Pressing play on Usher’s new album, you almost already know what to expect: a couple booming club-cultured hits here, a few nice-and-slow tunes here almost scientifically proven to get you in the mood for a little somethin’-somethin,’ and of course, songs where Usher gets a chance to bare a bit of his soul, you know, just to momentarily blur the somewhat glossy facade put in place by said “club-cultured hits.”
Usher’s new album, Looking 4 Myself—the multi-talented entertainer’s 7th full-length—
has all of that. You can hate all you want. You can say that all these contemporary RnB icons all just sound the same. You can tweet how all of them lack the balls to break new ground. In the end though, if you’re a fan of this kind of music, you will still be dancing to these beats.
Usher is simply one of the best at this kind of thing, and a rundown of some of the most flourishing tracks in the album should be enough to nail down that point. In Looking 4 Myself, Usher loses himself into a mishmash of genres—electronica, RnB, Soul, and pop—diving headfirst to explore something new. The result is still something very familiar: his made-for-Billboard vocal style, pumping beats, and lines that clubs will definitely be singing along to a few months from now. The dude's a pure entertainer, and you can't help but get sucked into it by his energy.
First off, the club hits. Album opener "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" provides a grand entrance with a backing track of "Uptown Girl" in fully synthesized form and a hollow, booming bass. The energy cuts right through. It is followed by "Scream," which as you might expect is anything but a whisper. It's almost another run-off-the-mill club hit, but if we're to judge it by the sheer aplomb the track brings forward along with Usher's constant "Ooh baby, baby, ooh baby," it's simply hard not to like. "Want to have a good time?," asks Usher, "Well, here's 'Scream.'"
Farther into this 18-track record are "Numb" and "Euphoria," two equally bombastic tracks that prove why Usher might be one of the most energetic guys in his field. The latter, most especially, is all out, well, euphoric. The build up is slow and steady, and makes you anticipate. When the track hits the chorus, Usher brings out all the fireworks, the dirty electro hits, the soaring pads, and the same kind of release you feel from everyone' favorite party song, Avicii's "Levels." "Numb," is slightly more subdued, as its name implies, yet the electric piano looping in and out of the track carries the entire track through and through.
Now how about Usher's aforementioned softer side. That is, of course, well represented too. "Climax" comes in as the third track, right after the dance-y "Cant Stop, Wont Stop," and "Scream." "Climax," in this case, is far melancholic than euphoric. Usher's vocal work resonates like a choir as he sings "Going nowhere fast. We’ve reached the climax. Were together, now we’re undone. Won’t commit, so we choose to run away."
Just as heartfelt is the standout track "Dive." Witness these lines from "Dive:" 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" Sounds crass? Usher treats the subject with tenderness, hence, a lovely rather than sleazy track.
Wet beds aside, Usher explores new territories with "Twisted (feat.Pharell)" Pharell's presence is immediately felt right from the get-go. It's a fun and playful track that isn't afraid to show some of that Motown flava. And who could forget about the title track, "Looking 4 Myself." First off, yeah, you'd think an artist like Usher would be aware that substituting "4" for "for" is already passe, but we digress. The groove in "Looking 4 Myself" is what separates itself from the other songs in this album, carrying an almost distinctly, early 90s vibe as Usher repeats the line "Walking with my head down, counting every step
hoping that the next one brings me closer to the man I was."
A few bad apples here and there (ahem, the stale "Show Me" and "What Happened to U") do not stop Looking 4 Myself from being another excellent addition to Usher's discography. Usher adds new ingredients, balances the mix, and lets his excellent voice guide the entire thing. Definitely worthy of being number one on the Billboard chart.