Review – Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”

Keith Urban Panders Hard

What the hell is this crap? That was my reaction after hearing Keith Urban’s newest single “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” Now Urban has never been classified as traditional country. In fact many traditionalists have jeered him for years. I’ve personally never been a huge fan of Urban, but I’ve never hated him either. His brand of pop-country has always been just okay most of the time for me. He’s certainly not amongst the worst of the genre and he didn’t get too engrossed in the bro country trend. Not to mention he’s skilled on the guitar and the lyrics in his music have never made me want to bang my head against the wall due to its stupidity. Well that is until this song.

Let’s get this out-of-the-way up front: This song is not country in any way, shape or form. This song has a blatant electronic, hip-hop beat with DJ scratches permeating throughout the song. Guitar play is pretty much missing from this song. Didn’t I just mention that one of Urban’s pros is that his guitar play is good? Yet it’s completely missing on this song. The beat is bad enough, but the lyrics are an absolute train wreck. The best way I could describe the lyrics for “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” is that it’s what it would sound like if Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids” and Jake Owen’s “Real Life” were mixed together. This is absolutely terrible. The name-checking in this song is taken to its most ridiculous level. The song title itself is freaking overkill, but on top of that Kris Kristofferson, John Wayne, Don McClean, Marilyn Monroe, Mark Twain, Hemingway and every other American cult star are mentioned. Can songwriting get any lazier and more formulaic than this? By the way the writers behind this song are Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman and Josh Osborne. Those two songs I mentioned above along with this new song from Urban all have one common denominator: McAnally had a hand in writing all of them.

Equally as bad as the songwriting is Urban’s spoken word, pseudo rap delivery in the song. Just like Jake Owen, Urban should never do this ever. Urban at least sings a little bit, but I just don’t care. I can’t take this song seriously at all. This song does nothing but pander to the lowest common denominator of American pride and intellectual thinking. I like to refer to this as the Toby Keith Method. It’s cheap, but guaranteed to sucker in tons of people to listen to this same derivative crap every time an artist puts something out like this. I just can’t fathom how people get excited hearing an icon’s name mentioned in a song. A great song doesn’t rely on such easy themes to connect with an audience. This song was completely fabricated to get radio play and chart success. No quality control nor care was put behind this song. It’s simply another song off the Nashville songwriting conveyor belt.

Keith Urban is capable of producing much better music than “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” Urban’s laziness and chasing of the almighty dollar is quite evident here. Urban knows exactly what he’s doing. This is a song from an artist that praises Sturgill Simpson and wore his shirt on national television. Simpson wouldn’t be caught dead cutting a song like this one. I thought Urban would be inspired by a truly talented artist like Simpson, but it’s apparent that Urban is only interested in listening to others make quality music and not try to do this himself. “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” is absolute garbage and I highly recommend avoiding it. This is one of the worst songs I’ve heard in country music in 2015.

Grade: 0/10

51 thoughts on “Review – Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”

  1. Matt June 9, 2015 / 1:51 pm

    Josh Thompson did this song already.

    *sighhhh*

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  2. southtexaspistolero June 9, 2015 / 2:28 pm

    Frankly, I could have told you years ago that this was where Keith Urban was going to end up. He has never once shown any fidelity to country music beyond the extent he could make money characterizing his flavorless mush of music as such. And he has constantly defended the direction in which country music is going by using the same tired arguments about evolution that everyone else is using. Sure, he can play guitar, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

    Country music has no shortage of talented instrumentalists — Jerry Reed, Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Keith Whitley, and the list goes on.

    And none of them ever had to have their place in country music justified by their instrumental talents. There’s a reason for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NoahHibiscusEaton June 9, 2015 / 5:47 pm

      I have to disagree with you there.

      When he started his career out with “The Ranch”, there was a considerable amount of sincerity I gathered from his sound and influences.

      Also, Urban has gone further out of his way than most current superstars to call for the preservation of historic buildings and architecture on Music Row. I don’t doubt his sincerity there.

      Finally, we can debate all day whether him sporting a Sturgill Simpson shirt on American Idol was a cynical attempt at garnering street credibility, or if it was a sincere gesture of adoration and admiration for a fellow artist. For all we know, it may be both. All I can say is, hopefully he can get away with peppering some Simpson influence on a couple of other tracks to counterbalance this mess.

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      • southtexaspistolero June 9, 2015 / 6:26 pm

        I only very faintly remember his work with The Ranch, to be honest, though I seem to recall it being rather preferable to what he’s done as a solo artist.

        And really, all the other stuff comes down to the music for me. Sure, he might have called for the preservation of Music Row, and sure, he might wave the Sturgill banner — but both Steven Tyler and Bret Michaels are fans of Real Country Music from what I understand, but they don’t get a pass on their music for that sort of thing, so I don’t think Keith Urban should either.

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  3. Derek Hudgin June 9, 2015 / 3:08 pm

    Is there also a Green Day reference with Boulevard of Broken Dreams? This is atrocious, I don’t think FGL even name drops this bad

    Liked by 1 person

    • Déaglán Ó Murchú (@DeclanMurphy617) June 22, 2015 / 2:50 pm

      No, the Boulevard of Broken Dreams lyric is probably a reference to the Gottfried Helnwein poster which depicts James Dean walking through a puddle on a cold, dark road (Armstrong even admitted on VH1 Storytellers that the poster was the genesis of the song title). That’s probably the only reason Dean didn’t get directly name-dropped.

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      • Derek Hudgin June 22, 2015 / 3:29 pm

        Ah. That makes sense especially with the “rebel in the great wide open” line. I wasn’t familiar with that poster. Thanks!

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  4. Zack June 9, 2015 / 3:22 pm

    So let’s see…..A combo of American Kids and Real Life huh? I consider AK a guilty pleasure and I absolutely hate Real Life so I think I’ll skip this. Very disappointed in Urban though, he’s cut a ton of generic material before but nothing that’s a 0/10 though. But hey what you can expect in 2015 for mainstream “country”?

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  5. Truth No. 2 June 9, 2015 / 3:59 pm

    Real Life came out 2 weeks ago! There’s already a generic version for it. Sigh…

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  6. NoahHibiscusEaton June 9, 2015 / 5:42 pm

    When I heard his acoustic live version about a week beforehand, I didn’t think it sounded bad. The lyrics already struck me as laundry-list and disjointed much like “American Kids” was……………….and came across as more a collage of monogenre pop culture references………………but there were lines here and there I thought that were kind of neat.

    This production scheme, however, completely squelches any impressionability this song might otherwise have had. It just doesn’t fit the context of the lyrics. I get Mellencamp’s inclusion in the title specifies this isn’t going to be a traditional country song and more like heartland country rock, but what we get instead is a watered-down form of R&B/soul that is rendered soulless by such sterile, obtrusive gloss.

    *

    Honestly, I can’t say I’m surprised whatsoever that Urban is moving in this direction, as sad as my admission is.

    From his involvement with “American Idol”, to him declaring he really wants to collaborate with Pitbull in an interview a few weeks ago, to apparently cutting a song written by Florida Georgia Line recently……………the writing was on the wall already. Urban is in career self-preservation mode, and he is willing to do almost anything to desperately remain in the A-list limelight.

    Then again, it is beyond me why these entertainers and their labels insist this is the best strategy, when Tim McGraw has already provided a compelling case-in-point that, in the two instances he has chased trends with “Truck Yeah” and “Lookin’ For That Girl”, he mostly flamed out commercially. Then, once he took a step back and re-engaged with his roots…………..he swung back with chart-topping hits. Even “Diamond Rings & Old Barstools” is a Top Ten hit now.

    The lack of expansive thinking and perspective in Nashville, as far as career development is concerned, astounds me to migraines.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pete Marshall June 9, 2015 / 6:16 pm

    I have to disagree with you this time, Josh. I like the song but the music wasn’t Keith Urban style. I would give this song 6/10 man you are pretty harsh here Josh. On most on the songs you give bad reviews I agree with. but on this one thumbs in the middle here. sorry

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    • Pete Marshall June 9, 2015 / 10:44 pm

      Just joking with you Josh this song was a complete disappointment the music sucks and this song was a total disaster 0/10 indeed. Trigger gave this song a very bad review also. This is worst Keith’s song ever. I hope this song flops so it won’t be on his next cd.

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  8. Alex Cashmer June 10, 2015 / 12:34 am

    I can’t believe no one has said anyone has said anything about the quality of his voice in this song! When I heard it on the radio today I almost immediately turned it because his voice sounded to enhanced. I mean, I really dislike country radio, but when I’m driving I really could listen to almost anything and be fine, as long as it isn’t dead silent in the car. But this one just didn’t do it for me. I love Keith and my mom and I are seeing him in concert in a few weeks, and I sure hope he doesn’t play this.

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    • Lisandro Berry-Gaviria June 10, 2015 / 8:47 am

      Oh trust me he’ll play it. There’s absolutely no reason that an artist won’t play their current single at their concert. Sorry to squash your hopes

      Liked by 1 person

  9. John June 10, 2015 / 2:56 am

    I know the song can’t escape the generic lyrics but at least it sounded a bit more like an actual country song instead of the pop tat it has been overproduced to sound like.

    Why couldn’t he just record it acoustically like in the video below?

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  10. Cam June 11, 2015 / 3:43 am

    You guys are all looking at this from the totally wrong perspective. It is funny that these websites and supporters of “traditional” country are bashing this song. Newsflash for you guys music is just like a language that is always evolving and changing. The moment it stops doing that it becomes dead. Country music has been evolving and changing for quite sometime, but it tends to come around full circle. The “new” country of today might have more pop/rock influences in the arrangements of the songs, but the heart of country music is the lyrics and the storytelling. Now is this song Keith’s best? Absolutely not. Are the lyrics cheesy and redundant? Absolutely. This song is pure nostalgic and the lyrics embodied this, so they are not going to be ground breaking.

    I commend Keith for pushing his musical and artistic boundaries and trying something different and taking chances that is what makes a great artist. People should judge a song on its merit and not by if it sounds “country” or not. Why limit your musical taste just because it is not “traditional country”? I am not so much trying to defend this song as much as just that people should not get so upset with the evolution of music taking place. Also Keith’s musical ability and credentials should NEVER be in question. He is one of the few guys today along with Eric Church and Hunter Hayes who write and produce their own music, play multiple instruments, and truly put on a great show.

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    • Lisandro Berry-Gaviria June 11, 2015 / 11:44 am

      “People should judge a song on its merit and not by if it sounds ‘country’ or not.”
      So say Eminem released a rap song and labeled it ‘country.’ You’re saying that we shouldn’t care that it’s RAP—which will never fit well together with country, btw—and just judge it based on if it’s good or not. Not care at all that it’s trying to be passed off as something that it is far from being, which is exactly what Urban is trying to do here, as this is obviously a pop/R&B song. And as for Urban “trying something different?” Uh, no. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the pop and R&B craze is the big thing in country right now, and ignorant music consumers are eating it right up. Urban is in no way pioneering this, he is jumping on the bandwagon.
      Also, “the heart of country music is in the lyrics and storytelling?” Have you even noticed how dumbed-down the lyrics of ‘country’ songs have been getting? (Go listen to FGL’s “Good Good” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.) There’s even a study that shows the lyrics to modern ‘country’ could be understood by third-graders. The lack of good lyrics and storytelling in country music right now is almost as much of a problem as artists trying to pass off pop bullshit as country.
      And how is it funny to you that the supporters of traditional country are criticizing this song? Give me three good reasons why we shouldn’t be bashing it. If an artist releases a non-country song under the country banner, then we will disapprove of it. It’s as simple as that.
      It’s not evolution of music taking place here, Cam. It’s DEVOLUTION of music.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Josh Schott June 11, 2015 / 11:48 am

        Bingo. You nailed it, Lisandro!

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    • southtexaspistolero June 12, 2015 / 2:56 pm

      And once again, why is it that every single time, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, when people talk about country music having to evolve, it is ALWAYS, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, in the context of the music sounding less and less country? I get that country music shouldn’t sound like it did in 1975, but why does it have to be this and Sam Hunt and not Sturgill Simpson and Aaron Watson, or Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers?

      Liked by 1 person

    • southtexaspistolero June 12, 2015 / 6:56 pm

      Oh, and also:

      That whole “why limit your musical taste” bit bugs me just as much as the “country music must evolve” thing. Who the hell are you to presume that people’s taste in music is limited just because they think songs like this are crap as “country” songs? People are going to like what they like, within the constraints of genres, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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      • Lisandro Berry-Gaviria August 26, 2015 / 7:50 pm

        When did we say that it was acceptable for Taylor Swift to “push the boundaries” of country music? I’m sure most people who frequent this blog—which you obviously are not one of—would be in agreement that most of the “country” music Taylor Swift ever put out was pop trash. :p

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      • Lisandro Berry-Gaviria August 26, 2015 / 7:51 pm

        Oops, meant that to go under BobbyC’s comment. Sorry, southtexaspistolero!

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    • BobbyC August 26, 2015 / 6:10 pm

      I’m in total agreement here, a a country music lover and child of the “hippie” generation, long ago left most rock music behind. I think the song is great and despite Keith not playing guitar on this one I love it. Years ago Keith played at our county fair and have been a fan ever since.
      If Taylor can push the boundaries, why not Keith.

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  11. Cobra June 11, 2015 / 10:34 am

    Our reviews are pretty much in sync. Forget the song pandering to everyone, hell the title alobe makes me want to puke: it caters to nostalgic namechecking, tractor lovers, and those looking for a religious undertone. It’s pandering at the worst level.

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  12. Olivia Gant June 16, 2015 / 7:31 pm

    I am a big fan of Keith Urban and I love his new song and all his songs.I would rather listen to his music than listen to that rap u can’t understand,all the cursing and nasty dirty words crap.Everybody has their own taste in music I understand that and that not everybody likes Keith Urban but he is a good artists and good guitar player talented and a good heart.I don’t see nothing wrong with Keiths new song John Cougar John Deere John 3:16 so shut all ready up with the bad reveiws.

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    • southtexaspistolero June 22, 2015 / 4:17 pm

      Eddie Van Halen is also a great guitar player. Would that justify Van Halen being called country?

      Also, it occurred to me right after I heard it that this was the exact same songwriting approach that Aaron Watson took with “Hey Y’all.” The difference between this and that, though, was that Aaron Watson was poking fun. Shane McAnally and company were apparently dead serious when they wrote this cliche-filled dreck.

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  13. Raymond June 17, 2015 / 6:17 pm

    From a pop music perspective.not bad like an 8 out of 10. Country music though like a 2/10. I guess Keith charisma makes it ok I guess. Since I am in a good mood I will give it a 5/10. Keith this is a warning next time I wont be as nice.

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    • Derek Hudgin June 18, 2015 / 9:46 am

      As a pop song, I don’t even think it’s good. Too many songs are just random lists of pop culture icons and random songs or artists that are supposed to describe an identity. I think it’s lazy songwriting with nothing original about it. The list is vast enough to try and appeal to everyone and their mother. The production even feels rather generic with nothing in the beat distinguishing the verses from the chorus. It’s all based in that same generic electric drum beat that someone looped for 3 minutes.

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  14. Jill September 22, 2015 / 12:05 pm

    It’s a great song, upbeat and singable. You don’t like much, do you?

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  15. Sleeeeve October 25, 2015 / 3:43 pm

    I absolutely hate this song and think it should be awarded the worst song of the year. But even more, I wish someone would create a mashup of this wretched song and the Fat Albert theme song so that Urban will be ridiculed out of country music forever.

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