Morgan Wallen, shown performing “You Proof” at the 2022 CMA Awards on Nov. 9 in Nashville, also seems critic-proof.

Morgan Wallen, shown performing “You Proof” at the 2022 CMA Awards on Nov. 9 in Nashville, also seems critic-proof. (AP)

Note: For the second month in a row, Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” came in at No. 1 on the Hot 100 for the first week of the month. Because we wrote about it in March, we figured we’d move on to what landed at No. 2 this week.

Morgan Wallen – Last Night

It’s a formula that’s as old as time: Take an acoustic guitar, tell the tale of a half-breakup/makeup that unfolds in front of a soaked night drinking whiskey, never be afraid to repeat a musical phrase more than a song calls for it, and viola. A pop-country hit is born. The ethos is nothing new, but the modern wrinkles are, what with the rise of bro-country and an audience’s insatiable appetite for more tales of messy, booze-fueled nights that make anyone with a flannel shirt grin through their hard-earned tears.

Enter Morgan Wallen. Perhaps one of the biggest country stars going today who shouldn’t start a song with “Last night we let the liquor talk / I can't remember everything we said but we said it all,” before eventually offering up a line about splitting a fifth of Jack Daniels (what was that about throwing a drunken fit outside Kid Rock’s Nashville bar a few years ago?), Wallen has perfected what works in contemporary country music. And what works, it turns out, is “Last Night.”

There isn’t much to it. The song barely eclipses two-and-a-half minutes and even if it feels like it should end with a full-band coda, all we get is a steady dose of Wallen’s southern drawl, finger-snaps and a pop-fueled acoustic guitar. It’s fine for all the formulaic fans of 2023 country music who are happy to pay 16 bucks for a White Claw at your local amphitheater; it’s just hard to think this is what Hank Williams had in mind when he penned “I’m So Lonesome, I Could Cry” more than half a century ago.

Still, we all know by now that traditionalist arguments in country music are beyond fruitless, and above all else, tired. There’s something to be said for mindless pop-twang that connects with millions of Red Solo Cup Holders. It’s just in Wallen’s case, after his very public snafus in recent years, “mindless” takes on a whole new meaning.

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