Oh boy. Where do we even begin? Keith Urban has been toeing the line between country and pop for years now, but he managed never to offend too strongly or ruffle too many feathers. Sure, a hardcore Waylon fan probably doesn't enjoy "Kiss A Girl", but they don't go out of their way to criticize him like they would Luke Bryan or Florida-Georgia Line. Perhaps it is his easy-going attitude, his encyclopedia-like knowledge of traditional country, or his commitment to the Country Music Hall Of Fame. Whatever it is, Keith has managed to find his niche in the country music world to little dissonance. Well, Keith better be prepared, because his new single is going to get some traditional fans hot and bothered. "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" is a jumbled, incoherent, ill-conceived mess of a song that isn't interesting, isn't smart, and isn't country.
I guess we will start with the lyrics and digress from there. Of course, there is no story at all to this laundry list of things that exist. Essentially, that is the point of this song: "Here is a list of things that exist, I like these things." ...Well, Congratulations. I think the song was meant to be some kind of nostalgic look back at things that make America great, but instead it is just a contrived and cliche list of vaguely American things sung by an Australian guy. It just seems odd to me that an Aussie was the best vessel to release a song about growing up in America. Of course, this song isn't really about growing up. The song says so. "Never grow up, never grow old" is right there in the chorus. Fun fact: Keith Urban is 47 years old. He is married, and a father. He overcame some tough battles with addiction to become a happy, successful adult. He grew up, AND grew old. What is with these old artists telling kids to never grow up? This "eternal party of life" mentality is exactly why we see so many college kids waste their parents money by drinking and sleeping around rather than get a real education. Growing up and growing old are two very important parts of life. Ignoring them is irresponsible and inconceivable. John Mellencamp wouldn't have promoted that (Yes, Mellencamp. That's his name. Cougar was a marketing gimmick that he couldn't stand. Seems to fit right in line with this song). John Mellencamp sang songs that told stories and highlighted the struggle of the middle class. There was very little sugar-coating in his music. It was American rock that told the real American story, not a Hollywood version of it. The keyword in that last sentence was rock. Once again, we have a country artist singing the praises of his rock influences. Why don't we glorify some country artists? I'm pretty sure we have an artist named John who told the American story unlike anyone in history (Cash. If you didn't get that, shame on you). Instead we get more pandering to the classic rock demographic that rock and roll has long forgotten as a genre. Shameful. Of course, I wouldn't want the great Johnny Cash's name soiled in a song of this poor quality, so it's a blessing in disguise I reckon. The other two Johns are completely irrelevant to the song, besides the title. John Deere? Keith, have you ever been within 200 feet of a John Deere? The John Deere riding mower that the Mexican guy you pay to do your yard work drives doesn't count. There are no further references to tractors, farming, or even corporate America (John Deere is the epitome of corporate America) in the song. Just a name drop. Because hey, those kids sure think tractors are cool these days, let's throw it in there! Oh, and a token Bible verse is in there too, with no clarity. Hey, nothing like fist pumping for John 3:16 while you are shotgunning your 15th $10 beer! This will be great in the live show! Good grief. I'm trying to confirm the rumors that there are a few sequels already planned. Look for "George Washington, George Bush, and George Jefferson" to hit radio soon, followed by "Sally Field, Sallie Mae, and Sally Ride".
Hey, all that jazz about this being a poorly written hack job of a song could be slightly redeemed if this song had some fiddle and steel to drive it home. No? Ok, fine, I get it, that isn't "cool" these days. How about a driving rock jam that embodies the spirit of John Mellencamp? It won't be country, but it will be cool. John Mellencamp is the hero of this song, and his sound is among the best in the business in rock and roll. No? Well, what's the worst possible idea? How about a Bee Gees inspired disco-country mix with a drum machine? If I was compiling a list of worst possible approaches to take, that would be somewhere between polka-metal and jazz-rap. Yes boys and girls, Keith Urban has fallen victim to the Saturday Night Fever Era of country music. Dust off your platform shoes and bell-bottoms, baby boomers, disco is back! Can you think of any genre of music that had a large heyday in the past that is forgotten in today's musical landscape? No, not country. Anything but that. Well, if you can, country music will exploit it in the name of "evolution" to make a buck. Country music, formally the soundtrack to the American experience with songs about real life and a simple sound, now regulated to be the 10-cent hooker of the music world. If you have the money, country music will cater to your every whim. Of all the terrible trends, this disco garbage rivals country-rap for the worst offence in country music history.
In case you couldn't tell, I don't like this song. Like always, I will wait until the full album is released to see if it sways me permanently on Keith Urban, but the debut single isn't looking good. Once again, songs like this are the reason why we must educate ourselves on what country music is and what it stands for, so we do not see the entire genre lost to a meaningless title. "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" is a poorly done tribute song, an average pop song, and an atrocious mess of a country song. Keith Urban, I'm disappointed in you. You know better than this.