Given the incredibly fast-paced, blink-and-you-miss-it, flash-in-the-pan, hit-singles-or-bust state of the music industry these days, career longevity is almost as difficult for an artist to achieve as fame and recognition itself. R&B superstar Usher is clearly an exception, as Tuesday (June 12) marks the release of the seventh studio album in his 18-year career. Usher has said that Looking 4 Myself represents an “evolution” for him in several ways, and judging from the positive reviews, critics seem to agree. Without further ado, let’s take a tour through the Looking 4 Myself reviews.
The Story of “Myself”
“To the list of people who’ve had mind-altering experiences at Coachella, you can add Usher. In April he was a surprise guest at the music festival, and he says his seventh album, Looking 4 Myself, was inspired by the eclectic acts he saw there, including Euro-disco champs Swedish House Mafia (who produced two songs for L4M) and Aussie synth-rockers Empire of the Sun (who guest on the title track). Even Usher’s new look off stage — the Buddy Holly glasses, the facial scruff — suggests that he’s warming to indie music. Did he go into Coachella as a Top 40 guy and come out a hipster? Well, he’s not exactly taking a stand against party-rock anthems here. Looking 4 Myself still sounds like the Usher you know; it’s just a little more interesting than his usual onslaught of skull-pounding beats and silk-sheets ballads.” — Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly
The EDM Influence
“In the interviews surrounding the release of Usher’s seventh album, Looking 4 Myself, the singer discussed the wide variety of music that influenced the set, ranging from electronic dance music to folk-rockers Mumford & Sons. And while there’s a prominent EDM sound on many of the tracks (folk, not so much), the sound has fused seamlessly with R&B, making Looking 4 Myself, at its best, a truly next-level soul album. One that has the warm, organic feel of R&B and deep pop hooks, but also the pulsating low-end and shimmering keyboard flourishes of EDM.” — Jem Aswad, Billboard.com
“A number of surprises lurk within, though. ’Twisted’ is the most disruptive track on the album, and proves that production duo the Neptunes are still able to time-travel back from the future to offer another dose of innovation. The rhythm is ridiculous, the kind that the Virginia team of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo are experts at creating. Jim Jonsin’s catchy rhythm on ’Lemme See’ finds its groove when Rick Ross parks his Lamborghini on the track’s lawn for a cameo. (Pharrell, by contrast, raps of rolling on another kind of vehicle, ’20 of us on Vespas and mopeds,’ cruising the city and offering a girl a gift of white lipstick.) The biggest outlier on Looking 4 Myself is Usher’s collaboration with Australian progressive electronic group Empire of the Sun on the title track. The song, which features Empire lead singer Luke Steele, is a new wave ditty with a beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Hall & Oates or later-period Steely Dan record.” — Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times
The Final Word
“Looking 4 Myself covers a lot of ground, from the modernized, shouting soul of ’Twisted’ to the jaunty new wave of the surprising title track, a catchy collaboration with Luke Steele of the Of Montreal-esque synth-pop band Empire of the Sun. Not all of it works, but none of it is unpleasant, either, something that couldn’t be said of the previous releases from the single-and-on-the-prowl phase of Usher’s career. Unlike Raymond or Versus, with their dutiful adherence to Top 40 templates, a sense of freedom and exploration carries through Looking 4 Myself that makes it feel unique from any other Usher album. Although few of these songs rank among his best, it’s a pleasure to hear a great performer branch out, following whims and taking risks as he tests new ways to work his voice.” — Evan Rytlewski, The A.V. Club