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Usher

8701  Hear it Now

RS: 3of 5 Stars Average User Rating: 4of 5 Stars

2001

Play View Usher's page on Rhapsody

On the smooth follow-up to his six-times-platinum 1997 album, My Way, twenty-two-year-old R&B heartthrob Usher shows the polish of a showbiz veteran. His velvety voice and sky-high tolerance for crooning about girls - girls up in the club, girls from the old neighborhood, non-English-speaking girls, girls he's better off without - are on full display, making 8701 likely to resonate with the same crowd his single "Nice and Slow" wooed three years ago. Amid all the playboy pouting and preening, Usher's vocals are impressively adaptable, lacing brash beats from the Neptunes and sophisticated ballads from hitmakers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis with equal dexterity. Hip-hop bounce merchant Jermaine Dupri's tracks inspire Usher's best moments, though: The freaky groove of "Good Ol' Ghetto" moves our man to flex some Bone Thugs-esque rap-singing, while the rough riffs of "I Can't Let U Go" spark a fresh, clipped chorus. If the album has a fault, it's that Usher never surrenders his meticulously groomed veneer - don't hold your breath for a genuine rawboned holler or hint of reckless spontaneity among these calculated compositions. Still, despite Usher's radio-safe reserve, 8701's wispy slow jams and booming club cuts strike a sweet nerve.

KATHRYN MCGUIRE

(Posted: Aug 6, 2001)

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