Within the ever-evolving musical landscape, Usher has found a way to evolve himself, and stay two steps ahead of the game. With "Climax," the first taste from his seventh studio album "Looking 4 Myself," Usher proved he belonged to the elite cluster of R&B singers that can dominate more than one genre.
"Looking 4 Myself" finds Usher taking his core R&B fans on a ride towards global domination. And one has to be fearless for this ride. Not only does the album find the singer taking risks, both lyrically and sonically, the collaborators (including producers Diplo, Rico Love, Max Martin, will.i.am, Danaj Handz, Pharrell Williams, Swedish House Mafia, Salaam Remi and more) push themselves to new heights as well. Usher laces soundscapes inspired by different genres and eras -- ranging from Motown to Dupstep -- with his soulful, seductive falsetto.
According to Usher's RCA Music Group president/COO Tom Corson and "Climax" producer Diplo, Usher came out "ballsy" from jump. "The easiest thing to do when you have success is to keep doing that until it's broken," Corson told us for Usher's recent Billboard cover story. "But instead, Usher took things to the next level [musically]."
"He wasn't chasing a sound or jumping on trends. He just wanted to make something that felt fresh," Diplo added.
"It's all about striving for greatness and offering the best I have," Usher said of "Looking 4 Myself," one of the best full-length offerings in his 20 year long career.
Which "Looking 4 Myself" track will lead Usher to the top of the charts? Here's our track-by-track review of each song.
1. "Can't Stop, Won't Stop"
There's a lot going on (a synth-heavy hook whose melody nods to Billy Joel's '80s classic "Uptown Girl"), and yet not much at all (note the mediocre lyricism) on the will.i.am produced "Can't Stop, Won't Stop." It simply sets the stage for better tracks to come.
The album's first single, "Climax," isn't the only track on the album that spells out out S.E.X. "Looking"'s second single, produced by Max Martin and Shellback, is sexually charged and straight-up dance, reminiscent to 2010's "DJ Got Us Falling in Love," except two times better.
"Climax," the album's lead single, is a lightly synthesized heartbreak song that focuses on the singer's anguish over a failed relationship, backed by smoldering production courtesy of Diplo.
4. "I Care 4 U"
Danja Handz successfully mixes retro '90s hip-hop/R&B sound with the z-generation's current obsession, dubstep. Usher glazes the slingy soundscapes of "I Care 4 U" with his struggle to show as much as his lover desires.
5. "Show Me"
"Show Me" is one of the best songs on "Looking 4 Myself." The Danja Handz produced track pulls you in from jump and keeps you bouncing with the perfect combination of feel-good soundscapes and lyricism, courtesy of Nathaniel Hills, Usher, Kevin Cossom and Marcella Araica.
6. "Lemme See" featuring Rick Ross
The seductive, mid-tempo "Lemme See" captures signature staples from everyone involved: Jim Jonsin's synth-heavy production, Usher's come-hither crooning and Rick Ross' luxury rhymes.
7. "Twisted" featuring Pharrell
Usher delivers a fun, 60s' retro-soul track with the assistance of Pharrell's signature-heavy percussions and bass breakdowns.
"Dive" is one for the books. Jim Jonsin and Rico Love deliver yet another hit in the form of a jam that's slower and more sensual than their successful 2011 collaboration, Kelly Rowland's "Motivation." Usher reels our hearts in with his soulful falsetto, reminding us why we fell in love with the singer to begin with.
9. "What Happened To U"
Usher falls short of keeping our hearts in his hands, though. Instead of building off Noah "40" Shebib's smooth soundscapes with heartfelt words, Usher focuses on the ego more than the emo by listing the cause of a lost love ("money, clothes, fancy cars, big 'ol cribs...").
10. "Looking 4 Myself"
Rico Love not only pens lyrics, sung by Usher in spoke word-esque form, he rightfully recruits Empire of the Sun's Luke Steele to flesh out the track's modern synth-pop feel.
Usher teams up with some of the best dance architects in the game, Swedish House Mafia, to deliver the epitome of a feel-good track. The one and only message? Forget your troubles and fist-pump!
12. "Lessons For the Lover"
"Lessons For the Lover" starts strong with pounding production courtesy of Rico Love. Usher plays off the romance between the drums and keys, with seductive lyricism and breathy harmonizing, remniscent of his "Confessions" era.
13. "Sins Of My Father"
Salaam Remi and Usher deliver another ode to Motown with "Sins of My Father." Usher soulfully pays for his father's promiscuous ways over melodic soundcapes, arranged with a mixture of strings, horns and bass.
Usher closes the album on an up note with this paralyzing Swedish House Mafia-produced track. Grittier, more startling -- and arguably more powerful -- than "Numb," "Euphoria" leaves listeners with a feeling that reflects the song's uplifting title.