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Album review: Usher, "Versus"

ralph stanleyUsher (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

By Sean Fennessey

We don't tell pop stars how to age gracefully, but perhaps we should. It's been five months since the release of Usher's sixth album, "Raymond v. Raymond" - which crossed the platinum benchmark just last week - and at 31 he's at a curious moment in his career. Five years ago, his brilliantly vulnerable 2004 release, "Confessions," became the last album to cross the RIAA's 10 million-selling threshold, earning a diamond certification. But that was then, when the turmoil of young adulthood and falling out of love was rich and present. Today, Usher has crossed the 30 threshold and is divorced and enormously wealthy, if less popular. He should be transitioning to that very particular moment in a loverman's career: smooth R&B.


But "Versus," a sort of stop-gap EP, instead finds him in Peter Pan mode, digging for remnants of a younger self that never existed. "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love" is his first collaboration with Sweden's teen pop overlord, Max Martin. He raps, perhaps inspired by young heir apparent Trey Songz, for the first time on "Get in My Car." And what would a lunge for youth be without an appearance from Justin Bieber? The child-god's "Somebody to Love" is remixed here with a new verse and "Get 'em, J.B." encouragement from Usher, his mentor. These are crass moves, mostly, and they rarely work because Usher works best in emotional hailstorms, not candy rain.

There is one song included from "Raymond v. Raymond," the splayed "There Goes My Baby." It's a rare straight ballad for Usher, whose thin, high tenor wasn't built for languor. But it's an amazingly rending song, and a hit, too. So why does everything else here - excepting Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis's adorably old-fashioned "Lingerie" - sound like it was recorded in an arcade? Maybe it's best we don't tell an aging man his business.

Recommended tracks: "Somebody to Love (Remix)," "There Goes My Baby"

By Click Track  |  August 24, 2010; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: Usher  
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Next: Album review: Magic Kids, "Memphis"

Comments

On the behalf of Usher's true fans, I had to respond to this article. Since when is the age of 31 old?! Now, whoever wrote this article obviously didn't do their research thru Usher's colossal music catalog. Get in my car is not the 1st song Usher has rapped in. Ever heard of Nice and Slow? He was rapping before anyone even knew who Trey Songz was. I don't think he is reaching back to a younger self. He is just returning to the music that made people love him for all these years. The music that has made him #1 in Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. RECOMMENDED TRACKS: Raymond vs. Raymond- Daddy's Home, There Goes My Baby, Lil' Freak, OMG, Mars vs. Venus, Pro Lover, Guilty, Okay, Into the Night. VERSUS: Love 'em all, Hot Tottie, Lay You Down, Somebody to Love(Remix),Stranger

USHER FAN 4 LIFE! MUAH!

Posted by: dilae | August 24, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

This is actually a great album, albeit a short one. A really nice continuation the last one.

Posted by: Mteuzi | August 25, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

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