The Meaning Behind “Somebody Like You” by Keith Urban

Keith Urban is a rarity on the country scene; though he is a major country star, he’s not from North America. But that hasn’t stopped the Australian singer from making country music uniquely his own, becoming one of the most popular country singers of the 21st century.

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His earliest successes in the genre came in the 1990s, with his single “But for the Grace of God” becoming his first hit to climb to No. 1 on the country charts. In 2002, he released his second studio album, Golden Road. That album proved a huge success, generating one hit single after another. One of the tracks was “Somebody Like You,” which became Urban’s second song to peak at No. 1. “Somebody Like You” spent 41 weeks on the charts.

The song—and the album it appeared on—marked a turning point in Urban’s career. He showed himself to be a revolutionary country performer, mixing old and new styles in an accessible and exciting style. This was also backed by extraordinary technical skills on guitar and banjo.

Urban continued dominating country music charts throughout the rest of the 2000s and beyond. He earned four Grammys and won many other country music awards, composed songs for films, and appeared as a judge on American Idol and the Australian version of The Voice.

Yet among all his accolades, “Somebody Like You” remains one of Urban’s most loved songs. On the surface, it seems like it’s a simple love song, but it’s much more complex than that. Let’s dive into the real meaning behind “Somebody Like You.”

How It Started

When Urban wrote “Somebody Like You,” he intended for it to be a simple love song. He played it for his girlfriend to see what she thought of it. Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way he expected.

“I would write these songs about love and relationships,” Urban said at South by Southwest in 2018. “I remember writing ‘Somebody Like You,’ and I remember playing it for my girlfriend at the time, and she just looked at me and said, ‘You’re a fucking hypocrite’…and I couldn’t argue that. And I realized I was writing from [the perspective of] the kind of person I wished I could be. I wasn’t that person, but I wanted to be. It was only a song, but my real life was a disaster.”

So he returned to the song and reworked it from a new perspective: trying to see himself the way his loved ones saw him. “Somebody Like You” became an anthem about self-love and self-acceptance, a rare topic in country music.

[RELATED: 3 Songs You Didn’t Know Keith Urban Wrote For Other Artists]

The Lyrics

Urban wrote the lyrics with guitarist John Shanks. The two met at a hotel in Los Angeles for a songwriting session and finished the entire song in just two days.

“Somebody Like You” plays on three themes that alternate through wordplay. The singer suggests that he wants to grow to accept himself as he is and to become worthy of another person’s love. In other words, he wants to be as amazing as they already think he is.

Oh, I wanna be the man in the middle of the night
Shining like it’s true
I wanna be the man that you run to whenever I call on you
When everything that loved someone finally found its way
Wanna be a better man
I see it in you, yeah
Hey, I wanna be that

One of the biggest roadblocks to progress is holding onto the past—especially that roadblock is guilt or regret. Urban says he will move past his old mistakes and focus on becoming a better person now.

And I’m letting go of all my lonely yesterdays
I’ve forgiven myself for the mistakes I’ve made
Now, there’s just one thing
The only thing I wanna do

Some of the lyrics seem to have been deeply personal. Urban said that he hadn’t managed his romantic relationships well when he wrote the song. He had also struggled with drug and alcohol addiction in the past, which the following verse might allude to:

I used to run in circles, going nowhere fast
I’d take one step forward and two steps back
Couldn’t walk a straight line even if I wanted to

“Somebody Like You” is ultimately a song of hope and promise. Urban doesn’t want to look back on his old mistakes because he knows there’s no point. All he can do is move forward to become the best man he can be. Luckily, the love of his significant other is there to support him:

Yeah, I wanna feel the sunshine
Shining down on me and you
When you put your arms around me
Well, baby, there ain’t nothing in this world I can’t do

The Legacy of “Somebody Like You”

“Somebody Like You” was a significant hit for Urban, peaking at No. 1 on the country charts and No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. Nearly a decade later, Billboard voted it the Best Country Song of the 2000s, and it naturally remains an essential part of Urban’s discography. As for the singer himself, he seems to be doing better in love—he’s been married to actress Nicole Kidman since 2006. Clearly, he learned a lesson or two from “Somebody Like You.”

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for CMT

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