“When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things,” reads a quote from Corinthians in the liner notes of Usher’s new album Here I Stand. Indeed, in the four years since he confessed to infidelity and his distaste for latex, Usher has been made an honest man and—according to Benny Medina, one of several in the superstar’s employ to sing his praises in the CD booklet—“given birth” to a son. Human physiology aside, the first sign that Usher is all growed up: There’s nary a shirtless picture of the R&B crooner to be found in the album’s artwork! Instead, he’s styled like Frank Sinatra and Marvin Gaye. Even the record’s most overt calls to the bedroom have an air of domesticity: He explains his preference for the term “the makings of love” on “This Ain’t Sex” and likens doing the deed on the lead single “Love in This Club” to packing up a bag of groceries. Yes, ladies, he’s evidently the type of hubby who remembers to put the eggs and bread on top. Speaking of which, before your brain even has the opportunity to formulate the realization that Usher has fantasies of being a big ol’ bottom boy, he declares, “You get on top/Tonight I’m on the bottom” on “Trading Places.” Not willing to relinquish his pant-wearing status in the household for too long, of course, he feels obliged to add: “We gon’ switch this thing back/I’m gon’ put it on yo [ass].” The song, along with “Love in This Club,” “Moving Mountains” and the cute and clever album closer “Will Work for Love,” is further evidence that Usher always delivers musically, but his perpetual claims of excellence and of being on the “cutting edge” (though it’s unclear by whose definition and compared to what), his music is almost always just one notch above mediocrity. At the very least, the 18-track, 72-minute Here I Stand could benefit from some serious editing, but you know what they say: The bigger the ego, the longer the tracklist.
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