Admittedly I was unfair to his debut album because of this bias, and for the longest time I hated his single, “When It Rains It Pours”. The longer that song stayed around though, the more I came to appreciate Luke Combs' affable sense of humor and good natured personality, so much so that I now really like that aforementioned song.
His new single though, “One Number Away” reminds me why I was so hesitant to give this guy a chance in the first place, because it's trying to be so much more than what it actually is. Much like “When It Rains It Pours”, when I first heard this song before his debut album was released way back in June, I hated it as well. Re-listening to it definitely doesn't quite inspire anger in me anymore, but again, it's not good.
The song begins with these foreboding atmospheric electric guitars to set a dark and serious mood, and honestly I'm intrigued to hear what's about to go down. If this were like a murder ballad or a cheating song, it would have the perfect mood set for it.
Instead, the one element that really holds this song back starts to show, and that's oddly enough Luke Combs' delivery. The first verse reveals that all this is about is a man wondering about his ex-lover to the point where it gets creepy. He literally wants to know what she's doing right now and makes several guesses (cranking Mayer though? Really?!?). It's just this insistent urgent tone he's putting off that just adds a whole new layer of creepy to it. I have to wonder if this isn't the same guy from Tyler Farr's “Redneck Crazy” (planning his attack before he attacks). I get that my description sounds over dramatic, but that's the only I can put it.
What helps to cool the tension in the room is that it's revealed that he broke things off and regrets it, so the entire thing is just him expressing his regret. It's framed as a little too sympathetic at times for me to feel all that bad, but at least the creepy factor isn't as strong now. Still, the insistence to rely almost entirely on minor chords during the verses before entering into a bubbly, pop friendly chorus that doesn't even shift gears lyrically is off-putting.
Overall, “One Number Away” is a weird song that, while elevates itself to an alright level by its end also takes a long to get there, and the clumsy opening sends out a confusing message to the listener. Luke Combs is capable of more, and after the corny, yet all the more endearing and upbeat “When It Rains It Pours”, you have to wonder how many people will be responsive to something this dark and cold.
Listen: "One Number Away"
Author: Zackary Kephart