It was a day of triumph for Kane Brown on Tuesday (Feb. 20) as he celebrated his first No. 1 single, “What Ifs,” an accomplishment that gives Brown a sense of validation within the country music industry. “It feels amazing, I feel like Nashville finally let me in, country radio finally let me in. It’s just one of the goals that I’ve been searching for and finally got,” he tells Sounds Like Nashville and other media. “Once we got to the Top 20, all I kept doing was watching the chart each week and just counting down. It was a real feeling once it hit No. 1.”
The powerful song about taking a leap of faith when it comes to love was actually inspired by the Shel Silverstein poem, “What If,” with the title prompting writers Brown, Jordan Schmidt and Matt McGinn to ponder the existential question and turn it into music. “It’s kind of like what our song is about in a way, what if this and what if that,” Schmidt explains. “And if you focus on the what ifs you can drive yourself crazy, so we were like ‘why isn’t there a song about that?'”
Brown, Lauren Alaina and the writers attribute the song’s popularity to the chemistry between the singers, with their longtime friendship adding a notable dynamic to the song. “The song was perfect for us to showcase what we really do. I love Kane, I’ve known him a really long time and it just was a natural fit,” Alaina says. “It’s just a good song and good songs tell their stories in their own way. It just kind of rose to the top the way it should’ve.”
“It was just perfect. It couldn’t have been a better match,” Schmidt describes of the chemistry between the “What Ifs” duet partners, which he believes is what made fans gravitate to the track. For Brown, the element of he and Alaina coming together on such a successful song helps break down the stereotypes of being from a small town, with their friendship dating back to their days in middle school choir class together. “I feel like that was another huge part of people feeling like they could be somebody coming from a small town,” he says of the history of he and Alaina’s friendship.
And it was this very same choir teacher, Lamar Gillespie, who surprised his two former students by traveling from Georgia to Nashville for to congratulate the singers on the their incredible achievements, and they have plenty of them in their early careers.
“What Ifs” is certified platinum and also helped make Brown the first artist to top five of Billboard’s country charts simultaneously in October of 2017 when “What Ifs” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs, Country Airplay and Country Streaming Songs charts, all while “Heaven” was at the top of the Country Digital Songs chart and the deluxe edition of his self-titled debut album reached No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart. Alaina celebrated her first No. 1, “Road Less Traveled,” which also scored her first CMT Music Award for Breakthrough Video of the Year in 2017.