in mid-April. At the conclusion of the song, he thanked the crowd, before launching into an acoustic rendition of "Wasted on You." The latter song comes off his Dangerous double album, which arrived in January 2021.

It marked Wallen's first major awards show performance since he was filmed using a racist slur in early 2021. In the wake of that incident, Wallen was largely benched by the music industry: His label suspended his record deal, he was pulled from many country radio playlists and several major awards shows deemed him ineligible for consideration that year.

While he wasn't allowed to present, perform or accept any awards in person at the 2021 BBMAs, Wallen was still a finalist at the show, whose award winners are determined by analytical data. He won three awards — Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist and Top Country Album.

Wallen was a finalist at the 2022 BBMAs, too — in the categories of Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album and Top Billboard 200 Artist — and he was officially welcomed back to the show. MRC Live & Alternative, the division of MRC that produces the BBMAs, issued an internal memo after Wallen was announced as a 2022 performer, explaining that the decision to include Wallen in the lineup wasn't made lightly.

"We oppose discrimination, harassment, or racism of any kind,” MRC told Billboard. “We believe in treating everyone with dignity and respect. After a thorough review and robust discussions internally and with the artist’s team, in which we found a demonstrated and ongoing commitment to meaningful work and outreach, we extended an invitation to participate in this year’s show."

The topic of racial injustice was at the forefront of viewers' minds as the 2022 BBMAs began: The show kicked off with a statement acknowledging the tragic mass shooting that took place in Buffalo, N.Y. on May 14. 10 people died and three more were injured in the massacre, which was racially motivated. A suspect, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron, was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder.

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