Review – Keith Urban’s “The Fighter” (feat. Carrie Underwood)

keith-urban-the-fighter

With the Ripcord era, Keith Urban has descended into straight up pop music. He’s always had a pop influence in his songs, but there’s always some kind of country element present. That’s now gone for the most part. I reviewed Ripcord last year to shine light on how bad music is bad music no matter what genre you put it in. His newest single “The Fighter” is the most shining example on the album. Obviously not country from the first seconds of the song, we get obnoxiously loud synth and drum loops making me think I’ve found a wormhole back to the 80s. That’s immediately the first impression I get from this song: bad 80s music. The lyrics of this song are somehow more ridiculous. We get the unbelievable premise of Urban being the man who fights for his woman, an image I don’t think I’ve ever thought of when it comes to Urban. Carrie Underwood joins in on the song as the woman of this man’s desire he saves from her scares and problems. Again ridiculous because I see Underwood as a strong woman capable of holding her own without the help of Urban of all people. Underwood’s contribution are also pretty damn scant, as she sings the same three lines for most of the song before a couple of verses in the bridge. After thinking about it more, this song reminds me of another terrible song: Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.” Just like this song, it has an impossible to believe premise (Adam Levine having the moves like Jagger), a really cheap beat and a strong vocalist barely showing up (Christina Aguilera). The only things I would give “The Fighter” over “Moves Like Jagger” is that it’s more catchy and has a better hook. But this doesn’t save this terrible song. When you have a country song that’s closer to bad 80s music and Maroon 5, you know you’ve got something truly horrendous.

Grade: As a country song, 0/10. As a pop song, 2/10

 

Recommend? – No way!

 

Written & Produced by Keith Urban and busbee

Country Perspective’s Worst Albums of 2016 So Far

As our week of highlighting the best and worst of the first half of the year closes, we spend today looking at some of 2016’s worst albums thus far. As mainstream country has shifted away from bro-country and into pop, we’ve seen albums that are one of three things: completely pop music, bro-country hanging on by the very last threads, or a hybrid of the two. Needless to say, these albums have done nothing but continue to dig mainstream country into its hole.

As you’ll notice, we haven’t reviewed most of these albums, mainly because we didn’t want to spend the time to write a review about the album and complain about the same old things we’ve complained about time and time again. But we have listened to the albums. For the most part, mainstream country music released several boring, middle of the road albums, but there were a few that sank lower than that.

Without further ado, here are the worst country albums of 2016 so far…

Cole Swindell – You Should Be Here 

Cole Swindell’s second album pretty much did the exact same thing as his first album and any EPs he’s released. The album kicks off with an awful duet with Dierks Bentley called “Flatliner.” A majority of You Should Be Here is straight bro-country with a hint of Nashville Pop thrown into the song’s productions. “Middle of a Memory” finds Swindell lamenting over the fact that a girl he wanted to hook up with left the bar without him. The party never stops for Cole Swindell, with “Home Game,” “Up” “Party Wasn’t Over”, and “Stay Downtown” combining scenes of drinking and hook-ups. You Should Be Here is full of shallow music, and the album’s best song, “You Should Be Here” only mustered a 4/10 grade here. The icing on the cake of the album comes with the final song, “Remember Boys.” After making a name for himself as one of country’s bros, not to mention hit song after hit song about random hook-ups for just one night, Cole Swindell thinks he can be taken seriously as a “remember boy”: someone who’s serious about a relationship with someone. Please. Cole Swindell has been and continues to be a joke.

Randy Houser – Fired Up

The biggest flaw of Randy Houser’s Fired Up is that the track list is 15 consistently boring party songs with awful puns and terribly juvenile words and phrases. There’s a bonus track called “Whiskeysippi River” and “Little Bit Older” that features the phrase, “a little bit older a little Budweiser” as if it’s supposed to be some clever pun. Fired Up starts off strong with “Back,” but the rest of the album falters. The first single, “We Went,” was one of the worst singles in 2015. And the album’s second single, “Song Number 7,” essentially rips off Luke Bryan’s “Play It Again.” There was no originality brought into the album, with bro-country after bro-country. Perhaps the only bright spot of the album is that there isn’t as much pop music in the production, but at the same time, the music isn’t all that country.

Keith Urban – Ripcord

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.

Kane Brown – Chapter 1 (EP)

Kane Brown exploded onto country music proclaiming himself to be country’s Justin Bieber. If by Justin Bieber, he means pop star, than he hit it right on the nose. Brown’s music is nowhere near country, and his first EP with Sony proves that Kane Brown is just another metro-bro clone making the same kind of music as every other solo male act. “Wide Open” is sung with no charisma and terrible vocals. The vocal effects on “Last Minute Late Night” are annoying, while Kane Brown begs for a late night booty-call. “Excuses” and “There Goes My Everything” are straight pop songs dealing with heartbreak, but Brown’s monotone vocal delivery is terrible. Chapter 1 is completely corporate manufactured pop music sung by a different puppet.

 

Dan + Shay – Obsessed

Obsessed is bro-country attitudes wrapped up in boy band pop. Sure, Dan + Shay have “From the Ground Up,” a well written love song, but it’s impossible to call this album country music. Slick computer generated beats with R&B influences, Dan + Shay are the poor man’s Justin Timberlake. This album is produced and the songs are written solely to appeal to the teenage girl demographic. As with most of the albums on this list, Obsessed falters because it’s a pop album marketed as country music.

 

Maren Morris HEROMaren Morris – HERO

Maren Morris’ debut album is anything but country music, despite how good the music actually is. The songs are well produced and well sung by Morris. When you look at Nashville Pop, HERO is an example of how it’s done right. It’s not a country album, but it’s marketed as such. Therefore, we can look it through the lens of country music and call it one of the worst “country” albums of the year. HERO will probably be the most polarizing album of 2016. Undoubtedly the biggest sin this album commits is it being called a country album. It shouldn’t have any business charting on the country albums chart too. If you’re angry about this and this prevents you from enjoying it, I don’t blame you because it would get a zero as a country record.

Pop Album Review – Keith Urban’s ‘Ripcord’

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

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