Morgan Wallen is the Ligabue of the new (old) America

Why is everyone literally crazy about Morgan Wallen?”, asks a girl in a post on Reddit published two days ago, while the latest album by the 29-year-old American singer-songwriter, considered the new country star from overseas, was about to break the first of a predictable series of records. “I think that part of the charm of his songs is linked to the nostalgia they emanate and the teenage loves they tell: they bring many people in their thirties back to those carefree years “, someone commented. “I think the exact reason people like him is that he looks like a high school friend who made it, more believable than a Nashville cowboy princess”, someone else commented – any reference to Taylor Swift is not purely coincidental.

The thirty-six songs that make up “One thing at a time”, the new album by .Morgan Wallen, are one precise and romantic cross-section of the most rural, ancestral, authentic America, that of Tennessee, between bars, fishing, provincial roads, boots, the Bible always on the bedside table, pub crawlswho bring back to American high-ranking country pop that imagery that has fascinated generations and generations of singer-songwriters from the United States, even in these parts – think of how angry and indifferent the story of the Emilian working-class province of Ligabue is linked to the works of the great American songwriters who in the 70s and 80s put into music the vices and virtues of the belly of America. All filled with refrains and pandering and radio melodies.

Pop star by chance, one might say. But not that much. Morgan Wallen has never hidden that he aspires to a pop successwith his music. In 2014 the singer-songwriter presented himself at the US edition of “The Voice”: he didn’t win, but he didn’t give up. Participation in the talent show allowed him to sign his first record deal: the beginning of a surprising climb, to the sound of country pop hits. Culminated these days with the boom of his new – double album – “One thing at a time”: in just three days it became the album with the best debut of 2023 in the United States and the second most played ever in a week among country recordsjust behind Taylor Swift herself and her “Red (Taylor’s Version)”.

.In the first 72 hours following its release, it totaled the equivalent of 280,000 copies sold in the US.. Winning team does not change: in the thirty-six songs – Spotify thanks – that make up the tracklist of “One thing at a time”, Morgan Wallen relies again on Joey Moi, former right arm of Nickelback, by his side since the debut with 2018’s “If I know me”, here assisted by Charlie Handsome (who helped give the pieces a sprinkle of pop: in recent years he has worked with Post Malone, Drake, Kanye West, Travis Scott, The Weeknd): the same team that in 2021 allowed Wallen’s second album, “Dangerous: The Double Album” to total 240 million streams in the first week aloneto reach the top of the Billboard 200 – the chart relating to the best-selling records in the US – and to remain there for ten consecutive weeks and become one of the best-selling records in the US in the last decade with over 5 million copies sold.

In the songs of “One thing at a time” all the clichés that had characterized the previous works of Morgan Wallen return, among the bar signs (“Neon star”), the religion (“I wrote the book”), i Tennessee dialing codes (“Tennessee numbers”) e reflections of the belly of the country (“Ain’t that some”). About belly of the country. In 2021 Morgan Wallen risked seeing his empire fall apart after letting himself go to some racial slurs away from home at the end of an evening with a high alcohol content, also immortalized by videos circulated on social networks.

The blacklash was devastating. Despite the apology, .iHeartRadio, one of the largest American radio networks, decided to remove the singer-songwriter from its playlists. And so did Spotify and Apple Music. Not only. The Academy of Country Music declared Wallen ineligible for the American Music Awards, although Wallen subsequently earned two nominations for the awards, those for “Favorite Male Artist – Country” and “Favorite Album – Country”: in the end he was not allowed to participate in the ceremony either in presence or remotely.

Morgan Wallen didn’t throw himself away after that crash. The singer-songwriter took his revenge at the American Music Awards last November, triumphing in the “Favorite Male Country Artist” category (beating Luke Combs, Walker Hayes, Cody Johnson and Chris Stapleton) and “Favorite Country Song” with “Wasted on you ”. Now he lets the music do the talking. And the numbers. Who smile at him. “One thing at a time” conquered the top of the Top Albums Debut Globalthe ranking relating to the most listened to dishes on Spotify worldwide during the weekend among all those released last Friday, also monopolizing the Top Songs Debut Global, securing eight positions out of ten. Pop star by chance, but not too much.

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