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ToC Critic’s Pick: Keith Urban, ‘John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16’ [Listen]

John Cougar John Deere John 316 Critic's Pick
Capitol Nashville

On “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” Keith Urban returns to more traditional country themes while continuing to push his sound in new directions. Lyrically, the funky new window to his next studio album is immediately relatable. It won’t need the time songs like “Cop Car” and “Raise ‘Em Up” needed to cook.

Sonically, Urban bends in a new direction — something Fuse did liberally. The production is simpler and more organic, with a light snare and deep bass cradling the star as he begins the first verse. The singer adds the rhythm:

“I’m a 45 spinnin’ on an old Victrola / I’m a two strike swinger, I’m a Pepsi Cola / I’m a blue jean quarterback saying I love you to the prom queen in a Chevy,” Urban — a Taste of Country Music Festival headliner — sings to start “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.”

“I’m John Wayne, Superman, California / I’m a Kris Kristofferson Sunday morning / I’m a mom and a daddy singing along to Don McLean at the levee.”

The chorus and bridge touch on the John 3:16 references. For those who’ve not picked up a Bible recently, this is the verse that says if one believes in God and Jesus Christ, he or she will live eternally.

"Well, I’m a child of a backseat freedom, baptized by rock ‘n’ roll / Marilyn Monroe and the Garden of Eden, never grow up, never grow old / Just another rebel in the great wide open / On the boulevard of broken dreams / I learned everything I ever needed to know from John Cougar, John Deere and John 3:16."

Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman and Josh Osborne bring their best to this song. The second verse is particularly effective. Urban firmly grips the trio’s nostalgic images and delivers each with sincerity you’d expect from a self-written song:

“I’m Mark Twain on the Mississippi / I’m Hemingway with a shot of whiskey / I’m a TV dinner on the tray trying to figure out the Wheel of Fortune / I’m a Texaco star, I’m a Gibson guitar / I’m still a teenage kid trying to go too far / I’m a jukebox waiting in a neon bar for a quarter.”

The phrase “something for everyone” is overused and typically indicative of a bland meal, but “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” has an everyman quality to it that heightens the song’s sharpness. It’s a good, mellow groove that won’t soon get old.

Why Fans Will Love It: Urban’s funky new song builds a bridge to just about every country fan’s childhood.

Key Lyrics: “I spent a lot of years runnin’ from believing / Looking for other ways to try to save my soul / The longer I live the more I see it / There’s only one way home.” 

Did You Know?: Wondering what Keith Urban learned from John Deere? Growing up in Australia, Urban milked cows and collected eggs on his family farm.

Listen to Keith Urban, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”

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