Tuesday, June 3, 2008

album review: usher - here i stand (2008)

Artist: Usher
Album: Here I Stand
Record Label: LaFace Records
Release Date: May 27, 2008

Since the release of 2004’s Confessions, Usher Raymond IV has gone through many life-transforming changes. Aside from one of the highest selling albums of the decade, the R&B sensation has settled down, managed to get married and saw the birth of his first son.

Usher used this transformation into adulthood as a stepping stone and a blueprint for Here I Stand, his first studio album in four years. At face value, Here I Stand is a collection of songs that is no different than material found on Confessions, 8701 or even his debut album My Way. Despite the familiarity, the songs on Here I Stand reflect his new-found maturity as his writing is more focused on fidelity and taking care of his family.

On Here I Stand, Usher finds himself doing what he does best, which is creating tracks that are focused on sexuality, in every sense. Songs like “Trading Places,” “Love You Gently” and “This Ain’t Sex” should come as no surprise. “This Ain’t Sex” is one of the more refined songs on the album. Aside from a few cliché lines, the song is very reminiscent of an early 90s Michael Jackson.

Other standout tracks on the album include “Best Thing,” which sees a guest verse from hip-hop’s finest, Jay-Z. “Appetite” has a catchy hook and a crisp beat, and is another perfectly crafted hit in the making and could easily see mainstream success.

Fatherhood has brought out a new perspective in the superstar’s life. In “Prayer For You,” Usher sings a soulful melody to his infant son, who is heard cooing in the song’s background. In it, he bares all as he sings, “You carry my name/I pray that you’re better than me,” which is sure to tug on a few heart strings.

“Moving Mountains,” a song whose beat is very suggestive of a Timbaland influence and is also slated to be a single, is one of Usher’s most impressive efforts to date. The track is to Here I Stand will be what “Burn” was to Confessions, exploring the struggles of a failing relationship and its effects on both parties.

An album with 17 songs is bound to have a little bit of filler. Songs like the will.i.am produced “What’s Your Name?” and “Something Special” could have easily been left off of the album.

Considering the genre, the artist runs a very high risk of writing cliché and cheesy lyrics. Songs like “Trading Places” reads more like an online blog entry rather than a song. The type of storytelling approach in “Trading Places” and “Love You Gently” do not seem to be Usher’s forte, and should be reserved for R. Kelly, who penned the highly-addicting and narrated “Trapped in the Closet” series.

Aside from the minor setbacks, Here I Stand is a highly addictive and cohesive album which takes influences from the the best of modern and classic R&B. The impressive production line-up has also been beneficial to Usher. Fans of Usher’s previous albums should be able to find several gems on this album.

Growing up may have taken toll on Usher’s personal life, but it has not altered the man’s ability to create refreshing music.

Grade: B-

note: i usually post reviews from the school newspaper's web site, but my copy editors did their thing and completely destroyed it, so i posted the original instead.


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