Thursday, August 14, 2008

Album Review: Usher - Here I Stand (3 / 5)

Usher has always stood as one of the legends when it came to modern R&B, his last album Confessions, was an absolute masterpiece, spawning the worldwide monster hit ("Yeah!"), the mellow Hot 100 #1 hit ("Burn") and the uptempo top 10 hit ("Caught Up") the album was urban perfection, some definite 5 star stuff. His latest work Here I Stand. falls very short of the perfection that was, Confessions.

The album suffers from blandness and unoriginality, although not a complete disaster, it is his worst effort since his sophomore album My Way, released back in 1997, even though that album contains of my favorite ballads of all time ("Bedtime") and the acoustic hit single ("U Make Me Wanna").

Opening the album is a 1 minute piano intro, I've never been a fan of intros (outro's and interludes) but this is rather enjoyable, slurring on dramatic. The first song on the album "Love In This Club" is a brilliant opener, it serves as the albums lead single, topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks even before the official video, radio and single release. It's a nice slick, synth based track, with a very catchy chorus and throwing in some sexual slurs. Young Jeezy is also featured on the song, he throws in a pretty good verse too. The song is accompanied by a remix titled "Love In This Club Part II" it features Lil' Wayne and Beyonce, the song seems more of an alternative version rather than a remix, it consist of a slick sultry beat, although the chorus is tad repetitive. Beyonce and Lil' Wayne add in a good verse on their part.

Next up is "This Ain't Sex" which is nice offering --the track is very smooth and steady, one of my favorites on here. "Trading Places" follows up as another pretty solid track, it embarks on a slick and sultry direction backed by a wonderful piano riff. "Moving Mountains" is set as the albums next single, it's another of my favorites on here, it's more slower the previous track, very contemporary, it's sure to do well, especially on rhythmic radio.

The synthesizer based "What's Your Name" with Black Eyed Peas member Will.I.Am is a pretty funky number, but it's not that great, it's very basic --the more moderate of the album. Not a downfall though. "Prayer for You" is an 1 interlude lullaby to his son, it's very cute but it's nothing crucial to the albums performance. "Something Special" has nice melody but is potentially the most bland on the album. "Love You Gently" is another clunker, it looks to create the key sensual moments that were on Confessions more notably ("Can U Handle It?") unfortunately this falls way below the decent mark, the song is remarkably boring and tuneless, "sex" just doesn't work here.

Similarly to "Moving Mountains" the next track "Before I Met You" is another heartfelt ballad with "Moving Mountains" being its superior, it's not that great, just a really tepid ballad. Stopping the series of clunkers is "His Mistakes" which is yet another slow song but verges on a more dramatic venture. "Appetite" is really tasteless, it's rapid chorus really underachieves, yet another clunker on the album.

The highlight of the album is "What's A Man To Do" it's really a diamond in the rough --the song is a nice mellow guitar based track with recurring handclaps in the back ground, it almost reminiscent to Chris Browns ("With You"). "Lifetime" is a basic mellow R&B track, nothing special, a filler more than anything else. The title track "Here I Stand" closes the album well, incorporating a nice mellow motown throwback with some beautiful piano riffs.

I wanted to like this album so bad, but it gives me little reason to. Here I Stand, could be an enjoyable album but unfortunately has way too many rough spots something that Confessions didn't have any of, so what's going here? I don't feel guilty of having sky high expectations for this album, Confessions lefts me hungry for more so it's really unfortunate Here I Stand doesn't follow up that well.

Best Tracks: Love In This Club, This Ain't Sex, Something Special, His Mistakes, Lifetime, Here I Stand, Will Work For Love