Last week, I heard Usher’s new song, Lemme See – And this is why I don’t listen to the radio anymore.
The song, which features a verse from former correctional officer with benefits and a 401k plan turned make-believe gangster-rapper, Rick Ross, is about Usher going out one night and meeting a girl in the club. And after getting drunk off of Merlot and his female companion for the night taking her pants off, our hero in the song has decided to take his shirt off – to show his chest. And I guess from there they get it poppin’. And we wonder why the yougins’ are freaky as all hell.
However, before I go into the charm that is Usher, let me first mention this very special featured verse, delivered by 22nd Police District Captain Ross, which goes something like:
“Chanel hoodie on looking like Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman don’t want it.”
Or he could have said, George Zimmerman on warning.
Either way, I have no idea what that means. Is it supposed to be Ross’ way of delivering some well-meaning social commentary about the killing of a 17-year old boy from his own Florida community? Yeah I doubt that too. After all, this is the same guy, who perverted Malcolm X’ message (and the entire Islamic religion) in his song By Any Means. I’m pretty sure that when Malcolm spoke those words, his message was self-empowerment and defense not pushing crack cocaine onto your own people.
But I blame Chuck D of Public Enemy. Because if he didn’t suggest that Rick Ross make a song in honor of Trayvon, then maybe Ross would not have turned the murder of a teenager into a my girl-wears-a-fancy, overpriced-sweat jacket rap pun. In my Bill Maher voice, new rule: If your rhymes are all about conspicuous consumption, gang violence and features an over abundance of heavy grunts, leave the social commentary to those who, you know, give a fawk. Also, keep your shirt on. Folks are tired of seeing you parade your man-boobs around like McDonald’s Grimace with a microphone. Where is the Hamburgler when you need him?
Now that I got that out of my system, let’s get back to Usher.
I understand that there is a lot of uncertainty in this current music era and folks are not selling as many records as they did before, especially R&B artists. Everything is that god-awful techno-pop stuff. However I’m starting to believe that Usher’s divorce had a greater toll on him than we initially thought. It appears that he is caught up in a sort of musical arrested development – one where he feels that he must keep up with much younger, more agile, entertainers like Chris Brown and Trey Songz by performing the same tired themes.
The problem is that Usher is a divorced man with two kids now. No one buys that you are hanging out in the club – nor the Mohawk you’ve been sporting as of late. You have daycare and parent/teacher conferences and piles and piles of laundry. You should be singing songs about the difficulty of knowing the difference between lights and darks and the mystery behind the permanent press cycle on washing machine, not how you are almost 34 years old, still picking up young girls, and taking them back to hotel rooms for a whole lotta phukking. For God sake, who is watching the kids when all of this is going on?
I get it: you have been in the business for a very long time. You have amassed multiple Grammys and countless hit singles. Your album Confessions was number 3 on the list of top selling albums in the last ten years. Point is, you shouldn’t be still Looking 4 Myself on your seventh album. You have nothing to prove anymore. And you damn sure can’t compete with the youngins. Trey Songz is killing them now. And Chris Brown is flying across techno-colored stages like he is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Usher, you can’t fly like Breezy. For one, what happens when you fall? Falling when you are young is funny but falling when you are older, is scary because the bones don’t heal as fast. And no amount of synthesized productions and trivial lyricism is ever going to reclaim your pop title. Thus, it’s time to move on.
The key to longevity is being able to expand your audience into new terrains. Instead of trying to mimic what’s hot right now, you should pull a Bono and Michael Jackson, your hero by the way, and do a Man in the Mirror/Earth Song-type joint. White folks will eat that up. Or you could do like Tina Turner did when she left Ike and sang in front of a 16-piece string orchestra. I’m sure there is a Grammy or two in it for you. Heck if you are determined to stick with R&B, pull an R Kelly and go the adult contemporary route. Like you, Kelz used to be the king of freaky songs. But at some point – maybe after he peed on that little girl – he came to realize that if he kept doing songs like “Feelin on Your Booty,” he would eventually turn into the musical version of the old head in the club. Now he is back with his latest single, “Feelin’ Single,” which is burning up the adult contemporary charts and in all the BYOB fish fry cabarets. But more importantly, because of his ability to embrace a mature sound - one where songs about relationships and love take precedence over songs about one night stands – he will more than likely maintain his position as the King of R&B, while the youngins’ aim to have the same longevity that he does.
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