Our Take: 3 Stars
Following the roller coaster that was 2020, Morgan Wallen saw his career hit both new heights with chart-topping singles and new lows with a canceled SNL gig. Taking it all in stride, the country singer seeks to cement his star status with his sophomore effort, “Dangerous: The Double Album.” Ultimately, Wallen produces a respectable collection of catchy songs, but repetition and tired country music cliches limit its effectiveness.
If streaming data provides any indicator, Wallen is here to stay after breaking country music streaming records in the first week of his newest album’s release. At thirty songs and just over ninety minutes of playtime, Wallen’s “Dangerous” mirrors his past year with its fair share of shining moments and forgettable throwaways.
Thematically speaking, Wallen rarely ventures from the traditional tropes of country music consisting of whiskey-laden heartbreak, small towns, trucks and fishing. “Dangerous” is no outlier.
The two discs of “Dangerous” separate the album based on theme and style, with the first disc containing the soulful ballads of love lost, and the second disc containing the rowdier odes to country life meant to be blasted through the smoky haze of a bonfire party.
Even with this thematic separation, the record as a whole remains surprisingly sad and downbeat. In song after song, relationships never seem to work out for Wallen. This results in the bitingly acerbic song “Wasted On You” where Wallen thinks his time and money would have been better spent with someone else, and the haunting “Whiskey’d My Way” which finds him drinking to overcome a failed relationship.
The continued somberness runs the risk of becoming tiresome, but the varied pacing of Wallen’s masculine growl keeps the album moving forward. The most interesting songs come when Wallen veers away from the familiar themes towards more personal struggles with bad decision making and rowdy behavior.
“Dangerous” and “Livin’ the Dream” both show that Wallen is aware of his own shortcomings and the challenges that accompany fame.
“Dangerous” contains some top-notch country songs, all of which feature strong vocal performances from Wallen. If listeners are not already humming along to soon-to-be classics like “Somebody’s Problem” or “Silverado for Sale,” they will be when warmer weather allows the car windows to come down and fraternity brothers to take their festivities to the front yards.
The highlights, however, are dulled by the album’s bloated feel. Expansive content dumps have become more common for albums in an era where streams generate revenue for artists, but “Dangerous’” cohesiveness and flow suffer from this approach.
For example, during a four song stretch on the album’s backside, three songs prominently feature fishing in their lyrics.
By the third love song dedicated to fishing, or the tenth mention of East Tennessee, the most “Dangerous” aspect of the album becomes its repetition. It is hard not to wonder how great “Dangerous” could have been if it were cut down to a more manageable twelve songs.
Would it rank as one of the best sophomore efforts of all time? Unfortunately, listeners will never know, as Wallen attempted to provide something for everyone, but ended up giving too much of the same thing.
And yet despite the redundancies, Wallen delivers enough memorable performances to make “Dangerous” an enjoyable experience.
“Dangerous: The Double Album” ensures that a huge 2021 is in store for Wallen and shows the 27-year-old is only a handful of refinements away from country music greatness.
Editor’s Note: This review was written prior to the events of Feb. 3, 2021. The Technique wanted to note that the actions of the artist featured in this article are reprehensible and in no way endorses them.