Usher, Not Sounding Like Himself

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Usher’s Hard II Love album cover c/o RCA Records

 

It’s no fun when one of your favorite artists puts out a record that you’re not into.

Usher dropped Hard II Love two weeks ago and I had some comments about it. Sold them to Billboard. I’ll start first by saying I absolutely love three tracks on it (“Need U,” “Missin’ U,” and “Crash”) and there are—fleeting as they may be—some moments that feel really good to me. But overall, I didn’t enjoy it much and, essentially, my biggest gripe is that it didn’t sound like an Usher record.

Usher Sounds More Like His R&B Contemporaries On ‘Hard II Love’

Art is a representation of where its creator was at the time they made it. So if Usher ever reads my thoughts on his latest work, he may think, “What do you mean it doesn’t ‘sound like an Usher record’? I sang all that on purpose with my voice!”

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Fair enough. If he’s happy with the art he made, good on him. I will always respect a creative that gets their vision out.

Anyway, here’s the piece. I’m such a fan of his that I kind of felt bad being so harsh. I’ve been to at least three Usher concerts and will gladly go to another. So if you see me grinding up on my girl at one of his shows in the future, know that all criticism came with love. Like when one of the homies says your outfit isn’t as good as it could be, then suggests better options. Cool? Cool.

Revisiting Ro, Riding In His New ‘Eldorado’

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Ro James | Eldorado album art by Sarah McColgan c/o RCA | additional editing by Brad

 

Ro James, the first artist signed to a major recording label to trust and allow me to put my cameras in his face for a shoot as a documentarian, just dropped his debut album Eldorado through RCA. It’s a smooth ride that shifts into several lanes, thoughts and feelings—alternative soul, Hip-Hop, lust, religion, guilt, regret—while staying tethered to R&B and releasing much weed smoke from its exhaust pipe.

The album ends with the title cut, which is my favorite on the set. It’s an unhappy conclusion, where he sings about riding around in his dream car without his dream girl. I have this weird thing about me that sometimes appreciates movies and stories that aren’t wrapped up in a pretty little bow when they’re finished. In this case, Eldorado leaves me looking forward to Ro’s next album. There, I’m assuming, we’ll learn if he gets a new car and cute company to sit shotgun.

Our shoot was about a year ago. I wanted to revisit i am: Ro James for y’all to get an idea of who Ro is and, as you listen to Eldorado, to see where he’s going.

I’m super happy for Ro. To be frank, he’s on a label that’s already stacked with R&B-based stars. Usher, Chris Brown, Miguel, D’Angelo and R. Kelly are all on RCA. Getting record execs to make you a priority while those guys are rocking is a feat in and of itself. Not only did he do that, but he put out a dope album and now he’s on tour with another iconic panty-catcher: Maxwell.

The way I see it, Ro’s tank is full. And he’s got plenty road ahead of him.

Follow Ro James on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Ed note: The actual cover art for Eldorado looks like the image in that “GA$” YouTube clip up there. But I think my new shit is to mess around with art just to shake things up and beat the monotony of posting the exact images everyone else uses. No disrespect to the original photo. Sarah McColgan killed it. Just trying to switch things up.