Country star Luke Combs blends classic, modern sounds in ‘What You See is What You Get’ album

Combs’ releases ‘most anticipated country album for 2019’

Written By Noah Bieniek, For The Globe

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Luke Combs’ “What You See is What You Get” (WYSWYG) was arguably the most anticipated Country album for 2019 and it dropped Friday, Nov. 8. It is the sophomore album from Combs’ campaign that has launched himself into being one of, if not the biggest new star in the Country music world. Combs is leading a revolution, one that is trying to revive a more classic country sound from the 90s but also trying to blend modern country with it. His first album “This One’s For You” showcased this strategy well. The album set up a campsite on the #1 spot on Billboard’s Top Country Album chart for 50 straight weeks. It broke the record for a male country artist on top of the chart, which was previously held by Randy Travis at 44 weeks, and tied the all-time record held by Shania Twain at 50 weeks. Just this week, Old Dominion’s new self-titled album dethroned “TOFY.” Every single, five in total, that came off “TOFY” landed on top of U.S. Country Airplay charts. In fact, Combs is the first ever to have their first six released singles land at #1 on the charts.

For those who somehow haven’t heard of Combs, he is an average American “everyman,” and he prides himself as that and his image is one thing that helps his popularity. Combs is on the chubbier side, can’t quite fill out is red beard, and hasn’t quite figured out award shows, yet he’s won plenty of them. If you see him, he’s probably wearing a button-down fishing shirt, and a hat. Those two paired together along with a double red solo cup during his performances have become his stapled look. The “Average Joe” as he calls himself in his song, “Does to Me,” feat. Eric Church has marketed himself very well to not be acclimated to the full lyric, “Underachieving, Average Joe.” Combs has ventured himself away from playing in small venues and clubs, to now selling out arenas as the headliner in just about two years. He is someone in the Country music world that is hard to not like, he pleases both the traditionalists and pop country fans.

Combs’ new album is really, really good, and I encourage everyone to spend an hour of time to listen to this masterpiece even if they don’t normally have country songs in their playlists. “WYSWYG” gives off a strong Brooks and Dunn sound that is very nice to hear again after the duo split and their revamp album has not made an impact. Combs has a few songs on “WYSWYG” that reflect on his past giving homage to people that mean a lot to him. The album has a goodtime sound flooded with guitar, and steel. There are also hints of mandolin and piano that bring the love and heartbreak, and good old beer highlighted in this album to life.

The standout on the album is the title track, “What You See is What You Get.” It is classic Luke Combs. The song has an up-tempo guitar sound with piano added in it to allow Combs to bring in the humor we heard in his previous #1 single “When it Rains it Pours.” The humor is displayed in lines like “I’m an easy read but I aint no open book / And I’ve got a knack for making things harder than they look.” The chorus just again gives off the Luke Combs vibe with,  “I’m a straight shootin’ / Beer drinkin’, rule breakin’ / Don’t think I won’t take a good thing too far / I’m a midnightin’, backslidin’ / Getaway car drivin’ / Runnin’ away with your heart / I guess be careful what you wish for is all I meant when I said / What you see is what you get.”

A song that is almost a guarantee to become a smash hit is “Better Together.” It’s one of the more stripped-down songs on the album with plenty of piano and is going to be the reborn version of another past #1 by Combs “Beautiful Crazy.” It’s a love song with lyrics in the chorus that say, “Some things just go better together, and probably always will / Like a cup of coffee and a sunrise / Sunday drives and time to kill / What’s the point of this ol’ guitar if it ain’t got no strings? Or pourin’ your heart into a song that you ain’t gonna sing? / It’s a match made up in heaven, like good ol’ boys and beer / And me, as long as you’re right here.” The 17th song on the album is so strong because it has a beautiful bridge that goes “Sometimes we’re oil and water, but I wouldn’t have it any other way / And if I’m being honest, your first and my last name, would just go better together…” that leads right back into the beginning of the chorus. NOT SO BOLD PREDICTION: This song will be a huge wedding song in 2020.

With all that said about those three songs I’ve ranked all 17 of the songs from my favorite to least favorite going off sound and lyrics:

  1. “What You See is What You Get”
  2. “Better Together”
  3. “Does To Me” feat. Eric Church
  4. “1, 2 Many” feat. Brooks & Dunn
  5. “All Over Again”
  6. “Refrigerator Door”
  7. “Moon Over Mexico”
  8. “Every Little Bit Helps”
  9. “Even Though I’m Leaving”
  10. “Beer Never Broke My Heart”
  11. “Dear, Today”
  12. “Nothin Like You”
  13. “Lovin On You”
  14. “Reasons”
  15. “Angels Workin Overtime”
  16. “New Every Day”
  17. “Blue Collar Boys”

I feel this set of rankings acclimates the album very well. The Top 4 songs can be shuffled around in any order and I wouldn’t argue. I feel “All Over Again” will be a good song to push to radio so I put that at #5, but after that, 6-15 are all toss ups and that’s what makes this album really good.

With all good things said about the quality of the songs I feel that there are a few namable things I don’t really love. 17 songs is a lot for an album, and this album is at a listening time of 59 minutes, that’s too high for me. I think songs 16 and 17 in my rankings can be cut and Combs’ would have an even stronger album. Another thing is Combs’ voice is so unique, there’s almost too much music in the background that takes away from the greatness of his vocals he needs to make more songs like “Better Together,” and “Dear, Today.” Lastly, “WYSWYG” has a lot of songs that are common in the songwriting of today’s hits. It gets very checklisty naming things that can go together, and in a song like “Blue Collar Boys” it checklists, and claims how “country” you are which is such a common thing in country radio now that I hate, it all started from Luke Bryan’s song, “What Makes You Country,” yuck.

We won’t even talk about this hideous album cover, even though it’s trying to poke fun at the name of the album because what you see as the album cover is not what you’ll see in the music. Either way, for how huge this album will be for Country music and Combs’ career I may still throw up when I see the cover 20 years down the road when I’m relistening to some of the classics in the masterpiece. If they release any of the songs from my Top 5 to country radio, I think all can become number ones which leaves me to wonder, how long of a streak for consecutive U.S. Airplay #1 singles can Luke Combs string together.