Review Summary: I hate that I love the way them kisses taste like whiskey
From what I’ve gathered of the one-hundred-and-twelve minutes of his algorithmically consistent third studio album, Morgan Wallen is a Tennessee singer-songman whose professed day-by-day involves partaking in swarthy extremes of country-country-COUNTRY, picking up the most attractive ticket to heartbreak who expresses even fleeting interest in the #lifestyle, marinating his larynx in copious quantities of whiskey when she inevitably ditches him, pondering Jesus when the whole thing starts to feel a little hollow, and then immediately writing a new song to reset the cycle before any meaningful insight can come of this. The man writes a lot of songs - and his boatload of co-writers don’t seem to be able to mitigate that this album’s cycle of themes is not so much vicious as circuitous to the point of infantility. One Thing at a Time
recycles themes like a Sysphean bender, yet where cycles traditionally correspond to one another through subtle differences, the entirety of this tracklist feels devastatingly interchangeable - anyone looking for an overarching or profound personal narrative had better leave their hopes in the, uh, truck. There [i]are[i] differences, mind you, but these depend entirely on how much value you attach to Wallen alternating his musings on, say, romance through such lenses as baseball (“‘98 Braves”), interstate rivalry (“Tennessee Fan”) and the concentration of alcohol on the breath of belle-of-the-hour (“180 (Lifestyle)”, “Cowgirls”, “Single Than She Was”).
The album’s music is a similar story, theoretically well-equipped with its slick production and generous emphasis on slide guitar, yet so heartlessly procedural in its composition and homogenous in its tempo that its encapsulation of the country Experience misses the elation and dynamism of wind-in-your-hair and ends up far more cholesterol-in-your-burger. First single “You Proof” was presumably selected because its acoustic (!) fingersnaps (!) equip it as the only song on the record with so much as a hint of instrumental flourish. Even the album’s trap influence is disturbingly unobtrusive (see “I Wrote the Book”), as short on character as the rest of this factory-assembled country-pop cash cow (do not research this album’s commercial accolades if you value your faith in the US public). It’s not entirely without highlights - “Outlook”’s instrumental has a particularly nice twang to it, while “Last Drive Down Main” lays down a decent opening melody - yet after 36 songs’ extrapolation of approximately four songs’ worth of ideas, the record ends so abruptly that you’ll conceivably question whether or not your streaming app has glitched out. If this is indeed the case, chalk it up as a small mercy.