Usher, Looking 4 Myself
(* * * 1/2 stars out of four) R&B/POP
Usher has spent the past couple of years helping teenage Justin Bieber on the path to pop stardom. It's a road he's traveled himself, having started his journey in 1994 at age 15.
Now, on his seventh studio album, the self-assured veteran confidently steps out of his sonic comfort zone.
Helped by producers/collaborators Max Martin, Swedish House Mafia, will.i.am, Diplo and Luke Steele of Empire of the Sun, his brand of R&B relies more on electronic music sensibilities than hip-hop.
Where he once filled the dance floor with the crunk-fueled Yeah, he achieves the same effect with synth-driven Scream and energetic Euphoria. There is also plenty of explicit sex throughout (the salacious Lemme See featuring Rick Ross), though Climax is made powerful by delivering something other than what the title suggests.
Elsewhere, on the soulful Sins of the Father, he wonders how his fatherless childhood will affect how he raises his two boys. The mature Lessons for the Lover, on which he sings, "Just because he hurt you doesn't mean he's not the one," acknowledges that relationships aren't always easy.
Coming on the heels of 2010's Grammy-winning Raymond v. Raymond, Usher could have just milked that momentum. Instead, he's chosen to keep growing and moving ahead.
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