Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Usher -- Raymond v. Raymond

Raymond v. Raymond

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Pros: An interesting take on how celebrity affects relationships in the 21rst century.

Cons: Usher not exactly breaking any new ground musically.

Recommended Tracks:

I'm Guilty (ft. T.I.)

Making Love

Just as Usher is releasing his sixth album, America has become fascinated with the train-wreck quality of celebrity divorces. It’s fortuitous timing, because there may be no one more qualified to comment on the marital woes of Tiger Woods and Sandra Bullock than the R&B lothario slowly creeping into his 30’s.

The success of his biggest album (2004’s “Confessions”) in part stemmed from the pulled-from-the-headlines quality of some of his biggest songs, which revolved around him cheating on TLC singer Chili. In the years since, Usher has begun to see the downside of giving the world a bird’s eye view to his personal life.

As in “Confessions”, most of “Raymond v. Raymond” revolves around a failed relationship, this time a short-lived marriage with his hair-dresser. Once again, he has a confessional song over dark pianos about his infidelity (“Foolin Around”). And while he still acknowledges his culpability (“I guess it’s just the man in me / blame it on the celebrity / But it’s really just my fears / And it don’t try your tears”), he is far less self-critical than he was six years ago.

Instead he resigns himself to the inevitability of his actions, throwing his hands up at the very idea of fidelity: “I guess I’m guilty for wanting to be in the club / I guess I’m guilty because girls always want to show me love / I guess I’m guilty for living and having a little fun.”

And maybe in the world before TMZ, the look-the-other-way model of marital relations Usher proposes was feasible. Or as T.I. put it more bluntly on “I’m Guilty”, he has an “alibi” for cheating on his girl: the nice things he buys her. But the celebrity-obsessed tabloid environment makes it nearly impossible for Usher’s new bride to ignore his actions.

The combination of a singer single-mindedly focused on sex (the main thrust of every song and seemingly the only thing he looks for in women), the numbers of readily available women “who like [messing around] with a star” and marital commitment looks doomed to fail. So why, as an ESPN reporter asked Tiger Woods, get married in the first place? It’s a question that Usher, singing about being “ready to sign them [divorce] papers”, can’t answer.

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