Remember last week in the Hodgepodge when I mentioned how releasing pop music to country radio makes you a liar? Well we already have our shining example of this for 2016 in the form of Keith Urban’s new album Ripcord. Let’s state up front for the record the obvious: this is not a country record and doing a country review of it is absolutely pointless. This is a straight pop album and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to get his or her hearing checked. I was going to just ignore this album and move along. But then I decided to do something a little bit different from the norm to shake things up. I’m going to give Ripcord a pop review. Yes, for this review it becomes Pop Perspective. I will treat this record like a pop one and review it through the lens of a pop reviewer. This is not a rant because I want to make a point with this review. So let’s take a look at Ripcord, track by track.
Gone Tomorrow (Here Today) – Some nice banjo play opens the song before giving way to synthesizers, drum machines and guitars. The song is going for a folktronica sound, but really it comes off as a half-baked attempt. The energy could be higher, from both Urban and the production. It’s trying to be this soaring dance song and it doesn’t go far enough. The song can’t fully commit because it’s trying to keep its foot in country.
John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 – I did a country review of this song already and looking at it as a pop song, I really don’t have much more to add. This song just lists a bunch of stuff and the viewer is expected to connect with it. The production is kind of catchy I guess.
Wasted Time – Another one I already reviewed through the country lens, which it purports to be. It’s really a pop/dance tune that relies on nostalgia. The beat is catchy, fun and easy to get stuck in your head. As a mindless, summer song it works. Listen closely though and there isn’t much meat in the lyrics. It’s also really kind of pathetic to refer to wasted time as a golden time in your life.
Habit of You – Urban spends this song singing about having sex with his girl all night. It should come off as romantic, when really it’s just boring and dry to my ears. Urban is trying to emulate Sam Hunt here and it doesn’t work. Urban just doesn’t do sexy. I would put this song in the same vein as Charlie Puth and Meghan Trainor’s “Marvin Gaye.”
Sun Don’t Let Me Down – Pitbull and Nile Rodgers collaborate with Urban on this funky, dance tune. Once you get past the pointless inclusion of Pitbull, this song is actually kind of fun. By the way, I’ve never heard a song that was enhanced by adding Pitbull. Sure he’s harmless fun, but again what’s the point? Rodgers on the other hand really helps make this song fun with his funky guitar licks throughout. Many people forget he’s one of the reasons Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” became such a big hit a few years ago. I could definitely see this being a hit at pop radio too.
Gettin’ In The Way – This is another song on the album where I’m just bored. Nothing about this song sucks me in and it starts to get old when pretty much every song is trying to be about some sultry, romantic rendezvous. Urban is just not believable in this role.
Blue Ain’t Your Color – Now Urban is at the bar and trying to pick up some heartbroken woman. Looking upon the surface it seems like Urban is trying to cheer up the girl. But I know exactly what he’s doing: he’s trying to slide right into her pants with sweet talk. Just like Sam Hunt’s sleazy “Take Your Time,” this song is thinly veiled douchebaggery at it’s finest. Not a really good look for you, Keith.
The Fighter – Here’s another collaboration on this album and this time Urban is joined by Carrie Underwood. Upon first listen you think you finally hear a dance song from Urban with energy to it. But upon more listens I’m just kind of bored. Underwood’s vocal performance isn’t the best and once again Urban is playing an unbelievable role, this time the man being the fighter for a woman after she’s had her heart-broken and mistreated. If you buy Urban as the knight in shining armor riding in, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you.
Break On Me – This song bores me to tears. And yeah I reviewed this one already too because Urban bizarrely released three singles before the album. Moving on…
Boy Gets A Truck – Urban tries to get cute on this song by starting each line in the chorus with the ending word of the previous line. It comes off as really cheesy and forced. The subject matter doesn’t really pique my interest either. How many hookup songs do we need?
Your Body – This song makes me imagine Urban and some girl 20 years younger than him getting naked together. Gross. This is not the kind of image any artist should strive for in their music. Aren’t you married, Keith? The lyrics are so perversely detailed that I just want no part of this song.
That Could Still Be Us – Urban ponders the love he has lost on this song. I still can’t stop thinking about Urban singing about his skin touching her skin and how it makes him feel like he’s in heaven on “Your Body.” So forgive me that I can’t take this serious ballad…seriously. But in all seriousness this song is kind of lame.
Worry ‘Bout Nothin’ – Finally the last song on this album. The production is way overdone on this one and Urban’s voice is clearly being modified throughout. I guess it’s supposed to help him sound…yeah I got nothing. The best thing about this song is it’s the final one of the album.
I told you reviewing this as a country record is pointless. There wasn’t much more use in reviewing it as a pop record, except for a few remarks. As you can tell, no matter which genre you stick Ripcord in, it’s a terrible album. This album felt like a to-do list of stuff Urban wanted to try because he felt like it and there was absolutely no direction planned for it. Some of it sticks like on “Wasted Time” and “Sun Don’t Let Me Down.” The rest however is pretty much a complete mess. I hear so much from country fans that an artist’s songs aren’t bad as pop music if I dismiss it as not country music. So the overall point I wanted to make with this review was to show that genre lines really don’t matter the most when it comes to judging music’s quality. Many refer to bad country music as pop and that’s insult to pop music because there’s a lot of great pop music (see Beyoncé’s Lemonade). This album even insults pop. It’s pretty simple: there is great music and there is bad music. Ripcord is bad music.
Pop Grade: 3/10