Abel Tesfaye's dark, twisted album is at odds with the glossy pop world he's been thrust into
Usher : 8701
Usher's personal vision shines through this excellent opus, featuring the smash 'Pop Ya Collar'...
Much has been made of a rivalry withSisqo, but Usher distances himself with a set that's a million miles from the peroxide one's commercial braggadocio. On the track 'If U Want To', for instance, Usher sings, "If I want to, I can take you from your man", but it's with a sense of insecurity and vulnerability rather than outright bragging. And stand-out track 'You Got It Bad' deals with the spectre of first love with passion, honesty and some raw beats. "Everything that used to matter, don't matter any more/My money, my car", Usher sings with feeling. He laces his fluid delivery with the verbal twists of street rap - on the funky call-and-response of 'Pop Ya Collar', for instance, or the ode to lurve-making 'Twork It Out'.
Usher mixes in nostalgia with his groove. A self-confessed '80s fan, he introduces touches of '80s rock guitar and the minimal rhythm of '80s hip hop. He also recalls the '90s on 'UTurn' ("I had a hot flat top/...the sound was Bobby Brown), and seals his wish to be a song-and-dance man with a track about his own dance. Michael Jackson never did that. Versatility is the key here: staccato beats with mellifluous melody, rich slow-jams and edgy harmonies - but woven through with Usher's own perspective. A winner.
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Oxford's finest flit between gnarly rock and frustrating slickness on an often-brilliant fourth album