If Keith Urban pushed the boundaries of country music with his 2013 album Fuse, the country superstar broke straight through them like the Kool-Aid Man with 2016’s Ripcord. Urban’s ninth solo studio album, the record was released seven years ago today, on May 6, 2016.
Both Ripcord‘s lead single, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” and its second release, “Break on Me,” are relatively traditional, relying on producers Dann Huff and Nathan Chapman, respectively. However, the project begins with the twangy, but trippy “Gone Tomorrow (Here Today),” a song inspired by the 2015 death of Urban’s father Robert.
In fact, the elder Urban was a drummer, and, the country star shared at the time, “His very strong rhythmic influence on me as a kid has been more and more apparent to me.” Another of Ripcord‘s singles, “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” meanwhile, is “a very stark minimalistic way of recording,” influenced by work from country artist Don Williams, one of Keith Urban’s father’s favorite artists.
The uptempo, dance-ready “The Fighter” — a collaboration with Carrie Underwood — was a hit for Urban and his fellow country artist, but Ripcord also includes two more, far more unexpected guests: Rapper Pitbull appears on a song called “Sun Don’t Let Me Down,” which he and Urban co-wrote with producer Busbee and (surprise!) Chic leader Nile Rogers. Rogers added guitar to the track, and co-produced it with Busbee.
“He brings a mischievous, sexy swagger to it, in a very different way,” Urban says of Pitbull’s work, also noting that the song was inspired by a scene in To Die For, a movie starring Urban’s wife, actor Nicole Kidman.
Around the time of Ripcord‘s release, Urban explained that while he created a diverse, genre-expanding body of work, he wasn’t exactly trying to make a statement in that way. ”I couldn’t think in those terms. I just have to make music, and just create. Make music that is very fluid and reactionary to how I’m feeling and what I’m motivated by at any given time,” Urban shared.
“This record probably more than any other record was very much that, where I certainly wasn’t second-guessing anything, and I was much more willing to just try any idea that came to my head, as crazy as it might be,” he added. “You can always pull back, but I just wanted to go where the idea and the muse, where the energies wanted to go. If they wanted to go in a certain direction, I was going to go there.”
The middle three singles from Ripcord – ”Break on Me,” “Wasted Time” and “Blue Ain’t Your Color” — all went to No. 1 on the Billboard country radio chart. “John Cougar” and “The Fighter,” the first and final singles, meanwhile, just missed the top of the chart and peaked at No. 2.
Upon its debut, Ripcord went to No. 1 on the country albums charts in the United States and Australia. About one year later, in April of 2017, it was certified platinum in the U.S. by the RIAA.
Ripcord also earned a number of awards nominations: Album of the Year at both the ACM and CMA Awards, Best Country Album at the Grammy Awards and Top Country Album at the Billboard Music Awards.
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