Album Review: Keith Urban’s ‘Graffiti U’
Keith Urban’s ninth studio album, Graffiti U, continues where his adventurous 2016 release, Ripcord, left off. While slick production and Urban’s familiar vocals are heard on each song, Graffiti U pushes the singer’s music into new territory. Additionally, with three standout features by women on the project, Urban proves to be a champion of females just as his previous single “Female” showcased.
Urban served as co-writer or producer on 12 of the 13 tracks and, as a result, the singer’s diverse influences are heard throughout. The album begins with his new single “Coming Home,” featuring Julia Michaels. The intriguing production includes a delicate piano introduction and a familiar lick from Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” before the beat picks up. A touching song about feeling unsettled and missing home, on “Coming Home” Urban’s vocals evoke this distinct homesickness as Michaels sings that while home is only one phone call away, it’s not the same as being there. “My mind’s heavy and I can’t sleep / Not even a memory is good enough to get me through the night / I’m longing for the real thing / People who know the real me,” he sings.
The feel-good “Never Comin Down” picks up the pace with a slick bass line that allows Urban’s musicianship to shine. A track easy to envision in the live setting, Urban delivers on the upbeat number. Meanwhile, “Drop Top,” featuring Kassi Ashton, also promises the perfect concert staple. Singing of a girl at Coachella with feathers in her hair, Ashton’s commanding vocals transform the already fun track to a powerful summer anthem. This feeling continues on the laid-back and reggae-fueled beats of “My Wave.” Featuring Shy Carter, “My Wave” transports the listener to the Caribbean with Urban’s slowed singing style and Carter’s rhythmic raps.
While the guitar-driven songs display Urban’s undeniable talent, Graffiti U also showcases his innate ability at singing emotional ballads. His voice soars on songs like the poignant Ed Sheeran penned “Parallel Line,” which includes a sample of Coldplay’s “Everglow,” as well as “Same Heart,” where he sings of trying his best to move on at the end of a relationship. “Everything is different now but the same heart that loves you is still beating . . . a piece of me will always wonder where you are . . . I can say that I’m fine but I’d be lying,” he sings.
Album highlights include the triumphant “Horses” featuring Lindsay Ell and “Gemini,” a song that praises Urban’s wife, Nicole Kidman. “All of my complications, she’s eased through it,” he sings. “She’s a maniac in the bed but a brainiac in her head.” With captivating beats, sultry lyrics and a standout musical interlude that allows Urban to shine, “Gemini” hypnotizes.
Now having nine albums under his belt, Urban continues to push genre lines with Graffiti U. With a bevy of producers putting their fingerprints on the project, Urban never strays from the guitar slinging and vocally captivating country artist that he is. An artist always willing to take a risk, Urban more than delivers on Graffiti U.