I sometimes think the indie music movement and the craft beer movement are pretty similar in this day and age. For example, indie and underground music -- like craft beer -- have been getting more and more contributions and more attention (see: Sleigh Bells on Saturday Night Live) and has started to more obviously infringe on the mainstream Bud Lights and Miller Lites of the music world. Someday, perhaps soon, both the craft beer and indie music worlds will reach a point where the line between independent and mainstream has been completely blurred. Usher's Looking 4 Myself is a sign of these times and also a sign of things to come.
Instead of resting on his laurels and doing what has made him successful in years past or even imitating what's popular on Top 40 stations these days, Usher made an album that anticipates and seeks to make trends rather than following them.
Picking up on the dubstep and house music craze, Usher enlisted producers like indie world favorite Diplo and Ibiza-focused trio Swedish House Mafia. "Climax," the Diplo-produced track, is like no pop song out there right now -- great, fresh production with pop sensibilities that's teamed with Usher's unbeatable falsetto. It's the best of both worlds. And "Euphoria," the Swedish House Mafia-produced track that really hits hard, is going to make people sweat their asses off dancing for the rest of the year.
Not completely detaching himself (smartly, we might add) from his old ways, Looking 4 Myself also has a few classic Usher tracks. The lead song, "Can't Stop Won't Stop" sounds like "OMG" Pt. Two (not a bad thing), which shouldn't come as too much of a surprise because Will.i.am produced both. Additionally, "Lessons For The Lover" and "Sins Of My Father" are the "Confessions" tracks of this album, and are also reminders that Usher may be the best scorned-love-song singer of this generation.
Ultimately though, Looking 4 Myself suffers from overreaching and an identity crisis. There are 14 tracks on this album and while that's average for a pop collection, Usher may have been better off with ten. There are some empty songs -- "Show Me" and "Looking 4 Myself" specifically -- that sound like they were written for another pop artist. And a couple others that just don't work and only take away from Usher's apparent progressivism. Sometimes, less is more.
With those few mistakes aside however, Usher has again proven himself as an elite pop artist; an artist who has dominated the 21st century. Think about it -- "You Make Me Wanna..." came out in 1997. Amidst the falling stars of Omarion, Joe, and Sisqo, Usher is still kicking (or rather, dancing). And that's because he's always looking ahead, always looking to progress. Looking 4 Myself is just another step in his evolution.