June 25, 2012 12:00 PM


Looking 4 Myself


“Walking with my head down/Counting every step/Hoping that the next one/Brings me closer to the man I was.” So confesses Usher on the reflective title track of Looking 4 Myself. Could it be that, on his seventh album in 18 years, Usher Raymond IV is suffering from an existential identity crisis? Never fear, folks: The almighty star confidently displays various sides of himself, proving that he can be all things to all people with another R&B-pop blockbuster. He’s the Ibiza-ready club kid on electro thumpers like current single “Scream” and the Swedish House Mafia-produced “Euphoria” that build on the success of “OMG,” “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” and “Without You” (with David Guetta). He’s also the silky-smooth loverman on ambient slow jams like the hit “Climax” and the P.M. Dawn-esque “Dive,” showing, as he lays on his creamy falsetto, that he’s a better singer than ever (despite occasionally toying with Auto-Tune). Then he’s the old-school soul man on the funky James Brown-ish “Twisted” and “Sins of My Father,” which, produced by Amy Winehouse collaborator Salaam Remi, inspires Usher to look for the Marvin Gaye inside of him.

Josh Turner

Punching Bag |


On Punching Bag, Josh Turner comes “fighting out of the traditional-country-music corner,” says a ring announcer in the intro. And he hits you with plenty of good old-fashioned hooks, from the classic weepie “Cold Shoulder” to “I Was There,” on which he uses his authoritative baritone to adopt the voice of God. Meanwhile “Pallbearer,” a funereal ballad, finds him channeling the spirit of Johnny Cash.

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