Editor’s Note, Feb 3, 2021: Since Chynna Hamm wrote this review, Morgan Wallen was captured on video using a totally unacceptable racial slur. The album is no longer available on Apple Music or Spotify, and has been pulled from many radio stations and streaming sites.
review by Chynna Hamm
Morgan Wallen was just a country boy from Tennessee when he first stepped onto the music scene as a contestant on The Voice. He made it to the playoffs before being eliminated, but was a fan favourite for his unique, gritty voice and redneck attitude. He was immediately able to rise through the industry, and gain even more popularity on the music scene after embracing his country roots and signing a record deal.
I grew up in a household where country music was never listened to. My one small act of rebellion as a child became listening to the music that my parents didn’t approve of. Eventually, I realised that I truly liked the songs that were playing. I loved their lyrics and catchy choruses, but mostly their story telling qualities.
Wallen first caught my attention with his song “Chasin’ You” from his album The Way I Talk. He seemed to be singing directly to me as he spoke about chasing feelings from the past. I quickly became infatuated with his voice that sounded like an old, aged cowboy in the body of a guy in his twenties. I was beyond excited to hear his newest contribution to the country music scene, Dangerous: The Double Album, which was released on January 8, 2021. In the weeks since its release, the album has already topped multiple charts in both Canada and the United States.
In the past decade, there has been a shift in the country music. A new genre of country-pop seems to have taken over. This new hybrid focuses on persona, formulaic songs with the addition of rap or dubstep, and appeals more to the masses. Carrie Underwood and Shania Twain have been praised for changing and adapting to the current music climate, while many male country artists such as Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton have been dragged through the mud for succumbing to the “pressures of pop.” Other artists such as Florida Georgia Line and Dan and Shay appeared producing music that already fitted into this new genre.
Wallen has constantly been praised for being a “real” country artist and producing well written music that goes along with his iconic voice. This does not mean that Wallen is an exception to the pop pressure. His earlier released singles from Dangerous, “7 Summers,” and “More Than My Hometown” are definitely part of this new genre, but not the most pop-like on the album. Both songs immediately became most played in my library over the summer, as they are filled with vacation vibes, nostalgia, and fun stories.
The title track “Dangerous”, “Warning”, and “Wasted on You” are definitely on their way to being the next top played songs on the radio with their catchy and formulaic qualities. In particular, “Wasted on You” starts out very country-sounding but changes into pop. It starts with the theme of drinking but is immediately followed by a very pop-like bass drop into the chorus. Wallen was being clever with his choice of singles, due to the fact that country-pop reaches a larger audience and is more likely to draw a listener in to giving the rest of the album a chance. While I like these more pop sounding songs and appreciate Wallen’s effort, I find myself more attracted to the songs that are filled with guitar and piano, making them sound truly country.
Wallen’s first track on the album, “Sand in My Boots” is a definite throwback to classic country, and one that quickly became my favourite from disc one of the album. Filled with dramatic piano and references to whiskey, this song of heartbreak follows a storyline of a cowboy meeting a mysterious woman on the beach. After he asks her to come back to Tennessee with him, he is tragically stood up and must return home with nothing except beach sand left in his boots. I fell in love with this heart-breaking story and thought back to all the missed chances I’ve had in my own life.
“Whiskey’d My Way” and “Silverado For Sale” also hit classic country song hot topics, such as drinking to forget a past love, and using a truck to pick up a new lady, respectively. Both bonus tracks “Bandaid on a Bullethole” and “This Side of a Dust Cloud” had me wishing for a minute that I was going through a tragic breakup so that I could truly feel the emotion in the tracks. Wallen uses these songs to let his voice shine and his Tennessee background becomes even more evident through the stories of country life he tells in them. Filled with guitar, banjo, and Wallen’s smooth country drawl, half the songs on the album are definitely more country than pop.
Unfortunately, I think that the collaborations on this album leave something to be desired. “Outlaw” (ft. Ben Burgess) and “Only Thing That’s Gone” (ft. Chris Stapleton) quickly became my least listened to on the album. Both songs do poorly in highlighting the individual artists, never seem to build, and have boring storylines. The best “collaboration” on this album is actually a cover that Wallen did of Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up.” This track was released before the double album itself and performed live multiple times. Wallen’s wise-sounding voice, along with the addition of drums and more guitar, gave a depth to the song that struck listeners (including myself) and made it my favourite song ever of Wallen’s.
Wallen’s Dangerous venture seems to have paid off, not only in the quality of songs on the album, but keeping his audience intrigued and wrapped up in the storyline of every track that plays next on the shuffle. From the uber redneck, to catchy, to dramatic and personal, Wallen mixes country and pop extremely successfully.
Until he comes out with more music, this album will constantly be cranked up loud whether I’m at home or at work.
Dangerous; The Double Album was released on January 8, 2021 and is available in its entirety on Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube Music.