It looks like all Usher needed to do was get a divorce to get him back to making music that people actually want to hear.
On his new album, Raymond v. Raymond, the 31-year-old singer delivers a very calculated mix of sensual ballads and uptempo party tracks that he desperately needed to try to remain relevant.
His divorce from Tameka Foster last summer appears to be the key that makes this album much better than his previous release, Here I Stand. While that album was moderately successful, it was lackluster and only produced one standout hit ("Love in This Club").
Usher roars back on his first album without the wedding ring making music that helped him become a household name. But not without a boost from some of hip-hop's biggest acts to put him back on heavy rotation on radio stations.
The raunchy and always animated Nicki Minaj puts the freak on "Lil Freak," and rapper Plies knocks down the door on "Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home)." Both songs are infectious, radio-friendly and widely popular. It's just what Usher needed to do instead of putting people to sleep "Moving Mountains" on his last album.
Rappers T.I. and Ludacris also chipped in on tracks, "Guilty" and "She Don't Know," respectively. It's clear Usher was pulling out all the stops and making all the necessary phone calls to make sure his sixth studio album did not flop.
Perhaps the best songs on the 15-track album are his trademark slow-jams, "There Goes My Baby" and "Mars vs. Venus."
The will.i.am produced "Omg" isn't half bad. The song has potential to be a big hit, despite some rather juvenile lyrics.
"Honey got a booty like pow, pow, pow / Honey got some boobies like wow, oh wow / Girl you know I'm loving your, loving your style," he sings on the track that also features the popular Pea.
The pop-friendly song, like most of the album, seemed like a desperate attempt to get back some of his fans that he may have lost.
On "Papers," Usher sings about his public divorce.
"For you I gave my heart and turned my back against the world / 'Cause you were my girl, girl, girl / I done damn near lost my mama, I done been through so much drama / I done turned into the man that I never thought I'd be," he sings on the chorus.
Glad he addressed this in a song, but I could have done without it, personally. Nice try. The message was good, but the song is not anything I want to hear in my car or on the radio.
This album is far from great, but it's certainly a step in the right direction for the man many look to as the apparent heir to Michael Jackson's King of Pop throne.
If you thought Usher was gone after his last album, think again - he's back!