Monday, November 26, 2007

A Review of the Greatest Hits

Slant Magazine
(3 & 1/2 stars out of 5)
Keith Urban
Greatest Hits
by Jonathan Keefe
Posted: November 24, 2007

As his first Greatest Hits anthology makes abundantly clear, there hasn't been a more consistent—both in terms of quality and actual radio hits—singles artist in mainstream country music over the last decade than Keith Urban. The 15 singles included here represent an uninterrupted string of Top 5 hits, including seven #1's, and what elevates Urban's output far above other radio favorites like Rascal Flatts and Kenny Chesney is the quality of his material and the fact that he's actually talented.

Combining massive hooks with Urban's expressive voice and first-rate guitar work, singles like "Somebody Like You" and "Days Go By" are some of the rare examples of pop-country that aren't complete embarrassments either as "pop" or "country." Even when he skews more than a bit emo on ballads like "You'll Think of Me" and "Making Memories of Us," Urban is a strong enough singer to keep the performances from being cloying.

But Greatest Hits isn't without a few significant problems. Using the radio edits of 12 of the 18 singles may have allowed for the inclusion of a few extra songs, but those edits trim many of the standout bridges and outros that highlight one of Urban's biggest selling points: his guitar playing. It makes it a bit disingenuous that he's shown holding a guitar in almost every photo in the album's packaging. A more significant problem, though, is the way that the album's two new singles, "Romeo's Tune" and "Got It Right This Time (The Celebration)," follow in a trend started on his bloated, overblown Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing. That album displayed a tendency for schmaltzy overproduction in place of the slick pop hooks of his earlier cuts.

The bombast has taken a definite toll on both Urban—his performance of "Everybody" on the recent CMA telecast was ragged, and his voice shreds on the coda of "Got It Right This Time"—and the formerly consistent quality of his output. On the new songs, Urban sounds like he's threatening to bust out his best impressions of early-'90s hits by Richard Marx and Phil Collins. And if that's the direction Urban is heading, this Greatest Hits package might be all the more valuable as a document of how good he really was before it all went south.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What harm could possibly be done?

Mark January 15, 2008 on your calendars. Why? Because that is the day that Andrew Morton's book on Nicole's one true love will be published. Why would that cause any worry? Nicole is over and done with him. We are hearing all about her great new marriage. How she is so in love with the hired hand and what a great mother she is. How can anyone believe she would be upset about the potential fall-out from this book?

Make no mistake about the recent upheaval of “Nicole in love” stories. The appearances, magazine articles, the sly comments, Nicole has been working her bony butt off trying to manipulate the media and public about this very subject. It quit being about the stability of her current marriage but now it is about the failures in her past marriage.

Poor Nicole, so young when she met her one true love at only 23. He was married and gorgeous; of course his marriage was strained. But they were on a film set and he took a look at her with her red hair and china doll looks and he was swept away. Nicole was equally taken with him. By December of that year they were married and for the next ten years it was bliss.

We all know the story and I don't want to spoil the book but we know thatjust before their tenth anniversary her one true love left her with the phrase, "Nic knows." She hasn't recovered since. She tried with boyfriends in various careers. She even manipulated and controlled the courtship and marriage of her current public relationship but ... what is most interesting is that she still talks about her love for her former husband. Does she want him back? Does he hold something she wants?

It was safe with him. He could manipulate the media. He helped her find roles to play. He bought her clothes and jewels and two children when pregnancy wasn't going to be a choice. They moved all over the world and went to the best parties. It was a wonderful life.

But, listening to Kidman these days, it wasn't. She suffered to get the children she has, they never stayed in one place. She had pressure from people around her who felt she couldn't be the actress she should be because of him. Today she is happy. So in love with an extraordinary man who, damn his own gifts and talent, is more than willing to drop his proverbial pants and tell the world this is hers. Her children have been spotted with her and when they aren't available her sister’s brood will suffice. She is finally getting acclaim for a role where she plays a manipulative shrew. She talks about how she is at a place she loves and yet, she could be the key to telling tales. She could be the one to confirm or deny what will be published. Make no mistake that will never happen. So keep up the “life is great” stories and don't doubt that we will hear more. Kidman is using the tools she learned from the master, only they may not work this time.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Urban Myths Take on a Kidman Interview

You know this is a fun interview, not a meaning-of-life interview.
I didn't. Good warning.

What the hell are you doing interviewing this woman if you want a fun interview?

There's a scene in "Margot at the Wedding" where you climb a really big tree. Were you scared?
I just loved being up the tree, which I think is probably a metaphor for me because if I can sit up in the clouds I like to stay up there.

OK is it just me, or does this make absolutely no sense? If only the crazy woman had fallen and ended this disaster.

Do you forget your keys?
Wallets, keys, bags, coats. I tend to be a little daydreamy. I'm not a good driver.

Too bad she doesn't drive more....and really fast on twisting winding herself, mind you.

Do your friends get annoyed when you daydream?
I don't think so. [Pause] I'm terrible for this kind of interview. Vince Vaughn would be funnier, right?

She paused because she couldn't think of any "friends" she may have.

You're doing fine. Try this: what's your husband's best physical feature?
Um, his heart.

OK..that confirms her total idiocy if the only thing she can come up with is his heart. Hell...that's not a part that really even entered my mind.

I think it's his hair.
He has a lot of hair.

That's really digging deep, Nicole.

Who takes longer to do their hair in the morning?
Neither, because we both just have bed hair. I'm very quick. I can get ready in five minutes.

Funny...I think this is the first time I've believed her ... she isn't lying. She has bed head all the time.

Come on. Really?
Yeah, and I'm 20 minutes in the hair and makeup chair. They call me the quickest actress in the business.

I'm sure this is true because she is so natural. Right. Her hair is a complete shambles...and there's not a lot that can be done with plastic skin and lips that are swollen and disfigured. It has to cost a lot in lip color though...and they must have to spend some time covering up the botox injection sites.

You used to be guarded about your personal life, but recently you've opened up more.
Not really. I think it's just the way it's been interpreted. Basically I'm exactly the same. I have a pretty private life. I don't go to the big parties. I have my work and my life and I keep them separate.

What a liar. Yes...she is very private, to the point that we know her obstetrical / gynecological history. We also continue to hear about her marriage and divorce of 6 years ago and her engagement to a man other than her husband...and she never attends parties or premieres. What a private simple down to earth girl she is. Wow!

People seem to relate to you a lot more after your divorce.
I suppose we all want to know we're not alone in the dark places. Name something and I've pretty much been through it, and you just have to put one foot in front of the other and at times you think you're not going to be able to do that, and then somehow you keep walking forward. get the violin out for her. She's in her element looking for sympathy. What has she been through? She lost a baby and that's sad, but it happens to many, many women every day. She got 50% of marriages end in divorce. What is so terrible about NK's life? She has more $$ than she knows what to do with...two kids who she should have been a mother to...a successful career...but she loves to garner sympathy by trying to portray herself as the eternal victim. I don't understand why people don't see through her.

Are you, like, the queen of Australia?
No, Cate Blanchett is. I'll be the lady in waiting.

Well...this IS an admission...possibly the second accurate thing the woman said in this interview.

Celebrity death match—you or Cate?
I'd vote for Cate. She's amazing.

I'd pay to see this. And Cate would take her hands down. I would love to see Keith there to cheer Cate on too.

This was an actual interview... we just added the commentary.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Oh that Keithy!!!!

I hate him. I love him. I can't stand him. I want him. I hope he suffers. I hope he doesn't get hurt. I won't buy his CD. I will download the new song. I won't go see him. I will still see him. Is he in love? Is it a contract? Did he lie all along? Did he take advantage of us? Is he really the man I thought he was?

If you are a skeptic, Keith Urban is either the biggest bastard you have ever encountered or a sad insecure shadow of the man he used to be, or something in the middle. He has been all of that for this writer. I have been around for a while. I figured out a long time before Nicole Kidman entered the picture that Keith Urban was not a barefoot lovelorn poet. He wasn't my savior. He was a human being. A talented, good looking man granted, but he was also his own person. He made a conscious choice to seduce the minivan mom. He and his people learned what sold country music and who was buying it. Thus, that guitar guy became sex on legs and frankly this early mid-life woman found that appealing. How many of you thought of Keith as your free pass? And he played it. Win the loyal bunnies and prove later that you are credible musician. Was it easy for him?

Did he sell his soul or just a package? Was it such a chore for him to meet all those women who had these fantasies about him? Some say it was. Some say he was told how he would be portrayed and he went along with it. Others say he liked his fans and that meeting all these women made a very insecure man more secure.

Keith played his game as an expert. The girlfriends were kept in the shadows. They attended the award shows and lived with him in Nashville and on the road. The man had a private life. Yet, he continued to meet the fans on his own. The shy and very talented man was giving something back to a large number of people. This worked for both Keith and the fans. More and more he got noticed. His fans got him noticed. He didn't have to pay anyone to promote him, he already paid for it.

Around 2004, the fans started to splinter. It wasn't because Keith was doing anything differently, but as he became more successful and the desire to gain more fans took over the cracks in the carefully constructed persona. Around this time was when Camp Urban started compiling the infamous list of the unbalanced. The internet and the rise of message boards also helped build this intense frenzy that was Keith Urban. As more diverse people became fans doubts as to if Keith was really real started to emerge. If you didn't believe the spin 100% you weren't a "real" fan. People were questioned about their loyalty. Loyalty to what? A group created persona?

With the emergence of the scam known as the sideshow the skeptics broke off. Most skeptics were labeled as such and were banned from the public message boards. Why the fear in someone’s opinion? Because it blew apart the whole myth that is Keith Urban. If he can be seen with this actress person then what else had he done to be famous? And that is where we are today.

I am as responsible for his greatest hits CD as any other Keith Urban fan. I also know that I was part of a plan that was put in place in some office in LA or New York or Nashville in 1999. What getting involved with the actress did was make all of us wonder who this guy was. Many were pissed because he wasn't who we believed him to be. The creep actually married her. He took this sideshow that far. He is still in that myth and that is what confuses so many of us. I do not think there is any love in this union. Nor do I think he has changed since rehab. I also believe in his talent. It has been hard to do that in the last 18 months, even the stage show is more packaged. One complaint is that Keith has taken the sex out of the show. I agree with that but I also was entertained. So, like so many of us, I made the choice to stay a fan of this guy. I don't like his personal life at all and I hate how they have used that to make him more famous. But I do like to see him play. I learned to listen to him play and not let myself be played. I think it is a lesson many of his fans should learn. I don't hate him. That would mean I let myself care and that really wouldn't be healthy. Keith Urban is a human being with a gift. There are a lot like him out there. Just be wise when you are being spoon fed - sometimes you need to spit as well as swallow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The "Codifying Manipulation Awards"

Why is Nicole Kidman really going to show up on Wednesday at the CMAs? To support her husband? To be seen by a national television audience after the writers’ strike canceled her late night appearance this week? To calm those rumors about her marriage and her appearance? It's all of the above. I am also going to go out on a limb and predict that because of their front row seating arrangement we will see these same pictures of these two for the next two years. And why not? This is the Kidman style; a hybrid of the style created by her former husband. Get a good series of pictures shot in a way that she controls, and the tabloids have shots to use for whatever stories they or Kidman's PR people are going to come up with. If it works don't fix it, right? Wrong. It's not working and, Nicole, this is where we the skeptics can claim victory.

Remember Black Wednesday, November 16, 2005. One day, actually only ten hours, after Keith Urban received his award for Entertainer of The Year, treated us to pictures of Kidman and Urban in Boston with a ring on her finger. The person known as Keith Urban died on that day. He became known as Kidman’s boyfriend/ fiancĂ©. He became a pawn in the Nicole Kidman vs. her former husband battle. Keith, still to this day, doesn't matter. It is always about Nicole and will be even after they eventually divorce. There she was with her self-purchased ring on, playing “are they” or “aren't they”. She used the publicists’ dream machine People magazine to get her story across. The first magazine pictures of these two were in People and its sister publication in Australia, Who. It got Nicole what she wanted: her fairy tale wedding. We all believe they are happy and she is aging naturally, don't we? Nicole, the interesting thing about this is that after two years we still don't believe either about you.

The methods that Kidman used to push this idea of her happiness, photos, sightings and strategically published articles don't work anymore. Those of us who have a college education in Publicity 101 have seen that those methods don't work because there is something much more powerful; that is the internet. Blogs, message boards, and columnists all have a power that Kidman and Camp Kidman can't manipulate. There are actually “real” people at these events that Kidman and Keith attend, and they will often go on the ‘net and tell their story, and often that's not what Kidman wants you to know. For instance, at the ARIA’s there was this united front of a happy, happy couple that the whole red carpet saw. What wasn't seen was that when Kidman arrived and saw the cameras, she took her coat off to display her see-through dress. Miss “afraid of the sun” didn't wear sunglasses nor a hat and she knew exactly what she was doing by wearing that dress. She knew that in LA and New York her one true love was "presenting" his new wife at his movie premiere. I know that one of the goals of Wednesday night is to get in the tabs the same week as her former husband’s first wedding anniversary. What people didn't see (except on Youtube) from the ARIA’s was how bored Kidman was during the telecast. She wasn't there other than to wear that dress. Even her blown kisses to Keith were sent after she saw where the camera was. That is the power of the Internet. People magazine was exposed in a CNN special about publicity and it was the great Ted Casablanca who pointed out that People is where PR teams send ready-made articles that push their clients’ agendas.

Kidman can say she hasn't had any work done to her body, but the power of pictures proves otherwise. She can say that she spent her first wedding anniversary with her husband, yet there were no pictures or witnesses. She can say there was a fireworks display for her birthday and a party for his, but since there is no one coming forward with pictures or talking about it, there isn't proof; and that is what is undoing this whole facade. Kidman uses the media, but yet the internet shows the subtle manipulation she uses. Look at the power of the internet with Kidman and her smoking. She claims she doesn't smoke, yet there are pictures that were published on that prove she has in the past. This creates a sense of doubt about what she is saying. As a skeptic this gives me a sense of hope. If she plays games with the media about her looks and her habits you don't have to be a genius to see she is doing that about her marriage.

That is why the People magazine interview with Keith doesn't really bother me. I seriously doubt that Keith Urban believes any of the drivel he professed in his paean to Kidman. He, above anyone else, has seen how the game works from Kidman's end to the other side which is proving this fairy tale isn't how it is being depicted. Keith wins Male Vocalist due to his stellar performance this year? Kidman and Keith make out on the front row - who cares? The truth is out there and it always rises above the slime.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Wish for the CMA's

If, and that's a BIG IF, Mr. Kidman wins an award tomorrow night, my wish is that instead of being presented with one of those "awards", he is presented with a GOAT. A real live goat. That way he can thank his Beautiful, Beautiful Princess in the most appropriate way. He can give her the goat she longs for to live with on her farm in Nashvillle. And, I truly hope that the goat has to sit in her lap for the length of the show. Wouldn't that make a beautiful, beautiful photo op?

Monday, November 5, 2007

A definition from the Urban Dictionary

I would like to refocus your attention on the well thought out and completely nebulous phrase “international commitments”. It was used as the reason for Keith and his people to cancel 10 gigs in Europe in October. That phrase caused a tremendous amount of speculation as to what it meant in terms of Keith’s career and personal life.

No better time like the present to review just what those "international commitments" turned out to be.

The first of October started in Oz with a bang, actually a crash, but in the end it was just a mishap. No conflicts there.

After spending the weekend playing with the wife in New York, it was off to Nashville to tape the CMT Invitation Only event on the 11th. You know the event where only the local fans were invited to send in their head shot if they wanted to be considered to attend the taping. ‘Nuff said.

But wait! Conflict #1; on the 10th and 11th he was to have played in Munich and Frankfurt. So for those fans, the CMT taping was his “international commitment”.

Remaining in Nashville, Keith attended the ASCAP Songwriters Awards event on the 14th. Keith wasn’t nominated for an award that evening but he went to click rings and hang out. Nice picture with Taylor Swift too.

But wait! Conflict #2; on the 14th he was to have played in Berlin. So for those fans the ASCAP event was his “international commitment”.

Later that week, Keith went to LA to tape the talk show circuit. The Tonight Show on the 17th and then taping the Ellen show on the 18th. The 19th was a busy day for Keith. He was on After Midnight, then Jimmy Kimmel Live. We all know the Ellen show didn’t happen but he stayed to play for the audience.

But wait! Conflict #3; on the 17th he was to have played in Belfast. The 19th he was to have played in London. So for those fans the LA talk show circuit was his “international commitment”.

As for the remaining cancelled concert dates; the 20th in Manchester, 21st in Glasgow, 23rd in Birmingham and the 25th in Dusseldorf, he was probably traveling between the US and Oz. Maybe following the wife around while she prepared for his 40th birthday bash. Who knows?

But wait! So for those fans his “international commitments” were…zip, nada, zilch, nothing.

So there you have it! According to the Urban “Balanced Life” Dictionary, first edition, International commitments = shameless self-promotion.

Too bad Keith didn’t think that the fans in Europe were worth the amount of face time/air time he received in the US. Celebrities need to remember what they say and what is published about them is not forgotten and is rather easily retrieved.

Planning on going back to Europe anytime soon Keith? You might want to wait on that, or maybe just visit as a tourist.

Thursday, November 1, 2007