Raymond v Raymond (Expanded Edition)


May 31, 2019

Usher Makes A Return To A Genre He’d Abandoned For Years

After Usher had released Confessions in 2004, he made a departure from the R&B genre that made him one of the best-selling artistes of the 2000s. He had gone on to experiment with electronic music in the other projects he released after Confessions and majority of them had been largely underwhelming. Hard II Love is also far from perfect, but it proved to be a step up on Looking 4 Myself. RCA Records with its production largely handled by Brandon “B.A.M” Hodge, Rock City, Pop & Oak, PARTYNEXTDOOR, D’Mile, Tricky Stewart, The-Dream, Metro Boomin, and Raphael Saadiq, released the album on September 16, 2016. I remember the day I got the album from a friend and got to listen to it for the first time, the first thing that struck me was Usher’s incredible vocals. Usher’s voice has never been one that needed extra effects to boost it to perfection as its smoothness was further enhanced by the amazing production this album boasts of. There are more instances throughout this album where comparisons can be drawn between Hard II Love and Confessions, the album that cemented Usher’s place as the contemporary king of R&B in the 2000s. However, I believe that where the similarity truly lies is in the fact that not since that 2004 album has an Usher album sounded so focused and cohesive. Since Confession, he had tried but never quite managed to create another masterpiece of modern R&B as a lot of energy got spent on creating dance floor fillers and tracks that made us wonder if Usher was even committed to any genre at all. Hard II Love has a few tracks that really appeal to lovers of the singer who have followed his progress since he burst into the music scene in the late 90s. Some other tracks might come across to this set of fans as Usher trying too hard to blend into today’s generation of sound. The album doesn’t have a lengthy list of features (a positive) with Future, Young Thug and the voice of Bollywood/Hollywood actress Priyanka Chopra the only guest appearances on the album. The album debuted on the 5th spot on the Billboard 200 and sold 28,000 copies in its first week. The album also got streamed 10.7 million times on Tidal, a streaming app that Usher co-owns. Hard II Love generally garnered positive reviews from critics but I honestly have my reservations. Having being an Usher fan since he started out way back in the early 2000s, I wasn’t expecting classic hits that could trump the likes of “Nice and Slow” or “U Remind Me” but it is safe to say I still expected better from one of the leading figures of the contemporary R&B genre. The album kicks off with “Need You”, a spoken-word intro that transcends into a soaring display of Usher’s abilities to blend current pop and classic R&B trends, which is something Usher does pretty well. One of the good parts of the song for me comes after the song, Priyanka Chopra’s sultry voice listing all she wants in her ideal man. “Missin You” is a continuation from where “Need You” stops with an interlude by Usher getting featured on this one. This song is a bit confusing as the verses features Usher exuding his playboy vibe while the chorus seemed like a serenade a love struck lover will sing to his lover he hasn’t seen in a while. Can Usher just make his mind up on this track already? A downer after the mild good feel we got from listening to “Need You” I must admit.

Written by @OBP from Omobaba Pension

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