Review – Keith Urban’s “Wasted Time” is Aptly Titled

Keith Urban Wasted Time

About ten years ago, what I would call “soccer mom country” ruled the country airwaves. It was all light and friendly pop country that all of the middle-aged mother types would fawn over. The worst of this type of music you could pretty easily ignore and at most roll your eyes at it. The artists I always think of when it comes to this era of country music is Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban, as they made themselves stars on this type of music. Fast-forward to today and they’re not exactly on top anymore. Sure Rascal Flatts is currently on its way to a #1 song thanks to the flawed system of country radio, but does anyone care? Urban has done a better job, but it’s his dedicated fan base and a gig on American Idol that has kept him in people’s minds. It’s been three years since his last album Fuse, so many of his fans have been eager for new music. He’s now releasing the third single from his new upcoming album Ripcord (due out May 6 via Capitol Records), “Wasted Time.”

First off it’s pretty strange to see a country artist release their third single from an album before it’s even released. Normally it’s just one or on the oft occasion two singles before an album release. But I can’t recall in recent memory another country artist doing this. Nevertheless after the first two singles, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” and “Break On Me,” I wasn’t very confident about this song being any better. After listening to it, my premonitions were correct. “Wasted Time” actually manages to be worse. Right away you hear a pop-y, dance beat and you know you’re about to hear something bad. The song maintains this sound throughout, with the exception being a banjo popping up at times. The bridge features a nice banjo solo, but it feels so token and short-lived that it really doesn’t matter. The song itself is a lot more boring than the instrumentation. It’s about feeling nostalgic about summer nights spent with friends back in the day and realizing how great this “wasted time” was to the person. This is the type of shallow theme that can hook the casual listener because this type of song has been done to death by country radio in the last five years.

After listening to this song, I can say it got one thing spot-on and that’s the title. I feel like I wasted my time listening to it. “Wasted Time” is one of the laziest summer songs I’ve seen churned out by a country artist. It pretty much relies solely on the soaring melody to hook people in because the songwriters (Greg Wells and James Abrahart) didn’t do anything to make the song itself memorable. More than anything “Wasted Time” confirms my theory that Urban is genre confused. He’s certainly not trying to be country, as he’s chasing every other genre. Fun fact: Pitbull is going to make an appearance on his new album. Yeah that’s just what I wanted; more Pitbull in my life is just great. I really enjoyed that last Pitbull country collaboration I reviewed. Keith Urban has talent, but unfortunately it isn’t on display here. “Wasted Time” is exactly what it says it is.

Grade: 2/10

19 thoughts on “Review – Keith Urban’s “Wasted Time” is Aptly Titled

  1. OlaR April 12, 2016 / 12:53 pm

    Keith Urban is a member of the opry. Kick him out. Will not happen. To stay relevant, Keith & Co. (Chesney, McGraw & in the near future Aldean & Bryan) will do a lot of strange things. Like recording a real country song, or a country-disco tune, or a arena rock song. Or a duet with Sturgill Simpson or Margo Price.

    “Wasted Time” sounds like a modern “country-disco” song. “Country-Disco” was a short trend in the late ’70’s. Invented by “Whispering Bill” Bill Anderson & his top 10 hit “I Can’t Wait Any Longer” (1978). The last song of the era was “I Still Do” by Bill Medley. A top 20 tune in the mid-’80’s.

    According to “Mediabase Country Aircheck”, 04/11/2016:
    1 – Cole Swindell (2nd week)
    2 – Rascal Flatts (2nd week)
    3 – Chase Bryant (up 2, 52 weeks old & still not dead)
    Add Date 05/02/2016: Chris Janson with “Holdin’ Her” & Parmalee with “Roots”.

    Lyrics according to “Taste of Country” /Jana Kramer – “Said No One Ever” (Part 2):
    Chrous: “I don’t need your love and affection / Your undivided attention when we’re together, we’re together / I don’t need to be your one and only, I’m happier when I’m lonely / Don’t want love to last forever / Said no one ever / Said no one ever / Said no one ever / Said no one ever / Said no one ever.”
    “Bring back the payphone, wait / Wait, who are the Rolling Stones, said no one ever / More Drakkar cologne, said no one ever / Yeah, everybody here can’t wait for Monday.”
    “I wish you’d kiss me less, leave me hanging by a thread / Leave my heart in a mess, said no one ever / No one ever.”

    “Wasted Time” is bad (3/10), but “Said No One Ever” is god-awful (0/10).

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  2. Nadia Lockheart April 12, 2016 / 1:05 pm

    One thing I’ve most appreciated about Keith Urban’s music over the years is that, while he shamelessly plays it middle-of-the-road, the sum of the parts of his formula generally just come together so well.

    Much of his back catalog just doesn’t feel either decisively country nor decisively pop. It wades between the two quite well. And most importantly, what has kept most of it from slipping into tepid easy listening is how emotionally committed he is as a vocalist and musician. His songwriting may not often keep pace with his guitar proficiency and vocals, and on paper he will always cut songs that are insipid…………………..but he just has an uncanny ability to elevate them to the degree of likeability because he delivers charisma and strong melody lines in spades.

    So, yeah, I’ve always liked Keith Urban even if I’ve longed for more country infusion in his music and more individual songs like “Stupid Boy” that have more weight to the lyrics. He’s that kind of entertainer that I’ve never quite loved because he just tends to settle for the middle of the road, but I genuinely like for the energy and charisma he injects into that formula.

    *

    Honestly, “Wasted Time” also consists of some of the key ingredients that have always made Urban’s music likeable to me.

    Firstly, Urban actually sounds pretty exuberant here. This is the most bubbly I’ve heard him sound on a radio single since “You Gonna Fly”. You can tell he was having a good time cutting this in the studio, and so that palpable positive energy wins points for me.

    Especially when the song is also anchored by some solid technical songwriting. The melody line is quite infectious, and the chorus is easily his most memorable in quite a while. As either red meat for the radio constituency or for his live show, it clearly works.

    *

    But here’s where “Wasted Time” ultimately doesn’t stand up as well as most of his 2000’s and early 2010-era singles.

    Firstly, the lyrics fall into the same lazy trappings as other recent releases of his. Granted Urban’s singles rarely have much teeth to them lyrically outside of something like “Stupid Boy”, but at least you can tell some thought and cohesion went into his earlier compositions when aspiring to invoke emotional responses at the simple things in life. Here, some of the lines just seem to fall into the same rut as Kenny Chesney’s two most recent lead singles; where it forces run-of-the-mill country summer descriptors into a radio-ready template but in a way where much more emphasis seems to be put on making everything rhyme and the vocal melody instead of the composition as a whole.

    Secondly, the production as a whole is just unbelievably muddy and overcompressed. I mean, my God: for a song as infectious as this, I don’t understand why it’s necessary to have so much reverb on Urban’s vocals. The percussion sounds slapdash and not kneaded well in the mix. And while I have nothing against synthesizers in my music if applied thoughtfully, here they just seem to constitute nothing more than a wall-of-sound effect. They don’t help to paint the details in the lyrics or evoke the nuances in all that reflection. Rather, their solitary aim is to show that Urban can co-opt trends too and to make it arena-ready for his next tour.

    Finally, no: an admittedly enjoyable banjo solo in the song’s bridge, coupled with obligatory references to endless summer in country living, does NOT instantaneously certify this as a country song.

    *

    In the end, “Wasted Time” is really quite a mixed bag.

    It just doesn’t work as a country song, in my view. But as a pop song, I actually find this enjoyable overall when I get around the production issues. On its own merit, it’s ultimately a harmless and likeable song, albeit bereft of nutritional value, buoyed by some effervescent energy and vocal charisma. There’s plenty out there that’s much better than this, but there’s also plenty out there that’s much worse.

    As a country song, I’m thinking a Decent to Strong 3 out of 10 mostly for the banjo solo and Urban’s performance. But as a song regardless of genre, I’m thinking a Decent to Strong 6 out of 10. Take it for what it’s worth beyond genre considerations.

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  3. Louis Knoebel April 12, 2016 / 2:50 pm

    Another Pop song disguising itself as Country? That’s new…..

    Oh it’s about celebrating your days in high school/college? Wow! Stop the press! We have something radio can wet themselves over!

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  4. Joseph April 12, 2016 / 4:07 pm

    Hey Everyone! I’ve read this blog a lot over the last year and I really enjoy it.

    I am 20 years old and got started in country music about 7 years ago. Not knowing about the roots of country until I started visiting this blog. The only type I have known is “modern country music”. I happen to enjoy a lot of it. Keith Urban is my favorite as the first song I heard on country radio was “Sweet Thing”. I started developing a love for the guitar and really looked up to him as a guitarist and musician as well as an artist. I agree, a lot of his stuff is not really country, but the respect for the talent is undeniable. He has strayed away from the guitar it seems like, which disappoints me. His album, Golden Road, is hands down my favorite and would be considered too traditional these days. What a shame. Dierks Bentley and Zac Brown Band are numbers two and three for me. None of them are perfect when staying true to country music sounds, but the music that is made is great. GREAT. Like most of you though, I dislike very strongly the likes of Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, and Swindell. Florida Georgia Line, I enjoy some of their songs, but that is mostly because I have great memories with my girlfriend attached to them. So, really, I can’t be blamed. 😛 Sam Hunt, I actually like a few of his songs. However, you are all correct on your view of him. The fact that any of his songs are played on country radio stations is a disgrace. Pop radio? Yes. So while I like his music, there is a part of me that is very hesitant to like him because I believe in borders. He is the biggest offender of violating this.

    So, I really do not know a lot of traditional country music. I know Hank, the King, and Cash are the beasts of the past. George Strait is certainly my favorite when comes to the elder statesmen. So, forgive me for not being too knowledgable in this category. I am really happy there are folks like y’all though who still respect the roots and keep tradition.

    In terms of “Wasted Time”, I love it. I know I know, I just have a soft spot for Keith. I wish there was more banjo and less programming, but I find the melody just too catchy. It is his strongest of his three singles from the new album coming out soon. John 3 should have stuck to acoustic guitars, while Break on Me had potential, but overproduced. I look forward to discussing more with everyone and getting to know you all!

    – Joseph

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott April 12, 2016 / 4:14 pm

      Glad you found us, Joseph! Welcome and thanks for commenting.

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      • Joseph April 12, 2016 / 4:30 pm

        Thanks Josh!

        Like

  5. OlaR April 13, 2016 / 3:38 am

    Keith Urban is listed as co-writer of “Falling” (together with Dallas Davidson & Brett James). The first single by “American Idol” winner Trent Harmon.
    Keith Urban about singer & song: “bluesy jam which allowed Harmon to show off his falsetto”.
    “Falling” is the “Hot Shot Debut” (33) on “Billboard Hot Country Songs” (Billboard Country Update).

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