Album Review: Usher, Looking 4 Myself


Looking 4 Myself (to be released June 12)

Wanna know the wifey’s favorite song right now?

You haven’t lived until you’ve watched her mimic Usher’s flailing head and mouth-stretching notes. She looks like a baby bird being fed by mama bird.

I kid you not – the woman has to watch this video every day or somehow her life is unfulfilled. And as much as I’d love to hate on “Climax,” I can’t. It’s by far the best thing clogging up radio airwaves right now – maybe even the best track of Usher’s career.

The wobbly synths, the calm falsetto that slowly rises in each verse, only to hit its zenith and crash back down – the entire song lives up to its name. Usher and producer Diplo really created a masterpiece, a track that sounds like nothing I’ve heard before. That’s a miracle in today’s marketplace, which features an endless assembly line of techno pop clones.

So after Usher gets us all excited with “Climax,” what does he release next? “Scream,” yet another in the endless assembly line of techno pop clones. Sadly, if you’re hoping for an album filled with Climaxes, you’ll be disappointed. But what you will find is that Looking 4 Myself, Usher’s seventh set, is filled with diversity – most of it familiar.

Current single “Lemme See” is the standard radio-friendly R&B song: typical oversexed lyrics, a hip-hop beat that sounds like the stepchild of DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One” and the requisite cut-and-paste verse from Rick Ross (dude spends half the time talking about cars – did he even listen to the song?). Excluding Rawsssse, “Lemme See” actually succeeds, thanks to Usher’s flawless falsetto.

“What Happened to U” is the lovechild of Beyonce’s “I Miss You” and one of Drake’s murky mixtape tracks. That’s not a complaint – Usher draws you in with the familiarity and then adds his own stamp, bending your ear until you forget about the source material. Example: Listen to “Lessons for the Lover” and you’ll immediately think it’s ripped off from Kelly Rowland’s “Motivation.” But once you get pulled into the song’s storyline, in which sex locks lovers into flawed relationships, similarities are forgotten and talent triumphs.

Longtime Urshur fans will love “Dive” and all its innuendo while old school R&B fans will be drawn to “Twisted” and its ’60s Motown sound.

But of course, Usher is required to pad the album with irritating techno pop. The aforementioned “Scream,” “Euphoria” and “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” could have been sung (poorly) by Nicki Minaj, my Cousin Chris Brown — pretty much anyone. They’re annoyingly interchangeable and offer nothing new.  Thankfully, the title track does stray from the pack. Yeah, the lyrics are quite cornball – “I was looking for myself and I ran right into you” – but it’s not nearly as shouty and bland as the others. It’s synth pop done right.

I really wish Usher took more chances, like “Climax” and “Sins of My Father.” Usher sounds absolutely crazed on the latter, like he’s marching through a swamp after his woman put a hex on him. Like “Climax,” it’s in a class of its own.

If Usher spent more time innovating and less time imitating, Looking 4 Myself might have been a classic. Still, even though you’d heard similar songs before I bet they didn’t sound this good.

Best tracks: “Climax,” “What Happened to U,” “Sins of My Father”

4 stars out of 5


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