“Last Night” Tops the Hot 100, and What it Says About US
The Billboard Hot 100 provides a fascinating reflection of American culture. When I see artists like Morgan Wallen absolutely crushing it on this chart, I know I’m going to be in business for a long time. Wallen’s sound has heart, catchy rhythms taken directly from contemporary R&B and mixed with some classic country sounds – you know, that sound taken from original blues. Anyway, Wallen is young, prolific, seems like he means well, and if there is honesty in his lyrics, he’s a hot mess. Sounds like Americans can relate.
“Last Night” especially gets my interest as a relationship therapist because I wonder why it is so popular. Who is listening to this song and why? Is it a bunch of people who relate heavily with Wallen’s persona? Do they think/hope that they can get all crazy and reactive with someone and then win them back with a song like this? Is it a bunch of people who are romantically invested in someone with a similar persona thinking this is an okay situation to be in? Y’all need my help.
Or, is it people who think the song is fun chaotic fantasy, but would “Nope!” an invitation to get back together in a real situation like this? Or people who have done the work to grow out of these dynamics, but nostalgic for the wild times when they were young?
I wonder: how bad was this fight? Should we be cheering-on the persistence? Is it a song about not giving up on love? Is this a song you play with your partner before you call up the couple therapist? Or is this a song that just gets played on repeat as the cycle of fight and make-up continues on repeat. I mean, y’all’s friends don’t even approve of the relationship. What is going on there? And then we have “Last night we let the liquor talk…” followed by “I see your tail lights in the dust…” That’s dangerous!
Before you think I just don’t understand this song, I can tell you, shaking my head, that this song was absolutely me in my early adulthood raising hell in North Carolina. In my own experience, this song specifically reminds me of an incident with tail lights in the dust that then came back playing “Bleeding Love,” by Leona Lewis. Oh, the immaturity of it all.
Pop music thrives on drama and immaturity. I could write a similar post about any number of chart toppers. For example, SZA is high on the charts right now as well singing about how she just killed her ex. Singing, ironically: “I’m so mature, I’m so mature.” Drake’s latest single is asking for someone to be patient with him and rescue him from him. Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus has figured out she can buy her own flowers, and The Weekend is reasonably upset that someone is cheating on him. What I must be saying that is the Hot 100 could be a waiting room full of clients.
I hope at some point our society supports personal growth and healthy relationships to the point that the later scenarios I considered are the main reason why people love “Last Night.” Songs depicting dysfunctional relationships will be mostly appreciated because they are entertaining transgressions against the norm, or nostalgic for a young adulthood of “last night” incidents that we eventually grew out of.
Wallen has been open about going to rehab for issues with alcohol, and engaged in making amends for hurtful behavior. That is encouraging to see. I hope Americans can relate.