Keith Urban first brought his songs to Nashville in the mid-'90s, and since releasing his self-titled debut solo album in 1999, the Australian has been considered to be one of the most promising acts in country music. It didn't take long for him to blossom into a superstar. By 2004, he was rattling off No. 1 hits at a George Strait-like pace.
Now happily married to actress Nicole Kidman and settled in to a style all his own, Urban has been delivering the best — and most creative — music of his career. That's good news for fans, but bad news for us. Trimming all of his hits down to the 10 best was a painfully difficult task.
"Sweet Thing"From 'Defying Gravity' (2009)
More than any other album, fans sensed Urban had finally found true love while listening to the songs from Defying Gravity. He went through a sort of lovey-dovey period that actually began with the re-release of "You Look Good in My Shirt," and continued through until releasing "'Til Summer Comes Around." "Sweet Thing" begins with a wandering guitar lick into a melody that you can't sing along to — the words come too fast — but can certainly shake with. The track was Urban's tenth song to top the charts.
"The Fighter" feat. Carrie Underwoodfrom 'Ripcord' (2016)
The pop-heavy style of this song is a testament to Urban's willingness to step outside the box on his latest tracks, bringing in powerhouse vocalist Carrie Underwood as the perfect finishing touch. "The Fighter" is an upbeat, dancey tune that's just plain fun — a love song that doesn't take life too seriously. Underwood and Urban are longtime pals, so the marrying of their talents was a perfect match for this lighthearted duet from Ripcord.
"Cop Car"from 'Fuse' (2013)
Though not penned by Urban, "Cop Car" suits his sensibilities as an artist so well it might as well have been. Instead it was co-written by now-country-star Sam Hunt — then primarily a songwriter by trade — who brings an authenticity to his small-town-life-centered tunes that comes through in every lyric. Urban's take is different than Hunt's version, but it's got all the things we love about Urban: a laid back, romantic vibe set against a breezy, Americana backdrop — not to mention smooth guitar licks. Urban puts his own spin on the tune and brought it to life for his 2013 record Fuse, hitting No. 4 on the Billboard country charts.
"Somebody Like You"From 'Golden Road' (2002)
Urban's first certified gold single also spent six weeks atop the Billboard charts and was named the country song of the decade in 2009 by Billboard. So yeah, it was a pretty big song for him. One could argue an artist's first hit from a second album is more important than his debut single, because expectations are so much higher. Urban certainly delivered with "Somebody Like You," a song that still makes a perfect mood-lifting lead track on a road trip playlist over a decade later.
"Stupid Boy"From 'Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing' (2006)
Even though it only reached No. 3 on the charts (relatively low in comparison to his other chart-toppers), "Stupid Boy" remains a fan favorite. Its poignant lyrics and unique sentiment admonishing a man for having treated a woman so poorly, particularly coming from a male point of view, piqued listeners' interest and won over many a listener — including critics. Written by Dave Berg, Deanna Bryant and Sarah Buxton, the song earned Urban a Grammy for Best Male Country Performance in 2008. The song appeared on Urban's record Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing and served as its second single.
"'Til Summer Comes Around"From "Defying Gravity' (2009)
Despite being largely ignored at country music award shows, this heartbreaking ballad won a Grammy for Best Male Country Performance in 2011. The lyrics touch all of the senses. Anyone who spends enough time to fall into this song will feel like he's right there with Urban at the shuttered carnival. You can almost feel the cool autumn breeze as he feigns hope that his girl will return. It's painful and beautiful, and an easy choice for our 10 Best Keith Urban Songs list.
"John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16"from 'Ripcord' (2016)
Okay, okay. So Urban's from Australia. But these symbols of good old-fashioned Americana still somehow fit with his aesthetic in a way that feels authentic. Having been in the country music biz in the U.S. since the early '90s, he's been grafted into the community in a way that blurs the lines between what his actual experience has been and what he's adopted from the culture. We'll allow it. This cleverly-written song brings together a slew of metaphors representing life growing up in the heartland, if you will, to create a nostalgic picture of who he is. The sparse production, driven by Urban's bass playing, brings an unexpected sound to the record with a pop influence, making this song a delightful addition to any summer playlist.
"Blue Ain't Your Color"from 'Ripcord' (2016)
The clever lyrics of this bluesy (no pun intended) ballad are a fresh take on the guy-wiping-away-a-woman's-tears trope. The play on words frames the sentiment in witty charm, which suits Urban well. Fans certainly agreed, putting "Blue Ain't Your Color" at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs list for 12 straight weeks. It was also nominated for two Grammy awards — one for Best Country Solo Performance and the other for Best Country Song, which honors its writers.
"Days Go By"From 'Be Here' (2005)
This is one of a handful of songs one could call a career song for Keith Urban. Few hits over the last 10 years sound better with the windows rolled down, driving 75 mph on the open summer highway. It spent four weeks on the top of Billboard's charts and sold a gazillion copies. Not surprisingly, Urban won his only CMA Entertainer of the Year award after this string of hits came to an end in 2005. It was a great time to be Keith Urban.
The rhymes and images fell seamlessly into place for this chart-topper from 2004. “Take your records, take your freedom / Take your memories, I don’t need ’em / Take your space and take your reasons / But you’ll think of me,” Urban sings on what ended up being his most successful crossover hit. Often crossover success is a blight on a country singer’s resume, but few had any misgivings about making sure the world heard this emotional ballad. The powerful tune, which tops our list of Urban songs, washes its hands of love in a way that is both heartbreaking and cavalier, adding even more salt to the wound for the woman who missed out. Written by Darrell Brown, Ty Lacy, and Dennis Matkosky, "You'll Think of Me" earned Urban his first Grammy in 2006 for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.