A decade ago, American R’n’B star Usher was on top of the world, with hits like Yeah and My Boo being played on every radio station around the globe. Last week, however, he dropped his latest venture A with much less fanfare. The former urban king is trying to keep up with popular culture – with mixed results.
Lyrically, Usher stays in his comfort zone, and relationship struggles provide a recurring motif throughout much of the record – starting with gloomy opener Stay At Home. Much like the closer Gift Shop, it feels like classic Usher – just slightly modernised.
ATA and You Decide are the most exciting moments, where Usher cranks up the beats, and showcases his smooth vocal abilities in between fast wordplay and much more textured, intricate instrumentation. In these tracks, and on Birthday, too, there’s definitely a more relaxed approach, and that enjoyment radiates through the music.
Trap-infused ballad She Ain’t Tell Ya could easily pass for a J-pop song, while the jazz piano Say What U Want shows the singer at his most needy, as he grovels, “If we make it through the pain we’ll grow”. It’s a decent track, but the gushing vocals are a bit much.
A is a decent enough return from Usher, but its grade is more of a C+.