Usher has spent the better part of the last decade being one of the biggest R&B artists in the world. However, many die-hard fans of Usher would argue most of that decade was met with mundane and mediocre music. No one can blame them, Usher’s “Confessions” really put Usher at the forefront of R&B and was an impeccable album that stands as Usher’s best.
Since “Confessions,” fans have been wanting a project from him in the same vein. They want “Confessions 2,” however, what they don’t understand is it will never happen.
In the years since, music has changed, especially R&B. Usher has grown into a different artist, one that blurs the line between pop and R&B. “Hard II Love” is a reintroduction of Mr. Raymond into the modern age of R&B and it’s oh so good.
“Hard II Love” has something that his previous two albums, “Raymond v Raymond” and “Looking 4 Myself,” never had. Focus. Both albums were a sporadic mess sprinkled with some gems. Usher was too focused on trying to appeal to multiple audiences at once, that he fell short of what truly matters, making great music.
“Raymond v Raymond” and “Looking 4 Myself” covered too many genres at once which caused both albums to not have a sense of self. “Hard II Love” knows what it is, an R&B album for the new times. An album that proves Usher can still be relevant in a time where Kehlani and Bryson Tiller reign.
This album has no ventures into dubstep, pop or house. Usher has focused on delivering a concrete body of work that has been his best since 2004’s “Confessions.”
People tend to forget how wide and how flexible Usher’s vocal range is. He’s able to switch from silky falsetto, to fast singsong and grand runs with ease. All of the tracks take advantage of his versatility. With his voice, Usher can have someone feeling heartache, and in another minute, have someone feel ready to hit the dance floor.
This album finds Usher venturing into new territory. Songs like “Let Me” and “Downtime” find him doing singsong in the style of Bryson Tiller and Drake. However, while some artists fall flat on this sort of style, Usher does it with his own flare.
His smooth voice gives it a style all its own. “Let Me” stands as one of the best tracks because of the way Usher carries the song in singsong. The way he uses his voice will sure remind long time fans of his “Nice & Slow” verse.
“No Limit” finds Usher dabbling in Trap n’ B. Over booming bass and hi-hats, Usher makes them say “uhhhhh” on a track filled with lyrics about spending endless cash on his woman, with Young Thug stopping by to rap about how “You finer than wine/ baby girl I ain’t lyin’.”
It’s common knowledge that Usher makes some of the best bedroom jams in the business. Unfortunately, there is only one on the album.
“Tell Me” is sure to make clothes come off with its airy/tribal-ish feel. “Tell Me” has the best vocal run I have ever heard from Usher. As the song begins to build up and reach its crescendo, he sings, “I want to hold you till I can’t feel again/ Until your soul lets me in/ Tell me you want to make love.”
“Hard II Love” is filled with sleek production and great tracks. It feels like Usher has finally honed in on what he’s meant to do.
Usher is an icon, one that has helped shaped the R&B artists of today. “Hard II Love” proves that Usher still has the voice to make your booty go “clap.”