When Luke Combs first emerged in the country music national consciousness, he carried with him a lot of promise as major label star that could bring songwriting substance and a little bit of guts to the mainstream. He was ugly like you and I, didn’t fit the mold, and wrote his own songs. His early recordings showed a lot of potential as a country performer who wasn’t afraid to let his roots show—someone who could fall in with William Michael Morgan, Mo Pitney, and Jon Pardi as a promising new star in the mainstream that traditional and independent country fans could get behind.
But of course by the time he transitioned to a major label, the results were much more mixed. He still was a lot more real than most, but the production was mild and safe, the songwriting had most of the edges shaved off, and about all that seemed left of the original Luke Combs was the belly and beard. You can’t argue with the results if you’re a Music Row number cruncher though. Luke Combs is right up there with Kane Brown when it comes the viral nature of his success among a new generation of country listeners—ones who grew up on Florida Georgia Line, and consider Kenny Chesney classic country.
Combs has been so successful, his debut major label album This One’s For You is getting the deluxe reissue treatment, which is the common play when a new artist is outgrowing even the label’s expectations, and they need to feed the beast of hungry fandom without going through the 18 month slog of recording and releasing a new album just yet. As part of the deluxe edition called This One’s For You Too out June 1st, a new song has been issued called “Beautiful Crazy.” Just like most everything from Luke Combs, the song immediately started racking up crazy streaming numbers and YouTube views, and shot up the iTunes charts, still sitting at #1 at time of print.
“Beautiful Crazy” is much more similar to what we were hoping from Luke Combs when he first emerged on a major label. Full of steel guitar and fiddle, and ramping up to be a quality showcase for his barrel-chested country voice, “Beautiful Crazy” is easy to love regardless of your country music alignment. Though some traditional fans used to hearing this sort of production may sniff unimpressed, to hear a young country artist such as Luke Combs record and release a song as traditional as this, and to have it do so well, is a multi-layered victory for country music.
As can be seen in the video for the song, “Beautiful Crazy” was recorded in an actual studio, with actual musicians. And though this seems like how you would expect a song to be recorded, in 2018, simply using live microphones piped into a mixing board as opposed to selecting “New Project” on an iMac and noodling on a MIDI controller is unusual enough.
But the one concern with “Beautiful Crazy” is the same concern with many Luke Combs songs. Though there’s nothing wrong with the songwriting, and perhaps by today’s mainstream standards it’s downright Shakespearean, Luke Combs songs regularly use hooks that just don’t sink the way you want a good country song to. The whole song is structured for this big payoff in the chorus, but you feel a little short changed when you get there. The same can be said for Combs’ mega hit “Hurricane.” “Beautiful Crazy” is also a little sappy, if we’re being honest. It’s just an average love song. The production is what makes it impressive, bold, and admirable.
The reception Luke Combs continues to garner for his music remains incredible, and “Beautiful Crazy” proves he can transition into much more traditional instrumentation and his fans will not just come along for the ride, they’ll eat it up. If Combs can make country sounding music with “Beautiful Crazy,” why can’t he do it for the majority of a new record? After all, we know that more classic-style country is Luke’s primary influence. It’s also fair to say that just like Kane Brown, Luke Combs seems to benefit from incredible, almost uncanny placement on major streaming playlists, making one wonder how much of the consumption numbers behind him are organic, and how much they’re embellished by favorable placements.
Regardless of how we got here, or how the numbers were tabulated, “Beautiful Crazy” proves traditional country production can resonate with the new generation if just given a chance. A song like this could be a window, and a gateway to more songs and artists that utilize traditional country instrumentation. Hopefully “Beautiful Crazy” is given a chance on radio as well, and Luke is given the latitude to record more songs like this after proving his commercial success. And then perhaps the promise of what Luke Combs could be will be realized.
1 1/2 Guns Up (7/10)
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“Beautiful Crazy” was written by Luke Combs, Wyatt B. Durrette III and Robert Williford.