What the heck, I’m always up for a good origin story.
Like the Force itself, there seem to be two sides of Luke Combs’s discography. When he’s tempted by the dark side, we get somber-toned, minor-chord-plagued laments about getting over a lost love (“Hurricane,” “One Number Away”), while on his brighter days we get fun, lighthearted tracks about…well, getting over a lost love (“When It Rains It Pours”). He’s returned to the light side of the Force for his latest single (and first from the new deluxe version of his album This One’s For You Too) “She Got The Best Of Me.” While it’s admittedly another track about getting over a lost love, just like with Star Wars the fourth release turns out to be the prequel, as Combs puts a unique twist on the topic by explaining how heartbreak inspired his musical career.
The production here splits the difference between the two sides of the Force: The overall mix sounds a lot like “Hurricane” with its prominent guitars (both acoustic and electric) and limited instrumentation (there’s a steel guitar and banjo here, but they’re barely noticeable behind the guitars and percussion), but the drums are real this time, and most notably the instrument tones are much brighter this time around. There’s still a minor chord that pops up regularly, but overall it strikes a nice balance between acknowledging the cloud and highlighting the silver lining: The pain of the breakup still lingers, but that pain was the driving force that pushed the narrator onto the stage where he is today. It’s that positive vibe that sticks with the listener the most, and while it’s not the rollicking neotraditional sound of “When It Rains It Pours,” it’ll still leave you with a smile.
While Combs is a decent vocalist (neither his range or flow are tested here, but he delivers his lines competently and clearly), his biggest assets are his everyman charm and earnestness, and he puts these to good use on this track. I labeled this an “origin story” earlier, and the big question for a song like this is whether or not the artist can convince people that the story is actually true. (For what it’s worth, I couldn’t find any confirmation in either direction on the tale’s veracity.) For Combs, this isn’t an issue: He’s got enough power and charisma to get people to buy into the song, and if he declared this to be a true story, I’d totally believe him. For all the Star Wars references I’ve made so far, the best one might be how Combs’s ability to forge a connection with his audience feels eerily similar to Garth Vader himself.
It’s no secret that heartbreak has been a source of inspiration for country artists throughout the entire history of the genre, but “She Got The Best Of Me” makes the connection explicit: The narrator claims that he turned to the guitar as a means of coping with the pain of love lost at an early age. It’s not the most novel topic in the world and the imagery isn’t terribly evocative, but the writing has its moments (I like the “beating in this guitar” line), and the hook is at least better than some other recent wordplay examples (“Lose It,” “Take It From Me,” “The Difference”). Without Combs to breathe life into it, the song would honestly feel bland and boring, and it doesn’t do a great job of drawing in the listener and making them care. It’s a classic case of a singer elevating a song to greater heights then it would ever achieve on its own, and Combs and his producer deserve a lot of credit for it.
“She Got The Best Of Me” may not set the world on fire, but in the end it’s a solid song that speaks volumes about Luke Combs’s future potential. Put this track is someone else’s hands, and you’ve got some generic radio filler that no one will remember in about two months. Combs’s charisma, however, infuses the track with a bit more personality and meaning, and leaves listeners thinking “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind hearing that again.” I’m not sure what Force Combs has tapped it, but I hope he uses it for good.
Rating: 7/10. Three singles at 6 or above? Maybe Combs wasn’t kidding when he said This One’s For You Too.