Usher was only 19 when he released his breakout single “You Make Me Wanna…” Now 15 years, seven Grammys, and two kids later, the R&B superstar reinvents himself with his seventh album Looking 4 Myself. The project combines elements of R&B, pop, dance, hip-hop, and electro, with production from diverse hitmakers including Diplo, Pharrell, Salaam Remi, Rico Love, Max Martin, and more. Did Usher’s risks pay off? Find out below.
Entertainment Weekly: When he reins himself in and lets the producers experiment, he’s getting something better than just another loverman hit. He’s always been popular, but now he sounds cool. B
USA Today: Coming on the heels of 2010’s Grammy-winning Raymond v. Raymond, Usher could have just milked that momentum. Instead, he’s chosen to keep growing and moving ahead. 3.5/4
The Guardian: Looking 4 Myself is bloated and self-conscious, but when it hits the spot it’s a feast of detailed, brilliantly gleaming R&B. Usher’s vocals are in fine fettle—his falsetto lends his tortured paramour poses a degree of depth, while “Lessons for the Lover” finds him harmonising with himself to astounding effect. 4/5
The Associated Press: The entertaining Looking 4 Myself is his best attempt at making magical music following Here I Stand and Raymond v. Raymond, lackluster albums saved by a few sterling songs.
Rolling Stone: If there’s anyone in music who doesn’t have an identity crisis, it’s Usher Raymond; the theme here, such as it is, is his own versatility. Club rave-ups, hip-hop ballads, synth pop, blaxploitation funk, a Max Martin song, a Will.i.am jam that borrows from “Uptown Girl”—all here. 3.5/5
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Climax,” “Lemme See,” “Twisted,” “Sins of My Father”