Usher is fearless. Since coming on the scene almost two decades ago, the singer has successfully switched up his style. He’s embraced R&B with “Confessions Part II” and “Burn,” gone the pop route with “OMG” and “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” and even dabbled with hip-hop on “Yeah!” and its similarly felt successor “Little Freak.” Truthfully, the crooner has never been afraid to explore different sounds and if any of his albums signal his diverse sonic curiosity, it’s his new album, Looking 4 Myself.
After the release of his last LP, Raymond v. Raymond, Usher spent time globe-trotting and was inspired by sounds stateside and abroad. His discoveries led him to explore electronic and dance sounds with producers such as Diplo and Swedish House Mafia. Musically, he calls Looking 4 Myself a “soulful interpretation” of what has captivated his ears during his travels.
His seventh studio effort comes at a time when R&B artists have crossed the lines of dance, electronic, pop and hip-hop, leaving some fans wondering if the genre has been deserted. But with Looking 4 Myself debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and “Climax” peaking at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, listeners are still showing interest in what Usher brings to their earbuds.
The father of two spoke with The BoomBox about his new effort, thoughts on why R&B is not dead, the missing Jermaine Dupri and Swedish House Mafia tracks from his LP and seeking out EDM staples like Skrillex and Calvin Harris rather than traditional R&B producers.
Why the name Looking 4 Myself on this album? What is Usher in search of?
“Looking 4 Myself” is one of the more experimental songs that I had on the album. During my hiatus, I basically did a lot of traveling. I did a lot of experimental sowing. I went to the Coachella Music Festival. I went to Ibiza. I traveled to Germany. I went to Vegas, I went to Miami, I went to South of France. All these different places just to listen to the music I felt was really significant in terms of energy. Some of it a little bit more electronic, some of it a little bit more dance. Some of it, a bit more world.
It was a band by the name of Empire of the Sun, and they really inspired me to do the song “Looking 4 Myself.” I passed that to Rico Love. And basically their deduction of the inspiration was “Looking 4 Myself” the song. The song began to give me an idea of how experimental I could be. And I began working with producers who I normally wouldn’t work with or that I admired, like Diplo. I was a little bit more open to working with producers from out of the country. So the musical journey of Looking 4 Myself was more of into experimental music. I began to think about there is no specific genre to put anything in anymore. While R&B artists are admired for having incredible voices, it seems now that a rapper could be an R&B artist. It seems now that an R&B artist could be a rapper. There’s really no barriers, no boxes right. So I began to create this album that was not genre-specific but just experimental, and how I felt and what I really enjoyed listening to. Now at the end of all of that experimenting and sowing, whatever you want to call it, one thing I thought would stick with that mission was [the title] Looking 4 Myself. It really sounds like my musical journey.