It’s official: Usher has Mary J. Blige disease. All the signs were there. It started with the constant clamoring about how in love he was and how happy he finds himself because of it. Then the nuptials came, followed by the declaration that he is a brand new person. On a personal level, it’s pretty commendable. Musically, it makes for pretty dull and repetitive compositions.
Here I Stand, Usher’s fifth studio album and follow-up to the diamond-certified Confessions, could easily be called The Power of Starkist (think about it for a little while, you’ll get it) or Tranny Love. One listen to this album and you realize that new wife Tameka Foster-Raymond must have the Midas touch or one hell of a hookup with a voodoo priestess.
Yes, she’s that bad – or at least that’s what Usher would have you believe. Although he reminds you throughout the album that he still faces hurdles as he approaches a new phase in life, he reminds you even more that he’s dedicated to staying true to his new life as a husband and a father. As the album drags along, one can’t help but think: “Ok. We get it already.”
In many respects, Here I Stand is still your typical Usher album. Many of the themes presented on this album have been constants in Usher’s ten-year-plus career for some time now. The difference between those works and ones found on this new album are that the singer behind them now comes across as a tamed version of his former self – therein laying the problem. When you’re an entertainer, tamed is never the adjective you want used to describe you.
Though he tries his best to put on airs to ease fears that he’s no longer like the rest of us with the first single, “Love In This Club,” it’s pretty clear Usher’s subject matter is different from here on out. He can talk about making love in the club all he wants, but “Best Thing,” featuring another now oomph-less artist these days, Jay-Z, gives us a good idea of what he’s really doing these days. On the track, Usher boasts, “No matter trickin’ and kissing miscellaneous chicks, acting like a jerk, woman, I’ve been to church.” While it’s nice to see him in the pews, if he’s that pressed about delivering sermons on the power of love on every song, he can kiss his spot on my iPod goodbye.
Although Here I Stand takes a detour from the route that produced the celebrated Confessions, the album is not a sign that a married Usher is now permanently incapable of making quality music. Songs like “Trading Places” and “This Ain’t Sex” offer some indication that Usher can still appease the appetite of his listeners who have yet to match his glee. Usher will simply have to take some time to strike a proper balance between the fun of his past and the new responsibilities he welcomes in his future. Hopefully, someone lets him know he doesn’t have to be so preachy, and pass along word that it’s ok for him to still have a little fun. That or Tameka needs to pulls back the whip.