Usher’s ‘Here I Stand’ doesn’t need any kind of leg up from www.soulandjazzandfunk.com.
The album’s already riding high in the charts and that, along with Mr. Raymond’s stature as a leading light in the modern R&B boom, might deter real soul fans from investigating further. However, if those soul fans would just put aside their prejudices they’d find lots on this LP to enjoy. You see, I know it obvious, but Usher’s getting older – he’s maturing, and though there’s still plenty of that cocky, street-savvy R&B braggadocio here (the hit ‘Love In The Club’ is a good example), there are also some very fine soul moments. The most obvious is the big dancer, ‘This Ain’t Sex’. It’s very tight and recalls those Jam and Lewis productions on his last album. The tempo is just right for the more energetic modern room dancers and if this was a track from an unknown indie artist on a small label, said modern soul crew would be drooling. ‘Revolver’ is another decent dancer, while the best soul ballad is the album’s title cut. Sensitive and sweet – though not twee and sugary – its feel reminded me of some of Luther’s best ballads. Little wonder that ‘Here I Stand’ is quickly replacing the great man’s ‘Here And Now’ as wedding song of choice across the States. ‘Something Special’ is another excellent soul cut. It’s simple and catchy… a perfect summer vibe. Elsewhere, the remix of ‘Love In The Club’ (with Beyonce) is better than you’d expect, while ‘Love You Gently’ – which name checks people like Sade, Marvin and Al Green – is real smoocheroonie. Best lyric comes from Jay Z. On his contribution to ‘Best Thing’ he manages to rhyme “pashmina” with “demeanour”… but soul people can hit skip there, though, I’m confident that it’ll be the replay button elsewhere.