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Wednesday, 13 June 2012



Raymond's found Raymond.

When Usher first came onto the scene in 1994 with his self-titled debut he was only a sweet 16 and already being courted by the like of Puff Daddy and the late, great Notorious B.I.G. When the huge albums 'My Way' and '8701' followed he did more than confirm himself as one of the youngest, hottest talents in the game. He also showed he was the young R&B prince to megastar R. Kelly's king. Since then he has been nipping at his friend Kelz heels all whilst inspiring a bunch of young singers who looked to take his spot. Still as good as Ne-Yo, Chris Brown and Trey Songz are. They don't have Usher's career yet.

Following the scorching summer album '8701' came Usher's biggest record to date. 2004's 'Confessions' (which featured classics like 'Yeah', 'Burn', 'Caught Up', 'Throwback', 'Seducation', all the 'Confession' parts and hey all the 'Confessions' album) revealed a million and change sales in it's first week and ended up cracking diamond. After that massive move Ush's great but lackluster sales-wise 'Here I Stand' was always going to pale in comparison (despite the huge 'Love In This Club' and 'Moving Mountains'). Still two years later and two years ago 'Raymond vs Raymond' and the massive singles including 'O.M.G.' stepped the singer/songwriter/dancer back to the top of moving sales. Now Mr. Raymond is back ushering in his new release 'Looking 4 Myself'.

From the 'Climax' of the first single it looks to be another hot Summer album too. The Grammy winner is back with what he terms "revolutionary pop" for a nice album that will leave you screaming "yeeeah man" like his popular catchphrase, like the single 'Scream'. The kid that introduced Justin Bieber has still got it as a thirty something. The different genres mixed together to create this new sound makes for some potent pop. Sure the man who just got his place back on the R&B throne takes risk's here but it makes for a much edgier, career turn.

Carrying on where the 'D.J. Got Us Falling In Love' dance-floor infused 'Versus -EP-' left off this album cuts more rugs. Sure it doesn't have as many big numbers as the last album ('Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home)', 'Lil Freak', 'There Goes My Baby') but it plays like a cohesive, class record that will help you get ready for the weekend. Jams like 'Can't Stop Won't Stop', 'Show Me', 'Dive' and the euphoric dance style of 'Euphoria' will do that for you.

There's also some depth on here as the ballad 'I Care For U', the moving 'What Happened To U' and the Salaam Remi produced 'Sins Of My Father' reveal some of this singers greatest records, especially the latter. 'Dive' into even greater depths like 'Numb' and what you have is the perfect album that knows how to treat both a Saturday night and a Sunday morning. Usher extends his range through pop/soul/dance bringing the likes of Diplo and Swedish House Mafia along.

There's more featured acts invited to the guest list too. After making great Summer pop music together ('U Don't Have To Call', 'I Don't Know' and more) Pharrell reunites with usher for the big and bold 'Twisted' track. While new Busta Rhymes/instant hit, R&B feature maker Rick Ross delivers again on 'Lemme See'. Still it's the crossover collaboration with Luke Steele of the sonically sensational Empire Of The Sun on the album-titled 'Looking 4 Myself' which is this records highlight. This track really does usher you out of Raymond's world and takes you to Steele's empire. Things get even more out there on the deluxe edition of this album with great tracks like 'I.F.U', 'Say the Words'. the swinging '2nd Round' and the single worthy 'Hot Thing'. This is a seasonal scorcher.

The gamble pulled off. Usher has delivered us a new style that is both eclectic and excellent. Raymond pushes the envelope here no fear but also knows the limits of his boundaries. Still giving us 'Lessons For The Lover' and his atypical, classic R&B, all whilst extending the range he pushed forward as he stepped out of the shadows of his last album. What results is a lighter, more scorching album that we haven't heard since the days of '8701'. '8701' may not of been Usher's most successful album, but it was definitely his most ground-breaking piece and on 'Looking 4 Myself' the man breaks further ground. All whilst taking it to the floor. Now dance. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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