One Thing At A Time: Album Review

Morgan Wallen’s lengthy third album struggles with a lack of variation.


Rolling Stone

Morgan Wallen in album photoshoot for Rolling Stone

Owen Baxter, Writer

    If there’s anything Morgan Wallen knows how to do, it’s how to write a smash hit country song; it seems just about anything he drops is a universal success and easily dominates the country music scene. Despite the incredulous, 30 song-long, length of his previous album, Dangerous, it is still topping country music charts and the Billboard alike. In fact, it was the best-selling album of 2021. So where do you go with your career after releasing the most successful country album in the last decade? Well, in Wallen’s mind, you double down and produce an album even longer than the last.

    One Thing At A Time, Wallen’s third album up to this point, aims even higher than his work before. At 36 songs long, it is nearly 2 hours long. The thing is though, if you’re going to create an album three times the length of an average record, you’ve got to switch it up from time to time. And on this effort, that just…doesn’t happen. Really, the only thing that fluctuates is the whammy bar on his guitar.

    In the spirit of the country genre, the songwriting is solid, usually. But there are definitely songs that don’t represent the charm of country lyricism: The opening track, “Born With A Beer In My Hand” consists of an ironic amount of boist for Wallen’s love for alcohol, considering a drunken, racially charged rant put him under serious media fire. “But what do you expect from a redneck?/Hell, I was born with a beer in my hand.” He sings. At around the halfway point of the album, (which is eighteen songs in) Wallen offers “Neon Star (Country Boy Lullaby),” Which, by all measures, screams a millennial attempt at angsty teen songwriting. “Yeah, I’m down bad/She slammed that door, and she broke my heart” are the opening lines to the song, and coupled with an auto-tuned chorus and twangy, pop-like acoustics, it’s a rough listen.

    A lot of the work in One Thing At A Time suffers from repetition. There’s a lot of religious references, from song titles like “Wine to Water” and “In The Bible” to lyrical additions like “Devil on my shoulder, strangers in my bed” in “Me + All Your Reasons”. And, it wouldn’t be a problem, if it wasn’t as abundant as Wallen’s intentionally thickened country accent. Not to mention, all 36 songs mention drugs or alcohol at least one time-For some of which, they’re the whole point of the song.

    The highlight of the album is easily “‘98 Braves”, a clever, but somber song that compares a failed relationship to the disappointing loss of the Atlanta Braves to the San Diego Padres in the 1998 National League Championship Series, preventing them from going to the MLB World Series. The song contains lots of baseball references, but it’s a breath of fresh air from the tedium of the rest of the album. “It ain’t always home runs/And that’s just the way life plays/If we were a team and love was a game/We’d have been the ’98 Braves.”

    One Thing At A Time attempted a hometowned, ‘Merica-Loving, but deep and longevous work of country music charm. Unfortunately, very few songs actually can hold the weight of such a title and it ends up painfully monotonous and repetitive. It seems that Wallen took the advice of the album’s namesake, sacrificing critically acclaimable, influential country for easy 94.9 radio hits and top 40 dominion.

Grade: D+

Photo Credits: Rolling Stone

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