If you go back and listen to the 1997 debut album from The Ranch — a group that included future star Keith Urban, it was obvious even then that the singer was something very unique and different. His voice was something of the likes that few in the format had ever heard, and from an instrumental standpoint — save for 1980s hitmaker Ricky Skaggs — there may be no artist any stronger from that capacity.
In analyzing the singer’s best work, we tried to include performances that showed both the vocal and instrumental growth that he has gone through since releasing his 1999 solo debut single, “It’s A Love Thing.” Unlike anyone in country music releasing music at that time on a mainstream level, Urban seems to be only getting better with age. His latest disc, Ripcord, stands as the most musically diverse project of his career, and the best seems yet to come…but here are 10 Keith Urban songs that are sure to be on any fan’s playlist.
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10. Keith Urban – “You Gonna Fly”
In the history of Keith Urban’s recording career, this 2011 single from Get Closer might not necessarily stand as Urban’s most lyrically potent moment, but this song — from the pen of rising country duo LoCash — was a sonic treat to listen to for each and every of its three minutes and 36 seconds, thanks to the singer’s infectious performance — and of course, a bouncy instrumental effort.
9. Keith Urban feat. Carrie Underwood – “The Fighter”
General consensus says that if you put the talents of Grand Ole Opry stars Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood together, the odds are pretty strong that you would have a hit. Even so, the combination of these two turned out to be one of the most pleasurable singles on country radio as of late. Urban goes the musical distance to prove his love and devotion to his significant other, while Underwood’s vocal was as dreamy as anything she had ever recorded. Somehow, we think that with her move to Capitol Nashville, you just might see this pairing again. At least we hope so!
8. Keith Urban – “Where The Blacktop Ends”
Even early in his career, Urban had a a penchant for the up-tempo rocker. He recorded a fine one in this vein on his 1999 debut album from the pen of Steve Wariner. Would love to see him re-visit the irresistible groove of this song, which was country — and rock — at the same time.
7. Keith Urban – “Making Memories Of Us”
Oddly enough, Urban wasn’t the first artist to record this song. Tracy Byrd has that distinction — having cut it in 2003, while writer Rodney Crowell did so with his band The Notorious Cherry Bombs the next year. At the same time, Urban recorded this one for his Be Here disc, and the result was one of the more moving and romantic songs of his career, finding the top of the charts in quick order.
6. Keith Urban – “You Look Good In My Shirt”
About the pure joy — and passion — of an unexpected reunion with someone from the past, this had been a favorite of many Urban fans since it was originally released on Golden Road. However, the singer re-recorded it for his Greatest Hits package, and the song ran to the top.
5. Keith Urban – “You’ll Think Of Me”
Everything about this 2004 Keith Urban song bled with emotional anguish and honesty. It proved to be one of his most heartbreaking vocals, and the performance also netted the singer one of his first cross-over hits, peaking at No. 2 on the AC charts.
4. Keith Urban – “‘Til Summer Comes Around”
The singer co-wrote this track with Monty Powell, and the description of a boardwalk in the wintertime as being akin to his broken heart was ripe with perhaps the most haunting feel of any song of Keith Urban’s career. Sometimes, a video doesn’t really add much to the overall picture of the song, but you can’t say that about this one. Even watching the clip close to a decade later still brings still is an emotional experience.
3. Keith Urban – “Somebody Like You”
In preparing these lists, every now and then you run across a song that never seemed to — as radio likes to put it — “burn.” But, in spite of this topping the country charts for six weeks, crossing over to the Top 30 on the Hot 100, and a video (featuring his girlfriend at the time, Niki Taylor), it hasn’t happened yet for this song — 15 years later.
2. Keith Urban – “Stupid Boy”
As the story goes, Urban was influenced to record the song by his wife, Nicole Kidman, who thought the song had potential. The performance works because the singer realized that the break-up of the relationship lay at his feet. In doing so, the singer turned in a vocal that was among the most tormented and guilt-ridden of his career.
1. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
Record companies tend to send out press releases every time a song takes a three-notch jump on the charts these days, making you wonder when a song is really a hit — or just a mere result of a relationship between a promotion staff and radio. That can’t be said about the most recent Keith Urban song to top the charts. From his musically adventurous Ripcord album, this sparse ballad was a departure for the singer in many ways, but the result was a hit that needed no press release, pomp, or circumstance — and, for his part, Urban delivered a vocal that was one of his best.