“I love country music, man,” said a stunned Luke Combs during his acceptance speech for New Artist of the Year at the 2018 CMA Awards in November. The feeling is clearly mutual: with the ascent of his latest release “Beautiful Crazy” to the Number One spot on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, Combs becomes the first artist to have his first five singles reach the top of the airplay-monitoring chart since its 1990 launch.
As Billboard points out, “Beautiful Crazy” — a bonus cut from the deluxe release of Combs’ debut album (cleverly re-titled This One’s for You Too) — marks Combs’ fastest trip to Number One with only 16 weeks elapsed since it was serviced to radio for airplay. This builds upon Combs’ remarkable run, which began in 2017 with his first single “Hurricane,” a two-week chart-topper in May of that year. He’s been steadily cranking out the hits ever since then, with “When It Rains It Pours” hitting the top in November 2017, “One Number Away” getting its shot in June 2018 and “She Got the Best of Me” following suit in October.
The appeal in this case is multi-faceted. Combs’ powerful, gritty voice and polished, Nineties-indebted songs make him a state-of-the-art entertainer in country — one who repurposes the recent past while uncovering new ground. But just as importantly, the North Carolina native projects an easygoing, everyman persona both on- and offstage that makes him instantly relatable.
“I’ve always been a super regular guy,” he told Rolling Stone Country in 2017. “I think there’s kind of a comfortability with me onstage — and I think my cool factor is not having one. I’m not extra cool or extra different. I’m an honest dude, not trying to be anything other than who I am.”
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Combs’ new chart record puts him ahead of a pair of duos who also started off with a bang in the monitored chart era. Most recently, Florida Georgia Line had their first four songs — “Cruise,” “Round Here,” “Stay” and “Shine On” — reach Number One. Nearly 20 years earlier, Brooks & Dunn had done the same thing with “Brand New Man,” “My Next Broken Heart,” “Neon Moon” and “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”
Recently a nominee for Best New Artist at the 61st Grammy Awards, Combs is also nominated for a pair of honors including Male Artist of the Year at the upcoming ACM Awards in April. Presently, Combs is headlining his sold-out Beer Never Broke My Heart Tour, with shows coming up Thursday, February 28th, at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom and Friday, March 1st, at Bangor, Maine’s Cross Insurance Center.