Usher released his long-awaited fifth studio album "Here I Stand" today to good, if not always, great reviews. The R&B singer has a lot to live up to after his last album, "Confessions," sold more than a million copies in its first week of release back in 2004. That record went on to sell 9 million albums in America, spurred on by four No. 1 singles.
While the critics were as divided about that album as they are this one, Usher earned eight Grammy Awards nominations in 2004, including record and album of the year for "Confessions." However, he won only three Grammys — best contemporary R& B album, best R& B performance by a duo or group for "My Boo" with Alicia Keys, and best rap/sung collaboration with Lil John and Ludacris for the smash single "Yeah."
In today's reviews, most critics referenced "Here I Stand" as Usher's first album since becoming a husband and father and noted his more mature attitude. And with the album already producing its first No. 1 single with "Love in This Club," expect tracks from it to dominate the airwaves this summer and figure into Grammy Awards nominations when they are announced Dec. 4.
Richard Cromelin of the Los Angeles Times cites "Here I Stand" as Usher's "mature album" and thought it "would be much better without its excess of undistinguished ballads, but that aside, it's a more accomplished version of 'Confessions,' the hooks more effortless, the singing even better, the songwriting more consistent."
Mariel Concepcion of Billboard was more enthusiastic and found "Here I Stand" to be "bursting with grown man, true-to-life tales like leaving his player ways behind ('Before I Met You'), falling in love ('Something Special,' 'Lifetime' and the title track), making love ('This Ain't Sex') and having a child ('Prayer for You,' featuring a weeping Usher Raymond V, his new baby son). Grown-up relationships drive 'His Mistakes,' about a woman who is scarred by a past fling, the piano-and-drum-laden 'Best Thing' featuring Jay-Z and 'What's a Man to Do,' which finds Usher belting about loving two women at once.""
However, Glenn Gamboa of Newsday thought, "He's apparently trying to reconcile his R&B playa-with-a-heart past with his married-and-grown present and it's not totally working out. The sparkling smash single 'Love in This Club,' which appears twice, in a pop-oriented version with Young Jeezy and an old-school remix, featuring Beyoncé cooing over a sweet Stylistics sample, is Usher's link to his clubbing past and the most successful song on the album."
Finally, for Jon Pareles of the New York Times, "tension, not bliss, creates the album’s best songs. In 'Moving Mountains,' a collaboration with C. (Tricky) Stewart and Terius (The-Dream) Nash, he’s trapped in a romance gone cold. In 'His Mistakes' he warns his lover to stop expecting the worst from him after another man’s abuses. And over minor chords and sparse, programmed tracks in 'Appetite' and 'What’s a Man To Do,' he grapples with his urges to stray."