Album review: Usher's 'Versus'
“Usually, I’m a one-kind-of-girl kind of guy, but now I’m a free to get at every girl kind of guy,” Usher Raymond reveals on “Love Em All,” the opening track and pacesetter of “Versus,” his EP-sequel to March’s platinum-selling “Raymond v. Raymond.”
Since 2004’s “Confessions,” the louche and libidinous crooner has mined the tumult of his personal life. Carefully revealing crucial details but shrouding the specifics in a haze of come-ons, Usher left fans guessing about his alleged infidelities with ex-flame Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas of TLC, and his marriage to and subsequent divorce from Tameka Foster.
Yet on “Versus,” the ambiguity is absent. Freshly single, Usher does everything but buy a waterbed, an Italian sports car and announce, “Mothers, lock up your daughters.”
The Pitbull-propelled “DJ Got Us Fallin in Love” finds Usher singing generic paeans to a paramour’s eyes over a Eurovision-like Max Martin production. “Lay You Down” channels ’90s-era Prince, with Usher unctuously cooing about wanting to be the “one who keeps your body warm.” On the Michael Jackson-referencing “Lingerie,” he rhapsodizes about sexy nighties.
Occasionally, Usher flashes why he remains on R&B’s A-list. “Hot Tottie” with Jay-Z is as intoxicating as its namesake. Bun B adds welcome grit on the Billy Ocean-homage “Get in My Car,” and Justin Bieber earns the Tiger Beat covers on the “Somebody to Love Remix.”
Though the title of “Versus” may allude to his divorce proceedings, it holds a double meaning — Usher’s at his best in head-to-head competition.
— Jeff Weiss
Two and a half stars (Out of four)
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