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Usher - 'Here I Stand'

Standing Tall

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Usher - 'Here I Stand'
© LaFace/Jive Records.
When Usher Raymond married Tameka Foster on Aug. 3, 2007, a lot of his fans were not only disappointed, but worried about how being married would affect his music. Some feared that being a family man with a wife (and now a son) would prove to be a detriment to not only his music, but his career as a whole. Well, as it turns out, Usher's life change indeed has had an affect on his creativity - a positive effect. Here I Stand, which will be released in the U.S. on May 27, 2008, is definitely as good - if not better - than his last studio album, 2004's Confessions. Simply put: Usher's in zero danger of losing his mojo.

Still Sexual ...

As you already know if you've heard the album's first single, "Love In This Club," being a husband and father hasn't made Usher shy away from doing songs about lust and sex. On the song, Usher talks about a lust so immediate, so powerful, that it makes him want to get down right then and there: "You got some friends rollin’ wit you baby then that's cool/You can leave them with my n****s, let 'em know that I got you/If you didn't know, you're the only thing that’s on my mind/'Cause the way I'm staring miss, you got me wantin' to give it to you all night," he sings.

A longing for sensual healing is on full display on many of the album's other songs too, including the ballad "Gently" and the upbeat, danceable "This Ain't Sex," where he talks about lovemaking being an act that's as much about connecting spiritually as it is connecting physically: "We ain't having sex, we're making moments that will outlast the world/This ain't sex, this is a symbol of the true makings of love," he sings on the song, which sounds like something Michael Jackson could/would have recorded during his Off The Wall/pre-Thriller era.

... But More Mature

© LaFace/Jive Records.
Where this album excels is that in addition to the sex songs, Usher explores post-single life topics like being a proud parent ("Prayer For You"), being a happy and faithful husband ("Something Special," "Lifetime") and evolving into a better man ("Before I Met You").

Usher manages to easily and confidently walk the fine line between R&B bad boy and newly-sophisticated singer. Impressively, he even makes it seem easy, such as on the lusty "Love In This Club Part II," which features Beyoncé and Lil' Wayne and "Trading Places," a role reversal song in which Usher fantasizes about switching things up and having his woman pick him up, take him to dinner and a movie, then make love to him. "Now put it on me baby, 'til I say ooh-whee," he sings. Later in the song, he proceeds to make his lover breakfast in bed, then go shopping.

"Trading Places," like virtually every song on Here I Stand, is all-around excellent: the vocals, production and (especially the) lyrics all excel. This album may be more mature and less drama-filled than Usher's Confessions, but even without those elements, Here I Am is still an outstanding album.

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