Usher's impact on the music scene haslessened in the last few years. He has released six songs from his latest albumRaymond v. Raymond, out this week, andnone have entered the top 10 on Billboard'sHot 100 chart.
"Daddy's Home," the highestranking release so far, peaks this week at #28. Raymond v. Raymond is expected to debut at #1 next week with salesexceeding 300,000 copies.
Three hundred thousand copiessold during the opening week is a good number in this market where album salesare on the decline, but the overall impact of Usher's return is subpar for thesuperstar performer who scored back-to-back #1 hits with "Yeah," "ConfessionsPart II, and "Burn" from his 2004 Confessionsalbum.
His last album, 2008's Here I Stand, was considered adisappointment because it only achieved platinum status compared to the 10times platinum certification for Confessions.But Here I Stand still had a #1 songin "Love In This Club."
Here I Standwas his most mature record to date, released on the heels of his then newmarriage, and now, Raymond v. Raymondhits the market as the singer celebrates his recent divorce. The changes in hispersonal life as well as record buying trends seemed to have had an impact on hismusic.
Jermaine Hall,editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine, saidUsher's marital status was hard for many of his female fans to digest. "He wentfrom uber bachelor to married with children, available sex symbol to off themarket in what seemed like a blink of an eye," he said.
And now that he is divorced,things are even more complicated, according to Urban Network Music Editor A. Scott Galloway. "He's in an awkwardtime period, divorcing from an older woman-many of his female fans may notquite know how to embrace him,"Galloway said.
This week, Usher was a mentorand performer on American Idol. Hepremiered his newest song, "OMG," an electronic, pop song featuring andproduced by will.i.am. It is a new musical direction for the R&B/popsinger, and the reaction was mixed. Some even suggested that hip-hop mogulDiddy, who also performed on Idol thesame night and is not critically acclaimed as an artist, offered a strongerstage show.
Music critic Tiffany Jamesonsaid she did not like Usher's performances on Idol or the Ellen showthis week. "I, being a long-time supporter of his art, and one who watched himgrow into his 'sexy,' became turned off by his clothing choices and dancemoves," Jameson said. "As a fan, I don't want to feel abandoned."
Thembisa S. Mshaka, a music businessexecutive who was the marketing campaign writer for Usher's 8701 album, said Usher is followingmodern music trends instead of taking the lead.
"After Here I Stand underperformed, he's re-emerging into a mainstreamR&B market that is overrun by vulgarity, aggression, and hypersexuality,"said Mshaka who authored the book, Put Your Dreams First, Handle Your[entertainment] Business. "It's unfortunate that his singles arefollowing this trend because these new songs just blend into the landscapeinstead of sounding distinctive within it. Usher has the command and careersales of a megastar to do music he wants to without being handcuffed by hislabel. As 8701 and Confessions demonstrate, it's mature,sensual vulnerability that works for him."
But the critics by no meansthink that Usher's career is in any danger of falling off.
"He obviously still has amassive core that is interested in his music," Vibe's Hall said. "Usher just finds himself in the middle of theroad at this point in his career. He tried what I'd like to call adultcontemporary light on the last album...but he's too young to do AC."
Urban Network's Galloway said Usher isn't going anywhere. "Usher provedlong ago he's not a flash in the pan--he's a legitimate artist with stayingpower," he said. "It always comes down to the music and also how he isperceived by his fans."
Aside from the release ofUsher's Raymond v. Raymond, this weekin news was loaded with plenty good stories. Latin pop star Ricky Martinrevealed that he was homosexual, Erykah Badu disrobed in public for her musicvideo for "Window Seat," and Justin Bieber turned gansta for April Fools'.
THIS WEEK'S TOP 10 MUSIC STORIES
1) LaVida Loca - Ricky Martin reveals that he ishomosexual.
2) Too Sexy For My Shirt - ErykahBadu disrobes in video to promote individualism.
3) MamaSaid Knock You Out - LL Cool Jcomplains about being on Sarah Palin show.
4) Dreamgirl - Jennifer Hudson shed pounds as new Weight Watchersrep.
5) JokesOn You - Bieber, Diddy, Coldplayand Ashton Prank it up for April Fools' Day.
6) YoungGun - Justin Bieber, youngestmale solo artist with #1 album in 45 years.
7) HelpThe Children - Jackson doctor charged for delinquent childpayments.
8) MaterialGirls - Madonna teams withdaughter Lola on fashion line.
9) AmericanIdols - Clay Aiken, RubenStuddard to tour together.
10) GetWell Soon - Ill Tom Jones cancelsAsia concerts.