Morgan Wallen is set to return with his first full-length album since his previous release broke some all-time chart records… and first since he became arguably current music’s most polarizing figure as well as one of the biggest. The country superstar is following up 2021’s still-bestselling “Dangerous: The Double Album” with “One Thing at a Time” — a misnomer title if ever there was one, since he’ll be dropping 36 songs on fans on March 3 (counting a handful that have already been released as singles or teaser tracks).
Wallen said in an announcement statement that the new collection “brings together the musical influences that have shaped me as an artist — country, alternative and hip-hop.” If that last genre seems at all surprising as an aspirational one, some will recall that the singer already had a No. 1 single on the R&B/hip-hop chart with “Broadway Girls,” his December 2021 collaboration with Lil Durk, and made headlines around that same time when he went on Black comedian Druski’s show and discussed his dream of collaborating with Kendrick Lamar.
The new set is not overloaded with features, with only two of the tracks giving a fellow artist co-billing — “Man Made a Bar,” which features Eric Church, “In the Bible,” which spotlights frequent collaborator and hitmaker Hardy, and “Cowgirls,” which has a guest turn from another oft-used co-writer, Ernest. Wallen co-wrote 14 of the 36 tracks. Other notable Nashville names represented in the dozens of writing credits include Miranda Lambert, Ashley Gorley, Nicolle Galyon, Jessi Alexander, Travis Denning and Ryan Hurd. Joey Moi returns as producer for the full set.
The release is not being subtitled “The Triple Album,” although it effectively counts as one, with its 36 tracks representing a boost over even the 30 that appeared on “Dangerous,” which counted as highly unusual for the country market at the time. Usually it’s been hip-hop artists going high into the double-digits with their song counts, either because of skits or other interstitial material or because (conventional wisdom has it) they’re out to run up their stream counts. But in country, where albums have typically still stayed in the 10-to-15-track range, Zach Bryan upped the ante with his 2022 breakthrough album “American Heartbreak,” which outdid the “Dangerous” count of 30 by including 34 songs. With the waning factor of CDs no longer imposing limitations on album length, Wallen has effectly said “Hold my beer” to Bryan by upping his next album’s total to 36.
Although Wallen hardly needs a hefty track list to likely debut and hold at No. 1 for weeks, the sheer volume of the album may stand him a better chance at breaking further streaming records upon release.
Wallen is getting a head start on drawing fans to the new project with the release tonight of three songs from the forthcoming project, “Last Night,” “Everything I Love” and “I Wrote the Book.”
“This record represents the last few years of my life, the highs and the lows,” Wallen further said in his statement. “There are 36 songs on this album because we just kept exploring with fresh lyrics, music and production ideas and these are the songs that felt right to me.”
Billboard has noted that “Dangerous: The Double Album,” released in January 2021, set a record for the most months spent in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart. It continues to break its own record each week, now at 104 weeks in counting.
There was no noticeable commercial impact on Wallen’s streaming and sales success at any point during that chart run from a scandal ignited by his use of the N-word, however much it that made his name mud in mainstream media and broadcast circles. Wallen disappeared out of view for months after offering an apology, yet fans continued to stream his music in massive numbers. Among much of the non-country media, he continues to be held at arm’s length, but his acceptance back into the mainstream country world, with further No. 1 radio hits and sold-out arena tours, has been near-complete, despite the scandal raising many issues that some in the country realm feel have not been settled.
Another thing Wallen has in common with Bryan, the other competitor for the title of most popular country figure right now, is that both completely eschew interviews and the circuit that would be required of any country star — Bryan because he’s cultivated a reputation from the start of being a press-shy maverick, and Wallen presumably because he doesn’t want to be roped into discussing the scandal of 2021. With what could well be 2023’s biggest-debuting album in the offing, Wallen may not lose much by maintaining what might be a mutual estrangement from late-night shows or major interview situations and continuing to let the numbers do the talking.
Wallen had two songs go No. 1 at country in 2022 — “Wasted on You,” a holdover from his previous album, and “You Proof,” the first single to preface the new project. Another new song, “Thought You Should Know,” stands at No. 6 and is still ascending the chart.
Wallen’s U.S. tour, consisting almost entirely of stadium gigs, such as an appearance at L.A.’s SoFi Stadium and two nights each at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium and Boston’s Fenway Park, runs April 14 through Oct. 17 before moving on to Europe.