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Album review: Usher's 'Raymond v Raymond'

March 30, 2010 | 10:17 am

Usher_240_ The title of Usher's strong new album alludes to his recent divorce from Tameka Foster, whose brief marriage to the Atlanta-based R&B star (born Usher Raymond IV) provided much of the fodder for his domestic-minded 2008 album "Here I Stand."

But "Raymond v Raymond" carries another meaning as well, one seemingly directed toward Usher fans disappointed by the change in direction his wedding inspired: Here's a battle, the title suggests, between the faithful husband of the last few years and the wily lothario of yore.

With tracks like "Lil Freak," "Foolin' Around" and "So Many Girls," the album isn't coy about which Raymond comes out on top.

Over a thumping Eurodance groove in "OMG" he describes an encounter with a woman in a club that's unlikely to last beyond tomorrow morning. The reggae-scented "Pro Lover" offers a cheerful justification for the one-night stand: "I'm better when I'm touch and go."

In "She Don't Know," Usher makes the connection to his earlier work more explicit, ending most of his lines with a spirited interjection that openly echoes his up-tempo 2004 smash "Yeah!"

Near the end of "Raymond v Raymond," the singer temporarily slows the beat for "Papers," a sleekly produced ballad that appears to address the causes of his divorce: "The only time you're here for me," he sings, "is when the bottles popping and everything is sweet."

-- Mikael Wood 

"Raymond v Raymond"
Three stars (Out of four)