Why Morgan Wallen Scores a Historic Takeover of the Billboard

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There are 29 debuts on the March 18-dated Billboard Global 200 and 25 of those come from Morgan Wallen. The hit parade doesn’t stop there, with Wallen breaking ground among country – and all – artists on Billboard’s flagship global chart.

On top of Wallen’s 25 debuts, he adds five reentries. More, four of his tracks hold over from last week’s chart. All of that adds up to 34 placements on this week’s Global 200, more than any artist has ever simultaneously charted in the list’s two-and-a-half-year life span. Taylor Swift previously held the record, with 31 songs on the Nov. 27, 2021, list in the wake of the release of her country-pop rerecording Red (Taylor’s Version).

Wallen’s total streaming figure and record-breaking hold on the chart are unqualified triumphs for any artist and especially so for country acts. Since launching in September 2020, the Global 200 has had 125 instances of an artist charting 10 or more songs at once, but only three of those belong to a current core country artist – in each case, Wallen. He landed 19 songs on the Jan. 23, 2021-dated tally and 10 the following week. His new album, the Billboard 200-topping One Thing at a Time, sparks his latest chart haul, just as the arrival of his prior LP, Dangerous: The Double Album, yielded his big weeks on the Global 200 two years ago.

To find a full-on country act other than Wallen with a noteworthy robust one-week sum, we arrive at Luke Combs, who totaled six songs on the Nov. 7, 2020-dated Global 200. There have been 591 counts of an artist with six or more titles on the Global 200, spread among 65 distinct acts, but just 11 by two artists – 10 by Wallen and one by Combs – among country artists.

Country music has long struggled to find crossover success internationally. The genre is native to the United States, headquartered in Nashville and driven in large part by U.S.-based country radio, while often honoring authenticity above all else. That means that hometown (and in the case of these charts, home-country) pride goes a long way and could make exporting to Asia, Europe, South America and beyond difficult.

Wallen’s own chart entries perhaps prove that point. His song titles alone are specifically American, referencing Ford trucks (“F150-50”), Tennessee (“Tennessee Numbers” and “Tennessee Fan”) and the particulars of a certain baseball team’s near-championship run from 25 years ago (“’98 Braves”). Those songs, and most others from his latest album, storm the Global 200 powered by domestic streams but miss out on the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. chart.

Of Wallen’s 34 Global 200 entries, just one appears on Global Excl. U.S., where “Last Night” debuts at No. 103. It’s his first song to ever hit that tally, and though it’s a debut worth celebrating, it’s dwarfed by the track’s No. 5 rank on this week’s Global 200 (and No. 1 status on the U.S.-based Billboard Hot 100, where Wallen achieves his first leader). Further, it’s just the second song by a country act (excluding Swift), to appear on Global Excl. U.S.. The other was Combs’ “Forever After All,” which hit No. 105 for one week before falling off, while peaking at No. 4 on the Global 200 in the first of 38 weeks on the chart.

Among songs on both of this week’s global charts, the average streaming breakdown is 25% domestic and 75% international. Wallen’s “Last Night” is all the way at one end of that spectrum, with 84% U.S., well more than three times the average and distinctly separated from even the next highest-U.S. share, Nicki Minaj’s “Red Ruby Da Sleeze,” with 65%. One Thing at a Time’s 36 songs go even further, averaging out to 88%. Hip-hop has its own noted difficulty spreading outside the U.S., making Wallen’s more extreme lack of international streaming even more stark.

Wallen’s drastically stateside lean falls in line with the near-total lack of country consumption outside the U.S., but there are small caveats. “Last Night” is on two of Billboard’s Hits of the World charts, at No. 6 on Australia Songs and No. 10 on New Zealand Songs. Oceania has historically been a friendly non-U.S. market to country acts, even supplementing Morgan’s top 10 appearance with Zach Bryan’s “Something in the Orange” at No. 23 on the former chart. Next week, Wallen will play two arena shows each in Sydney and Melbourne alongside ERNEST, HARDY and Bailey Zimmerman, before returning to North America for a supersized stadium tour.

Like Wallen, most country acts don’t play many concerts outside of North America. Australia and London have been welcoming, but barring major pop crossover stars like Swift or Shania Twain, genre artists remain focused on honing their U.S. fan bases. As the premier country superstar of the streaming era – a democratized and globalized evolution of a previously segmented music industry – Wallen’s ballooned presence on Billboard’s global charts could be the foot in the door for Bryan, Combs, Zimmerman and others to test the boundaries of international music consumption.

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