Fresh off a highly publicized marriage that lasted less than two years, Usher
Raymond tries to regain his swagger - and the female fanbase that deserted him after he got a wife - with his sixth studio album, Raymond v. Raymond
(released in the U.S. on March 30, 2010). Many of the people who didn't like the more mature direction that Ush went in on his 2008 album, Here I Stand
(aka "The Married Album") will probably appreciate this release's return to basics. Sex, love, cheating and drama - the four basic ingredients in most of his previous work - are all in abundance here, and Usher has definitely regained his mojo.
Sending a Message
Surprisingly, despite the provocative title, Raymond v. Raymond
, isn't filled with songs about his marriage and what led to it crumbling apart. Instead, the majority of the the songs are mid-tempo and upbeat tracks with good vibes. The song "Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home)," is not only the album's first official single, it's also a declaration. On the song, Usher
's basically sending a message to his female fans that the Usher they knew and loved is back in their lives and that they don't need to stray any more: "You know your daddy's home, and it's time to play, so you ain't got to give my lovin' away," he sings. "Hey Daddy" is just one of more than half a dozen sex songs on the album. Among the other better ones is Lil Freak," featuring openly bisexual female rapper Nicki Minaj. On the song, which is about a ménage à trois, Nicki completely steals the show with lyrics about wanting a chick with "a real big ol' ghetto booty" and how she's plotting to "take Cassie away from Diddy."
There's a strong party vibe throughout the album as Usher takes the opportunity to celebrate his newfound bachelorhood, like on the song "Pro Lover" when he sings: "Lovin' me baby, that's a no-no/I'm better when I touch and go/I'm try to add your name to my hall of fame, not just a player, I'm a pro."
One of the few songs that addresses his divorce is "Papers," an emotionally bitter track that's reminiscent of the drama-soaked material on his blockbuster 2004 album Confessions
. On the song, he apparently addresses his now-ex wife and how he was willing to take a chance on marrying her, even though his mother didn't want him to and he knew being a husband could hurt his public image as a ladies man. "For you I gave my heart and turned my back against the world 'cause you were my girl," he sings. "I damn near lost my mama, I done been through so much drama ... I'm ready to sign them (divorce) papers."
Raymond v. Raymond has 14 songs and no interludes, and clocks in at 59 minutes long, so anyone buying it is likely to feel that they're getting their money's worth. That said, the song quality tapers off toward the end of the album. The last few tracks, including "Guilty," (which features the rapper T.I.), the dance track "So Many Girls" and "Making Love (Into the Night)," don't break any new musical ground and worse, rely on tired cliches. But overall, many fans who were disappointed with his last album are likely to enjoy this one, as are the fans who stood by him throughout the Here I Stand project and his marital drama.