98 – Keith Urban: Golden Road

I have to admit, I’m not a big Keith Urban fan. I’ll listen to his songs on the radio, but I don’t search out his music when given the chance. I enjoy him for what he is, pop country, somewhat innovative, and a non-US country singer. But, since he was on the list, I wanted to give him a critical look.

This album is a mixed bag for me. I understand why it went triple platinum, won awards, and shot up the charts. It’s a fun album with some thoughtful pieces on it. In terms of the singles, they are solidly selected from the lineup of songs in order to draw people in to an album. The lead single “Somebody Like You” is a fun single that pulls you into a poppy early 2000s state of mind. But, on the album, “Whenever I Run” is the same song, but better.

“Whenever I Run” (not to be confused with Lady Antebellum‘s “I Run to You,” like I did for several minutes) is more somber pop country song that instead of being a “boyfriend country” song, serves as the “companion song.” Based on my previous two reflections, I know the companion song is a powerful country song that pushes past romance into resilience through connection and relationships. Whether it’s with a woman, a significant other, a place, or a community, it offers a space to find hope and endure whatever life might throw.

The other two of my favorite songs “You’ll Think of Me” and “Raining on Sunday,” were released as singles. “You’ll think of Me” is a breakup song that leans into territory of “you’ll miss me more” territory that is really a defense mechanism for someone grieving the loss of a relationship. It has some strained lyrics, but overall, a good breakup song. “Raining on Sunday” is the “rediscovering each other” song. Sure, it might be a sex song, but what isn’t? Regardless, this song feels like a mix of “live into the interruptions” and “refocus on what matters.” I think the sabbath language in it might be the best “Sunday” song out there (besides “Sunday Morning Coming Down, of course”).

Now, for the ministry and spiritual reflections, let’s work backwards.

The album is titled Golden Road and I think it lends itself to asking the question of what roads we travel, where they lead, and why we are driving in the first place. “Raining on Sunday” tells us to take time to reconnect, breathe, and disrupt any schedule that has us driving constantly toward someone else’s goal. Obviously its religio-spiritual imagery is there, “a cross in Mexico” and “a prayer nailed to a door,” waiting for heavy handed interpretation. The song is literally a baptism for new life and new direction.

However, the sabbath and Sunday interpretation is better when it rips productivity and expectation out of the hands of the clock and the bank. I think, particularly of the feeling expectations as a church worker (or church member) because many churches and faith communities are as production minded as businesses. Take the day off, spend time reconnecting with yourself, your loved ones, your place, and the Divine. Sunday, if anything should disrupt the rest of our lives, and cause us to run off the main road into new spaces.

From a ministry perspective, offer permission and possibility to take time disconnected from the world.

“You’ll think of me” is a breakup song, but also a song of grief, of separation, and a reminder that grief, heartbreak, and loss is not solved in afternoon. Mourning is an ongoing process, and sometimes you process through crying, sometimes through cleansing your space, and sometimes, you go on a long drive.

Finally, “Whenever I Run” is ripe for a “Jesus is my lover” shakedown. Let’s not. Instead, this is a reminder to have the people, places, and communities that are our companions that we can turn to. Sure, Jesus could be there too, but that feels boring to me. Instead, from a ministry perspective, use the language of companionship, community, and connection to help folks be reminded that they have or can create spaces to run to for help, support, and endurance. And, as Lori McKenna’s “This Town is a Woman” song reminds us, it may actually be the backroads that we run to, because they know us more than we know ourselves.

As always, here is the playlist:

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