As I have obliquely alluded to in one of my recent album reviews, I have been dreading the thought of listening to the thirty-six songs of Morgan Wallen’s latest album, One Thing At A Time, in order to review it and give my thoughts in full. However, another music reviewer that I watch frequently on YouTube regarding country music (his chart beat), shrank the album to a manageable twelve songs, to which he added three as deluxe material (and to which I added a wild card of my own that I like), to make for sixteen songs that are at least something worth listening to and reviewing. So, without any further ado, here are the sixteen songs of One Thing At A Time I made a Spotify playlist of to listen to and comment upon:
One Night: It’s the first male country #1 hit in more than twenty years, and even if is the country version of a Maroon 5 song, it is catchy and not a particularly surprising big hit. I don’t think this is the best song, but it’s a solid 8/10 anyway.
Me + All Your Reasons: This is one of many songs on the album that deals with Morgan Wallen’s problems with drinking (and apparently drugs as well, more on that later), and it also wallows in another common theme on the album, being relationship trouble, but it’s a solid 8/10 song anyway.
Money On Me: This particular song dwells pretty heavily on relationship drama, and shows a self-aware Morgan Wallen admitting that he isn’t a reliable or stable sort of person who is good for relationships and that he wouldn’t bet on himself to be the right kind of man for the woman he is interested in. This song is a 9/10 for me at least.
Thought You Should Know: This song was a pretty big hit for the album, reaching the top ten, and this song carries on the theme of Morgan Wallen’s spiritual reflections, which is one of the surprisingly common themes of this album, providing a gracious and beautiful discussion of success and life and his pride in his background and desire to keep in touch with his mother. This song is a 9/10 for me.
Everything I Love: This song is one of the more popular album tracks on the album, and certainly a possible future single if the era lasts long enough. This song is one of the many that deals with relationship melodrama, featuring some traditional country instrumentation and subject matter that sounds pretty neo-traditional to this listener at least. This is another 9/10 for me.
Ain’t That Some: This song is a striking example of the genre switching that Morgan Wallen is rightly known for, with MW doing some pretty excellent rapping featuring lyrics that are pretty strikingly country in content besides earning their explicit rating. This song is one of the most striking examples of hick hop I have heard, which may not be to everyone’s taste but is a solid 8.5/10 in my book.
One Thing At A Time: It makes sense for the title track to be on a shortened version of the album, but this song earns its place on several grounds, such as being an awesome song (my favorite on the album that I’ve heard so far), as well as being an example of the combination of substance abuse relating to alcohol abuse, nicotine, marijuana as well as meth use (!) and relationship melodrama that make it impossible for Morgan Wallen to quit all of his bad habits. Still, as an alt/rock leaning song, this is a 9.5/10, a real standout, if not the most praiseworthy picture of Wallen, reminding me a lot of John Mayer’s recent output in Sob Rock.
Man Made A Bar (f/Eric Church): This song is chosen as the best example of the collaborations on the album, an alcohol-soaked neo-traditional country reflection on God’s efforts at creation as well as relationship drama. Like many of the songs on this album, this song manages to combine some of the characteristic themes of the album, but overall it’s a melancholy song that would be a pretty strong country single if they choose to release it and promote it. This track is a 9/10 for me.
I Wrote The Book: I chose this song to add to my own version of One Thing At A Time because it is one that I liked in the short excerpts, one that has a gospel rock trend. The song shows Morgan Wallen’s admission that the Bible and its moral standards are not something he made up for himself even if he is a diverse person who seems good at everything, but isn’t a good person in terms of morals. This is a solid 9/10 for me, with its hint of alt/rock.
98 Braves: This song is one of the strongest written songs on the album, which uses the stellar but also unsuccessful campaign of the 1998 Atlanta Braves, which ended up losing to the Padres in the NLCS, showing a surprising depth in terms of both the relationship as well as the baseball season, reflecting in a melancholy way on the losses in sports and love, showing that relationship drama can be pursued in ways that are striking and creative at least some of the time. I’m not a fan of the Braves, I must admit (I have my reasons as a Pirates fan), but this song is a stellar 9.5/10.
Whiskey Friends: Perhaps unsurprisingly, this song is another alcoholic mix of relationship drama, where Wallen drinks his heartbreak away with some whiskey friends, and namechecks Keith Whitley and George Jones, two country stars who, like Wallen, were pretty famous for their problem drinking. It’s not that this song is original, given that problem drinking and namechecking are pretty common in country, but it’s done well at least. Let’s give it a 9/10 because the instrumentation and production are top-notch.
Hope That’s True: This song is another song about relationship drama, where a sour Wallen wishes an ex success in finding what she is looking for because it clearly isn’t him, and he doesn’t want anyone like her either. This is the sort of song that could have sounded bitter in the hands of a lesser artist, but Wallen is quite willing to wish well to someone that he clearly doesn’t work well with, which is a spirit of charity that I’m willing to support. This is another 9/10 neotraditional country song.
Thinkin’ Bout Me: This song covers much of the same material as the previous song in terms of dealing with an ex-girlfriend with a bad breakup, but it certainly shows a more bitter and sour side of Morgan Wallen. If this song isn’t nearly as charitable as Morgan Wallen can be (see, again, the previous song), this song is certainly relatable to those who have dealt with people who have gone out of the way to avoid someone that they clearly think about and regret. This is a solid 8.5/10 for me, largely for it being regrettably relatable.
Keith Whitley: Having already referenced Keith Whitley in a previous song (“Whiskey Friends”), this song references more problem drinking to Keith Whitley songs that remind the singer of his relationship problems. This is a pretty lovely neo-traditional song that uses song references in a pretty striking way that sounds like a pretty obvious potential country single, or a stellar album track. This one is an 8.5/10 for me.
Tennessee Fan: Morgan Wallen’s fondness for underdogs and unlikely stories of love and relationship provides this rare example of positive portrayal of a relationship, where he converts an Alabama fan into a Tennessee fan, at least the second example in this album of a clever use of sports discussion to deal with relationships, and how they can cross state lines and fandoms. This one is 8.5/10 for me, not as good as 98 Braves but still enjoyable.
Don’t Think Jesus: This song is a rather downbeat song that shows Morgan Wallen being a bit maudlin and self-pitying but also self-aware in reflecting on how his life falls short of the standard that Jesus set. This song was a surprising pre-album promotional single that was a moderate hit and it represents the sort of self-flagellation that earned him a second chance at superstardom but isn’t something that one would want to repeat. It’s an 8/10 for me, largely on account of being so spare and so on the nose. Still, it’s a fitting conclusion to an excellent collection of songs.
In listening to these sixteen songs, I am strongly (and perhaps ironically) reminded of the most recent Kane Brown album that I reviewed which similarly spent a lot of attention on the singer’s background and featured a notable stylistic diversity in terms of rap, country, and pop. If you take Kane Brown, make him a white Eastern Tennessee rather than mixed-race Northern Georgia country singer, and take away the boyfriend country and add some strong Gospel and alt-rock tendencies, you get this album, which makes it interesting just how close many contemporary artists are in terms of their music. Overall, this album is a strong 8.5/10 to 9/10, showing how when one takes care of stream trolling by culling a 36 song album into a much more trim 16 songs, one goes from an album that one dreads listening to an album that I would happily listen to often, and just may during free hours.