Release Date: Jun 12, 2012
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Contemporary R&B
The only thing that rings false on Usher's seventh LP is the title: If there's anyone in music who doesn't have an identity crisis, it's Usher Raymond; the theme here, such as it is, is his own versatility. Club rave-ups, hip-hop ballads, synth pop, blaxploitation funk, a Max Martin song, a Will.i.am jam that borrows from "Uptown Girl" – all here. You'll need the deluxe edition to hear Usher sing, "Let's get together and exchange fuck faces." It's a ridiculous lyric, but – shocker – he makes it work.
Usher Raymond IV has always had all the talent and fame in the world, but he has also always wanted to be taken seriously. Maybe it’s because he was thrust into pop stardom as a teenager; maybe because he’s had some very public ups and downs. Whatever the reason, he has always worked hard to show us how hard he’s working. This has sometimes resulted in thrilling pop moments (the best parts of Confessions, the “My Way” video, etc.) and sometimes just been exhausting (almost all of Raymond v.
Usher Raymond IV has carved out a megastar career not by innovating, but by seizing on dominant trends and delivering them more charismatically than anyone else. Looking 4 Myself finds him trying to grab a slice of every cake going: Eurotrash trance (Euphoria), hipster-friendly synth clouds (Climax, What Happened To U), grumbling dubstep drops (I Care For U, Can't Stop Won't Stop), the Neptunes used, amusingly, for a retro period piece (Twisted). Veering senselessly from genre to genre, the strategy is less coherent album, more disparate pick'n'mix – the same approach as Nicki Minaj's similarly scattershot Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, and one that undeniably makes sense in an iTunes/Spotify age.
Usher Raymond's 2010 album Raymond v. Raymond wasn't particularly memorable, but it did provide a platform for an up-and-coming rapper named Nicki Minaj. On the single "Lil Freak", cut in the early stages of her tear as an unassailable feature rapper, Minaj delivered one of the more remarkable verses of that year, rapping that she'd take girls "to go see Usher...
UsherLooking 4 Myself[RCA; 2012]By Eric Arredondo; June 18, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetEver since “Climax” dropped earlier this year, anticipation for Usher’s Looking 4 Myself has been growing immensely, with fans expecting a return to form from the R&B artist. Well let me alleviate any doubts and say that this is easily Usher’s best work since 2004’s diamond-certified hit Confessions, but by no means is it a perfect album. Whereas for the most part, Confessions had a cohesive emotional theme, Looking 4 Myself feels like Usher picking and choosing from different genres and themes for each song, with varying levels of success.
To the list of people who’ve ? had mind-altering experiences at Coachella, you can add Usher. In April he was a surprise guest at ? the music festival, and he says his seventh album, Looking 4 Myself, was inspired by the eclectic ? acts he saw there, including ? Euro-disco champs Swedish House Mafia (who produced two songs for L4M) and ?Aussie synth-rockers Empire of the Sun (who guest on the title track). Even Usher’s new look off stage — the Buddy Holly glasses, the facial scruff — suggests that he’s warming to indie music.
Review Summary: Usher stumbles into his best record since ConfessionsLooking 4 Myself is international R&B megastar Usher's seventh studio release and yet another attempt at regaining industry pertinence. Leading single "Climax" worked well to incite anticipation for future garage lovers worldwide, liberally borrowing from 2011 darling The Weeknd in concept and execution. While somewhat obvious in intentions, these darker electronic influences brought another element to an artist otherwise growing exponentially stale and irrelevant by the minute.
Pop needs a bloke like Usher who can sing, dance and make your girlfriend’s knees tremble with one well-timed flash of his torso. Excluding Chris Brown, naturally, there’s no one who comes close to the R&B superstar’s ability to top the charts with a falsetto vocal that’s cravenly sexual. So it’s more than a little ironic that Looking 4 Myself is an album with one eye on the introspective competition of The Weeknd and Frank Ocean.
Usher was pushing his "revolutionary pop" concept as early as 2010, when he told StyleList, "I love that people are talking about the new hair, it represents who I am now and the creative movement of revolutionary pop." Prior to the release of his seventh studio album, he was doing it more than ever, quite likely encouraged by a Top Five Hot 100 collaboration with mainstream dance kingpin David Guetta ("Without You"). With rare exception, revolutionary pop as presented on Looking 4 Myself sounds just like contemporary pop-oriented R&B, or European dance-pop, or some combination of the two. Compared to Usher's previous album, this is weighted more heavily toward dance-pop, much of which is functional and well made but unremarkable.
When Usher released the sparse, Diplo-produced breakup ballad Climax earlier this year, it was the pop heartthrob's first curveball in a long time. You couldn't help but wonder if the spacey sounds of upstart R&B acts like the Weeknd and Miguel - who value emotional atmospherics over singalong hooks - were having a trickle-up effect. Not all of Looking 4 Myself is as adventurous as Climax's balls-in falsetto, nor is it the revolution its creator has been touting in the press.
That Usher would arrive at Looking 4 Myself seems like a natural result of his musical Benjamin Button act. Even in the ‘90s, Usher’s earliest hits seemed to be significantly more adult contemporary than singles by his similarly aged contemporaries. “Can U Get Wit It,” “You Make Me Wanna…,” and “Nice & Slow” all sound today like songs K-Ci & JoJo’s uncle or Brian McKnight’s grandfather might have conceivably recorded, not someone still clinging to the tail end of their teen years.
On his seventh album, Usher Raymond IV claims to have invented a new genre, which he has modestly termed "revolutionary pop". The claim is, of course, spurious – all he's done is admitted various dance music elements into his ultra-smooth R&B sound. Still, it's nice to hear a pop juggernaut such as Usher (five multi-platinum albums over 14 years) taking a few risks: for one, they yielded Climax, his sublime collaboration with Diplo.
Ever since he broke through with his 1997 release My Way, Usher has maintained cultural relevance. He has never had a comeback because there never was a decrease in his popularity. For 15 years, he has seamlessly conquered the R&B and hip-hop scene, endured while peers faltered, and then conquered some more. The seven-time Grammy winner is continuously emulated (see: Brown, Chris), but his tenure as a superstar is rivaled only by legends (see: Jackson, Michael).
Trim its fat and this album showcases a new and exciting sound for Usher. Natalie Shaw 2012 Usher Raymond IV found his niche early and stuck with it. He’s one of those rare pop stars whose personality seems to mirror his musical output. Whether he’s being a romantic sap or showing his way around an embarrassing chat-up line, he’s not been one to jump onto musical trends; Usher’s honesty is endearing, rather than a fad.