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Pop - Released September 18, 2020 | Keith Urban LP11

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Keith Urban takes the title of the first song, "Out the Cage," on his 11th album literally—a plea for breaking free from oppression and boredom, it's also a silky disco track that expands the country singer's horizons by roping in Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers and rapper Breland. Urban has said that around a third of The Speed of Now Part I was written and recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, and it seems to have emboldened him to throw a few curveballs. He also surprises with trap beats on "Forever" and "Say Something." "Tumbleweed" serves up '70s country-rock sass that suits Urban well. And the finger-snapping, Jason Mraz-esque "One Too Many" is an irresistible duet with Pink that makes a solid case for the pop singer to record a country record herself. But for the most part, the album is Urban doing what's made him a star: mid-tempo numbers, and the occasional ballad, about chasing love, memories and a better life. His voice cracks in all the right places on "Live With," an inspirational ode to dreaming big ("I'd rather live a life I can learn with, swerve with, twist and turn with, take a 90-mile-an-hour curve with"). The metaphor of fast curves is a theme, in fact, popping up again on the catchy "Superman," along with blazing guitar and a healthy dose of rose-colored hindsight: "We were Johnny and June in a ring of fire." The last quarter of the album really shines. "God Whispered Your Name" gives FM-radio soft rock a good name, with its moody organ, lush chorus and appealingly cheesy lyrics ("When God whispered your name, that's when everything changed, love came out of the rain, talk about being saved"). The bubbly "Polaroid" feels as effervescent as a Miller High Life, while piano ballad "Better Than I Am" is a swooning thing of torchy beauty. And early single "We Were" presents an odd-couple pairing that works incredibly well. Written by modern outlaw Eric Church, it delves into the Americana nostalgia he loves: leather jackets and Harleys, feet hanging out over the edge of a water tower, lighter in the air for "Pour Some Sugar on Me." When the two singers trade verses— Urban's sweet slickness up against Church's bad-boy scruff—it's kind of magic. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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Pop - Released September 18, 2020 | Keith Urban LP11

As a title, The Speed of Now, Vol. 1 suggests Keith Urban is thoroughly inhabiting the present moment -- a tricky task at any time but one that was particularly fraught in September 2020, when the world was still in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with some unexpected downtime, Urban polished off his sequel to 2018's Graffiti U, completing about a third of the record after the world went into lockdown. Unlike, say, Taylor Swift's folklore, The Speed of Now, Vol. 1 (as of its release, no second volume was planned; shades of Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1), does not feel contemplative or introspective. Even at its slowest moments, it's a bright, cheerful affair, one anchored with lite R&B rhythms and bearing a sunny disposition. All this means that The Speed of Now rarely feels like a country album, at least in the conventional sense. Some of the themes and some of the melodies carry a distinctly country imprint and when Eric Church stops by to sing a couple of verses on "We Were" (added as a bonus track here, directly following Urban's solo version), he sounds welcome but when P!nk duets on "One Too Many," she sounds at home. Urban feels very comfortable navigating the territory that separates pop, country, and soul, happy to emphasize the softer side of each. He winds up with a modern sound -- it's a busy digital production, filled with skittering drum tracks and thick overdubs -- but The Speed of Now, Vol. 1 almost feels old-fashioned in how it turns 2010s sounds into adult contemporary. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released July 17, 2020 | Keith Urban LP11

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Pop - Released July 17, 2020 | Keith Urban LP11

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Country - Released February 27, 2020 | Keith Urban LP11

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Keith Urban LP11 in the magazine