May 6 is more than just the day after Cinco de Mayo for Keith Urban. The mega-talented country music singer-songwriter is famous for fusing the foundational elements of country music into infectious pop, rock, and even hip-hop-tinged vibes. Even from his early days with The Range, Keith Urban vibrated with a creative energy that set him apart from other rising artists. He also possessed superlative musicianship to match his passion. That passion, and a kind of pathos, pulses through his ninth studio album, Ripcord, released five years ago today, as Taste of Country confirms.
Keith Urban adores collaborations with artists across genres. His recent musical rally, alongside Breland and Nile Rodgers on “Out the Cage,” makes the perfect pandemic escape call. Keith and Mickey Guyton probably swapped fun stories about Breland between their ACM Award hosting duties last month. The hip-hop-Country fusion artist chronicled his personal musical journey along with Guyton on “Cross Country.”
As a person and an artist, Keith Urban doesn’t find dividing lines in music. Instead, he sees unity and community in constant creation. Ripcord exemplifies that philosophy.
Keith Urban rips Country boundaries apart on ‘Ripcord’
Some critics continually disparage Keith Urban for distilling the “country sound” out of Country. On the contrary, he broadens the definition of country music and fills songs with banjos, immaculate guitar playing, and the same longing heart of “three chords and the truth” at the core.
The opening song of “Gone Tomorrow Here Today” captures the lessons learned by Keith Urban from his father, Robert, who passed in 2015. The necessary and hopeful ballad has an essence of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, except for the fact that for Keith, the Bee Gees were his Beatles. The synthesizers that kick in only heighten the message that life is drastically brief, so embrace every second of now, not so different from the themes of The Speed of Now Pt.1, the latest Keith Urban album.
Rhythm runs in the family
The lead single of Ripcord is completely Country and utterly Keith Urban. “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” echoes of Americana, family, and Sundays at grandma’s, and still has the Keith Urban pace and passion through every verse, with producers Dan Huff and Nathan Chapman at the helm. Urban credits his father, a drummer, for the “strong rhythmic influence” that penetrates the son’s songwriting. Urban relates how the musical gift is “more and more apparent” as he gets older.
Robert had a full collection of Don Williams albums to fill the ears and heart of Keith Urban. On Ripcord, Urban aims for the direct and “minimalist” approach of Williams on “Blue Ain’t Your Color.” The album, and Keith Urban’s trophy mantle, would not be the same without it.
Fans instantly fell in love with “The Fighter,” pairing Keith Urban with Carrie Underwood and also borrowing the immense talents of Nile Rodgers again. Keith is equally complimentary of Latin rapper, Pitbull, for the “mischievous, sexy swagger– in a very different way” that the performer lends on “Sun Don’t Let Me Down.” Urban gives his wife, Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman, indirect credit for inspiration, too. A scene from her film, To Die For, sparked the song.
Nicole shows off Keith as a boy with longer locks
Three #1 chart-toppers spring from Ripcord, including the poignant “Break On Me” and “Wasted Time” beyond “Blue Ain’t Your Color.” The year after its release, the album was another certified platinum collection for Keith Urban. What the artist himself values most from the process of making the album is that it made him “much more willing to just try any idea that came in my head, as crazy as it might be.” That level of creative freedom doesn’t come along every day, even for the 53-year-old who is already golden on his road in life.
Nicole Kidman regularly praises her husband as one of the most creative, loving forces on earth. Fans certainly showed loads of love for the photo that Kidman shared on social media of a much younger Keith Urban. Hello! Magazine reveals the darling black and white shot. Keith is holding a guitar as big as he is at the time. His flip-flops and “flares” (i.e. bellbottoms) are perfectly in style for the boy already creating music for the ages. His golden blonde locks literally glow!
“One of my favorite FBF’s ever,” Kidman captions the precious memory. Her followers loved the keepsake, too, but floated several incorrect guesses on the identity. Some suspected it was Sunday Rose, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman’s oldest daughter, while others felt sure it was Nicole herself.
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Humble and rustic roots help Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman stay grateful
To maintain a sense of family and sanity, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman spent much of their pandemic time in Australia with Nicole’s family. The actress-mom likened the experience to communal living in past times, when everyone raised children together. Keith and Nicole have wide-open spaces and plenty of animals to keep things cozy, but life didn’t start out with any red carpet regalia for either of the soul mates.
Per a Glamour UK digital feature, Kidman related how her mother “helped put my dad through his Ph.D.” The parents found a donated mattress from the Salvation Army for the family to sleep on together. Education, hard work, and dedication changed the future for the transplanted family who “had nothing when we came to America.” She reflects how her husband told her that “every brick in his house is a gig.” Keith Urban never had a bedroom on the family farm. Four shared a shed that eventually burned down.
Like countless other artists, Keith Urban yearns to burn things down with a scorching performance on stage as soon as safely possible. He already has a tour designed for Australia by the end of this year, including a virtual Pink. Favorites from Ripcord are certainly on the setlist. As for Nicole Kidman, the actress is immersed in her portrayal of Lucille Ball alongside Javier Bardem in Being the Ricardo’s. Without a doubt, her favorite role is being the most enthusiastic person on the front row for Keith Urban, and when the time comes for a concert, she’s there!
Keep up with Keith Urban and all your other favorite country music stars by checking into Country Music Alley every day!
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