Luke Combs’ latest album has all the ingredients of popular country music. The songs celebrate the singer’s country past, present and future. Combs sings about his passion for what he does; nostalgia and successes; and failures in relationships with women.
Growin’ Up is Combs’ fourth top-five album in the U.S. and boasts the highest debut for a country album in 2022 so far. Since the release of his first album, 2017’s This One’s for You, Combs released his second album, What You See Is What You Get, which was well-received. A deluxe version of the album was released on October 23, 2020, including the song “Forever After All.”
This album is consistent with Comb’s other work, featuring themes of idealistic rural life and the sometimes-fleeting nature of love. Casual nods to Christianity are blended with references to heavy drinking, making love and some mild profanity.
“Doin’ This” and “Used to Wish I Was” revolve around Luke’s acceptance of his identity as a country music artist, and the belief that writing and singing music is his destiny. “Doin This” also tells us that his passion for creating music supersedes his desire for fame or wealth.
Several songs admit continued love or respect for women Luke had past failed relationships. Combs acknowledges that he should “let yesterday be” in “Tomorrow Me.” “The Kind of Love We Make” shows his love and desire for a woman who’s presumably his wife.
Several songs, specifically “Middle of Somewhere” and “Better Back When” show Comb’s contentment and appreciation of the little things in life. The former also mentions the Christian culture of the South, where “Jesus saves” and the people pray.
References to drinking in this album are frequent. Luke sings about imbibing various kinds of alcohol, justifying intoxication as a way to let loose and as a coping mechanism. On “Call Me,” Luke sings that a woman he is having a challenging relationship with will “smoke a few smokes, drink a few drinks.” He also talks about stealing a keg from a frat party and drinking from it in “Better Back When.”
A few songs are disrespectful toward women. The most glaring example is on “On the Other Line,” where Combs minimizes his significant other’s emotional outburst and leaves to go fishing. The tone of the song is dismissive, and he claims that he has to hang up the phone with her because of a “six-pound largemouth on the other line.”
Combs sings about another toxic relationship with a woman on “Call Me,” where he encourages her to call him even after she has been slandering him all night in a bar. Another woman is discouraged from calling him in “Tomorrow Me,” because he knows they will both regret it in the morning.
Some lyrics have sensual or suggestive allusions. In “Ain’t Far From It,” we hear, “When she flips that switch, I’m off like a rocket.” The most suggestive lyrics on the album come in a song about his wife, “The Kind of Love We Make,” in which Combs talks about having sex with her “all night long.”
Some coarse language slips in, too. In “Better Back When,” we hear “a–” once, while “d–n” can be heard in “Doin This” and “On the Other Line.” In “Call Me” Combs’ anticipates a woman calling him an “S. O. B.” and saying he is from “B. F. E.,” which is an abbreviation for a vulgar phrase meaning the middle of nowhere.
In some ways, Luke Combs seems to be growing up a bit. Songs like the introspective “Doin’ This” feel more serious than previous albums as he grapples with the realities of his relationships and comes to terms with where life has taken him. Some of his songs harken back to the twangy sound of classic country artists, such as his collaboration with Miranda Lambert in “Outrunnin’ Your Memory.” That said, many songs here nevertheless feature cliched country allusions to sexual intimacy, drinking and treating women poorly.
All in all, hard-core country fans will likely find much to appreciate in the superstar’s latest effort. But predictable winks at bad behavior and nods to unhealthy relationships perhaps indicate that this incredibly popular country singer isn’t quite finished growing up just yet.
Marsella Evans is the Plugged In intern for Summer 2022.