This is an interesting one to say the least. We fell in love with Keith Urban through the likes of ‘Making Memories Of Us’, ‘You’ll Think Of Me’ and ‘Tonight I Wanna Cry’, gorgeous country songs that have cemented Keith’s position as one of the heavyweights in the genre. Today sees the release of his latest project, ‘Ripcord’, an album with a new, experimental sound that could signal a change in direction. It’s certainly a far cry from his early material, but will it still appeal to his loyal fan base? Only time will tell.
This is a more mainstream-orientated project than anything Keith has ever produced in the past. Expect more synthesised sounds and pop-infused rhythms. In fact, it would be fair to say that this isn’t necessarily a ‘country’ album. There are a variety of influences here, with a few country-ish tracks thrown in along the way. Having said that, we very rarely hear a Keith Urban song we dislike, and that is maintained throughout this album. It’s catchy, it gets under your skin and you’ll be singing most of the tracks on your way to work. That’s how it’s always been with Keith’s material.
‘Gone Tomorrow (Here Today)’ kicks off the album. A lively track with a really heavy bass and thumping backbeat, combined with a really infectious banjo that plays throughout the track. It’s rather reminiscent of Zac Brown Band’s ‘Beautiful Drug’ in some ways. This could be a great one to start Keith’s live shows; it’s so atmospheric and the instrumentation just begs to be blasted out loud. Not one for the country traditionalists but we’ll certainly be playing it!
‘Sun Don’t Let Me Down’ is a real curveball that hits you like a tonne of bricks. Bet you didn’t expect to hear Pitbull on a country album any time soon! It’s a real in-your-face funky pop track that could be a massive hit. Anything Pitbull touches seems to turn to gold in the music industry these days, so don’t be surprised to see this one topping the charts very soon. The track also features legendary producer and performer Nile Rodgers on guitar.
The highlight of the album is Keith’s duet with Carrie Underwood on ‘The Fighter’. Again, not remotely ‘country’ but wow, this is another one that could be absolutely huge. A fast-paced, emotion-filled pop anthem that will be stuck in your head after one listen. It’s also tailor made for the club scene; we’re waiting for somebody to do a remix as we speak! Keith and Carrie’s vocals go together like two peas in a pod – it’s sublime, and Carrie sounds utterly incredible as usual. Roll down those windows and turn the volume up for this one!
The soulful ‘Blue Ain’t Your Colour’ is a showcase of Keith’s stunning vocal ability, as the simplistic, stripped-back instrumentation allows him to truly take the reins. It’s a welcome relief from the heavy backbeats and it’s a song that really grabs your attention. It’s also a wonderful masterclass in song writing from Steven Lee Olsen, Clint Lagerberg and Hillary Lindsey (co-writer of Little Big Town’s ‘Girl Crush’).
‘Boy Gets a Truck’ could well be released as a single to country radio at some point. It’s a typical Keith Urban rock-country anthem about young love. Almost the prequel to ‘Cop Car’, if you like! Another highlight is ‘That Could Still Be Us’, a piano-backed ballad depicting someone’s inability to let go of a lost love, drowning in the thought of what could have been. “I know I probably think about you way too much but that’s because that could still be us”. This is more like the Keith we have come to know and love and you can hear the emotion in his delivery, it’s clearly one that resonates with him.
It’s an album that might take you a few listens to fully grasp. The change of direction is a little surprising at first, but when you delve deeper into the tracks you will appreciate the quality of the production and song writing throughout the project. To be honest, Keith could choose any of the tracks on offer here to release as a single, all of them have the potential to be smash-hits. Admittedly, we prefer the ‘old’ Keith but you can’t blame him for trying to re-invent himself and targeting a new generation of country fans. Despite the new sound, it’s still a very enjoyable album and there’s no doubt it’ll send Keith to the top of the charts once again.