Although Keith Urban‘s name may appear on a country roster, his tastes in the tunes he chooses to listen too are quite eclectic. He recently sat down with Rollingstone to talk about what music tickled his ears in 2013, and it may surprise you.
Some can enlighten the game, like the Blood Orange record [Cupid Deluxe], which has been played nonstop in my car for a week. My wife [Nicole Kidman] turned me onto it. She was shooting a film in England. It was happening there, so I downloaded it. I love electronic music. It’s a lot of what I listen to, because I hear fusion sounds in my head that it draws from. I just love the atmosphere and ambience and the sort of emotive soundscapes that comes from a lot of that music. This album captured it in a way that I don’t think anybody really did. It took the best of Frank Ocean and Prince and New Radicals. I can kind of hear so many of my favorite artists and albums all in one album. I just find it amazing. It sounds great in my car, driving around Nashville.
I got into Lorde way back, early on. She’s from New Zealand, where I was born. I just found her magnetic on so many levels. She was on Letterman and was really good. Then I saw her live at Later . . . With Jools Holland. She was even better. I didn’t expect her to have that kind of performance ability necessarily at that age, and it was just riveting. She has a lot of artistic depth and gravitas for someone at that age. They aren’t straight-up relationship songs in any way. It’s a refreshing change to sort of have an artist talk about the circles she’s in and the things she’s going through. To write about those things is pretty extraordinary.
Keith’s favorite song of the year is none other than Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors.”
It just hits some deep melancholy places in me – the melodicism, the lyric. It’s a special song. One moment he’s dedicating it to his grandfather at the MTV Awards, then the next week he’s turning around and saying it’s about Jessica [Biel]. But I’m interested in my connection to it and what it means to me. And I like when songs can have a bit more ambiguity to them. It’s nice if the writer dishes out several different stories, all contradictory. That would be my preferred way: keep it all blurry, so I can take my own personal connection away.
I mean, my own personal struggles and how denial can play such a heavy role, and not recognizing the thing you need is right in front of you or right beside you. Looking around everywhere for the very things that are right there, whether it’s looking at the person in the mirror being yourself – the mirrors metaphor is just wonderful. It’s an infinite metaphor to write from. It touches on so many different phases of my life. There’s been times when the very thing I was looking for was right inside me. If I just paused long enough to look past the facade, I would have seen the actual person I was looking for. But I was too busy running.
Then, he gives his two cents on what Country Music is today…the topic has gotten a lot of attention recently, so hearing it from someone who’s had two decades of hits and still going strong is certainly relevant.
Country is like a town, and you can’t just waltz into the town wearing something no one else is wearing, speak like no one else is speaking with a hairstyle no one else has got, and expect that they’ll embrace you. It’s not going to happen. It’s not the streets of Paris. But country has an incredible history of knowing how to slowly absorb new elements to keep it evolving and moving at a particular pace that works for it. There will always be an artist that comes in and pushes the boundaries, like Eric Church’s “Outsiders,” but you know, for its time, right now it’s really the equivalent of Shania Twain’s midriff or Billy Ray Cyrus’ sneakers or Chet Atkins putting strings on a session. All these things come along and disrupt the status quo, and we have a new way to create our music.
I was at the CMA Awards. Dean Dillon, a legendary songwriter, was honored that night, and he had his incredible speech that touched upon all the growing conversation and uneasiness about the state of country music right now. He said there’s artists right now playing to thousands and thousands of people in arenas and big venues all over the world, and they’re singing to their generation just as I did. I think when you put it in those terms, there’s nothing more you can say to it. Luke Bryan sings to that generation. Florida Georgia Line sings to that generation. Taylor [Swift] sings to that generation. People ask me what is country music and I always say at the least, it is what’s on country radio at the moment, because if it isn’t, they wouldn’t be playing. You can’t say that’s not country music, because apparently that’s a country station and it’s what they’re playing 24 hours a day. You don’t have to like it 24 hours a day, but you can’t say what it is or what isn’t.
So there you haven it…You can think that country music isn’t country music anymore. However…it actually is. I mean, if it’s being played and bought as country music, it’s country music. The definition has expanded and changed.
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