Okay Nashville, you’ve taken your best shot at a sex jam. Can you please stop foisting these things on us now?
I complain about a lot of things in country music these days, but one of my more-consistent gripes is that Music City is fixated on sex jams, surmising that some extra passion and lust will draw in a bigger audience and earn them more time on the radio. Whether or not they’re right is yet to be determined, because they’ve dumped a bunch of “sexy” tracks onto the radio over the last few years, and none of them have actually succeeded in sounding or feeling sexy. I’ve liked exactly one country music sex jam since I started my work here at the blog (but at least I really liked it), and given that Aaron Watson isn’t exactly a Nashville insider, I wouldn’t exactly give that town much credit for the track. When you’ve thrown your best minds and voices at a problem for this long and come up with zero solutions, it’s time to ask the tough questions: Can anyone truly make a sultry song in this genre?
Enter Luke Combs, i.e. Thanos, i.e. the reigning king of country music, i.e. the one guy with enough clout and leeway to take a swing at this challenge. In truth, however, the crown has seemed rather uneasy on Combs’s head lately, as his latest single “Doin’ This” felt like it lacked the power of his previous releases. Granted, it was still a #1 hit, and a six-month chart run is something that the majority of artists in the genre would give their eye teeth for, but when compared to the otherworldly performances of some of Combs’s past hits (racing up the charts, spending months at #1), you couldn’t help but feel like the trend line was pointing in the wrong direction. (Yes, “Doin’ This” spent two weeks at the summit, but even seemed forced, as if Thanos and Columbia were trying to make a statement in order to hide the song’s underlying weakness.) With the release of his third album Growin’ Up imminent, Combs found himself in the unfamiliar position of having to prove himself, and nothing says “Don’t step to me, my snapping fingers can still destroy the universe” like taking on Nashville’s sex jam problem and succeeding.
So, does “The Kind Of Love We Make” actually succeed? Well…er…maybe? The song is nowhere close to Watson’s 2018 masterpiece, but I’ll admit that you can hear shades of “Run Wild Horses” here, and while they’re not enough to make the declare the song good, they work well enough to let me label the song as okay, which is as close as Nashville has gotten to quality on these tracks in a while.
The key to getting me to pay attention to a song like this is to use minor chords and darker instrument tones to introduce a feeling of unstable, borderline-dangerous passion, and this song gets about halfway there, even if it doesn’t go all in on this raw feel like Watson did. It opens with a deep-voiced electric guitar and a background organ, quickly pivots to an acoustic axe and a more-conventional electric guitar for the verses (a steel guitar gets a few words in as required by law), and then brings everything together to amp up the volume and intensity on the choruses. The problem in the constant shifting between the minor and major chords: The minor chords are what give an edge to the sound, and going back and forth so often really breaks the song’s immersion and makes it feel a bit less raw and inflamed. Additionally, where Watson leaned on a lower-ranged guitar and a fiddle to make the sound feel more distinct, the run-of-the-mill guitars take precedence here and keep the sound from standing out and making the impact I was hoping for. The producers did some things right, but they only did them halfway, which ends up limiting the song’s power.
It’s a similar story with the vocals: You can feel the strain and emphasis in Combs’s delivery just as you could with Watson’s, but it just doesn’t hit the same way this time around. Part of this is because Combs has a raspier voice to being with, so the contrast between normal and intense Combs isn’t as noticeable (he kind of enters this mode on all of his songs tbh). Part of this is because Combs doesn’t seem to fill the narrator’s shoes quite as well: His everyman charisma doesn’t play as well in a song that demands a bit more suave from the speaker, and when he tells his story, it feels like someone else’s tale instead of him speaking from firsthand experience. This song is written pretty generically (more on that later), and for Combs to stick the landing on a track like this, I think it needs to be “a Luke Combs song”; that is, a song tuned to be more personal and specific, something that no one but Combs could possibly deliver. There’s definitely emotion here and you can just feel the wheels turning as Combs puts his heart into it, but the result is more of a glancing blow than a direct hit. Still, it’s better than the swing-and-misses you usually get from Music City on this subject.
In terms of the writing…look, I get that there are only so many ways to say you want to have sex with someone, but isn’t there something you can say to make the song feel less boilerplate? We’ve got the candles (and low lighting and general), we’ve got the records (no artist name-drops for a change though), we’ve got the ‘we’ve been working too hard lately’ setup, we’ve got the dress on the floor…all we’re missing is the wine and the 700-thread-count sheets. Actually, we’re missing the foreplay too: There’s no attempt to set the mood or create any atmosphere, it’s just “we’re here, let’s get busy!” (Heck, the narrator never really tells us what they love about their partner, outside of “the way your body’s movin.'” ) “Making the kind of love we make” is an aftermarket add-on of a hook, as it doesn’t connect very well with the rest of the song and is so weak that it causes the chorus to end with a resounding thud. I sort of want to blame this track on the current meta (dang it, I thought I was going to get through the whole review without saying that word): In a streaming environment, putting the punch line first is key to engaging your audience, and if your punch line is “hot steamy sex,” then you’re going to skip the pregame show, go light on the details, and go right to the action. (In comparison, Watson doesn’t even start singing until the thirty-second marker of “Run Wild Horses,” which would give any label’s streaming team instant indigestion.) In other words, saying the lyrics aren’t the strong suit of this track is an understatement, and they’re overly reliant on both the artist to bring the feeling and the listener to bring the details.
So where does all this leave “The Kind Of Love We Make”? Relatively speaking, even given the drivel that passes for the writing, I think it qualifies as a success by Nashville sex jam standards. The sound is catchy and delivers its share of edgy passion, and Luke Combs does his darnedest to make you feel the song as much as he does. Overall, however, I think this falls into the “your mileage may vary” category: It’s remains a long way from being a quality song, and if Combs or the production doesn’t resonate with you, it’s no more interesting or compelling than any other song along these lines. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt, but this feels like an unnecessary risk from an artist whose hold on the ‘Thanos’ title seems to be slipping, and if the audience doesn’t feel the love, Combs may end up abdicating the country music throne to his competition. If “you come at the king, you best not miss”…but the king can’t afford to miss too often either.
Oh, and Nashville? This was your best chance at actually pulling off a sex jam, and it only kinda-sorta worked. For our all sakes, just give it up already.
Rating: 6/10. Give it a spin or two and see what you think.