Album - Morgan Wallen One Night At A Time ‘Sampler’
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‘One Thing At A Time’ by Morgan Wallen - Lyrics & Meaning

June 7, 2023 4:00 pm GMT
Last Edited July 26, 2023 3:46 pm GMT

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Morgan Wallen - ‘One Thing At A Time’

Label: Big Loud / Mercury / Republic

Release Date: December 2nd 2023

Album: One Thing At A Time

Producers: Joey Moi

Songwriters: Ashley Gorley, Ernest Keith Smith, Ryan Vojtesak & Morgan Wallen

Chart Performance:

  • No. 2 on Billboard Hot Country Songs
  • No. 8 on Billboard Country Airplay
  • No. 5 on Mediabase Country

The Background:

Since its release on March 3, Morgan Wallen's 2023 project, One Thing At A Time, has seemingly broken just about every record in existence. The 36-song juggernaut has propelled Wallen past previously insurmountable milestones set by chart titans such as Drake and Taylor Swift, as well as becoming the biggest-selling album of 2023 so far.

Notching a staggering twelve weeks at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200, One Thing At A Time is a modern-day streaming behemoth, as well as a critically acclaimed, boundary-shifting opus that rivals Wallen's previous game-changer, 2021's Dangerous.

With an album this dominant, tremendous importance and value is inevitably placed on the title-track. ‘One Thing At A Time’ thrives in its role as the keystone of the project as a whole, epitomising both the genre-fluidity and the thematic catalyst of alcohol-drenched heartbreak that fuels the rest of the record.

Released shortly before Christmas 2022, and accompanied by the unveiling of Morgan Wallen's sprawling One Night At A Time world tour, ‘One Thing At A Time’ formed part of the three-song ‘Sampler’ that preceded the album announcement. ‘One Thing At A Time’ was joined on this taster EP by ‘Days That End In Why’ and ’Tennessee Fan’.

‘One Thing At A Time’ followed the chart-topping ‘Last Night’ as Morgan Wallen's fourth single at Country Radio from One Thing At A Time. When ‘One Thing At A Time’, ‘Last Night’ and ‘You Proof’ all surged up the Billboard Country Airplay chart in unison, Wallen became the first solo artist in history to simultaneously have three songs in the Top 15.

With ‘One Thing At A Time’ picking up momentum on the Mediabase chart, it seems inevitable that the infectious title-track will soon become Morgan Wallen's tenth No. 1 at Country Radio.

The Sound:

As soon as the staggered, uptempo synth of ‘One Thing At A Time’ pulsates into earshot, it's evident that the listener is not being driven down the regular, down-home dirt-road that Wallen often turns onto.

It's an alt-friendly and pop-infused earworm, with the Sneedville hitmaker's signature drawl and classic country lyricism anchoring ‘One Thing At A Time’ and keeping it from floating off into another genre altogether. The open-mindedness and malleability of Wallen and his co-writers’ musical approach is undoubtedly refreshing, with the staccato, energising rhythm of the electronic instrumental rebounding sharply off Wallen's gravelly, off-hand vocal flourishes.

One of the track's songsmiths, Morgan Wallen's good buddy and long-time collaborator, Ernest, has built a reputation for his ability to seamlessly introduce hip hop and EDM grooves into country music, without it feeling forced or derivative.

Given the fact that another of Nashville's songwriting maestros, Ashley Gorley, was in the writing room when ‘One Thing At A Time’ was crafted, it's no surprise that it's turned out to be a certified smash.

Ryan Vojtesak also receives a credit, with the songwriter-producer having had a hand in producing a number of other One Thing At A Time tracks under his moniker, ‘Charlie Handsome’.

Many songs on the album soberly and seriously tackle Morgan Wallen's encounters with alcohol abuse as a means of numbing the pain of lost love. ‘One Thing At A Time’ is not one of those songs.

It's upbeat, fun and light-hearted, with Wallen coasting through the song with a tongue-in-cheek smile on his face, a strong drink in one hand and a freshly lit cigarette in the other.

The Meaning:

“Somebody hand me a cigarette
I know I ain't had one in over a week
Somebody pour me a double shot
Been gettin' better by the day, but tonight I drink”

The appeal of ‘One Thing At A Time’ is not limited to its refusal to stick to any sonic script - much of its popularity can also be put down to the charisma with which its central story is told.

You say I gotta get over you and get sober too
I got a lot of habits I gotta kick
So weigh out all your options and take your pick”

Morgan Wallen is no stranger to a bar-burnin’ heartbreak anthem, with the country megastar frequently adopting a defiant, good-riddance attitude that occasionally veers into hostile territory, most apparently on ‘Happy Hour’, ‘Hope That's True’, ‘Wasted On You’ and the HARDY-assisted ‘He Went To Jared’.

Although this venom adds a compelling, alluring edge to these broken-hearted fire-starters, on ‘One Thing At A Time’ this unfriendliness is replaced by a welcome sense of charm.

After he's set the scene through the opening two verses, Morgan Wallen delivers the playful ultimatum to his ex: he's only quitting one thing for now, and it's up to her what that'll be.

I can either burn the bar down
Or I can take your number out my phone
I can give you up right now
And never want you back long as I'm half-stoned
If you want me to quit you, want me to get you
Outta my heart and, baby, off my mind
I hate to tell you, girl, but I'm only quittin' one thing at a time”

After the first hook, Morgan Wallen references the weightier subject matter that he explores on other One Thing At A Time offerings. The album is underpinned by a willingness from Wallen to be vulnerable and open about his flaws and failings, many of which seem to revolve around alcohol, particularly on the likes of ‘Born With A Beer In My Hand’ and ‘Dying Man’.

“I know I got me some problems
About a thousand memories I gotta forget
But if I'm gonna solve them
Baby, I'll take all the help I can get”

If you ain't gonna kiss me
Then I'll take some whiskey, some Grizzly
Nicotine, amphetamines too
You want me to stop some of that
Or you want me to stop loving you?
Hey, what you want me to do?”

Nonetheless, in this instance, Morgan Wallen never deviates from the levity that is laced into the title-track's DNA, as he reiterates that he's only planning on giving up one thing. The lyrics are conveyed in response to an ex-lover's off-stage remark that he needs to relinquish all the harmful habits he's picked up in recent years.

The song's protagonist cleverly turns this around, emphasising that, if he's having to let go of their relationship, then he has no plans on turning away from anything else for the foreseeable future.

The underlying implication throughout ‘One Thing At A Time’ is that, if the ex decides to take him back, he'll happily quit smoking, drinking and all the other vices that Wallen references in the song.

“I ain't no Superman, I'm just the way I am
If I'm gonna move on, then I need me something in my hand
Ain't nothing wrong with that
And if you ain't comin' back”

It's worth underlining that, although Wallen has cited struggles with alcoholism in the past, there's never been any suggestion that he's ever dabbled in any of the harder substances mentioned in the middle verses. These have presumably been included for artistic effect only, and given Country Radio's traditional aversion to lyrics such as these, it makes it all the more impressive that ‘One Thing At A Time’ is en route to No. 1.

What has Morgan Wallen said about ‘One Thing At A Time’?

In an interview recorded ahead of the album's release, Morgan Wallen pin-pointed the title-track as being particularly close to his heart, “The song, ‘One Thing At A Time’, is one of my favourites on the album, and, you know, it kind of just smirks to me, I guess...the whole song just kind of puts off that energy, and I feel like that matches my personality really well”.

Wallen then delved into the more personal meaning behind the name shared by both the song and the album, which was inspired by the hectic pace of today's world, “Everybody's got a million things coming at them every single day. Everybody, you know, has to figure out how to balance life... ‘One Thing At A Time’ is probably the best way to go about it. And that's just what I'm trying to, you know, remind myself every day”.

For the full lyrics to Morgan Wallen's ‘One Thing At A Time’, see below:

“Somebody hand me a cigarette
I know I ain't had one in over a week
Somebody pour me a double shot
Been gettin' better by the day, but tonight I drink

You say I gotta get over you and get sober too
I got a lot of habits I gotta kick
So weigh out all your options and take your pick

I can either burn the bar down
Or I can take your number out my phone
I can give you up right now
And never want you back long as I'm half-stoned
If you want me to quit you, want me to get you
Outta my heart and, baby, off my mind
I hate to tell you, girl, but I'm only quittin' one thing at a time

I know I got me some problems
About a thousand memories I gotta forget
But if I'm gonna solve them
Baby, I'll take all the help I can get

If you ain't gonna kiss me
Then I'll take some whiskey, some Grizzly
Nicotine, amphetamines too
You want me to stop some of that
Or you want me to stop loving you?
Hey, what you want me to do?

I can either burn the bar down
Or I can take your number out my phone
I can give you up right now
And never want you back long as I'm half-stoned
If you want me to quit you, want me to get you
Outta my heart and, baby, off my mind
I hate to tell you, girl, but I'm only quittin' one thing at a time

Aw yeah, I hate to tell you

Aw yeah, I hate to tell you

I ain't no Superman, I'm just the way I am
If I'm gonna move on, then I need me something in my hand
Ain't nothing wrong with that
And if you ain't comin' back

I can either burn the bar down
Or I can take your number out my phone
I can give you up right now
And never want you back long as I'm half-stoned
If you want me to quit you, want me to get you
Outta my heart and, baby, off my mind
I hate to tell you, girl, but I'm only quittin' one thing at a time

Aw yeah, I hate to tell you
Aw yeah, I hate to tell you
Aw yeah, I hate to tell you”

For more on Morgan Wallen, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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