Here’s hoping this is the last time I have to waste on Morgan Wallen.
It’s been over a year now since Wallen got caught throwing around the N-word, and despite spending six months in timeout for his actions, he’s somehow become even more successful than before, to the point where Rolling Stone posited that “the controversy actually helped Wallen’s career.” We can argue over whether or not Wallen has paid enough of a price for his actions until the end of time (for my money, the answer is an easy “No”), but throughout the whole ordeal, one thing hasn’t changed: Wallen remains one of the least-interesting artists in Nashville, and I still can’t figure out what people see or hear in him. This trend continues on his latest single “Wasted On You,” in which he whines about a failed relationship and bemoans everything he wasted on it despite the fact that he was the reason it all went to pieces. It’s a confusing mess of a track that fails to endear Wallen to the listener, and makes me wonder why we bother to give this guy any airtime at all.
When dealing with an artist as polarizing as Wallen, you have to make sure that everything you put around him is on point so as to maximize your potential audience appeal. Instead, however, we get an uninspired guitar-and-drum mix that stands out even amongst other uninspired guitar-and-drum mixes for how bad it sounds. The main issue here is this kit has less synergy than the Sloshing Machine: It starts with an acoustic guitar stolen from Garth Brooks’s “Friends In Low Places” (an intriguing choice), pairs it with an electric guitar that’s sounds so synthetic it could be a Garageband instrument (not a great choice), and then drops in a heavy drum machine beat that feels completely out-of-place (really bad choice). The rare vi-IV-I-V chord progression helps to catch the listener’s ear, and there’s a slightly-spacious feel to the guitars, but he slower tempo and lifeless beat drain all the life from the song, causing it to bog down under its own weight and making it a real chore to listen to. The overall vibe is suitably dark and melancholy, but it’s awful too sterile and unfeeling to offer any support to the subject matter (although with writing this unfocused and contradictory, it doesn’t get much of an opportunity to support it anyway). The whole thing feels like a halfhearted, half-budgeted effort, and it doesn’t do enough to draw listeners in to the song.
Three years ago, I noted that “Wallen has the incredible ability to make me care less about any topic he chooses to cover,” and nothing has changed after all this time. While I’m not a fan of how he stumbles his way through some of the lyrics (when he says “chevy and prayers in,” it sounds like “Chevy Impreza,” which always confuses me because Imprezas are Subarus), there aren’t any major technical issues in his performance. As always, the problem is Wallen’s (lack of) charisma: The man is completely incapable of drawing anything resembling sympathy or empathy from his audience. Despite explicitly admitting that he was the one to blame for the relationship falling apart, there’s a palpable sense of frustration and hostility to his delivery, as if he’s appalled that the person he’s mistreated would have the nerve to leave him. It’s not a good look for anyone, and Wallen’s past persona as an immature dudebro doesn’t help matters. He comes across as the kind of guy who deserves to have his efforts wasted for what he’s done, and his whiny attitude pushes the audience away and make them feel like he got his just deserts. In other words, this dude is insufferable, unlikable, and deserves to feel some consequences for his actions for a change.
The writing here is more two-faced than a Batman villain It starts with a contrite narrator in the familiar position of trying to drink away the memory of a lost love, and goes so far as to explicitly admit “it’s all my fault, yeah, I dropped the ball…and then the chorus hits, the song takes a hard turn, the narrator begins ranting about all of the wasted time, money, miles, prayers, and “all of these sorries I don’t owe you,” and goes so far as to burn all the things their ex left at the house (as an aside, what’s with all this references to stuff being left behind after a breakup? The leaver used to take everything, now they take nothing.) All this lashing out feels pointless and non-sensical, because the narrator has already admitted that they’re the reason all their efforts were wasted in the first place! The story is also badly devoid of detail: If the narrator had a real reason to be upset, we don’t hear it, and in truth we don’t hear much about the relationship at all, aside from the fact that it’s over. The whole song comes across as the ramblings of a butthurt man-child who’s pouting because he didn’t get his way, and I’ve already filled my quota for garbage like this in this decade, thank you very much.
“Wasted On You” is a failure on every level, with a bunch of ill-fitting pieces tossed in a blender to produce a sour, cringeworthy concoction. The production is lifeless and lazy, the writing is immature and inconsistent, and Morgan Wallen draws more scorn than pity from his audience. At this point, Wallen is who he is (i.e., he’s a limited vocalist who struggles to bring feeling to his songs and win over his audience), and I’m getting tired of putting up with his baloney. At the very least, the Dangerous era needs to end and he needs to get back into the studio and find some better material to record, because time waits for no one, and I don’t want to spend any more of it on drivel like this.
Rating: 4/10. Don’t waste your time with this one.