Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Keith Urban, "I'm In"

These days, Music Row record companies seem far too apt to hand a record deal to any "aw shucks" pretty boy who can fake a Southern drawl. But Keith Urban was one guy who had me thoroughly impressed with his vocal talent from the first time I heard him. His talent has been rewarded with armloads of industry awards, platinum albums, and a string of number-one hits. He has already scored four substantial hit singles from his current album Defying Gravity. With a remake of the Radney Foster song "I'm In," Keith now attempts to score a fifth.

Keith is not the first artist to cover this song. Radney Foster's original version failed to chart, but the Kinleys cracked the Top 40 with their cover version in 2000. But I can't see what makes this song worth covering in the first place. The songwriting is slightly amateurish, especially for a respected artist like Radney Foster (No, I'm not related to him - at least I don't think I am). The lyrics contain annoying little gaffes such as stressing the wrong syllable in "contract" and then clumsily rhyming it with "that." (Love doesn't come with a con-tract/You give me this; I give you that) The song attempts to convey the feelings of one who has difficult expressing himself in words, but it's a chemical mixture that fails to ignite.

The song's shallow production sounds very much the same as just about every other song Keith has released - heavy on percussion and even heavier on wild electric guitar riffs. Keith is an accomplished guitar player, and he never passes up a chance to show off. But how ever did this kind of music end up on country radio? Is it because there's a banjo thrown in? This does not come close to the instrumental richness that the best country songs possess. I know that Keith is an artist who is trying to express himself, but when I tune in to a country music station, I want to hear country music. This is not it.

Keith's vocal performance is the main thing that saves this song from being a total washout. He sings in a way that is energetic and infectious, following the pattern set by Radney Foster as well as the Kinleys. His strong vocals offer a glimmer of hope for an otherwise tepid track.

Keith's take on "I'm In" will satisfy some of his fans, and it will likely perform well on radio, but it seems that was all Keith was aiming for, when he is capable of so much more. If he was trying to create something genuinely interesting and truly memorable, then this song would be a dismal failure. Sorry, Keith, but I'm out.
(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)