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I am not Keith Urban’s biggest fan by any means, but I don’t
think I’m alone in noticing the significant difference in his new material.
More pop-orientated than his previous records, ‘We Were Us’ is perhaps one of
the stronger lyrical efforts on an album that overall lacks substance. That
doesn’t mean that it’s worthy of a big thumbs up from me, however.
The song begins with a really nice banjo melody that upon
first listening holds promise for what’s to come. Miranda also has the first
verse all to herself, which is rare for an artist who is the featured one,
although this delight is muted by the fact they have edited her voice to a
robotic pulp. This leads me to my overriding issue with the entire track, and
that is the production. The chorus is completely over-done, with instruments
going full-pelt, a stupid pop drum beat and “too much atmosphere” (yes, there
is such a thing). It’s followed by a few vocal hooks from Keith, shrouded in
reverb and effects, before his own verse.
The problem with this song is that while it is catchy, and
the melody is nice, it could have sounded a whole lot better simply if they had
left it stripped back. It could have been so much more emotionally effective,
and also wouldn’t have sounded like some annoying pop song. In fact, the lyrics
tell a story of a much-missed past relationship, and despite the short, blunt
lines inviting laundry list clichés of hot summer days etc, it mostly offers
something a little more refreshing than the same old.
Of course, this is fundamentally a pop song. Don’t be fooled
by the banjo or the fact Miranda is featured here with her Texas accent and
country credentials. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s country just because
Keith’s team have labelled it as so. No, unfortunately what could have been a
great country song has become a boring pop song, a short one at that with
little imagination in the musicality and little to remember it by. The
production is poor and the best part of it is the first 30 seconds before the
chorus kicks in. It’s over in a flash and it doesn’t leave you wanting more,
especially after Miranda’s conventional pop warbling on the outro leaves you
feeling strangely ripped of your musical identity, especially if you’re a big
Miranda fan like me.
This song shouldn’t have happened in this way, and while it’ll
probably do well on Billboard because of the importance of pop format radio in
their methodology, this is certainly not a track where either artist is at their
best, by a long shot. Shame.