On "Looking 4 Myself," Usher teams up with the likes of electro-dance superstars Diplo and Swedish House Mafia for raucous club-ready jams sure to be right at home alongside pop offerings from Nicki Minaj, Ne-Yo ("Give Me Everything, produced by Afrojack) and David Guetta (the latter of whom has produced for Usher before).
But this is an Usher album, so he's not going to sing about starships. The subject at hand is, and perhaps always will be, seduction. What happens when ones takes intimate moments and stretches them over bass drops more suited to frenetic jumping around? Pure pop romance goodness.
The album begins with "Can't Stop, Won't Stop," a deeply bassy song produced by will.i.am (who sampled "Uptown Girl") and jumps into club mode with "Climax" and the near-dubstep "I Care For You" before slopping off into some attempt at pop rock with "Show Me." "Twisted" is encouraging, if only because it sounds like an N*E*R*D* track (courtesy of Neptunes member Pharrell's production and guest verse).
Then, suddenly, Usher arrives. His eighth track, "Dive" is a proper, if overwrought, R&B song. Unfortunately, things become unhinged shortly thereafter with "Looking 4 Myself," as the title track dips into some sort of pop-rock malaise.
Some crooning later, the album pops off with "Euphoria," Raymond's collaboration with Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso and Axwell of Swedish House Mafia.
That this effort is being praised as Usher's "best album since 2004's near-perfect Confessions," probably has more to do with the mediocrity of Here I Stand and Raymond v. Raymond than with Looking.
Billboard touted the disc as a "next-level soul album" and praised its "shimmering keyboard flourishes of EDM," but these lush descriptions seem like a stretch. Swedish House Mafia is not -- and never claimed to be -- known for any sort of sparkling subtlety. The trio of producers and DJ's popularized "bro haus," the hard thumping, entirely predictable flavor of dance music that has enveloped previously nuanced artists like Calvin Harris and brought them into the world of "We Found Love" pop. Adding Usher's vocals over these beats does not make them soul songs.
For fans of Usher and R&B, hip-hop and/or rap, "Twisted" and "Hot Thing" are sure to be the most notable songs. "Hot Thing" barely made it on as a bonus track, but features production by Pharrell and a verse from New York's it-thing rapper A$AP Rocky, who brings his typical confidence to the song. While you won't be hearing it in as many clubs as "Euphoria," it's certainly Usher's most credible moment on the album.
We selected 13 of the most bracing lyrics for your enjoyment below. Check out fan reactions to the music below. Looking 4 Myself is out in the United States on Tuesday.
1. "Girl you are my sugar shop, love you like a lollipop / From the bottom to the top, Imma get you wet, raincoat / Let me be your body soap" ("Can't Stop Won't Stop")
2. "I have you like ooh, Baby baby ooh baby baby / Ah-ooh baby baby ooh baby baby" ("Scream")
3. "I CARE! I CARE! For youuuuuu" ("I Care For You")
4. "Hey girl, I'm debating, if I should take you home. Should I take you home?" ("Lemme See")
5. "She say she wanna take her skirt off (be my guest!)" ("Lemme See")
6. "Chanel hoodie on, lookin' like Trayvon Martin, George Zimmer don't want it" (Rick Ross on "Lemme See")
7. "You had me lookin' stupid, but I let it go that way / That booty substituted, guess that made it okay!" ("Twisted")
8. "I see the walls are looking like they might precipitate / Until I'm in so deep, it's up to my waist" ("Dive")
9. "It's raining inside your bed / No parts are dry / Love makes you so wet, your legs, your thighs /And ever since we first met I knew that / I, I knew I was ready baby to take that dive" ("Dive")
10. "I'm just saying that what don't kill only makes you strong" ("Numb") [Ed. note: Come on!]
11. "F--k you out your brain, you'll be smiling when he's done" ("Lessons for the Lover")
12. "Yeah, she took my breath away / On to some fancy ship [s--t?] into another place / Such an expensive trip But she didn’t make me pay for it with my money" ("Sins of My Father")
13. "'Cause if I don't fear the water, and the night don't fear the thief / Here we are, we are, we found euphoria! BASS DROP" ("Euphoria")
Sir Edwin Katende