Song Review: Luke Combs, “Going, Going, Gone”

Ironically, “Going, Going, Gone” describes what’s happening to my interest in hearing more from Luke Combs.

Nothing lasts forever, and it’s long past time to retire the “Thanos” nickname for Combs and revoke his title as the reigning king of country music because he’s fallen back to the pack over the last year or so. Don’t get me wrong—the man is still finding success in the genre, but it’s not the over-the-top, one-lap-ahead-of-the-field success he was having as recently as 2020. (His previous release “The Kind Of Love We Make” was blocked from the top spot by Cole Freaking Swindell, a man that 2020 Combs would have eaten for breakfast and still have been hungry.) His chart runs are taking longer, his songs are becoming less interesting, and his sales jobs are becoming less effective, and this trend continues on “Going, Going, Gone,” the third single from his Growin’ Up album. While there are some things to like about the song, in the end it’s just another lost-love that can’t hold the listener’s attention, and is quickly forgotten once it ends.

The production here tries to set a suitably-downcast mood, but the attempt is halfhearted and thus only half-effective at achieving its goal. The acoustic guitar that opens the song and carries the melody during the verses have some decent tone and texture, but all the string squeaking can be a bit distracting, and it doesn’t do much to actually set the tone of the song (if anything, the instrument’s a bit brighter than it should be). The choruses turn into a nondescript guitar-and-drum mix the likes of which you’ve heard a million times before, but even with the extra noise the vibe remains surprisingly neutral, and while it might reflect the narrator’s muted response to the breakup, it doesn’t give the listener any cue on how to feel or any reason to care about what’s happening at all. The lack of atmosphere (and the slight whiff of a contradictory one) really hurts this track, because in the absence of any other strong cues, it just makes the audience feel indifferent to the whole plight.

Combs might have the highest level of everyman charisma that we’ve seen in the genre since Brad Paisley (or perhaps even Garth Brooks), but it actually works against him on this track. There aren’t any technical issues here, but his approach to the song and the topic is so measured and accepting that he sounds like he really doesn’t care about the loss of the relationship at all, and thus can’t inspire the listener to get worked up about it either. To be honest, this is a “be careful what you wish for” moment for me: I’ve been shouting at artists to get their heads out of their glasses (and cans) and just move on from failed relationships, but Combs actually seems to have accepted that line of logic, and my reaction is now “…so why are we talking about this?” (To be fair, Combs stays above the belt here, and when he says the other person was too free-spirited to settle down, I believe him.) There’s a slight hint of longing and sorrow in his delivery, but it’s nowhere near enough to move the needle, and the listener just isn’t moved enough to engage with the song or remember it once it’s over.

The writing here tells the tale of yet another failed relationship, but instead of getting all whiny or blame-happy in the wake of the ordeal, the narrator rationalizes it proclaiming that the other person simply wasn’t ready or interested in a committed relationship. It’s a nice sentiment with some nice lines behind it (“I can’t hold on to letting go,” “she ain’t got one bit of stick around”), but the song doesn’t make a good case (or any case at all really) that the ex was the reason the whole thing fell apart (Combs is left to argument with his performance, and while I think he does a good job, he shouldn’t have had to do it alone). The “going, going, gone” hook is weak, the chorus imagery is tired and overdone (runaway trains, whiskey shots, and the predictable home-run analogy), and once again there’s no emotion of any sort in the lyrics—the prevailing sentiment just seems to be “Welp, that happened.” There are things I really like here, but the overall package is just too sterile and even-keel to leave any impression on the listener.

“Going, Going, Gone” is a story that can’t seem to justify being told, and while it’s not fumbled the way most artists seem to do it, it doesn’t generate any emotion or sympathy for the storyteller either. Everything here, from the production to the writing to Luke Combs himself, handles the situation in such a measured and logical fashion that they fail to convince us why the story needs to told in the first place. It’s another lackluster showing from Combs, and while it’s not a bad song and will probably perform fine on the airwaves, it feels like another sign that his power over the radio is weakening, and that his days of month-plus reigns over the charts are over. I’m not sure what this shift in the power dynamic means for the genre, but I guess we’re about to find out.

Rating: 5/10. It’s not really worth your time.

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