Keith Lionel Urban (born 26 October 1967) is a New Zealand-born Australian country artist, but don't let his genre fool you.
He started out in obscurity in the 1990s in Australia, but just released one album before disappearing from the solo scene. For the next several years, Urban bounced around Nashville and got several minor parts. He formed a band called The Ranch in 1996. They released one album and two singles, and disbanded in less than a year.
He went back out solo again in 1998, this time achieving success with his self-titled album for Capitol Records. Three of its singles made top 10, with one of those three ("But for the Grace of God", which he wrote with two members of The Go-Go's) going to #1, thus breaking a nearly three-year dry spell for the label. He returned in 2002 for his second album, Golden Road. This one got more critical acclaim and won him his biggest hit "Somebody Like You". It broke several records for country music, including most weeks at number 1 on Radio & Records, got him a fairly major hit at pop, and introduced him as a serious country artist.
The best was still yet to come for him though. He did go through some tough times with drug and alcohol abuse, going into rehab on several different occassions. In 2005 he released his third album, Be Here. It scored him even more radio hits and really grabbed the attention of the critics this time. By the time he released 2006's Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing, he got the strongest critical response of his entire career yet. "Stupid Boy" scored him another Grammy.
He's been married to actress Nicole Kidman since 2006 and currently has two children with her. He released an album in 2009, Defying Gravity, which was critically panned for containing several mushy love songs, but its commercial success is undiminished. Then, his conquest for love songs was finally done right in 2010 with the release of Get Closer. After charting with the cut "For You" from the soundtrack to Act of Valor in 2012, he put out the New Sound Album Fuse in late 2013. Ripcord followed in 2016, producing his longest-lasting #1 hit to date in "Blue Ain't Your Color".
In 2012, he was a coach on the first series of the Australian version of The Voice, but will not be returning for season two after accepting an offer to join the judging panel for season 12 of American Idol.
Don't mistake him for most country artists. He's got qualities about him that make him country, but he's definitely not like his contemporaries. Even if he does play a six-string banjo (or "ganjo").
- Keith Urban (1991)
- The Ranch (1997, re-issued in 2004 as Keith Urban in The Ranch)
- Keith Urban (1999)
- Golden Road (2002)
- Be Here (2004)
- Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing (2006)
- Defying Gravity (2009)
- Get Closer (2010)
- Fuse (2013)
- Ripcord (2016)
- Graffiti U (2018)
- The Speed of Now Part 1 (2020)
Tropes present in his work:
- AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: "But for the Grace of God" has "Hea-ven only knows that I've been blessed..."
- Album Title Drop: Defying Gravity is named for a line in "If I Could Ever Love."
- all lowercase letters: For his first solo album on Capitol, he spelled his name this way. He changed to normal capitalization from Golden Road onward.
- Author Catch Phrase: Many of his songs have references to the sun shining, driving in a car, and/or listening to the radio.
- Broken Win/Loss Streak: For 18 years, his American debut single "It's a Love Thing" would be his only single to miss the Top Ten on the country charts. After 37 consecutive Top Ten hits, "Female" broke the streak in early 2018 by peaking at #11 and #12 on the Country Songs and Country Airplay charts respectively.
- In 2019, "Never Comin' Down" not only matched the #18 peak of "It's a Love Thing" on the country charts, but it became his first single since that song to fail to chart on the Hot 100 entirely (not even charting on the Bubbling Under like "It's a Love Thing" did).
- Call-and-Response Song: His duet with Carrie Underwood on "The Fighter":Carrie: What if I fall?
Keith: I won't let you fall
Carrie: What if I cry?
Keith: I'll never make you cry
Carrie: And if I get scared
Keith: I'll hold you tighter / When they're tryin' to get to you, baby, I'll be the fighter
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: The original version of "Stupid Boy" by Sarah Buxton can be interpreted as an outsider observing an abusive relationship. His version of the song adds a verse, turning it into a song about a man expressing remorse over driving his lover away.
- Early-Bird Cameo: He had a pretty decent résumé before his debut single, including:
- 1991: Sang backing vocals on INXS' live album Live Baby Live
- 1993: A cameo in Alan Jackson's music video for "Mercury Blues"
- 1995: Co-wrote "Jesus Gets Jealous of Santa Claus" on Toby Keith's Christmas to Christmas, and "That Was Him (This Is Now)" by 4 Runner
- 1996: Played guitar on Paul Jefferson's debut, and covered "Dance On" on a Hank Marvin & the Shadows tribute album.
- 1996-98: Backed Australian country singer Slim Dusty on two albums.
- 1997: Co-wrote "Tangled Up in Love" on the Raybon Brothers' only album (this song was later recorded by The Ranch)
- 1998: Played guitar on Garth Brooks' Double Live
- 1998-99: Guest appearances on two Charlie Daniels Band albums.
- 1999: Played on "If You Try to Save This Marriage Again" on Tim Wilson's Gettin' My Mind Right album, backed Julie Reeves on two songs from her only album
- Early-Installment Weirdness:
- The songs in The Ranch were largely more mainstream and subdued. "Just Some Love" in particular has a fiddle solo, which sounds particularly strange in contrast to his later works.
- His 1999 Self-Titled Album has a more subdued sound too. "Your Everything" and "But for the Grace of God" in particular are much softer sounding ballads, with considerably more fiddle and steel guitar compared to his usual pop-rock guitar pyrotechnics. Even the upbeat material such as "It's a Love Thing" and "Where the Blacktop Ends" is considerably twawngier and countrier (even after the later was completely re-recorded for the radio edit). He also wasn't yet playing the ganjo, which made its first appearance on "Somebody Like You". Most of the mellower sound was due to the album being produced by Matt Rollings instead of Dann Huff. The album also features him spelling his name in all lowercase letters, and his hair is shorter.
- Everything Is an Instrument: He plays a cardboard box on "Somebody Like You".
- Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: "I Told You So" features Uilleann pipes.
- The Four Chords of Pop: "Long Hot Summer" uses i-VI-III-VII on the verses.
- Happy Flashback: "Somewhere in My Car":But in my mind we're somewhere in my car
And it's raining hard on the streetlight glow
You got your lips on mine, it's gasoline on fire
I never will forget, you grabbed my shirt and pulled it over my head
And your fingertips slide up and down my back
Breathin' hard, steamin' up the glass
I'd give anything if I could bring you back home
- Heavy Meta: "Put You in a Song", a song about the love song he wants to write about his lover.
- Perhaps given a Continuity Nod in the next single, "Without You", which features the lyric "And up until you came along / No one ever heard my song / Now it's climbing with a bullet."
- Hidden Track: Golden Road features a hidden track called "One Chord Song".
- Like a God to Me: Inverted in "You're Not My God" about getting over drugs.
- Love Nostalgia Song: "We Were Us", a duet with Miranda Lambert.
- Lyric Swap: On "Once in a Lifetime", the final iteration of the chorus has different words. The original is "And don't fear it now, we're going all the way / That sun is shining on a brand new day / It's a long way down and it's a leap of faith / But I'm never givin' up / 'Cause I know we got a once in a lifetime love." The last time around, it becomes "Don't fear it now, I'll never let you go / When you're by my side, I know I've made it home…" The latter was cut out of the radio edit, and as a result, most lyric sites reflect only what is present in the radio edit.
- Lyrical Cold Open: The radio edits of "I'm In" and "Somewhere in My Car", although the album versions have instrumental openers (acoustic guitar and ganjo, respectively). Also played straight with "Blue Ain't Your Color".
- Lyrical Tic: He tends to do a sort of "mmm" sound a lot. He also tends to utter "Yes, I did", "Yes, you did", or one of several other variants, after several lines. (Example: "You stole her every dream, and you crushed her plans/Yes, you did" in "Stupid Boy".)
- New Sound Album:
- Love, Pain, & the whole crazy thing was a brief foray into a more bombastic pop sound, although some tracks like "Stupid Boy" were closer to his usual fare.
- Fuse and Ripcord both stand out for having several more producers trade off instead of just himself and Dann Huff (although Huff still does a few tracks on each). This results in an even more pop-influenced sound, which ended up being his default mode going forward. One would not expect a pre-Fuse Keith Urban to be duetting with the likes of Julia Michaels or P!nk, or recording Ed Sheeran co-writes.
- Rearrange the Song: "Where the Blacktop Ends" was completely re-recorded for the single release. This re-recording was not commercially available until Greatest Hits: 18 Kids.
- Record Producer: From Golden Road until "For You" (from the soundtrack to the 2012 film Act of Valor), he has co-produced with Dann Huff. Fuse, Ripcord, and Graffiti U have a myriad of producers from track to track, Huff included.
- Re-release the Song: "You Look Good in My Shirt" was supposed to be the fifth single from his 2002 album Golden Road, but the label instead chose to release "Days Go By" from a new album. Even so, a few stations played "Shirt" anyway, and it became extremely popular in concert, so he chose to re-record it for his 2008 album Greatest Hits: 19 Kids (itself a last-minute re-release of Greatest Hits: 18 Kids).
- Rewind Gag: Occurs in the video for "Days Go By", where Keith appears to be walking toward the camera while everything else around him happens in reverse. This was achieved by having him move backwards, and then reversing the footage.
- Scatting: Done at the end of both versions of "You Look Good in My Shirt".
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Most of his backing vocals are either him or Jerry Flowers, another former member of The Ranch.
- Sexiness Score: "She's My 11" has this trope referenced in the very title, being about a girl so amazing she Broke the Rating Scale.She's my radio turned up to 11
- Sexy Shirt Switch: The basis of "You Look Good in My Shirt", which provides the page quote.
- Shaped Like Itself: "The Fighter" has the line "'Cause your precious heart is a precious heart".
- Shout-Out: "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" is full of references ranging from Don McLean to Ernest Hemingway to Wheel of Fortune.
- Signature Style: Most of the songs that he writes are either a.) soft, passionate love ballads with restrained production, or b.) guitar-heavy up-tempos with a driving beat. Even most of the songs he didn't write fit one of those two styles; among those he did write, the very bombastic and poppy up-tempo "Once in a Lifetime" was one of his first departures from his usual style, while many of the singles from Fuse and Ripcord (such as "Cop Car" and "Wasted Time") have also taken him outside the box.
- Singing Voice Dissonance: No, he doesn't sing with an Australian accent at all. In fact, he has a pretty spot-on American country twang most of the time.
- This Song Goes Out to TV Tropes: His song "Gemini" is all about his wife Nicole Kidman (who is a Gemini, hence the title). She's reportedly somewhat embarrassed about it since he's gushing about her the whole song, including her being a "maniac in bed".
- Uncommon Time: "Blue Ain't Your Color" is in 12/8.