Boston Herald “Raymond v Raymond” B+
“Raymond v. Raymond” (LaFace): B+
By Lauren Carter
Monday, March 29, 2010
Memo to the ladies: Usher’s back on the market.
Sure, on his last release, “Here I Stand,” the multi-platinum r&b crooner spent most of his time in grown-man territory, reveling in the joys of marriage and fatherhood while professing his undying love for then-wife Tameka Foster Raymond. Well, his undying love was short-lived.
After divorcing the love of his life and ending a two-year marriage, Usher is officially single and ready to mingle.
And while the title of his new album, “Raymond v. Raymond,” and lead single, “Papers,” imply that his new record (in stores Tuesday) will be a detailed expose on what went wrong in the Raymond household, it’s not.
Only a few songs touch on the breakup, and they offer conflicting accounts of what really went down.
On “Papers,” Usher points the finger at his ex-wife and complains about the couple’s constant arguing.
“Guilty,” featuring T.I., finds Usher stating his case in the court of love, claiming he was wrongly accused of cheating just because he was – gasp – getting love from ladies at the club.
But on “Foolin’ Around,” Usher implies that his own lies and infidelity led to the split. So much for clarity.
Aside from those confusing confessionals, the 31-year-old is back to the playboy ways he swore he’d left behind.
“So Many Girls” is a return to champagne and hedonism, while “Lil Freak” is Eastern-inspired talk of group love and freaks at the bar. On the bouncy, chant-filled “OMG,” Usher simultaneously explores lust at first sight and does his best Black Eyed Peas impression with help from will.i.am.
Still an able seducer, the Grammy winner delivers sultry come-ons and heartfelt declarations of affection (for the moment, anyway) on “Mars vs. Venus” and “Okay.” “Pro Lover” works up some island flavor as Usher makes it clear he’s trying to sign you to his roster of love. Bonus!
Musically, “Raymond v. Raymond” is diverse and satisfying. An all-star cast of producers, including Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox, the Runners, Polow da Don, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, complement Usher’s velvety vocals with a polished, sophisticated sound, from the smooth r&b of “There Goes My Baby” to the cut to download, the Michael Jackson-inspired lead-off track, “Monstar.”
Usher’s 180-degree turn from devoted husband to thrill-seeking player has made his tales decidedly less believable, but it hasn’t compromised the quality of his music. The man who cried true love, then reverted to sipping bubbly in the club, manages to satisfy in spite of himself.