Rhythm is a driving force behind Keith Urban’s eighth album Ripcord, and his music in general—as recently illuminated by Jewly Hight’s great interview with Urban for npr.org. That piece places rhythm as an element of continuity within Urban’s musical progression, and sets Ripcord in that context. It’s a sensible place to begin when it comes to Ripcord, though there are others.
As something of an outsider to Nashville, Keith Urban has the latitude to experiment, an opportunity he seizes with 2016's Ripcord. The album's very title suggests he's diving into the great wide open and he makes no attempt to disguise the record's heavy hip-hop and electronic influence. "Sun Don't Let Me Down," a collaboration with Nile Rodgers featuring a verse by Latin superstar rapper Pitbull, is merely the culmination of all these inclinations, a move Urban hinted at with the rolling loop propelling the album's lead single, "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.
Not everyone wants to hear Pitbull shout "Mr. Worldwide!" in the middle of a country album. But the genially party-crazed Cuban rapper sounds right at home on the chirpy, margarita-doused "Sun Don't Let Me Down," assembled by disco great turned superproducer Nile Rodgers and pop-country trackmaster busbee. The rest of Keith Urban's tenth studio album isn't quite that audaciously pop, but it does commit to modern rhythms throughout, with Urban's virtuoso picking on six-string banjo (or "ganjo") locking in with steady basslines and ticking drum tracks to fuse the rootsy precision of bluegrass with the uplifting persistence of EDM.