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Morgan Wallen

The Lefsetz Letter: Morgan Wallen’s New Album

Morgan Wallen
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It’s probably not for you. It’s probably not for everybody. That’s the modern paradigm. Today you service your audience and don’t care about anybody else, because truly no one else cares.

“One Thing at a Time” did not get reviews as good as its predecessor, the phenomenon known as “Dangerous: The Double Album.” In truth there are 36 songs on “One Thing At A Time” so it’s too early for me to weigh in, and most of those weighing in are professional reviewers, who are not the target audience for this project. Never kowtow to the critics, they still won’t be happy, like all those writers who berated Bryan Adams for being apolitical. So Bryan played to them with his next album, “Into the Fire,” and it had nowhere near the success of its predecessor, “Reckless.” What you want to know is what fans think, those who are into the artist just like you. As for everybody else, they don’t matter. As for the press, the ink for so many acts, just like late night TV appearances, strokes the ego of those involved, but it doesn’t move the needle.

So Morgan Wallen is following up the biggest album of the past two years. Let’s look at the history of those who tried to do this.

Well, one of the first blockbusters was Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da Vida.” Do you even know the name of its follow-up (“Ball”), never mind a single track on it?

And then there was the first Boston album, a classic. But the follow-up was not, and it went downhill from there.

And then there’s “Jagged Little Pill.” Heard “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie” recently? Alanis has made a whole career off “Jagged Little Pill.” As for “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie”…remember that video wherein she was nude? Alanis was self-conscious, she blinked, she didn’t know how to handle all the success and resulting fame, she couldn’t do it anymore.

So the fact that Morgan Wallen has even stepped up to bat is an achievement. Does “One Thing at a Time” sound a little like “Dangerous” redux? Yes. But the audience doesn’t mind, yet. They might, but every act is sui generis today, they’re not competing with anybody else, or in truth they’re competing with not only other musical acts, but streaming television, TikTok, videogames…if you amass attention at all and can sustain it slap yourself on the back, that’s a big achievement.

And Morgan Wallen is not a critics’ darling, playing to small audiences, the little engine that could, he’s a superstar, playing stadiums! Something unthinkable so soon back in the last heyday of stadium shows, back in the seventies, when the headliners had earned their bones over many albums and years. And there are more stadium shows than ever, that’s how deep fanbases are, but they’re not that wide.

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