There’s usually a thematic thread running through the lyrics of country artists’ hits. Some are fairly obvious in songs about the country life, patriotism and getting rowdy and/or hanging out with friends at the beach, the bar or elsewhere.
Ever since charting his first solo single, “It’s a Love Thing,” in 1999, Keith Urban has taken a more subtle approach, building his career largely on songs of optimism, personal freedom and a mostly idealistic view of love and romantic relationships. Although his catalog of work is now too extensive to easily narrow down to 10 of his best songs, CMT.com staff members Craig Shelburne, Christopher Parton, Stephanie Pendergrass and Calvin Gilbert recently chose some of their favorite Urban hits.
“Better Life” — There’s probably a fine line between optimism and naïveté, yet it’s hard to resist the idea that a better life is a certainty. That very concept has kept the American dream alive and well for more than two centuries. When Urban sings the lyrics he wrote with pop tunesmith Richard Marx, he conveys an absolute belief that he and his mate are destined for a charmed future. — CG
“But for the Grace of God” — Many years ago I read this nugget of wisdom in a financial-planning book: Don’t wish you were living someone else’s life because you never know how people pay for all their stuff. The lyric about the guy who “wanders through his empty home surrounded by his things” always reminds me of that advice — and to be grateful for all the friendships and blessings I’ve been lucky to receive. — CS
“Days Go By” — Who needs caffeine when you’ve got the restless pulse of this song? High-octane is a description that’s often out of place, but speed is everywhere in “Days Go By,” from the cars to the guitars to the world itself. And Urban’s mood is simply infectious. “Better start livin’ right now!” — CP
“I Told You So” — Keith Urban knows best. He realizes that through the good and bad, he and his significant other are meant to be. All the while, she’s questioning their budding romance. And although he promises throughout the song if she returns he won’t state the obvious, he coyly sings, “But I told you so,” at the end. You can’t blame him though. Who doesn’t enjoy reveling in being right every now and then? The only problem I can find with this song is the fact that I’m 99.9 percent sure no one would ever actually question being in a relationship with Keith Urban. — SP
“Making Memories of Us” — I think of these lyrics as a guidebook for budding romance. Along with stating the obvious — “I’m gonna love you like nobody’s loved you” — he focuses on trust, family relationships, paying attention and, yes, an eternity of warm, wet kisses. Plus, it’s a gentle reminder for couples to brave the world together to make those memories in the first place. Kudos to Rodney Crowell, who wrote it for his wife. — CS
“Raining on Sunday” — I love the imagery of a day in bed with rain beating down on the roof. For mature relationships, this is steamy romance taken to near-historic levels. When the timing is just right, play this song. You might just get to lay around all weekend. — CP
“Somebody Like You” — One of life’s truths is that it’s usually easier to forgive others than it is to forgive yourself. Written by Urban and frequent collaborator John Shanks, the first lines celebrate a personal transformation while acknowledging, “I’ve forgiven myself for the mistakes I’ve made.” After being adrift, that confession is rewarded by the arrival of all the good things that really matter. — CG
“Stupid Boy” — Uh oh, this guy really screwed up. Well, good riddance! I’ve met many young women who were “everything beautiful and different” but fell for discouraging, stupid boys. I think those mismatches are most common in the early years of dating (like in high school and college), but this song’s message of inner strength will resonate with anyone who’s been through this situation, no matter how old they are now. — CS
“’Til Summer Comes Around” — Ever notice how a broken heart never seems to mend in the winter? Warmer weather often brings with it an optimistic sense of brighter days ahead. Keith Urban can relate in this tune about lost love and being haunted by the past: “’Baby, I’ll be back again,’ you whispered in my ear/But now the winter wind is the only sound/And everything is closin’ down/’Til summer comes around.” While he realizes his lost love will likely never return, the promise of summer keeps him hanging on. Add in Urban’s lonely guitar riffs — and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect heartbreaker. — SP
“You’ll Think of Me” — This one always helps me walk a little taller when I’m feeling down. It’s a heartbreaker that actually turns out pretty sunny. And one that gets there without being obvious about it in the beginning. Plus, it’s hard not to smile while singing that “take your cat” line. — CP