Over the last 20 years, New Zealand-born Keith Urban has evolved from a prodigious upstart sensation in Australia to an A-list performer and celebrity heartthrob in the United States. Not to be lost in all the glitz and hoopla, however, is the fact that he remains, first-and-foremost, a very talented musician and a captivating performer. Here are my picks for the 10 best songs in Keith Urban’s catalog.
10. “Tonight I Wanna Cry” (from ‘Be Here’)
Equally brilliant with up-tempo rockers as he is with tender love songs, “Tonight I Wanna Cry” is heartbreak on display by Urban. Accompanied only by piano and a few light strings in the background, Urban’s tears can be heard in the very first verse: “Alone in this house again tonight/I got the TV on, the sound turned down and a bottle of wine/There’s pictures of you and I on the walls around me/...I’ll never get over you walkin’ away.” Pure devastation.
9. “Raining on Sunday” (from ‘Golden Road’)
Originally recorded by the song’s co-writer, Radney Foster, for his 1998 album, See What You Want to See, Urban’s version of “Raining on Sunday” starts off with a haunting single chord from a keyboard. His wonderful vocals are the star of this beautiful ballad about the joys of doing nothing on a rainy Sunday except spending a little quiet time with the one you love.
8. “You Look Good in My Shirt” (from ‘Golden Road’)
Originally slated to be the fifth single from Urban’s 2002 triple-platinum Golden Road album, the suits at Capitol Nashville decided to bump “You Look Good in My Shirt” in favor of “Days Go By,” the debut single for Urban’s fourth CD, 2004’s Be Here. After unsolicited airplay pushed “You Look Good in My Shirt” to No. 60 on the charts, Urban decided to re-recorded it for the re-issue of his Greatest Hits: 18 Kids album (re-titled Greatest Hits: 19 Kids). Good choice as the song shot to the top of the charts.
7. “Who Wouldn’t’ Wanna Be Me” (from ‘Golden Road’)
Urban’s star was already on the rise when he released “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” in July of 2003. At the time, he was the opening act for Brooks and Dunn's North American tour, and that exposure, plus the carefree attitude expressed in this rockin' song, ensured that Urban’s days as an opening act were numbered. “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” became his third No. 1 single.
6. “Making Memories of Us” (from ‘Be Here’)
The third single and second No. 1 hit from Urban’s quadruple-platinum 2004 album, Be Here, “Making Memories of Us” hearkens back to something Stephen Bishop might have put out thirty years ago. With acoustic guitar and soft keyboards creating the atmosphere, Urban’s emotive and very believable vocals take center stage. “Making Memories of Us” spent five weeks atop the country charts.
5. “Sweet Thing” (from ‘Defying Gravity’)
Opting for an up-tempo debut single for his 2008 album, Defying Gravity, “Sweet Thing” kicks off with Urban’s trademark staccato guitar picking, and he showcases his prowess on the six-string from beginning to end. Urban said that “Sweet Thing,” his tenth No. 1 country hit, was inspired by his love for his Ford Mustang. There isn’t much country in this snappy pop-country confection, but country fans ate it up just the same.
4. “Kiss a Girl” (from ‘Defying Gravity’)
Urban co-wrote “Kiss a Girl,” his most successful crossover hit, with long-time collaborator, Monty Powell. In addition to Urban, Powell has written or co-written No. 1 hits for Brooks and Dunn, Billy Ray Cyrus, Diamond Rio and Tim McGraw. Debuting at No. 29 on the country charts, “Kiss a Girl” peaked at No. 16 on Billboard’s Hot 100, becoming Urban’s only Top 20 pop hit to date.
3. “Somebody Like You” (from ‘Golden Road’)
The first of three No. 1 singles Urban would have from his 2002 triple-platinum album, Golden Road, “Somebody Like You” stayed at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Songs chart for six weeks. Co-written by Urban and pop/rock songwriter, John Shanks, Billboard named it the No. 1 country song of the 2000s.
2. “Days Go By” (from ‘Be Here’)
Released in June 2004, “Days Go By” spent four weeks atop Billboard’s Country Songs chart and was the first of five singles from Urban’s Be Here album to reach either No. 1 or No. 2. Co-written by Monty Powell, “Days Go By” is Urban’s fifth No. 1 single. The video for “Days Go By” took home CMT’s Best Video trophy in 2005.
1. “You’ll Think of Me” (from ‘Golden Road’)
Co-written by Darrell Brown, Ty Lacy and the Dennis Matkosky, Keith Urban’s restrained and heartbreaking vocals on “You’ll Think of Me” earned him a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. It’s common at Keith Urban shows for virtually every song to be sung back to him by the audience. No song elicits a louder and more enthusiastic response than “You’ll Think of Me.”