Review Summary: Usher stumbles into his best record since ConfessionsLooking 4 Myself
is international R&B megastar Usher's seventh studio release and yet another attempt at regaining industry pertinence. Leading single "Climax" worked well to incite anticipation for future garage lovers worldwide, liberally borrowing from 2011 darling The Weeknd in concept and execution. While somewhat obvious in intentions, these darker electronic influences brought another element to an artist otherwise growing exponentially stale and irrelevant by the minute. "Climax" was a work of art pulling heavily from future garage; electronic mainstay Diplo's production was the perfect complement to Usher's emotive crooning. Expectations were locked in. Looking 4 Myself
would easily be Usher's best effort since genre classic Confessions
Unfortunately, Looking 4 Myself
is a quite polarizing record. "Can't Stop Won't Stop" kicks things off with some dubstep and an interesting drop, but some truly cliched lyrics - Can't stop won't stop / Girl you are my sugar shop / Love you like a lollipop / From the bottom to the top / Imma get you wet - raincoat / Let me be your body soap / Up and down - rollercoaster / We can love forever
. Apparently Usher has really developed a taste for lollipops. Follow-up single "Scream" is a bullshi
t club track, driven by cheesy synths and a generally anthemic chorus.
But then tracks like "I Care For U" slow down the BPM to where "Climax" created so much excitement, with some chilled-out wonky style production. The planning and layout of Looking 4 Myself
is just baffling in this sense, as it repeats this pattern throughout the course of yet another bloated R&B affair, weighing in at 18 tracks for the deluxe version as released on Spotify. There is such an incredible dichotomy between generic club pop and genre creativity here, that it could almost be two separate records. The overproduced, disney-channel brand of production comes in full force on the obvious club single tracks, but gives way to thoughtful, atmospheric, and even cross-genre beats in other scenarios.
Regardless, Usher has not yet lost a step vocally - not surprising, as he is only 33 - his falsetto is beautiful as ever, and there really aren't obvious situations where autotune is abused. He goes verse for verse with Pharrell on "Twisted", while performing admirably on the dub-influenced expository piece "Sins of My Father". Featured rappers Rick Ross and A$AP Rocky are welcome surprises on "Lemme See" and "Hot Thing", respectively. In fact, "Hot Thing" is a perfect example of a straight fire and creative club track that doesn't exhaust pearl drop samples and synths. Conversely, Luke Steele's verses on the title track are unnecessary at best, vexing at worst. Without any quality control or stylistic cohesion, Usher stumbles into his best record since Confessions
. If only this was better planned.