On "Defying Gravity" (Capitol), Keith Urban sounds like a man at peace, a man who has stifled both the personal demons that led him into rehab in 2006 and the industry carping about whether the Aussie singer-songwriter can be "country enough."
For the first time in his six albums, Urban doesn't seem to care what anyone else thinks. His new single, "Kiss a Girl," is as poppy as he gets, a lighthearted spin on the Southern rock of the late '70s from .38 Special or Steve Forbert. "Sweet Thing," which has already topped the country charts, is a rocker in the verses before the country twang kicks in for the chorus.
He tries out a new brand of moodiness for the longing ballad "Til Summer Comes Around," while hanging out with Kenny Chesney has led to a bit of his island vibe on "Why It Feels So Long." Urban also throws in the kind of impressive rock guitar solo on "My Heart Is Open" that is becoming one of his trademarks.
But the real change on "Defying Gravity" is in the lyrics. No ballads about regret this time. Instead, he's focused on living in the moment and enjoying it. The sweet "Standing Right in Front of You" could easily be his next pop crossover, while "Thank You" is a graceful ballad expressing gratitude for all the support he has received.
It's well placed, since that support has given Urban the confidence to defy all sorts of expectations and has led him to even broader success.
KEITH URBAN "Defying Gravity"
THE GRADE B
BOTTOM LINE Upbeat, hopeful country-pop
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