Usher is one artiste that has stood the test of time in a fickle music industry, and rightfully so, as his aggressive mantra, "evolve or evaporate", has enabled him to churn out album number seven, Looking 4 Myself, music he terms "revolutionary pop".
Now, the question right now is, how exactly are Usher's pop offerings revolutionary? While I would not go as far as to call this LP revolutionary, it certainly has given me a whole new perspective on the R&B and hip-hop scene, as he samples and drops many a beat that has been influenced by recent trends, like dubstep.
Years on, and Usher's smooth vocal superiority is still stellar, of which is present in single Climax and Dive. His transition in Climax from his standard range to falsetto induced goosebumps when I listened to it, and can be said to be one of the best choruses on the LP. Similarly, Dive is a well-crafted track that has me gushing over Usher's voice, as his soulfulness penetrates the listener's psyche, evident in his impressive vocal curls.
Ironically, title track Looking 4 Myself is not one of the best off this album. Sticking to a pop synth riff with a repetitive chorus, I find myself looking to turn the dial to the next track after the first chorus. Euphoria is a trance / dance house number that was produced by Swedish House Mafia, and is driven by synth beats. "The fire don't fear the water / and the night don't fear the thief" are lyrics that somehow have deliberate deeper messages that Usher might be consciously trying to bring across.
Bass-heavy Twisted portrays Usher in a different light: fun, upbeat and relaxed. The militaristic sounding number is funky, with Pharrell lending his vocals to a nonchalant rap done brilliantly. This blend of 60s beats with and R&B flavour is exactly the direction that Usher is aiming for in his pop revolution.
The mandatory fist-pumper track definitely is Numb. Also produced by SHM, it has all the elements of a feel good number: melodic synth beats, one repetitive sentence ("I can't feel you now") and a build-up / rush that results in a semi-explosive transition into said repetitive sentence over and over again ending in a fade-out. Scream is Usher's crowd-rousing contribution to 2012 as DJ Got Us Falling In Love was in 2010, except that he made it slightly better. It's an infectious song that will make you scream for more, and is one song that will get you singing along to the "ooh baby baby ooh / ooh baby baby"'s in the chorus.
Usher has definitely made sure that what he is offering is not your standard pop / R&B fare, but rather, he has infused it with current music trends and classed it up so that it works. I commend his efforts and implore you to listen to this, even if you are not an R&B fan, because there will be a song in that album for you.
Track Cuts: Climax, Scream, Numb, Twisted, Dive, Sins of My Father