Tag Archives: Keith Urban

Sorry, but I Don’t hate Keith Urban’s “Female”

Rating: 5/10

I tweeted during the CMA’s that Keith Urban’s latest single, titled “Female,” was “quite a good song actually.” I didn’t say it was country, and I’d like to make two things clear here–one, Urban’s forsaking of his guitar talent to produce pop/adult contemporary stuff like this irks me beyond any semblance of reason, especially as a proud owner of his first six records, (you know, when he actually tried), and two, after being forced to hear this from virtually everywhere this past week, my opinion of the song has gone down some. Now it’s just there for me. It just exists. But apparently the fashion among everyone is to hate it with all vehemence and even, for some, to find it offensive. And as a woman, I’d like to add some equilibrium to that argument.

Even among people who hate this with all passion, there is a consensus that Keith’s heart was in the right place trying to say something and speak out about the recent rash of sexual assault claims and the systematic discrimination of women in general. And let me tell you, we need men to speak out about this. I keep seeing people say versions of, “well, the industry would make more of a statement by actually playing more women,” and I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment that this becomes an empty gesture if it’s not backed up by the actual inclusion of more women in say, the very industry in which Keith Urban makes his living. But having said that, if only women write about this and speak about this, nothing will change because in many cases, it’s mostly women who will listen. We need men to be up front about this, and I applaud Keith Urban for showing the leadership to do that, not to mention for recording this and releasing it in a timely manner when mainstream Nashville notoriously takes forever to transition songs from a pen and paper to the final product.

Keith Urban’s colossal mistake? Not actually writing the song himself, but recording a song penned in part by Shane McAnally. The verses in this song are actually quite good, and they address real, specific issues like how people say women deserved what they got because they wore tight skirts, or how many Christian men excuse their behavior toward their wives and other women because God made Adam first. The problem is that listastic thing characteristic of writers like McAnally and so many others who write by committee, coming out in full force to infect the chorus by throwing out a bunch of descriptors of women…oh, and some words like “suit of armor” and “river wild” that have absolutely nothing to do with women at all. It’s hearing this all week that has taken the song down for me, and yet it’s that part which will probably give this song its only fighting chance at radio. Still, it can’t be denied that country radio, an industry undeniably rampant with sexism, will hesitate to play this, and again, the fact that Keith Urban doesn’t give a shit about that should be commended. But it’s the efforts of McAnally and his cowriters to still make this song radio-friendly that deprive it of any substance, or at least that make the parts with substance somehow matter less.

So, I could take or leave this song when it comes down to it. It’s there, it exists, it stands at a 5 rating, and i daresay it’d be a 6 if it in any way, shape, or form resembled country. I don’t hate it. I don’t find it offensive, as some people have, for its use of the word “female,” although I understand how this can be offensive in certain contexts and by certain people. I don’t find the descriptors in the chorus stereotypical so much as lazy; it’s just a list of words thrown in there to, like I say, try to make this work on radio. So, it’s a great effort by Keith Urban, and it falls short in the writing, and ultimately, a song that could have said a lot, and indeed does manage to say something worthwhile in its verses, doesn’t really execute all the way through. That said, the vitriol this song is receiving is unnecessary. It’s forgettable, and perhaps a missed opportunity by Keith Urban, but it’s not the horrific mess some would claim it to be, at least not for this listener.

Written by: Shane McAnally, Nicolle Galyon, Ross Copperman

Album Review: Kasey Chambers–Dragonfly

Rating: 8/10

Kasey Chambers is a household name in Australia; she’s released eleven albums, and she’s been winning awards and selling millions of records for years. Still, her name is somewhat obscure in the States, and that’s honestly probably because she wouldn’t have that type of mainstream success here–her music ranges from more traditional, rootsy material to country rock to folk rock to the occasional country pop song to some blues, all of which are represented on this record, but the commonality in all of it is that it’s quite unpolished. Even the more pop-leaning offerings aren’t pop enough for the American mainstream, and so she remains as unknown to some as many of her independent American counterparts despite her success in her home country. It wasn’t until 2015’s excellent Bittersweet that I discovered Chambers and her music, and I’ve since found a lot to enjoy throughout her discography. She’s back now with a double album, which is always a risky undertaking, but for the most part, this is a strong one, and though there’s some filler, it’s minimal.

Disc 1: “The Sing Sing Sessions”

I separate this into two discs because this isn’t just a long album, it’s two albums with completely different producers that make a consistent, cohesive record despite themselves. I almost hesitate to rate this as one project, and the only reason I do is because you must buy them together. This first disc, dubbed “The Sing Sing sessions,” is the stronger of the two and was produced by Paul Kelly, another Australian household name. ON its own, I’d give it an 8.5 at least, maybe a 9.

This disc opens in fine fashion with the banjo that backs many of Kasey’s songs on the catchy, infectious “Pompeii.” I should mention that Kasey Chambers underwent nodule surgery between Bittersweet and the recording of this album, and her voice is definitely stronger. The new depth comes out in full force on the empowering, angry “Ain’t No Little Girl,” easily one of the standouts of this whole thing. If you single out one track of twenty, make it this one, and if you can afford two, “Jonestown” is the other crown jewel. This one tells a great story of a town where people take refuge from hardship and discrimination. It’s an excellent piece of songwriting, and it’s also beautiful melodically. I mentioned the sonic variety of Chambers, and it speaks to her talent that she can deliver equally great performances on a traditional song like this and the rocking, bluesy “Ain’t NO Little Girl.” She explores faith in many of her songs as well, and this album is no different; “Golden Rails” is a fun little gospel-infused tune that may not stand out on the first listen, but you’ll keep coming back to it for its catchy production and lyrics. Kasey also has a knack for story songs, and “Behind the Eyes of Henri Young” captures perfectly the emotion in the chilling tale of a seventeen-year-old boy who went to Alcatraz for petty theft and ended up dying there after being mistreated in prison. There’s also “Romeo & Juliet” featuring Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance, which tells this story in a new, fresh way, although the lyrics can be admittedly hard to understand at first, and I wish Vance had been given more to do than just echoing chambers in the verses. Kasey also tells her own humorous story in “Talkin’ Baby Blues,” complete with running away from home at thirteen and dating a man who was “barely old enough to vote,” all while putting everything she felt down in song. “Summer Pillow” touches the slightly more pop leanings of Chambers, delivering a nice heartbreak song–“isn’t that life, to give me that, for just a minute and then take it back. Isn’t that love, to make me see everything that never will belong to me.” “You Ain’t worth Suffering for” is also basically pop rock, and this is the only moment of filler on this first disc, although it’s grown on me a little. Mainly, it’s the production here that doesn’t do it for me, and overall, this first half–well, eleven of the twenty, so slightly more than half–is quite strong and does a good job showcasing all the different styles explored by Kasey Chambers over the years. but it’s always a risk extending things and going for quantity, so it’s with that in mind that we head into Disc 2.

Disc 2: “The Foggy Mountain Sessions”

Disc 2, produced by Kasey’s brother and longtime producer Nash Chambers, opens just as strongly as the first, if not more so, with the excellent “Shackle and Chain.” With its call-and-response style lyrics and sparse production, it’s more akin to some of the material from Bittersweet,–which production wise was quite different from other Chambers albums–so if that’s the Kasey Chambers you were looking for, you’ll find more to appreciate on this half of the record. There’s the ever-building, almost Gothic “If I Died,” which sees Chambers issuing out some last requests–“If I died on the bayou, and the sun is goin’ down, would you float me like Moses, so they don’t put me in the cold, hard ground?” It’s got some very nice production which really makes the song, and I think Nash Chambers shines brightest on this track. There are also two great collaborations on this half; one is a banjo-driven gospel song called “NO Ordinary Man” featuring great harmonies from Harry Hookey, Vika Bull, and Linda Bull, and the other is a nice duet with Keith Urban called “If we Had a Child.” The latter has the same problem as the Foy Vance collaboration, however–Keith Urban’s contributions consist of nothing more than harmony and echoing Kasey, and I’d have liked to have heard more from him. The album closer is another version of “Ain’t no Little Girl,” this one called the “FM Lounge Version,” and basically, it boils down to being a subdued version of the song. I prefer the angry version, but both are nice, and both stand out and manage to sound unique, and it’s interesting to have two versions of the same song from two different producers which still serve to unite this whole record.

Disc 2, however, does have some filler. I would say that this second disc is a more consistent record production wise, and therefore, when you do hear the more country pop songs, they stick out on this half of the album. The lyrics in the title track and “satellite” are also pretty weak, and so for multiple reasons, these two just seem like filler on a twenty-track project. I love the production of “Annabelle,” but the lyrics here leave me wanting more too. I feel like it’s trying to tell a great story, but I’m just not getting it somehow. If I’m rating disc 2 by itself, it’s still a solid album, and it probably gets a 7.5.

Overall

People say that double albums always have too much filler, and I’d have to say this one does have a little. However, I wouldn’t say that Kasey Chambers made a mistake in releasing two separate discs because each disc represents a distinct style in production. I do think the first is stronger, but if you trim this down to traditional album length, ten to twelve songs, you leave out some good stuff, as well as possibly making the songs not flow as easily into each other being from two different producers. If you trim this down to fifteen songs, you have an excellent album, so maybe it’s a bit long at twenty, but again, it’s not your traditional double album with the different producers and styles, so I’m not sure that would flow as well either. As it is, we have a two-disc, twenty-track offering from Chambers, and for the most part, it’s very strong. It showcases a wide range of sounds, so there’s something here for everyone. The songwriting is solid throughout, and overall, I really enjoyed this record. Definitely recommend this both as a nice place to begin with Kasey Chambers and as a solid addition to her discography.

Listen to Album

Artists I Wish Would Take a Hint From Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley was one of the first artists that got me into country music. He may not be your favorite–and that’s okay–but you can’t argue with songs like “Who Needs Pictures,” “we Danced,” and certainly “Whiskey Lullaby.” He was one of the people that I heard on the radio in the late 90’s and early 2000’s that made me fall in love with this genre. He really disappointed me on his last two albums; they weren’t terrible, but they just weren’t Brad Paisley. You could tell he was trying to be something he was not. His guitar play was noticeably lacking, and he seemed to be veering toward chasing radio success. On his latest album, Love and War, he has gone back to being himself, and that’s just refreshing. There was a discussion on SCM about whether or not Brad will make it into the Hall of Fame, and all that remains to be seen, but he can’t do anything better than be himself, and that’s what he has done on his latest record. It got me thinking and talking about a lot of the artists that got me into country in the first place. A lot of them made some fine music earlier in their careers but have since started to kill their legacies by chasing short-term success and promoting mindless singles to radio. They could learn from Paisley, as well as Tim McGraw, who has also returned to form recently. Zac Brown Band could easily be talked about on either side of the conversation here, but I’ll reserve judgment until May 12th and hope I can include them in with Paisley and McGraw. Anyway, let me know if there are any artists you’d add to this list, as these are just the ones whose decline in quality over the years has personally bother me the most.

Dierks Bentley

Why, why can’t we get back the Dierks Bentley of “Up on the ridge” and “Riser?” Yep, “riser” was released in 2015; even then, he hadn’t sold out. There’s not even any point in him selling out this way–he was getting airplay anyway. Black is certainly not the most terrible album I’ve heard in recent memory, but it’s one of the most disappointing because I really thought we could count on Dierks Bentley. This is what he is capable of.

Blake Shelton

I own a Blake Shelton album called Loaded: the Best of Blake Shelton. Ironically, that album was released just prior to the beginning of his stint on The Voice, and so, essentially, it really is the best of Blake. Anyway, that record is great. But people won’t remember that; he’s done his best to eradicate all that in the past five years with the majority of his singles. I remember when I first heard “Austin,” and it blew me away. Same goes for “Don’t Make Me.” Blake does a lot for traditional country and music of substance from his chair on The Voice, and I just wish he’d take his own advice because if he did, I think he could be remembered for more than his reality show and his obnoxious tweets.

Keith Urban

Those of you that are shocked I own a Blake Shelton album, brace yourselves for this…I own no less than six–yep six–Keith Urban records…I’ll give you a moment to digest the fact that I’m not a Sturgill apologist, yet I own six Keith Urban records…now then. Keith Urban was a prime example of what good pop country is supposed to be–right up till the single “Little Bit of Everything” and his American Idol run (coincidence, Blake?). He used to write much of his material as well, and whether you enjoyed it or not, he was real. Keith Urban might be the most disappointing artist in the mainstream for me because he is just simply better than the crap he is releasing to radio–and it’s not as if he was ever especially traditional in the first place, so I don’t exactly see radio not playing him if he went back to more meaningful material. It literally boils down to laziness in his case, and that’s unfortunate.

Kenny Chesney

He is better than this too, even if you’re sick of beach music. His last record was absolutely boring and lifeless. Even Chesney sounds bored. I miss the days of “There Goes my Life” and “Old Blue chair.” Like Brad and Keith, even if Kenny isn’t your favorite, he used to at least be himself.

Eli Young Band

I remember when Eli Young Band were a cool Texas band releasing equally cool new music instead of shit like “Turn it On.” Yeah, that is basically all.

Honorable Mentions

  • Josh Turner–His last album wasn’t quite disappointing enough to piss me off on this level, it was mainly just boring, but if he releases more like this, he’ll make the list.
  • Little big town–I wish they’d get back to themselves, but I didn’t enjoy them enough when they were themselves to be as annoyed by them now. Also, The Breaker was a small step in the right direction.
  • the Band Perry–I don’t think them coming back to themselves is even possible at this point, so I don’t see the point listing them here.

Single Review: “The Fighter” by Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood

Country Rating: 0/10
Pop Rating: 3/10

I remember when Keith Urban actually tried. Now, there are a lot of traditionalists who have probably hated or at least dismissed Keith Urban from the start. His music always had pop and rock influence, and I can see how many strict traditionalists wouldn’t enjoy it. But there’s no denying his talent as a musician, singer, and songwriter. There was a time when he wrote many of his songs and sang with passion. As a reviewer, I can say without bias that he produced a lot of good pop country throughout his career, and as a music fan, I can say with absolute bias that I owned every Urban album right up through Get Closer. He’s recorded some great music in his time, and if you have any doubt of this, go listen to “Stupid Boy” and “The Luxury of Knowing.”

And then, somewhere around Keith’s American Idol stint, and the single “Little Bit of Everything,” all that talent started going to waste, and Urban’s passion and musicianship was lost in the wake of cringe-worthy pop music and the chasing of money and continued mainstream relevancy at all costs. It’s one thing when Kane Brown or Thomas Rhett gives us bad music, but Keith Urban knows better, and his self-awareness leaves me much more disgusted by “John Cougar, John deere, John 3:16” than by some arguably worse singles from these artists. All of this brings me to his latest effort, “The Fighter,” which may be his biggest insult to the genre and former Keith fans yet.

“The Fighter” has no semblance of country anywhere. It is generic pop music with electronic beats and some of the least impassioned vocals I’ve ever heard from either Keith or Carrie Underwood. Yes, that’s right, I forgot to mention Underwood’s part in this, but that is understandable, since mostly she just repeats the same three lines in the chorus like a bored backup singer. The song itself is about Keith Urban being a fighter for Underwood, who presumably got out of a bad relationship and needs to feel protected. The premise of Keith Urban being this type of guy is unintentionally hilarious, and Carrie Underwood doesn’t work as the character who needs to lean on him either. “What if I fall? What if I cry?” she keeps asking. It’s just annoying and doesn’t seem like her at all. There are some other obnoxious lyrics in the verses; Keith sings, “He never knew what he had, thank God.” So he is glad that she went through the hell of the previous relationship so that she would end up with him. Also, the line “he didn’t deserve you ’cause your precious heart is a precious heart” is just downright lazy ssongwriting. This song should be laughed off country radio, but it’s not even much better as a pop song and would probably be laughed off pop radio, so country is where it will stay. Reiterating why country radio will play it would be beating a dead horse, so I’ll spare you all that. But it’s artists like Keith Urban, who know better than this, can do better than this, and have done better than this, but choose instead to resort to absolute laziness because it will sell, that say more about the state of the genre and the fans who will buy this than anything else. The real tragedy is not that Urban recorded “The Fighter,” but that in 2017, he can get away with recording songs like this because that’s all he needs to do to sell records. This is one of the worst songs of his career, and without a doubt the worst song to which carrie Underwood has lent her voice.

The 51st Annual ACM Award Nominees, With Commentary

This morning, (2/1), the nominees for the 2016 Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards were revealed on CBS the Morning and ETOnline.com. The ACM Awards will take place on April 3rd at the MGM Grand Ballroom in Las Vegas and air on CBS. For the first time in several years, Blake Shelton will not be one of the hosts–this year it will be Blake’s former co-host, Luke Bryan, along with Dierks Bentley. This seems an unlikely pair to say the least, but we’ll see on April 3rd. Here are the nominees, along with predictions, preferences, and some personal commentary.

Video of the Year

“Biscuits”–Kacey Musgraves, directed by Mark Klausfeld, produced by Nicole Acacio
“Burning House”–Cam, directed by Trey Fanjoy, produced by Trent Hardville
“Girl Crush”–Little Big Town, directed by Karla Welch and Matthew Welch, produced by Amanda Prunesti
“Mr. Misunderstood”–Eric Church, directed by Reid Long and John Peets, produced by Megan Smith
“Riser”–Dierks Bentley, directed by Wes Edwards, produced by Jennifer Rothlein
Prediction: “Burning House” or “Riser”
Preference: none

New Male Vocalist of the Year

Good to see the ACM’s breaking down this category again, as for the past several years it has been simply “New Artist.”

Brett Eldredge [no]
Chris Janson [no]
Thomas Rhett [really?]
Chase Rice [hell no]
Chris Stapleton [thank God]
Prediction: Chris Stapleton
Preference: Chris Stapleton…I would prefer Chris Stapleton anyway, but out of these, do I really have a choice?
Note: When is Thomas Rhett going to stop getting nominated for New Artist awards?

New Female Vocalist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini [no]
Cam [yes!]
Mickey Guyton [good]
RaeLynn [oh God no]
Prediction: Cam or Kelsea Ballerini
Preference: Cam
Note: Only four artists here…what happened to including more women? This is the only category to be missing an artist….and if we can nominate Thomas Rhett, surely we can nominate Ashley Monroe or Jana Kramer. Many more if they knew how to think outside the box…Jamie Lin Wilson anyone? Having said that, I’m impressed with the inclusion of Mickey Guyton, it is well deserved.

New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year

A Thousand Horses [ok]
Brothers Osborne [good]
Maddie & Tae [yes]
Old Dominion [please]
Parmalee [no]
Prediction: Maddie & Tae
Preference: Maddie & Tae
Note: I am sorry that Maddie & Tae and Brothers Osborne must be in the same category with the likes of Old Dominion. Maddie & Tae really deserve this award and should win it…they deserve to be the Duo of the Year, but this would involve de-throning Florida Georgia Line.

Vocal Event of the Year

“Hang Over Tonight”–Gary Allan featuring Chris Stapleton, produced by
Gary Allan and Greg Droman, MCA Nashville
“Home Alone Tonight”–Luke Bryan featuring Karen Fairchild, produced by Jeff Stevens and Jody Stephens, Capitol Nashville
“Raise ’em Up”–Keith Urban featuring Eric Church, produced by Nathan Chapman and Keith Urban, Hit Red Records/Capitol Nashville
“Smokin’ and Drinkin'”–Miranda Lambert featuring Little Big Town, produced by Frank Liddell, Chuck Anilay, and Glenn Worf, RCA Nashville
“Wild Child”–Kenny Chesney with Grace Potter, produced by Buddy Cannon and Kenny Chesney, Blue Chair Records/Columbia Nashville
Prediction: “Raise ’em Up”
Preference: “Wild Child” out of these, but there are better nominees by far.
Note: Why is “Hang Over Tonight” being nominated for anything? This was not successful commercially or critically, has stalled Gary Allan’s entire career, and cost him millions of fans…but let’s nominate it for an ACM, makes perfect sense. “Home Alone Tonight” is trash, “Smokin’ and Drinkin'” is just there, and the others are decent. Terrible list altogether. The CMA nominated Willie and Merle’s collaboration album at least.

Single Record of the Year

Interestingly, or stupidly, the Song of the Year and Songwriter of the Year nominees are not out yet and should be announced “in the coming weeks”…Song of the Year has traditionally been about critical acclaim, and Single Record was for commercial success, but lately they have become somewhat interchangeable.

“Burning House”–Cam, produced by Jeff Bhasker, Tyler Johnson, and Cameron Ochs, Arista Nashville/RCA Records/Kravenworks [excellent]
“Buy me a Boat”–Chris Janson, produced by Brent Anderson, Chris DuBois, and Chris Janson, Warner Music Nashville [no]
“Die a Happy Man”–Thomas Rhett, produced by Dan Huff and Jesse Frasur, The Vallory Music Co. [to be expected, but hell no]
“Girl Crush”–Little Big Town, produced by Jay Joyce, Capitol Records Nashville [yes]
“I’m Comin’ Over”–Chris Young, produced by Corey Crowder and Chris Young, RCA Nashville [decent]
Prediction: No idea…this could go to Cam, Thomas Rhett, or Little Big Town, if we’re talking commercial success. All three would deserve it based on this.
Preference: “Burning House” or “Girl Crush”
Note: The only thing I’m certain of here is that Chris Young has absolutely no chance.

Album of the Year

I’m Comin’ Over–Chris Young, produced by Corey Crowder and Chris Young, RCA Records [lol]
Montevallo–Sam Hunt, produced by Zach Crowell and Shane McAnally, MCA Nashville [never]
Mr. Misunderstood–Eric Church, produced by Jay Joyce, EMI Records Nashville [yes]
Tangled up–Thomas Rhett, produced by Dan Huff, Jesse Frasur, and Chris Destafano, The Vallory Music Co. [absolutely horrifying]
Traveller–Chris Stapleton, produced by Dave Cobb and Chris Stapleton, Mercury Records [yes]
Prediction: Traveller
Preference: Traveller
Note: Glad to see Eric Church with a nomination here, and disappointed in the lack of women. Thomas Rhett’s Tangled Up is even worse than Montevallo which is saying something…some good nominees, but a bad category overall. At least Stapleton is now a front runner, after his upsets at the CMA’s. But Kacey Musgraves should definitely have a nomination here. The fact that Chris Young’s boring effort is here is completely laughable.

Vocal Duo of the Year

Brothers Osborne [good]
Dan + Shay [no]
Maddie & Tae [yes]
Joey + Rory [good]
Florida Georgia Line[no]
Prediction: Maddie & Tae…going out on a limb.
Preference: Maddie & Tae
Note: I don’t think Florida Georgia Line will do it again…they’ve slipped in popularity. Also, never underestimate the power of the sympathy vote for Joey + Rory, cancer is a powerful thing. I’m glad to see Joey + Rory with a nomination too, but they shouldn’t get the win…that right belongs to Maddie & Tae, and enough splitting of the votes may happen here that we will see them take it.

Vocal Group of the Year

Wow, what an awful category.

Eli Young Band [no]
Little Big Town [yes]
Old Dominion [for the love of God]
Rascal Flatts [no]
Zac Brown Band [not after this year….”Beautiful Drug” is not worth any recognition, even if the group is]
Prediction: Little Big Town…they’ve become the Miranda Lambert of the Vocal Group category.
Preference: Little Big Town
Note: Can we give it to Turnpike Troubadours?

Male Vocalist of the Year

Jason Aldean [no]
Dierks Bentley [good]
Eric Church [yes]
Brett Eldredge [lol]
Chris Stapleton [yes]
Prediction: Eric Church or Chris Stapleton
Preference: Chris Stapleton, but I’d be happy with Eric.
Note: No Blake Shelton…interestingly, Blake Shelton was shut out entirely from this extravaganza.

Female Vocalist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini [no]
Jana Kramer [good]
Miranda Lambert [duh]
Kacey Musgraves [good]
Carrie Underwood [good]
Prediction: Miranda Lambert–like with the CMA’s, I’m not an idiot.
Preference: Carrie Underwood
Note: Glad to see Jana Kramer with a nomination…if we could have replaced Kelsea with Ashley Monroe, this would have been a pretty fair list.

Entertainer of the Year

Jason Aldean [no]
Garth Brooks [good]
Luke Bryan [duh but no]
Eric Church [good]
Miranda Lambert [good]
Prediction: Luke Bryan, with an outside chance of Garth Brooks
Preference: Garth Brooks