Last week, American Idol welcomed Usher as its guest mentor for an R&B themed edition. Speaking with soon to be eliminated contestant Didi Benami, Usher offered this pearl of wisdom: “Honesty is what the audience looks for, and what they applaud.” If only Raymond v. Raymond lived up to that mantra, then maybe it wouldn’t be such a mediocre album.Marketed in the same vein as 2004’s Confessions, Raymond v. Raymond fails to deliver on multiple levels, lacking the honesty and general self-awareness that Confessions was brimming over with. Buzz single “Papers” indicated that Usher was going to delve into his failed marriage, as did titling the album after his court case. But, outside of “Papers,” only two other tracks reference the dissolution of Raymond’s marriage to Tameka Foster. One of these, “Foolin’ Around” marks Jermaine Dupri and Brian Michael Cox’s only contribution to the album; noteworthy because the duo were behind some of Usher’s biggest hits, including “Burn,” “Confessions Part II” and “My Boo.”Here, Usher works with a different production team on almost every track, presumably with the hope of appealing to a market based on single sales rather than complete albums. Yet, even the singles aren’t as strong as one would hope. The album version of “Hey Daddy” benefits from its lack of rapper Plies, but outside of The Runners production is average at best. “Lil Freak” is masterfully produced by Polow da Don but the beat is wasted on Usher, who is going through the motions. The latest single, “OMG,” produced by and featuring Will.I.Am, is severely lacking lyrically although an incredibly fun track.Though songs like “Monstar” and “So Many Girls” are reminiscent of Usher in his prime, they lack the personality he once exuded. Unsurprisingly, the album’s standout track is “She Don’t Know” featuring Ludacris. However, “Yeah!” it is not. It’s bewildering that “I Love You,” a well recieved ballad from Adam Levine that leaked online, failed to make this album.
Original Author: Wesley Ambrecht