‘Raymond vs. Raymond’ | Usher

| Cadenza Movie Editor

What happened to Usher? In 2004, the R&B singer released his hugely successful album “Confessions,” which spawned four number-one singles—“Yeah,” “Burn,” “Confessions Part II” and “My Boo.” Then, he tried to make a comeback in 2008 with “Here I Stand,” which managed to feature one number-one hit, “Love in this Club.”

Now Usher has returned with his new album, “Raymond vs. Raymond,” in the hopes that he can regain his former title of R&B king. At this point, that seems highly unlikely.

“Raymond vs. Raymond” has seen many delays and disappointments since it was announced. Its original first single, “Papers,” was re-coined a “buzz single” to cover up for its modest success—a smart choice given the bore that it is. The remaining singles have thus far failed to even break into the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. Usher is not living up to his name or previous success with this album.

The album itself is just O.K. There are some good songs and some bad ones, but most of them are just there. Songs like “Okay,” “Monstar” and “So Many Girls” fill up the album, but don’t offer anything special.

Mixed in with these nothing-special, ignore-them songs are a few good ones. Official “first single” “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home)” doesn’t necessarily shine, but is good overall. Usher’s voice is good on this song, and the beat by The Runners is hard to ignore.  While the lyrics come off as a little creepy (“You know your daddy’s home/It’s time to play”), the song has a good vibe that is easy to rock to.

On the slow jam side of things, “There Goes My Baby” definitely shines. Over a synth-piano and spare percussion, Usher belts his love for his “baby.” His voice expresses his range on this one, and his emotion breaks through. What he can’t do on “Papers” and “Okay,” he knocks out of the park on this one.

By far my favorite song though, “Lil’ Freak,” seems like pretty standard club fare. It’s true that there isn’t anything particularly standout about the song’s lyrics or subject matter; it’s a pretty shallow song in fact. Even so, the beat—by Polow da Don—is crazy with its bass and synthetic claps. It is the perfect song to dance to in a club, and it’s hard to ignore. The fact that it features the hottest female rapper of the moment, Nicki Minaj, is just icing on the guilty pleasure cake.

While most of the rest of the album does nothing to differentiate itself, a couple songs do stand out in their awfulness. “OMG,” Usher’s next international single, is probably the worst of the bunch. The beat is highly synthesized and sounds exactly like the new Black Eyed Peas sound, which makes sense given the fact that it’s produced by the Black Eyed Pea’s will.i.am. Aside from the unoriginality of the beat, Usher’s voice just sounds strange. It is unnaturally low and cacophonous. Releasing a boring song is bad enough, but releasing this horrible one is far worse.

Usher can do better, plain and simple. We’ve all heard it with the massively successful and acclaimed “Confessions” album. He is perfectly capable of producing good music, but he completely missed the mark with “Raymond vs. Raymond.” With most of the album being boring filler, Usher really should have spent more time picking better material. This just didn’t cut it. Hopefully you’ll get it right next time, Usher, but be aware that you only get so many chances.

for fans of: R. Kelly, Trey Songz, Mario
tracks to download:‘Lil’ Freak,’ ‘There Goes My Baby,’ ‘Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home)’

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.