Country music naysayers have complained that Nashville only signs artists of a limited scope–––only rednecks get a fair go in the industry.
Keith Urban took that idea and flipped it upside down, becoming the first Australian since a pre-Grease Olivia Newton-John to mark his territory in the country music business.
Since debuting in Nashville in 2000, the Caboolture, Queensland, native has won dozens of country-specific awards for his songs, albums, and music videos. He deserves a pat on the back. However, Urban should also go back to the drawing board if he wants to stay in the business.
That’s the case with his latest offering, Get Closer. The album, Urban’s sixth solo offering for the U.S. market, is a slim offering on the surface: There are just eight tracks on the album, and each carries the theme of life-affirming love. This is the point where I’m supposed to say that there is more under the surface but, unfortunately… there really isn’t.
First, Get Closer follows 2009’s 11-track Defying Gravity, which incorporated sweet ballads like Til ‘Summer Comes Around and steady-tempo grooves like Sweet Thing.
One undeniable similarity between the two albums is Keith’s never-mentioned-but-still-obvious dedication to wife Nicole Kidman, but Defying Gravity managed it with the right combination of rocking, contemplating, laughing, and crying. Get Closer, well, just puts the listener to sleep.
The album opens with a bang with lead single Put You in a Song, which rides on a style reminiscent of old-time rockers like Tom Petty. It might be a cop-out to call the single an “album highlight,” but that’s what it is–––the perfect roll-down-the-windows song (it even says so in the lyrics).
Unfortunately, that’s not the standard the album gets to enjoy. While second track You Gonna Fly opens with a similar mood, riding on a mellow blend of banjo and electric guitar, it quickly begins to slog.
The song’s style is reminiscent of modern Nashville, and even tries to go for the coveted (if manufactured) down-home Southern feel with back-up from Little Big Town vocalists Kimberly Schlapman and Karen Fairchild. But if that’s Urban’s goal, he should keep one Southern slang word in mind: “Draggin’,” as that’s what You Gonna Fly ultimately ends up doing.
The other ballads on the album falter in this regard as well. All For You and Without You just can’t seem to get off the ground. On both songs, from start to finish, Urban sounds downright exhausted.
It doesn’t have to be this way: The easygoing Aussie knows how to sing a good ballad. Fans found this out with hits like Your Everything and You’ll Think of Me. Yet on numbers like All For You, Urban seems to lack true heart–––he doesn’t sound sincere when he sings “I can’t imagine living without you by my side.”
An album highlight would be Long Hot Summer. This song is authentic Keith Urban, starting off slow and steady, before releasing itself into a full-on anthem. Another highlight would be Right On Back to You—another ballad, but a powerful, hearfelt one.
The rest of the album disappoints, however. Aside from the previously-mentioned slow numbers, there is Georgia Woods, which goes on at least a minute longer than it needs to. The album’s last track, Shut Out the Lights, might bring to mind earlier Urban hits like You’re My Better Half and Once in a Lifetime but stumbles in its delivery, eventually becoming the unsatisfactory end to an equally unsatisfactory album.
A listener might think that, hey, with just eight tracks, one has nothing to lose with Get Closer. But these eight cuts become too much to bear, weighing down on the listener as their ear works through each duty-filled song.
The upside is that this album can easily be a valley in an otherwise peak career.
Get Closer was preceded by a great album, and here’s to hoping that Mr. Nicole Kidman’s next offering can make up for a lackluster performance this time around.
I give it: two stars
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