Usher’s sixth studio album, Raymond vs Raymond, is way hotter than I expected. The album has unveiled the two or three different persona of the American R&B artist. All those fourteen songs (one additional song can be downloaded in iTunes) tell a story of a man searching for short-term pleasure, genuine love and the honest truth.
1) The cover label of the album is probably one of the standout covers in history.The idea of showing the left and right frontal side of Usher immediately captures your attention.
It will keep you guessing what has to be expected once you insert the disc inside the CD player.
2) The order of the track is kinda unique. I have nothing to complain about it. The fourteen songs are trying to paint a picture out of the several intensities and sounds.
3) Somehow, it is all back to basics for Usher. He’s exploring things but at the same time, he’s feeling more comfortable to making fast and upbeat music. As Mark Edward Nero of About.com said; “Sex, love, cheating and drama – the four basic ingredients in most of his previous work – are all in abundance here, and Usher has definitely regained his mojo.”
4) I am hearing a much thirsty Usher in Raymond vs Raymond. This is the type of Usher I am listening in You Make Me Wanna + U Got it Bad + Yeah.
The messages of the songs are somewhat all over the place inconsistent from the whole idea of what the album is all about. There are times it confuses you. Yet, once you start to bring together the white spaces in between, you’ll see the truth and suddenly realize, “Usher simply wants to be happy.”
My Top Five Picks
Usher showed his spectacular vocals and dancing moves when he performed this song in 2010 American Idol Top Ten Result Show. Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, the songwriter, has certainly not failed Usher and helped him uncover a different zone inside him. A zone that he feels comfortable while sprinkling it with a unique taste of vibe. ***4 of 5 stars
2) Track 4: Lil Freak Featuring Nicki Minaj
This is basically one of the many Usher’s horny songs just like in the old days. Usher is in the club again or shall I say, inside a brothel. Which one?
Never mind as long as he’s having fun. If you ask me, this is the one song that gives you the kick to start your day and with a HURRAH. The stirring beat with Nicki Minaj’s dirty rap simply goes on and on and on. That’s absolutely hot! ***4 of 5 stars
3) Track 9: Foolin’ Around
This is the type of song that has a depth and is filled with good substance. Once you listen to the song, you’ll see the dissatisfied Usher who has several questions and regrets. Usher has a good approach of telling a story of a man who wants to let go of a romantic relationship that won’t work. ***5 of 5 stars
4) Track 10: Papers
This is the first buzz single of the album and it has reached number one in US R&B Billboard Singles Charts for two weeks. The first time you listen to the song, you can immediately feel the pain and hurt of a man who’s undergoing a divorce. ***4 of 5 stars
5) Track 1: Monstar
The way I see it, this is simply the “right” way to open a Hip-Hop/R&B album. It feels weird to listen to Monstar the first time due to its overly produced heavy beat. Yet, if you’ll listen to it again, you’ll realize “Hey, this song got the groove, and yeah, I am digging it!” This song is kinda hot, makes you think and feel, especially when Usher opens up and say:
There’s three sides to every story,
There’s one side, there’s the other
And then there’s the truth.
***3.5 of 5 stars
Bonus Track: Here is the music video of 15th track in the album and it’s only available for downloads in iTunes. It’s entitled MORE.
Overall rating: Usher’s Raymond vs Raymond is a powerful album. Usher is hungry for creativity and is seeking for more. He showed the world he has still the ability to leave a mark in one’s mind and heart. For that, I’ll give it 8 of 10 stars.