Usher - Here I Stand

Posted May 27, 2008
Tags: Usher,

In one hand you hold an album filled with tales of sex so freaky it would make Trina blush,...

Here I Stand Album Review

In one hand you hold an album filled with tales of sex so freaky it would make Trina blush, complete with accidental pregnancies and emotional breakdowns. In the other is an album made by a man who simply wants to spend a quiet night at home with the love of his life and his newborn baby. In other words: which Usher album is it gonna be? Confessions or Here I Stand. There’s only enough room in the stereo for one.

There’s no way to say this without sounding shallow, but personally, I’ll take wake-up the neighbors sex over quality family time any day. Make no mistake, Usher has in no way vacated his King of R&B throne. If anything he’s used Here I Stand as a musical scepter to beat down the upstart challengers who dared try and claim the crown in his absence, but this is a different Usher, a mellower Usher - dare I say a more boring Usher? Listening to this album feels like watching your crazy friend finally settle down. You’re glad he’s in a healthy relationship, but honestly, he was a lot more entertaining when he was drunk and hiding under a table at the club so his girl wouldn’t catch him cheating.

LaFace Records know I’m speaking the truth, that’s why they chose to lead off the Here I Stand campaign with Love In The Club, easily the most young at heart track on the album. With hypnotically captivating production driving Usher’s sexually drenched vocals, this song was a guaranteed smash, despite Young Jeezy dropping one of the least sexy verses in memory (any ladies out there really want to be “bagged like some groceries”?). At his best Usher delivers more than a song, he delivers a fantasy, even if acting on that fantasy would get you arrested, as Beyonce so wisely points out on the remix. Speaking of which, it might be legally required to have a Wayne verse on your album, but why throw Weezy into the remix? It feels like an unnecessary addition to what could have been a pure Usher and Beyonce duet. Club-related humping isn’t the only time Here I Stand harkens back to Usher’s younger, hornier past, but it’s close. The next best thing is undoubtedly Appetite, a Danja produced slow-burner that reveals perhaps Usher’s not completely finished with his cheating ways. If this album had more Appetites it would have been a classic. If it had more Appetites it would have been Confessions.

Usher may not be the shirt-ripping stud he once was, but that doesn’t mean Here I Stand doesn’t feature a new and improved Usher. On a purely vocal level Usher’s never sounded better. His soulfully smooth voice was always overshadowed by his dance moves, but on Here I Stand his voice finally takes center stage, with impressive results. Five years ago he would have sung Moving Mountains as a melodramatic ballad, now he’s reinforced his vocals with a dynamic expression that occasionally reaches gospel-level highs and lows (beat work from The Dream doesn’t hurt either). It’s the same story on Love You Gently, a slowly winding track that Usher lays down with almost impossibly cool notes. It’s a gorgeous song, but it just isn’t properly inspiring. This is foreplay music, but a lot of people do foreplay music. You always turned to Usher to deliver climax music, and while Here I Stand is full of build-up, there’s disappointingly little pay-off.

The album manages to recover at times with the flip-the-script Trading Places, which shows he learned a little something about lyrical absurdity from his time with R. Kelly, and the Hova assisted Best Thing, which proves not every Jermaine Dupri-Usher collaboration is a hit, but both of them ultimately fall just short of truly memorable. In the end Here I Stand is the perfect title for Usher’s latest effort. The man stands at an undeniable musical crossroads, with half of his heart still beating for the sound of his more reckless youth, while the other half tries to maintain the more responsible and personally fulfilling life he’s leading now (if his music’s to be believed). Does this album mark the day Usher crossed over into full-on grown man status? Only time will tell. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to call my girl and throw on That’s What It’s Made For. Some of us are still young enough to break a mattress.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

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Posted May 27, 2008
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