Usher has a new philosophy that he lives by. “Evolve or evaporate.” This might be the answer to his transition from primarily urban R&B cuts to more pop-infused records such as the chart topper “OMG,” from his last album Raymond vs Raymond, which lit up universal clubs with its infectious beat featuring Black Eyed Peas front man will.i. am.
And who could forget the electro love ballad, “DJ Got Us Fallin in Love,” where he turns the dance floor into his own personal passion nest. At first, I was somewhat skeptical of the techno path Usher was taking with his music. Some hard-core music fans do not necessarily fare too well when their favorite artist seems to be following the trends just to sell a record.
But, rest assured that’s not the case with Mr. Usher Raymond. Yes, he has evolved as an artist, but he takes musical trends and alters them to fit his own level of comfort. His new album, Looking for Myself (released today) attests to his unique approach to music and ability to utilize any genre for his benefit. With help from a diverse line-up of producers like Noah “40” Shebib,(Drake) Rico Love,(Beyonce, Chris Brown) and Swedish House Mafia, Usher marries a myriad of genres such as electronica, alternative, dubstep, and house with his own flavor of R&B, soul, and hip-hop.
The album starts on an upbeat note and is emblematic of the edgy techno zest he displayed with “OMG.” “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” and “Scream” (the second single off the album) are energetic, bass heavy huggers that already have potential to become club anthems. From there, the eclectic journey through the mind of Usher, the “Revolutionary pop” innovator comes full circle.
On “Climax,” the first single off the album, a relationship that has reached its breaking point is displayed in the form of a sweeping falsetto and electro soul patterns. The melody gradually crescendo’s and suddenly ends with no warning. That is how the album comes off. Each song is full of refreshing new sounds that appear without any kind of forwarning. Like the retro-soul tune “Twisted,” which I never would have predicted to be on the album. The old school flavored joint, which features Neptunes leader Pharell is combined with elements of pop music and is reminiscent of the type of retro-nuevo style Raphael Saadiq resurrected a few years ago.
Usher also does a good job of balancing profoundness and playfulness. The album is not as personal as his spell-binding break-up theme anthem Confessions, but there are a few deep tracks that give us a glimpse of his challenging life experiences. On the poignant blues “Sins of My Father,” Usher blames his current situation with women on the lack of guidance he received from his father. He poetically cries “I don’t deserve a debt that came with my birth… I’m praying I can reverse this curse.”
If anything, what you get from this album is a rebirth of the versatile creativity Usher first brought to music in 1997 with the release of his second album, My Way. He went from being a cute face with a charming personality to charming the ladies with his seductive voice and mesmerizing presence. Now, Usher has morphed into a full grown man, loving father, and well-matured artist who is taking control of his life and his music.
Fave Tracks: Euphoria, Climax, What happened to U