Usher‘s new album Looking 4 Myself (out today) is less a metaphorical walkabout to self-awareness and more a stroll through today’s Top 40 radio. The disc shovels a hefty helping of currently trendy EDM beats and synths over Usher’s standard R&B, and though this might seem like a surefire express train to the top of the charts and the hearts of the clubs, he hasn’t necessarily won over the critics. Looking 4 Myself has snatched up just as many noteworthy praises as criticisms, with many reviewers less-than-impressed with what the hitmaker calls “Revolutionary Pop”. See Look for yourself in our Review Revue below.
LA Times’ Pop & Hiss blog gives the album three stars: “At its best, Usher and an impressive team of producer/collaborators… tweak the pop recipe enough to offer surprises. But the album is fat, and any revolution within gets nearly stomped to death by too many 130 beats-per-minute defeats.”
Entertainment Weekly gives Usher’s latest a B. “The slower songs drag, and when it comes to romance, Usher’s hilariously clueless: He proposes a nice ‘gang bang’ for his lady, and offers to ‘let me be your body soap’ (um, yuck). But when he reins himself in and lets the producers experiment, he’s getting something better than just another loverman hit.”
Rolling Stone found the album enjoyable, saying, ”The only thing that rings false on Usher’s seventh LP is the title: If there’s anyone in music who doesn’t have an identity crisis, it’s Usher Raymond”. Their review also notes that only Usher could make the lyric “Let’s get together and exchange fuck faces” work as well as it does.
New York Daily News doesn’t agree with Rolling Stone’s assessment whatsoever. “Usher’s core identity still feels either shallow or unformed. And, on some level, he must know it. Why else saddle his whole CD with the title ‘Looking 4 Myself’?” They also throw this zinger at him: “Usher labels the result “revolutionary pop,” but there’s nothing here that sounds like it’s about to make history.”
The Guardian takes the good with the bad: “Looking 4 Myself is bloated and self-conscious, but when it hits the spot it’s a feast of detailed, brilliantly gleaming R&B.” They add that the album is most interesting “when the album goes in directions that don’t cleave to obvious aesthetics.”
Complex has some major love for Usher’s collaboration with Diplo: “At first listen, the album’s lead single ‘Climax’—a quiet take at techno by producer Diplo—sounds like a song for lovers. But really, it’s the best breakup cut of 2012. This ‘climax’ isn’t orgasmic, it’s about being on the other side of the relationship’s peak. In fact, most of the tracks on Looking offer deeper meanings than the obvious. But even the surface-level songs like ‘Lemme See’ and ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop’ are gems.”
The A.V. Club also appreciated “Climax”, but still gives the disc as a whole a B-. “Though nothing else on Looking 4 Myself is as audacious as ‘Climax,’ nor as revelatory, a similar sense of experimentation carries through many of its songs… Not all of it works, but none of it is unpleasant, either, something that couldn’t be said of the previous releases from the single-and-on-the-prowl phase of Usher’s career.”
Billboard calls Looking 4 Myself a “a truly next-level soul album… one that has the warm, organic feel of R&B and deep pop hooks, but also the pulsating low-end and shimmering keyboard flourishes of EDM.”
The Huffington Post fixates on the album’s mediocre-to-laughable lyrics, but also spends some time criticizing other critics’ reviews of the LP (specifically, Billboard‘s): “That this effort is being praised as Usher’s ‘best album since 2004′s near-perfect Confessions,’ probably has more to do with the mediocrity of Here I Stand and Raymond v. Raymond than with Looking.” They call Billboard‘s descriptions of a “stretch”: “Adding Usher’s vocals over these beats does not make them soul songs.”
What do you think of Looking 4 Myself? Is this Usher’s best album yet, or are you disappointed with his new tunes? Tell us in the comments.