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Footnotes: Usher

Footnotes is the section in our magazine where we take a deeper look at the music surrounding our feature artists. Read Matthew Schnipper's FADER #80 interview with Usher here, and check out our notes below.

Usher f. Ludacris, “Dat Girl Right There” (Unreleased 2007)
Holy shit, how crazy is this song—still! Usher and Ludacris screw with their voices over Rich Harrison’s balloon squeaks and a perfectly timed mid-song break of smooth synth wash. “Dat Girl Right There” was allegedly supposed to be the first single from Here I Stand, but it didn’t show up on the album and was lost in the annals of the internet, presumably because it is so alienating and strange. It’d be easy to leave it as just a curiosity, but taken against Usher’s whole career, it’s a peek into his not-so-secret weird side—the rare, appealing occasion where it seems like the pop music illuminati might actually just be a bunch of mega rich dudes sitting around coming up with bizarre sounds and then figuring out a way to infiltrate the monolithic world of pop radio. SHS

Usher f. Young Jeezy, “Love 
in This Club” Here I Stand (LaFace 2008)
I’ve read a few snobbish critics bemoan the introduction of European club beats into R&B—articles with headlines like “The Death of Soul.” Pish posh—we can always do better than what’s been done before, and synths can take us to the heavens just as quickly as church organs. “Love in This Club” was an early example of a pop star using Ibiza-ish, Jersey Shore-appropriate instrumentation, and Usher is the best crooner for the space age. It’s so slinky and sexy, balancing the stuttering high notes with some earthy bass, steadying the orbital spin with the right amount of gravity. Usher sounds like Icarus before the fall, flying perfectly equidistant between the sun and the ocean, as breezy and sweet as a boy can be. AF

Usher f. Ludacris, “Yeah!” Confessions (LaFace 2004)
Released in 2004, “Yeah” now sounds impossibly dated. Eight years has made Lil Jon, the song’s producer, less of a visionary and more of a victim of time. The beat feels clunky and stilted, more of an idea and less of a fully fleshed out song. He barks the entire time like a hoarse referee. But atop, Usher still sounds impressive and nimble, almost shockingly smooth over what feels comical. How does he do that? Is timelessness an artist’s most impressive trait? Usher’s vocal skills are always evident, but never more than when they shouldn’t be. MS

Footnotes: Usher