If there’s been a common complaint about Luke Combs’ stalwart — and so far no-fail output to country radio — it’s that the songs might get a little repetitive. “Hurricane,” “She Got the Best of Me” and “One Number Away” were moody, early-career earworms; “Beer Never Broke My Heart” and “Cold as You” proved Combs’ abilities as a marquee entertainer; even ballads like “Better Together,” “Forever After All” and “Beautiful Crazy” all fit into a pattern of smitten, romantic songs about a love destined to last a lifetime.
But there have always been outliers within Combs’ comfort zone — his Eric Church duet, “Does to Me,” and “Doin’ This,” for two — and a look at his single releases in chronological order reveals that the more songs he’s put out, the more frequently he’s tried to stretch himself into new territory.
His last single, “The Kind of Love We Make,” was a fresh direction for Combs, re-imagining the love song format he’s used in the past as a sizzling, sexy mid-tempo number that’s subtly retro and less abjectly personal that the love songs Combs has put out in the past, many of which took direct, real-life inspiration from his relationship with his wife Nicole.
The stakes are high for Combs: Up until now, he’s put out 14 singles to country radio, and 14 singles have gone No. 1. If he wants to keep that streak going, he needs to walk a fine line between doing what works and releasing songs that feel fresh.
Fortunately, he seems to have that balance down pat. On Monday (Oct. 10), Combs announced that he was releasing “Going, Going, Gone” as the third single off of his Growin’ Up album. As with “The Kind of Love We Make,” Combs’ new single charts familiar territory, but with a shift in perspective — and this time, it’s a ballad.
“Going, Going, Gone” is an open-hearted heartbreak song, full of imagery of all things ephemeral: From “a runaway Southbound train” to “Lightning in the sky” and “a whiskey shot at last call,” the girl he’s singing about is bound to disappear — and there’s no way to stop her.
Heartbreak is familiar subject matter for Combs, and he’s also put out several ballads, but rarely have the two coincided. More common for the singer are songs like “When It Rains It Pours” and “Cold as You”: Rowdy barn-burners that tell off an ex or rope an entire bar into a drown-the-pain singalong. By contrast, “Going, Going, Gone” is a quieter and more mature take on heartache. There’s no tell-off in the song, and no drinking the pain away either — just a mournful acceptance that the relationship wasn’t meant to be.
The best new directions feel obvious, and there’s not much that’s more obvious in country music than a heartbreak ballad. But Combs is continuing to quietly evolve with his release of “Going, Going, Gone,” slowly building an ever-more-diverse catalog. His No. 1 streak will end one day, but it seems likely that “Going, Going, Gone” will land him at least one more chart-topper.
Listen to Luke Combs, “Going, Going, Gone”
Luke Combs, “Going, Going, Gone” Lyrics:
Some things in life are meant to fly / And others, they were born to run / Can’t tie down up and leavin’ / Like the changing of the seasons / Good things, they come and then they go
Like a runaway Southbound train / Like an Arizona desert rain / Like lightning in the sky / Like fireworks in July / Like a left field home run ball / Like a whiskey shot at last call / It’s like she was made for movin’ on / That girl is goin’, goin’ gone
I could say it wasn’t meant to be / But maybe ‘meant to be”s misunderstood / Can’t hold to lettin’ go / Change the way a river flows / Lovin’ her’s like ropin’ in the wind
She ain’t one bit of stick around / There’s no sense in tryin’ to slow her down
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