Review: 3 out of 5
Best Song: Love in This Club
The undisputed King of R&B returns (sorry R.Kelly) with his fifth album since 1994. Now before we get into this album review, let’s get one thing of the table, this album is not as good as Usher’s last offering “Confessions”. But really what album is ever going to top Confessions? Micheal Jackson’s Thriller? With that said this album showcases a more mature Usher (what with getting married and having a baby and all that saucy shit). But don’t think just because our little Ush’ has grown up that he’s fallen off, the writing is still as creative and vivid as ever and it’s evident Usher still has enough swag to knock off his latest imitators *cough* Chris Brown, J.Holiday, Trey Songz, Omarion *cough*. Now let’s get into the break down.
1. Intro (Produced by James “JLack” Lackey)
I have no clue what’s going on this intro. It sounds like Usher is doing a Black Broadway show like a surprise number from that play Diddy did “A Raisin in the Sun” -not that I saw it or anything. It even seems Usher knows this intro is total b.s. with the total lack of sincerity in his voice.
2. Love in This Club featuring Jeezy (Produced by Polow da Don)
Yes I am aware this song blew up four months ago (anal teenie boopers!). But this joint is just too crazy, it pretty much sums up my experience every time I go to a club. It may not be “Yeah” but it comes pretty damn close.
Best line: “You know all you gotta do is tell me what you sippen’ on/ And I promise that I’m a keep it coming all night long”.
3. This Ain’t Sex (Produced by Tricky Stewart and Jazze Pha, co-produced by The-Dream)
Aside from having a confusing song title, this groove made me think of “Bad Girls” from Confessions, though I wonder why three people needed to make this beat. Usher knows his target market and goes right for the center with this one. I can just picture the millions of Black women in college blasting this in their Hyundai Sonatas’. Oh yeah someone tell Usher to fall back on the Micheal Jackson crooning.
4. Trading Places (Produced by L.O.S. Da Maestro)
Now this is a song hip hop heads can enjoy, it’s like a song Nas would make if he could sing (Don’t get any ideas Nas). The whole premise of the song is that Usher and his lady friend “trade places” which may at first call for a “no homo” but the concept is kinda cool. Also special shout out to the drums from J.Holiday’s Bed.
5. Moving Mountains (Produced by Tricky Stewart & Terius “The-Dream” Nash)
I don’t know about you, but that brother The Dream can sure write a hit, but this is not one. Though, the symbolism in this one is impressive for the first verse the song ends up suffering from typicalrnbsongitis, a disease which affects 9 out 10 R&B songs. I don’t even think 45 year old women will like this song.
6. What’s Your Name? (Produced by Will.I.Am)
Remember when Will.I.Am was cool last year for five minutes? I don’t have any facts to back this up, but I’m pretty sure that’s when this song was recorded. Channeling the late Al Green, Usher tries his best over Will.I.Am’s synth groove which sounds like a miss-pitched riff from Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night”. Someone tell Will to stop rappen’, his esoteric European designed Black guy image is not working and besides that’s Kanye’s lane. Speaking of which, I would want to hear Kanye on this.
7. Prayer For You (Interlude)
Now even though this is an interlude, this is by far my favorite joint on the album. You can really hear the sincerity in Usher’s voice in singing about his new born son. To me this is true Rhythm and Blues in the same vein as greats such as Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke. You know artist who you actually felt a tingling when they sang, because it was so real, same thing here.
8. Something Special (Produced by Jermaine Dupri, co-produced by Manuel Seal & LRoc)
Apparently this is when the real album starts. But what’s with Usher saying “This is for the lovers”. No R&B singer should be saying that, it’s like a rapper saying “This is for the heads”. But I digress. This is a very sweet song dedicated to Usher’s new wifey -who everyone thinks his ugly as hell but “beauty is in the eye…”.
9. Love You Gently (Produced by Dre & Vidal)
Now this a throwback to 90’s baby making music. I thought that guy with the deep voice from Boys 2 Men was going to come in any minute and give a rousing monologue. But more importantly what the hell is “light as feather and hard as a rock?”
10. Best Thing featuring Jay-Z (Produced by Jermaine Dupri, co-produced by Manuel Seal)
I hate when producers take a popular loop and then try to chop it twice so it sounds different, because the beat here pretty much screws up this whole song. I can’t believe Jay-Z even agreed to rap on this. Remember when Jay-Z would rap over real musical R&B joints like that Jon B “Keep it Real” track. Speaking of which, I’m going to listen to that classic banger to get over this train wreck.
11. Before I Met You (Produced by Bryan-Michael Cox)
This is the typical “Don’t want to be a player no more” concept. Even though it’s been done to death, I’m sure the new generation of kids has their share of repentant players. But this song is still typical.
12. His Mistakes (Produced by Stargate, co-produced by Ne-Yo)
A song that looks at the conflict that arises when a women blames her new man for the sins of her last man. This is a situation most men can relate with and is an up-hill battle dealing with “hurt” women. But at least we can take comfort in knowing Usher goes through the same things (*yeah right*).
13. Appetite (Produced by Danja)
Now this is where the Usher from “Confession” comes out, except he’s dealing with the “boringness” of marriage and is getting finicky. Imagine how hard it is for Usher not to cheat? This man is probably getting OFB’s all the time (offers for brain). I also love the throw back Usher rap that borrows from the rap from his first real hit Nice & Slow. Remember when he said “I got plans to put my hands in places I’ve never seen”.
14. What’s a Man to Do (Produced by Stargate)
Another “guy song” that deals with the topic of loving two women at the same time (word to Lost Boyz). I’m pretty sure Usher dealt with this same topic on Confessions. I’m sure if I liked two girls right now this song would mean something to me, but isn’t that the case with most R&B songs?
15. Lifetime (Produced by James “JLack” Lackey)
It’s probably hard for most people to see young Usher grow up and the new beard he’s sporting sorta helps, but if that means he’s going to be making these “wife songs”, I’m out of here. I know Usher’s hitting 30 and all, but where the hell is the young boy swag? Maxwell’s cool and all, but I don’t want to see Ursh go down that lane.
16. Love in This Club, Part II featuring Beyonce & Lil Wayne (Produced by Soundz)
Finally some young boy swag, except it’s a repackaged version of Love in This Club. For some reason, knowing both Usher and Beyonce are hitched I imagined them actually having an affair and Jay-Z finding out would be ho-larious. I guarantee Big Pimpin Part 2 would be made and New York rap would be back. Oh yeah and Lil Wayne is ho-larious on this joint, aside from sounding like he’s dying, he delivers an entertaining verse.
17. Here I Stand (Produced by Dre & Vidal)
Usher get’s his Stevie Wonder on with this title track. I’m not sure why this was relegated as the last track, it should have been the intro as it sets a tone of maturity and screams “I’m off the market hoes!”. This is a song I would jokingly sing to my girl…actually I’ll stick to My Cheri Amor.
18. Will Work For Love (Hidden Track) (Produced by J. R. Rotem)
I know this song has a good message and all that nice stuff, but it’s a blatant rip off of that Justin Timberlake song “Losing My Way”. It worked for Timberlake because it was kinda cool to think of him as being a broke hobo, but Usher seems like he’s veering into Kenna territory on this one.