As Michael Jackson will forever remain the King of Pop, Usher Raymond is on the fast track to taking his throne as the Prince. On his seventh studio album, Looking 4 Myself, Raymond pushes the evolutionary bounds that have become a staple in popular music. His smooth, soulful croon carries just as much power and sensuality as it did when he first broke through the airwaves. At 33, with almost every one of his albums certified platinum, one would wonder what the R&B megastar has left to prove. Mixing samples from electronic, R&B, soul, hip hop, and pop music -on this record, Usher establishes himself as an artist.
As combining the overtly sexual with his real life struggle, Looking 4 Myself is Usher taking you along for the ride. The album opens with “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” -a club thumper that sets the tone for the electrifying groove, though the fault comes in the lyrics, “This is a jam, turn it up.” While songs that follow like “Scream” “Climax” and “Lemme See” featuring Rick Ross are ready-to-chart singles, they still sound fresh, at least for Usher. Always walking the line between seductive and vulgar, it’s Raymond’s unshakeable confidence that breathes life into these high energy tracks.
While dubstep nuances and electronic flare provide a modern backdrop, Usher’s R&B sensibilities round out the sound. “Twisted” featuring (and produced by) Pharrell, is minimal, but hypnotic in its simplicity and soulful groove. More creative boundaries are pushed with slower ballads like “Dive” “Lessons for the Lover” and, maybe the record’s most emotionally serious track, “Sins of My Father.”
The low-points aren’t as poignant, because the rest of the record more than makes up for it. However, it is obvious why bonus tracks “Say the Words” “I.F.U.” and “2nd Round” were left off the original tracklisting. Sonically, those songs seemed to be going in the opposite direction, while Raymond and his producers wanted to float up mainstream.
Looking 4 Myself is not as evolutionary as Usher maybe wants, or thinks, it to be. The last time we heard from him, Raymond vs. Raymond seemed too hard to play up his playboy nature to mask the more mature facts concerning his divorce. This album is similar, but the approach seems more honest and more believable as Usher really seems to be moving on. Regardless, his fans will always be moving on with him.
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