Friday, May 30, 2008

Ushering In the "Bad" Phase of a Career

Usher Raymond is the most prolific singer of his generation, released the follow up to 2002's Confessions on May 29th, titled "Here I Stand". Confessions, which sold nearly 10 million Cd's in the U.S., is probably the best mainstream R&B CD of this decade, and quite simply a masterpiece. Led of by the Lil John influenced "Yeah", to the usual collaborations with Jermaine Dupri, Confessions was an unparalleled Pop and R&B production. Only Justin Timberlake's recent CD can really go head to head with it, and I would give Usher a slight edge. Unlike Timberlake, who seems to not be missing a beat as he heads into legend hood, Usher seems to have hit a bump in the road. The first single from "Here I Stand" was the Polow Da Don produced, "Love In The Club" went #1 on the Billboard charts, but lacked the buzz or OOMPH of "Yeah".
I just watched a replay of Usher performing recently on Saturday Night Live, and he seemed to be just going through the motions (similar to Janet Jackson these days). Michael Jackson didn't totally go into "going through the motion" mode after "Thriller", but with "Bad" and subsequent releases and performances, something just wasn't the same. Pure singers rarely hit this phase from a performance standpoint (Prince is in a different category altogether) even if their records aren't selling. Patti, Aretha, Jill, Badu come to mind. Luther never hit the "motions" phase due to a once in a lifetime voice. Combination singers and dancers seem to hit the wall more often than not for some reason, perhaps just to a wearing on the body, although after seeing Madonna's latest video, "4 Minutes", she seems to be rejuvenated at the age of 49, so all is not lost.
Usher is in transition on a number of fronts: a new wife and child; new management; and the loss of his mentor Antonio "LA" Reid helming his project for the first time in his career. I've listened to the new CD, and it's very average. The good thing about Ushering in the "Bad" phase of a Career is that Usher is young enough to regain the fire that's made him the preeminent performer of his generation.

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