Album Review: Usher – ‘Looking 4 Myself’

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    Usher Looking 4 Myself TheLavaLizard
    Usher's 'Looking 4 Myself' album cover.

    When Usher first announced that he was working on his ‘Looking 4 Myself’ album, he boasted that the record would introduce the new genre of Revolutionary Pop. However, the material on the LP is far from innovative and is simply demonstrative of an artist who has mastered his sound.

    The 14-track ‘Looking 4 Myself’ album includes contributions from Danja, Diplo, Pharrell and Rico Love, all of whom help Usher define his voice with a healthy balance of Dance, Pop, Hip-Hop and R&B. In a time when so many artists being forced to decide between the synths of Dance music or else face marginalisation on the Urban formats, Usher has expanded his market beyond a singular niche with surprising ease.

    Without question, the strongest track on ‘Looking 4 Myself’ is the brilliantly produced ‘Climax’. Crafted by Diplo, the song is the only true example of a brand new sound worthy of being called “revolutionary”. Usher’s lush falsetto washes over the beat-driven, brooding mix of Quiet Storm and Dance that is almost impossible to class as any singular genre of music.

    However, the brilliance of ‘Climax’ proves to be fleeting as Usher stumbles with his second attempt at combining various styles on ‘I Care for U’. What could be a great R&B record without the added Dance elements, is matted with confusing layers of synths and distracting repetition, courtesy of Danja.

    The other songs on ‘Looking 4 Myself’ are more clearly defined as R&B or Dance without any further blurring of the boundaries between the genres. Yes folks, Usher knows that he has an album to sell and that the record is supposed to be purchased by average people instead of just producers who will lock themselves in their studios while trying to replicate the work of their peers.

    Among the standout Dance cuts on ‘Looking 4 Myself’ are the current single ‘Scream’, the forgettable ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop’ and ‘Numb’, the last of which many people may assume was produced by David Guetta. On the contrary, ‘Numb’ was developed by the mini army of Klas AhlundSteve AngelloSebastian IngrossoAxel Hedfors and Alessandro Lindblad. Hey, all those Eurocentric club songs sound the same so don’t feel embarrassed if you guessed incorrectly.

    Still, there is one Dance song that is leagues better than the rest. ‘Euphoria’ lives up to its name as a mind-blowing combination of throbbing bass and crashing synths that perfectly ends ‘Looking 4 Myself’ with a necessary explosion of energy.  The best part of the song? Usher isn’t singing, “honey got some boobies like wow o wow,” like he did on the horrendous ‘OMG (Ft. will.i.am)’ on his previous album, ‘Raymond vs. Raymond’.

    Usher proves his worth as one of the best singers in the industry today throughout ‘Looking 4 Myself’ but he truly shines on the R&B cuts. Indeed, swift vocal runs, clever uses of his falsetto and big belts define songs such as ‘Dive’ and ‘Twisted (Ft. Pharrell)’.

    “Do you hear that? That’s the sound of a singer who doesn’t need auto-tune to hit a high note.”

    Even Rick Ross’ incessant woofing on the typically hypersexual ‘Lemme See’ can’t distract from the fact that Usher fully understands his voice. Do you hear that, children? That’s the sound of a singer who doesn’t need auto-tune to hit a high note. If you need another example then listen to Usher flex his range again on ‘Lessons for the Lover’.

    Another solid effort by Usher can be heard on the incredibly catchy ‘Looking 4 Myself’ title track. Bearing a strange melodic similarity to Bananarama’s ‘Cruel Summer’, this song has the potential to be worthy single from the album and a serious contender for heavy radio airplay.

    ‘Show Me’ and ‘What Happened to U’, on the other hand, are barely worth mentioning. Clearly, Usher was mandated to put forward at least 14 tracks on ‘Looking 4 Myself’ and those songs were chosen at random from a hat by a drunk stripper at the back of VIP.

    Ending this review on a good note is ‘Sins of My Father’, which was co-written and co-produced by Salaam Remi. This clever record features subtle Reggae influences without sounding like a pale imitation of the genre. Thankfully, Remi has an appreciation for West Indian music and an understanding of Usher’s vocal stylings or else the risky ‘Sins of My Father’ would be a rejected by Moses himself.

    All in all, Usher’s ‘Looking 4 Myself’ is a worthy addition to his extensive catalogue of material. Fans who eagerly wait for him to recreate ‘Confessions’ may be sorely disappointed yet pleased that he continues to be a leader in his field. Honestly, ‘Looking 4 Myself’ isn’t the Revolutionary Pop record that Usher promised but it demonstrates that he is one of the few acts who continuously push the limits of their artistry.

    Standout tracks: ‘Climax’‘Twisted’‘Euphoria’‘Dive’ and ‘Sins of My Father’

    Weakest track: ‘Show Me’

    Possible singles: ‘Euphoria’, ‘Looking 4 Myself’, ‘Twisted’ and ‘Numb’

    The Lava Lizard Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

    What do you think of the review?

    • olly_tei

      good review, I agree with pretty much everything. I wish he was fully committed to the more adventurous songs on the album, he should be targeting the contemporary adult audience and the hipsters.

    • Ugh

      I love this album. rating is fair. usher’s albums are always worth buying.

    • BlkVibeNC

      Great review, as usual, Trent. I think Usher tried to keep it branch out a little, but didn’t want to venture to far an alienate his core fan base.

    • BDBD

      He should’ve swapped the R&B songs found on the Deluxe edition and put it on the main album and took the weak dance songs and put it on the deluxe album. His R&B work is much stronger and much better produced than his contemporaries.

    • AM!R

      I agree with most of your review, but HOW in the WORLD can you NOT like ‘Show Me’. That will be a single in the future, trust me on this… Other than that, this is def the best album by a popular act put forth so far in 2012

    • Matthew Charlery-Smith

      Haven’t heard all of the songs. In fact, haven’t heard most. But I have to say, “Climax” for me is a let down. Mostly because the song doesn’t really live up to it’s name. Just as you think the beat is about to drop and you’re going to have something you can dance to it retreats back to a slow tempo. To me the end result is like being on a jet that hurtles down the runway but never takes off. It doesn’t climax, it is anti-climactic. A song which builds in intensity is “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. Everything from the 1st second builds to THAT instrumental breakdown and then the mood changes with the strings for the 3rd verse (“Heartbreak enemy despise…”).

      In order to fully change his sound the Ush may need to duet with some of his male contemporaries who although are different will respect his longevity and place in music history such as Michael Buble, Adam Levine, a classical piece with string quartet, Bond etc, do some “Heal the World” type songs ec. That’s what MJ did for “Dangerous”, he switched up the formula and it impacted. It would make him appeal to different people worldwide. Rather than “I’m a hot male and watch me show my 6-pack whilst doing a hand stand”. You’d be unlikely to find European music teachers really buying an Usher CD (IMO) but they’d defo pick up an MJ or Beyonce CD because of what you could learn artistically. We as men need to stop singing about sex and partying and really get into the depth of the artistry. What was it Trent said? “Embrace the glitter…”! Just my opinion.

    • FOLLOW ME @gdboyratedloud

      I have yet to listen to the whole album but its sad that he is flopping in the US. Where is his fanbase? 124k in the first week is undeserved for this album

    • Kendall

      Awesome review! Disagree about What Happened To U but Usher continues to pave the way. Groundbreaking? No, but solid. I can’t wait for the dance crave to die. He shines on R&B records.

    • Liberiangirl

      I personally love this album. I purchased the Deluxe Version and have been listening since last Saturday. I think Usher did a great job mixing it up for R&B and POP fans. Out of the 18 songs on the deluxe version I like and think the songs are just ok but I usually skip them are: #1 Can’t stop, #7 Twisted, #14 Euphoria. I’m a R&B fan and I can listen to Usher sing these “poppy” songs. Good review Trent!

    • Girrrl

      Usher can sing his face off! That’s never been the problem. I’m still iffy about the pop sound. I may just buy the R&B songs.

    • Ci’Yonce

      The album IS good. He has evolved as an artist time and time again. Usher is what I call an innovative artist when it comes to his “artistry”. I can say it may have sold 124k but that doesn’t mean ppl should call the album off. My fav tracks “Show Me”, “Dive”, “Twisted”, “Sins Of My Father”, “I Care”. The rest of the album is FLAWLESS. Good job Usher. =)

    • Juewelz03

      I love the album my favorite song is Dive

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    • Ugh

      I had to come back to this post to say that Show Me is not the weakest track. It actually it has potential to be a single. It’s upbeat and catchy. there are other tracks on the album that i would consider weak.

    • Girrrl

      Ok I bought the entire regular album. I definitely don’t think Show Me is the worst track. The Best Tracks to me: Climax, I Care For U, Dive, Lessons for the Lover
      Throwaway tracks: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, Numb
      This was much better than I expected.