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Album Review

Keith Urban is technically a country musician. I say technically, however, because you'd be forgiven for wondering, after listening to Graffiti U, if he had decided to jettison that genre.

Drum loops abound. At times, the 15 tracks on Urban's 10th studio album sound more like Imagine Dragons or EDM than country tunes. Other times, soft rock and pop sounds dominate. "Very Ed Sheeran-esque," I wrote in the margin of the lyrics for "Parallel Lines." (And for good reason, it turns out: Sheeran co-wrote the tune.)

Like fellow post-country star Taylor Swift, Urban seems to determined to push the sonic boundaries of his original genre as far as possible. That said, Graffiti U's lyrics are vintage Keith Urban: a mix of songs that are, on balance, more positive than problematic—but not without some concerns to navigate.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

"Female" challenges sexism ("When you hear somebody say somebody hits like a girl/How does that hit you?") and exalts women's many contributions ("Sister, shoulder, daughter, lover/Healer, broken halo, mother/Nature, fire, suit of armor/Soul survivor, holy water"). There's a biblical nod, too, to the "Virgin Mary." Urban gets theological again in the second verse, singing, "When somebody talks about how it was Adam first/Does that make Eve second best?/Or did He save the best for last?" (Obviously Urban's being a bit tongue and cheek here, but his reference to God creating man and woman individually is nonetheless a significant one.)

In the litany of things a woman can be in this song, we also hear the phrase "scarlet letter." That's an allusion to a woman who's committed adultery—obviously not a good thing. But perhaps by including that phrase, Urban is suggesting that even a woman who's made this choice still has value and might ultimately find redemption. Finally, Urban also confronts the idea of a woman supposedly "asking" for sexual abuse by what she's wearing: "When somebody laughs and implies she asked for it/Just 'cause she was wearin' a skirt/Oh, is that how that works?"

We get more spiritual stuff in "Steal My Thunder," a song that seems to be an affectionate shout-out to Urban's actress wife, Nicole Kidman. He says of her, "Your heart's so good, you can turn a sinner into a believer/And I want the world to see ya'." He also gushes, "I'll be your front-row fan and in the bleachers/ … You can steal my thunder anytime."

"Coming Home" sings the praises of doing exactly that: "I gotta get back now to the ones who love me/ … There's nothin' in the world that feels like coming home." It's there, Urban tells us, that "people who know the real me/ … love me back to life."

Beach-y "My Wave" tips the hat, stylistically, toward the likes of Jack Johnson, with Urban personifying the good stuff in life as a wave of love: "I just ride/On a wave so free, just you and me/Coming alive." The song also waxes philosophic about how our struggles shape us: "We all got problems/I've had my share of pain/I got scars in places that you can't even see, baby/But it made me who I am today." Urban also says that love can "heal all the hurt." And on the tender ode to the beauty and love "Parallel Line," we hear, "Well, I was never the type/To put it all on the line/But I've been changing my mind/Since you opened my eyes/ … Now it's time to close the space/Between the two of us."

Bittersweet "Same Heart" wonders whatever happened to a former flame: "And I realize that a part of me will always wonder where you are." A stubborn, scarred man wonders if he'll be able to receive a woman's love in "Way Too Long."

"Horses" encourages a "frightened" and "insecure" person to live fully, not held back by fear: "So let your horses run/To the limit like never before/ … Wanna show you what your heart is made for."

Objectionable Content

"Never Comin Down" looks forward to spending a payday knocking back drinks at a local watering hole: "Taking shots with the night owls/ … Got a big check in my pocket/'Bout to get it all going." The feelings are so good ("Never, ever, ever, never coming down") that Urban says they might just party until dawn: "And the beer is ice cold/ … And maybe we'll keep it going/'Til we see the sun come up." A passing alcohol reference also turns up in "My Wave."

"Same Heart" suggests that alcohol and promiscuity have blurred together after a bad breakup: "Different bars and different streets/Different drinks, different lips/ … Everything's different now." And we hear this on the Jimmy Buffet-esque party track "Texas Time": "Give me a tight T-shirt on a real hot body/You know what's on my mind/ … Whiskey, women and wine/Yeah, I'll show you where it's at." We also hear an oblique reference to a hallucinogen: "Cactus in bloom in the pink peyote." Lusty memories fill "Love the Way It Hurts (So Good)": "I remember summer nights/You were like a midnight daydream/Neon lights/We're making waves in the back seat."

"Gemini" (a reference to the astrological sign) says that a lover is "a maniac in bed/But a Brainiac in her head" who will "wake you to make love to you in the middle of the night." A hidden track from an uncredited rapper after the end of "Steal My Thunders" finds him rapping, "Yeah, baby, look at you now/You got that gold-rated bottom/And it's perfectly round."

"Drop Top" talks of someone having "crystals on the dash" and someone in the backseat who is "just a little too high." A woman is described as looking like "a teenage dream/Red lips on a refugee" with "jeans skin tight." A couple of tracks include uses of "h---."

Summary Advisory

Keith Urban is nothing if not consistent.

The transplanted New Zealander/Australian country singer reliably packs his tracks with plenty o' positive themes. And so it is here, with praise for his wife, nods to the power of love, an anthem focused on female empowerment and even some allusions to God's role in creating us. Nice stuff.

And then … some not so nice stuff. A few mild profanities turn up, as well as country-style winks at drinking and sensual shenanigans. Keith rarely travels as far down that rowdy rural road as some "bro country" practitioners (such as Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton) might.

But there's still enough sippin', swearin' and sexin' here to warrant a warning before enrolling in Graffiti U.

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Country

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Debuted at No. 2.

Record Label

Capitol Nashville, Hit Red Records

Platform

Publisher

Released

April 27, 2018

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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