On September 15th, 2023, Maren Morris unequivocally and forcefully announced her departure from country music. She did this through both a feature-length interview in the Los Angeles Times unambiguously titled “Maren Morris is Getting The Hell Out of Country,” and the release of a two-song EP called The Bridge with both the songs and their respective videos clearly referencing not just Maren’s departure from the genre, but her desire to burn the roots and branches of country to the ground on her way out the door.
The hope was that Maren’s victimhood story and supposed activism that put her in such an adversarial position with the rest of the country genre would launch her into the pop music stratosphere with the help of a sympathetic media. But despite the press saturation in the short-term after her departure, folks mostly moved on after a few days, and all of a sudden Morris was a small fish in the much bigger sea of pop.
So now Maren Morris is trying to do a complete about face. But as opposed to being honest about how she initially wanted to leave country and got cold feet, she’s outright lying and gaslighting the public in an attempt to say she never left country music in the first place.
In early December, Maren Morris was awarded Variety Magazine‘s “Changemaker of the Year” award. One of the numerous puff pieces in Variety around the accolade starts,
“Reports of Maren Morris leaving country music have been greatly exaggerated. ‘You don’t fight for what you don’t love,’ says Morris … ‘I do all of this because I want it to be better for everybody, not just for the few.’ Morris is not going anywhere — not leaving Nashville, not stopping her mission to make the music industry more fair, and definitely not leaving her Texas country roots to become a ‘pop star,’ as she puts it. ‘Obviously no — like, that’s hilarious.’
But when The Bridge EP and the original Los Angeles Times article were published, Maren Morris didn’t balk at the idea she was leaving country, nor did she offer any sort of correction or clarification at that time. She didn’t dispute the hundreds of subsequent headlines that spelled out her departure in no uncertain terms either. It wasn’t until a November appearance on The Tonight Show three months later that Morris disputed the characterization that she was leaving country.
The Los Angeles Times hasn’t augmented their initial interview or reporting on the matter whatsoever. They haven’t offered any corrections or updates to the article. Saving Country Music reached out about the discrepancy to the writer of the L.A. Times piece, Mikael Wood. Mr. Wood responded, “…Don’t think I’ve got anything to say on this.”
As many actual country fans love to point out about Maren Morris, she really wasn’t country to begin with. Even many of her proponents would admit her sound incorporated pop, R&B, and hip-hop elements. So perhaps the biggest test of whether Maren Morris is truly remaining in country or not would be the music she released after her announcement.
The first song Morris collaborated on after The Bridge EP was an R&B ballad called “Some Things I’ll Never Know” with R&B/soul artist Teddy Swims. It was released on November 17th. Though both Morris and Swims have dabbled on the periphery of country in the past, the track doesn’t come near any sort of country sensibilities.
The second track Morris has collaborated on is an unambiguous pop song called “42” with EDM DJ Diplo. Neither the tracks from The Bridge, nor the two other subsequent songs jive with Morris saying that it’s “hilarious” that anyone would even insinuate she’s becoming a pop star. They seem to verify the pop move by Morris.
Sure, Morris has collaborated with pop artists and producers in the past while she was still considered a “country” artist, namely the massive pop hit “The Middle” in 2018 with producer Zedd. Morris could continue these types of off-album collaborations and still hypothetically release country songs. But she’s already announced that the producer of her new album will be pop producer Jack Antonoff, and that the album will be released though the pop office of Columbia Records as opposed to her previous label home of Columbia Records Nashville.
All signs of the Maren Morris career trajectory continue to point towards pop. And as Morris continues to claim that she never left country, nobody seems to be buying it. Not even her Wikipedia page is updated with this information (at the time of this post). It currently ends with her leaving country.
Yet as troubling as the obvious misdirection by Maren Morris is, it pales in comparison to the outright hypocrisy she’s guilty of for collaborating with Diplo.
In the Variety article announcing Maren Morris’s “Changemaker” award, it gives credit to Morris for,
“…using her success within country music to try to push the genre towards more inclusivity on all fronts — most pressingly, for people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. That push has meant being at odds with some of country music’s most visible stars, and becoming a loud progressive voice on Nashville’s conservative-skewing political spectrum: Not looking the other way when Morgan Wallen used a racial slur, or when Jason Aldean’s wife Brittany posted an arguably transphobic joke on Instagram.”
But when Maren Morris chose to collaborate with Diplo on the new song “42,” she chose to look the other way from Diplo’s extremely checkered past when it comes to his treatment of women leading up to the present tense.
Diplo—whose real name is Thomas Pentz—has been accused by multiple women of rape, sexual assault, harassment, grooming, and other offenses in a protracted list of troubling alleged behavior, including allegations from other music performers, and specifically from Black and Brown women, and from women under the legal age of consent.
From 2003 to 2008, Diplo dated British-born rapper M.I.A., who is of Sri Lanken descent. In 2017, M.I.A. accused the DJ of mental abuse, of trying to take credit for her career, of taking credit for songs that weren’t his, of cheating on her, and even of using an image of her as a dart board.
In October 2020, rapper Azealia Banks spoke out about Diplo, saying on her podcast, “I used to have sex with Diplo when I was 17 (Diplo was in his 30s). Diplo definitely found me on f—ing Myspace. I always give him credit for f—ing launching my career off, but yeah, I had to give him some teenage pussy to do it. He’s always been preying on young ethnic girls.”
The allegations from Azealia Banks came after a woman named Shelly Auguste came forward to accuse Diplo of numerous offenses, including rape, grooming herself and other “very young girls,” hiring a private investigator to harass her and other young women to discourage them from coming forward, and distributing revenge porn against her when she did come forward.
According to Auguste, she had consensual sex with Diplo on numerous occasions. But in July of 2019, she claimed Diplo forcibly held her down and raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room after a performance. Auguste also said she tested positive for chlamydia after the incident, blaming Diplo. According to lawyers for Diplo who reached out to Saving Country Music, they deny the DJ gave her chlamydia, and claim Auguste later tweeted, “that pedophile did not rape me.”
After Shelly Auguste came out with her accusations, she then claims Diplo distributed revenge porn against her as retaliation. Auguste filed and received a restraining order against Diplo, but charges were never filed in the alleged rape. Diplo claimed Auguste was an obsessed fan and denied all accusations, and received his own restraining order against her.
Then in 2021, a fourth woman came forward, claiming she was raped by Diplo in 2019 after a Las Vegas performance, saying Diplo “invited her to a room, kicked out her friends, and would not let her leave until she performed oral sex,” while also filming the encounter. Diplo staunchly denied the claims, and the unnamed accuser dropped the case 10 days later. According to Dilpo’s lawyers, this fourth woman was a friend of Shelly Auguste.
Diplo ultimately did win a civil case against Auguste for harassment. But two days before the Diplo and Maren Morris collaboration “42” came out, news reports revealed that Shelly Auguste had filed a police report with the Los Angeles Police Department this summer claiming Diplo distributed revenge porn against her. The LAPD subsequently submitted the new case to the Los Angeles city attorney’s office, which is currently reviewing the matter.
“If you dare criticize blatant misogyny, racism, transphobia within the ranks of your industry, you’re met with isolation, death threats, labeled as ‘ungrateful,’ ‘biting the hand that fed you’ or diminishingly told to ‘just shut up and sing,'” Morris said as part of her acceptance speech for the Variety “Changemaker” award.
But in the case of Diplo, not only has Maren Morris remained silent, she has chosen to collaborate with Diplo and release music with him, despite the ongoing and active accusations and police investigations into the performer, including new developments that were reported all across music media 48 hours before the song “42” was released.
Maren Morris has also been curiously silent on the accusations against country performer Jimmie Allen, as well as country publicist Kirt Webster. While Maren’s most high-profile brushup was with the Instagram account of Jason Aldean’s wife, when credible accusations of rape and other sexual misconduct surface with men actively working within the industry, she’s chosen to say nothing.
For the record, Saving Country Music has also criticized other country artists for collaborating with Diplo, namely Sturgill Simpson, as well as criticizing events such as Stagecoach Festival in California for continuing to book Diplo as a featured name despite the continued sexual assault accusations.
Diplo was just announced this week as part of the 2024 Bonnaroo lineup to go along with his 2024 Stagecoach appearance. When Diplo performed at the Two Step Inn country festival in Texas in 2023, it was a set that objectified women with two dancers on stripper poles flanking Diplo’s DJ booth.
The gross discrepancy between what Maren Morris says, what Maren Morris does, and what the media subsequently gives her credit for continues to grow. Along with the collaboration with Diplo, Maren’s cancellation of a local women’s performance at a concert in 2022 and a host of other infractions verifies that the characterization of Maren as a “Changemaker” deserves greater context.
It’s easy to virtue signal on social media, and initiate culture war acrimony before couching yourself as the victim for sympathy press. What’s hard is to call out the more entrenched elements of misogyny in the music industry like Diplo who has used country music to backstop his career as elements of the pop and EDM world exclude his from opportunities due to the ongoing sexual accusations.
Now Diplo is using Maren Morris to help further launder his reputation, knowing the press and public see Morris as someone who supposedly challenges misogyny in the industry. And Maren Morris is allowing it.