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.