Usher wants you to know that all those gossipmongers are wrong; he and his wife are not on the rocks. You want to know how I know? I just listened his new album Here I Stand in which Usher stands on the proverbial soapbox and proclaims his love for the family life. Yet after all that is said and done…Here I Stand is a rather ho-hum album.
Some of Usher’s best songs have grown out of tension between himself, his libido and his woman. He was at his best with the often melodramatic but pretty fantastic Confessions. He indulged in his vices in the ubiquitous club anthem “Yeah!” but was torn up with the consequences in “Confessions” and “Burn.” That play showed depth in his writing, and that he wasn’t just a pretty boy with killer abs.
The Usher of Here I Stand may be happier but, quite frankly, he’s a little boring. It is by no means a terrible album, but it does sound like Confessions‘ lethargic cousin. Many of the songs are bland ballads and mid-tempo jams, that kind of pitter-patter about. Nothing quite grabs you like “Yeah!” did, though “Love in This Club,” featuring the increasingly amusing Young Jeezy, makes a good effort. “This Ain’t Sex” shimmers like Off the Wall era Michael Jackson, though I don’t think Jackson ever sang “we ain’t having sex/ we’re making moments that will outlast the world.” Um…yeah.
Any notions that the ol’ ball and chain would hinder Usher’s libidinous nature would be dead wrong. Sex is all over the place on this album, almost to the point of being uncomfortable. When Usher sang about having sex in a club before, it was never a specific girl, or in some cases, girls. But when Usher sings “we order Chinese food right before you do me” in “Trading Places,” the diary-style details are definitely too much information. This is especially so, as anyone can go and Google Usher’s wife, Tameka, so we know EXACTLY who he’s singing about.
At more than an hour long, Here I Stand could have used some good editing. Songs like “Best Thing” featuring Jay-Z or “Love in This Club Part II” with Beyonce and Lil’ Wayne could have easily been tossed aside. Still, Usher’s undeniable talent as a singer carries this album and keeps it from being a clunker. He can sing a sweet falsetto and flow into a rousing tenor and it’s a joy to listen to (particularly in “Before I Met You” about, guess who!). With 18 tracks, it’s a commitment to listen to Here I Stand, it’s just unfortunate that some of the songs don’t command the attention they should.
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