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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.