Album Review: Keith Urban’s ‘Ripcord’

'Ripcord' is a remarkably diverse album that pushes boundaries and furthers Keith Urban's evolution as an artist.

Album Review: Keith Urban’s ‘Ripcord’
Keith Urban; Photo courtesy PFA Media

Keith Urban transcends genres on his eighth studio album, Ripcord. The singer has said the 13-track release was his “most exhilarating album to make, both musically and creatively” and it’s easy to see why. Urban worked with several new writers and producers for the release including Jeff Bhasker, busbee, Greg Wells and Nile Rogers as well as frequent collaborators Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, Dann Huff and Nathan Chapman, allowing him to expand his sound by blending a mixture of inspirations and musical styles. As a result, Ripcord is a remarkably diverse album that pushes boundaries and furthers Urban’s evolution as an artist.

This albums journey began back in January 2015 and took me to a lot of unexplored people and places, Urban said. The end result was the recording and exploring of more songs then Ive ever done before and carving that down to what I felt constituted Ripcord.

The first taste of Ripcord was “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” which Urban released last June. The bass heavy track includes heavy drum loops, several time changes and a unique lyric which was just a hint of what was to come from the album. The song swiftly made its way to No. 1 on the country charts, marking Urban’s 19th career chart topper. The sweet ballad, “Break On Me,” followed suit and became another No. 1 for Urban. Meanwhile, nostalgic current single “Wasted Time” is also making its way up the charts thanks to its radio friendly appeal.

While many songs on Ripcord are highlighted with banjo accompaniment like the edgy opening track “Gone Tomorrow,” drum loops are also prevalent throughout Ripcord, allowing the tracks to cross genre lines. “Sun Don’t Let Me Down” which features Pitbull is easy to envision hearing on pop radio with dance floor beats and party anthem flavor thanks to guest raps from Mr. Worldwide himself.

Photo courtesy Capitol Records Nashville

Photo courtesy Capitol Records Nashville

Beat heavy “The Fighter” with Carrie Underwood is the other collaboration on the album and also sounds more like a pop anthem than a country staple. Make no mistake though, Urban is not leaving the country genre as there are plenty of country leaning tracks on Ripcord to satisfy his longtime fans. While the soaring “Gettin’ In the Way,” about a couple unable to pull away from a car makeout session, is not new territory Urban makes the song unique with his memorable vocals and added instrumentation which will likely have the listeners humming along long after the song is over.

Other highlights include the old school “Blue Ain’t Your Color” which is reminiscent of music from the 1950s with slowed instrumental accompaniment, bluesy guitar interludes and Urban’s singing style, and the soaring “Boy Gets a Truck” which follows the span of a relationship from a boy getting a truck as a teen to all of life’s big moments.

While the sexy “Habit of You” and “Your Body” were surely inspired by Urban’s wife, Nicole Kidman, the heartbreaking “That Could Still Be Us” showcases Urban’s ability to emote as he sings of a man remembering a lover who has moved on and the only time he sees her is in his dreams.

Overall a diverse release, Ripcord has much to offer listeners. Whether it’s slick beats, guitar slinging or vivid storytelling, Urban’s eighth effort launches the singer into uncharted territory exemplifying exactly why he is one of the most highly regarded talents within the genre.