Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Usher - Looking 4 Myself

Climax promised so much.  A more traditional RnB track with a modern electronic twist, it paved the way for an album that steered clear of the dance style of Usher's recent tracks.  Sadly, that's not the case.  Following recent single Scream, tracks like Can't Stop Won't Stop (which steals from Uptown Girl of all places) and Numb (surely the next single) are pure Guetta and hardly the "revolutionary pop" Usher's been aspiring to.

As the title suggests, this album sees Usher trying to re-establish his position in the industry.  The title track is actually one of the highlights, featuring Empire of the Sun's Luke Steele, it's repetition of the line "I'm looking for myself" a clear indication of Usher's intention.  It's not until the final track that he finally finds Euphoria, but it's not quite the musical high the title might insinuate.

In looking for himself, Usher has worked with a number of producers and songwriters.  His trademark falsetto and vocal gymnastics are still present, but it's diluted by a number of outside influences.  And that does result in some interesting tracks you may not expect.  Many of those were produced by Rico Love - listen for the signature "turn the lights off" sample.  Twisted features Pharrell on additional vocals, the motown production contrasting with the future feel of the album at large and allowing Usher's voice to take the fore.  Lessons For The Lover follows in the footsteps of Climax, as another RnB ballad updated with sparse electronica.  Sins of My Father sees Usher in fine voice, as he laments "she didn't make me pay for it with my money..." over a slow latin beat.  The Deluxe version includes I.F.U which has a more hip-hop flavour accompanied weirdly by a folk violin sample.

Yet for each of these tracks, there's a Scream, a Show Me, a Numb or a Euphoria - all catchy tracks with undoubted hands-in-the-air appeal but lacking in originality.  The latter especially, all trance synths and whomping bass, is a surefire hit. It's just clear there is a significant rift between Usher the dance-pop star and Usher the creative artist.

Two songs particularly stand out though, not only as evidence of Usher's reliance on cliched hip-hop idioms (sex and success), but for their utter repulsion.  Dive is one of the filthiest songs in pop history.  Not only do the "walls" look like they might "precipitate" (eugh), but "it's raining inside your bed...love makes you so wet, your legs, your thighs".  What's worse is Usher's sweet vocal sung to the laidback beat.  I just hope he's got an umbrella.

What Happened To U stands out for Usher's sheer audacity.  "In no time" he's got "money clouds, fancy cars, big old cribs, platinum on the wall, seven grammys [and] sold out concerts".  His response?  "Damn I've been working hard".  Well then Usher, perhaps it's time to have a little rest, eh?


Gizzle's Choice:
* Climax
* Looking 4 Myself
* Lessons for the Lover

Listen: 'Looking 4 Myself' is available now, in standard and deluxe editions.