Album review: Usher’s Hard II Love feels like a low-energy experimental project packed with lacklustre songs

Hard II Love feels like a low-energy experimental project with mash-up genres that meet in a vacuum and bump against each other.
Hard II Love, an album by Usher. Courtesy RCA Records
Hard II Love, an album by Usher. Courtesy RCA Records

Hard II Love

Usher

RCA Records

One-and-a-half stars

If music stops working out for him, Usher might have a bright future in fortune telling – by naming his eighth studio album Hard II Love, he knew exactly what was in store. Either that or he recognised the slight masochism of a passion project that disregarded the need for commercial viability.

In the digital age, launching a record with 15 – yes 15 – tracks is overkill. But launching a 15-track record with mostly lacklustre songs? That’s downright wrong.

Hard II Love feels like a low-energy experimental project with mash-up genres that meet in a vacuum and bump against each other. Gone are the dynamic days of the head-bopping, body-rolling Usher song.

This album just wants your phone number – and only uses really greasy lines to get it.

The album shines when it goes noir R&B, a niche Usher should perhaps focus on. Some of the better moments include first single No Limit, which has an urban bass electro beat that bumps and grinds, and the catchy Bump, with its drowsy beat.

Downtime showcases Usher’s voice in a rhythmic piano vortex and Make U A Believer is a dramatic, scratchy track that gets the job done. Rivals, featuring Future, brings in a nice, luminous dancehall EDM feel, and Tell Me is an inexplicable but cool eight-minute mash of romantic beats.

On the other hand, singles Crash and Missing U fade into instant obscurity alongside the other half of the album. Maybe ninth time’s the charm.

artslife@thenational.ae

Published: September 25, 2016 04:00 AM

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