Filed under: Issue 21, Issue 21 Reviews | Tags: Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Echo, Jay-Z, Michael Jackson, Plies, Raymond v. Raymond, Tom Petty, Tunnel of Love, Usher
Part of Issue 21 coverage!
PREVIEW: VISIT Usher’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 13/20 Watts
Like Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Tom Petty’s Echo and Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love, Usher’s Raymond v. Raymond is an album inspired by divorce. And just like those albums, Raymond v. Raymond does not offer one cohesive perspective on the complex situation. Instead, as the album title implies, Raymond v. Raymond presents two different sides of the R&B artist – the heartbroken-yet-resigned ex-husband, “ready to sign them papers” and the sweet-talking flirt, mackin‘ it on the rebound.
Jay-Z recently made a far-reaching prediction that Usher could be the next Michael Jackson. Except Jackson would never have sung the words, “When you step up in my Porsche Carrera, better not touch anything.” Yes, for three minutes and twenty seconds, Usher unfortunately sings about how “amazing,” “courageous,” “fantastic” and “awesome” (in that order) he is in the song “Radar.” Here, we are bombarded with the second Raymond – the cheesy creeper in the club, spinning one-liners out of his leather pants pocket. There’s no evidence of Jackson-esque pop music revolutionism to speak of on Raymond v. Raymond.
While he is most certainly not the newly-crowned “King of Pop,” moments of Usher’s style of smooth R&B greatness do emerge like in the Neptunes-produced track, “Certified.” Pharrell’s signature mellow funk technique helps this Usher (the one we know and love) shine. And the radio-favorite, “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home),” featuring Plies, is most similar to Usher’s older stuff, reminding us of his potential for the title, “King of R&B.” If he had just stayed true to his heartbreak-ridden R&B roots and neglected his desire to embody everyone’s favorite late sex symbol hit-maker, Raymond v. Raymond might have been a greater feat.
Although this record will never amount to what Blood on the Tracks amounted to for Dylan, Usher’s Raymond v. Raymond does succeed in accurately portraying the intricacies of divorce, in all of its messy ups and downs. While his sound flourishes on the down, Usher seems to be partial to the up.
— Carly Wolkoff