Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2006, Volume 13, #12
Written by John Metzger
Since issuing his self-titled debut, Keith Urban has rocketed to stardom. Considering the mammoth number of albums he has sold as well as the array of music industry rewards that he has reaped, he would be foolish to try to alter his style at this stage of the game. Sure enough, his latest effort Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing falls directly in line with his past efforts. The funny thing about Urbanís phenomenal rise is that he has accomplished these feats by staking a claim to the country charts, even though his songs bear mere hints of Nashville-derived twang. If anything, he has used Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing to move even further afield from tradition. Given the crisp, propulsive flair that drummer Chris McHugh provides to the set, itís clear that Urban has embraced his pop-rock approach fully and completely.
In and of itself, this isnít necessarily a bad thing. Urban long has had grander aspirations, and scattered throughout Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing are hints that he just might succeed in pulling them off. Once in a Lifetime, for example, bears more of a resemblance to U2 than it does to Hank Williams; Faster Carís hook-heavy melody owes a debt, at least in part, to The Beatles; and in covering Elton Johnís Country Comfort on his 2004 outing Be Here, Urban laid the groundwork for the Paul Buckmaster-inspired string arrangements that adorn Shine and I Canít Stop Loving You. Elsewhereís heís joined by Ronnie Dunn on the rousing post-Katrina rocker Raise the Barn, while Tu CompaŮŪa is reminiscent of the soulful folk-pop of Kenny Loggins.
Nevertheless, Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing suffers from one very big problem: Urbanís execution. On the one hand, heís willing to take a few risks by using a choir to introduce God Made Woman and adding an R&B- inflected horn section to Faster Car. Similarly, his guitar accompaniments typically elevate the material by alternately adding to the urgency of Shine and winding tastefully through cuts like I Told You So and Stupid Boy. On the other hand, he has a tendency of bending his songs until they resemble nothing more than arena-ready fodder ó so much so that the tunes nearly collapse under the weight his formulaic approach.
In a sense, Urbanís affable superstar persona ultimately weighs him down and keeps him from achieving any sort of artistic merit. Consequently, Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing is nothing more than a pleasant diversion. Its contents are plain and innocuous instead of bold and exciting. It will win awards, but it won't move him forward.
50th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Male Country Vocal Performance
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box