Album Review: Keith Urban – Defying Gravity

Jim Malec | March 27th, 2009

Keith Urban - Defying GravityKeith Urban is a freak of nature. A phenomenal writer, master guitar player and engaging vocalist, he may in fact be the perfect recording artist. And he is unquestionably one of the premier talents in music today. His latest album, Defying Gravity, puts all of these various attributes in full display on what amounts to a technically flawless collection. Urban’s hooks are tight, his melodies memorable, and his vocals exemplary.

But despite Urban’s immense gifts–and the album’s name–Defying Gravity never fully takes flight. The 11 tracks contained here share tight, focused production that binds them together in a immeasurably cohesive collection that achieves high marks in essentially every quantifiable area but which strives for–and achieves–very little creatively.

Urban seldom ventures from the pop groove that has defined his recent work, and the songs on Defying Gravity are interchangeable with hits like 2007’s Richard Marx co-penned “Everybody.” Defying Gravity is a safe record that has no defining moments, a compilation of 11 very good songs that sound too similar to stand out.

Urban has long been prone to the embrace of lighthearted confection like the album’s lead single “Sweet Thing,” and the result has been generally positive, as few artists can so smoothly deliver a bubbly hook with an appropriately effervescent touch.

But Urban’s upbeatness has typically been tempered by much more artistically engaging fare like “Stupid Boy,” which came on the heels of “Once in a Lifetime Love,” and “You’ll Think of Me” which immediately followed the breezy “Who Wouldn’t Want To Be Me.”

On Defying Gravity, Urban sounds unusually content, the result being a record that lacks the balance of previous efforts. And it also lacks the punch. There is not an ounce of rawness here, not even a glimpse of the Aussie roots that sometimes slips into Urban’s music. Co-producer Dann Huff’s slick hand has crafted a disc so dominated by looping percussion and typical guitar riffs that, even though it sounds beautiful (and it does) it doesn’t sound very interesting.

And then there’s the unfortunate fact that Urban’s narrative voice here sounds tired and uninspired. He writes the hell out of songs like “If Ever I Could Love,” but the concepts are so usual that even when sculpted by a master’s hand they maintain an essence of prefabrication.

Cap it all off with an unfortunate cover of the Radney Foster/Georgia Middleman song “I’m In” that lacks the urgency and energy of the original version by The Kinleys, and Defying Gravity adds up to a disappointing album that will offend no one and engage some, but which is ultimately far less than what Urban is capable of.

2.5 Stars

Recommended Tracks: “Thank You“, “If Ever I Could Love.”

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  1. Lioness
    March 27, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I’m sorry to hear you don’t like this album Mr. Malec…I was hoping you would! I will be one that will be engaged with this album! I love it! However, I did love your first paragraph and I so agree with you!

  2. Josh
    March 27, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I agree with Lioness that the 1st paragraph is well stated in a brief look of KU. I have already listened to half of the songs displayed on Youtube and think that it’s a moderate effort. There are some songs that are very well done and the others sound just like a pass-along among previous efforts. Maybe it’s time that KU try a different producer and/or a different way of looking at life. Sure do miss his The Ranch Album and Golden Roads stuff…those were the best of his inspiration…IMHO. The only thing that I really am liking right now is “Til Summer Comes Around”. But I still toast the dude for his guitar skills, one that’s unequal to any other.

  3. Rick
    March 27, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    It sounds like Keith has crafted the perfect album for today’s Top 40 marketplace with potential singles being any cut they care to choose. This album will no doubt please Keith’s huge fangirl audience and sell well, and after all isn’t that what its all about? Keith’s marital contentment with Nicole and his kicking his substance addictions have taken the edge off, but what can you expect from someone so happy? Bliss has its price on artistry…

  4. Leeann Ward
    March 27, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Co-producer Dann Huff’s slick hand has
    crafted a disc so dominated by looping percussion and typical guitar riffs that, even though it sounds beautiful (and it does) it doesn’t sound very interesting.”

    Yes, my problem with Huff’s body of work so perfectly stated…. I wish Urban would move on from him. By the way, I really hated “Everybody.”

  5. sara
    March 27, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Totally agree about so many interchangeable songs, and I feel this cd is full of fluff. No variety and his usual cliches are over-used just as they were on his last cd.

  6. Cindy
    March 27, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Jim – I’m laughing at your statement: “There is not an ounce of rawness here.” If you can’t hear the rawness in the song “Thank You”, well, it’s hard to believe you call yourself a music critic.

  7. Kim
    March 27, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    I respect your opinion. I’m disappointed you didn’t like the album, but I expect it’s going to be panned by the critics. Keith is my all time favorite and I’m very excited and pleased with this CD, even if it isn’t near as complex and deep as the last CD. You have to love Hit the Ground Runnin’ though :) That song rocks!

  8. Sue
    March 28, 2009 at 6:49 am

    I appreciate your opinion but disagree that there is no rawness or balance on this cd. “Thank You” is the most revealing song Urban has done. “Til Summer Comes Around” is another haunting tune. These are offset by the ligher single releases “Kiss A Girl” and “Sweet Thing.” He also gives a nod to his harder edge Ranch days with “Hit The Ground Running.” I think there is a balance of emotion and musical styles; I think this cd is a home run for Urban.

  9. Mike Wimmer
    March 28, 2009 at 10:08 am

    FYI, for those that have Rhapsody, the album is already on there for streaming.

  10. sara
    March 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    All that “Thank You” reveals is that the poor man has a major co-dependency problem. One raw song doesn’t make up for so much bubble-gum pop in most of the other songs.

  11. Gloria
    March 28, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Sara, You always jump at the chance to put Keith down!! You must hunt the web everyday just to get a chance to jab Keith! You act like you are jealous! What’s the matter?? Is he getting more attention than your favorite artist? No doubt Keith’s way more talented than your favorite or you wouldn’t be hear criticizing him!

  12. sara
    March 28, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Gloria,

    Maybe you are on the web day and night acting like some love-sick teeny-bopper about your idol Keith, but I assure you I don’t spend my time hunting the web about Keith Urban. You sound like a crazed fangurl, and are embarrassing yourself.

    Grow up.

  13. Bobby
    March 29, 2009 at 10:42 am

    One correction, Jim: The Kinleys’ version wasn’t the original version of “I’m In”. Radney cut it first, as a duet with Abra Moore. Might wanna fix that.

  14. Josh
    March 29, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Those commentaries here are proving the general viewpoint of Keith’s fans: women’s opinion DOES count and matter around his stuff. It’s sad since I consider myself a big monkeyhead fan of his work, but I’m slowly feeling the vibe with him nowadays and the Net’s overly populated women rabid fans are pushing me farther away. *sighs* I’ll just have to reach back into the days of KU’s earlier works and awe once more his abilities on youtube.

  15. Matt B
    March 29, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Josh, Country music’s target audience is ‘overly populated by women rabid fans.’ So, perhaps that’s why he has so many of them.

  16. Stu
    March 29, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    I just became a huge fan about a year ago, bought all his albums. I agree with the point that this CD lacks the rawness that made me a Keith Urban fan – i still enjoyed it – but a lot of the songs do sound the same. Not a major disappointment, but i’m not in love either. It reminds me of Kenny Chesney’s Poet’s and Pirate’s album – because it’s just too overproduced and sort of half-ass – although Keith’s album is not as big as a disappoint as that debacle was.

  17. Gloria
    March 29, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Calm down Sara….you shouldn’t get so upset! I’m not embarrassed in the least. Your post is the one that sounded very immature. You for sure gave me a good laugh though, thanks for that! Crazed fangurl…so funny! That must be somthing you learned during all your surfing!

  18. SMB
    March 31, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I have to disagree and say that I love his cover of “I’m In.” It s a million times better than the truly ‘unfortunate’ cover from the last record- “Can’t Stop Loving You.” I don’t know if I will ever stop loving songs like “You’re Not My God” and “Tonight I’m Gonna Cry”, which probably show the rawness you miss, but the man has (hopefully) beaten his demons and is clearly celebrating his life with a new daughter, great wife and sober lifestyle. One thing about Keith is that you can feel where he is in his life with each album, and that is the core of why I love Keith Urban’s music.

  19. celeritas
    March 31, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I like the CD very much but I am biased and happy to admit that. :)

    It’s doesn’t explore very much and it is overproduced…but I love it. Keith’s songs have always had a way of taking on personal meaning for me and some of the songs on here have already done so.

    But maybe it is time to work with a new producer. I actually like Huff’s work (I adore Pat Green’s ‘What I’m For’) but I’d like to hear another producer’s take on Keith’s music.

    By the way, Sara, I have to agree with your co-dependency comment. I listened to that song twice, rolled my eyes, and haven’t played it since…

  20. Kurtz
    April 1, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    The album deserves what it got.Half.The singles are nice and upbeat but many of the songs are too much alike.The singles,If I Can Only Love,Thank You,I’m In,and Til Summer Comes Around are good.

  21. Josh
    April 3, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Matt B: I know that country music format’s complete into the teeny-bopper girl phase nowadays. Almost every post on this 9513 has mentioned that one ditty whether we consciously do it or not. I’m just saying that the raw talent that I saw back then (Youtube: Devil Went Down to Nashville, You’re Not My God, and any acoustic covers really) was all that mattered and yet now it’s well…over done. I’ll say it again: wish he’d try another producer and/or label to work with so that he doesn’t just have his entire catalog into one-dimensional structure. We all acknowledge the fact that he can certainly do just about anything on guitars (electric or otherwise).

  22. Christy1224
    April 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Sara,
    Co-dependency? Didn’t I hear/see this before. Yup. You sound like one of those anti-Nicole Kidman bunch who surf the net and trash her left and right. Why won’t you move on. It’s been almost three years since they got married.

    There are only two kinds of songs – what you like and what you don’t like. What matters most is the buying public. I love this CD because I like all the songs in it. I felt like I got my money’s worth for this CD unlike Coldplay’s record where I paid $14.99 and only one song “Viva La Vida” is worth a listen. The same thing with James Blount where I felt I paid $13.99 for only one song “You’re Beautiful”.

  23. Janet B.
    May 5, 2009 at 9:04 am

    This is one of my favorite KU cd’s. I feel happy when I listen to it and Keith’s voice on this cd is better than I’ve ever heard it. I don’t feel quite the depth of the feelings in his voice compared to some of his other work, but this is a wonderful album all the way around. Keith is blessed with talent beyond compare. Highly recommended.

  24. Edwin
    May 24, 2009 at 8:20 am

    This album is a perfect, catchy mix between rock, pop & country and with it Keith is reaching for a worldwide audience. So it’s about time for a breakthrough here in Holland!
    His album “Days gone by” is my absolute favorite but I rank this one gladly with four and a half stars at no. 2!

  25. janet
    October 7, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Keith Urban is the absolute best! I love him and his music.

  26. Bill
    October 31, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Keith did a FREE concert in the parking lot of a Verizon Wireless store in Cool Springs yesterday. Check out the video, he took this little boy named Grant onstage and they played a song together. It was sooo sweet!

  27. Lucas
    October 31, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Verizon Wireless has a virtual monopoly, why are they paying Keith Urban to do some advertising?

    I just realized after watching that video how similar I’m In is to “Homespun Love” on the guitar side of things.

    Now… if anybody has the magic ability to make me play as well as Keith I’m willing to trade my kidneys, both of them. How I’ll live without both is not of concern.

  28. Doris
    May 13, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    I loved the video. Keith Urban is the most talented entertainer in Nashville.

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