Come on Thanos, you’re supposed to be a trend setter, not a trend follower.
On the surface, the Luke Combs Inc. franchise is firing on all cylinders: “Better Together” spent five weeks atop Billboard’s airplay chart and became the ninth single out of ten to spend multiple weeks at the summit (“One Number Away” only topped the charts for one week; what a disappointment), further cementing his status as the current king of the genre. However, over his last few singles, Combs has awkwardly morphed into a Boyfriend country artist, and while “Lovin’ On You” spiced things up with a dose of fun, “Better Together” was as sappy and cheesy as anything that Dan + Shay have released in the last few years. This trend continues with “Forever After All,” which is basically a worse version of “Better Together” and highlights Combs’s limitations more than his strengths. This song may not slow down the moneymaking machine that is Combs’s career right now (and let’s be honest: In non-pandemic times, a sixth single like this would probably never see the light of day), but I also wouldn’t call it a great sign of things to come.
The production here has a few more moving parts than “Better Together,” but the serious, devotional mood is essentially the same. It’s got the standard guitar-and-drum foundation that everyone else uses, but the steel guitar is more plentiful and pronounced (it even gets the lead role in the bridge solo, even if said solo is a bit lackluster), and it combines with the mandolin and piano to give this track a warmer, more spacious feeling. The problem is that these arrangement additions don’t do much to make the song any more enticing: The song is a little light on energy and plods along more than it should, and you just can’t shake the feeling that you’ve heard this song a million times before (heck, between this, “Better Together,” and “Beautiful Crazy,” you’ve heard this song a million times before from Combs himself). Frankly, the mix is more boring than anything else, and while it does an okay job supporting the writing, it ends up putting you to sleep before it can melt your heart.
If there’s one thing that caught me off guard here, it’s that Combs sounds really bad on this track. I blame whoever arranged this thing: The song seems to be a key or two too low for Combs’s voice, and when he starts plumbing the depths of his lower range on the verses, his voice completely loses its tone, power, and polish, leading to some seriously awful moments (the “good truck” and “first love lost” lines make me cringe every time I hear them). He’s much better on the choruses when he can climb the ladder and put a little power behind the words, but there’s no washing those verse faux pas out of your ears, and he just can’t charm the audience the way he did on previous singles (he seems awfully devoted to the other person, but he can’t convince us to care about it). It’s easily the weakest performance I’ve heard from Combs as an artist, and it’s not a great sign when you get shown up this badly by your own previous single that wasn’t that good to begin with.
The writing here goes to the time-tested well of “nothing lasts forever except our love,” and it’s not a terribly interesting take on the tale. The items used for comparison feature a laundry list of generic country tropes (beer, trucks, blue jeans, etc.), the rhymes can feels awkwardly forced (some lines have a bunch of extra syllables stuffed in to make the wordplay work), and the “some things last forever after all” hook is meh at best. The imagery is a bit unbalanced overall: We get tons of random stuff that will wear out over time, but but all we hear about the other person is moonlight in their eyes and “a t-shirt in the kitchen” (pulling a TL;DR with the “million other things” seems to undermine the claim that the love here is deep and unending—if you love them so much, tell us about them!). There’s just something about these lyrics that feel basic and unpolished, and I think the track needed a few more drafts before they brought it to the studio.
“Forever After All” is just another uninspiring love song from an artist that’s gotten increasingly predictable over the last year or so, and it might be the worst single I’ve ever heard from Luke Combs. Both the writing and the vocals are surprisingly rough, and the production only meets the minimally-acceptable standards for a generic Boyfriend country ballad. Combs is falling into the same trap that Thomas Rhett did not long ago: When you sing about the same thing over and over, eventually people grow tired of your shtick and start looking for a fresher take. (Editor’s Note: The same principal applies to song complaints reviews as well.) The old saw “nothing lasts forever” applies to the reign of kings in country music too, and unless Thanos can find a way to recharge that Infinity Guantlet (he did mention he was starting to work on album #3…), his dynasty may end a bit sooner than he thinks.
Rating: 5/10. *yawn*