| Nashville Tennessean
Everything — seriously, everything! — Luke Combs touches seems to reach the top of a chart.
The 30-year-old everyman songwriter from North Carolina, who first raised a Billboard ruckus with 2016 debut single “Hurricane” and has since destroyed country music charting records, sets sights on one of the most daunting climbs in music this week: the all-genre Billboard Hot 100.
Combs angles to reach “rarified air,” in his words, by debuting song “Forever After All” at No. 1 on the Hot 100 songs chart. If he reaches this industry pinnacle, he’d be the first artist to simultaneously debut a song atop the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Country Song chart, according to a video Combs posted Wednesday asking fans to support his run for Nashville history.
If it bows in the top slot, “Forever After All” would be the 45th song in Billboard history to debut at No.1 on the Hot 100, according to the trade publication, and first from a country artist since Carrie Underwood released her post-“American Idol” single “Inside Your Heaven” in 2005 (country radio programmers however didn’t set sights on Underwood until her next single, “Jesus, Take The Wheel”).
Combs wants to “go down swinging” as he faces off with a new single from pop powerhouse Ariana Grande and lingering hits from 24kGoldn, Cardi B with Megan Thee Stallion, Drake and Nashville’s hitmaking newcomer Gabby Barrett.
“We’re in one of these rare situations that I don’t know if we’ll ever be in again,” Combs told The Tennessean this week. “I’d like to just go down swinging, I think. If we’re there I’m not gonna not put my best foot forward. That’s just kinda the guy that I am.”
He continued, “I think we’re punching above our weight class a little bit. I figured let’s throw one more haymaker at ’em and see if it lands.”
The song — a heartfelt midtempo love story released weeks after Combs tied the knot longtime girlfriend Nicole Hocking — comes off “What You See Ain’t Always What You Get,” a 23-song deluxe album released last week in follow-up to his 2019 record “What You See Is What You Get.”
Combs first teased the song on TikTok in August, belting the grizzled lyrics “They say nothin’ lasts forever/ But they ain’t seen us together/ The way the moonlight dances in your eyes …” in a teaser clip.
The song follows “Beautiful Crazy” and “Better Together” in a line of first-person love stories that aided in Combs earning his spot among Nashville’s top entertainers.
“You could write a generic love song, and not to say it couldn’t be done, but my wife’s impact on my life has weighed heavily on the outcome of these songs,” Combs said. “These songs wouldn’t exist without her. I don’t think I would’ve been in that headspace — or been comfortable saying those kind of things — without going through that.”
Combs “couldn’t of imagined this level of response” to the song, he said. It earned nearly 11 million plays on Spotify since debuting last week, and the new deluxe album set a record on the streaming platform for most first-day plays from a country release.
Moreover, “Forever After All” reached No. 1 on Apple Music’s Daily Top 100: Global Songs chart and set a record for most first-day streams from a country song on the competing digital platform.
Billboard calculates Hot 100 position via a combination of U.S. streaming, radio and sales data. The chart debuts top 10 songs each Monday.
“All I can ever hope out of a song is somebody finds a connection to it that’s special to them,” Combs said. “‘Even Though I’m Leaving’ is a song I’ve put out that people have found a piece of their own persona stories in. This song is similar to that, just in a different emotional range.”
He recorded a handful of deluxe tracks in June, including country quarantine anthem “Six Feet Apart” and “Without You,” a collaboration with ace Nashville songwriter-fiddle player Amanda Shires.
“Forever After All” was the oldest song in Combs collection of new cuts — “I’m always a fan of having one in your back pocket,” he said. He wrote it around January 2019, after moving into a new Tennessee home.
“I always wanna put out something I feel is worth people spending their money on,” Combs said of his new release. “I’ve never been a cash grab guy. … That’s never case. I think it’s some of the strongest stuff that we’ve put out.”
Since 2016, Combs has launched his first nine inescapable radio singles (could a country music fan tune in anywhere last year and not hear his blasting “Long. Neck. Ice. Cold.” chorus in “Beer Never Broke My Heart” or the ready-for-any-wedding slow dance groove of “Beautiful Crazy”?) to top the Billboard Country Airplay chart
He’s the only solo artist to send his first nine singles to No. 1 of the all-important country chart, and it’s not even close. Clint Black sent his first four singles to top of the country chart during the height of his influential 1989 “Killin’ Time” album cycle.
He’ll take this monumental momentum into the CMA Awards next month, where Combs competes for Entertainer of the Year.
“You think people love it and you hope that they do … and they do,” Combs said. “I’m just thankful for that. When something’s really good, you just don’t ask questions.”[embedded content]