When Keith Urban joined the cast of American Idol, I was worried. The Voice took Blake Shelton from a guy standing up for true country to a fame obsessed sell-out. Keith already leaned towards the fringe of country, but he still appealed to me because of his amazing guitar skills and dedication to honoring country music history by reaching out to work with traditionalists outside of the mainstream and donating time and money to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Keith has always walked the line of country, pop, and rock very closely, sometimes falling one way or the other. Fuse is still on that line, but with maybe a few more steps away from country.
Keith Urban has never had a problem writing catchy, fun songs. He has a knack for ear friendly progressions that are easy to sing along to. This is evident on Fuse, just like all of his other albums. "Red Camaro", " Love's Poster Child", "Gonna B Good", "and "Little Bit of Everything" are all your standard Keith Urban summer jams with loud guitars and lots of banjos. This is Keith's bread and butter. He always gets the job done on these songs, out-playing nearly everyone in Nashville, but never really making you feel anything substantial. There's nothing wrong with a fun catchy song, however. Keith makes a lot of money on them. I can see any of these being big radio hits, as "Little Bit of Everything" already has, but nothing that's gonna make a lasting impression. Inoffensive, but not great either. Keith's last few albums weren't appealing to me because he seemed to lean too heavy on this type of song. These kind of songs can be ok in doses, and he does a better job of that here. Thankfully, Fuse has a little more to offer.
The American Idol pop factor certainly does affect Fuse. The opening two songs are catchy and well performed, but are pure pop fluff. "Somewhere In My Car" will probably be a radio smash and has huge sing along potential, but it lacks anything really to classify it as a country song. The second track, "Even The Stars Fall 4 U" is the worst song on the album. It is a plain and simple generic pop ditty. At least he is honest with it though. You don't put 4 U in a song title for something you are marketing to anyone with taste. This is a song for the 12-15 year old girl pop fans who thought he was cute on American Idol. Nothing more and nothing less. "Gonna B Good" falls right in line with the teenage girl demographic, but with a little more of a country sound. Not all of the pop endeavors are bad, however. "Heart Like Mine" sounds like something the band Fun. would perform, and that's a good thing. Fun. has put out some of the best pop music in the past few years, and "Heart Like Mine" would be a welcome addition to pop radio playlists that lack substance. I love country music first and foremost, but can appreciate a good pop song. If this is marketed as a country song, I wouldn't necessarily approve, but much like Taylor Swift's "Red", this is an excellent pop song.
Keith Urban really knows how to write a heartfelt mid-tempo song. That is my favorite trait of his. "Come Back To Me" is a little heavy on production, but has a lot of emotion and pain. "Cop Car" is one of my favorites on the album, featuring lyrics that the teen crowd can relate to, but actual storytelling and feeling that an older listener can appreciate. (Full "Cop Car" single review here) The highlights of the album are the two duets. "We Were Us" with Miranda Lambert is likely the second single off the album and is a catchy, fun song full of regret and a lot of banjo. That is what mainstream pop country radio should sound like. Miranda sounds great, as usual. "Raise 'Em Up" with Eric Church looks like a typical drinking song, but don't judge this one by its cover. It has really clever lyrics and Eric and Keith trade vocals and sound great together. Eric is on a roll where everything he touches turns to gold, so Keith was smart to ride that train. I can't see him releasing two duets as singles off the same album, but in this case he should make an exception.
As I mentioned, Keith Urban does a lot for country music. He has done work with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Rhonda Vincent, Don Williams, and many other artists off the mainstream path. His All For The Hall benefit concerts every year in Nashville raise money for the Country Music Hall of Fame, so that country music history can be preserved for generations to come. Sometimes, Keith makes a lot of poppy music I don't like. But, he has always been honest about who he is. He doesn't claim to be a traditionalist, and he has genuine love for country music history. There is a place for pop country too, and Keith Urban is one of the best at it. Fuse isn't a perfect album, it certainly strays off the country path quite a bit. If you enjoy good pop and rock music mixed with some country, you will love this album. If you are a staunch traditionalist, you will hate all but a few tracks. If you are like me and float somewhere in the middle, Fuse is a pretty decent album.
Standout Tracks: "Cop Car" "We Were Us (feat. Miranda Lambert)", "Raise 'Em Up (feat. Eric Church)", " Heart Like Mine"
"Little Bit Of Everything" music video