“I wanted to give you the foundation and allow you to hear where I am, and what the essence of expectations should be,” R&B superstar Usher Raymond says of tracks shared with London media at the preview event for his new album Looking 4 Myself (which contrary to reports is not called The Shanertance), held in the plush basement of The Arts Club on Thursday, March 22.
Alongside working with Diplo on dance hit “Climax,” the multi Grammy, Billboard and Soul Train award winning singer, songwriter and entertainer has also enlisted the likes of Swedish House Mafia, Danja and Pharrell Williams for his latest album; also rushing off from this playback and straight into the studio with UK artist and hit-producer Labrinth, whom he describes as “cultured and “very three dimensional.”
“I wanted to take a stab at his world … I can only imagine what me and Labrinth will do with this US and UK connection.” –Usher
“I think the world deserves an Usher and Adele record,” the star told Capital FM earlier that day. “That’s what I think. That would be the other UK connection that I think everybody would be really fond of and enjoy.”
Usher also collaborates with classic-crafting Miami producer Salaam Remi for “Sins Of My Father” on the LP. “The inspiration of it is, why do we sometimes deal with things that we don’t understand? Our past can lead us down a road because we didn’t even know it,” he told SoulCulture. For example; “The time spent with a father will teach you a certain understanding of live and how to cope and deal with things.”
The Chattanooga, Tennessee raised star adds, “The lack of a father being there can also teach you how to deal with life – and that’s what ‘Sins Of The Father’ is about… That statement was made because that’s something that I felt.”
“But I’m adding to the statistic that there are fathers out there who are there for there children, who are there to raise them, who understand that they have to take that time and really make sure that they make that connection.
“And understand that these kids are future adults – they’re not kids – so if you don’t give them the time and attention they need now, then they’ll be running around and somebody else will be knocking them upside the head or they’ll be incarcerated.” He adds, “That song in itself is kind of a testament to the father that I became.”
Exploring a wider soundboard on Looking 4 Myself Usher muses; “There’s a new world in music and culture out there – you’d be surprised at the type of things that I’ve been inspired by… Even if you just look at the choice of producers that I’ve selected to work with on this album, it’s a clear indication that it’s not just your typical run of the mill.”
“I feel like – and this is a statement that’s true of life – if you’re able and willing to take a risk then you’ll receive or even reap great benefits or rewards that come with it.”
“So that’s what this album is – it is a step,“ he adds. “It’s all about growth and really rising.”
LP Track Previews:
The session kicked off with Diplo-produced single “Climax,” which by now I’m sure you’re all familiar with;
Walking with my head down, counting every step / Hoping that the next one brings me closer to the man I was opens “Looking For Myself,” featuring Luke Steele from Empire Of The Sun, with a laid back alternative rock-edge and reflective lyrics.
A smooth, cinematic R&B cut emerges next with soft keys, a gentle drum beat and sweetly-controlled vocal runs to falsetto as Usher sings, I’m not afraid to try.
The aforementioned “Sins Of The Father,” produced by Salaam Remi, sounds like it might be an album highlight with its reggae vibe meets Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield whilst addressing family issues.
R&B swag back on, Usher finds himself rapping once again on “Let Me See,” a sexy club thumper produced by Jim Jonsin, complete with freaky, cheeky lyrics; She wanna take her skirt off…be my guest / I decide to take my shirt off…and show my chest / And you’ve been sipping on that Merlot, so you know what’s next / Perfect intermissions, switching positions / It’s so explicit.. He sings, What you gon do to me? / Don’t talk about, be about it / Let me see, let me see.
A more dance/pop-oriented cut blares through the speakers next; the least memorable of the selection played but nonetheless with summer chart potential.
Until we’re informed otherwise, I’d say the following track sounds very Ne-Yo-esque [particularly a la "Beautiful Monster"] with it’s melodic dance bed, catchy lyrics. Maybe not something we’d bump at home or in our headphones but full of club-friendly build ups.
Possibly produced by Swedish House Mafia [pending clarification], a further throbbing dance, sometimes trance-y anthem closes the listening session with global hit record potential despite being likely to split tastes.
Having heard an overall dance-heavy selection with flashes of great classic Usher R&B music – particularly in the forms of “Sins Of The Father” and “Let Me See” – it moreso feels that he isn’t trying to make R&B music with the new album , but shoot past to genre-less international pop recognition… perhaps in time filling the void left by Michael Jackson. [Sacrilege, I know. But possible?]