Best Keith Urban Songs: 20 Country Essentials

His distinctive style is rooted in the ’70s and ’80s rock music he came up listening to.

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Photo: Paul Natkin/WireImage

Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, Keith Urban is one of the most prominent and successful examples of country music’s international reach while also being a bona fide Nashville star. Urban spent years honing his distinctive, evocative singing voice and impressive guitar and banjo skills down under before he finally broke stateside in the late ’90s. He’s been a fixture of Music Row ever since, churning out 18 No. 1 country songs while earning four Grammys and a slew of other awards.

His distinctive style is rooted in the ’70s and ’80s rock music he came up listening to, with lots of stadium-ready guitar riffs and upbeat grooves that are danceable without necessarily inviting a classic country two-step. By integrating soaring guitar solos and pop grooves into his music, Urban traced a new model for bringing Top 40 and country radio closer together and anticipated the ways rock sounds would come to dominate the genre’s commercial arm.

Below are 20 of his best songs, showing the ways Urban has broadened Nashville’s sound and appeal during his decades in the country music business.

Listen to the best Keith Urban songs now.

20. “Put You In A Song” (2010)

Collaborating with Sarah Buxton — who cowrote “Stupid Boy” — as well as Australian singer-songwriter Jedd Hughes, Keith Urban came up with this lovelorn meta-tune. It fits neatly in his wheelhouse as an uptempo love song, with guitars that edge into rock territory while still aligning nicely with the overall ambiance of the era’s country radio. There’s a little bit of a vintage rockabilly sensibility to this one as well that sets it apart from its peers in Urban’s catalog.

Keith Urban - Put You In A Song (Official Music Video)

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19. “I Told You So” (2006)

This single found Keith Urban leaning into his rock influences, as well as some of the Celtic sounds he used on earlier releases. More edgy and less bubbly than many of his hits, the song also allowed Urban to experiment a little stylistically: he played seven different instruments on the track, which he also wrote and co-produced.

18. “Raise ‘Em Up” (2015)

Joined by fellow hitmaker Eric Church, Keith Urban takes a more serious turn with this duet — an ode to not just joy and gratitude, but also hard work and sacrifice. It has some of the same guitar-driven energy that defines so many of Urban’s singles, channeled with precision towards the song’s thought-provoking lyrics. There’s a bit of U2’s influence across Fuse, the album from which this single is drawn, and it’s audible here in the way Urban combines expansive sounds with Music Row rootsiness.

17. “I’m In” (2009)

Keith Urban’s cover of this 1998 Radney Foster track adds characteristic levity, with the singer-songwriter using his strong pop sensibilities to turn the song into a near chart-topper (it reached No. 2 on Billboard’s country chart). It’s the second Radney Foster tune that Urban covered in his career — the first was “Raining on Sunday,” which was on the same album as “I’m In.” Romantic and charming with just a hint of Urban’s favored rockish edge, the song became another crowd-favorite uptempo love song for the hitmaking singer-songwriter.

16. “Somewhere In My Car” (2013)

An unforgettable banjo riff, layered with a driving groove and stadium-ready guitars — with that unmistakable combo, you’ve got another hard-to-resist Keith Urban single, in which the singer-songwriter’s irrepressible energy keeps things moving at a danceable clip. Urban paints a picture of a timeless romantic fantasy that wound up continuing his hit streak — by this point over a decade long — at U.S. country radio, landing at No. 1 on Billboard’s newly created Country Airplay Chart.

15. “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” (2002)

One of Keith Urban’s many banjo-driven country anthems, tailor-made for cruising down the highway at least a few miles per hour over the speed limit, the song became his third No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart. The track was both co-written and produced by Urban himself, a window into his distinctive, jam-ready take on country pop that’s rarely self-serious when it can be exuberant.

Keith Urban - Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me (Official Music Video)

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14. “We Were Us” (2013)

Keith Urban was joined by Miranda Lambert for this nostalgic list song that was named the Musical Event of the Year at the 2014 CMA Awards. Their voices blend seamlessly, with both artists’ rock-versed singing styles showcased well by the song’s energetic arrangements. It’s all build in this anthem, as Urban layers banjo and guitar in typically virtuosic fashion to create a driving backdrop for their heartfelt musical conversation.

13. “Kiss A Girl” (2009)

One of Keith Urban’s biggest pop crossover efforts, reaching No. 16 on Billboard’s Hot 100, “Kiss A Girl” shows Urban’s aughts rock bona fides with its chugging guitar pulse and soaring solos. It hit with country fans too, showing the ever-tight link between those two audiences as it became yet another top five hit for the prolific singer.

12. “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (2015)

Written by Music Row heavy-hitters Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, and Josh Osborne, this song is filled with traditional country touchstones. Despite its conventional subject matter, the song’s sound is fairly funky for Nashville courtesy of a bass line by Urban himself — a responsibility added on top of his usual guitar duties. The sing-a-long ready tune ultimately became a streaming hit, earning an RIAA platinum certification two years after its release.

11. “Better Life” (2004)

Keith Urban co-wrote this upbeat striver’s tune with Richard Marx, adding to his canon of banjo-driven country-pop singles as well as his roster of No. 1 country songs — “Better Life” was his seventh, just five years after he broke onto the American country scene. It is just one of the many successful examples of Urban’s musical optimism, with his soaring sung encouragement driving the propulsive tune.

10. “You Look Good In My Shirt” (2002)

Originally a 2002 near-single that became a fan favorite even though it was pulled from the airwaves, a live version of the flirty “Shirt” got rereleased as a proper single six years later and became Keith Urban’s eighth country No. 1 hit. The spunky original, though, still holds up for those who have not already witnessed one of Urban’s sprawling live shows. His performance oozes twang, from his singing to his always-memorable guitar riffs.

You Look Good In My Shirt

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9. “You Gonna Fly” (2010)

Co-written by the country duo LoCash as well as Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston, “You Gonna Fly” is all rock riffs and get-up-and-go lyrics (there’s even a ref’s whistle, presumably to cue some sort of starting line). Keith Urban sells these kinds of songs better than most, with his energetic, rhythmic melodies punctuating the layers of guitars and other stringed instruments. If you listen closely, you’ll hear Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman singing backup on the song’s inspiring chorus.

8. “Sweet Thing” (2008)

The opening single from his sixth studio album, Defying Gravity, “Sweet Thing” found Keith Urban at the top of his seductive pop-country game nearly a decade into his U.S. career. It earned him accolades that were, by this point, familiar to him — another Best Male Country Vocal Performance Grammy and another No. 1 — but didn’t sound like the work of a veteran. Instead, it’s all youthful exuberance and verve, hot dates on country nights, upbeat banjo, and charming harmonies — classic Urban.

7. “Where The Blacktop Ends” (1999)

Keith Urban may not have reinvented the wheel with this dirt road anthem, the last single off his self-titled American debut — but it’s a great example of the familiar country form, showcasing an artist who was starting to refine his virtuosic take on country pop. On “Blacktop,” Urban uses a lush, Celtic-tinged string section to draw out the tune’s backwoods hoedown feel; Steve Wariner, the song’s co-writer, also appears on guitar. “I’m lookin’ down the barrel of Friday night” is just one of this song’s instantly compelling, hooky lyrics.

6. “Blue Ain’t Your Color” (2016)

Hard to get more unexpected than sending a pop-tinged waltz to country radio, but “Blue” became a smash. The song, co-written by Nashville heavyweight Hillary Lindsey, is a sweet showcase of Keith Urban’s vocal prowess, with the singer showing that he can croon just as well as he can sell uptempo party tracks and heartbreak songs. The track’s core wordplay is pure country even if the string-driven backdrop isn’t — a dose of balladry that more than balances out Urban’s mostly upbeat catalog.

5. “Long Hot Summer” (2010)

A timeless entry in country music’s vast summer song catalog, this sizzling track is all open road with the windows down and ice-cold longnecks on a patio — a love song shrouded in seasonal lingo. It was even pushed as a single in Urban’s native Australia earlier to be accurate to the southern hemisphere’s seasons (stateside, it was released as a single in June 2011). One of Urban’s more party-ready entries, “Long Hot Summer” is tailor-made for any sweaty gathering.

Keith Urban - Long Hot Summer (Official Music Video)

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4. “Days Go By” (2004)

An ode to living in the moment with a little bit of repudiation of 9 to 5 living thrown in for perspective, “Days” captures that same joie de vivre that Urban had by this point become known for. “Somewhere in the race we run, we’re coming undone,” he sings, conjuring some sunny day and open space on the other side of the daily commute. Bright banjo and a chugging, rock-tinged backbeat combine to make the Urban co-write that much more engaging.

3. “Wasted Time” (2016)

With its danceable synths and scream-ready chorus, “Wasted Time” is one of Keith Urban’s most irresistible party tunes — certainly fit for the summer nights he’s singing about but not solely suited to beaches and barbecues. Its banjo solo is one for the books, and its message about the times when you’re not doing anything being some of the best of all is evergreen. He was pushing country pop to its aesthetic limits with this one, and it worked perfectly.

2. “Stupid Boy” (2006)

This power ballad wasn’t Keith Urban’s most successful single when it was released, though it still peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s country chart. But it’s become one of his most beloved signatures, a moving depiction of some doofus who doesn’t appreciate his partner that showcases Urban’s vocal skill as an interpreter — he even won his second Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for the recording. Recorded at the behest of his wife Nicole Kidman, the song found Urban taking the (too often rare in country music) tack of voicing a woman’s perspective — it also had two women co-writers, Deanna Bryant and Sarah Buxton.

1. “Somebody Like You” (2002)

If you haven’t heard it already — yes, you have. The first single off Keith Urban’s second stateside release, Golden Road, and the singer’s second No. 1 song on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart (it also reached No. 23 on the Hot 100) went on to become the biggest country song of the decade. The effervescent love song showcased both Urban’s songwriting (he co-wrote it with genre-agnostic scribe John Shanks) and banjo chops (interestingly, a banjo-free version appeared on the How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days soundtrack). The smash was co-produced by Dann Huff —Urban’s go-to collaborator since — spurred the singer-songwriter’s ascent to mega-stardom.

Keith Urban - Somebody Like You (Official Music Video)

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Listen to the best Keith Urban songs now.

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