Morgan Wallen has met the girl of his dreams; he’s screwed up enough and lost her forever; she’s drowning her sorrow in whiskey; she feels the spark of new love; she vows to change her miserable ways. The 29-year-old Tennessee native’s music portrays life in this never-ending cycle, and at every point along the way, he has all kinds of catchphrases, brotherly advice, and heartfelt apologies to bestow on his massive fanbase. Luckily for them, these thoughts come to him in large, bountiful harvests, which is why all of their albums are impossibly long, resulting in a thick catalog of frothy, familiar country anthems, spilling like a bursting barrel to flood the Billboard charts.
Following the release of her second album in January 2021, the 30-song record Dangerous: The Double AlbumWallen’s hyperprolific strategy fused with his gruff reality show nonchalance (he first found an audience as a contestant on The voice) to cement him as the crossover country star of the young decade. Then, a month later, he was caught on video using the n-word as he drunk-stumbled into his house over the weekend, and it quickly escalated into something even bigger. Despite public fallout and some short-lived repercussions (he was disqualified from the Grammys and placed on temporary hiatus by his label), Dangerous it became the most commercially successful release of the year, tying a record set by Whitney Houston during the Reagan administration. As of this week, over two years later, it’s still in the top 5 albums.
Through it all, Wallen’s attitude has been this: What’s the least I can do? There was, in quick succession, a required apology tour that included a direct-to-camera vlog posted on Instagram, some talk about charitable giving, an interview on Good morning america, and a collaboration with Lil Durk. Meanwhile, Wallen seemed mentally fatigued and physically uncomfortable, as if the most important lesson he learned from his experience was that a lot of people are watching and it’s best not to make sudden movements. Most recently, the most engaged he seemed to be was an hour-long podcast appearance with his collaborator and friend Ernest Keith Smith, where they mainly talk about fitness and their high school baseball careers. When Ernest asks what Wallen did as a teenager to inspire his polarizing reputation on the baseball diamond, Wallen smiles as he chews on his Skoal: “Just doing the same thing I would do today.”
Herein lies the key to Wallen’s music. Much of the appeal of her, and any country artist of her level, comes down to convincing the world of her inherent confidence, distinctiveness of personality, and unwillingness to change. you love them because you know them, and you know them because they know themselves. “I take great pride in who I am,” Merle sang. “Blame it on my roots: I showed up in boots,” Garth yelled. “I was around some of my friends, and we just… We say dumb things together… I think I was just ignoring it,” Wallen evaded.