Wallen’s 36-track album is too long

Joe Harned
Feature/Entertainment Editor

Country singer Morgan Wallen performs at Crypto.com Arena during his Dangerous tour on Sept. 24, 2022, in Los Angeles. Photo by Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Artists who could sell out Busch stadium are few and far between; the list of those who actually have is even smaller. Morgan Wallen will likely join this elite group after his 2023 performance.

Despite great success, the world of country music is still isolated in comparison to genres like rap or pop. A 2022 CBS poll found that only 12% of Americans said country music was their favorite genre, and yet Wallen had the number one Billboard album last year. The line, “I like all music, except for country” is a standard response to questions of music taste.

A person who has never listened to country music may go into Wallen’s album “One Thing at a Time” with the standard biases of a non-country listener: The songs will be corny odes to trucks and beer, and the accent will be hard to get over.

Wallen’s new album is an expansive 36 songs, divided into three groups: standard country music fare, hip-hop inspired songs, and “dirt-rock” songs, all of which have titles that suggest to the listener that their biases will be proven true.

From the first song, Wallen’s production is impressive. “Born With A Beer In My Hand” is, on its surface, a stereotypical country song, with slide guitars, twangy acoustics and hushed drums. Its lyrics are more than meets the eye, though, with unexpected vulnerability regarding sobriety and alcoholism. A strong chorus and the touch of autotune on Wallen’s voice give a strong start to the album.

The record loses some steam within the first half. Many of the songs have a similar cadence and sonic profile, with crystal-clear and slightly auto-tuned vocals falling short from delivering a strong impact.

There are outliers in the first act, such as the title track, “One Thing at a Time.” The more electric drive and bouncy drumline gives the song an almost indie-pop sound. One could imagine a voice like Clairo or Phoebe Bridgers over the track (though it lacks the finesse and lyricism that either would bring).

Through the second half of the album, the themes begin to grow old. There are so many songs about drinking, and so many songs about apologizing. The structure of the songs begins to feel familiar too, with a standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus cycle among every track.

Thirty-six songs is simply too many for an artist or listener to handle. By song 26, the tracks begin to slog through mud towards the conclusion. In hindsight, trying to listen to the whole hour and a half record may be a mistake when trying to judge the album as a whole.

Looking at the album in its entirety, it is just bloated. Long albums, and albums with a lot of songs, can still be fantastic as long as there are true standouts that cut through the fluff that comes with a long album. Wallen’s standouts, unfortunately, are all set at the front end of the album.

By the end of listening, the listener may be able to fully get over the country accent and most of the typical country lyrics. The faults with “One Thing At A Time” lie in its length and repetition. Had Wallen cut the album in half and moved some of the tracks to a deluxe or B-Sides version, the album would have been much more listenable.


Joe Harned- Feature/Entertainment Editor

This will be Joe Harned’s first year on ECHO Staff. He also made several contributions while taking journalism class his freshman year.

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