It’s been four years since Usher’s last album, and the R&B genre seems to be facing an identity crisis. Think of classic R&B and you think of love songs and sad songs influenced by soul and jazz music. But today’s R&B is mostly influenced by hip-hop and the occasional EDM beat. Usher has walked both of these roads with much success and the 37-year-old singer just released his eighth studio album, Hard II Love. At his Tidal listening session he said, “I really did cater this album to men, specifically men who don’t think love is cool to do.”
The lead single “No Limit” featuring Young Thug showcases that half R&B and half hip-hop style that Usher has perfected over time and made his own. On “Crash,” he delivers that falsetto that we all love and sings about wanting back a past relationship–even if it won’t last. Another standout track is“Rivals,” which features Future. Future, also known for his raspy, auto-tuned vocals, sings on the chorus as they trade melodies back and forth.
Unfortunately, there are songs on this album where Usher doesn’t sound like himself and more so like newcomers Bryson Tiller and Tory Lanez, who tend to mix rapping along with their singing a’ la Drake, who is the most successful at this style. The track “Bump” starts off sounding like a love ballad, but ends up being the opposite of romantic. The same goes for “Let Me” which samples INOJ’s “Let Me Love You Down.” On “Downtime,” Usher trades in singing all together on the second verse and just talks over the music.
While we may never get another 8701 or Confessions, Hard II Love falls short of how amazing Usher’s music catalog actually is. Earlier this month, Usher received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He’s had an amazing career spanning over 20 years, and while it’s not unusual for artists to recreate themselves over time, sometimes it’s better to stick with what makes you, let’s just say, easy to love.
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Photo courtesy of RCA Records