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 Ahlund, Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso, Axel 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