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Review: Usher finds new identity with ‘Looking 4 Myself’

Usher has long balanced huge radio singles and powerful R&B tracks, and his discography is largely comprised of not much more than that. That’s not a knock on Usher, as it’s certainly worked for him, but his latest album, “Looking 4 Myself,” crosses into several genres and is quite different from his previous works.

The album’s lead single, “Climax,” somewhat surprisingly isn’t a club track, but rather a simple yet powerful R&B, quiet storm ballad. It is quite possibly one of his strongest tracks in recent memory.

“Scream” and “Lemme See” took me back to Usher’s club and radio singles, and are relatively standard fare across the board. “Numb” and “Euphoria” also appear to be future Charlie Bear fare.

The album’s title track is almost the epitome of “Looking 4 Myself’s” different direction. It sounds almost pure ’80s, and featuring Luke Steele of Empire of the Sun who helps push the New Wave feel of the track along. It’s an interesting direction for the track, as it doesn’t quite match up with the introspective nature of the lyrics, but it’s a creative choice nonetheless.

“Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” features traces of house and is one of the more interesting tracks on “Looking 4 Myself,” which might be due in part to Billy Joel’s writing credit. Other tracks, such as “Twisted,” don’t really sound like the typical Usher fare. With Pharrell producing, it makes sense.

Danja-produced tracks “I Care For U” and “Show Me” are the most sonically interesting bits on the album. The former’s slow, pulsating production is one of the album’s most captivating, with the latter’s slightly more upbeat nature a nice, catchy change-up.

“Dive” recalls a bit more of Usher’s R&B past that made him so successful, especially after his mega-hit 2004 album, “Confessions.” “What Happened to U,” which features a sample of a Notorious B.I.G. track, also slows it down, even if it’s a bit weaker lyrically than much of the rest of the album.

The album closes with “Lessons for the Lover,” another slow jam, the somewhat-reggae-inspired “Sins of my Father,” and “Euphoria.”

“Looking 4 Myself” isn’t “Confessions,” but it would be unwise to expect as much. It is, however, a harmony of different styles, and Usher deserves some credit for switching things up and trying something fresh.

Blending elements of several genres – the aforementioned electronic, house, New Wave and quiet storm, to name a few – “Looking 4 Myself” is a nice curveball in Usher’s primarily pop and R&B discography.

Grade: B

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