January 31st marks the one-year anniversary of Morgan Wallen’s record-breaking single “Last Night.” The country music sensation’s track has not only resonated with fans but has also earned recognition beyond Nashville as the most popular country-pop crossover song in more than a decade.
One of the most notable achievements of “Last Night” includes its impressive chart performance. For months, the song dominated several Billboard charts, including the Hot Country Songs chart, the Country Airplay chart, and most impressively, the Hot 100. The song solidified Morgan Wallen’s presence as a force to be reckoned with as one of the biggest artists of the 2020s in any genre.
In 2023, “Last Night” also opened the door for country music to enjoy its biggest summer in mainstream music in modern music history; in its wake, Jason Aldean’s “Try That In a Small Town” and Luke Combs’s “Fast Car” hit #2 and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively, marking the first time three country songs captured the top three spots in the chart. As its time at the top wound down in late summer, “Last Night” tied for the second longest run at #1 of all time.It was also the first song to reach one billion on-demand streams in one year (US). Consequently, Morgan Wallen was Billboard’s Hot 100 “Artist of the Year;” unsurprisingly, “Last Night” was also dubbed the chart’s “Song of the Year.”
In the same vein as many of Wallen’s other biggest hits, such as “You Proof” and “Thinking’ Bout Me,” “Last Night” is undeniably more of a pop song than a country song, and wasn’t even initially released to country radio. That said, Wallen’s presence as a crossover artist who’s just as likely to melt your heart with an acoustic ballad as he is to drop a sugary pop song like this makes him the ideal gateway drug for incoming fans unfamiliar with country music.
Metaphorically speaking, most pop listeners don’t want to be taken for a ride in the 4×4 on a Friday night; they want a catchy melody that doesn’t sound like the other songs on the radio. On pop radio, there’s no obligation to check lyrical boxes, which is what makes “Last Night” so appealing to non-country fans; it’s easy to understand, has an infectiously catchy hook, and doesn’t pummel you with stereotypes.
As Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night” reaches its one-year milestone, the song’s enduring success is apparent through its chart performance, enduring passion from fans, and mild critical acclaim. Since that song took off, country music had more excitement around it in mainstream music, and it’s effectively bridged the gap for other country artists to find success on pop radio as of late. Love it or hate it, the undeniable impact of “Last Night” on the country music landscape cannot be overlooked.