Quick Spin: 'Defying Gravity' by Keith Urban
Even in his earliest days as a Nashville ingenue, toothy, charming, be-highlighted Keith Urban always seemed like a country singer with the finely tuned sensibilities of a pop star. His new disc, "Defying Gravity," is a good-natured, frisky puppy of an album that's an obvious bid for the crossover stardom that has, thus far at least, bafflingly eluded him.
"Gravity" has all the usual genre trappings: plentiful banjos and pedal steels, songs about people dancing in the moonlight, kissing under the cottonwood tree and generally doing things only people in country songs ever do. But despite its sturdy hooks, despite its out-front guitar riffs better befitting a rock band, it's pretty enough, shiny enough, girly enough, to make Kenny Chesney sound like Merle Haggard. If Jon Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift somehow morphed into the same person, and entered the studio armed with access to the best producers, songwriters and hair colorists, "Defying Gravity," the world's first metrosexual country album, is what they might come up with.
In other words, it's pretty great.
"Gravity" is mostly divided between playful, up-tempo love songs and, slightly less successfully, saved-by-love ballads. The best two up-tempo tracks, "Kiss a Girl" and "Sweet Thing," have similar, .38 Special-evoking hooks, a similar lyrical aesthetic and a similar potential for sugar shock. The best ballads, "Only You Can Love Me This Way" and, especially, the closing track "Thank You," are such undisguised odes to Urban's wife, Nicole Kidman, that they're either an inadvertent invasion of privacy, an obvious bid for tabloid attention or a little bit of both.
-- Allison Stewart
DOWNLOAD THESE: "Kiss a Girl," "Sweet Thing"