Usher’s “A” Album, Assimilation or Ascension?

Usher’s recent take on trap breaks away from his typical traditional R&B in his new album, “A.”

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For the surprise project, Usher pairs with super-producer, Zaytoven, to pay homage to their hometown Atlanta. Hot-lanta is not only home to these two hitmakers, but also home to hip-hop’s sub-genre, trap music,  in which they chose to honor with “A.”

However with his 40th birthday approaching, listeners would rather Usher slow it down with a softer approach and reach back to his R&B roots. Fans of the “Confessions” crooner have set social media ablaze suggesting Usher burn the new album instead.

While Usher is under fire, is it fair to give him such an early assessment of “A?” And more so, is the album actually a music mid-life crisis, or simply a showcase of the singer’s skillset and song range?

Although “A” is hip-hop focused, fully loaded with rap features from a few of Atlanta’s finest and driven by drum-heavy beats, the “Raymond V. Raymond” singer still finds a way make his R&B talent a focal point. Songs like “You Decide” and “Say What U Want” suit Usher’s standard style. On the other hand, it is his simplistic songwriting and materialistic music lines that outshine the efforts of R&B elements brought to this album. Lyrics like “treat the Gucci store like a gift shop” and “Who you been texting daily? You know I don’t do fugazi” sound like a desperate attempt to keep up with the times in music’s current climate.

Some might say Usher is doing anything to stay relevant, but is he necessarily wrong for fusing the two forms of music together? Fellow R&B veteran Bobby Valentino stated in a recent interview, “all of the rappers are singing now,” when asked about the state of today’s R&B music.  He says, “if all the rappers are singers that leaves a void for R&B.” Bobby V has mentioned this point previously. In an interview with Rolling Out magazine in 2014, he said, “R&B is more of a black market, kind of. It’s [gone] all the way hip-hop. The rappers are singing. So if rap is more popular than R&B and rappers are singing, then it kind of leaves us out the door — those that really do real R&B.” Can we really blame Usher as he tries to find a way to blend the two genres?

After all, Usher has teased his respect for rap plenty of times in the past. Back in 1997, U-S, H-E-R, R-A, Y-M, O-N-D, sped it up with a rap that was short and sweet on “Nice & Slow,” one of the singer’s most-remembered R&B records. The superstar is also notoriously known for his hot hip-hop collaborations. Some of his biggest hits involve hip-hop artists, such as “Yeah!” alongside Ludacris and Lil Jon in 2004 or like 2008’s “Love In This Club” featuring Jeezy. Even on his last album, Hard II Love, Usher teetered a fine line of R&B with his melodic rapping throughout the release.

Throughout the course of his career, Usher has been constantly criticized for not making music for his age. Usher’s first album under preformed due to his grown and sexy music being too mature for someone singing fifteen years old. The self-titled debut featured songwriters that were more seasoned in age such as Faith Evans, Donnell Jones, and DeVante Swing from Jodeci. Because of the premature production, Usher hadn’t reached superstar status until his sophomore album. Even well into his adult years critics felt his music content wasn’t consistent with his age level. His fifth album, Here I Stand  was critiqued as Usher entering the adult contemporary sphere too soon in his career as he sang songs related to his current marriage.

With that being said, the question still remains. Is Usher’s “A” too trendy? You Decide.

Are you giving Usher’s album an “A?” Say “Yeah!” in a comment below.

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