- Looking 4 Myself by Usher Label: RCA Release Date: June 12th 2012
It’s 2012, and you know which artist can absolutely say they’ve stayed consistently at the top of the charts for almost 20 years? Usher Raymond. It’s been a while since we’ve heard a full fledged effort from Usher, the last being his album Raymond v. Raymond – which debuted at the top of the charts and spawned singles such as “Hey Daddy”, “OMG”, “There Goes My Baby”, “Lil Freak” and more. But in an industry which keeps rapidly changing, there’s one man who can keep up with the pace and continue to re-invent and stretch the boundaries of what’s considered soul music and it’s Usher.
If there’s one song on Looking 4 Myself that will rank among one of Usher’s best – hell, one of the year’s best, it’s the first release from the album “Climax” produced by Diplo. The record which treads along the the line of the wobbly dubstep/electronic that has infiltrated the airwaves, but doesn’t quite cross it – managing to preserve the R&B and soul. The record builds, and gently drops – and show’s the true range of Usher as a vocal performer, a range which can only be matched by a select few in mainstream music. However, if you thought that Climax was the only amazing record on this album – you’d be in for one hell of a treat.
If “OMG” on Raymond v. Raymond, opened up the doors to Usher riding the euro-wave of dance music then the tracks on Looking 4 Myself which continue to explore the same theme, showcase a much more comfortable Usher in that lane. The album opens up with a familiar collaboration with will.i.am, except that this time Usher’s vocals aren’t reaching for a life preserver drowning in the sea of autotune. The thumping, yet gritty dance track is nod to “Uptown Girl” and perfectly sets the tone for the entire album. The party however continues into “Scream”, which admittedly sounds like “DJ Got Us Fallin In Love”, but quite as corny or complacent as the previously mentioned hit. With Scream, at no point does Usher let up over the Max Martin and Shellback production, creating another certifiable smash for the radio.
The stretch of Usher’s new sound continues with tracks such as “I Care 4 U” produced by Danja, which we wouldn’t have mind if followed “Climax” as a future single. The record is a dirty, gritty, dubstep influenced R&B record telling the story of a man unable to show his love. If you know anything about me, it’s that Danja can do absolutely no wrong in my eyes. “Numb” is another single quality track, which we can see seeping through the radio in the latter half of 2012 – with the mantra of letting your problems go and dance. And finally, the standard album’s closer “Euphoria” is one of the album’s strongest. It opens up incredibly coy, a slow inviting build and before you know it, it transforms into this power dance record. Swedish House Mafia was on the boards to this one, which leaves a lot more to offer than the previous track dance inspired track ,”Numb.”
R&B fans however, all isn’t lost on this album. The second contribution of Mr. Danja Handz to the record, “Show Me” is a groovy album R&B stand out, proving it’s not all euro-dance and fist pumps on this record. The hip hop influenced “Lemme See” featuring Rick Ross is a nice record for urban radio, but frankly – isn’t anything we haven’t seen from Usher or other countless R&B artists on radio. In fact, maybe the only distinguishable trait is that…well, this is USHER – so you know you’re in good hands. “Twisted” featuring Pharrell is a Neptunes production which is another standout, providing a nice retro track which sticks out like a sore thumb on the album – but is an interesting record nonetheless.
The sexy Usher which may have captured your soul on past hits like “There Goes My Baby”, “Trading Places”, or countless records on Confessions returns in a big way for the back to back records “Dive” and the Notorious B.I.G sampled, “What Happened To U” – produced by Drake’s go-to-producer Noah “40″ Shebib. Usher floats so effortlessly, on the latter – producing another album standout touching, with another one that both modern R&B and adult contemporary will eat up.
The album’s title track “Looking 4 Myself” is a bit of new ground completely for Usher. Not quite dance, not quite soul – somewhere in between. In the record lies a hint of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” and but with a much more bouncy, groovy, alternative feel of Empire Of The Sun’s “Walking On A Dream”. Rico Love is once again behind the bars, while surprise-surprise, Empire of the Sun’s Luke Steele provides the support for this modern pop record. You ask me? Another stand out.
Looking 4 Myself, in my opinion, is Usher’s best work since Confessions when you put it up against Here I Stand or Raymond v. Raymond. The sound is specific, yet perfect. It’s flows cohesively where there isn’t any blatantly obvious appeals for Top 40, as the sound reigns through the entire album. The melting pot of genres such as dance, soul, funk, electronic, house, pop, rock, all combine to give us one of the most enjoyable Usher albums in recent memory.