Ripcord – Keith Urban

I found myself listening to a whole Keith Urban album the other day, quite by accident. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Keith Urban. But I was only looking for his duet with Carrie Underwood (“The Fighter”) on Spotify, and one hour later I was already playing other songs from Ripcord on repeat.

My love for Keith Urban comes from a combination of liking some of his songs a lot (“Better Life” is one of my feel-good anthems, man!); his pretty face; his bromance with Harry Connick, Jr. on American Idol; and his love for Nicole Kidman. Every so often one of his newer songs would catch my attention, like “Even The Stars Fall 4 U”, but mostly I’ve been okay not hearing his albums in full. Until now.

There are some pretty amazing songs on Ripcord with crazy beautiful melodies: “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”, “Wasted Time”, and “Blue Ain’t Your Color”. It opens strong with the upbeat “Gone Today (Here Tomorrow)” and its intricate (I’m guessing banjo?) solo. But the real standouts are the aforementioned “The Fighter” and “Boy Gets A Truck”, which I’ve been playing on a loop for the past hour.  The melody and lyrics of “Break On Me” remind me of the heartbreaking “Tonight I Want To Cry” – not in a derivative way, but because I feel a genuine emotion there. This is also what makes the last two songs amazing – “That Could Still Be Us” had me at the simple piano accompaniment, because I just want my songs to sound pure, damnit. “Worry Bout Nothin'” is a worthy closer, with its crescendoing chorus that I can totally imagine singing out loud in a sold-out lit up arena.

This all started because of Urban and Underwood’s performance of “The Fighter” on the Grammys. The song does have that synth intro, but I still love it because it’s playful and fun and structured as a conversation between a man and woman as he tries to reassure her that he won’t hurt her. I’m Team KeithandNicole all the way, and that track’s got to be for Nicole, right?

And “Boy Gets A Truck”! Easily my favorite song off the album and the reason I had to write this piece in the first place. At first I thought the lyrics were too trite because he was just repeating the last word of every line. But after a couple of listens, I realized that he was telling a beautiful story about a whole life and generations and the passage of time in the context of a pickup truck! It made me cry when I finally got it!

Boy gets a truck, truck gets a girl
Girl gets a midnight feeling he’s the one
One night turns to love
Love turns into one knee down
Down payment on a 3 bedroom house
Filled with the sound of little feet
Then you blink and he’s asking for the keys to pick her up
Boy gets a truck

I think Urban’s more recent albums sound over-produced, especially Fuse, which is what turned me off. But overall Ripcord sounds warmer and feels more genuine somehow, so I connect with it more. Ripcord-era Urban is so different from  his 90s incarnation because he seems to be in an effects frenzy these days, but the songs themselves stand well on their own because of the lyrics and melodies. I bet these would sound awesome live.

Damnit.

Now I have to add Keith Urban to my list of concert-worthy artists.