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Album Review: Usher - 'Looking 4 Myself'

A Musical Feast

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating
User Rating 4 Star Rating (1 Review)

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Even after an almost 20-year career as a recording artist, Usher Raymond IV continues to push musical boundaries with his songs, and his seventh studio album, Looking 4 Myself might be his best attempt yet at pushing R&B/pop forward into new territory. Looking 4 Myself, which was released in the U.S. June 12, 2012, is an audio feast for the ears, featuring a main course of coldly sensual electro-pop songs, complimented by other dishes that include neo-retro Soul, romantic ballads and high energy dance anthems, plus a little hip-hop garnish on the side, as well. And this is definitely a musical recipe that satisfies.

Sensual Undercurrent

Usher has a recording career that dates back to the 1993 release of his debut single, "Call Me a Mack" when he was still in his early teens. But despite his nearly 20 years in the music game, he's somehow managed to not only stay relevant and near the top of his game, but also ahead of the crowd. Sure, there's been a few bumps in the road along the way, such as the negative reaction by some fans to his 2008 album, Here I Stand, but a lot of that was more a reaction to his personal life situation, specifically his then-new marriage to Tameka Foster. After they split and divorced in 2009, his career got back on track and he regained a substantial portion of his female fanbase.
And speaking of that fanbase, the members are likely to be pretty happy with much of Looking 4 Myself. There's a strong undercurrent of sensuality that's apparent during a substantial portion of the album, exemplified by songs like high energy dance track "Scream," when the opening lyrics show that Usher doesn't feel the need to beat around the bush: "I see you over there so hypnotic, thinkin' 'bout what I'd do to that body," he sings. "Got no drink in my hand but I'm wasted, gettin' drunk off the thought of you naked." Likewise, "Lemme See," which features the rapper Rick Ross, is a tale of sexually-charged anticipation: "You've been sayin' all night long that you couldn't wait to get me home alone, what you gon' to to me," he sings. "Don't talk about it, be about it, lemme see, lemme see, lemme see."

Relationship Songs

But although there's plenty of sexiness, this isn't a one-topic album. Despite the first single's suggestive title, "Climax," the song isn't an ode to the orgasm. No, the Diplo-produced track is actually a break-up song, where Usher laments a relationship's undoing. "You say it's better if we love each other separately," he sings strongly but sorrowfully, I just need you one more time, I can't get what we had off my mind." Another complicated relationship songs -- and one of the album's best tunes -- is "I Care for U," wherein over a mid-tempo, heavily synthesized beat, Usher tells his woman that despite outward appearances, he has deep feelings: "Normally my feelings don't show but baby I care for you, by now you should know that I care for you," he sings. "You say my actions never show that, I don't wear my heart on my sleeve, but what you get's what you see."
Another outstanding song is the retro-Soul meets modern hip-hop stylings of the Pharrell Williams-produced "Twisted," about a woman who's straight-up trouble; and another Soulful tune: "Sins of My Father," a Salaam Remi and Rico Love-produced jam about how Usher has seemed to have inherited his old man's cheating ways.
Overall, Looking 4 Myself just might be Usher's best album since his phenomenally successful 2004 album, Confessions. Although it's unlikely that this release will go on to sell over 10 million copies that way Confessions did, there's no doubt that this is easily and by far one of the better written, sung and produced albums of 2012.
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