Remember when people used to get excited to hear a new Usher album? Oh, stop that. It wasn’t that long ago. I didn’t realize the release date for Looking 4 Myself was so soon until the project leaked online. It literally just hit me that this is Usher’s seventh project. On first listen of it, I wasn’t sure how I felt.
My feelings become clearer with each listen, but one thing is for certain in the meantime: This video is forgettable. The song itself is terrible. Both harken back to things Usher’s done already. For a few minutes I thought of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” which I believe Usher already paid tribute to somewhat in the video for “Yeah!” The awful, awful “Scream” is nothing more than the second cousin to “O.M.G.”
Both come across a bit lazy considering this was someone who boasted of a new album ushering in its own genre called “revolutionary pop.” Silly title aside, there was promise of something different in Looking 4 Myself’s first single, “Climax,” which Usher branded “electro pop.” I continue to live not knowing what that means. What I do know is that the album’s subsequent singles – “Scream” and “Lemme See” – owe its life to Raymond vs. Raymond’s “O.M.G.” and “Lil’ Freak” — and that’s pretty pedestrian.
Regardless, there are several gems to be found on Looking 4 Myself, and despite my R&B purist leanings, I admit that said gems include works beyond the spectrum of R&B. Some of those songs invite feelings that Usher is adamant about behaving like that youngish uncle who wants to accompany you and your cousins for the annual post-holiday dinner trip to the club. Yep, the one who is going to try to holla at your friends, too. Don’t believe me? Pay close attention to the juvenile lyrics the 33-year-old is crooning on various records on the album.
Since I worry that I, too, may become that uncle in due time, I’m going to accept Uncle Usher for who he is for my own self-interest. Rock on, Unc-Ush. Now as far as that quality relates to his album, I can’t help but remain thinking Usher’s revolution sounds so much more like settling. For the singles-crazy era we live in now. For the constant posturing that an artist’s “experimentation” is rooted in creativity versus a spot on the upper echelon of the Hot 100. He is adamant about making sure we still think he’s cool.
On the other hand, as a pop star by design Usher is supposed to play to the times. He doesn’t necessarily have to lead the pack, but I’d advise him to loosen up talk of sparking “revolutions” within genres when it’s more like a backhanded compliment to it. He should be letting us pay him that kind of compliment anyway — once it’s earned. Meanwhile, I can give him credit for making a solid album that’s essentially a continuation of Raymond vs. Raymond albeit more skillfully crafted (totality speaking as nothing bests “There Goes My Baby” and “Mars vs. Venus”). And for sounding gorgeous throughout it. I’ll even applaud him for getting me to mildly tolerate his inner Belgium bar hopper now.
None of that is especially revolutionary, but it is change. I guess I can take the whispers while I wait for the real scream.