It’s supposed to be an ordinary Saturday morning. I signed-in to my Facebook and couldn’t believe my eyes. Usher’s newest album appeared in my News Feed. I immediately checked his YouTube Channel to confirm. All his new tracks were uploaded there, so is on his Spotify.
There’s something rare about “A.” It’s Usher’s ninth studio album exclusively produced by Zaytoven – a record producer from Atlanta Georgia. There’s more. There are only eight tracks in total length of 27:09 released publicly without formal announcement. All these tracks completely separate themselves from his 2016’s Hard II Love.
Hard II Love screams that Usher returns to R&B for good. “A” levels up – putting Usher in his most comfortable haven. There is a southern urban sound that narrates stories about sex, regret and greatness.
TRACK 1: Stay At Home (ft. Future)
Usher opens “A” with a heavy trap song about suspicion. Usher narrates a romantic relationship that gets weaker. First moment I listen to this, I immediately sense a dark shade of infidelity. 5 STARS!
TRACK 2: ATA
Seems like the story from Track 1 continues in Atlanta abbreviated as “ATA.” Usher sings to his girl about the life he can give to her if the relationship stays strong. There’s nothing remarkable about the song except for the overuse word “Lay.” As the song lays, it contains nothing new but mostly a superficial message. Never count Usher out though. He manages to put a blend of how awesome he is no matter how bleak the situation is. The song can eventually grow in you. 3 STARS!
TRACK 3: Peace Sign
Of course, an Usher album stays incomplete without sex. This is it. Basically, this is more about seduction before the actual core game begins. I heard a lot of sex songs narrated in different versions but this one brings something unique to the table. It’s entirely different and shorter in length from Nice and Slow but it’s enough to get your attention while displaying a peace sign all over. 5 STARS!
TRACK 4: You Decide
This is my instant favorite. It sounds lighter compared to the first three tracks. It feels light but once I put myself inside the story, I realize it reveals a story of a man who kneels down to give a failing relationship a second chance. He begs. He promises. He lets her decide. 5 STARS!
TRACK 5: Birthday
This is a no pressure song. It’s a song that peels a softer smoother tone but lacking in depth. It’s his girl’s birthday – I get that – and they will have real fun – I get that too. They dance. They sing. They splurge. They have sex. They eat all day – they do whatever they want… then what? 2 STARS!
TRACK 6: She Ain’t Tell Ya
There’s something about this song that caught my attention. It’s about lies. It sends a message to me that it’s impossible to expect total honesty in a relationship. It hurts but it’s the truth. The truth always hurts. 5 STARS!
TRACK 7: Say What U Want
This is my instant favorite too. The song gets an even surface. It neither sounds too rough nor too smooth. There’s depth too. Usher doesn’t want to end a relationship. He persuades her to express what she feels. He knows the relationship is dying but he still hopes for something good to happen. Even it hurts more, he wants to continue. 5 STARS!
TRACK 8: Gift Shop (ft. Gunna)
Usher ends “A” with his new signature sound. For some, this sounds generic but once I listen closely, it’s something fun and easy but quite forgettable. Usher sings like he raps while Gunna give his own spins, adding a layer of hard candy to a chocolate cake. 2 STARS!
Overall Rating: From what I’ve heard, Usher is clearly in his zone. I miss his soulful vocals – the kind of sound in Superstar from the album “So Amazing: An All-Star Tribute to Luther Vandross” but this is his brand new sound. He grew up in Atlanta and there’s nothing greater in life but to return to your southern roots.
I might have a cognitive dissonance as of the writing but I’m stating to believe this is the direction he will pursue.
Is it for long-term listen? Probably yes. It takes time to know the exact answer. Long-term listen, to me, means the album gets months older but I still listen to it.
Is it worth the length? Not sure if it’s worth for all his fans’ expectations. This is the first time in his career that he releases a studio album with only eight tracks. To me, it’s worth the listen and it feels he can do better with these tracks, making the lyrics more memorable like he did in Track 7 – not necessarily longer.
For the time being, I’m satisfied with its imperfection. A couple of tracks sounds similar but it didn’t destroy the overall quality. Each song complements the other; therefore, it’s fairly okay to have similar spins.
Most Memorable Track? Track 7: Say What U Want
Photos Courtesy of: Rolling Stone