You can look at Keith Urban's music videos as a romantic series in which he falls more and more in love with his guitars. Sure, he likes the girls, the motorcycles and the convertibles with which he routinely co-stars. But for sheer euphoria, watch his face as he strikes a shower of showy notes. There you will see transcendence.
Of Urban's more than 20 videos, here are 10 of the best:
"But for the Grace of God" (2000) -- As the pensive singer leaves his home to walk through the night to a recording studio, he spies people along the way who are coping with various distresses that he counts himself blessed to have eluded. His walk and his facial expressions are almost as eloquent as his guitar.
"Where the Blacktop Ends" (2001) -- Say hello to Good Time Keith. The work day is over, so he strides into the parking garage, hops into his convertible and races out into the country to meet his compadres for some party-grade jammin'. There's a cool moment where Urban (clad in a long leather coat) and his pals walk in a slow motion line toward the camera like imaginary gunslingers headed for the OK Corral.
"Raining on Sunday" (2002) -- It's raining, and it's your day off. So what's a guy to do for fun? If there's a compliant damsel in your bed, as there is here, Urban offers some suggestions.
"Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me" (2003) -- Ah, men with toys! Urban opens the trailer behind his bus, rolls out his motorcycle and hits the road. Meanwhile, the band sets up for a concert. Then there's the adoring, roaring crowd as Urban rocks out. Who wouldn't want to be him? Really.
"You'll Think of Me" (2004) -- Disconsolate, his head in his hands, Urban sits in a dark, starkly furnished room and grieves for the woman who's left him. Next come the brightly colored flashbacks in which the two are still madly in love, she learning to play the guitar, later both of them dressing in formal clothes for a night out and he playfully tumbling her back onto the bed. Predictable as it is, this video is remarkably moving, made all the more so by Urban's downcast mannerisms.
"Making Memories of Us" (2005) -- Love inspires Urban's fingers as he sits on his bed, picking an acoustic guitar and smiling as he writes down the song's lyrics. Straightforward and warm.
"Once in a Lifetime" (2006) -- As couples drift through an elegant art gallery, black-and-white pictures of Urban come to life. From time to time, we are pulled through the picture frame to see him and his band performing at waterside with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. There's only a tenuous connection between the video and the song's lyrics, but the concept that life and art are one is well executed.
"I Told You So" (2007) -- This is probably the most intoxicating song Urban has yet set to video. The martial sounds of the drums and the urgent keening of the fiddle roll in like waves. The visuals are almost as engaging, with Urban and his band performing on a wild, parched landscape. What the lone tree on the hill and the white horse symbolize, if anything, will have to be solved by defter minds than this one.
"Start a Band" (2008) -- This duet with Brad Paisley is in the same joyous vein as "Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me." It begins with the two musical buddies sitting side-by-side on musical equipment cases, each trying to impress the other with the simplest of licks, and ends with them bopping around the stage and flaunting some seriously searing fret gymnastics. What woman could possibly compete with a great guitar?
"Kiss a Girl" (2009) -- Beginning with the opening segment, in which the outline of a heart turns into a bird that wings away, we know we're in strange territory. In the stylized graphic narrative, a cartoonized couple does its mating dance both in person and via text messages, flitting like amorous birds from art gallery to park bench to amusement park. Fortunately, there are cutaways to Urban and his band standing on a rooftop, pounding the strings, pumping up the volume and looking as happy as schoolboys at recess. Love comes and goes, but a guitar you can always pawn.