Everything seemed to be going so well for Usher Raymond. R&B’s most eligible bachelor had just married his girlfriend Tameka Foster and the couple had welcomed two children into the world. But then tragedy struck - at least as far as the Billboard charts were concerned. Usher’s 2008 album Here I Stand was a disappointment, at least relative to the crooner’s historically high standards. It turned out people wanted to hear Usher sing about knocking up his mistress, not being in a stable and committed relationship; about hitting the clubs until dawn, not taking out …
DJBooth Album Review
Problem solved. After a highly public divorce, complete with rumors of infidelity, Usher’s living the bachelor life once again, having threesomes with groupies and, on occasion, reflecting on the dissolution of his relationship. The title of his latest opus Raymond v. Raymond might suggest a man battling himself (see T.I. vs. T.I.P.) but the truth is, Usher once again seems almost impossibly confident. This is the album of a man who has done so many crunches his abs could cut glass, not the philosophical musings of a man plagued with self-doubt. In fact, his only real problem appears to be keeping his plethora of sexual conquests organized. It would have been more accurate to title the album Raymond v Raymond’s penis.
Even though Raymond v Raymond is a better album than Here I Stand, it has yet to find its Love in This Club, a smash single that propels the album into the chart stratosphere. It’s not for lack of trying. In the approximately six months since we got our first taste of the album the label has (so far) unsuccessfully cranked out track after track in search of a hit. In fact, it’s been so long that the first leak My Bag didn’t even make it onto the album. I guess that makes Papers the official lead single, although I’m hesitant to call a track with a call and response like “all my fellas if you’re ready to sign say yeah” a single. The same goes for Daddy’s Home, a perfectly decent cut that also failed to catch on, so let’s just skip around and focus on the album’s biggest success so far, Little Freak, a track that, for record, is about a lesbian/bi Nicki Minaj recruiting chicks for a threesome. With yet another hypnotic Polow da Don beat setting the stage, Little Freak is Usher at his most harmonically obscene, but it’s not exactly the kind of song BET’s dying to play on 106 & Park (hello parental complaints). With the anthemic pop cut OMG, produced by will.i.am gaining momentum maybe the 7th time might just be the charm, but even with more possibilities like the Luda assisted She Don’t Know waiting in the wings, it’s entirely possible that we may be looking at the first Usher album in history not to have a number one single since 1997’s My Way. And yes, for Usher that’s a big fu**king deal.
If there’s anything Usher does better than burn up the charts it’s burn up the bedroom. After all, you’re looking at a man who once dropped a song titled That’s What It’s Made For – the “it” being Lil’ Usher. Luckily, Raymond v Raymond contains its fair share of baby makers, even though, ironically, Makin Love is too poppy to truly be sexy. If I could only pick one song from the album to seal the deal it’d have to be Okay, a track featuring appropriately seductive synths that Usher turns into a steamy ode to (drunken) one night stands. I also have to give it up to the album’s slowest slow jam Mars vs. Venus, a breathy, seductive track featuring one of Usher’s best vocal performances we’ve heard in a minute; even after all these years, his voice hasn’t lost anything. Usher’s been around for so long it’s easy to start to take him for granted, but the truth is the man’s still one of the best (if not the best) slow jam singers in the game. Let’s all take a moment to give the man his due.
Ok, moment’s over. Ultimately, I enjoyed listening to Raymond v Raymond as an album more than I did listening to any individual cuts, meaning we’re looking at an album whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Let me simplify that. Raymond v Raymond won’t blow you away. It’s not Confessions, but after Here I Stand it’s a step in the right direction, and a step closer to another classic Usher album. And for now, that’s good enough.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 03/30/10
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First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Icebox (Remix) ft. Usher & Fabolous" (2007)
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