Album Review: Usher - Here I Stand

Much has happened in the four years since Usher left to get married and have a kid. Alright, maybe just one thing happened, and his name is Chris Brown. It’s an added challenge to an artist who came out as a young heart-throb that never missed an opportunity to flash his wash-board abs. Usher’s new album, Here I Stand answers the questions of whether that would all be left behind or, if it wasn’t, how it would bode for a grown-man in his thirties to carry on in such a manner. The rite of passage for an international artist is always the follow-up to their critically and commercially successful album, and Usher is currently going through it. It’s been four years since Confessions - an album that broke records worldwide. First single, “Love In This Club,” shot to the top of the Billboard charts, easing worries of his capabilities to repeat No. 1 success. Here I Stand finds Usher playing with the same contemporary R&B sounds that were heard on Confessions, but instead of confessing infidelity and lustful sexual appetite, he’s rocking fidelity (“Best Thing” featuring a speculated married Jay-Z) and sex as a symbol of that fidelity (“This Ain’t Sex”).The Stargate produced, “What’s a Man To Do,” and The-Dream and Tricky tune, “Moving Mountains” are not only listenable, but pop-R&B satisfying. Still, listening to “Moving Mountains” might bring “Burn” flash-backs just like “Love In This Club, Part II” might take you back to “Lovers and Friends.”For neo-soul fans, the title track “Here I Stand” gives an earnest glimpse into Usher’s current view of his world. In “Prayer for You (Interlude)” you can hear his baby and a prayer over his kid, followed by “Something Special” – a part of the album that most likely made his wife smile.A couple of tracks meet the criteria of fillers. “Appetite,” produced by Danja, lyrically meets with the album’s theme of commitment with lyrics like, “Got to put my BS under arrest” and “I ate my dinner at home,” but uses an uncharacteristically unmemorable melody for a track produced by the “Melody Man.” “Before I Met You” might have come from the Day26 recording sessions - even if Bryan Michael-Cox did produce - and doesn’t offer anything different than what the producer and the singer have already given out. Here I Stand is uneven in theme and flaccid. It might just be from the swaying back and forth to youth and into baby-having adulthood. The mid-tempos are all about the same thing, and the club tracks are few. Having Usher predominately keep the same sound but shed the man-boy image is almost like putting a lullaby over the images of Britney Spear’s “Gimme More” video. It doesn’t fit. This might just be Usher’s bon voyage into the urban adult contemporary world. In hindsight, even the title, “Here I Stand” sounds a bit lethargic and complacent. Musically, Usher is definitely standing, not moving or budging one bit.