Here I Stand

R’n’B lothario sings the praises of monogamy on patchy fifth album

Bad news ladies. Usher Raymond, the baby-faced r’n’b smoothie, has found ‘the one’. He has reigned in his philandering tendencies, is happy to be a house cat and, furthermore, wants to tell the world on this, his fifth album, that his new life of monogamy is for real.

Here I Stand is one long, sprawling paean to Usher’s newfound domestic bliss and its in-built quotidian charms. On the silky ‘Trading Places’ he croons about breakfast-in-bed and doing some house chores (“Time to get up/Let me make this bed up”), while on ‘This Ain’t Sex’ he’s effusive in his praise for a good, honest shag with his partner, likening their lovemaking to “making moments that will outlast the world.”

The sentiments are certainly noble and Usher’s love-bombing is at times infectious. Never an artist to push the envelope with production, his play-it-safe soul stance and syrupy larynx chime effectively on the slinky ‘Before I Met You’ and ‘Something Special’, which boasts polished guitar licks. Elsewhere, the evergreen Jay-Z makes a typical grandstanding appearance on ‘Best Thing’, adding some much needed brio, while Will.i.am’s dark, sparse synth backing track lights up ‘What’s Your Name’.

There is, however, a limit to how many slick slow jams you can listen to on a record, and Hear I Stand tramples over such accepted boundaries. The album runs out of puff long before the finish, leaving a schmaltzy aftertaste, with Usher seemingly incapable of knowing when to stop gushing. Well, love is blind after all.

Key Track: ‘What’s Your Name’

 

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