Usher : Pop Ya Collar

Best r&b single of the year, already...

Its a testament to the influence of Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins’ production style that genteel melody lines have found a place in the bass-heavy land of r&b (remember his harp intro on Brandy & Monica’s ‘The Boy Is Mine’?). Jerkins’ rival, Kevin ‘She’kspere’ Briggs, has taken note of this and uses it to flirtatious effect on this, Usher’s comeback single. Gentle keyboard strokes dummy you into a false sense of contentment before a rib-shaking bassline orchestrates the mood and attitude of this street-geared anthem of self-assurance.

This is not an excellent single purely because Usher Raymond is singing it. It’s excellent because ‘Pop Ya Collar’ shows how one of rap’s favourite words (playas) has now become significant within r&b. While it’s true that soul singers have sung about jealous rivals in the past (remember The O’Jays’ ‘Backstabbers’?) we now live in a post-rap climate where lyrics must get to the point in a self-aggrandising and bolshy manner.

It’s ironic that former goody-two shoes Usher has done this better than others, but he has. He brings the subtext of this track alive with attitude (“to all you haters I got sumthin’ to say/you can eat it/or throw it away/doesn’t matter cos you’re following in my tracks/so can you dig that?!”) and in less than four minutes he, ‘She’kspere’ and Kandi (who wrote the track) show exactly what today’s r&b sounds like, feels like, and – post-rap – has become. Utterly wicked.

Jacqueline Springer